Friday, January 29, 2010

The Joy of Being Properly Tied Up

from Emily Bryan . . .

I did a post on Regency men's fashions at this week that my readers seemed to enjoy. Thought I'd carry on the theme here with cravats. They were the precursers of the modern necktie, but were tied in more unique configurations than an origami master can imagine to fold a square of paper.

How a man chose to tie his cravat revealed a good deal about his taste and sense of self. (And, one might argue, the nimbleness of his valet's fingers!)

In case you are unable to read names of the styles pictured here they are, left to right-
Top row - Oriental, Mathematical, Osbaldston
Second row - Napolean, American, Mailcoach
Third row - Trone d'amour, Irish, Ballroom
Fourth Row - Horse collar, Hunting, Maharata
Botttom Row - Gordion knot, Barrel knot

Cravats were always of white linen, and heavily starched to hold their shape (part of what made the cravat such an effective weapon for my heroine in A CHRISTMAS BALL, when she ripped the scratchy, stiff cloth off my hero's neck!). Later, the flowing "Waterfall" style was popularized by the poet Byron and less starch was required. When Beau Brummell, the arbiter of Regency sartorial splendor, fled to France (after alienating the Prince Regent with his infamous "Who's your fat friend?" remark) other colors besides white were introduced.

So what was the appeal of the cravat?

As with all fashion, the point is to be more attractive to the opposite sex. IMO, the lure of the elegantly tied cravat is in imagining how much fun it would be to untie it!

What do you think? Sometimes fashion goes to ridiculous lengths. What male fashion, past or present, do you think crosses the line into obsession or just plain weirdness?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Release week! And Deadline week!

Having a book come out the same week I'm frantically finishing another book (due Monday) makes for some major stress! I'm running around like a hysterical thing, papers flying, phones ringing, cats shedding. It's a crazy mess.

So for my post today, I'm going to do BSP. My new release, Pride Mates is selling very well, from what I've been hearing, and readers are loving it! So thank you, readers, who have already contacted me to say you want more Shifters. I so much appreciate the feedback!


I am very excited to announce the release of PRIDE MATES (Jan. 26), which introduces a brand new series of shape shifter novels.

If you enjoyed my alter-ego Allyson James’s Dragon or Shareem series, or Jennifer Ashley’s Immortals series, I think you’ll enjoy this one too.


Twenty years ago, shape shifters of all kinds banded together and announced themselves to the world, only to be shunted to areas no human wanted ("Shiftertowns"). They are forced to wear Collars that control their hunting and fighting instincts (referred to by Shifters as "Taking the Collar").

Liam Morrissey is currently liaison between the Shifters of Austin, Texas, and the humans of the city. Kim Fraser, attorney, finds herself in the unique position of having to defend a Shifter on a murder charge.

She ventures to Shiftertown to seek out Liam's help, and there stumbles across too many secrets the Shifters want kept secret. The un-mated Liam is forced to protect Kim against the wrath of his clan leader and his own father, and to his surprise he discovers a powerful attraction to the sassy, sexy lady.

I have a website devoted to the series:
where you can learn all about Shifters and the books, read excerpts and blurbs, and other good stuff. I have a contract with Berkley to continue the series, which I am working on right now.


As some of you may know, PRIDE MATES will be the last book I do at Dorchester Publishing. I’ve pretty much moved lock, stock, and barrel to Berkley, and they will now publish both my Allyson James and Jennifer Ashley novels. Dorchester will still publish my backlist, most of which is still in print and available at bookstores or from online booksellers (Amazon, B&N, Borders, etc.).


More Mackenzies! LADY ISABELLA’S SCANDALOUS MARRIAGE will be out in July 2010, followed by Cam’s and Hart’s stories. Please see my website for the beautiful cover of LADY ISABELLA (, plus the Mackenzies site for details on the series:

Also, if you enjoy sexy urban fantasy, check out my new Allyson James series, STORMWALKER, featuring a young Navajo woman who can channel the power of storms to work great magic. (I say “urban” fantasy, but it’s set in a small town near Navajo country in the Southwest, and there is plenty of romance in it.)

STORMWALKER debuts from Berkley Sensation in May 2010.
That series also has a site:


Because I have so many books published now, I created a page on my website that lists all series, under all pseudonyms, with the books of each, in order. I’ve projected out as far as I can with upcoming books. I hope you find the page helpful!

END BSP. Everyone have a great day!!

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Great Escape

from Emily Bryan . . .

I've been following Bonnie Vanak's blog since she left for Haiti. So far she doesn't seem to have access to the internet, which is hardly surprising. Please keep her uplifted in your thoughts and prayers as she helps deliver aid to the people ravaged by 2 devastating earthquakes.

Bonnie's been on my mind a lot and something she told me once has been rolling around my head. She said she started writing romance as a way to escape the harsh realities of her day job.

I don't have the kind of pressures Bonnie deals with, but I can relate. I read romance for the "take-me-away" quality of the genre. In an uncertain world, I want a guarantee that no matter how bleak things are, there will be a happy ending. A romance story can get you through things.

When I was first diagnosed with colon cancer, Christie Craig sent me her DIVORCED, DESPERATE & DATING to cheer me up. I took it to the hospital with me. (That maybe wasn't the wisest decision since I had a fresh 6 inch incision and Christie's stuff is gut-bustingly funny even in normal times!)

Now I'm the first to credit the prayers of my friends and family for my recovery. But the humor, the freshness, the delight of falling in love vicariously through Christie's story lifted my spirits. It saw me through a time when I was in pain, weak and feeling pretty low. (Thanks again, Christie! You're a doll!)

Has a romance book done that for you? What was the title/author? What was happening in your life?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Leaving for Haiti tomorrow

I was going to post something else, but suddenly I find myself leaving the country tomorrow to go to Haiti and our operations in Port au Prince.

One thing I will bring with me are some books for Karen, a woman in our office who reads romance to escape. I think she really will need these books now...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Helping Haiti

As most of you know The Chatelaines own Bonnie Vanak is a constant visitor to Haiti where she works for Food For the Poor. As there are so many charities out there and so many people telling you who to donate too, we at the Chatelaines thought we'd take this opportunity to tell you how you can help and who will do the most good. Bonnie's organization, Food For The Poor have offices and a huge warehouse in Haiti and a feeding program and orphanages and elderly home. They are accredited by the Better Business Bureau and here is the link to the FAQ page about us for those who want to know about what we do and who endorses us.

The big concern with organizations right now will be those who are legit and those who are not. For those wanting to donate to other organizations, here is a link to Charity Navigator, which rates charities and you can check out if the charity is "official" or a scam and where they deliver aid.

Charity Navigator said about Food For The Poor, "We are proud to announce that Food For The Poor has earned our eighth consecutive four-star rating for its ability to efficiently manage and grow its finances. Less than 1% of the charities we rate have received at least 8 consecutive 4-star evaluations, indicating that Food For The Poor consistently executes its mission in a fiscally responsible way, and outperforms most other charities in America.”

Bonnie also recommends CARE, UNICEF, World vision, Doctors without borders (love that one, they are out there doing triage and they lost their three centers) and Partners in Health (Paul Farmer) are all very good as well, just a few I can think of.

Bonnie finally heard from their team on the ground in Haiti. It's "chaos" there with tens of thousands of people camping out in the parks because of the aftershocks. People are afraid to go back inside, even if their homes are intact. Even the team slept at a staff member's house out in the hallway b/c of the fear of aftershocks.

Bonnie is posting news as she gets it on her blog She is at work and buried in trying to deal with the fundraising and information arm of the operation.

Bonnie asks pleas to think good thoughts for Haiti and send prayers. They need all the positive mental energy they can get.

We at the Chatelaines are very proud of Bonnie and the work she does and we encourage all of you to help out in whatever way you can. In the spirit of helping we're going to discuss volunteering and our favorite charities this week and would love to hear from our readers and what your favorite charities are and how you pay it forward.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Blind Side of the Creative Mind

from Emily Bryan . . .

I've so enjoyed hearing from the other Chatelaines about how they start a new manuscript this past week! Hope you did too.

Right now, I'm head down on a story, about 100 pages in, so I'm not reading for pleasure much (my way of ensuring someone else's words don't wander around my subconscious and accidently flow out my fingers). But I am watching movies when I get a chance to take a break from writing.

Two nights ago, I watched Julie & Julia with my fam. What a delight! I'll have words with anyone who says Meryl Streep isn't this country's best living actress.

I didn't expect to enjoy this story so much. I am, quite possibly, the world's worst cook. I have indeed been known to burn water. My mother recognized this deficiency early and put me to work setting the table, something for which I showed aptitude. (Do not tangle with me about which fork goes where!) On occasion, I was allowed to toss the salad.

But cook? Believe me when I tell you the phrase "burnt offering" means something to my DH.

This movie made me wish I could cook. There is something splendid and sensual and nurturing in fabulous food being painstakingly prepared. The recipes were works of art.

Any work of art requires undivided attention, and perhaps obsession, from its creator. Both Julia and Julie became so wrapped up in their cooking, they failed to see how their singlemindedness was affecting those around them. Julia's husband's career was taking a downturn and she barely noticed, even when they kept being shuffled from one less impressive post to another. Julie was too caught up in the success of her blog to realize she was neglecting her relationship with husband.

And I recognized myself.

When we lived in Seattle, I was learning the writer's craft, penning the Norse love story that became MAIDENSONG, my Diana Groe debut. I should have noticed my DH was troubled, but I was too busy playing with my Vikings. When he finally told me the company he worked for was floundering and he expected to lose his job any day, he'd been carrying that burden around for months. By himself.

Creative people are by nature a little closed off. What's going on in our heads is so vivid, so exciting, it's tempting to live there instead of in the real world of laundry and paying bills and "what's for dinner?" (Well, if you're Julia Childs I guess that last one's covered!)

And writing is something that doesn't confine itself to time spent in front of a keyboard. I've been known to go suddenly quiet, get a glazed expression on my face and my DH will say, "You're writing, aren't you?" And I have to admit he's busted me. He's a good sport about it. He lets me bounce ideas off him and he's the ultimate arbiter of un-guy-like behavior that sometimes creeps into my heroes.

But there is time to write and time to be in this century instead of the one in my head. So tonight, because my masochistic DH has convinced himself he adores one of the few things I can fix, I am going to cook.

It's not Beef Bourguignon. It's not Lobster Thermador. I'm going to make . . . meatloaf.

I'll grind up the fresh veggies (in the new food processor my DH asked me to give HIM for Christmas so he could have meatloaf more often!) and crush the breadcrumbs and slop my arms up to the elbows mixing the ingredients in a bowl so big it barely fits into my cupboard.

Because my meatloaf, unremarkable as it is, says things to my DH. Things like "I notice you've worked hard all week." "Of course, you're worth the trouble of dirtying every pot and pan in the kitchen." and most especially, "I love you."

So before I disappear into another century for a day of writing, I'll set an alarm for 3 PM. That'll give me enough time to prepare the meatloaf. I want the aroma (please God, don't let me burn it!) to waft down the hall and tickle his nostrils when he steps off the elevator tonight.

What do you do to show the ones you love how you feel about them?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

How A New Character Comes to Life

The trouble with me starting a new book is that I end up doing it the day after I turned in the previous book.

I wake up, my eyes blurred, my tongue thick, my head aching. No, I didn't drink too many martinis (tempting, but no). This is my usual Day-After-I-Turned-in-the-Manuscript hangover. My brain is complete fog, and I want to lie there and sleep the day away.

Then I remember that I have another book due in two months. And I don't have a page written. Plus, my editor is going to a cover meeting soon and needs a chapters and a solid synopsis she can use for the blurb. Plus she wants any ideas I have for the cover.

My brain says "Ungh."

Of course, I "started" the book long ago, in theory, when I wrote the proposal and sold it. However, this might be Book 2 of a three-book contract of which I've not written one word.

Of course number 2: If it's part of a series I already know who the characters are and basically what it is about.

If I'm lucky.

I love the MACKENZIE series in particular because I plotted out the entire series before I started book one. This is unusual for me, but so far has been wonderful.

EXCEPTION: Cameron's book, which completely threw me for a loop. In other words, the heroine I'd picked out for him and the plot she came with ended up not being right for Cam. They didn't click, mesh, or otherwise engage. Plus the woman was just too...well, wrong. I think she'd work in another story, but not with Cam.

So I fired her.

I auditioned quite a few more heroines, each with their own backstory and unique plot. Every day I had a different and better idea. Every day I threw yesterday's idea out the window. I did this for a month or so (while finishing previous manuscript--a month between books is a luxury I do not have).

Finally, she appears. The heroine who will challenge Cameron but love him, who will be strong enough to take him but not be an angry b*tch.

She is a childhood friend of Lady Isabella (heroine of Book 2), and is now one of Queen Victoria's ladies. And therein comes the plot.

Next I bring this woman into my life and think about every aspect of her. Where was she born? What were her parents like? What strata of society is she in? Was her childhood happy? Unhappy? Who are her brothers/sisters or is she an only child? How did having siblings or not affect her? Good relationship or bad with her siblings? What gender are they? All brothers? All sisters? A mix?

Has she been married or in a serious relationship before? (This is Victorian times, so an intimate relationship without marriage or engagement will be scandalous or secret.) Or is she single? Widowed? How does this affect her? How old is she? Is she wealthy or have to make a living? Is her family still alive?

What is her outlook on life and why does she have this outlook? What does she think about marriage and men in general? About families and children? About men like the hero? About the hero? What is her relationship with other characters from previous stories?

And more.

I rarely write this out; I simply brainstorm it, picturing my heroine in various situations and gradually coming to know who she is.

Then I search for a name.

Some writers can't begin to flesh out a character until they have a name, but I do it the other way around. I see this person, hear them speak, watch them interact, etc., before I can find the right name for her.

(And I always, always picture the heroine in bed with the hero. That's a VERY important scene and it's one of the first ones I think of. I need to think about that one many, many times. Right? *g*)

Once I have my character and get how my hero feels about her, I search for a name.

I look at my list of names I've accumulated over the years, listen to people talking about other people, look at credits on TV shows and movies (all those names--one will jump out). I have to be careful when I'm writing a historical as to whether the name I think is exactly right for my heroine was around in the time period or not.

I also look up names for their particular nationality. (I had great fun finding all the Irish names for my new release, PRIDE MATES, and the Chinese names in THE DRAGON MASTER.)

So, now I know my heroine, her name, how she's going to interact with the hero, her current situation, her problem that's going to involve her with the hero, and other things (like her hair and eye color, which may jump at me right away, or may be the last thing I consider).

I do the same thing with the hero, but in this case--Lord Cameron Mackenzie--I have fleshed him out in my brain pretty well already (that's not to say he doesn't have some surprises for me).

That's enough for me to sit down and write the first hundred pages. After that, I can give my editor a decent synopsis of the whole book, plus a polished first chapter, plus a good idea of who my hero and heroine are.

I email that off to her, and then go back to bed.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

How do I start a book? Well, it's like this...

Pretend I went to the movies and came home and wanted to tell my husband or kids all about it. The conversation would go something like this:

So there was this teenage girl from Arizona, right? And she'd never been special or popular or anything. Her parents were divorced and she hadn't seen her dad in forever. So the story starts when her mom wants to go off somewhere with her new boyfriend. So the mom ships the girl off to a beyond-nowhere named-after-cutlery small town in Washington state to live with her father, the most unobservant policeman since Barney Fife. And it's all really awkward because she and her dad are practically strangers and have no idea how to deal with each other.

So the girl goes to school, and even though she's never been popular, this tiny town is so starved for new blood (heh heh) that she's instantly the most popular girl in school. All the guys are hitting on her, except, of course, the hottest guy of all, her mysterious chemistry lab partner, who seems to hate her for no good reason. So of course, since she's more than a touch masochistic, she's attracted to him like crazy even though he's the strangest guy. He broods all the time, never talks to anyone but his brothers and sisters, and none of the family ever comes to school on sunny days. Then she pricks her finger, and the sight of her blood makes him go all weird...

So what does chatting about Twilight have to do with starting a book? Well, the way I start a book is pretty much like telling someone about a movie. I sit down at my computer, open a file and start typing as though the story was done and I was telling someone about it. The idea has been kicking around in my head for a while, but it's very much unformed. Mostly, I know about the characters, and maybe the opening hook. Probably, I have an idea about the ending. The middle is a fog.

So I start typing a few pages of background about my main character, and eventually get to the phrase "the story starts when..." Then I just sort of free flow the story, concentrating on goals, motivation and conflict, typing whatever comes to mind as the main character responds to each new dilemma at hand. I throw in new characters, their backstories, their subplots, etc. Whatever seems to work.

When I'm done this exercise, I'll have up to twenty pages single spaced of character study, plot and action. This jumbled up gold mine is the working outline that no one ever sees, except my dog, who likes to sit next to me on the couch while I work, but since she can't read, I figure I'm safe.

Next step? I take the working outline, separate out the background and character stuff, and turn the rest into a scene-by-scene synopsis. I use this to start writing.

Does the finished book follow the outline exactly? No. A lot of stuff gets changed along the way, but I don't worry about that at the beginning. A starting point is just that - a starting point.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The canine plot to stop Bonnie from starting her book

Cookie: "So Dolce, how are we going to do this? Stop Bonnie from starting her new book?"

Dolce: "I dunno. I'm too busy thinking how nice and warm this bed is. My paws are still cold, though. Think we can steal that extra blanket?"

Cookie: "Pay attention. We have to plan. You know what happens when Bonnie starts a new book. She gets like that look in her eyes and everything else takes second place. Even us! This time, we're not gonna let it happen."

Dolce: "Yeah, she'll forget to give me dog biscuits. Then I'll have to rely on Frank for dog biscuits and man, it's cold on my paws at 5:30 in the morning when I chase him into the kitchen when he's leaving for work, just for a lousy dog biscuit. Maybe we can kill the computer. I hate that laptop. BTW, good move last night on crawling into her lap and stepping all over the keyboard."

Cookie: "Thanks. No way am I letting a stupid computer take over my favorite spot. I don't know about killing the computer. The thing is gasping its last anyway. Last night when I stepped on the keyboard, the 'T' and 'F' keys stuck. She bought a new computer to replace it."

Dolce: "But I heard her telling Frank she has to wait for some device to upload her software. I think it's coming in the mail this week. Can we attack the mail carrier? Or just growl fiercely at her?"

Cookie: "It's an option, but we'd have to figure out how to escape the house first and honestly, I'm too comfy to brave the weather. Plus, you growl too cute. You need to deepen it, like a Rottie."

Dolce: "You know, we may not have to do anything. She keeps saying she's starting the book, but she hasn't written anything yet. It's like the Christmas tree. They say they're taking it down and they don't."

Cookie: "But sooner or later that book will get started, and that tree will come down. And when the tree comes down, the stuffed Coca Cola bear ornament is mine. I'm staking my claim."

Dolce: "Don't get your puppy pads in a wad, you can have it, just stay away from my squeaky toys. Now, about the book, I've seen this happen before. She hasn't displayed any of the signs yet."

Cookie: "Like what?"

Dolce: "She's not talking to us about her characters. You know how she'll tell us stuff about the hero when she's folding laundry? Or how she'll play this music she thinks reflects the mood of the book? Or how she'll make notes all over the place about stuff and go around muttering, 'The hero needs more internal conflict.' Whatever that is."

Cookie: "You're right. I remember the last book. That vampire book? Remember how she looked through magazines for photos of the setting? She hasn't done that yet, either. She is going to Haiti in two weeks, maybe she's waiting until she comes back?"

Dolce: "I think it's this weather. This is Florida and it's been 37 degrees night after night. It's frozen her brain cells and I can't unthaw my paws. So why don't we just forget about trying to stop her from starting the book, there's no danger of that now, and settle down in their bed and snooze? We'll think of a plan tomorrow."

Cookie: "Good point. Things always look better in the morning."

Dolce: "Especially after a nice dog biscuit."

Sunday, January 10, 2010

New Year, New start.

As you can see we're discussing beginnings here on the Chatelaines this week. I actually had to laugh when we settled on this topic because it was my turn to take part in a progressive story and I was coming in at the middle. I wasn't a part of the beginning, all I could do was take the characters and run with them. I have no control over where they've been or where they're going, all I can do is control my little part of the story.
So one project down and I'm ready to start another one. Except I'm not starting a new project. I'm revamping one. So I guess you can say I'm starting it over. For the fourth time. What I realized with this project was I was listening to everyone else where it was concerned and not myself. So this time I'm going to do it my way and we'll see what happens.

As you can see I'm not beginning anything. I'm just middling. But I am coming into these projects with a fresh perspective and without a lot of the baggage I've been carrying the past few years. I've made some changes in the past few months that have refreshed my mind and my spirit. So I'm beginning anew. I'm excited about the projects I've got lined up to work on. And then it will be time to start something new.

I've often been asked, as Gerri said, about where I come up with my ideas. Little things trigger them. Sometimes its just a glimpse of something that gets my mind to turning. I usually say my head is full of characters and whoever screams the loudest gets out. They all have their beginnings. Then its up to me to find out where they end up.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

In the beginning . . . There was an idea!

Writers are often asked where they get their ideas. The answer is easy: Everywhere! Newspapers, magazines, books, television, the Internet, any medium at all can offer thousands upon thousands of ideas for a story. And it doesn’t matter what genre you’re writing. Writers will often come upon the kernel of a story and not have a clue what to do with it, not at first. Then they’ll mentally ask themselves “What if?” And sometimes it’s just a matter of putting two separate thoughts together to come up with an idea.

For example, say you’re reading the morning paper with a cup of tea and you read an article in the travel section about a castle in Scotland. Visitors to the castle report that strange things happen when they stay there. Not bad things, just curious movements, lights, and sounds.
Hmm. You say to yourself, where’s the story idea there? Well, what if the happenings could be linked to a female ghost? You do a bit of research and find out that in 1291 a daughter of a lord was locked in her chamber by her overbearing father because he suspected her of having an affair with one of the local gentlemen who was socially beneath her. The girl, desperate to escape her prison, tried to escape out the chamber’s one window and fell to her death.
What could you do with that information? Does she truly haunt the castle? Is she seeking revenge against her male ancestors? There’s the start of a story...perhaps a work of horror. Does she haunt the castle halls seeking the love she once lost…perhaps you have a romance. There’s a hundred ways to spin the tale and a hundred authors would come up with a hundred different storylines.

See? It’s really an easy thing. All you have to do is ask yourself “What if?” What if someone took control of all the United States' electric grid? What if a knight from the Middle Ages fell in love with a Muslim princess? That’s the question I asked myself when I started work on my upcoming May 2010 book Seducing the Knight.

What ideas have you had recently by asking yourself “What if?”

Friday, January 8, 2010

Beginning a New Story

from Emily Bryan . . .

The Chatelaines have put our heads together and come up with some topics we think might interest our readers, many of whom are also aspiring writers. And the first one is How to Begin Writing a New Story.

Now, I've been writing seriously since 2001. My 8th book, STROKE OF GENIUS, will come out May 25th this year. You'd think I'd have this process down to a science, but no. Each cast of characters seems to take a different path to the forefront of my consciousness.

I can tell you one thing that definitely doesn't work for me--NaNoWriMo. I just tossed out 100 pages that were totally unusable. I'm not an organization freak, but I need a bit more structure that just shooting for a word count.

So I'm back to square one, looking for my next hero. Romance is character-driven fiction. I have to start with either the hero or the heroine because it's their story. I need to learn who they are and what they want more than their next breath before I can begin to tell you what happens. I can always devise ways for them not to get what they want for a while which pretty much takes care of plotting. But delivering a fully-actualized, robust character who breathes on his own . . . that has to happen on page one.

So here are the things I need to know about my H/h, even if no one else ever does.

Name ~ That seems like a no-brainer, but a name really sets a tone for a character. Cyril or Jake, which do you think will be the hero?

Physical Characteristics ~ This includes more than rippling muscles, hair and eye color. I furnish my character's closets with weapons and wardrobe as well. Someone said (wish I could tell you who) "It is well that there are no perfect people, for they would not have a friend in the world." Give your characters a few flaws and blind spots.

Family ~ Face it, we are all shaped by those people who first took care of us and taught us the world was a safe place. Or not. Same for a fictional character. A brief family tree, complete with branches for a few weird uncles is not a waste of time for an author. Where your character has come from influences where he's going.

World View ~ We all have a set of filters through which we view the world. They are our religious beliefs, political views, code of ethics, or sense of "ought-ness." Some of the most powerful stories ever written involve characters who've had to totally re-shape their pre-conceived ideas of how the world works.

Defining moment ~ We've all had them. They are forks in the road. Most of our decisions don't carry such weight but there are a few choices in every life that makes us who we are. Know what mile posts have come before for your character and make sure we see at least one defining moment between the pages of your story.

Driving need ~ If I've done all the rest of my homework, this is where the story actually begins. I need to identify the imbalance in my character's life, the whole in his soul that needs filling. This will give me his goal and the premise that will propel me 400 pages. It doesn't matter what the goal is, only that my character cares passionately about it. For example: I've never owned or wanted a BB gun, but I'm pulling for Ralphie all the way in A CHRISTMAS STORY because he wants it with such fervor.

For an example of a beginning, may I humbly suggest you give my FREE online novella a try? I just started this serial adventure January 1st and plan to add to it each month with help from my readers. Enjoy!

I'm always searching for new ways to improve my writing process, so I'm really looking forward to what the other Chatelaines have to share on this topic!

If you're a writer, how do you start your new stories? If you're a reader, can you think of a beginning that really reached out and grabbed your interest?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Human's Guide to Shifters

As I count down to Jan. 26, and my release of Pride Mates, I give you a peek into the world of Shifters:

A Human's Guide to Shifters

Shifters: Shape shifters of all species, mostly predatory: Most commonly Feline and Lupine. The Fae bred Shifters millennia ago from the best of each species to be hunters and fighters for the Fae. Shifters rebelled during the human Middle Ages, fought the Shifter/Fae war, and thereafter lived independently of the Fae.

Fae: Sometime called the Sidhe or Fair Folk, they retreated to the Faery Realm after the Shifter/Fae war, which may be entered through stone circles after certain rituals are performed. Most Fae can fly, they fight with bronze swords and bows, they abhor iron.

Collars: Developed by a half-Fae, Collars are both magical and technological. Tied to the adrenal system, they send shocks and pain through the Shifter's body when he or she starts to get violent.

Mates: Pairings recognized by the pride leader or clan leader in two rituals, one under sun, one under the full moon. Shifters are not allowed to be legally married under human law, but the sun and moon rituals are recognized by Shifter law as a marriage.

Pride: Mates and cubs plus closely tied family members living with them (e.g., parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, first cousins). (Lupines=Packs)

Clan: A collection of prides or packs that are related, though the relationships may be very distant (e.g., cousins to the 12th degree). The clan leader supersedes the pride or pack leader, although no clan leader can interfere with issues between mates or between parents and cubs. Females and cubs are protected from the clan or pride leader by the male mate.

Shiftertowns: Enclaves in inner-cities or remote rural areas cordoned off by humans where Shifters must live. Shifters are not allowed to live outside Shiftertowns.

More from A Human's Guide to Shifters here:

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Twelve Steps of Writers Anonymous

This is something I wrote a few years ago, but it's worth repeating. I call it The Twelve Steps of Writers Anonymous. The steps, like the famous 12 step programs for Alcoholics Anonymous, are guidelines toward a goal.

In this case, the goal of the steps is to focus on the process and creativity of writing, and to set aside the worries, fears, concerns regarding the business of writing. In this crazy business, sometimes the only control we have is over the art of writing itself.

Oh, and a great book I recommend if you need inspiration about writing in general, is Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. I keep a copy on my desk at work.

The Twelve Steps of Writers Anonymous

1. We admitted we were powerless over publishing.

2. Came to believe that a force greater than ourselves, the publishers, editors, agents and the reading public, held the power.

3. Made a decision to turn our will over to the joy of writing for writing in itself as a pure creative expression of our inner selves.

4. Made a determination to write fearlessly without the restraints of the inner critic.

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another fellow writer that this business truly sucks some days.

6. Gave ourselves the freedom of expressing ourselves through our writing, no matter how politically uncorrect or unmarketable the writing was.

7. Humbly acknowledged there will always be a writer better than us, more popular, with better sales, more contracts.

8. Acknowledged there will always be writers worse than us as well, and all we can do is become the best writer we are meant to be instead of comparing ourselves to others.

9. Resolved to read outside our comfort zone to expand our creative consciousness.

10. Continued to balance our writing with our personal lives and to treat other writers with the same respect we ourselves desire.

11. Sought the advice of more experienced writers, writing manuals and workshops to improve our writing, but while acknowledging these methods may not work for us and that’s okay.

12. Having had an awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to practice these principles each time we begin a new writing project.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Just another post about resolutions

I'm a big fan of the Mutts comic strip. Right before new years Mooch said his resolution was to eat more pancakes with whipped cream. He made the resolution because he knew it was an easy one to keep. So here I am with a shiny new year and a boatload of good intentions and resolutions that I probably won't be able to keep. You know the usual, the diet, the organizing, the cleaning, the volunteering, all those things that you swear you are going to do once the new year starts, or on Monday, which ever one comes last. New Years Day was on a Friday. Who wants to start anything new on the weekend?

However, I am going to try. I'm going to continue to exersise, even though it seems to have no impact on my weight. I just feel better so I will keep it up. I am going to get all the boxes stuffed in my attic unpacked. I just have to take them one at a time. I now have shelves and places to put things so my excuses are gone.

Most important, I am going to make better use of my time. I'm going to quit wasting it. I'm going to make every minute count, even if its enjoying a peaceful Sunday afternoon snooze. Time is my most precious commidity right now,(especially if the world ends on 12/21/12.) And occasionally, I will eat pancakes with whipped cream.

So here's wishing everyone a Happy Whipped Cream covered 2010 and much success with your resolutions.

Friday, January 1, 2010

"First Foot"

from Emily Bryan . . .

In Regency times and even earlier, part of the 12 days of Christmas celebration was the custom of the "First Foot." It was considered particularly auspicious if the first person to cross your threshold on January 1st was a tall, well-favored dark-haired man. (Of course, I would argue that a handsome dark-haired man at the door is good luck on any day of the year!)

In smaller villages, a fellow who fit the qualifications was designated the "first footer." He'd visit every home, being treated to wassail and food, and often he distributed symbolic gifts of salt for wealth, coal for warmth and bread for abundant food for the coming year.

So, this morning when Mack the Wonder Dog needed to go outside at oh:dark-thirty, I convinced my own well-favored, dark-haired man that he should take Mack out so my DH could fulfill the "first foot" requirements when he came back in. (Hey, girls, whatever works!)

I've got lots of plans for 2010 and a couple of fun things happening on my website right now. As a "thank you" to my readers, I've started a new FREE online novella called A DUKE FOR ALL SEASONS. I'll post a new chapter each month and I'm asking my readers to help me decide how the story will go. Each month, you can vote for one of two paths, or suggest something totally different, and not only will you help determine how the novella goes, but you'll also be entered each month in my quarterly contest. (The prize is a $100 Borders, B & N or indie books store gift card!).

After you pop over to read A DUKE FOR ALL SEASONS, I'd love it if you come back here to leave comments or questions. Hope 2010 brings you all the best life offers!

Cindy Holby

Gerri Russell

Joy Nash

Bonnie Vanak

Emily Bryan

C.L. Wilson

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