Monday, October 31, 2005


Howdy everyone!

Happy Halloween!!

As I'll be frantically finishing the Batman costume, lol, here's wishing you and yours a safe holiday! Since it's RTB Day, I'll just ask that you head on over there (To read, click the button below!) and see my deep thought for the month!


Sunday, October 30, 2005

One a those weeks...

All right, when I left you Wed, I was anticipating several things to happen.

1) That my body would right itself and I'd feel somewhat normal.

2) That I'd finish the Batman costume and be Supermom. didn't quite work out the way I planned. BUT, some great things have happened in the interrim.

• I got a call about one of my submitted mss. The editor enjoyed it, but since she couldn't see fitting it into her line without ruining it (I love that she said that), she's forwarding it to another line, where she thinks it will be a much better fit for my voice and my style. This is something that has never happened before in my many years of submitting, so I think I came across as vaguely professional. Speechlessness has the effect of making me sound composed. LOL!

• So inspired, I actually managed to work out Chp 4 of the Vetta project and let me just say...DAYUM!

• The majority of the Bat was constructed. The gauntlets, the cape, the cowl was connected. It was an all-day Mommy attack! Double-dayum! Can't wait to show the pics!


• Went to dinner with BIL & SIL and MIL. Interestingly, upon seeing my BIL, Moo pointed and started waving wildly, calling to him, "Uncul! Uncul!" Moo doesn't really identify people by their title. Of course, since we usually go to "Popeye's chicken" for biscuits, he immediately launched into a demand for them, earning BIL the new nickname of "Uncle Biscuits". I have the bad feeling that one will stick, lol.


• I got my hair cut and colored. Mind you, the last time I did this, it was April. I now look and feel less like the red-headed yeti stepdaughter. Four inches of roots at the top and an inch of fried on the bottom...gone. Ahhhhh!

• I had a gangload of books from RWA that didn't quite work for me. I just haven't been in a reading mood and several of them just didn't quite work for me. Went to my bookstore and traded in for nearly 100 dollars in credit. Then, I went in and found some work from some of my favorite authors to inspire me again, as I really need it. So, thanks MUCH to Vicki Lewis Thompson & Stephanie Bond. Devoured "Fool For Love" and I feel better already!


• Chargers won! I'd say more, but y'all would shoot me. Suffice it to say, this is highly exciting and pleasing to me. (Sadly, I missed most of the third quarter because I resorted to the Tylenol with codiene and promptly passed out, but the boys held up in fine style!)

• I found an interesting email in my inbox. An editor found my work--she read my blurbs and samples on my site--and is interested in finding out more about them. Don't worry, she's not from the vanity presses or anything bad. From a reputable pub, though I won't say who at this stage. It could be nothing...but I'm feeling optimistic. (I know, don't pass out or anything.) Will keep you updated.

Now to just get started on the right foot in November.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Project Updates

DRUGS: Okay, the sickies got a good grip on the ole ovaries this week. Thankfullly, fever stayed low grade and pain is abating. Sadly, this means sticking to the seemingly useless naproxen. It helps in the long run, but seriously, I feel like I'm dialating in the meantime. It's like losing days of battle so you can win the war. For you men out there, imagine if your nuts turning into bolts--hard, cramped and screeching over each other. To say nothing of the lovely feelings it sends out to your toitoi. :) LOL! At any rate, hopefully it's almost over and I can look forward to the next bout near to Thanksgiving. Whine.

BATMAN: The cowl is made. Just the cape and the gauntlets to work on. Sounds easy, right...yeah....right. Hoping to work on those today.

WRITING: Well, the sisters spoke a little. The next one is starting to whisper. And, of course, the unfinished edits on Vetta are whining. I need some better lithium.

WORK: Still working on the Open House, tracking emails and building January schedule. I can probably finish January today and hopefully get another 50 emails out today. Crossing fingers. Oh yeah, and rounds.

DINNER: Okay, for the last three nights, something has been slightly off with all my cooking. Granted, I felt like crap while doing it for the first couple of days, but last night I was able to stand and not need to curl up on the floor several times. Still, didn't have enough sauce and there are few cooking errors as bad as not having enough sauce. What to make tonight....? Hubby might go for a nice baked mac & cheese, right? Never tried that before. It's always been instant here in Cali but I hear that people make it somewhat fancy in other places. I can put the hot sausage in it, maybe....

Okay, off to see what I can do to get all this done today.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

TTT: General Targeting

Well, it's Tuesday again folks and for the first time, I don't really have a topic to babble on about. So, I hauled out my notebook of questions and thought it might be a good time to cover a more general topic--targetting.

It sounds like it should be easy. You like a line, your story has characters of the kind they print and they have some adventure of a like type as well. BINGO!

Not even close.

It took me roughly four years to learn how to target properly. And that was to one line. I've now expanded my approach to three. We'll see how it goes.

It's most difficult to know where to begin.

If you ask a lot of writers--particularly the Unpubs--they will tell you to write the story of your heart, find a place for it later. I used to feel this was true, but I have to say, I think it's only half-true. I read somewhere where an author asked, "If it's not the book of your heart, why are you writing it?" I laughed good and hard at that because that question certainly puts it into perspective. "Write what you know" is an equally unhelpful instruction. The reason I don't recommend either one of these as first steps to targeting is that they are misleading. A writer should only invest time in a story they care about--a book of their heart. If it comes from anywhere else, you won't like writing it and no one will like reading it. Don't waste your time. Writing what you know is vague and difficult. Have you ever tried to catalog how much you know? You'd be surprised. (I sure was.) But in list form, it's boring as hell. Write what INTERESTS you. If you're interested in the theme, the topic, the internal's a book of your heart. In any event, if you plan on building a career with your writing, you must accept that it's a business. No one wants to pay taxes, but if you plan to make that business last, you need to know how to take care of setting the money aside. Likewise, if you want to write with any longevity, you'll need to learn to aim your writing not just for what you like most, but also where the market heads and for your line's specific needs. Otherwise, they find authors who can.

If you ask any editor, the first step is to read the line. That what you like to read might be what you like to write. But I'm going to have to disagree with that one, too. What you eat is not necessarily what you are. I love to read regencies...I was not meant to write them. Add to that, not every person is a born writer and that has to be taken into consideration.

What you need to think about first is YOU.

If you have always written, you have a style, a voice; however undefined or untrained. What kind of stories do you naturally come up with? Romantic comedy? A murder mystery? Do you like dark and foggy tales or smart, wicked quick plots? Did you keep pairing couples up? Or repeatedly come up with ways to kill someone? Do you write in concise sentences, staccato in rythym? Or do you find your writing has always been descriptive, every sentence designed to be evocative of a particular atmosphere? These are important aspects of writing to consider when choosing a line or imprint to approach. All writers train to write for a line, but if you force yourself to write against your grain, you'll end up with bumpy, choppy flow and you'll be unhappy writing it. To be sucessful, your heart must be in the story, no matter how commercially you come up with it, and you have to respect your own process. No one writes the same or "the right way". A better writer is the one who knows where they flourish. Remember, there's a reason plants turn towards the sun.

If you have never written a word before, or have always daydreamed stories but never attempted to write, things are much more difficult for you. You're approaching writing having abandoned the spectators chair. You're well aware of what you like to read, but writing comes from an internal place. Your first job will need to be finding that. Begin with what you enjoy reading most. Or an author you enjoy reading. Emulate. This doesn't mean copy. It means ask yourself what you like and why. Take those things--"I like how her hero's do this.." or "Her heroines never take any crap!"--and try to come up with a short scene or two that incorporates one at a time. When you feel you've mastered that, try to combine elements. Keep doing that until you have a short story. Then look at what you've done and ask yourself the questions posed above to the experienced writer.

Now that you have a genre, narrow things down by looking for a line there that appeals to you. Then read up on it. I had a mad passion for Harlequin Superromances. It was a large story for a decent cost and given how much and how fast I read, it was the best deal. When I finally considered sending an ms in, I immediately gravitated to Supers. I spent several years banging my head on the wrong wall, reshaping my stories to fit their tone and erasing my own. It took me further and further from publication. Finally, a wonderful ed there told me that I had to choose between a serious tone and the comedic tone underlying every page. It was a gentle way of telling me I was writing against the grain. I was targetting unclearly. It was time to see if the comedy aspect of my writing could lead anywhere--low and behold, I found a niche I fit into at Temptation. Writing for your voice is just as important as knowing what is out there. One tends to lead to the other.

Next, you'll find that several people tell you disect the books you like. To my mind, this is a lot like disecting your pet. Please don't do that. I'd suggest picking up books you've never read to disect them. This will teach you to separate your reading mind from your writing one and give your various approaches to the same line. It's important to be able to retain your ability to taste apart from your own cooking. I saw a french movie once where a man cooks for a chef. She asks him if he used a particular brand of sugar. He says, "There's no way you can tell which kind of sugar I used." Her reply? "No, but I can tell what kind you did not." You will hopefully become this adept with a line, but not if you stick with the things you enjoy. Taste to find what you do not and learn to avoid adding it.

Once you have factored in your natural voice and then researched lines to which that voice might lead you, you're all set to plot. Pantser or plotter, you still need a general idea of what you're going to write and who you will write about. Targetting involves lining your writing elements up in a certain order. Tone, action, characterization and language must all match, like suits of cards. You CAN create a straight flush with unmatching suits, but something will be off about the compilation to the reader's eye. An example would be a smart-mouthed, one-lining detective in a serial murder case that isn't remotely a comedy. It could be a great plot, a brilliant mystery...but that off-suit characterization will unbalance the entire thing and leave it discordant. If the elements harmonize, you give the editor a better reason to believe this is a story they want.

If you'll forgive one more metaphor, targeting your writing is much the way a lawyer puts a case together. The editor is your judge. The burden of proof is on you to provide evidence that you know what you're doing. If you aim your elements, your story and your writing in a particular direction, you build the case word by word. Leave something important out, add something that doesn't belong, and the ruling goes against you. Conscious targeting--at any stage--makes you a better writer and takes you several steps closer to selling. could always do what I did and spend years knocking on the wrong door.

Whatever works for you.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Fun With Dee & Pain

I am a writer. What I am not is a chooser.

One of hubby's pet peeves is that I don't have a food drive. Most people have an idea what they want to eat. Particularly when they're starving. I can be verging on complete collapse (hypoglycemic) and not have a bloody, blinkin' clue. I, like my poor kid, am a product of advertising. I see a billboard and go, "Oh, I'll eat that!" Comercials never fail with me. I am one of those pathetic souls who probably COULD be hypnotized into clucking in public. I am, not to put too fine a point on it, a Suggestion Slut.

So, when it comes to choosing a new project, I am overwhelmed with confusion. Add to this that I have multi-genre ideas and I'm flat out screwed. My last three projects were chosen by an editor and I was quite happy with that. But she's not going to be interested in choosing for another line and she's already got her plate chock full of stuff from me. Which means I need to do this on my own.

And you SOOOOO know that's not going to happen. So, here's the deal: Y'all get to choose for me.

Oh yes, I'm going to give you the briefest logline and genre and whatever wins the vote--provided more than three people make a vote--I'll work on next. The choices are:

Erotica/Comedy: When an unhappily oversheltered woman learns that her brother thinks he can arrange a marriage for her, she goes out for a little revenge.

Erotic/Comedy: He thinks she's morally corupt. She thinks he's a highhanded schmuck with cement up his crack. And yet, they keep falling in bed together. Which wouldn't be a problem if they'd managed not to get caught...

Single Title/Thriller: When the only clue to why someone is trying to kill you is the beautiful assasin you've caught in the act, how far can you trust her to lead you to the truth?

Single Title/Paranormal: Four sisters, one gift that effects them all. Can they hide from the magic in their blood? Or will their fate be the same as those doomed before them?

Okay, closing my eyes and hoping for the best,

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Sunny Lyn Saves The Day!

Now, she's way too nice to put it into print that she was helping me. But I admit it. I know a lot of writing tips, but it's more likely that I'd be able to give up sex, hugs and pie than it was that I'd be able to write an even slightly interesting or effective synopsis. I suck at them. I write stories, dammit. If I could tell them concisely do you really think I'd be a novelist??

At any rate, I finished my synop and gave it to my CP to crit. I won't be sitting for the next few days and I couldn't even argue with her. She was right. (Savor the flavor, X, I don't say that too often.) So, this morning I sat down and knocked on poor Lyn's door with my pathetic tale of woe. "Sunny, I'm lame...I'm LLLLLAAAAAAAAAAMMMMMME!"

Thankfully, she's seen this before and responded accordingly. Somehow or another, in a few hours, she got me to write a 1 page synopsis...before you fall down in shock, it not only makes sense and tells the whole's INTERESTING! Blow me down. (Any way you wanna take that, folks!)

So, I've met one of my goals, I have submitted to EC. Sadly, that means I must update my website, lol, which I was happily avoiding this month. So, I guess that means I have to finish my edits on this story and prepare myself for NaNoWriMo next month.

I'm a moron, aren't I? LOL!
That's okay, too happy with having submitted to feel bad about it.

Holiday Gear Ups

I saw something odd yesterday. A Canadian friend was touting herself "In the Season". She thinks it's the Christmas season. I think she's slightly out of her mind. I'm still trying to get past Halloween without overeagerly making a turkey to practice Thanksgiving. I LOVE Thanksgiving. But I'm not ready for it.

Is it me or does the year start to speed up right about now. Months fly by, stuff doesn't get done and money just pours out of the hands. It gets harder and harder to focus and whining prevails. I'm working on avoiding the whining, but I wouldn't hold my breath if I was you.

Speaking of...I finished my Synop. Which is to say, I completed a totally useless work of words. My CP said that you can tell I wasn't having fun writing it. My dillema is this. Editors say, make it interesting. Tell us what happpens, but don't just give us a "this happened, then this happened, then this happened" account. Show some voice.

Then the accomplished Syn writers say to be sure to inform of the GMC and the hooks. Good points, both. Include turning points and plot points. Sounds good too. Be concise. Uh... Be unique, stand out. Whimper!

Well, my CP got to ream me and chew me up and spit me out. And she's right to. But I think it's goiing to take something of a miracle for me to do all these things and be interesting as well as show voice. And seriously, what sadist decided to make them in present tense? Geez.

(PS--CYNTHIA: I found you some gloves for your Cinderella costume. Cheap! Check out the comments on the last post, left you a link.)

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Momma and the Machine

Sadly, there's nothing erotica in THIS post.

Okay, so, Moo wants to be Batman. I found a pile of black leatherette for five bucks. Suuuuure, I can make the Cape and Cowl!

What was I thinking??

Well, It took all day--and some of this morning, but the cowl is all but built. The tricky part? Well, currently, it's the ears...who knew those bat ears were so hard to get right? But interestingly, it's been getting the size of Moo's head right. I had it set to be a seamless looking head shaping cowl. Well, the boy's head is somewhat round. Particularly to the back. The curves--already evil when sewing--proved to be most difficult. The pattern I designed would work for an adult, but proved way too large for the boy. So, in taking it down, I discovered to cup his head, my curves had to be completely different. I've taken pictures just about every step of the way. When the costume is complete, I plan to post them all here so you can see the journey from pile of fabric to happy kid on Halloween. I hope.

Now how to attach that cape....

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

TTT: External Conflict: The War Room

An Addendum to last TTT, for another angle at Internal Conflict that I didn't cover--but boy, do I wish I'd gone into that particular specific--take a look at Julie Cohen's Blog. She discusses IC as a state of mind--self-esteem, etc--that is not brought upon by singular incidents. I still hold that ultimately, IC is an inability to trust, either in one-self or in others, but Julie has great insight here and it's worth your time to check it out.

And now, onto External Conflict.

If Internal Conflict is the battlefield, EC is most assuredly the War Room of your particular book. In military terms, the War Room is where people decide if you live or die, where decisions are made for the soldiers, either against them or for them to carry out. As a writer, the War Room is your tool to make those decisions that will effect the overall war your characters are having with themselves. Don't fool yourself, if your character is not at war morally, physically or emotionally with themselves and others in the course of your book, you're not writing a complete story and that's going to cost you.

The essence of EC is my very favorite catchphrase in writing. "Trample, Trample, Trample". Have you ever gone to a party and someone says something horribly crass or accidentally mentions the ex in front of the new wife? The afflicted will blanch, their mouth will tighten incrementally and they'll try to smile it off, but you know that they were effected. That, my friends, is trampling. In real life, you feel really bad when you do it. In romance, it's the stuff that awards are made from.

An External Conflict is a situation that puts your character in an untenable position. Every decision will have a cost that your character is in someway unwilling to pay. The trick to making EC work for your book is to offset the Internal Conflict of your characters with it and use it to poke, stab and punch their issues. EC is their problem, IC is their weakness. Your job as the writer is to make your characters as uncomfortable as you possibly can so that they will face their inner demons to achieve their goals. If you have a character who hates to fly, stuff them into a plane. If you have a character who hates dogs, drop them into a warehouse full of them on guard duty. Say it with me, "Trample, Trample, Trample".

Depending on what line you're writing for, EC has differing levels of importance. Sometimes, it's cliché; nothing more than a veiled prop to set your characters in action. Hero cannot acquire fortune unless he proves he is capable by living without money for a month. Or, heroine will earn grant for her dream business if she agrees to spy on her boss for his investors. A very light conflict that can be overcome by simply telling the truth--if you're willing to sacrifice the things you want for the value of love. This is a great romance staple and there's nothing wrong with it.

But if you want external conflict that is going to last you the length of a full size novel or anything over 55,000 words, you will need EC that has depth, has teeth and taps into your characters weaknesses. Find their weakest point and put them in a situation that attacks it. Then make it worse. Do not give them the ability to balk from it or escape it; but feel free to let them try. More importantly, don't ask the reader to believe that their inner heroism is what forces them into the choices they make. They won't buy it.

People are heroic when they need to be, usually by instinct. No one runs into a burning building just because it's on fire. They run in because they know someone in there can be saved. Or should be. That's the difference between being heroic and being stupid. Stupid characters deserve to burn; heroic ones deserve to come out alive. It's the one time in life when you get to be Justice. Choose wisely.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Late To The Party...

Well, it appears I've caught up to my committments, for the most part. My house is clean, my kid has been diagnosed (shockaroo, folks, he's autistic! *GASP!*--actually, the dr was quite nice and agrees that Moo has come incredibly far--, and the bigger surprise, the laundry is done. I've even managed to get back on track with work. Now the only thing I'm behind on?

Writing, of course.

I simply have to redefine my daily schedule. I'm a morning writer. That's just the way it is. Hubby, kid, yes, even the sibling, get in the way at night. I can multi-task, but writing takes full bore focus. Even editing. Maybe especially editing. But if I write in the morning, my blog time shifts to nights. Which brings me to today's subject.

Do you ever feel that you blog too late in the day? Or, by the time you get to the blogs you want to read, they've been commented like mad and you feel like you're only saying what's already been said? What time is too late to blog hop? Is there a such thing?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

We need more fun around here...

So, here's an interesting contest Tanya found and I'm outright stealing because I got such a good score, lol.

You Have Your PhD in Men

You understand men almost better than anyone.
You accept that guys are very different, and you read signals well.
Work what you know about men, and your relationships will be blissful.

Try it out!

We Knew It Was Going To Happen Sometime...

We all knew I was gonna drop a ball sometime. I just packed a few too many things into my week and BAM...there goes the schedule.

The Author Day--which went great!--took a big chunk of the day. Plus regular Harlequin work. Then the upcoming Winter Open House plans...all of which could have knocked me off, but then we added a few things.

Moo has a neurology appt this week--still have to fill out the paperwork--to grant him an official Autism medical rating. Oh, and he has the day off school--Why, God? WHY??--so the boy starts his Whimper. Add to the fact that no one will be looking for the TTT this late in the week and I'm thinking we'll just have to come back to it next Tuesday.

Sorry to disappoint!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


Both Tanya and X tagged me and has finally proven with utmost judiciousness...that I'm the most boring soul in the blogsphere.

I've been given the Meme challenge, which goes as follows:

1. Delve into your blog archive.

2. Find your 23rd post (or closest to).

3. Find the fifth sentence (or closest to).

4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions. Ponder it for meaning, subtext or hidden agendas…

5. Tag five people to do the same.

My 23rd blog entry was the Introduction To The Seven Deadly Sins

Fifth sentence?: "Then, once I came up with the outline, I realized it had to be seven completely separate articles, each one concentrating and detailing the most serious mistakes that universally contribute to rejections and returned manuscripts."

It couldn't have been the Poo with the lights on post, could it? Nope. Cause that would imply something interesting, lol. No mysteries there, or hidden meanings. Whimper.

Worse, I can't tag anyone--all my buddies with blogs have done it. LOL!


Tuesday, October 11, 2005


Hi Everyone!

In honor of today's Belfry Collective Author Day, the Tuesday Teach Day will be postponed until tomorrow. :) But please, be sure to check out the day's festivities! (You'll be joining the Author Day's Yahoo group and getting a whole host of excerpts and prizes!)

World Clock Configuration: (In order for us to coordinate the Aussie & American contingents:)
6 am New York (EST) = 8 pm Canberra, Australia

6 am-7 am– Sweet Romance & Confessions, Highlighting Gerrie Shepard

7 am-8 am Women’s Fiction & Christmas Stories. Hosted by Gerrie Shepard
Authors highlighted in this hour are, Bobby Cole, Gerrie Shepard, and Merry Stahel

8 am-9 am Time Travel, Mystery, & Intrigue Hosted by Merry Stahel
Authors highlighted in this hour are, Merry Stahel, Donica Covey, and Liz Wolfe

9 am-10 am Erotic Romance Hosted by Lyn Cash
Authors highlighted in this hour are, Lyn Cash and Ann Wesley Hardin

10 am-11 am Romantic Suspense and Thriller Hosted by author, Liz Wolfe
Authors highlighted in this hour are, Liz Wolfe, and Bronwyn Parry

11 am–Noon Mainstream and Suspense. Hosted by author Merry Stahel
Authors highlighted in this hour are, Bobby Cole, Donica Covey and Shara Jones

12 pm-1 pm Suspense and Mainstream cont. Hosted by author Shara Jones
Authors highlighted in this hour are, Shara Jones, Sheila Holloway

1 pm-2 pm Hen lit and Chick lit Mysteries. Hosted by author Liz Wolfe
Authors highlighted in this hour are, Liz Wolfe and Bobby Cole

2 pm-3 pm Romance, Mystery, & Mayhem. Hosted by author Shara Jones
Authors highlighted in this hour are, Heather Rae Scott, Liz Wolfe and Lyn Cash

3 pm-4 pm Another hour of Erotic Romance. Hosted by author Lyn Cash
Authors highlighted in this hour are, Ann Wesley Hardin, Lyn Cash, and Alexis Fleming

4 pm-5 pm An hour with an Aussie flavor. Hosted by authors Alexis Fleming and Bronwyn Parry
Authors highlighted in this hour are, Alexis Fleming, and Bronwyn Parry.

5 pm-6 pm = Erotic and Sexy Romance. Hosted by Christine Zubko
Authors highlighted in this hour are, Dee Tenorio, Kris Starr, and Christine Zubko

6 pm-7 pm Contemporary Romance. Hosted by Christine Zubko
Authors highlighted in this hour are, Dee Tenorio, Donica Covey, and Christine Zubko

Monday, October 10, 2005

Belfry Day!

I know, I've neglected y'all this weekend. I'll be better, promise.

But, today's blog will be posted on The Belfry Collective Blog!

Pop on over and give me what-fer!


Thursday, October 06, 2005

Bad Dreams, Big Headaches

Sorry for the late post, folks. Believe it or not, I was up early. REAL early. 2:30 am, to be exact.

I've always had a problem with nightmares. I blame my sister, who enjoyed making "Jason" sounds around my bed in the dark while we were growing up. She's ever so slightly sadistic. But, she also ran right into a pole and gave herself a goose-egg that left a permanent curve to her forehead she wasn't born with while we were playing tag. So, I'm calling it even.

So, there I am, in the dark, fairly sure there's something standing in my bathroom that shouldn't be there and afraid not to look, in case it moves. These are the idiot things I do when I wake up in the middle of the night. My one burst of courage was to reach past hubby to turn the light on to it's lowest setting. He didn't stir, which meant I'd have to purposely wake him up. Since he gets to sleep four hours a week, even I couldn't justify waking him up for a dream that didn't involve a gut reaction to imagined infidelity. So, I turned to my other laptop.

We have a great relationship, my other lover and I. It sleeps next to my bed, waiting for my loving attention. You can watch the little sleep light brighten and dim like it's sleeping, honest. I turned to it, then, of all things, I went to work. Yup, I did message boards rounds. Startled the Aussies, who were pretty sure I'd never be there at that hour. Then, and this is how you know I'm a sick puppy...I started writing.

Something about waking up from nightmares and writing always makes me feel like Mary Shelley.

Of course, she wrote a massive piece of classic work that remains a cornerstone of literature. I wrote about a couple freaking out after unexpected sex. Still, I bet Mary wished she had my laptop, so again, we're even.

If you're wondering where I'm going with this post, so am I. I have a headache three miles wide, I don't really intend to make a lot of sense but it's nice to know that no matter how afraid of the dark I am, how out of my head...I still can see that little sleeping light and know I can hide in someone else's world. And if they're having good sex while I'm there, well all the better. :)


Tuesday, October 04, 2005

TTT: Internal Conflict: The First Battleground

My CP mentioned that if she struggles with anything in her writing, it's internal conflict. There were some specific questions presented and she asked if I could possibly come up with some answers for her. I figured it was a fairly good Tuesday Teach Day topic and so, here we go.

1) What the hell is it?
2) What are we supposed to do with it?
3) How do you know if your IC is strong enough?

Now, some of you might be giggling, but you'd be surprised how something like Internal Conflict can mess with people's minds. I've found in some reading around that IC, while a huge element we all need to get a good handhold on, that many people have somewhat different definitions. I find that problematic for the studying writer. The reason that comes about is that different authors want to include shades of what IC can do for your characters in their definitions.

I like to keep things simple: Internal Conflict is, definitively, a single character's mental obstacle that disables their trust.

That does not mean that IC doesn't serve several purposes. But, if you want a definition that is clean and concise, that's what you need. One character. One main personal obstacle to contend with. Each of your central characters should have an internal conflict, preferably with some meat to it. Secondaries are welcome to have one as well, but it's not as important to the story. Don't get hung up on them.

Let's look at the common IC types. There are two major categories: Old Wounds and New Fears.

Old Wounds: These are both the most likely and the most often clichéd aspects of romance. Old Wounds are things that happen to your character in the distant past, usually childhood. Second most common is the Old Wound acquired in a previous marriage (which, reportedly, is ravagingly scarring). This type of internal conflict usually has something to do with the inability to trust others for whatever reason.

Childhood wounds are deeply ingrained in your character. When you use this kind of IC, think of it as a stain. It goes deep into the wood, into the flesh, of your character. You can use all the polish you want to cover it, paint to hide it, but if the wood has a warp, nothing you do to it will take it out. Every decision is weighed by them through that stain, through that warp. A character can choose to look past the automated stain filter, but it's a choice to be rational. The knee jerk reaction will always come first.

For example, abused children who grow into heroes and heroines will view people with a certain level of suspicion until it's proved they are "safe". More so if you have a sexually abused character. This is how they trained to survive at a formative level. Love will change them, but the older your wound, the less likely it is that they will magically become trusting and open. Love HEALS. It doesn't turn back time.

New Fears: This kind of IC is best used with characters in the midst of a personal crisis. They knew who they were and they are currently facing a drastic change that makes them question everything they know. In this case, the internal conflict is the inability to trust themselves.

New Fears can involve characters such as athletes that are suddenly paralyzed or forced into retirement. Intelligent professionals who find themselves unable to recall entire blocks of time or are coming to realizations as to the consequences of their previous choices. (This is particularly good for the surprised father of a secret baby.) Reconciling husbands and wives often face this kind of IC, leaving them to wonder what their responsibility for previous failures might be. New Fears is entirely about uncertainty.

Just like Old Wounds, New Fears creates a stain on the character, however this is generally more of a surface stain. It does not go bone deep and is surmountable. The inner core of the character will out. They have an ingrained sense of self that has been shaken, not destroyed. The challenge for a character with this type of IC is to realize that. Love will often see them through. It will strengthen their courage to face their new fears. Beware of putting your characters in a position where they do not face their new fear internally. It's a great temptation to use the new love as a crutch. The character must regain their faith in themselves as they overcome their New Fear or the IC is not resolved.

Now that we know just what the hell it is, let's discuss how to use it.

Thankfully, this is far easier to explain. IC is the pair of sunglasses your character sees through. It will color their reasoning for their decisions. Many times, a character will go the long way around rather than face their IC head on.

I know plenty of people will argue with me, but IC needs to be seen as part of a character's motivation. It is WHY they are willing or unwilling to do something. The other side of motivation is the External Conflict--a situation that puts the character in a position where they MUST do something. These two, for the purposes of your story, need to work intrinsically to move your character across the story canvas. Just like driving a stick, you've got your foot on the clutch and on the gas. As one pedal rises, the other will be pushed down. Hit them both and the car stalls. Apply one too much and the other not enough, and the car stalls. Apply pressure in a yin-yang equation and you've got a car that gets you somewhere.

For example, you'll need to establish the internal conflict--hero was an abused child, he fears being as dangerous to children as his parents were to him--then present the external conflict--former lover dies, leaving him to raise the child he didn't know they had. The hero has a viable concern about the child's safety, but he bears responsibility for the child. Apply pressure to the IC--kid is a baby and screams all night long. Pull back on the EC--he's been told that if he can watch the child for one night, a social worker can see him in the morning about placing the child elsewhere, providing relief. Switch. Man manages to get the kid to sleep without throttling it, he's exhausted but feels he's passed a test. Until he discovers that the social worker cannot take the child until a suitable home is found...that she'll be checking on him and the child daily in the interrim, but that it could take a few weeks. The relief is gone, the stakes are now higher. Repeat.

At every stage of increasing the stakes, the tension is higher for the character, forcing him to face his ingrained wound in both a situational and emotional level. Remember, because no one wants to face their fears, your character is going to fail to overcome, which will tighten the noose of the IC on them, especially as the stakes keep rising. And failure needs to have consequences equal to the level of failure. For our example hero, losing his temper with the child might have him break something the child sees, or slam a door or yell at the child directly--proof to himself that he's no better than his parents--and he might even leave the child in someone else's care so that he can escape the pressure. Upon his return, however, the social worker would have seen the ample evidence of his failure and applied more pressure and/or guilt by either upping the stakes with an ultimatum (taking the kid away, which is suddenly a frightening thought instead of a blessing) or reminding him that his responsibility is to the child, not himself. Laws of physics apply to literature: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

My CP did mention a particular concern in how to apply IC--can it be derrived from the External Conflict or the situation they are in? Sadly, the answer is no. An Internal Conflict must come from INSIDE the character. Whether the situation exists or not, your character will have this ISSUE. They are IMBUED with it. I capitalize these words so that you can use them as keys to remember what Intenal Conflict is.

A woman who has had her trust in her husband damaged will have that trust issue with him no matter if he is gone, part of her life or reemerging into it. The story is, for that character, the way they face their issue, how it colors their decisions and how they overcome it. At least, that's why people are reading it.

So, how do you know if your character's IC is strong enough?

Sadly, there's no litmus test that will tell you if the IC is ripe and ready to sell. But ask yourself these core questions. If you can't answer one or the answer strikes you as something you'd smack your friend for thinking because it's lame reasons to justify poor decisions, then you might want to tighten it up.

1) What kind of IC does my character have?
2) Have I shown it--at least to the reader--prior to presenting the situation (EC)?
3) Does my character have established reasons for this IC?
4) Do I show where the IC effects which choices they make?
5) Do I challenge the IC anywhere in my MS? Does my character fail to overcome it prior to the plot climax? Are the consequences equal and opposite?
6) When my character struggles with his IC, is it melodramatic or effective? Does he ever make progress and lose ground?
7) When my character does overcome, have I made it a permanent change to his nature? Does that seem believable considering the amount of time my character has had his IC?

With any luck, you'll now have a better understanding of your characters IC and how to apply it. Go out and torment.

Next week: External Conflict: The War Room

Monday, October 03, 2005

Walkin' The Walk

Hubby and I were talking yesterday, one of our rare walking and talking kind of evenings when neither of us was umbilically connected to our computers, and I brought him up to speed with my evil plot to become an erotica author.

Hubby, to say the least, is amused.

It's not that he doesn't find me sexy--I'm hot, dammit!

It's not that I'm not at least decently creative in our bedroom--double joints, baby.

What it is--oddly enough--is that he's not sure I can pull off the Skank Factor.

See, before any heads go blowing off (no pun intended--though there probably should be, might lose a point for that), to be an Erotica author, I'm discovering you have to be somewhat fearless. You've got to be comfortable using language that will scare your mother. You have to be at peace with describing sexual positions in graphic terms and make it good enough that your reader needs a cigarette and/or a man. Immediately. I'll have to not blush with my sexual innuendo. Not lower my voice when I use the gutsy phrases. And, most importantly, I have to have a pair of big brassy balls that enable me to get down an dirty. I have to develop a Skank Factor.

Now, I've listed that I'm pragmatic. I'm a mother of an autistic child. If I value my sanity, I wear a lot of knits, sweats and easy wash, who cares about the stain products. I'm allergic to most chemicals, so I rarely wear make-up. I have hair that needs to be ironed to look like anything other than a rat's nest. (Contrary to all that, I can still work up the occasional HOT status) But I have to admit to quite a bit of naiveté. I try to reason out fetishes (Will someone PLEASE explain why Furries exist??), I have to have diagrams to figure out a complicated position and I'm usually the person that goes, "Ohhhhh!" about fifteen minutes after a sexual reference in a movie. Hubby is probably right to wonder if I can do this. He questions that I have the natural impulse to consider or imagine something outside my comfort zone.

However, Hubby doesn't totally know the deviousness of my mind. And no woman ever divulges all her personal thoughts, desires and fantasies. For all he knows, I have an undying desire to run the Great Wall of China stark nekid to a sea of men at the other end. (Not likely, but I COULD!) So, I'd say I have a fifty/fifty shot--provided I do my research and toss off my inhibitions on the page and maybe a little bit in real life.

To that end--and this I think y'all might get a kick out of--hubby and I are keeping score.

All actions, impulses and remarks I make are now being judged for Skank Factor, lol. Points are lost for nervous giggling or blushing. So, when I make a dirty joke, I gotta do it like a pro. Have earned about 3 Skank Points this weekend.

I'm thinking if I can hit 100 in a day at some point, lol, I'll be Uber-Skeeze and worthy of some Skanky Respect. (I wonder if I'll get dinner with that?)