HALOS Website

July 3, 2011 at 9:45 am (Uncategorized)

Instead of the usual Sunday post, I’m finally gonna share the website.  Yahoo!!  Check it out.

Go here:   www.kerilake.com

And don’t be shy, leave a comment 🙂

Thanks for stopping by…

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The Formula of Attraction

June 26, 2011 at 9:29 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , )

There was a time, perhaps when you were six years old, when formulas were quite simple and made complete sense: 

1+1 = 2

Straightforward and not the least bit confusing. 

As you got older, the world changed and shifted.  Those easy equations took on a different form, with more variables and odd little symbols embedded in them.  By the time you reached adulthood, they looked a little something like this: 

 

What does this mean????   Hell if I know.

I do not profess to be a math genius – whatsoever.  But I am a woman of science and observation, so it’s only natural for me to make relations between variables.  ‘A’ appears to be directly proportional to ‘B’…hmmmmm.  And I’ve come up with a bit of a hypothesis for modern-day attraction between species.

In recent years, it seems that the simplicity of attraction no longer applies:  one boy plus one girl (or any variation of this – gender is not the focus of this blogpost) = Love.  That one boy used to be the neighbor you grew up with your whole life; maybe he was the only boy who was precisely 3 years older and 3 ft. taller than you in your small village; or worse, he may have been the one your parents insisted you marry based on social hierarchy.  But mom, he’s my cousin for crying out loud!  In all cases, it was pretty much a no-brainer back then. 

 In this day and age, a girl has a lot more to ponder what she wants in a man.  It’s no longer about the Montagues versus Capulets or the Jets versus the Sharks and their synchronized snapping dances down back-alleys.  Those days are long gone and have been replaced by a new rivalry:

Vampires versus Werewolves.

So first, let’s just break these groups down into some basic understanding of what they are.  For those of you living under a rock, today’s vampires aren’t the ones you remember from watching Saturday afternoon horror shows: 

 

Hello Nosferatu and good-bye.  Forever.  I don’t think we’ll ever revert back now that we’ve gotten a little taste of how sexy a vampire can really be:

 

What woman doesn’t dream about a midnight tryst with one of these guys?

 The same goes for Werewolves.  Once upon a time, little red riding hood met up in the woods with one of these:

 

Enough to make a girl run all the way to grandma’s house.

But I’m pretty sure Red would’ve stuck around if she’d been met by one of these delectable canines: 

 

Grrrrowl.

So now that we’ve established WHAT they are, let’s take a look at WHO they are. 

 The vampire based on today’s popular fiction is one of two flavors:  the brooding, tormented type who harbors a sense of guilt  (think Edward Cullen or Louis de Pointe du Lac); or a bit more exuberant about the life of a vampire (as in Eric Northman or Lestat de Lioncourt).  They are the undead, therefore cold, pale skin is a common characteristic.  Vampires are the artisans of the paranormal world, genteel and socially assimilated.  In most cases, they are capable of dazzling their prey, beguiling them with charm and unearthly beauty.  Women swoon and obey their every command, making them a very domineering group.  It is this power of seduction that has given rise to newfangled groupie types.

 Werewolves are much simpler creatures in that most lack the dramatic personality types of vampires.  Sure there are a few tormented souls but overall:  give them a bone, and they’re happy.  Weres tend to be strong with superhuman senses; unrefined and untamed with a propensity for violence if provoked; the ruffians of the paranormal world.  Because they are living beings, they’re not only hot-bodied but hot-blooded and appear as normal human beings in their un-shape-shifted form (think I made that word up).  And don’t discount a Werewolf’s ability to impress the ladies.  Physical prowess and rugged good looks are what draw women in, making them the ultimate alpha male.

OK now that I’ve summarized the wiki Cliffs Notes on the two, let’s move on.  Getting back to my hypothesis.  If we take the personalities of these supernatural beings and the women who love them, it’s only natural that a correlation begins to form in one’s head. 

I’ll take the opportunity here to confess that I’m not a relationship expert and will not be held responsible for anyone taking my theories to heart, and ultimately marrying the wrong person…er, being. 

I believe that women who fall for the fangalicious variety are the outgoing, outspoken females in society.  They typically don’t take crap from anyone.  But secretly, I think these women harbor a desire to fall victim to the seductive nature of a man.  Do with me as you will.

Conversely, and based purely on observation, those who flock to the beastly types are often times timid and shy; the quiet ones who would rather be home on Saturday night than out mingling with cocktails in hand.  Are you talking about me?  These women dream of taming a wild beast. 

And so my simple equation for the two is as follows:

A α D = B α C

In other words, I think that women who read about vampires are looking for a nice ass-spankin’ by something delicious while those who read about werewolves are looking for a not-as-nice, ass-spankingly delicious something.  Make sense?

But what about those who like both you ask?? 

That equation is even simpler than the first one.  They’re called demons.  And they are what I tend to write about 😉

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Forks

June 19, 2011 at 8:04 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

No, I’m not talking about the home of the Cullen clan. 

The forks I’m referring to are the kind that show up when you’re riding along a scenic little path, content as can be.  The calm winds blow through your hair and the sun warms your face.  The world seems right.  You close your eyes just for a moment to take in the serenity of your surroundings and open them in time to come to a screeching halt.

What the hell just happened? 

The straight and predictable path you were traveling on abruptly came to an end, leaving you teetering at a point of divergence, with multiple paths before you.  Each promises an infinite number of outcomes.  The sun disappears and clouds form in the distance, portending a storm.  You don’t have much time.  So which path do you choose?

Alright, enough of the destiny chatter.  It’s Sunday morning and I’m sure no one has had enough coffee to sit and ponder that. 

I’m fitting the last pieces of this massive writing puzzle that I’ve been working on lately:  the website, the edits to my manuscript, figuring out what direction this series is going to take me.  And I’m preparing myself for the next step, which will ultimately be publication, in one form or another.  This narrow path that I’ve been walking for the last few months, knowing what my mornings and evenings will entail, is about to become a bit convoluted. 

Like most authors these days, I’m trying to decide which route I want to take.  And because I didn’t spend countless hours fulfilling a writing degree, or even recognizing in the last 10 years that I wanted to become a writer, I honestly don’t know which yields better success.  I’m not just talking about money here; I’m talking about successful publishing and all the decisions that go into designing a decent book.  And do I have what it takes to contend?  Am I considered a “writer” in the real world?

I won’t dive into the last question too much, except to say that I firmly believe it is the drive and passion you have for something that defines what you are.  I spent 7 years working on 2 degrees in science, studying infectious diseases and biostats, and yet I feel no more a scientist than the girl who simply dreams of becoming one.  The difference between the two of us is that she will do whatever it takes to get there, while I dream of another path I wish I’d taken.

Going back to my original conundrum, I’ve been reading and studying the topic of publication as much as I can (in as much time as I can).  I’ve teased out pros and cons with each, and am left possibly more confused than when I began.  No big surprise there.

Traditional publishing brings editors, a marketing scheme, reviewers and the validation that comes with a recognized publisher.  Sounds enticing, if you’re able to make the slush cut.  Because I’ve never pursued publication until recently, I don’t have the experience of an agent taking an interest in my writing, only to have it passed on.  I can only imagine that if I’m tapped to send more than the first 5 pages of manuscript somewhere, I’ll be squealing with delight.  Not good.  This is what scares me about pursuing traditional publishing:  the possibility that my beloved book will never materialize.  And if it does, what happens if, as a debut author, I’m not meeting the sales mark?  Forget for a moment that this is a series and that I have other books I’d like to publish.  Sounds like I should go out and buy a lottery ticket; I’m pretty sure my chances of winning are greater.

Small press might get my book out there.  And I’m certainly not opposed to this path, perhaps even leaning a little toward it.  It also comes equipped with an editor, launch plan and reviewers.  But if I’m not going to go the traditional route with all the big guns backing my marketing campaign, do I have at least some say in the details such as coverart and ideas to launch my book?  I’m not a control-freak here, but if the big six isn’t branding my story, I suspect I’m going to need to exert a little effort to get it out there.  And I’d like to incorporate some of my own creativity in the process.

The last is self-publishing, or my least favorite term – “vanity publishing.”  Come on, I think just about every famous author has some little anecdote tucked away, detailing the difficulty in getting published.  I once read that Margaret Mitchell was rejected by 38 different publishers before Gone with the Wind was finally picked up.  Can you imagine a world without Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler?  There are some great writers out there who simply can’t snag the attention of an agent.  They take the time to write a query, a synopsis and outline chapters all for the purpose of dazzling an agent who reads hundreds of these a week.  Vanity publishing?  Really?  How about we just call it, “I worked my ass off on this and would like to get it out there” publishing.  Even if that means paying to do it.  This route brings total creative freedom.  Ultimately, it’s subject to the scrutiny of reviewers, bloggers and the same fickle public as a traditionally published author (though at a reduced readership).  A crappy manuscript isn’t going to become a bestseller (OK some do, but that’s a blogpost for another day).  Call it whatever kind of publishing you want.  There’s a reason Amanda Hocking and Zoe Winters are icons of self-publication:  they wrote something people liked.  But self-publication doesn’t come without its share of stresses either:  self-marketing, self-sustainability and the dreaded, self-editing.  Of course, you can pay to have the manuscript edited, but these ‘per word’ services can become expensive if you haven’t taken a fine-toothed comb to it yourself first.

So here I sit with my manuscript becoming more polished by the minute; friends and family asking when they can purchase a copy; and a website showcasing my love for writing about to be launched.  Will I begin the arduous task of choosing the right words to grab the attention of a weary agent and toss a penny into the fountain for luck?  Maybe I’ll investigate some reputable small press publishers?  Or will I give it a go on my own, taking my chances and hoping that what I wrote is interesting and well-written enough to keep me off of the “Self-Publishing Losers” list? 

I’m undecided at the moment.  What would you do?

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One in a Million

June 12, 2011 at 8:50 am (Uncategorized) (, , , )

About sixteen years ago (ugh, really?), I was riding in the backseat of my mother’s silver sedan, nervously gnawing at my bottom lip while trying to breathe evenly.  In the driver’s seat was my mother, dodging eye contact with me in the rearview mirror for fear she’d turn into a blubbery mess.  My Aunt Karen sat in the passenger seat, turning on occasion with a bright but sympathetic smile that only made the looming threat of bile inch higher up my throat.  The day I’d been dreading had finally arrived.

We drove through town and as if my heart rate was tethered to this place, the closer we got, the more distressed I became.  Don’t hyperventilate Keri.  But how could I not as I looked around, feeling like Lewis Skolnick (Nerds) on the first day?  It was as I’d imagined:  frat houses and sororities teeming with intimidating-looking Ken & Barbie doll types; hundreds of people my age, aimlessly walking around; cars filled to the brim backed up for miles on Grand River Ave.  MSU was plastered everywhere I turned with green and white banners smacking me in the face.  A nuthouse!  This was going to be my home for the next four years.  And I was scared to death.

I learned from paperwork that I’d received prior to arriving, that my roommate was a girl from somewhere in the thumb named Diana.  Great.  A country girl.  I, on the other hand, lived a stone’s throw away from Detroit, not far from 8 mile.  That’s right – the 8 mile, but before you even ask, the answer is “No” – I did not grow up performing rap gigs with Eminem.  Though apparently, that’s what my roommate thought, so we spent the better part of the first week avoiding each other.

From her pictures, I gathered that she was pretty popular in high school:  standing next to an impressive football player in one shot and sandwiched between two pretty girls in the next, adorned with a crown atop her perfect blonde locks.  Princess Di.  Good God.  What the hell was fate thinking when it roomed me with her? 

One afternoon on a desperate whim for company, I asked if she wanted to walk up town with me.  She seemed just as unsure as I was, but agreed to go.  Somewhere between the walk there, the bookstores we perused, the Heimlich she administered after I nearly choked on the lunch we had together, and the long walk back to the dorm room, we got to know each other.  Weird.  Princess Di wasn’t all that bad.

I could bore you with the life that has transpired between then and now, but instead, we’ll just fast forward to this past week when Diana came to visit me from Texas where she eventually moved.  For anyone who didn’t hear me blab all about it on Twitter, she stayed at my house a couple of nights and we somehow managed to cram four days worth of activities into two.  I’m exhausted this morning, but it was time well spent. 

Back up a couple of months ago when I finished my manuscript for HALOS, I knew exactly who my first beta reader was going to be.  Without telling her that I had finished yet another novel (she thought I was joking when I told her about the first two), I packaged my little darling and shipped it off.  Within just a few days, I received the squealing voicemail of my best friend who loved the book so much she read the entire manuscript in one sitting.  Better yet, she detailed her favorite scenes, expressed how HOT she thought the characters were and confessed how much she adored and envied the MC.  Princess Di?!  Dreaming that she was one of my clumsy and goofy characters in the book???  Her words were pure motivation bottled up with cork and a red bow. 

This past week, I showed her the progress I’ve made since then:  the edits to my manuscript; the tattoo that I showcased in my last blog post; the website that is still kicking my ass as I desperately try to finish it.  She continued to gush about the book and the characters, inquiring about the next installment of the series.  And something occurred to me.

I may never pick up a publishing contract, sell a single book at all, or become any more of an author than I already am.  But its friends like Diana that make me feel as if I’ve already arrived.  They’re a rare breed, only gifted randomly from time to time.  To this day, I’m so glad that I didn’t make my mom turn that car right back around.  And I guess I’m a little glad for the dangerous chunk of burrito that Diana managed to dislodge from my throat, causing a lifetime of laughter that still ends up in our conversations on occasion.

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The Black Phoenix

June 5, 2011 at 9:51 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

Hey check out my tattoo! 

OK, it’s not mine.  It actually belongs to a scrumptious imaginary friend.  But you’re going to have to wait for my book and the obsessive edits I’m engrossed in to find out who that is.   

As a matter of fact, I’m not even going to give the slightest hint at what this beauty means to the storyline.  That, my friends, is forthcoming.  Sooner than later, I hope.

So why did I drag you across cyberland from your cozy seat and hot coffee to this blog post on a perfectly good Sunday morning?

Well, I’ll tell you.

Like many writers, when I write, I immerse myself in the world I’m working to create.  I’m not one of those people who sit at a coffee shop, tapping away at the keys in fashionable form.  No way.  I need darkness, music and solitude.  And sometimes, I need a little focus. 

My thoughts have a tendency to meander down a dark and convoluted path.  Give me the sweet chirp of a Red-winged blackbird frolicking under a magnolia tree and by the time I’m finished with it, there’s a vicious flock of angry birds (no relation to the game), carrying a novel, virulent strain of avian bacteria that infects human beings, turning them into mindless, flesh-eating zombies.  I’m pretty sure there’s some run-onism going in the last sentence…   

No focus.  So at times, I need something to draw me back to what the hell I was talking about in the first place.  In all of my stories, I incorporate a cue that not only holds some meaning for the character, but keeps me on track.  It might be a painting, jewelry, a phrase, some physical embodiment that I can visualize. 

In my latest HALOS novel, it’s a Black Phoenix.  Why this mythical bird?  Hahaha!  Nice try.  I think we all know what a phoenix symbolizes in general:  rising up from the ashes, rebirth and immortality.  But again, as it relates to the story, you’ll have to wait and see. 

I found drawings on the internet that temporarily satisfied my craving for some tangible illustration of what I was imagining.  But none of these really took the form of the vision in my head.  Sketching a bird seems simple enough, right?  Ah.  Not so much.  The phoenix is historically a feminine-looking creature; a cross between a dragon and a peacock (in China it is the female counterpart to the dragon).  My character is very alpha-male:  physically strong, dominant and sexy as all hell.  Branding him with a light and feathery bird would be a bad combination unless I’m looking to create some contradiction in my head.  No thanks.  I wanted to maintain the original look of the bird and introduce a bit of badass to fit the character.  This tattoo stretches across his back (between the shoulder blades) and down his spine. 

I come from a family of artists, so I could have had any one of them sketch the bird for me.  But when you need some plumbing done, you call a plumber.  In this case, thanks to a referral from my lovely cousin Amy Lake, I called Chris Hornus of Royalty Tattoo in Durand, Michigan.  His reputation preceded him, so I knew I’d picked the right guy. 

 

 

After giving him some parameters, he got to work.  This brings me to reason number two for why I would bother to have the tattoo of an imaginary character designed by a tattoo artist: collaboration of the arts.  True artistic talent is the ability to take the descriptions detailed by an individual and create the exact image on paper – my words translated to another art form.  It’s as if the man reached into the dark recesses of my head and ripped the picture from the stringy bits of my brain.  Like a mad doctor out to manipulate the minds of human subjects in his bid to form an empire of evil minions.  Where was I going with this?  Right.  Black Phoenix.  Tattoo.  Focus.

Now, I don’t have any tattoos…but I’m going to go out on a limb here and suspect that when a person decides to permanently etch something onto the skin, the skills of the tattoo artist are important.  Like I said, not going from experience.  But this little venture with Chris has given me the confidence that, should I resort to absolute reckless abandon and get a tattoo, I know where I’m going to go to keep me from sobbing with regret the next morning.  I reckon that will be the same time I curse myself for the shiny set of gold teeth and extra piercings I somehow acquired.  But at least I know I’ll love whatever design is branded across my chest.  (psst…the cool thing is, Chris is such a nice guy, he’d probably talk me out of it).  For those of you seeking out a little tattoo work, for yourself or your imaginary friends, check out Chris Hornus of Royalty Tattoo.  He’s friendly, talented and willing to collaborate in order to get the design spot on.

So without further ado, I give you The Black Phoenix:

 

    

What has this sketch given me?  Inspiration.  On the road to publication, there are often fruitless moments along the way.  We write, edit, market ourselves as best we can, edit some more and sometimes that pretty little manuscript does nothing but collect dust.  These moments of exhilaration, seeing evidence of what we have created, are just enough of a push to keep trudging forward.  The Black Phoenix symbolizes many things in my Halos series.  But for the moment, it represents motivation and a swift kick in the butt to keep me headed in the right direction.

What keeps your writing on track?

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The Other Man

May 30, 2011 at 9:44 am (Uncategorized) (, )

I admit it – I’m not always exclusive with my husband.  And he couldn’t be happier. 

Before you ask, the answer is “No”, we are definitely NOT swingers. 

But my secret fling has, in fact, strengthened our marriage, if you can believe that.  Because the other man in my life exists only in my mind.  He’s a tall, mysterious and sexy, blue-eyed hottie who is delicious enough to eat.  And let me tell you, he’s not above biting back. 

He often wakes me up in the middle of the night for a tryst.  A battle of wills at times (I’m a working woman).  But he can be rather unrelenting.  So I always cave, kissing my husband on the cheek before heading down to our usual rendezvous.

He insists on music and that I pull my hair back away from my face.  When I begin to shower him with attention, he purrs in my head like a contented lion.  Away I type, losing myself in his demands to be sated.  Not your typical affair.

And nothing unusual to romance writers, since we don’t write characters that make a woman go screaming in the opposite direction (well, sometimes we do).  They have to be gorgeous, tempting and able to consume every ounce of a reader’s fantasy, including our own.  So when I decided to write romance, I stocked up on some good reads to help prep me for what I was getting myself into.  OK, I added a bit of erotic fiction to the mix, but so what.  It all goes to the same place. 

I knew that I was going to have to abandon some of my prudish ways to accommodate the demands of the readers for that genre.  Four letter words don’t make me blush as often these days.  And wow, I’ve learned quite a bit about myself through my writing.  Getting immersed in the scenes makes the images so incredibly vivid.  I clearly see every facial expression, every movement, every action of the character that comes from a place lodged deep inside my head; behaviors that kick my muse in gear.  Who knew I had a thing for alpha males? 

I’d always written young adult fiction before I took an interest in paranormal romance.  Oh what a difference, indeed.  It’s perfectly acceptable to write a little sexual tension into a YA romance, but exceedingly fun when the characters are a bit more mature.  My YA friends wake me up on occasion too, but it’s more like a child asking for a glass of milk in the middle of the night.   

Many writers tend to develop characters based on someone they know.  It helps to conceptualize a more natural temperament to such a degree that it seems impossible to imagine the character doesn’t actually exist.  I think it’s safe to say that some of my leading men contain elements of my husband.  Did I mention tall, blue-eyed and sexy?  Now don’t get all weirded out, I’m not inviting you into my boudoir.  I said they contain elements, so subtle even I sometimes don’t realize they are there. 

Writing can encourage an author to extract the good attributes from the people around them.  Bad attributes too, so don’t piss me off.  How does this help our relationships?  Think about it.  That adorable dimpled smile that your hubby greets you with every morning just got all the more classic when you added it to your other main man; an outward acknowledgement of a trait that you treasure.  Don’t get me wrong, you’re not going to find a book of clones in each of my stories.  That would be obsessive, boring and completely wrong.  Again, subtle.  Elements.

Perhaps the biggest reason that my man doesn’t mind sharing me is the fact that episodes with my second amour foster a desire to designate special time just for him.  After spending half the morning chasing lascivious demons and dodging promiscuous ghosts out to possess a human body, I’m ready to reign myself in a little and hang with the hubby.  Would I set aside those hours in the day for him if I had nothing better to do?  Maybe.  I can say that I enjoy the moments with my husband, and appreciate them all the more knowing time is limited.

My spouse encourages and supports my other passion, no matter what hot-bodied half-blood awaits me in my reverie.  Hell, he sometimes offers insight into the mind of my secret lover.  He roots from the sidelines and pushes me when I begin to lose momentum.  And that makes him number one in my book.   

How does your spouse support your secret rendezvous?

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Angels and Demons

May 22, 2011 at 8:57 am (Uncategorized) (, , )

OK, I admit it, I didn’t do my homework because…well, I was expecting world annihilation or something by the time my usual Sunday blog post was due.  So I procrastinated.  But since we’re all still having our morning cups of coffee, unscathed, I have decided to throw together some thoughts.  And in the spirit of post-apocalyptic joy, I think I’ll go with one of my favorite topics – good versus evil.

For as many years as Earth has revolved around the sun (and still is) humans have had a propensity to divide the good from the bad; clearly delineating the two.  We root for the hero, who is honest and pure, while booing the evil-minded villain (bad guys never get any love!).  Writers sometimes make the same distinction in an attempt to cater to the readers’ likes.  Good must always triumph!  Right?

We of the paranormal world like to blend our black and white to a fitting shade of gray. 

Why are we so damn hot for bad guys? 

Who knows?  That’s a personal question for individual authors and readers, I suppose.  For me, there is a certain mystery about historically evil characters.  Perhaps a strange side to me that thinks I can change them.  Take the movie Hellboy (ok, not worthy of an Oscar but work with me).  The main character is a big red, unattractive demon with gimpy horns.  Not my idea of Mr. Dreamboat.  But why oh why am I tickled pink by the end of the movie when his leading lady finally falls for him?  I believe humans, even when faced with the nefarious, have a tendency to acknowledge the slightest hint of compassion.  Going back to the movie, the guy denounces his own kind by hacking off his horns, and protects against the dark forces of the underworld.  Can we possibly get past the fact that he is spawn from the depths of hell? 

It comes down to how the character is developed and what qualities the writer infuses to make us see beyond the cruel, brooding exterior to the soft inner core.  Let’s face it – vampires haven’t always had the reputation of being sappy heroes.  There was a time a dude with fangs was someone you didn’t want to run into down a dark alley.  Now every woman I know dreams of a steamy tryst with the undead.  We are embarking on a new era where bad boys have equal rights to a winning personality. 

And vice versa.

The same holds true for Mr. Goody-Two-Shoes.  It’s not enough to be hopelessly good and save all of humanity in a victorious win over evil.  Sorry guys, I like a little dysfunction in my protagonist.  Call me crazy, but I want the down-on-his-luck, binge-drinking angel who fell from the heavens for breaking the rules and is thrown into an unlikely circumstance that ultimately saves the world and secures his ticket back to the pearly gates.  I want to be challenged when I read.  Make me fall in love with this loser by the end of the book! 

I’ve attempted to incorporate this dynamic in my latest HALOS novel, where I blur the lines, giving my angels some inner turmoil and my demons a smidgen of charisma.  Flawed characters mean drama throughout the story.  And they give us something to admire and sympathize.  But the catch is, they have to change their situation at some point and begin to rise above it, otherwise we’re just following them down a self-loathing path of destruction.  And we can find that on the evening news if we’re that hard up for it. 

Whether angel or demon; human or vampire, readers crave a hero.  It’s not so much what’s on the outside that counts, but what sinfully virtuous (yes, my intentional oxymoron) attributes are embedded deep within.

How narrowly do your characters walk the line of good and bad?

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What Makes Your Writing Rock?

May 15, 2011 at 8:03 am (Uncategorized) (, , )

A scenic place?  The cute barrista at your favorite coffee shop?  Inhuman contortions of your body during meditation?  Many writers use some form of stimulus to incite binging and purging of ideas like a bulimic master of prose.  For me, it’s music.

Here is where I confess something very nerdy about myself and my hope is that I don’t lose fans because of this: I was a band geek.  Ugh, I said it.  Not the kind who rolled her eyes by the time 6th hour approached; the bona fide ‘Band Pride’ type.  Now before you track me down to give me a wedgie, let me explain myself. 

Unlike most high school Marching bands, I had a cool teacher who didn’t mess around with the songs of Dorkdom.  In fact, my most memorable moment in band (and because I had a short attention span for school activities, memorable moments with any one sport for a given amount of time were very few) was playing House of Pain’s, “Jump Around”, at a football game.  I’m about to offer up some insight into my age here by saying that the song happened to be popular at the time, and the crowd loved it.  What I remember most, was how it added to the tension of the game. 

High school bands have come a long way since the days of “Pomp and Circumstance No. 1 in D Major.”  And, my gosh, has anyone else seen that kickass video on Youtube of the George Mason University band playing RATM?!    Check it out:  http://youtu.be/gqG4oSfQYIY  Maybe you wouldn’t necessarily jam to this in your car (maybe you would), but if you heard that at a game??  Whoa.

I was a cheerleader in high school too, so I wasn’t entirely consumed by geekness. 

Music has a way of influencing people.  It can build adrenaline, triggering electric pings of excitement to surge, depending on the song and the situation.  Take an ordinary baseball game and add a little “Supermassive Black Hole” by Muse – you’ve got a heavy shot of cool infused in an otherwise not-so-memorable scene.  And by the way, while we’re on the topic of sports and song, I have a bone to pick with the Chicago Blackhawks.  Can someone please explain what the hell “Chelsea Dagger” has to do with hockey?  Grrr.  Thanks for taking one of my favorites and sucking the awesomeness right out of it.    

That aside, let me explain how music affects my writing:  sometimes I just happen to stumble upon an extraordinary tune and Boom!  A story is born.  Other times, the chicken comes before the egg.  I might have a rough sketch of the character in mind, but need to add a little bit of soul.  iTunes to the rescue.  I happen to like Alternative and am a huge fan of songs not typically droning on every radio station across the globe.  Finding a newborn song that embodies my character’s personality is like being able to find a matching bikini top and bottom in my size at PacSun – rare but exciting when it happens.  And for me, lyrics are key.  Even if the rhythm is rockin’, it’s kind of hard to write a love scene when the singer is crooning about gouging his eyes out with toothpicks.  Spoils the mood, know what I mean?

Once I marry the lyrics and beat to the perfect character or scene, a bouncing baby story is sure to follow.  I’m in the zone.  And if we’re talking word count here, the right song can crank out speeds of 1000 words an hour; which typically only happens to me when certain Earthly phenomena are involved. 

So for funsies, here is a list of my top five songs for writing (I will not be held responsible for linking any goofy videos that should have been better envisioned for the song):

  1.  Sail by Awolnation
  2. Bulls on Parade by Rage Against the Machine
  3. Here We Never Die by Sister Crayon
  4. Undisclosed Desires by Muse
  5. These Days by the Black Keys    

 

What’s on your playlist?

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What’s Salt Worth These Days?

May 7, 2011 at 8:19 am (Uncategorized) (, , )

Are online writing workshops worth the trouble?

I suppose if you’ve got major publishing contracts smacking you in the face because you happen to be blessed with flawless talent, then perhaps no.  But since this is the real world, and even the most distinguished writers can use a little help from time to time, the workshops are the way to go.  Critique Circle, Scribophile and Writer’s Café are just a few of the workshops you’ll find on the web.  What do they offer, you ask?  Here goes my list again….

1.  Getting your work edited essentially for free

 You’re toiling away at this chapter for DAYS, and after a while, you’re beginning to question whether or not you’ve spelled 1st grade vocab words like ‘the’ correctly.  Sound familiar?  You need feedback and you’re so desperate for it, you’d consider having your sister’s brother’s niece’s friend’s eleven-year old cousin read it (she offered at her 2-year-old sister’s birthday party after all).  An enticing offer since every other time you show up with that 5 lb. stack of papers you call a manuscript at friend and family barbecues, they all scatter like high school kids at a keg party after the cops arrive.  Part of the problem?  It looks like a master’s thesis and at this point, probably reads like one too.

 This is where the workshops can help.  Imagine a fantastical world where experts are chomping at the bit to get their greasy hands on that juicy turkey bone of a manuscript you own.  Ok, that’s a bit far-fetched.  But you will find eager readers who are jonesin’ to get their stuff posted, even if it means having to lumber through yours first.  Hey, it’s better than having to beg, right?

 My personal favorite is Scribophile, though Critique Circle works much the same way.  Membership is free, but you can upgrade and enjoy additional benefits of the site.  The beauty of both of these sites is the currency in which they are founded.  You earn points to post your writing by critiquing others.  In turn, your work is guaranteed at least 3 critiques.  Whohoo!  Finally, a little attention!

 Make no mistake, these sites are not only comprised of wanna-be authors desperate to get out of their day jobs (who, me?).  You’ll also find a delightful assortment of real-life writing professionals such as freelancers, editors, teachers and those with graduate-level training who are just as interested in feedback as anyone else.  Grammar and punctuation aren’t the only issues that will be addressed in your writing.  You can also expect feedback on plot and character development, pacing and tension; all the cogs that power a great story.

 If you’re considering publication (and who isn’t these days?) this is a great way to get a glimpse at what the big dogs in New York are going to think of your work before you send it off. 

 2.   Social Networking

 If you missed what this benefit means to me, check out my prior post, Baby Steps, and you’ll see why this one soars to the top of my list.

 Writing is a solitary activity.  Even if you prefer to do it in the company of strangers by sitting in the local coffee shop, chances are, you’re not there to chat it up with the other patrons.  Take a look around, writers are often times sitting in the farthest corner of the room, earphones plugging out the world, noses buried in laptops with expressions that warn, “Approach me about anything and I’ll annihilate you with laser beams.”  Even the busboy heeds the threat.

 This is exactly why writers need to get off their calloused duffs and make some human connections.

 So long as you can take serious criticism for your work without plotting vengeance in return, workshops are a place where beautiful friendships can be forged.  I describe it as stumbling upon a huge playground where everyone wants to play the same game and they all know how to share.  And if you’re lucky, you’ll come across some gems that you socially bookmark.  Yes, this is where I insert a shameless shout-out to my personal gems:  N.B. Charles, JABelfield, and Aimee Laine

 From these brilliant writers, I’ve learned not only based on the critiques they’ve given me, but from their critiques I can read for others on the site as well.  Some, I’m just inspired by their personal stories that don’t sound too far from my own.  The advice is fruitful; the encouragement and camaraderie, priceless.

 3.   Gaining Confidence

Am I good enough to get published?  Should I even bother? 

I can’t tell you how many times this has rattled the cage of my mind.  We all have our insecurities, but it couldn’t be any more obvious for writers than if we painted our faces and dressed like clowns.  I never formally studied writing in college, and I still can’t tell you when to appropriately use whom versus who in all cases.  All I know is that I love to write.

Family, friends and coworkers might go so far as to give you the candid responses you’re looking for.  But if you really want to know the answer to this question before you toss that bloody t-bone out to the lions, ask the ones who will give it to you straight.  There’s a sense of validation when another writer offers a thumbs up for your work.  Even if you can’t seem to tackle New York, you have the confidence of knowing someone somewhere in the world thinks you’re good enough.  And by golly, that’s something.

 Scribophile allows you to post and repost darn near an infinite number of times (though I’ve not personally tested the infinity part), so your writing has the opportunity to gleam with polish by the time its ready to send off.  If you stick with the site, you’re guaranteed to become a better writer by editing the work of others.  In time, you’ll develop special Agent Goggles and for the first time, you’ll understand why it was so important to get feedback to begin with (whoa, what was I thinking when I wrote this??).  That alone is worth its salt.

 If you decide to join Scribophile, I highly recommend checking out Critiquing 101—Words of Wisdom in 5 Easy Steps by Aimee Laine.  It takes the fright out of the whole process by giving insight into what to look for before you delve into someone else’s work.  A great article for newbie critiquers.

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Having My Cake…

April 30, 2011 at 9:58 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

How does a married mother of two find time to write a novel and blog, while working 40+ hours a week, and make it look seamless?

I haven’t got a clue.

 

What I can tell you, is how I manage to do these things as efficiently as possible; which sometimes, isn’t so efficient.  It’s taken years of trial and error to come up with a system of getting things accomplished, and I can’t say it’s entirely fail-proof.  But in my busy household, this is what works:

1.   Marry the right spouse

If you happen to be single or divorced and managing all of these things, skip to number 2.  Your abilities are on par with a superhero and well beyond my level of comprehension. 

But if you are married, nothing spells disaster like a spouse who doesn’t support you.  Lucky for me, I married a rare and exquisite gem (back off ladies, he’s mine). 

 Being a writer means many moments of staring off into outer space.  It may seem like we’re doing nothing while our better halves are scrambling to take care of rambunctious children and folding laundry at the same time.  To the wrong person, it might look like we’re shirking responsibilities.  A good spouse knows it’s all part of the process and happily supports the time necessary to fall nearly comatose in thought.  Mine goes so far as to cook – and he is a mighty fine cook at that.  *Dreamy*

 2.     Set Limits

Having grown up in a family of entrepreneurs, I know a thing or two about long hours.  Writing and marketing a book is no different than starting a business from the ground up.  It takes commitment, time, concentration, sacrifice and determination.  But what is important, is not forgetting what you’re doing it for. 

 There is a rule in my household:  I don’t take calls, make calls or conduct any business between the hours of  5 and 7 pm.  This is officially designated family time for me and deserves my undivided attention.  If a highly virulent strain of bacteria has suddenly turned the population into flesh-eating zombies, you’ll simply have to wait until 7:01 pm to inform me of this little factoid. 

 It’s not often easy, when you’re just getting into a piece and the ideas are flowing like mad, to sever the nerve impulses from your brain to your fingertips.  It’s like someone shutting off a movie just before the murderer is revealed.  But if you don’t set limits for yourself in the beginning, it will become increasingly difficult to establish them later on.

3.   Take advantage of technology

I’m not a techie person in the least.  As a matter of fact, if you asked me what version of Windows or Explorer is on my computer right now, you’d be met with a blank stare.  I couldn’t tell you and wouldn’t have the slightest idea where to find out.  But even those of us with techineptsis (yes, I made up this affliction) can benefit from the technology that’s available.

 Before my iPhone, I was a lost soul.  There was no good way of keeping up on my Twitter, Facebook and email accounts.  All of my time in the evening was spent catching up on a barrage of responses that I could have been doing sporadically throughout my day.  Even if you’re working full-time, you can take advantage of lunch and breaks to check email, tweet or update your Facebook status.  It’s a great way to keep up on things and free up some time later in the evening.

 A digital recorder is another glorious invention, particularly if you have a long drive like I do.  It’s great during traffic jams.  Sure you may look like a schizophrenic, talking to yourself as you feverishly dictate notes, but it can’t be any worse than the guy sitting next to you, cursing like a road-raging fool. 

 Netbooks or iPads are another fantastic tool for getting it done.  Some authors prefer a pen and paper to jot down their thoughts.  But for those who don’t mind typing them out, these devices are small enough to tote anywhere; and convenient enough to compile all your thoughts together, versus weeding through a stack of messy papers that will have to be typed out anyway.

 4.   Get organized

I cannot emphasize this enough.  There is an expectation when you begin to market yourself; a consistent presence that your fans and followers anticipate.  At times, this can be overwhelming and leave you feeling like there’s never a moment to actually write.  The key word here is consistent.  You set the times that work best for your schedule and stick to them. 

 If you keep a weekly blog, then keep a weekly blog.  It’s disappointing to a fan who religiously checks your site, to find last week’s stale post still lingering at the top.  Keep it new and fresh by establishing a day of the week that you intend to post.  Jot this day on a calendar as your official ‘blog day.’

 Twitter is the ADHD of social networking.  Your followers want to see you every day, and sometimes multiple times in a day.  The same goes for Facebook.  Fortunately, you can satisfy both simultaneously.  With programs like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck, one post can populate multiple sites and help maintain a presence for your followers as well as your friends.  My favorite is Select Tweets.  By noting #fb at the end of a tweet, you can select what goes to Facebook without clouding the newsfeeds.  Future tweets are another option, but if you’re constantly bombarding your followers with pre-programmed tweets, chances are, they’ll lose interest.

 5.   Don’t give up.

You may have moments like I do when you think to yourself, What the hell am I doing this for?  It seems like a lot of work!  Unless you’re starting out as a newbie writer, just about everyone knows the odds of becoming a world-wide bestselling author are about as frequent as stumbling upon a pair of Manolo Blahniks under $200 (I’m talking about the genuine Manolos here).  I suppose it happens somewhere in the world, but not nearly often enough, and to no one that I’ve ever been associated with.  So why would a writer go through all the trouble?

 For many writers who are truly passionate about the craft, it’s like asking a painter why he paints or a surfer why he surfs.  Neither necessarily do it for the money, though they may well need the money.  Like any talent, writing incites the same level of calm that a lifelong smoker might feel from the first morning drag.  We immerse ourselves in another world that is often times less stressful than the one in which we live.  Writing is a safe and imaginative means of venting frustrations we have throughout the day.  So even if you’ve endured your share of rejection letters in your attempts to finance your beloved pastime, remember what took you down this path to begin with.

How do you find time to write in your busy schedule?

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