I don't usually have a particular person/actor/model in mind when I come up with descriptions for my characters. I know some writers scour until they find just the right picture and then refer back to it while they write.
In fact, I just have a list of character traits and names I've used for each of my books, and when I come up with names and descriptions in a new one, I go for a look and name that I think fits the personality I want...and try to make sure it doesn't match another character I already have. Or get too close to another character, anyway. There are only so many combinations, you know?
However, there's always that one book that doesn't fit the norm, that breaks the usual mold. I went looking for a volleyball player because a character I'm working on plays the sport...and there she was. MY character in the flesh. Her real name is Logan Tom (hey, I didn't name her--blame her parents), and she's Dani-the-heroine come to life. Crazy, right?
So, I guess there's always some person that can be inspiration for our work, even if we don't mean for them to be. Of course, now I'm running the internet around looking for other photos of my heroine's doppleganger so I get her just right.
Another fun inspiration I always like to keep around is a favorite Italian model/actor named Raoul Bova. I fell madly in lust with him when he played in Under The Tuscan Sun with Diane Lane. Isn't he scrumptious?
This got me thinking about what inspires people to write a character the way they do. Is it a picture? A person they know in real life? Or is it completely made up the way my characters usually are? I work from my list quite happily, but I'm an obsessive compulsive list maker. Lists of traits, hair/eye combinations, scenes to write versus scenes I've already checked off the list, sexual positions so I don't repeat too often. It all goes on a list. Maybe that's something that inspires my writing in general. Checking off each box as I go and finishing a list is a challenge for me. It's me against the list. But in the meantime...models and actors aren't a bad way to go for a visual pick me up when planning out a character.
Two days ago I spoke to a college English class on Living The Life of a Writer: Is it Really All Glamour & Bon Bons?
Their questions and their enthusiasm really took me back to when I was sitting in those same seats, dreaming of one day holding my own book in my hands and seeing it on the shelves of a bookstore.
I do vividly remember sitting in an English class imagining how my life would be. Not really thinking I’d ever write full time, but figuring I would pen some novels on the side on breaks from my well-paying day job. Now to be honest, I did picture myself with pad and paper sitting on a sunny patio under an umbrella sipping some fruity drink while I wrote the next NYT Bestselling #1 hit book. The gentle breeze teasing my hair, while my hottie hubby was down swimming in the ocean, the water glistening off his six pack abs. Oh and did I mention I looked glamorous and hot and still weighed what I did in college—not to mention that body parts were still tight and firm and hadn’t moved South? (Ahh, the imagination of youth…LOL!)
Little did I know the reality would be far from the above. I AM actually writing full time, I gave up my well-paying day job so I COULD write full time. And I could NOT imagine writing my books in long hand—I have an intimate relationship with my laptop. No umbrella, fruity drink or patio overlooking the ocean, although I do have a pool in the backyard, but it’s usually too hot to sit out there to write. I DO have a hottie younger hubby, but he’s usually doing work on his computer or watching TV in the recliner rather than down swimming and being eye candy inspiration for me while I write! And let’s not even discuss the tight/firm body parts situation.
But strangely, I remember those youthful aspirations with a smile. Hey, at least I knew what myths I was out to bust with my talk to those college kids!
When I was in school, we never had an actual published author come and speak to us, but I remember the teachers answering my questions as best they could at the time. Although none of their answers really resembled the information I gave in my talk. Don’t get me wrong—all but one teacher really encouraged me to go after my dreams and write. And that one teacher was the one who told me I was a good writer, but no one would ever buy any of my books if all I wrote was that “weird” stuff (aka paranormal) threaded in with all that sarcasm! Well, lucky for me, I didn’t listen to her at all, because all of my books have both of those things in major doses. The rest of the teachers were all very supportive, and even if they didn’t quite believe I’d make it—never gave me that impression—or at least I don’t remember it.
Anyway, when I found myself in front of that college class, I wanted to present a true picture of what it is to be a writer—the money, the realities of the publishing biz, the deadlines, the legalities, the lifestyle—along with a huge dollop of motivation. And with every question and every answer, I tried to give them as many facts as possible without being discouraging.
I’ve heard too many talks over the years where someone seemed hell bent on making the masses think they could never have their dream, or that they were insane if they thought they could be that one in a crowd who actually finished a novel and got it published. And those people and their message always made me angry. Who are they to take away that hope from someone else?! (Can you tell that’s a hot button for me?)
I walked out of there a little nostalgic for my ignorance of old, but also oddly happy that despite all my delusions of youth, I’d made my dream come true. And even despite the things I remember and miss fondly (like the tight firm body) I’m happy with my life and very glad I never let anyone discourage me along the way. How funny to think I would be horrified if my thirty-eight-year-old self time traveled back to my seventeen-year-old self and told that poor girl what she was in store for, but from this side of the passage of time, it doesn’t look so bad. I think that actually proves the old adage that ignorance is bliss.
I’m curious to see what the kids thought—even if they hated the talk I brought bookmarks, buttons & chocolate—so who knows, maybe somewhere in between the snarkily-presented facts and answers and the bribery at the end, they learned something that will help them end up happily when they are ancient like me. (Don’t you all remember when you thought 30 was way past middle age?)
At the very least, it reminded me to appreciate where I’m at in life and to never take for granted what I have. Not bad for an hour spent…
So the cover for Sexy Beast IV came in the mail with my edits last week!
My story in the anthology is called Abundance. Here's a little blurb about it:
Kayla Michaels, daughter of General Augusta Michaels, is bound for an arranged marriage on Fourth Colony when the ship carrying her is attacked and her stasis pod is ejected during the melee.
She awakens on a small jungle moon aptly called Abundance. It is uncolonized and had been deemed uninhabitable by New Earth long before she was ever born. With her pod damaged beyond repair and the locator beacon offline, she realizes that she is on her own. The relief of escaping the arranged union is dampened only by her somewhat dire circumstances. Jude Aroca is the son of a human scientist and the leader of the native population of the Yaw on Abundance. The arrival of a human female on his world is a violation of the peace treaty New Earth signed nearly thirty-five years before. The humans promised to leave the small jungle moon alone in exchange for technology.
Now there is a human woman in his jungle... and she’s wrecking havoc with all of his senses. No woman—none among his own kind—had ever smelled so perfect, so right. The beast he carries inside of him, a gift from his cat-shifter father, agrees.
* * * *
This is the first shifter I've ever written and I was very excited to participate in the anthology with Kate and Dawn. The release date is March 2008. I also have a novel coming out in April of next year. I'll post about it soon!
It's so exciting to finally see the cover for a new book. You just hope that the art department have managed to capture the essence of the story in a single snapshot.(not an easy thing to do at all) I have to say Kensington did me proud. I love this cover, that almost kiss, the way the lighting highlights the soft hair on his forearm...sigh. I am one happy author.
Of course, the end of January seems a long way away until the book is actually released. I can't wait to see it on the shelves with all the other Aphrodisia titles and I hope that everyone will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I'll finish with the blurb from the back. I did notice that there was one teeny tiny inconsistency, but I'm sure no one else will notice but me. :)
"Ten years as a sex slave in a Turkish brothel left Lord Valentin Sokorvsky with an insatiable appetite for sex. Now the time has come for him to marry, but finding a woman who can satisfy his lustful desires proves a challenge...until he meets Sara and all he can think about is having her lie under his rock-hard body, begging him to taste and touch her...
Sara Harrison knows she should be shocked and scandalized by Lord Sokorvsky's bold advances, but instead she is secretly aroused by this sensual seductive man. For beneath her calm and composed manner is a wanton woman who longs for a man's intimate caress. She is most willing to be educated in the art of sensuality, to receive and give pleasure and to succumb to the wild desire that knows no limits..."
I loved writing these characters. Poor Valentin, thinks he can separate married sex from the depths of sexual excess he sometimes craves. Luckily, Sara shows him that they can be one and the same.
Hope you are all having a great weekend. I just had my shopping bag stolen at the mall, so I'm not very happy, although I wish the bag snatcher joy of my new bra, I doubt it will fit many people... (you've got to laugh, right?)
Talk about being in the right place at the right time! To set the stage, I'd finished my latest contract with Kensington Aphrodisia and had submitted a new proposal to my editor hoping to again become gainfully employed. Then because my editor had a month to make a decision on that proposal, I wandered off and wrote something for another publisher. Then one day last week I received emails from both my editor and agent. The editor had read the proposal, zeroing in on the title, Hawk's Fangs. She was looking for novellas to include in the 2008 Sexy Beast collection. Would I entertain changing the Hawk's Fangs storyline from book length to novella length? Worth thinking about because no less than Kate Douglas (dear friend and leading Aphrodisia writer) is anchoring the anthology. But I love Hawk's Fangs as it is and didn't want to try to compress and lose huge chunks of the plot in order to shorten 80,000 words to 30,000. So when my agent called, I threw out a suggestion. What if I give the editor a whole new idea to hopefully fit into Sexy Beast 2008? She had some reservations for complex and legitimate reasons, but I was getting excited. All I lacked was a plot. And characters. And setting. Not the first time. Okay, I started brainstorming. My editor wanted a sexy beast. I thought PREDATOR. Headed for the Internet with the word cougar running through my mind because the something I'd just written for another publisher had a cougar in it. But I didn't want to repeat myself. What do you know, pumas are even larger and bolder than cougars and range from Alaska to the tropics. Best of all, ancient Native American legends are rich with references to all kinds of predators. I've written a lot about NA legends and have a number of reference books. Started pouring through them about 9 p.m. the same day all the excitement started. Picked up just enough information to be dangerous, specifically that the Apache believed that the night scream of a puma signaled impending death. Is that sexy or what? Went to bed knowing damn well I wasn't going to sleep. Plotted and planned, ran myself into and out of brick walls, conjured up a couple of characters I couldn't put names to for the life of me. Because said editor had, in part, been drawn to Hawk's Fangs become that hero was a shape-shifter, guess what I did with my nameless hero? Of course it made sense for my heroine to be a modern woman who doesn't buy any of that wo-wo nonsense. Staggered from the bedroom around dawn, mainlined some caffeine, plunked myself in front of my computer, and hammered out a one page synopsis which I emailed to my agent. By the end of the day, the editor had read and approved it, and I had a whole new gig—a novella called Night Scream which will be in the Sexy Beast 2008 anthology with Kate Douglas!!! As for Hawk's Fangs, well that's all good too. If only all writing was that easy. What do I mean easy, I still have to write Night Scream. And find names for these characters. Vonna Harper http://www.vonnaharper.com/
Posted by Vonna Harper ::
9:53 AM ::
So is it the curse of every writer out there that you can't find anything, ever?
I am madly hunting down my iPod charger, just so I can sync my iPod with my computer (oh, and recharge it) and I cannot find it anywhere. I found my spare charger, but it doesn't come with a cord. Grr.
I found my 3-hole punch that I had given up finding months ago and had finally bought a new, cheapie one last week.
About this time last year, I packed up my office into boxes. I sorted the magazines into one piles, books into sundry other piles and the space actually looked habitable. I had 12 boxes to start with, and I have 6 boxes left to go through.
I am heading out to the Georgia Romance Writers "Moonlight and Magnolias" conference next weekend, so I declared last night (after 3 days looking for this iPod charger -- and I've tried positive thinking and prayer -- I don't think my backbrain even subconsciously knows where it is) that the house was getting a complete cleanout when I got back (nothing like putting it off for another weekend). When I'm done emptying my study boxes, one will be hubby's stuff, one will be books and the rest is getting either filed or tossed. I'm aiming for tossed. If I haven't needed it for almost a year. That's got to tell you something.
Meanwhile the detritus on my desk has been magically restored -- and I have an excuse for about every piece of paper about why it's not somewhere else.
So desperate author seeking more organized heads... what do you do to stay organized, or can you relate?
No-one Wants to Talk to Me – The Joy of Book Signings
I’ve never in my life seen so many people trying to avoid my eye. Come on, folks, I’m not a gang member or a beggar, I’m just a romance author at a book signing.
This weekend I attended two multi-author signings. These were put on by bookstores where I’m guessing the customers do actually read and enjoy books. Wouldn’t you think they might like to talk to an author or two? Apparently not. Or is it that they’re scared that if they come anywhere near us and our books, they might have to – gasp! – buy one? God forbid, a fate worse than death.
Well, of course we’d like to sell books but mostly we’d just like people to be friendly and talk to us. If they take a bookmark or excerpt, or buy a book, that’s a bonus.
So, what’s the deal with signings? Why doesn’t anyone want to talk to me and my fellow authors?
At the end of the second signing, yesterday afternoon, two of us asked the store manager that question and he said, “That’s crazy. I mean, you can talk to romance authors about anything!”
Yes! He knows us. He GETS us! Now the question is, how do we get that same message across to readers? I suggested that next time we put up a banner saying, “Romance Authors – you can talk to them about ANYTHING!”
What’s your experience with signings, as a writer, reader or bookseller? If you do signings, why? Are they good or bad experiences? What do you think makes for a good signing or event? I’d love to know, because I have a bunch more coming up!
(Before I stop, I’d like to say thanks to the great store managers and staff at Borders Express in Cascade Mall, Burlington, and Chapters Metrotown in Burnaby, who were so wonderfully supportive this weekend.)
It's hard to find the perfect pair of boots, impossible to get a pair of jeans that fit perfectly, but today none of those compared to the task of finding the perfect skeleton. I should probably explain that I live in South Texas where many people celebrate the Mexican Dia De Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.
Though the name sounds like a bad fifties horror film, the holiday is really a happy one and return of loved ones who have passed on. On November 1st and 2nd families setup alters in their homes or at loved ones' graves. They set out pictures of the deceased and leave them offerings of flowers, candies, tequila, candles, and blankets & pillows for the spirits to rest after their long journey.
Along with all the other offerings and decorations, painted skulls or skeleton figures adorn alters.
Unlike Halloween these boney ladies and gentlemen are friendly and often times comical. Having wanted one of the statues for a long time, today I made a trip down to The Mercado in Market Square.
Some of figurines were decked in traditional garb, others were done as religious idols right down to carrying a rosary, a few had been dressed as brides, and many idols done in Edwardian gowns.
Each one was unique and had details I liked. Even my non-shopping DH (darling husband) got caught up with comparing & contrasting the macabre sculptures. Finally, I decided one that seemed a cross between the dark beauty of Tim Burton design and the dark comedy of artist Edward Gorey.
And with such inspiration now sitting in my office you can bet the holiday and symbols will soon work their way into a story. No bones about it!
Today is the 6th anniversary of 9-11. For my blog post I am requesting a personal moment of silence from each reader to remember the fallen. We will not forget.
Posted by Devyn Quinn ::
1:23 PM ::
SUBMISSIONS: The first 1,000 words of an unpublished romance novel or novel with a romantic theme.
JUDGING: Each week, I will choose one finalist and post the entry on the web site. Then, at the end of the contest, readers will vote for their favorites and determine the top three winners. Each week, Leigh will also choose one entry to win a mini-critique, which will also be posted on the web site.
PRIZES: There are fantastic prizes for winners and entrants alike. In addition, editors and agents will read all the finalist entries. While there are no guarantees, last year, all the finalists received requests from editors and agents, some of which resulted in book sales.
Check the site for rules , last year's winners, and more. It's *FREE* to enter so enter today!
My husband and I are coming up to a "significant" wedding anniversary and I cannot fathom the speed of time. We are back to having no children underfoot or even living in the same town!
It's just him and me...looking at each other across the dinner table, slipping between the sheets every night, hearing the myriad sounds of one other person in the house.
We used to be run off our feet busy, the kids, jobs, kids, upkeep on a house, kids. Then we even took in a third teenage girl who needed a stable place to hang in while she finished high school. I'll never forget that we looked at each other and said simultaneously that we needed to help her. That we needed to offer her a home. I didn't have to ask him, I didn't have to state a case, or try to convince him. His heart is huge, and he knew as well as I did that we couldn't stand by and do nothing. Did I mention busy? (I won't even mention the morning showers being made of ice shavings...they refused, each of them...to go with warm water as opposed to hot!) My husband took to showering at night just to avoid the hassle. Did he whine? Yell? No, he just left them to it.
But always, underneath it all, we were a team. He would cook, clean, chauffeur while I was writing. I'd cook, clean, chauffeur while he was working. (Oh, squeeze in a little writing in the middle of all that.)
We've made it past all those dangerous times when marriages can fail. Young children add stress to marriages, we made it through. (Thank our Friday night dates.) We moved cross country to land in a town with no jobs. Made it through. Raised our children. (hallelujah, no police records!) Got'em through college. (Thank YOU Granny & Grampa!)
Through it all, we went for walks, long walks, held hands, snuggled together on the sofa. Laughed at each other's jokes.
He held me when I had so many writing rejections, I had to go into a second filing drawer...but that's another story.
This isn't about me, today. It's about "us".
My husband: not perfect, but wonderful. Me: absolutely not perfect, but never boring. (Poor guy never knew what he'd walk into when he came home) We are in those years now where our children are happy, productive, adults. They are a source of pride, no doubt, but I look at my man and know beyond a doubt, we'll be old together.
And that my friends, is why I write romance. Because above all else, I believe in happy endings.
Okay, I guess I should be writing about something writerly, like how to put a story together or find the right tone for a character's voice, but today I was thinking about spouses, in particular MY spouse. That's him on the left. We've been married for over 35 years, so I figure I know him fairly well--or I thought I did. Then, last week, he turned everything upside down. Doug got hired as an extra for a movie. Now you have to realize, in this family, I'M the one always seeking the spotlight. Not my husband. But he recently retired and saw an ad in the local paper for a casting company looking for vintage vehicles for a movie that takes place in 1975. As the proud owner of a 1972 BMW motorcycle, Doug thought his bike would be perfect. He sent in a photo, was asked to show up, and in the early morning hours made the perilous trip down the mountain to the movie set. The casting director took one look at the bike, and more looks at Doug and hired him on the spot. I imagine his long hair and beard had something to do with it, but suddenly my fairly quiet spouse was an extra in the movie Bottle Shock, a film about the beginning of the modern wine industry in the Napa Valley. He was wearing blue jeans. He needed bell bottoms. They were short...REAL short, but he said later that he recalled his pants were always short back in the early seventies. Of course, the fact that he's REAL tall might have had something to do with it! Anyway, his one day of "stardom" turned into two, and then more. He got called back with instructions to dress as a "biker dude." Anyone want to guess what the kids and I are calling him now? Needless to say, I couldn't wait for Biker Dude to get home at night to hear the stories from the front--he had me laughing so hard I almost had a wreck! (I know...TMI) I found myself looking forward to his tales of Hollywood--there are some notable actors in the movie, including Alan Rickman (Professor Snape in the Harry Potter movies) and a young heartthrob I've never heard of named Chris Pine. (No, I don't ever go to movies. Sorry, so if he's your favorite, I apologize!) I found myself seeing my husband through new eyes and wondering how the camera saw him. I hope his scenes don't all end up on the cutting room floor. I hope I get to see him playing pool in the background of the bar scene, or walking up to Alan Rickman in the street scene. I want to see him in the fantasy that is a Hollywood production, because I realized that his experience mimics, in many ways, what I do every day. He was a part of fiction, of fantasy, a character in someone's image of a certain point in time, playing a role determined by the scriptwriter, the director, the other actors. I create fantasy every day with my stories. My characters are all fictional creatures who arise from some well of experience in my mind, and my husband obviously, is part of that experience. He's a little bit Stefan, a lot of Anton, a smidge of Baylor and even a touch of Luc, because he's so much a part of my experience. I can't wait to see what he's like on screen...a part of another writer's imagination. I hope they don't mind, though, that I'll continue to pull parts of his personality, of his humor and his appeal, and use it when I write my books. You know what they say...we write what we know.
Yesterday was my son’s birthday party. We always hold his party in the summer because he was born on December 27th. Not a good time of year to have a party. The party yesterday was wonderful. My X’s neighbors all came over and my dear friend Shelli Stevens. They all brought their kids and we had blast…. My son, who is not quite 5 yet, could not wait to open his gifts so as soon as the last guest arrived he tore into them. He got a scooter, a croquet set, Disney’s Cars school supplies, a really cool noisy balloon launcher (the balloons ended up all over the place including on my neighbors roof!), A cowboy hat and boots, dinosaurs, a marble playing game, clothes, and a Loony Tunes DVD set.
The interesting part of the day was the cake. I ordered my son an ice cream cake. The cakes base color, made to look like grass, was green. Not thinking much about it. I set the cake out to thaw a bit as he opened his gifts and when my X brought the cake to the table he smiled and what do you know… green teeth and lips.
He had gotten some on his finger and licked it before coming to the table and the green food coloring was dark… so everyone ended up with green teeth and the kids of course being kids got it ALL over. On their shirts, on there hands… the dog even licked some off the patio and he too had a green tongue for awhile it was quite funny.
I arrived home last night with the task to finish writing a synopsis for my next book. I HATE writing a synopsis. I am not a plotter, and I never stick to them when I am actually writing the book, so I always feel like they are a waste of time.
But I found myself thinking of the green teeth and the party I just came from and how something so simple made people laugh and the laughter of the day made me want to add a bit of humor to this next book. Humor is something that I never do. I can’t write funny dialog, but I think… I maybe able to write funny situations. I ended up adding some silly scenes that happen to keep my hero and heroine apart. Maybe I will have to add a scene where my heroine sees greens in my hero’s teeth and is disgusted by it or laughs and offends him.
I don’t know…
Authors, how often do you use real events to inspire a scene in your stories? And readers do you like to know when a scene in a story was inspired by a real life event that the author experienced?
Can you believe it is the first of September? Where has the year gone? Where are all those extra days I had to write this summer, so making my October 1 deadline would be a breeze? Oye!
Since Crystal blogged about the glory of writing "The end," I thought I would blog about the frustrations of writing "The Beginning." As I understand it, not everyone angsts over the beginning of a story. In fact, some love that fresh page/fresh slate feeling, where the world is clean and new and anything can happen. I do like the idea it is a new book, perhaps a new genre, and the potential is endless. But the actual process of starting a new story usually has the makings of nightmares for me--literally. I spend those early days writing the opening scenes again and again, dreaming about just how awful they are, losing countless hours of sleep, until finally a workable opening begins to take shape.
With my current Aphrodisia WIP, Sweet & Sinful (Aug 08), I spent two weeks and went through thousands of words and no less than seven openings before I finally found one I was willing to have published with my name on it. To whet the whistle (and force me to start my day by thinking about this book the way I must do), here are the opening lines...
She’d finally done it. Turned her porn star dreams into reality. Freshly showered with a fluffy white robe wrapped around her, Courtney Baxter exited the motel suite bathroom and beamed at the naked male ass asleep on the coverless bed.
Of course the good part about all this rewriting is along the way I learn a great deal about my characters. I tend to be a pantser, and often know essentially nothing about my characters when I start a book, which might just be why I struggle with that opening so much. The great thing about this is each new scene usually comes to me as much of a surprise as to the reader. And each new one depends so much on my mood when it is being written. What I believe will be a feel good sex scene may end up being a steamy scene which is interrupted right at the good part by a peeping tom with murder on his mind.
Fortunately I am past the beginning of S&S, and now it is the middle I am trying to not let sag. I do find the middle exhilerating in many ways, as this is the point where I get to toss in some major twist, or new conflict. Heighten the plot and the reader's interest. The middle is my time for fun and to let my warped imagination soar. So for today I will be happy, creative, and hopefully put out a huge word count that is excellent and witty from the first draft.... Mind you, I did say hope!
As for that opening, I have roughly two weeks before I have to write another one. I plan to spend the days between now and then blissfully ignoring that personal nightmare.