Category Archives: Characters

The Writing Process

Hi there, Sugar here.  I have been tagged by Xio Axelrod to blog about my writing process.

What am I working on? 

At this very moment I am knee deep in revisions for GENTLEMEN PREFER CURVES  the third book in my Perfect Fit series. Revisions are going surprisingly well. I shouldn’t jinx myself, but for the first time I don’t want to cry as I do them.  But before that I was working on book three in my Redemption series.  It’s way darker than my romantic comedies and can at times be a little difficult to write so it’s nice to take a break and revisit my funnier stuff.

How Does My Book Differ from Others in the Genre?

I write romantic comedies, and there are a million of them out there.  In my Perfect Fit series all my heroines are plus sized/ curvy, which is different, but I think my voice is unique and sarcastic and funny. Some people don’t appreciate my snarkiness but  a lot of people do.

Why Do I Write What I do?

Because I’m no good at writing regency romance.  I’m too much of a realist for fantasy and I’m not clever enough to write mysteries.

How Does My Writing Process Work?

I still work full time, so I spend my nights and weekends writing.  I’m not much of a plotter but I do know the major plot points before I start writing.  I really love character driven stories, so I try to make my characters memorable and lovable or really awful people that readers love to hate. But I love for them all to be realistic and relatable in some way . I want to be friends with them.

So that’s it! What’s your process like?

 

What Were You Writing When

Hi everyone. Thea today, thinking about the past. I mean, what did I write about before romance? It seems to me I always loved romance, even in the biggest blockbuster male dominated best-sellers back when. As I’ve mentioned before, reading Nancy Drew got me started writing — about intrepid girl sleuths.

But then, around high school, I started writing about family (my grandmother who truly believed there was a Jewish tube in the radio by which shows in Yiddish were broadcast); the choir — and what I intuited at age seventeen in that fiction; in college, I wrote all about my friends and acquaintances. And finally, grown-up sensual romance and one historical romance I still haven’t finished.

I still have some of the writing I did back then. I think I’ve mentioned that I can see in it vestiges of the way I write now. I kept it, not as a souvenir of my journey, but because I’m a pack rat.

But I love being able to track where I came from to where I am now.

I suppose we all have a path to take before we find that sweet spot in writing that feels like the right fit. Did you? Or did d you always know? Or did you try on several genres? Was there an “aha” moment.

Look for Thea Devine’s sequel to The Darkest Heart, a September 2014 Pocket Star eBook.

Lady Mary, what's wrong with you? Are you really going to let Lord Gillingham marry someone else?

Return to Downton–Part Two

Hello, my darlings! Suze here. What’s new with you? Lots of things going on in Suze-ville. Like, I heard from my editor and the Berkley team is working on my cover! My Greek restaurant series has a new, adorable name: The Georgie’s Kitchen Mysteries. Book 1 will be called Feta Attraction. I’ll be sure to let you know when I have a release date!

In the meantime, my Downton Abbey obsession continues. If you missed my post from a couple of weeks ago, click here.  So here are some more predictions for the characters of DA:

Lady Mary, what's wrong with you? Are you really going to let Lord Gillingham marry someone else?
Lady Mary, what’s wrong with you? Are you really going to let Lord Gillingham marry someone else?

Mrs. Hughes:  Guilt from the lie she told Mr. Bates continues to eat away at her.  So she hatches a plan to exact revenge on Lord Gillingham’s valet. Throwing everyone off the scent by saying she is needed by an elderly aunt suffering from the gout in the Outer Hebrides, Mrs. Hughes steals the estate car and travels to Gillingham’s estate. She lures the valet outside under cover of darkness and promptly dispatches him, stuffing his body into the trunk then driving back to the Abbey.  The next day, she presents Mrs. Patmore with a large amount of ground meat and requests that she make pasties.

Alfred: Fresh from his disappointment at not being accepted into the chef school, Alfred continues to hone his craft in the Downton kitchens.  After catching James kissing Ivy in the scullery, he secretly laces one of the savories (which he whipped up from some of the leftover meat he found in the newfangled refrigerator) with a powerful laxative and offers it to James. But before James can take it from the tray, Molesley swoops in and pops the tainted treat into his mouth. He spends the next few hours in the servants’ loo, lamenting his lowly, not-able-to-get-a-buttling-job state.

Carson: Carson refuses to eat the pasties, having seen what Mrs. Hughes has done. Although he now realizes he loves her passionately, his respect for her is erased and he knows he can no longer stay at Downton. He retires to his room and makes plans for his return to the stage. Working feverishly, in a single night he blocks out the choreography for a new production: The Downton Burlesque Revue.

Cousin Rose. Cousin Rose, desperate for a part in Carson’s show, enlists the aid of the Countess’s new maid (what’s-her-name) and her mad sewing skills to make her a costume–complete with rip-away bodice and a fan made from feathers pinched from the hats of The Dowager Countess and Isobel Crawley.  She wows Carson and it’s off to London with the two of them, where they mingle with all the wrong sorts of people. The Downton Burlesque Revue? It’s a smash!

Edith. Jealous, Edith decides she also wants to be in the show, so she steals Rose’s costume and tries it on. However, due to the fact that her midsection is swelling noticeably, she cannot fit into the tights and skirt.  Her cries of anguish can be heard all the way to Germany.

That’s all for now. Do you watch Downton Abbey? What do you think should happen?

downtonLEGO2_610x519[1]

Return to Downton

Hey, folks, Suze here. I’m deep in the writer’s cave working on book 2 of my mystery series coming next year from Berkley Prime Crime. I hear that the talented folks at Berkley are working on the cover of book 1 (which has a new name that I like a lot!), so I’m super-excited to see what the art department comes up with. Of course I’ll share when I can.

downtonLEGO2_610x519[1]In the meantime, how ’bout that Downton? The season has gotten off to a bit of a slow start, in my opinion. But we’ll see what transpires. Here are my predictions:

Robert and Cora. The Earl seems bound and determined to lose Downton, whether through mismanagement, gambling, or stick-in-the-mud-ism. Is it just me, or do both of these characters seem to be getting dumber? I predict more conflict between Robert and his daughter Lady Mary (see below), and I see Cora siding with Mary on most issues. But I certainly wish they’d give him and Cora a more interesting storyline. Send them off on a trip to the Continent to rekindle the spark in their marriage or, even better, to America to visit Cora’s mother.

Lady Mary. Thank goodness she’s stopped moping around the Abbey, pale and wraithlike. Now she can get down to the business of wresting control from her increasingly dotty father. Now, I’m no expert in British succession laws, but I thought Downton was entailed. So how is it that Matthew could leave his half of the estate to Mary? She will become a savvy businesswoman and somehow figure out how to pay the death duties–perhaps by organizing a Downton bachelor auction! Tom and Thomas (really, couldn’t we have given somebody a different name?) should bring in some nice money, depending on the bidder’s orientation.

Lady Edith. Here’s a character who’s become a lot more interesting to me. Not just because she’s become a writer, but because she seems to be leaving Downton behind for the modern world. I liked her better when she was scheming, honestly. But with her beau trying to get German citizenship (uh, might want to rethink that) so he can get a divorce from his insane wife, she’d be better off just shacking up with the guy until she gets preggers (thanks, Casey Wyatt, for that prediction!). Then she’ll be in a real mess, especially when Michael gets arrested for treason. But no matter. There are plenty of unsuitable men out there, ripe for Edith’s plucking.

Bates and Anna. Angry. Can’t talk about this.

Daisy, Ivy, Alfred, Jimmie. Snoresville. Daisy, you can do a lot better than that big clod, Alfred. Let Ivy have him. Once your dead husband’s father dies, you’re going to come into a cute little farm and you’ll be able to make a nice living on your own terms–and there will be a studly neighboring farmer out there for you. Seriously, I’d much rather get a valentine from Mrs. Patmore than either one of those footmen. Count yourself lucky. Or maybe they’ll be in the aforementioned bachelor auction, and you can take your pick!

Isobel Crawley. She needs to quit whining, play with her grandson (in a dignified way, of course), and find a cause or two or three to support. Or find fault with the way little Georgie’s being raised. Or go visit Cora’s mother in America. That should light a fire under her.

Violet, the Dowager Countess. Still my favorite character. Would love to see a little romance in her life. And she could drop a few quid on that bachelor auction!

If you love this era, you’ll love a couple of book series I read religiously: the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear, about a maid who goes off to become a nurse in the Great War, obtains a college education, and opens her own private investigation company.

And in a more humorous vein, try Her Royal Spyness and the rest of the series by Rhys Bowen. Thirty-fourth in line to the throne of England, the penniless Lady Georgiana secretly cleans houses to make a living and is summoned quite regularly to Buckingham Palace, where Queen Mary assigns her various tasks, including keeping an eye on the Queen’s son David and the dreadful American, Wallis Simpson. Part Downton Abbey and part Jeeves and Wooster, these cozy mysteries are just delightful.

What are your predictions for Downton this season? No spoilers, please!

My Year in Review….. What I learned about my writing self.

Goodbye 2013. Hello 2014. I’m looking forward to next year. I have four books coming out in 2014. Four. Four full length novels, two of them under the name Ginger Jamison. It’s going to be an exciting year.

This year was exciting. I saw the publication of my first book, Dangerous Curves Ahead. I got offered a contract with Harlequin. I wrote my first novella. I got some really good thoughtful reviews.

I also wrote. A lot. 2013 is probably the year I wrote the most.But I’m not necessarily saying that that was a good thing for me. Three of the four books that are coming out next year I wrote this year. Plus the novella. And I had edits, torturous edits. Though my writing, in my opinion, got sharper and I managed to write upwards of 7000 words a day. There was a time when it wasn’t fun. When it felt like work. Like it felt like I had taken on way too much. And maybe I did. I burned myself out.

I only read five books this year. Five! That’s nothing for me. There was a time in my life when I was reading a new book every other day. But I didn’t read because I didn’t have time to. I had to write. HAD to. My laptop was a permanent accessory. It was chained to my arm. I had no life. I missed happy hours and day trips. I bailed on dinners and wrote for hours and hours on vacation. I was a shitty friend. I was an absent daughter and sister. But I had to put out good books.

Some people would scoff and say “But your published. Poor you, that’s a problem that we all would like to have.” I would tell those people to suck it. A whole other set of stress, problems and responsibilities comes along with that contract. Plus I work. Full time. In a job you can’t half ass. I’m not complaining. I wouldn’t go change anything that happened last year. I’ve had a great experience with both publishers. I’m just telling you my story and  that I learned a lot about myself in the process.

1. When under extreme stress and a deadline I can write half a novel in four days.

2. I have a really hard time writing endings. It might be because I love being in that world so much that I don’t want to leave it. Or it could be because I just suck at writing them.

3. I really, really, really hate being edited. I hate the whole freaking process. I don’t care what anybody says. Yes, I know the book is twenty-five times better when I’m finished with it, but I hate it. I dread getting my editorial letter. I probably always will.

4. People who give me unsolicited advice about publishing and my career or think they know everything really annoy me. (Okay, so maybe I didn’t learn that this year.) (I also have to stop myself from telling people the reason they aren’t published yet is because they spend more hours playing stupid Facebook games than they do writing. And to not bitch about it.)

5. I need to plan my non writing time. I need to be social and hang out with friends and flirt with cute boys.

6. It’s okay for me to take a break from writing. I took nearly two months and not because I planned to, but because I was so fried I didn’t have any other choice. It helped. I needed to recharge my brain.

7. The best way (for me) to get back into writing is just to write. To make myself sit down in a chair and write. And to talk about/brain storm with somebody who’s not a writer. And to be around other writers because they inspire me.

What about you? How was your year? What did you learn about yourself?

Who wants a mean Santa? by J Monkeys

Good Morning Scriblers!  J Monkeys here.   I’m so sorry that I’ve missed the last two weeks!  Would you believe that I’ve been so busy, I forgot it was Saturday?  YIKES.

Today, in honor of the upcoming holiday, I wanted to take a moment to talk about a film that used to be a favorite of mine, but which I now loathe.  Yes, I’m talking about the clay-mation classic: Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.

Rudolph the red nosed reindeerHave you watched this movie as an adult?  If you are responsible for the care of children, then you will be even more horrified.  First, Rudolph’s own father basically calls him a freak for having an unusual nose and makes him hide it.  Then Santa, that paragon of kindness and joy, sees it and tells Donner that his son’s not good enough to schlep a ton of toys through the sky.  Then of course the flying coach, their pal, gets all the other children to join him in mocking one of the little yearlings. That’s some really awful bullying.  Only when Rudolph’s nose becomes useful to Santa is he finally accepted onto the team. 

It’s no better for the elves.  Setting aside the terrible treatment of Herbie, watch what happens when the elves perform for Santa.  They sing their little hearts out, only to have the head elf (Santa) grunt at them and dash away.  What a jerk!

Even Yukon Cornelius gets in on the nasty action.  Once he defeats the Bumble, he taunts him, forcibly removes his teeth, then puts that wild beast on a leash and drives him around the north pole. 

I find that whenever my kids watch this movie, I have to stand there commenting how “We would never behave this way, would we!”   It takes something away from the viewing experience, I think.

Both the Year Without a Santa Claus and Santa Claus is Coming to Town are better, although the later has that whole disturbing song about how if you sit on a strange man’s lap and pay the price of a kiss, you’ll get gift. 

But no matter how you like your holiday movies, I wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanza, Happy Boxing Day, Festive Solstice and Safe New Year.

~ J

 

 

Tight Trope Walking

Hey, it’s Friday again. Casey here!

Christmas is almost here and it’s got me thinking about the classics. What makes a classic, well, classic?

Tropes are unavoidable in the world of genre fiction. In fact, readers expect a certain level wpid-Edgar_Degas_Miss_Lala_in_the_Circus_Fernando.jpgof “tropiness” in storytelling. However, one could also argue that the reader doesn’t want to notice the trope. If it smacks them in the face, well, they might just toss the book across the room, labeling it derivative nonsense.

Not sure what a trope is? Trope = a common or overused theme or device.

Such as : Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy wins girl back. Practically every romance novel or romantic comedy written in the twentieth century had a bit of this trope in it. Sure, it may vary. Girl loses boy instead or Girl tells boy to shove off, but the basis of all romance is providing the reader with their Happily Ever After.

One of the most common tropes EVER is the orphan child destined/thrust into greatness or, at the very least, part of an interesting event. With this one trope, I could be describing the hero or heroine from hundreds, if not thousands, of fantasy, middle grade, science fiction, literary fiction, comic books and a zillion movies.

Don’t believe me? The devil is in the details. And as a writer, the details and inner life you give the character is what is going to elevate your story beyond the usual cliches.

For argument’s sake, let’s make the orphan a boy. But, this isn’t enough. Let’s give him more, shall we?

  • Cruel relatives. If I give him a wand and send him to a wizard school - poof - Harry Potter. If he enters a giant magical peach – James and the Giant Peach. Or forget magic – his own sister (basically all the women around him) treat him badly and he comes into his fortune because he helped an escaped convict – Pip (Great Expectations)
  • Caring relatives. Raise him on a world with two suns and hand him a light saber  - Luke Skywalker. Or, he’s an alien from outer space, his planet long dead and behold – Superman! Or his parents are gunned down in alley before his eyes. Bam! Batman! If he lives in a hole in the ground and is bequeathed a magic ring – Frodo Baggins
  • No relatives. Poor or living on his own, surviving with his wits – Oliver Twist, Huckleberry Finn, David Copperfield, James Bond.
  • Animal relatives. Throw in a jungle and some apes – Tarzan is born. Or, if you like historical myth, two orphans raised by a she-wolf – Romulus and Remus – founders of Rome.  Oh, but wait, if the animals talk  then it could be Mowgli from A Jungle Book.

And don’t think there aren’t any orphan girls. Let’s not forget: Cinderella, Heidi, Dorothy Gale, Snow White, Pollyanna, Jane Eyre, Anne Shirley, Little Orphan Annie.

Oh my! The list goes on and on!

One thing these characters have in common besides their orphan status – these are all considered classic characters either in film or literature (sometimes both). The trope was merely the stepping off point to their greatness. Their creators went beyond the cliché. Made us care about these characters and turn that page (or watch the movie again and again).

So, a word to the wise. Go beyond the trope. Really, your readers will thank you for it.