Tag Archives: Jane Austen

Et Tu, Brute. Betrayal and Other Fun Topics.

Ahh, the Ides of March. Casey here, wishing you a happy Friday.

Unless of course, your name is Julius Caesar and the year is 44 BC, then you’re about to have a really bad March 15th. To the Romans, the ides didn’t mean anything sinister. The ides simply marked the middle of each month. That’s it.

But thanks to Brutus and the Roman Senate, it has come to symbolize the date of Caesar’s assasination – beware the Ides of March!

History is loaded with betrayals: Brutus, Benedict Arnold, and whoever ratted out the Spartans at the Battle of Thermopylea. In literature, betrayal is commonly used as a plot twist. I’ve used it once or twice.

Betrayal exists in so many forms: Family backstabbing, corporate greed, an apprentice killing the master, friendships gone sour, betraying your country. Even betraying your own ideals. So many flavors and all of them leave a bitter taste in the mouth.

But, as a writer, you should never be afraid to go down the dark path. Traitors have a place in fiction. In romance, it can drive the hero and heroine apart. It can also bring them back together. Depending on the genre, your protagonist can be ruined by betrayal or uplifted (or both!).

Case in point – Casey’s Top Fictional Betrayers (not in any special order):

1. Fredo Corleone The Godfather by Mario Puzo. When Michael Corleone realizes that his own brother has betrayed him, it’s heartbreaking and ultimately destroys what little soul Michael has left. In true mafia style, Fredo ends up swimming with the fishes – the execution ordered by his brother Michael.

2. Edmund Pevensie The Lion, The Witch, and The Wadrobe by C. S. Lewis. If you think only mafia families can backstab each other – wrong! Even children’s stories aren’t immune to betrayers. Edmund is influenced by the White Witch (and her endless supply of Turkish Delight) and he betrays his siblings. But with Aslan’s intervention, not all is lost. Edmund redeems himself and joins Peter, Susan and Lucy to defeat the witch.

3. Anakin Skywalker The Stars Wars Saga by George Lucas. Anakin doesn’t listen to Yoda and lets his anger consume him. Yes, he betrays the Jedi Order and the Republic, but Anakin majorly betrays himself by turning his back on his master and training. Not to mention, that whole “I am your father” incident and literallay lopping off his own son’s hand!

4. Mr. Wickham Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. The most odious of betrayers, Mr. Wickham uses falsehoods under the guise of friendship to lure Elizabeth Bennet into seriously misjudging Mr. Darcy. And then he runs off with Lydia Bennet, the youngest daughter!

5. Thomas Barrow and Sara O’Brien Downtown Abbey by Julian Fellowes. These two are the dynamic duo of backstabbing. Not only do they cause subtle and sometimes serious mayhem (hello bar of soap!) both upstairs and downstairs, in season three, they embark on backstabbing each other!

6. Saruman the WhiteThe Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien. Nothing stings worse than discovering that the leader of your wizard order is a turncoat. Poor Gandalf. Not even he can foresee what’s about to happen. After discovering that the One Ring has resurfaced, Gandalf consults the one person he thinks he can trust. Instead he’s imprisoned by Saruman leaving Frodo and company in dire straits.

Imagine how different each of these stories would have been without these acts of betrayal. In every case, the traitor has served a purpose, providing a lesson to the hero/heroine and the reader (or viewer) as well.

So remember, while it may be uncomfortable to contemplate, betrayal is a writer’s best friend.

What say you? Who are your top choices for fictional betrayers? And have you used betrayal in your stories?

All You Need to Know About Valentine’s Day — With a Giveaway!

Happy Valentine’s Day, my lovelies! I hope this day, no matter how you celebrate or who you celebrate with, is wonderful. Read through to the end, because there will be a special gift for one lucky commenter.

TRUE-LOVE-Sweethearts[1]I’m going to let you in on a little secret (we just love those things around here!). Everything you need to know about Valentine’s Day — or love in general — can be learned from a box of Sweethearts (f/k/a Tiny Conversation Hearts). As far as candy goes, these are pretty bland, even a bit chalky. And they have a sad and conspicuous lack of chocolate.

But they come in pretty pastel colors, and each has a pithy little motto: Be Mine. Hot Stuff. True Love. Hug Me. Kiss Me. Even Boogie. Now that you mention it, I do feel like dancing.Thanks! The Necco candy people clearly understand romance and the art of keeping it simple. What more do we really need?

IMG_20130214_060434Leave me a comment about Valentine’s Day, love, conversation hearts, keeping it simple, the new Bridget Jones book coming out in the fall, Joe Manganiello, or anything else that strikes your fancy, and you’ll be entered in a random drawing for a fabulous prize package: a hardcover copy of Pride and Prejudice, a lovely Celtic Heart bookmark, a box of Sweethearts, and a dark chocolate raspberry Godiva chocolate bar. Contest ends at midnight Sunday, February 17th, and I’ll announce the winner next Thursday. Good luck, and Game On!

It’s a Mad,Mad, Mad, Mad Lib!

Hello, loves! Suze here. So glad to see you.

Today’s post is just for fun. Did you love Mad Libs as a kid? I did, and I still do. So how about we do a romance version? No reading through to the end of this post or your Mad Lib won’t be as good! Here’s how it works:

Write down a word, romance-y or silly, for each of the following entries:

  1. noun
  2. body part
  3. verb
  4. noun
  5. noun
  6. past tense verb
  7. verb
  8. plural noun
  9. plural noun
  10. emotion
  11. past tense verb
  12. past tense verb
  13. adverb (yay! you get to use adverbs, guilt free!)
  14. adverb (yay! another one!)
  15. body part
  16. body part
  17. verb
  18. verb
  19. plural verb
  20. noun

Got your words? Great! Now take them and plug them into the following paragraph from a classic novel. Sorry, all you purists out there! I mean no disrespect to Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy–well, maybe only a little. But it’s a loving kind of disrespect.

Elizabeth, feeling all the more than common ___1___ and anxiety of his ___2___, now forced herself to speak; and immediately, though not very fluently, gave him to ___3___ that her ___4___ had undergone so material a change, since the ___5___ to which he ___6___, as to make her ___7___ with gratitude and ___8___ his present ___9___. The ___10___ which this reply produced, was such as he had probably never ___11___ before; and he ___12___ himself on the occasion as ___13___ and as ___14___ as a man violently in love can be supposed to do. Had Elizabeth been able to encounter his ___15___, she might have seen how well the expression of heartfelt delight, diffused over his ___16___, became him; but, though she could not ___17___, she could ___18___, and he told her of ___19___, which, in proving of what importance she was to him, made his ___20___ more valuable.

How’d it come out? How about sharing your “creation” in the comments section? Have a lovely day, Scribelings!

Fall in the House of Urine

Hi!  J here.  I bet you took a look at that title and thought to yourself…What!?  This is supposed to be a blog about writing…  Fear not, intrepid readers, fear not. 

Let me show you a tiny snapshot of my life: I have a house, children and pets.  The other day, after a stretch of damp rainy days, I noticed that my house stinks.  Like pee.  We have a puppy, an Alpha dog and twin boys who’ve been potty training for months.  Welcome to Fall in the House of Urine. 

As torturous as being in the House of Urine is, I thought the phrase had a nice ring to it, but couldn’t think of why that might be so.  A bit later it dawned on me.  Fall in the House of Urine sounds kinda like The Fall of the House of Usher…at least in my head.  And that got me to thinking about the classics.  Good ones and bad ones.

As an English major in college, I read a lot of literature, but most of it was crap.  Or at least not stuff I liked.  George Elliot – phbfft.  Hawthorne – love the ideas, can’t get past the language.  Dickens – love the stories but too many Victorian Era pop culture references… I have to keep a finger in the end notes just to follow along.  And don’t get me started on Mary Shelley – I had to read that stinking book in no fewer than 4 different classes!  (I’m not even linking to it!)  Seriously, all you English professors out there…out of 4000 years of writing, why do you all pick Frankenstein?!  It’s a terrible tale…a doctor builds a guy out of dead parts, reanimates it and then is happy the monster runs away for 1/2 the story.  I hated that book; the movies were better. 

But for all the crap, I found a lot of stuff that I did like.  Beowulf, Chaucer, Shakespeare’s comedies and histories (loathed the tragedies!), Louisa May Alcott, Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, O. Henry.  And of course, Edgar Allen Poe.  I’ve never actually read The Fall of the House of Usher (the PBS movie scared the piss out of me as a kid!) but I’ve read lots of his other stuff.  Creep-o-saurus Rex!  That guy was seriously ahead of his time.  Poe is like Alfred Hitchcock, just born 100 years earlier.  Can you imagine if Poe was alive today?  Stephen King‘s empire might be in trouble!

But for all my rantings, of course we have to be exposed to lots of stuff to find the things we like.  And as somebody pointed out to me a few posts back, we don’t all like the same things.  There’s probably one of you reading this thinking, what does this Monkey girl know?  George Elliot Rocks!

Today’s Secret: Everything ties back to a good story.  Put your stories out there because you might be my next George Elliot or my next Poe.  Somebody will love what you wrote and somebody will hate it.  And that’s OK.

Today’s Question: What’s your favorite classic?  What do you like about it?

Go Graphic (Novel, that is)

Happy Friday! Casey Wyatt here. Also, please check out my exciting news at my blog (after you finish reading this one!).So who’s noticed the growing trend among paranormal and urban fantasy authors to go graphic? No, I don’t mean sex. That’s a different topic for another day.

I’m referring to graphic novels. You know, those “comic books”. The ones often snickered at as not being “real” books because they have pictures.

Seems like everyone is doing it – Sherilynn Kenyon’s Dark Hunters, Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson books, Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden are just a few.

I was listening to Anton Strout’s Once and Future podcast and even Charlaine Harris is getting into the act. Yay, bring on Eric!

For those who don’t believe graphic novels and comics are a legitimate form of art, I would direct them to the movies. There have been dozens of films (The Green Mile, 300, Sin City, Watchmen, The Crow,  A History Violence – all graphic novels).

And do I have to list the comic book movie adaptations? I think we all know what those are. But wait. I mentioned TV. AMC’s Walking Dead anyone?

I admit it. I’m a comic book geek. I grew up reading comic books and I still own my childhood collection (and, ahem, the comics I’ve purchased as an adult). They are lovingly tucked away in protective sheets in an acid free box. Thanks to my teenage boys, I discovered manga (Japenese graphic novels). The stories are engaging and as well written as novels. The perfect fusion of art and drama.

Needless to say, for romance authors, being asked to put your work into graphic novel form is a huge honor (at least to me). Thankfully, comic books, graphic novels, and manga are finally earning some respect.

Yes, us geeks are finally inheriting the Earth. It’s about time!

Who out there enjoys graphic novels? And if you haven’t read any, what’s holding you back? And would you read your favorite author’s books in graphic novel form?

Lynn Kurland Interview – part deux

Hi!  J here to bring you the second half of our exciting interview with 3 time RITA Award winning, New York Times Bestselling novelist Lynn Kurland!  If you missed the first half, click here to check it out.  Lynn, thanks again for talking with us!

How do you battle the Doubt Monster?  We define the Doubt Monster as: the nagging feeling while writing that your prose is terrible, your plot is silly, your characters are insipid and no one in their right mind would read this drivel, let alone buy it.  Does the Doubt Monster trouble you?

That’s a perfect description of him! Sadly enough, I’m not sure you can ever banish him entirely. I’m now on book 32, looking down the long barrel of book 33, and still when I open up that blank first page, I think “oh, crap, this is it–this is the book where it finally comes out that I have absolutely no clue what I’m doing.”

The only thing that works for me is continually reminding myself that no matter how much I wish it would be different, my first draft is going to be absolute garbage. Rewriting is easier, but the truth is, writing isn’t for the faint of heart, is it? If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.

I’ve come to the conclusion over the years that it’s okay to protect your creative mental space. I don’t read Amazon reviews, rarely read *any* reviews unless someone sends me them in the body of an email and I can’t avoid them, and don’t EVER google myself. Good reviews flip me out just as much as bad ones, so I decided long ago to do the Paul Newman thing and just not read anything about what I’m doing. Because in the end, all you can do is write your little books your way and hope there are people out there who will enjoy what you’ve done. You can have ten different opinions on the same book, but which one is the “right” one? And once you start listening to what other people want you to do with your stuff–and changing it to suit them–it’s no longer your stuff, is it?

It also helps to point sternly toward the scary under-the-bed spot used by all creepy things and tell Doubty to get back there. Then write your book the way you like. If he doesn’t make too many noises you can let him back out to help you with the editing.

Author Jane Haddam says that anyone who seriously annoys her gets bumped off in her next book.  How do you incorporate your real-life experiences into your stories?

Hmmm, let me check with my lawyer on the advisability of answering that in order to avoid any potential character defamation suits . . .

Just kidding. My friends live in fear! The only people who are really crappy to me haven’t yet figured out that they will absolutely figure prominently in my next book–and not as the hero or heroine. Whether or not composites of all my former boyfriends may have and might yet continue to wind up in print is something that will remain shrouded in mystery.

What was your biggest misstep in your writing career so far?

Probably not being more aggressive with marketing myself. I’ve avoided Facebook like the plague, I probably should have done a few book tours, and I should have hired an assistant to help me manage the business side of things. I hate to fly, I’m actually a very private person (shy isn’t the right word, but homebody probably is), and I really wanted to spend all my time with my kids while they were little. But I’ve gotten to stay home with my kids, avoid planes, and still make my publisher happy with a couple of list appearances. Life is very, very good.

Do you have a word related pet peeve?  Improper conjugation of verbs, it’s when you mean its, and the word “like.” Like, because it really, like, drives me, like, nuts. Grrrr.

What’s the most dangerous or risky thing that you’ve done? In high school riding in an 1965 MGB at lunch with a guy who was loaded. Stupid, stupid, stupid. He took a corner too fast and I swear angels took that car and put it back on the road instead of allowing it to follow its natural trajectory off the road, down the bank, and into a very rocky river. That colossal act of stupidity was followed closely by subsequently stuffing seven of my closest friends in *my* MG midget and going to Wendy’s for lunch. (Why does it always involve an MG?) Since I had kids, I’ve become Mother Paranoid and the riskiest thing we do is get on the freeway in my tank of a volvo.

What is your guilty pleasure? {Remember: this is a ‘G’ rated blog! :) } Long Sunday afternoons with my family and the entire A&E Pride and Prejudice series in one shot, a fire in the fireplace, either something to knit or quilt, and the latest in Eddie Bauer pajama fashions to curl up in. Maybe some chocolate fondue with bananas, strawberries, and some angel food cake to dip in it if I’m feeling particularly adventerous. Am I the most boring person in existence, or what? No wonder I write. Someone’s got to have some excitement!

Whose story will we see next May?  Isabelle, maybe?  Or Philip? You introduced some fun “next generation” side characters in Zach/Mary’s story.  Might they be in the offing? 

Next May’s book is ALL FOR YOU and will star Peaches Alexander, the sister of Tess (ONE MAGIC MOMENT) and Pippa (ONE ENCHANTED EVENING). I will definitely get to Isabelle and Phillip, and there are so many cousins in Mary’s generation who are impatiently waiting to be set up. Can’t disappoint really gorgeous medieval knights!

Thanks so much for the chance to chat. Happy scribing!
Thank you!

My, My, My . . . Dell-ilah

Hello, Scribe Friends, Suze here.  Last week we had a great discussion about e-readers.  Let’s take it a step further and talk about computers, shall we?

Like virtually every writer out there, I do my writing on a computer.

Meet Dell-ilah, Suze’s Laptop

Now I know there are still a few people who write longhand.  In fact, I just read somewhere that writing longhand provides a brain/hand connection that enhances creativity and intelligence.  (I can’t find that article right now, but when I do I’ll post it). Stephen King wrote Dreamcatcher, nearly 900 pages long, with a fountain pen.  Whatever Mr. King is doing seems to be working, and I’m not arguing.  And of course, most of the great literature of the world was written without electronics.  Somehow, I just can’t picture Jane Austen, little frilly cap on head, pecking away at a keyboard by candlelight.  Kind of takes away the romance, don’tcha think?

Me, I’ve been typing for so long, it’s a real effort for me just to fill out an occasional check, though I do make most of my to-do lists by hand in a spiral bound notebook.

My little laptop, Dell-ilah, and I have been friends for a long time. She’s very low tech as far as computers go — her CD drive is external, her Wi-Fi antenna is external (can’t use both of those things at the same time unless I buy a splitter of some kind, which I haven’t bothered with), and she can’t play a DVD at all.  Which, if you think about it, is all kind of a good thing when you’re writing.  Because you’re just supposed to be writing, right?  Not watching marathon episodes of True Blood and drooling over Alexander Skarsgard.

But I know Dell-ilah cannot live forever.  Her case has a crack.  Her hinges and some of her keys are loose.  Her processor brain is still pretty sharp, though.  (Even so, I back up my work on a flash drive after every writing session, and periodically I e-mail my WIP to myself.)  She and I have discussed it, and she’s given me the Do Not Resuscitate order.  When her time comes, I will need to let her go.  Right now, I’m researching with what I will replace her.

Dell-ilah is a PC.  I’ve always worked on PCs, but I’m open to exploring the Mac option if somebody can convince me that it really is worth the price differential.  Should I get another laptop?  A sweet little netbook?  What about a tablet with a wireless keyboard?  That might be fun.  Oooh, how about an iPad?

What kind of computer do you use, and what do you love/hate about it? This inquiring mind would love to know!