Thea Devine today, shaking my head over the never-ending battle between John and Joey, my two resident type A’s. This time, it was over the tufted rocker in the living room. Joey just loves to grab that space away from John — like he has some kind of radar that alerts him when John is about to sit down.
John is majorly tired of Joey’s demands and the way he takes swipes at him. Nor was he as crazed as I was that time when Joey stayed out all night. Plus Joey invariably has a lot to say that John has made abundantly clear he doesn’t want to hear. And Joey eats enough for two people — how do you control that?
They both want what they want — and they’re always at a stand-off. Joey invariably wins — emotions don’t get in his way. But I’ll tell you — when Joey decides to be nice, he’s really really nice. Even to John. When they fight, neither gives an inch.
It’s a beautiful thing to watch — man vs. orange tabby cat, each one determined to stand their ground.
The thing is Joey (for Joe diMaggio) isn’t our cat — he’s my younger son’s, adopted from a friend who took him from a situation where he was being abused. So he has issues. That kind of excuses everything as far as I’m concerned. If Joey swipes at one of us, well — he has issues. Or he’s trying to get our attention (I really believe).
Also, I like to think he’s trying to fill the space left by the death of our beloved doxie. Maybe he remembers that Midgie was always next to me on the couch. Maybe he knows somehow that I occasionally look over as if I expect to see her there. I note that he comes on the couch more often than not now. He cuddles up when he naps, either against me or John on the opposite end. And with all that, he’s become the sweet cat that my eldest son believes him to be.
Still, the type A growling goes on. Maybe the thing is that John and Joey both need to exert control over their territory. And maybe that’s just something that goes with the territory and it’s not for me to parse it all out.
Maybe my job, as always, is to observe and write it all down. But I bet if he could speak, Joey would probably tell me to mind my own business
Do you have any type-A animals in your house (human included)?
How do you cope? Or do you cope? Maybe we should just leave them all alone.
Thea Devine’s books defined erotic historical romance. She’s the author of twenty-seven erotic historical and contemporary romances, and a dozen novellas. She will be speaking at NJRWA’s Put Your Heart in a Book conference in October.
It’s snowing off and on as I write this, and I’m thinking of my two favorite other snow days when my husband didn’t have to go to work, and we had the days to ourselves. One of those days, while the snow piled high outside, inside, we listened to music and read and talked, warmed by the fire. The second time, we braved the elements to have lunch by firelight at a local rustic inn.
Those are romantic moments to me. I’ve often said we romance authors are all married to engineers even if they aren’t engineers. My husband is an educator, teacher of English and former high school administrator. But really, he’s an engineer. He’s linear, he’s a one-thing-at-a-time guy, he doesn’t sugar coat anything. He solves problems. Don’t all heroes?
Another favorite memory happened on a summer day when he wanted me to listen to an album of poetry — Billy Collins — so we drove to Litchfield listening to the CD, had lunch, and continued listening on the way home. After which I immediately wanted to start writing poetry because listening to Billy Collins just inspires you that way.
One of the poems, “The Revenant,” really resonated with me. It was from the viewpoint of a dog in the afterlife, finally confessing his true feelings about his long-time owners, words to the effect of — I never liked you. I hated the food you made me eat. I despised this. I never liked that.
You get the idea. A litany of dislikes and resentments. It made me look at my mini-doxie in a whole new light. Did she hate me? Despise the “naming of the parts” game I played with her? Hate all the silly nicknames I gave her? Did she resent my re-naming her “Munch”?
She was my mother-in-law’s dog, as I may have mentioned previously, a gift after the sudden death of mom’s then canine companion, Casey. The problem was, mom was ninety at the time, had macular degeneration, and was pretty unsteady on her legs.
So my Munchkin started out in pretty shaky circumstances: taken from her mother at 6 weeks, flown up to NY, put in the hands of strangers who then gave her to an elderly nearly blind lady who couldn’t properly care for her.
Something had to give; a year or so later, something did: mom fell, went to the hospital, and we took Midgie. At the time we had our beloved galumphing lab mix, Maggie who was about four times Midgie’s size. We honestly didn’t know what to expect. Mom always thought Midgie would be eaten alive by Maggie. But that didn’t happen.
They got along just fine. Midgie — or Munch — would chase Maggie around the kitchen-dining-living room and then hide under her legs so Maggie couldn’t find her. Or she’d climb up on the couch pillows dive bomb onto Maggie’s back. When they slept, Munch’s body language imitated Maggie’s. I really think Maggie taught Munch how to behave.
She was, as was Maggie, the Best Dog Ever. We were privileged to love her for ten years, and our beloved Maggie for twelve. We lost Maggie to cancer two years before Munch passed away a dozen days into 2011.
Munch’s was the hardest passing to bear, maybe because we’re that much older. And so, the first time in 45 years, we don’t have a dog in the house.
In truth, I’m a little scared. What will he think? What if he hates us? How will we know? And, after all, we still have memories and pictures – and a cat.
I really don’t want to wonder if Munch was happy — I think she was — I loved her to pieces, walked her, fed her, spoiled her rotten, made up songs about her, played with her — but a year after that lovely lunch in Litchfield, that Billy Collins poem continues to haunt me. I never liked you …
And still I wonder …
Did she hate me?
Do you have a pet? Would you? Wonder, I mean …]
How powerful words are.
How about you? Any pet stories to tell? Any poems that resonated on that level? Meantime, I’d seriously advise you to occasionally look deep into your pet’s eyes and try to divine what she or he is really thinking.
(You can read The Revenant on-line.)
Thea Devine’s books defined erotic historical romance. She’s the USAToday best-selling author of 25 historical and contemporary romances and a dozen novellas. She’s currently working on an erotic contemporary romance. She misses her Munchkin terribly.
In honor of my dog Zak, I wanted to write a post about adding animal characters to our stories. Zak was a handsome and faithful ten year-old lab/husky mix who I had to say goodbye to this weekend. The house has been all too quiet since and we will no doubt miss him terribly. When we invite an animal into our lives, we are taking on a partner of sorts. They don’t become our pets as much as we become their people. As authors of romance and love stories, it’s only right that we should include our furry soul mates in our stories. I don’t know about you and your first encounter with your fur friend, but I fell in love with Zak at first sight. We quickly became best friends, forging a bond that would last his lifetime. I love the idea of incorporating that kind of relationship into my books.
In SAVAGE CINDERELLA, my main character Brinn befriends a bear, rescuing it as a cub after its mother is killed. Since Brinn was still a child at the time, she named the bear cub Kitty, stole milk from a farmer’s goat, and cared for the bear until it was grown enough to fend for itself. From then on, the two were friends for life, Kitty coming to Brinn’s rescue just in the nick of time. (see book trailer here).
It was fun creating that relationship and showing the connection between humans and animals even under the most unusual of circumstances. Animals have a way of getting under our skin right from the start, reminding us that unconditional love is the truest form of love we can express or receive. The bond that we form with them goes beyond pet and master. There is a soul-deep affection and trust that is difficult to explain to someone who has never befriended an animal and spent years living with them side-by-side.
Adding an animal character to a story is challenging, which is why I don’t think we see it done often. You need to make them into a believable, continuous thread of the story.To do it well, in my opinion, you have to sprinkle in the personality traits of the animal and show how they impact the main character. Aren’t we always a perfect match for our pets? By sharing how animal characters interact with the hero and heroine, it can deepen character and connect the reader even more than the hero/heroine relationship itself.
I’ll use Kristan Higgins again as an example because she does this so well. Her fur friend characters are engaging and lively, and are just as quirky as her main characters. They are clearly just one more member of the family. I think Kristan’s success with this is that the dogs aren’t just thrown onto the page to add color. It would be easy to have them distract from the story, but instead they are real secondary characters who are present in the background at all times, affecting the emotions and actions of our main characters, just like our real companions. They also have unique personalities–always ready to express themselves through a bark, a pant, or a set of pathetic big brown eyes begging for some love and attention, or a treat.
In my upcoming YA Dystopian release, WANING MOON, genetically altered teen Lily Carmichael, is accompanied on her journey by a pair of grey timber wolves. Bo and Pappy are brothers, distinguishable only by the scar that Bo carries across his eye and snout from having fended off a polar bear to save Lily. (Don’t ask about polar bears in the Northeast. You’ll just have to read the book.) I had fun writing the wolves into the story and used a lot of Zak’s character traits in doing so. I’ll describe him and you tell me if you don’t see the heart of a wolf in him.
Zak was a fiercely protective dog who thought nothing of challenging a bear or moose if he thought his domain was being threatened. He was stubborn and loyal, and not always terribly bright (just ask the skunks and porcupines that he thought were cats). But he was also totally goofy and handsome the way his ears perked up and shifted at the slightest sound, like two satellite dishes on his head. My biggest challenge after taking him in as a six month old pup was that he had been taken out of two other homes for neglect and he had major abandonment issues, did not get along with other animals, and would become aggressive if threatened or fearful. I tried socializing him, but he had his mind made up that he was going to be a loner. Eventually, we became his pack. He was friendly to children, neighbors and even strangers, but if you tried to do something he didn’t like, he let you know in no uncertain terms that if you didn’t have a tranquilizer gun, you ought to just back off.
Against the advice of vets, I didn’t put him down as a pup. Instead, I moved him out into the country. Here, he was surrounded by woods where he could run free. Amazingly, he never strayed from our property or even far from our sight. He was a great companion for me on our hikes on the vast trail system behind my house. If my husband traveled, Zak was on guard and would no doubt protect me with his life. His daily presence was a comfort to both my husband and me, always greeting us with a bark and a wagging tail. He lay by my side more than once when I was sick, ever watchful and responsive to my moods or energy shifts. Though he sometimes made it difficult to appreciate his quirks, we always loved him unconditionally and that love is what I believe made him the great dog he was. He had a happy life here, and I’m so glad we could give that to him. In return, he gave us his all. It seems fitting that I should have him immortalized in some way through my Chronicles of Lily Carmichael trilogy. I’m sure you’ll get to know Zak a little better as you read about Bo and Pappy.
Until then, what do you think about animals in fiction?
Hello Scribblers! J Monkeys here. Happy Saturday. Today I’m thrilled to bring you an interview with author Ryan Hill.
Ryan recently published a children’s book titled, J.P. Trouble.
Thanks for being with us today, Ryan. Have you thought about writing something that is completely different for you? Perhaps writing in a new genre or just taking a story someplace that you haven’t done before. Everybody has a genre they feel most comfortable writing in. Children’s literature is a great avenue, since it allows me to be silly and ridiculous with my writing. That said, I think it’s important to “stretch your muscles” and get out of your comfort zone as often as possible. It’s the only way you can grow and improve.
What is the most surprising thing that has happened in your writing career? The most surprising thing is that I actually have a writing career. Words can’t describe the sheer joy I get from knowing this is what I’m doing for a living.
What would you do if you couldn’t be a writer any longer? I’d like to say I can’t imagine doing anything else, but that’s not true. I can imagine doing lots of things: paratrooper, taxi cab driver, watersports enthusiast, dog trainer, candle maker, or Elvis impersonator. I just can’t imagine actually WANTING to do anything besides write.
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? For J.P. Trouble, real-life informed the entire story. It’s based on my father’s first dog, who was actually named J.P. Trouble. My dad told me about how he got the dog 11 years ago, and I immediately knew it would make a great children’s book, so I set about writing it. Cut to 2012, and that book is finally a reality.
I was in graduate school at North Carolina State University when I first wrote the story, and previous drafts kind of got lost in the hustle and bustle of life. Once I decided to write full-time, the manuscript was resurrected, I sent it off to Warren Publishing, an independent publisher in Huntersville, N.C., and the rest is history.
I chose Warren because it’s located in North Carolina, my home state. Honestly I never gave a lot of thought to going for an agent or big house publisher. I wanted J.P. Trouble to go somewhere that people would really care about the story and champion it, and Warren has done just that.
What was your biggest mis-step in your writing career so far? Waiting so long to pursue writing full-time.
What is your junk food of choice? Pizza. Definitely pizza.
What’s the most dangerous or risky thing that you’ve done? I’m not much of a danger mouse, but the riskiest thing I’ve ever done is to pursue my dream of becoming a full-time writer. It wasn’t an easy decision, but it was the ONLY decision.
For more information about J.P. Trouble or other writings by Ryan, check out his website.Thanks for taking the time to be with us today, and good luck with your book!
Hello, Scribe Fans! We have a very special guest with us today: Laura Moore, whose novel TROUBLE ME released Tuesday from Ballantine Books. Laura is giving away a copy of TROUBLE ME to one lucky commenter, chosen at random, so get your comments in before midnight, EST, on March 30, 2012. Talk to us, Laura!
What made you want to write romances? What other writers influence(d) you?
LM: I’ve always been a romantic. But I didn’t grow up dreaming of writing love stories or any kind of stories. I was too busy riding horses and hanging out at my stable to spend time curled up with a pencil and paper. Though I devoured books, I kept my own imaginings and stories locked in my head (this was probably why so many kids teased me for being a space cadet). It wasn’t until I was married, the mother of two, and pursuing a graduate degree in art education that I sat down and tried to write one of the stories I’d dreamed up. Using one of my art education class notebooks, I began writing the opening chapters. The story in my notebook became Ride A Dark Horse and was published in 2001.
I think the first romance novel I read was Sweet Savage Love by Rosemary Rogers. I was about thirteen when I read it. For a girl raised on Jane Austen and P.G. Wodehouse, it was quite an eye-opener. In terms of writers who influenced me, the list is pretty long: Judith McNaught, Jude Deveraux, Julie Garwood, Catherine Coulter, LaVyrle Spencer, Linda Howard, Sandra Brown, Karen Robards, Susan Elizabeth Philips, and oh, yeah, Nora Roberts. They were the authors I searched for, whose titles I hunted down, a challenging task in the pre-internet era.
Inspire the as-yet-unpublished among us and tell us how the sale of your first book came about.
LM: My background is in art history and art education so I came to be published in romance fiction by a whole lot of luck. I didn’t know anything about the industry—absolutely nothing. But my brother happened to know a literary agent, Elaine Markson. He suggested I send her my manuscript and ask her where I might send it next. Imagine how novel a query letter that was!
Well, when Elaine got back to me, she told me that although she didn’t represent any other romance authors, she wanted to represent me. She then warned me that she really only knew one editor who worked in romance. So she and I decided that she’d send the manuscript along to Linda Marrow, who was then at Pocket Books. Linda was kind enough to offer me a two-book deal. Definitely a fairy tale beginning, right? As I said, I was extraordinarily lucky.
Describe your writing day for us.
LM: I get up at 6:30 am, have breakfast, and walk Hardy, our dog. Upon my return I throw a load of laundry into the wash and run around straightening up the house. I only mention this because I’m weird and there’s no way I can sit down to write if things aren’t basically organized. By 9:00 I’m at my computer. I try to work for three or four hours without wasting too much time checking and replying to emails, surfing the net in the name of ‘research’ or surfing the net just because it’s there. It terrifies me how much time I can waste on the net. I’m almost at the point where I’m considering buying a second computer that has no internet connection on it…Is any else feeling like they’ve become over-connected?
Sorry, I digress.
After lunch I’ll try to get a few more sentences onto the screen. Then at 2:30pm Hardy, without fail, will remind me that we need another walk. Sometimes I manage to squeeze in another hour of writing either in the late afternoon or evening, but my prime writing time is really that morning block of hours.
Of course, when I look at that description I realize how few of my days actually follow that schedule. Since I also teach English there are days when I can’t get any of my own work done. Then too I have to factor in the the days when I hit a boulder-sized obstacle in my plot or I realize something is terribly wrong with my character and I can’t quite put my finger on the problem. That’s when you can find me furiously cleaning the house, mowing the lawn, shoveling the snow, grocery shopping, doing just about anything to avoid my work in progress.
Your dog’s name is Hardy? Ahem! Nice! Are you a plotter or a pantser?
LM: I’m pretty much a pantser. I begin with a broad outline of my story, which contains the key plot points and a rough sketch of my heroine and hero. Then I pretty much try to connect the dots. It’s not very efficient, I know.
When I wrote my Rosewood trilogy, the first series I ever undertook, I had to be a little more organized because I wanted to make sure the plots and subplots meshed. The trilogy required me to keep lists, make timelines, and write a lot more scene sketches, all the things my right brain finds extremely objectionable. Luckily by the time I got to book three of the trilogy, Trouble Me, I really knew my characters and where my story was going. I guess the eight hundred plus pages I’d written leading up to Trouble Me sorted out some of the unholy mess in my mind.
When you are writing, how aware are you of romance character archetypes? In Remember Me you paired a born-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-tracks uberhunk with a glamorous, born-with-a-silver-spoon-in-her-mouth heroine. Was that a conscious decision, or did it happen organically or intuitively as the story unfolded to you? How about archetypal plots?
LM: Never met an archetype I didn’t love.
Actually, when I began Remember Me I didn’t set out with the idea of making my heroine a spoiled, misunderstood princess and my hero a bad boy uberhunk. Archetypes were the furthest thing from my mind. I simply fell in love with an ad campaign for St. John that featured the actor Olivier Martinez (he’s just become engaged to Halle Berry). For those of you who don’t know Olivier Martinez, watch The Horseman on the Roof. You’ll thank me.
Just to show you how incredibly superficial I am, my idea for Margot, the heroine in Remember Me,came from another ad campaign, this one starring
Amber Valetta. I developed a huge crush on her (though not quite as big as the one I had on Olivier) and decided she really needed a love story. Because everyone, beautiful supermodels included, needs a love story.
Snaffle bits. Baker blankets. Longe lines. Your Rosewood trilogy is set on a Virginia horse farm. Are you an equestrienne, or did you just do your research really, really well?
LM: I used to ride and compete in horse shows but unfortunately I’ve had to put my riding on the back burner. I’m hoping that some day I’ll sell enough books to be able to afford a horse again. It’s a commitment that can’t be undertaken lightly.
I do try to research my stories really thoroughly. One of the earliest positive reviews I received for Ride A Dark Horse came from The Chronicle of the Horse. I was over the moon because you really can’t fool horse lovers or professionals in the business. I agonized over the details in Night Swimming too, which is a story I wrote about a marine biologist who tries to save an endangered coral reef in her hometown. Before Night Swimming, I’d done some scuba diving but there was no way I could have written the descriptions of the reefs and the signs of a massive die off of the coral without the interviews and research I conducted.
Here at the Scribes we talk about the Doubt Monster rearing its ugly head. Do you ever have doubts or uncertainty about your work? How do you slay that dragon and get on with your writing?
LM: I have doubts all the time. It’s part of my character. I also think it’s a fundamental part of being an artist. So yeah, when the words aren’t coming, I’m often visited by the foul-breathed doubt monster that settles on my shoulder and laughs hysterically over my puny attempt at putting words on a page. My emergency remedy? Chocolate…lots of it.
Over the years I’ve learned to ignore the monster’s cackles and sniggers by trying to be nicer to myself, give myself rallying pep talks, and even little pats on the back if I manage to write a halfway decent scene. It helps but I don’t kid myself that I’ll ever be able to vanquish the foul dwimmerlaik. Sorry. I’m a huge Tolkien fan and I haven’t been able to use a word like dwimmerlaik in years!
Glad I could give you an excuse to use “dwimmerlaik” in a sentence! Click here, readers, if you want more information about this nasty thing. Laura, do you have any pets? Tell us about them.
LM: We have a cat named Zevon (after Warren) and a dog named Hardy (after Thomas) and I love them madly. My plan is one day to sell a lot of books and buy a horse. If I sell lots and lots of books I’ll buy a farm.
I bet you’ll have that horse and farm sooner than you think, if you keep writing such wonderful books! When was the last vacation you took? Where did you go?
LM: Last year I took a trip to England. It was lovely. All the gardens were in bloom and the oilseed rape was bright yellow on the hills. I have family there so that made the trip even more wonderful.
What’s your junk food of choice?
LM: Popcorn with just a touch of salt.
Confess. What’s your favorite reality show?
LM: When I was writing Remember Me, the first book in my Rosewood trilogy, I made my heroine, Margot Radcliffe a fashion model, and since she liked to watch Project Runway, I got hooked on it too. Those characters can be such bad influences.
Now that the Rosewood Trilogy is complete with TROUBLE ME, (yes, I’m sniffling a bit here! Need Kleenex and a new Laura Moore novel, stat!) what’s next? Can you give us a hint, or is it a Secret? The Scribes love Secrets!
LM: I can only give you the sketchiest of sketches because I’m still figuring out some of the details. It’s a new series (the working title is the Silver Creek Series). The setting is a California guest ranch that is populated by horses and cattle and some really fine looking men in chaps and cowboy hats. And there may be some pesky goats, too.
There’s also in the first book (and I can’t tell you its title because it’s a secret) a lovely heroine. From Queens, New York, Tess is a city girl through and through. She’s also a widow and she’s come to the Silver Creek Ranch to escape a bitter secret and unhappy memories. Determined to make a new life for herself, she’s vowed never to fall in love again and leave herself vulnerable to heartbreak. Ward Knowles, the eldest son of the family that owns and runs Silver Creek, has made much the same promise…
As soon as I have more secrets to share about the series and Tess and Ward, I’ll let you know!
Thanks for being here today, Laura. Readers, here’s a little bit more about her:
A teacher and horse lover, Laura Moore lives in Providence, RI, with her husband, two children, and their black lab. Their cat Zevon keeps them all in line.
Laura’s books have won the following writing awards in the single title category: Laurel Wreath Contest (Volusia County RWA); Maggies Award (Georgia RWA); Holt Medallion Award (Virginia RWA); Winter Rose Award (Yellow Rose RWA), The New England Bean Pot Reader’s Choice Award (NECRWA) and The Write Touch Reader’s Award (WISRWA). Her books have been translated into German and her Rosewood Trilogy will soon appear in Slovenian. All of the above thrill Laura to no end.