Sunday, April 27, 2008

Writing life

A week ago I was writing an erotic thriller and sticking my butt to the chair and my fingers to the keyboard for the requisite hours a day needed to make progress. When the swamp monster, that passes for my muse, burbled up a story concept.

I recognized it instantly as the response to a request I’d sent down a month earlier, prior to getting into the erotic thriller. Bad timing, but what can be done about that? The swamp creature pays no attention to calendar or clocks.

Naturally, I did the sensible thing. Taking a half hour out of my precious writing time, typing up the concept, and then tucking it firmly into a story idea folder. But the story line wouldn’t leave my mind. As I returned to the erotic thriller and tried to conjure up the next bits of action or dialogue to move the story forward, the new characters talked over the current cast.

I fought it for a day and then gave in, setting aside the thriller to commence on the new story. It’s times like this that I think it’s a darn good thing I don’t sell on proposal. Though, I know myself--if I had contracted to complete a story I would do so. What does bother me is the growing list of stories that need something--either deep revision or completing. Some are partials, others concepts, still others completed manuscripts, which need a stern editing pass to polish them into compelling tales.

Not long ago, I browsed a prolific author’s page and was stunned by the list of WIP’s down the side. If I were more organized this blog could sport a nice little sidebar list of its own. Aside from the time consuming nature of template modifications, I think the entire list might discourage me. Especially, when I calculate the amount of time needed to actually accomplish all of these projects.

Ignoring the backlog of stories that need work and excited about the new story, I babbled on to my brilliant and insightful CP about the concept, which has in one week bloomed into a nice partial of a futuristic erotic novella.

“You’ve got enough plot for freakin’ four hundred page novel, and then you’ll have left half of the story off the actual pages,” she said--no doubt tired of giving me the same advice.

I squirmed and excused myself with the necessity of some world building. “Send me what you’ve got and I’ll see if there’s enough romance in it,” she offered, cutting right through the smoke screen with her sure knowledge of my weaknesses.

More squirming on my end of the conversation, knowing there’s no romance in it at all. Twenty some pages into a seventy page project, and the whole thing is world building and setup. Entertaining for me, perhaps even important, but it wouldn’t work for a reader--especially not in a novella format. There are days when I wonder why I try to write romance. But then I remember that I love a challenge and that nothing worthwhile comes easy.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Writing craft

Character checklists are one of those things I can’t resist. When I run across one I always at least skim it. A lot of times the list includes eye color, favorite foods, and other trivia. Of course, it is important to get these details right. It’s disconcerting to the reader if the heroine’s eyes change color during the story. But physical descriptives are just the surface of character. More important for me to understand, is what kind of people these characters are. Strangely, until now I’ve never compiled a character list of my own.

Evanne’s Character Checklist

!) Do they have something of mine?

Every character gets something from me. A prejudice, a habit, a pet peeve, a character trait, a talent, a dream, an eccentric quirk, or a possession. To write them, I need to be interested in them and this deliberate act of transference helps the bonding process.

2) What defines them?

People are products of their environment and their genetic components, characters too. So what single event was the most crucial in making them who they are today?

3) What do they want?

Goals, goals, and more goals--who is a character without needs and ambitions?

4) Why do they want it?

Motivation, the key which unlocks the mystery of character behavior. The stronger the better for my taste, time pressure helps too.

5) Why can’t they have it?

Conflict, the core element of every good story. Inner conflict arises from character, which is why it’s so important to understand who they are first. Outer conflict hones and reveals character. There’s nothing like pressure to bring out the real character.

6) What does no one know about them?

Adding back a little mystery is good, layers are better, and complications are great.

7) What do they fear?

There’s no better road to character growth than conquering inner demons.

8) Does their name fit them?

I’ve driven myself nuts with re-naming--this demands thought up front.

9) Are they heroic enough? Sympathetic enough?

Tragic is fine. Tortured is good. Brooding is okay. But underneath all that there must be the heart of only slightly tarnished gold. Story stars must be bigger and better than real life folks. Noble, honorable, flawed but the hero and heroine still need to be sympathetic. Actually, I want my villain to evoke some empathy--even if it’s nothing more than a shuddered thought--there for the grace of god…

10) What are their flaws?

If those characters are going to resonate--they need imperfections as much as they need positive qualities--maybe more.

11) What makes them unique?

Memorable characters are special, different, individual. The writer showcases the lead characters with the story so those character need to be worthy of the effort.

12) How do they feel?

The character’s emotional response to story situations is the universal factor that pulls the reader into the story and keeps them glued to the page long after they should have turned off the lights and go to sleep. How the character reacts to events--mad, glad, bad, or sad is a start--but there’s more work, how do they express their feelings or hide them? And if they’re hiding them, what reveals the truth to the reader, to the other characters--eventually. This is the stuff you want to show, save telling for the weather and the scenery. Show emotion.

There you have my quirky list. Your character creation is as unique as you are. Ideas come from many sources. My hope is that something on this list triggers new insights into your own writing process.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


I know more about gardening than I do writing, though still not enough. This is not surprising, considering that I’ve been a gardener for far longer than I’ve been a writer. Both are incredibly demanding art forms, at least they are in my world. I have shelves of books devoted to both subjects and spend uncounted hours in pursuit of essentially unattainable goals in both passions.

Why? Here’s my flawed explanation for justification of insane behavior. Though the labor is hard and success elusive, even the pursuit enriches my life in ways that only fellow dirt slaves and other struggling writers fully understand.

Beauty snares my eye and erases all conscience thought whether it’s in the form of art, dance, flowers, life, or prose. The experience is Zen-like, transporting, and enlightening all at the same time. As a consequence, I’ve become a beauty junkie.

I seek beauty relentlessly, needing a steady supply to keep my endorphins high. The pursuit has its own rewards. When creeping around the yard on my knees in pursuit of weeds or entering text to advance the current story or simply staring at a well-loved section of the garden I’m lost, tumbling into another finer realm of existence.

Ironically, stalking beauty is rarely successful. The magic only happens when I’m not trying. This kind of wondrous effect is elusive and surprise is always a factor. Thankfully, perfection in not a requirement. In art too careful, too polished, and too perfect results in an attractive, but always short of magnificent experience. On the other extreme, the primitive effort, which blares its lack of skill and craft sometimes, achieves flashes of brilliance while failing to enchant.

Considering the poor odds of achieving the desired object, I’ve decided the process of creation itself has to offer satisfaction. Because no matter how hard I work at it, the wonder stubbornly resists all my planning and efforts to call it forth reliably. The work itself is worthwhile. In fact, it is essential for success. Though the magic, when it happens, is spontaneous.

Speaking of magic, I’m reading Anna Campbell’s Untouched, falling deeper under her spell with each page. I immediately put in an order for Tempting The Courtesan, she’s that good.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Writing Business

Last week Dangerous Surrender was reviewed over on the Whipped Cream blog, and got four cherries! Entire review posted below. This is my first published book and the baby analogies, are uncannily accurate. I’m thrilled with each little milestone.

At the same time I want more children, er, books--lots more books. Greedy, ambitious writer that I am. Producing them is something else--a painful stage only made bearable by the potential end result.

Also last week I got a glimpse of the releases for 2008 from New Concepts. Dangerous Surrender is on the list, coming out in print next month! The print release is a good sign that the book is selling well. The bad new, from my point of view, no second dangerous book this year. New Concepts puts out lots of titles, but is still a small company in terms of staff.

My tasteful editor is up to her expressive eyebrows in submissions, proofing, releases, marketing, and a million other details of the business of publishing. She might even, gasp, have a life of her own.

Barring a miracle, there will be no new Evanne books from New Concepts in 2008. Considering that the other publishers I’ve submitted to are equally busy, new Evanne stories released from any house are highly unlikely this year.

With this bleak reality firmly in mind, I mentally move on to 2009. Eyeing the themed collections and special projects planned by my publisher. There were two that jumped off the screen at me. High Stakes and Temptation, both are carnal collections of novellas. One involving peril, the other younger man-older woman pairings.

As a current house author, pausing to buff nails on her disreputable robe, I’m allowed to submit a detailed synopsis and a partial. Beats the heck out of polishing up a full and waiting months and months for a response. In my world, there’s nothing finer than new stories. So onto novella research and plotting.

Dangerous Surrender Review

Dangerous Surrenderby Evanne Lorraine

Detective Zach Longstreet wasn't the kind of man any sane woman would give a second glance-unless she was just 'in' to getting her heart trampled in a post sexual stampede for the door.

Unfortunately, he was the kind of man women were drawn to like metal shavings to a magnet-tall, dark, dangerous, and completely relationship phobic. He also hated journalists with a passion.

Ciara is an intricate character who is well-rounded and appealing. She has need-to-please issues with her father, and insecurities that stem from a life-long inability to do so. She doesn't simper and cow to him, however, which I admired. Her conflict with her father is presented in a realistic manner, and she interacts with him as an adult — not an approval-seeking child. She makes compromises with him because, in spite of everything, she loves her dad. Her differences with her father set the stage for her being a part of the story's intrigue as well as her hesitancy in getting involved with Zach.

Zach is beefcake cop who is commitment-phobic, but he instantly recognizes something special about Ciara. He doesn't really want to admit this, however, and is sometimes surprised at the intensity of his reactions to her, such as jealousy and possessiveness. I was drawn to him because of his inner struggles in coming to terms with his feelings for her. It made him human, sensitive and utterly dreamy.

The intimacy between Zach and Ciara is sensual and potent, and I can't say enough good things about Zach's stamina! I also found Ciara's enthusiasm for sex in light of her relative inexperience irresistible. The doubts they both harbor about the nature of their relationship keep the sexual tension high. I think because of this, when they do come together, their lovemaking is explosive and it adds to the overall sensuality of the story.

Although the characters were great and easy to relate to and the basic concept of the story piqued my interest, I felt the attempt to compound the conflict between the two in an effort to keep the suspense high fell a bit short. Ciara, on a few occasions, is quick to believe the worst of Zach when I don't feel it's warranted or even probable. Reasons are given for her quick conclusions, but I saw them as unrealistic and manufactured as a way to push them apart again. Zach also doubts her when he makes an assumption in an unlikely situation which I found frustrating.

The suspenseful plot is intertwined with the lives of Zach and Ciara in a way that I both appreciated and admired. The antagonist is hinted at in such a way that kept me guessing and the villain's identity is revealed at just the right time which increased my anxiety as I worried what would happen next — and, of course, I had to keep reading to find out! Dangerous Surrender is a thrilling romantic suspense novel that is sure to please lovers of the genre.
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