Monday, June 25, 2012

10 Questions for Karen Kennedy Samoranos

So, we have another Musaling Monday. Up next is the fabulous Karen Kennedy Samoranos. Let's give her a round of applause. Karen Kennedy Samoranos co-manages a music education business in the Bay Area with her husband, Clifford, that focuses upon jazz theory and live stage performance for children ages 5 through 18. She has four adult children, and two young grandchildren. In her off hours, she hikes, runs daily, is an avid fisherman, and motorcyclist (both dirt and street), and is an advocate for regular exercise, red wine and whole foods. When the spirit moves her, she blogs at Unfiltered Speech in a Politically Correct World.

1. First the easy one. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I'm self-employed--if that sounds romantic, it's not entirely, due to tax quarterlies and health insurance. But the greatest perk is that I get to sleep with my boss...well, but he's my husband, so no sexual harassment suit pending. Kind of kinky, depending on how you frame it. I'm going to be fifty this year, which is why I try to keep jogging daily, e.g., trying to run away from my age. I like to fish, hike, fish, ride my motorcycles, fish...did I say I like to fish?

2. We all know the Zombie Apocalypse is coming. What five personal skills will help you survive?

  1. The ability to climb very tall trees. Everyone knows zombies won't/can't climb, because they're afraid of heights. 
  2.  Shooting a target accurately at one hundred yards through iron sights. If that doesn't work, I'll use the scope. 
  3. I'm not adverse to swimming. I don't think zombies can swim...well, I certainly hope not, or I'm screwed.
  4. I'm not too squeamish about eating whatever food is available. Look up "grass shrimp." Yum. Just don't make me eat zombie brains.
  5. If all else fails, I'll break out that gorgeous tequila I was saving for a rainy day...

3. What sort of cake are you? Yes, question three is three questions. It’s a paradox. Just answer. Don’t judge.

I'm chocolate cream cake with spicy bits. Why? Because I'm smooth and tasty, and fiery at the right moment.
Do you have the recipe? One part milk chocolate, one part vanilla, and a handful of habanero peppers, chopped up. *Interviewer's note: Yum! I want this right now.*

4. Pimp it if you’ve got it! What is new and what is next for you as a writer?

I have a collection of short stories coming out through Musa Publishing on June 22nd, 2012--"Death By Bitter Waters."

5. Can I borrow five bucks?

You can have five bucks. Don't ask me to make you give it back. I'd rather just give it and forget it. This is what keeps friendships happening.

6. If I gave you five bucks, what ridiculous thing would you spend it on?

I would buy a super burrito with carnitas at "Taqueria El Grullense" in Palo Alto. Très magnifique! Oops, pardon my French.

7. What is one book you never get tired of reading?

"Calvin & Hobbes" by Bill Watterson--I have a full collection of these. We used to have a 1990 Chevy Metro. Driving it reminded me of Calvin, flinging off a hillside in his wagon.

8. Okay, imagine you are trapped in your house during the Zombie Apocalypse. Pushing this button will save you and everyone on your street.


 Do you live or die?

Live, because I can flick the spider off the button with my gloved hand. Unfortunately, if Im not wearing my gloves, then everyone dies.

9. What are some of the things on your bucket list?

I have a place in Susanville, California. It's a doublewide trailer, which puts me in absolute white-trash heaven. What more could someone add to their bucket list?

10. Truth or Dare?

Truth: tell us about the worst rejection you ever received.

From Ashley Grayson, which was hilarious, to say the least. I queried him back in January 2010 about a novel wherein a young woman is gifted all of these revelations about her supposedly-pristine family. Apparently my heroine's issues were of the garden variety, because Mr. Grayson responded with the following:
"I'm going to pass, because you've described an unremarkable character confronted with pretty common minor transgressions of everyday people and presented no hint of a story. Just being about 'timely issues' is not enough for a novel, we need drama to show off the themes.

"I suspect the work is better than the pitch, but a great story usually bursts out of even a mundane summary. Consider:

"The son comes home from college to discover his uncle as (sic) murdered his father and married his mother. He knows this because a ghost told him so. What's a guy to do?


"Frank, a drifter but clever auto mechanic, is offered a job by the owner of a roadside diner and garage. Great opportunity; except Frank and Cora, the benefactor's young wife, can't keep their hands off each other. The (sic) could run off together, but as Cora says, "then where would we be? Day jobs for you and the hash-house for me...." So they decide to murder her husband.


"-Ashley Grayson"

Dare: Write a haiku about being rejected

Red marks on my manuscript:

my head, I keep banging with the

rolled up tonnage of wasted paper.

And two for one on that truth or dare! I'm loving the rejection haikus. I think haikus need to be a permanenent part of my interviews. Yes? Everyone be sure and heckle Karen, I mean, say nice things to her in the comments. Her collection of short stories about Native America, Death by Bitter Waters is both heart breaking and inspiring in places. You can buy a copy from Musa Publishing or Amazon. You'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Your book is not a baby

So, we all have perfectly normal stuff that rubs our fur the wrong way. For me? I hate people calling their book a baby. Books aren't babies. They just aren't. I've seen a lot of cute posts about how we gestate plots and there are aches and pains along the way and then hey presto: baby/book. I don't think so.

That baby is coming out. That kid can't stay in there forever. One way or another, that baby will be born. After nine months, that baby must be born and if he/she won't come out on their own, trained medical professionals will go in and take that baby out. A book? Not so much. You have to work on your own to produce a book. Sex may not be required, but still you have to take action. And by action, I mean more than fifteen minutes of glory in the backseat of a chevy. A book takes time and daily dedication. It's always a shock to new writers that books don't write themselves. These hopeful parents, er, writers wait for inspiration. They want the muse to take control and work through their body. The truth is that sometimes writing is fun and sometimes it's just work. The brainstorming and idea parts are great, but the reality is that there are lots of days when I come home late from work, make dinner, do homework with the kids, do farm chores and finally plop down at the computer and tell myself "just put something down." If I waited for the perfect mood to write, I'd never get squat done. The only method that gets a book out of your head is BICHOK. Butt in chair. Hands on keys. One. Word. At. A. Time. This is why so many people love the idea of being an author, but not the reality of writing. They want to talk endlessly about writing instead of just doing it. Writing is work.

So, no. I don't think of my books as my children. A book is not a baby.

You don't have to feed a  book. It won't need diapers. It won't stretch your breasts out of shape. It won't give you varicose veins. You don't need to add them to your insurance plan. It won't walk. It won't crawl. It won't stuff oatmeal in the VCR and cheerios between the seat cushions. It won't talk back. You don't have to leave a book in day care when you go back to work. It won't cry. It won't puke in the car. It won't repeat everything you said to the teacher. It won't lose library books. It won't need lunch money. It won't get sick the night before a big party. It won't forget a project until the night before it's due. It won't have to go to summer school because it was reading during math class.

 A book doesn't need you to buy it fancy designer clothes. It won't play sports. You book will not grow taller than you are or open pickle jars for you. There will be no frosty mornings at the practice field.  It won't outgrow its shoes every two weeks. A book won't need an iPod and a nintendo and a phone and then a smart phone and then a bigger data plan so it can send 5,000 misspelled texts to its friends. The cops will never bring your book home to you at four a.m. Your book will not wreck your car. It won't adopt a dog that digs in the garden and eats your shoes. It won't sleep with the same smelly dog. It won't track mud in your house.

Your book won't play the tree in school plays, the tuba in the school band, or a townsman in the senior production of Oklahoma. There will be no college fund to save for nor campus visits. There will be no dorm rooms or bad roommates in your books future. It won't date boys with long hair and loud cars or drop out of college because it's knocked up. You book will not require months of dress shopping and and a country club wedding with ice sculptures and a three foot tall champagne fountain.

A book is just a book. And a child will completely rearrange your life in both wonderful and terrible ways.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

10 Questions with Patricia Yager Delagrange

Next up on Musaling Mondays is Patti Yager Delagrange. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, she attended St. Mary’s College, studied her junior year at the University of Madrid, received her B.A. in Spanish at UC Santa Barbara then went on to get her Master’s degree in Education at Oregon State University.  Patti lives with her husband and two teenage children in Alameda, across the bay from San Francisco, along with their two very large chocolate labs, Annabella and her son Jack.

Her horse lives in the Oakland hills in a stall with a million dollar view. Lucky horse!

1.         First the easy one. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, more specifically in the small (80,000) city of Alameda.  STOP.  You know, I’m on my second blog tour right now and I get this question all the time.  And I’m thinking, I am so boring.  How ‘bout I make up something really cool that’ll have people saying, “Wow.  What a life SHE’S had, eh?”

So, hey...  My earliest memory is lying on the forest floor, looking up at hundreds of dark green branches covering a teeny tiny sketch of blue sky.  I turned my head to the side and there was my mother - a dark grey and white wolf.  I reached out to touch her and she started licking my hand then my face.  Some sort of crackling noise disturbed our interaction, twigs cracking or pebbles being thrown.   I didn’t know what the sound was.  One, then another, then another wolf surrounded me and my mother, until it was so crowded, all of them leaning over me to lick me and pat me with their paws.

When I turned eighteen I attended St. Mary’s College, a private school not far from my home.  After two years I wanted to travel so badly, I took off for Madrid and told my parents I was never coming back.  A year later, after studying at the University of Madrid, I was kissing the ground at the airport in Maine after the jet landed - so happy to be home in the States I could hardly express my relief.  I got my B.A. in Spanish from U.C. Santa Barbara then my Master’s degree in Education at Oregon State University.

Now which part of my life did you think was the most interesting? (*interviewer's note: I really liked the made up stuff, but fiction is pretty much all I read anyway so what do I know?*)

2.         We all know the Zombie Apocalypse is coming. What five personal skills will help you survive?

Because of my upbringing (I didn’t leave my mother’s side until I was ten years old - see story above), I know how to hunt for food and survive in the wild.  Left alone in the middle of anywhere, I could live on my own for the rest of my life.

3.         What sort of cake are you? Why? Do you have the recipe? Yes, question three is three questions. It’s a paradox. Just answer. Don’t judge.

I’m one of those pink strawberry sponge cakes.  Why am I a pink strawberry sponge cake?  Well, it all has to do with texture and color.  Pink is my favorite color.  I wear pink laces in my basketball shoes.  I have pink shirts and pink sweatshirts.  Regarding texture?  As every person has in this life, I’ve taken a few hits here and there, and just as you press your finger into a piece of sponge cake and it springs back - that’s me.  And no, I don’t have the recipe, but if you look in the Betty Crocker cookbook from the early 1950’s, I found a recipe for it there, way back when.

*Interviewer note* Found this awesome spongecake recipe from Cake Boss. Go make one and think of Patti. No, that isnt weird at all.

4.         Pimp it if you’ve got it! What is new and what is next for you as a writer?

The first book I ever wrote, Passing Through Brandiss, will be published sometime later this year.  I signed a contract for this book with Wild Child Publishing before I found Musa Publishing.  But Wild Child took on too many authors I think, so the process has been glacial for getting hooked up with an editor.
I finished editing my fourth novel, Brenda’s Wish, a few months ago and I’m sending out query letters to find an agent to represent me.
Summer is approaching and I’m getting an idea for my next book.  So I think that’s what I’ll be doing during the beautiful season of warmer weather here in Alameda.

5.         Can I borrow five bucks?

Well, I’m not going to send you a check in the mail for five bucks but I WILL send you a Musa gift certificate via e-mail so you can buy my book Moon Over Alcatraz which came out in January of this year.  Hey, you said it was okay to “pimp” myself, right?

6.         If I gave you five bucks, what ridiculous thing would you spend it on?

I’d probably go to Walgreens and buy gum.

7.         What is one book you never get tired of reading?

I’ve read The Bridges of Madison County a million times.  Don’t laugh.  I love that movie and have seen it more times than I can remember.  Meryl Streep is my hero.  And I enjoyed seeing Clint Eastwood playing someone other than a cop with a big freaking gun.  I set my third novel, Taken Away, in Earlham, Iowa, in honor of this movie.

8.       Okay, imagine you are trapped in your house during the Zombie Apocalypse. Pushing this button will save you and everyone on your street. 


 Do you live or die?

Well, I’d push the damn button, Marguerite.  It looks like there’s a spider lurking next to the green button, but my daughter is deathly scared of spiders, and guess who gets to kill all of them while she’s screaming and crying for me to “get it outta here!”

9.         What are some of the things on your bucket list?

I got asked this for one of my blog interviews!  I’d never thought of it before that time, so I’m ready for this one.
First, (and this is SO cliche’), I want to jump out of an airplane.  Granted, I wish I could do it with Jack Nicholson or Morgan Freeman strapped to my back, but I’ll take an instructor if I have to.
Second, I think it would be fun to take a ride on a paddle-wheel-driven boat down a river.  I’m not into boats because I get sea sick, but I don’t think there would be any rocking on a boat on a flat river.
Last, I’d like to know how it feels to jump a horse.  I love my 1,425-pound Friesian horse, but he won’t jump over a twig.  It would be an exhilarating experience.

10.      Truth or dare?

   Truth: tell us about the worst rejection you ever received.

Okay, you didn’t specify whether you meant a “rejection letter” from an agent or some other form of rejection, so...  The worst “rejection” experience I’ve ever had was when my boyfriend of seven years wanted to break up and I didn’t.  Looking back on it now, the way I tried to talk him into not dumping me is embarrassing.  Live and learn, though, eh?  He was a commitment-phobe, married within two years of breaking up with me to some other woman, and now divorced.  I think I should be glad he didn’t stay with me.

   Dare:  Write a haiku about being rejected

Well, when I looked up how to write a haiku on Wikipedia it said something about a 5-7-5 pattern of syllables and went on to describe in boring depth how the rules have changed throughout the years and  the differences in the way haikus are written today.  So, hey, I didn’t really understand it all....   Here goes:

           He Didn’t Want Me (5 syllables)

           But I Think That Was My Gain (7 syllables)

           Found Someone Better (5 syllables)

Hah! You only had to pick one, but we got both Truth and Dare. Win! I love getting something for nothing. Plus that was an awesome Rejection Haiku. Patti's book Moon Over Alcatraz (love that title!) is available from Musa Publishing at the Musa Store, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble. You can find Patti  at her website, blog, on Facebook as Patricia Yager Deagrange Author, and Twitter @Patti Yager.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Everything Old is New Again

So, I have a weird kid.  I know, right? Long time readers, both of them, will recognize my sons as Howler Monkey (eldest, loud, boisterous) and Lizard Boy (youngest, quiet, affinity for unlovable critters). Both are weird in their own way, but then who isn't?

Lizard boy loves SciFi stuff. The more Fi in the SciFi, the better he likes it. Don't trouble him with real science. He loves garbage like SyFy movies. You know. Octoshark and Pirhanacanda? He also loves cool stuff like Dr. Who and anything super heroish, loves Star Wars, but oddly not Star Trek. He loves the HUB channel. He came in excitedly telling me about this great show he had discovered. See, there's this funny looking alien with a big nose and he's living with this family and when he gets to the part about how the alien wants to eat the family cat and ride in the dryer, I had to ask. "You mean, ALF?"

Oh dear dog. My son has discovered ALF. For those of you not of American extraction, or those who just want to make me feel OLD, ALF was a TV show backin the 80’s about a cute alien living with a typical American family. Lizard Boy loves this stupid show. ALF wasn’t really all that awesome the first time around, but it suits his eleven year old view of the world. Fuzzy aliens and happy families. Everything old is new again when viewed through his eyes.

 Books are that way. Everything comes in waves. Vampires didn’t become hot because of Twilight. Bram Stoker wrote Dracula in the late Victorian era. Don’t think vampires weren’t sexy back then (although they did not sparkle). Seriously. Sexy vampires are not new. If anyone claims Stephanie Meyer invented the sexy vampire make them go read Carmilla which is even older than Dracula and frankly a more interesting read.

My point is that these things come in cycles. None of it is new and it’s silly to try and guess at trends. By the time we see the trend train coming around the bend, it's too late to hop aboard, but that's okay. Maybe we can catch the next train. Write what you love and love what you write. I love traditional Regency. My favorites have always been Georgette Heyer, Joan Smith, Laura Matthews, Jacqueline Diamond, Barbara Metzer, and Kasey Michaels. I love the sense of humor and witty repartee.

The current trend is for sexier and sexier Historicals. Don't get me wrong. I'm not against some good old fashioned smexy time. I'm just a bit weary of lust being a substitute for love. I'm hoping that traditional train will come back around because I've got my boarding pass ready to go. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

10 Questions for Grace Wen

Welcome to a new feature on Marguerite Says. Mondays are now "Musaling Mondays." I will open up my blog to fellow Musa authors. Here's how it will work. Each month will feature a list of 10 questions.  The victims, I mean, my guests all get the questions at the same time--so no one knows what is coming. These probably won't be your normal interview questions. This month I'm all about the zombies. The first brave Musaling is my good friend Grace Wen. Grace writes fantastic women's fiction and has been a long time crit partner and beta reader.

1.      First the easy one. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

This is actually the hardest question! Don't you hate it when you get this question in a job interview? Ah heck, I'll just crib from my author bio: I write women's fiction and romance because I find people fascinating. I love toask my characters nosy questions to avoid being a real-life busybody. My stories have appeared in TrueConfessions, True Love, and True Romance magazines. My debutwomen's fiction novella, AN IMPERFECT WIFE, snagged the runner-up spot for Love Romances Cafe's 2011 BestContemporary Book. I live insoutheastern Michigan with two neurotic but cute cats. When I'm not writing, I'm usually reading, playing drums (rarely these days, unfortunately), cooking, or training for my next halfmarathon.

2.      We all know the Zombie Apocalypse is coming. What five personal skills will help you survive?

- Running. I don't have to be the fastest runner. I just have to be faster than someone else.
- Biking. See above, with more speed.
- Pyromaniac tendencies. I love making fires and playing with them. It's a very handy skill, especially when paired with Molotov cocktails to hurl at the zombies.
- Cooking. If we're all going to be hunkered down in a shelter, someone has to cook.
- Easy to get along with. There's safety in numbers, and I'm the perfect human army member. I follow instructions, keep things neat, smile a lot, don't argue, and don't snore.

3.      What sort of cake are you? Why? Do you have the recipe? Yes, question three is three questions. It’s a paradox. Just answer. Don’t judge.

Banana nut cake with cream cheese frosting because I'm bananas, nutty, and cheesy. ;) I know, bad joke. Here's a link to a recipe (I haven't made them yet because I don't bake as much as I used to). Bad news: the recipe includes the nutritional information, but if you close your right eye, you should be able to avoid it.

4.      Pimp it if you’ve got it! What is new and what is next for you as a writer?

My latest release, NEVER LET GO, came out April 13. It's about a woman who has trouble letting go of her ex-boyfriend and resorts to stalking to try to win him back. If you enjoy angsty women's fiction, this novella would make a nice, quick summer read. You'll likely say, "Oh no she didn't!" at least once. (interviewer's note: I think I said it twice!)

5      Can I borrow five bucks?


6.      If I gave you five bucks, what ridiculous thing would you spend it on?

A jumbo bag of dark chocolate peanut M&Ms.

7.      What is one book you never get tired of reading?

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates. Relationship train wreck plus subtle snark? Sign me up! I read this book every year and love it each time.

8.      Okay, imagine you are trapped in your house during the Zombie Apocalypse. Pushing this button will save you and everyone on your street.

Do you live or die?

Sorry, folks, we're dead. True story -- when I was a kid, my parents got me a children's encyclopedia set. The "I" volume was pristine because I avoided the insect pictures. I know, spiders are arachnids and not insects, but they're all creepy, crawly, ugly creatures with exoskeletons and lots of legs. :shudders:

9.      What are some of the things on your bucket list?

To be honest, I've never kept a bucket list even though I'm very goal-oriented. My current big goal (which will take quite some time): become famous enough to either play Not My Job on NPR's Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me or play drums for Rock Bottom Remainders. I'll take either one. Or both. Both would be sweet.

10.      Truth or dare?

Truth. I'm too old to feel shame anymore.

Okay. Truth: What's the worst rejection you ever received.

Most memorable rejection: on a cookbook proposal I co-authored with a chef, the editor said, "We like the concept, we like the proposal, we like the writing, but we don't like the author. She's an unknown. Get someone else." I know everyone says rejection isn't personal, but guess what? This one was! I switched to fiction writing soon after that.

Whoa! Harsh one, Grace. Let's give her a big hand for being such a good sport. You can find out more about Grace at her blog, That's All She Wrote. You can buy Grace's books everywhere fine ebooks are sold, including the Musa Publishing store, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance ebooks, and Smashwords.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Better late than never

So, sometimes being a writer who isn' so young is sort of depressing. Seems like there is always some wonder kid writing novels at 12 and going on to great fame and fortune. Not that I begrudge the kids, but yeesh. What about us old farts? I'm too old to be a rising star, but still young enough to have aspirations.

Is there an expiration date for success? Did I miss my chance to have a career as a writer? Am I stuck forever being a lawyer? Maybe not. Did you know that Andrea Bocelli was a lawyer? He didn't get a break as a singer until his mid-thirties. Julia Child didn't go to cooking school until the age of 36. Colonel Sanders opened a chicken franchise at the age of 65.

There's more. Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote her "Little House" books when she was in her 60's. Frank McCourt won the Pulizer for his first novel at the age of 66. Richard Adams wrote Watership Down, my favoritest novel ever, when he was 51. Raymond Chandler published his first short story at 45. Wallace Stevens wasn't published until his late 30's and his best stuff came in his 50's. Charles Bukowski published his first novel at 49.

I could keep going, but just that small list is reassuring. For every Christopher Paolini, there is a Grandma Moses. Heck, I'm not Grandma Moses old.  I'm just Raymond Chandler old and that ain't old at all. I have plenty of time left to write all those books eating my brain.

Don't we all feel better now?

Monday, June 4, 2012

PSA: A danger every cat owner should know about

So, this is your toilet paper.

This is your toilet paper on kittens.

Any Questions?

Sara (the paw sneaking under the door in the picture) has an obsession with shredding things. What you see here are the lone survivors of a six pack left unattended while unloading groceries. Remember that she did this through the plastic, y'all. And she wasn't happy I took the toy away from her.

She worked at getting paper back until...

I broke her heart when I took it away again, moving it farther from the door.

She has plotted her revenge ever since. Any TP left unguarded is fair game. Bathroom doors stay shut at my house. Any slight carelessness and the results look like this.

Kittens might look cute and stuff, but how many innocent rolls of paper must die before we take this scourge seriously? You have been warned.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Why Basement Cat is a Pastry Thief

So, I have my own personal Basement Cat. His name is Pyewacket. Let's all admire his cuteness. Tell me, does this look like the face of evil? True, he's napping. Hey, stealing souls is hard work, but still...I'll let you decide.

Very innocent, right? Couldn't be evil. Now here he is rolling around on the floor.
Still, not evil. But in truth, this is the face of a thief. He steals many things besides souls. He takes your seat if you get up. He takes your roll of toilet paper if you don't close the bathroom door. Worst of all, he steals your pastries.

From his point of view, this is totally reasonable. A recently vacated seat is warm. Mmmm. Warm. Toilet paper makes an awesome toy. Why else would you be selfish and keep it all locked away in the bathroom. You hang it up off the ground like it's something special and oh, it is special. Yes, it is. It's the most fun, shreddable toy evah! And pastry? So, most cats like meat and cheese. Basement Cat likes those too, but nothing compares with sugary goodness. Donuts? Cupcakes? What's not to like? Once again, you are are selfish not to share your baked goods with Basement Cat. Of course they aren't good for him. They aren't good for you either, buddy boy. If you would just share, he wouldn't be forced to steal, but you deny him, taunt him by eating things in front of him. Can he help it if you leave tempting treats within paws reach? You made him a thief.

See? Totally reasonable from his point of view. Who could hate a little Basement Kitty just trying to get stuff for himself?

This is why Basement Cat makes the perfect villain.

He isn't evil and doesn't have crazy plans for world domination. To him, his actions seem logical, necessary. He wants things which have been denied him and will employ any means necessary to achieve them. Valuable insight for authors there.

What can we take and use in our writing? Treat your villain/antagonist just as you treat your hero/heroine/main characters. He's real. He lives, loves, cries, hurts. He wants stuff. What does your villain want? What will he do to acheive it? How does he see himself? I guarantee that no one is the villain of their own story. He may do things he know are wrong because the end justifies the means. He may not think there is anything wrong with his actions.

Villains don't exist in a vacuum. Real people are complex beings. They have lives outside the obvious. If your villain's sole purpose in life is to destroy your hero, you had better give me a damn compelling reason for it or I shall mock you severely and with extreme prejudice.  Real life villains have hobbies. Adolf Hitler was an artist. He was also fascinated with the occult. He was devoted to his lady love. After WWI, Germany was in a severe financial depression. They had lost large portions of territory including some very valuable ones. They were getting kicked around politically. Hitler was going to do something about that. Millions died.  It isn't enough just to say that your villain is a pastry theif who wants to rule the world. Show the reader why.

So, that's what I'm looking for in a good villain. Literature and yes, okay, movies and TV are full of some darn compelling villains as well as some, um, not so compelling. Personally, I'm a Darth Vader gal. The whole Star Wars series couldn't exist without him. Really, it's his story, starting with Anakin as a nine year old slave, tracing his rise to power and fame as a jedi, his seduction to the dark side and ending with his death at the hands of his own son. Now that's a villain, y'all.

So tell me who is your favorite villain and why. I just love a good villain story.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Justin Bieber Makes Me Funny

So, it's a common topic on the writing sites I frequent (like Absolute Write. If you aren't there yet, you should be and what is wrong with you?). Everyone wants to know if you (a) listen to music while you write and if so (b) what kind of music.

People fall into two camps on the music. Some can't imagine writing without a soundtrack and others find it distracting, would rather take hot pins into the eyes. Okay, that last is an exaggeration, but some really dislike music when trying to bleed words on a page. I like music.

Now of those who like music, some find that music with vocals and lyrics are distracting. No words must interfere with the words of the voices in their  head. I get this. I'm just not that way. I like people singing to me when I write, it's like my own personal cheering section. But I have a confession, something only those nearest and dearest to me know. I like bad music.

Not just bad music, but I love cheesy, fun pop music. You can keep your meaningful social commentary. For me, writing humorous Regency romances is all about the mood. I write best when I'm feeling chipper, a bit silly, when I'm laughing and bopping and singing along to Kei$ha or Justin Bieber or Usher. Even worse, my characters have theme songs.

Theme songs for my characters makes them real to me, makes me think about them in new ways. I find it terrifically motivating. In fact, if I'm driving in the car and a character's theme song comes on the radio, I start thinking about the character, hearing their voice. It's like a Pavlovian response. I'm primed and ready to write upon hearing that song.

So what sort of songs do I choose as character theme songs? Not great, classics. Nope. Oh, some of them are good songs and I like ALL of them, because I just do, but you can't trust my taste in music. I embarass my children, niether of whom would be caught dead listening to Britney Spears or Justin Bieber.

For Compromising Prudence, Pru's theme was "Girls Just Want to have Fun." Becoming Mr. Brooking, Edwina and Graham's song was Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance." Tres romantique, non? But I listened to a lot of Justin Timberlake when writing that book. Like, way too much JT for my mental health. Graham's personal theme was "Rock Your Body." He's such a bad boy. For Death by Scandal, Lady Calandra's song was Christina Peri's "Bang, Bang, Bang."

And now I'm working on book 4 in the Mad Hatterly series. I'm pleased to announce (drum roll) that the book has been contracted and will be released by Musa Publishing October 15th. Yay! This time it's Henry's story. What sort of woman would be a match for the most free-spirited of the Mad Hatterlys? Why, the most buttoned-down, proper woman imaginable. You will remember her from Civilizing Frances. Book 4 will be Rescuing Lady Rose. Yes, that Lady Rose. I'll just pause a moment and let that sink in. Better now?

Turns out that Rose isn't quite so straight-laced as she appears and Henry isn't quite so feckless. He isn't the only man after Rose in this novel. To give you just a hint, Rose's theme is Beyonce's "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)." Henry's song is Justin Bieber's "Boyfriend." You knew I would get back to Bieber, right?

So, there it is. I like music with no value in it except as my entertainment. How about you? What sort of music gets you going? Are you a hipster, listening to stuff I never heard of or a classicist or a soulful blues type? Or do you like cheesy pop as much as I do? You can tell me.  I promise not to judge.