I’ve Moved!

You might remember that I’ve mentioned several times that I planned a major overhaul of my blog. After deliberating about it for several months, I’ve moved it to a self-hosted site.

The flexibility offered by self-hosting better meets my needs as a writer, despite the amount of time required to execute the move when I already have sooo many commitments, both professionally and personally. I keep telling myself that in the long run, it’ll save time, and I think it will. I’ll have a solid foundation in place when I find a publisher, and be ready to go full steam ahead with the whirl of social networking, marketing and promo, while continuing to write new stuff.

If you’re a follower, please go to my new site and subscribe there to continue getting updates. The site is still in development, but the blog is up and running, with all the posts and comments from here imported. I have lots of great content planned for the whole site, not just the blog. I hope you’ll all come along for the ride! 😀

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Author Spotlight: Azure Boone and the MotherFugnWriters

I’ve mentioned my friend and critique partner, Azure Boone, several times here on the blog. I’ve told you she’s an amazing writer, and a wonderful person. Well, today, you get to meet the lady herself! I know you’ll be as crazy about her as I am. Please join me in welcoming Azure Boone, in her guise as the…

MOTHERFUGNWRITER!

Kenra: So, Azure, readers have to know – what the hell *is* a motherfugnwriter?

Azure: Well, it’s a title for the Mother and Wife Writer. The –fugn- part (which I’ve told my husband is German for love and pronounced few-gen, LOL) represents two things to me: that thing we do as “wives”, and the bad-ass women we actually ARE. The original phrase was “Mother Fucking Writer”. But, virgin ears and all….

Kenra: Let’s all hope Azure’s hubby never gets curious enough to look that word up! Or mention it to someone who knows German… Azure, what made you start motherfugnwriters?

Azure: Umm, well, mainly to form a cyber-place where mom/wife writers could relax and meet other women they could relate to. Motherfugnwriters often feel alone, despite having children. We’re behind the scenes doing all the necessary shit nobody else wants to do. I thought it would be nice to have a place where we could let our hair down – maybe even cuss a lot, since we play a saint all day long.

We talk about the things we don’t have anyone else to talk to about. Which is one of the reasons my posts are often of a “wifely/writerly” nature, as well as motherly.

Kenra: Tell us about this Zazzle store you’ve been burning the midnight oil to set up.

Azure: I create products that would make great gifts for writers – T-shirts, mugs, hats and shit with funny writer slogans that highlight the secret and alien life of Writers. So I decided to set them up in an online store.

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Kenra: What inspires your posts? Some of them are a bit… ahem… unique.

Azure: Gosh, my posts seem to be PMS inspired I think. Like a random stream of conscious, wherever my life takes me, that’s what’s getting posted. I usually keep it geared to Writing, which is easy, since it’s what I love doing and studying.

Kenra: What do you do in real life? What’s your day-in-the-life of a MFW?

Azure: Well it’s LOUD, for one thing. I have 8 kids, 9 if I count my grandson.  But don’t panic, 3 of them take care of themselves, so that leaves me with… err 5, sometimes 6. I home school 3, soon to be 4, of the 5 right now. The challenge, which I’ve kinda overcome, was juggling it all.

We all work together. My kids do laundry – yes, washing, drying, and folding – they do dishes, everything except mop the floors and clean the toilets, in fact.

Kenra: What 3 of your posts would you most like to share with readers here?

Azure: I’m partial to the last one I did, Killing The Erotic Muse, and I liked Getting Wet And Ready about getting in the mood… Oh, and I liked Naked Bare Back Muse Riders For Hire. I know, I love these wacky titles.

Kenra: Where else can we find you online?

Azure: Here’s my author blog, Google Plus, Facebook Page, and Twitter.

Kenra: One final thing. Azure’s Paranormal Romance, Devil Wants A China Doll, will soon be available. Her main character, Rone, is possessed by the demon of Lust and Rage. He manages to live life because he has a  psychic shield that prevents the demon from contaminating anyone he has contact with – important because the demon can make a person commit suicide by sex. Then he meets Sheeku, with big problems of her own. Sheeku bypasses Rone’s shields and lives to tell the tale. For a while, anyway.

Azure, will you share a little with us?

Azure: You know I will! This is a make-up scene, after Sheeku thinks Rone cheated on her with another woman.

I kissed her teary cheek softly.

Her hand was suddenly in my hair, sliding on my face.

Oh God, no, please… don’t do that.  Not now, I won’t stop…

            She slowly turned her face to me and no force in Heaven could move me away.  And there she was, staring up at me with glittery blue eyes, offering a chance to redeem myself.  Make it better, please do it.  Make it better.

            The burning stab in my chest combined with the fire in my groin.  I closed my eyes.  Shield was on tight, but what if this was the demon’s doing?

            She slowly sat up and my body matched her every move, magnetized, trapped in her pull.  So much need to fill, and pain to erase.  And she wanted me to do it.  The nice guy with the soul-eating devil.

            I could only watch as she put her hands on my shoulders and climbed into my lap, facing me.  My hands clamped on her waist as heat bolts shot through my groin.  I wrapped her in a hard embrace, wanting to feel her completely, no, prevent her from doing more, prevent me from ripping her clothes off.

I pressed my face to her chest, listening to the frantic life calling for me.  I embraced her closer, wanting her to be real.  Fuck, she was, she was so real.

In one push, the buried man inside me broke free.  I dug hungry fingers into firm muscle at the junction of her jeaned thighs.  Her breath drew in sharp and the sound struck the demon’s cell.  The demon struck back hard, and I strained my mind, solidifying the quiver in his cell while sliding my hands slowly and firmly up, feeling her body beneath the light t-shirt.

I wanted that satiny skin beneath it more than ever.  “Sheeku.” My fingertips pressed on their way back down.  Down, until I filled my hands with her perfect ass.  I squeezed hard and pressed her tight to my stomach.

            “Rone.”

The desire in her voice slammed me with terror.  I waited for her to call my demon’s name next.

She didn’t.

            My hands surged back up her body, the man in me knowing the time was short.  He hurried to take before being locked away, one hand pressing those perfectly shaped breasts into my chest, those bite-me nipples driving me to the point of orgasm. Hunger purred up my throat as I wrapped the base of her hair with trembling fingers.

            I pulled her head back and stared at her slender neck.  Her nails dug into my shoulder blades and desire raced on fiery currents through my veins.  I studied the creamy column.  She was life and I would die if I didn’t taste her.  Just once.

            I opened my mouth and leaned with a groan.  I licked the satin, slow and hard.  Salty… sweet… fucking delicious. “Sheeeeeku,” I breathed into her neck.

            Then it was there, bitter and biting into my gut.  Her fear.

“Stop, please,” she gasped.

Keep checking back here for updates on Azure’s work!

STRANGER DANGER!!

Absolutely not! I forbid it, young lady! What do you know about this… this… CHARACTER… you’re writing about? Nothing, that’s what! Well, I won’t have it! Before I allow you to write him, you’re going to figure out who he is!

Too much? Really? ‘Cause I didn’t th… Oh well, you get the idea.

Earlier in the week, as I was thinking about how to begin a short series of posts on characters for my Nailing Down The Essentials series, I came across this CuriosityQuills post. The author lays it out far better than I could.

Back in The Good Ole Days…

Way back, when I was a young writer determined to create a best seller, I wrote what I thought were extensive character profiles. Then I spent two decades just dabbling, while I focused on being all I could be as an Army wife, and a mother, and held down a demanding career. When I came back to serious writing a couple of years ago, I’d forgotten about character profiles.

I’m too old to waste time…

Okay, so I’m not ancient. 🙂 But, at 44, there are so many things I want to accomplish. I don’t mind taking the time to do something right, or to savor experiences. But wasting time, especially mine, really irks me.

I started writing my first weredragon novel with not much more than a vague physical description for Van, the hero. Really BIG mistake. I had no idea how or why he would act, what he might think or do in certain situations. I didn’t even know whether he was gay or straight, or what he liked. As a result, I spent a great deal of time writing scenes that didn’t ring true, and trashing them.

In frustration, I took another approach, that also wasted time and words. Every time I needed to make a decision about him (Was he modest, or comfortable with his body?), I wrote a scene justifying the decision (Slightly modest, as a result of his cousin’s cruel teasing when they were adolescents). I ended up writing dozens of scenes that I knew I would never use, but to be sure my decision rang true to his character, I wasn’t sure what else to do.

Why write character profiles?

Some writers might be able to write complex, multi-dimensional characters beginning with only the vaguest of details, and manage to keep every moment real. They make all those bits and pieces cement into characters that are more real and consistent than your college roommate. I can’t do it, though.

These days, I get to know my characters pretty thoroughly before writing the first word of the book, as part of my outline process. I’m not talking about their physical descriptions, or the list of events that make up their lives. I’m talking about the series of experiences that turned them into the people they are. I’m talking about WHY they make the choices they do, and react to certain situations the way they do.

When I know WHY, I can be sure all my characters’ decisions and actions will be realistic for them, that they will be consistent and multi-dimensional. After I point them in the general direction I want them to go, I can trust them to take care of the WHAT and HOW. It becomes their story. The events fit the character, rather than the character changing at the whim of the events.

Getting to know the stranger

HOW do I get to know them so well? Well, the process changes a bit with every new character. First, I decide the superficial stuff, but that could just as easily come after. The physical description, and things like: sex, age, race, profession, birth family structure, location, and etc., are pretty basic and generic.

Then we get to the hard parts. I write their backstory by first dividing their lives up to the present into stages – infancy, early childhood, childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, adulthood (sub-divided into regular intervals, depending on age, decades, half-centuries, centuries, and etc.), and if necessary, middle-age and old-age, subdivided in the same way as adulthood. For each of those stages/intervals, I write two influential memories, one good, one bad – just a brief little scene overview that can be fleshed out further if necessary.

My vampire’s having a rough day

For a one-hundred and fifty year old female vampire, I would write one good and one bad significant memory for infancy, early childhood, childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, and adulthood. The second interval of adulthood would begin at fifty years old, then one hundred, then each decade thereafter.

Maybe her old brother threw her down the well when she was six, and now she fears water and cramped spaces, after spending thirty six terrifying hours in the well waiting to be rescued. So, she isn’t going to willingly explore the narrow cave that’s actually a tunnel leading to the bad guy’s compound. She’ll need serious motivation, and no alternatives, to go there.

Since I know that, I know that when the bad guy’s henchmen try to force her into the cave at gunpoint, she’s going to fight hard, because she fears the cramped, dark, and damp cave far more than she fears a gunshot wound. I need her to get in that cave, though, so after she kicks the henchmen’s collective ass, I have to throw something else at her, something worse than the cave.

The vampire bounty hunter, with orders to bring her head to the bad guy, bursts into the clearing at the mouth of the cave. Enough? No, maybe she’ll take her chances and fight him too. Let’s add to it. The bounty hunter’s two assistants are with him. And the love of her life will die a permanent death in less than one hour unless she finds a way to save him. Maybe. Oh, and she has the secret weapon, the only thing on earth that can kill the bad guy and ensure her, and her lover’s, survival. She darts into the cave.

Adding it up

If I hadn’t known about the well incident, I might have sent her bravely forth into the cave, even after an earlier scene hinted at her fear. The phobia wouldn’t have been integral to who she is, just a passing fear. We’d have missed that kick-ass fight scene, and the additional conflicts and complications. The character would have been less complex, less real. Each of those memories can be used to add additional facets to the character, and new conflict or resolution to the story.

I don’t stop developing the character when the memories are written. I also create a short story for each main character, just a couple of pages, summarizing the story from their point of view, as if they are THE main character. This takes care of each character’s agenda and motivation as it fits within the larger picture of the whole story.

Now, not only do I know my character quite well, I know how she’s going to react to each situation. I know what else I need to throw at her, for the story to have the kind of impact I want it to have, while being logical and realistic for my character. She’ll be a multi-dimensional person, rather than just blinding going along the road I set for her, overcoming obstacles and making the changes I think she should. She’ll think and feel, and change on her own, and her character arc will feel natural and organic to the reader. She will have a REASON to be in the story.

Yeah, it took extra work at the front end, but it saved countless hours of floundering around trying to get characters to do things that don’t fit their personalities. The result is that I’m writing the story to fit the character, rather than writing a character to simply plug in to the story.

What do you do to get to know your characters before you start writing? Or do you jump in with little more than a vague idea what the character looks like?

He Said, She Said

Last week, for Nailing Down the Essentials, I talked about action beats. This week is all about what the characters actually say.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time on various critique and share-your-work communities/forums, as I’ve probably said before. Dialog content was one of the biggest issues I saw with writers who were past the stage of getting the format right, and who already had decent grammar and sentence construction. Their characters sounded the same, using identical vocabularies and figures of speech, perfect grammar, complete sentences, and pretty formal language, in some cases. They also had wonderful manners, never interrupting, even when the other person spoke at length about something boring. So, that’s where we are now.

The next time you’re at the mall food court, eavesdrop on the people at the next table. I’ll bet you hear different speech patterns, vocabularies, and habits. Besides that, most people, when speaking casually, don’t bother with complete sentences, or even perfect grammar. And we interrupt each other constantly, and finish each other’s sentences, fill in words for each other – all the things Miss Manners would rap our knuckles for. To write good dialog, we need to incorporate all those things.

Let’s look at some examples:

“Hello,” Maria said.

“Oh, hello.” John sat at the next table. “Did you watch Two And A Half Men last night?”

“Yes, I did. I like the new episodes, don’t you?”

“Yes, I do. What are you doing this weekend?” 

And so on. Boring!

Let’s fix it up.

“Hey, John! How’s it going?” Maria said.

“Hey, girl.” John sat at the next table. “Man, I watched Two And A Half Men-“

“I did too! I love it now that that arrogant asshat is gone-“

“Oh, yeah. Man had issues. Me and Jack and Jill are getting together this weekend for a Two And A Half Men marathon. Wanna come?”

OK, so it’s a poor example, and the characters have problems if they’re watching sit-com marathons, but you see the difference. The second example is more like something you’d actually hear people say. Complete with imperfect grammar, though it isn’t awful, interruptions, a little slang. It’s less stilted and formal than the first example.

One way to give each character a unique voice is to plan for it. Some people can do it off the top of their head, but it usually takes a little practice. When you’re planning your characters, deciding their physical descriptions and backstories, go ahead and give them a voice. Decide if they have a particular phrase they’re overly fond of, if they consistently misuse words, if they always interrupt.

While you’re at it, give them an accent or speech impediment, too, because we’re going to look at that next week!

Writer Wednesday: Where, Oh Where Has My Little CP Gone?

Welcome to Part 3 of my Critique Series. If you missed Parts 1 & 2, here they are: Fresh Eyes and 10 Qualities Of The Perfect Critique Partner. Both are Writer Wednesday features.

This week, I want to give you some pointers on the different places good CPs often lurk. Of course, they’re quite elusive creatures, and great care must be taking while stalking them… Oh, wait. Wrong critter. OK, OK, I get it. No more stupid jokes. For a while, anyway.

When it first occurred to me that there might be writing forums and resources online (I’m not the brightest crayon, OK?), I stumbled across a tee-tiny little writing forum, with roughly a dozen or so regular posters. Over the next few weeks, I learned a great deal, met some wonderful writers, and made a couple of friends that I figure will be my friends for a long time to come. The little community had a sub-forum for sharing work and receiving feedback. There, I read work of all levels, and learned to crit, and receive crits. One of the members had posted passages from an incredible story, and immediately hooked me. I messaged her and asked to see more of it. That writer was Azure Boone.

When she sent me more of her work, Azure asked to see mine as well, and we ended up exchanging chapters. We liked each other’s writing, and were at similar skill levels, and we gave each other useful feedback. We continued to crit each other’s work, and grew and learned together. We became close friends, and still are, nearly two years later, and we still work very closely together. We’ve worked together with other writers short-term, and we both seek other feedback on our work.

So, writing forums, especially those with Share Your Work sections, can be a good place to look. There are also many writing communities where the central focus of critiquing each other’s work. Book Country is a relatively new one, Critique Circle has been around a while. There are tons more out there. Just explore and find one that suits you, then start your search. Another site, Ladies Who Critique, helps female writers find CPs.

Don’t overlook social networking either. Facebook has more writing groups than I’ve been able to even read the entire list. LinkedIn also has a LOT of writing groups. You might even find a CP on Twitter. If someone writes your genre, and you like their updates and the links they post, see if they have sample material up on a blog, etc. If they do, and you like it, contact them and start talking. If you post on a social network that you’re looking for a CP, be prepared to either be bombarded, or ignored, depending on who sees it.

If you’re like me, and make a habit of surfing writers’ blogs, and you land on one where the writing appeals to you, start a conversation with the blogger. You might luck out. If you post on a blog, whether yours or someone else’s, that you’re looking for a CP, be prepared to turn down anyone who doesn’t seem like they will work out at first glance. A local writing group could offer up a potential CP, or a chance meeting at the library, bookstore, or coffeeshop might be where you get lucky.

Wherever you look, have a plan. This could be one of the most important decisions of your writing career, and you don’t want to go in unprepared. When you meet a potential CP, online or in person, remember – Safety First! Use the same precautions you would when interacting with with anyone else you don’t know. Also, protect your work by only sharing small portions until you’re more familiar with the person. Make it clear up front that you don’t want your work shared with anyone else, online or IRL, and that you aren’t giving them permission to use it in any way. Also, let the person know that if either of you don’t wish to continue, there’s no obligation. Go slowly – don’t just jump in without looking.

When you receive the other person’s first crit of your work, look it over carefully, and objectively evaluate it. Does the crit reveal qualities that tell you the person might make a good CP? Is it useful? Objective? Knowledgeable? If both of you agree, revise based  on each other’s crits, and have another look. On the other hand, if you don’t want to continue, be tactful – you don’t want to make an enemy of a writer who might be a valuable asset to your career one day.

Don’t just accept the first person willing to work with you. Be patient and selective and make sure you’re compatible. A bad CP can be *much* worse than no CP. Your writing could be derailed, you could be discouraged to the point of quitting, you could acquire an enemy motivated to ruin your career. And those are the nicer things that could happen.

Do you know of other places to find potential CPs? Other things to look out for?

Next week, a bit about the art of critiquing another writer’s work.

Six Sentence Sunday

This weeks Six is from BLOOD DRAGON. The reader has just met Kiellen for the first time. Shortly after his introduction, his Team Coordinator, Adelle, calls to assign him the mission where he will rescue Jaden and fall in love.

“Kiellen, I have a mission for you, and an update.” Adelle’s phone-sex voice always came as a bit of a surprise, even though he had worked with her nearly fifty years. Once upon a time, Adelle let him know she would like something between them other than a working friendship. Drop-dead gorgeous, any male would be a fool not to want her. But, she was a vampire. As a weredragon, he couldn’t go there. 

Six Sentence Sunday

This week’s Six is from the opening scene of BLOOD DRAGON. Jaden is in a nightclub, waiting for friends to arrive.

An approaching heartbeat drew her attention. The cutie from the next table stood beside her, as tall as she’d hoped, hand out. “I’m Tommy.”

The rush of awareness his smooth voice roused wasn’t unexpected. She’d mentally prepared herself for an evening of physical responses to random stimuli. She shook his hand, then motioned for him to take a seat at her table. 

This moment seals Jaden’s fate, and everything that comes after is a direct result.