Friday, March 29, 2013

A Panter's Preparations for Camp

If you're a writer and you've signed on for the grueling task that is NaNoWriMo, or you know someone who has, you're probably aware that Camp NaNoWriMo begins on April 1st this year. No foolin'. The day after we're trying to emerge from food comas induced by Easter. Swell.

Pansters, as a general rule, do not plot. We do not prepare. We dive in and weather whatever comes at us. We're the origin of the phrase "Come what may*". *Um, probably not.

I hit my writing goal of 20k on The Crusader's Maiden last week. All is well and set in that book. Getting that many words is all the prep work I've done for camp. I'm ready to move forward. I think. I'm working on a couple of projects right now. A straight historical romance (I have to admit, I'm actually a little bit terrified of that) and a paranormal western romance. To be fair to the editing I've been doing and my goal to have 20k for camp, I haven't worked on the PWR for a while.

It's a fun story, even though I'm not very far into it. However, I'm equally intrigued by book 5 here and how the characters are so at odds right from the start.

Do I think I'll make my 40k word count goal? Well, it's only a 1333/day goal. That's not bad. I'll give away one my author secrets here: When I sit down to write, even if it's not every day, I always strive for 1,000 words. I've had days when 1667 for NaNo was a real struggle. I think just over 1300 will be easier. If the characters keep cooperating like they've been doing. Never count them out.

I am, however, prepared for the weekend--always. Okay, I'm not. Because I'm supposed to bring mashed potatoes to Easter dinner and I haven't been to the store. Well, I'm prepared for the sleeping in parts of the weekend.

Other L&L novels have sprung forth from the loins of NaNo. The Sky Pirate's Wife was the November 2011 project. The Turncoat's Temptress (now on Amazon and B&N) was the June Camp NaNo project. I started to write The Siren's Sentinel for camp in August, but it was too taxing and just easier to write it a little at a time. However, in tradition of NaNo, it was the project for Jano, sponsored by Sleuth's Ink, a mystery writer's group, who "NaNo" in January.

Writing a novel in a month may not be your thing, but it sure helps me get most of a novel out. I'm as prepared as I'm going to be. Dr. Pepper, wrist brace, Tylenol, and ice packs ready to go.

Monday, March 25, 2013

My Heroine's Conflict

It seems like I'm always killing someone's parents. That doesn't seem very nice considering Mother's Day is just around the corner. But I have a long list of characters who are parentless. Maybe it's just one, maybe it's both.

The reason I bring this up is because the heroine of The Crusader's Maiden, Bliss, just finished a scene where she had to dig up an object she buried after her foster father and all his friends were massacred three years before the story starts.

She buried it where his grave should be. Trouble is, she couldn't actually find enough of him to bury . . . gruesome yes, but avenging the death of the only man she knew of as a father will carry her through the story. Finding out the mysteries of her past will also be a driving force. Combined with why he hid things from her, she has plenty of GMC. All will be revealed by the end of the book and who her parents really were.

To share a little of the graveyard scene:

 “You buried them out here? By yourself?” Lo walked out into the courtyard.
“There wasn't anyone else to do it.” She put the toes of her boots right up to the edge of the bottom door facing, but didn't go any farther. Long ago blisters—turned into calluses as she tried to fend for herself out here—stung as she thought about each shovelful of dirt that went into the graves.
He faced her, eyes strangely illuminated by the moon. “You didn't wonder if they might rise out of these graves and get you?”
“It wasn't a vampire, Mr. Bonham. There wasn't enough left of them to reanimate.” She grasped the door frame. What right did he have to come here and question her about what had happened that night?

Even stepping outside is a feat she has to overcome. Not that she's a shut-in or anything. She does go outside, just not to the courtyard where she buried eight men. She's spent her entire life in one area and doesn't know much about the outside world. It's going to be a task for the hero, Lo, to get her away from there. And he needs her, but doesn't know how to convince her of that. I can't wait for that need to turn into a real relationship instead of her beating the holy, ever-loving hell out of him. Her foster father taught her well.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Title's Worth

I'm terrible at updating this blog. Well, I've been busy. True, legitimate excuse.

I'm terrible at titles as well. Names I can handle and we'll get into that, but titles baffle me. I could never come up with those flowery ones like Love's Wanton Desire and make it stick to a book. I mean . . . I don't really want to read that. It better have quite the blurb to hold that title up.

When I started the L&L series, before it hit series status, the original title of The Treasure Hunter's Lady was (get ready for it) The Rainbow Serpent. Only because it had to have a title (why didn't I just say Untitled?) to get a folder in my online critique group. Really, Untitled would have been better.

THL didn't get a real title until I had a solid plot idea for The Sky Pirate's Wife. Since I'd already decided to write that one, I wanted the first book to have a similar title. It took me a while to come up with the treasure hunter bit.

Here's something you may not know about the books. The first noun in the book is a male in all of them except number 4 (The Siren's Sentinel). It's always something he (and in Emer's case, she) isn't, but that the second noun is.

I confused you, right?

Take The Treasure Hunter's Lady. Abel's not a treasure hunter, although Romy accuses him of it multiple times and he eventually stops denying it. Romy, for all her faults however, is a lady.

The Sky Pirate's Wife--Van Buren is no sky pirate, he just has a bad reputation. Sophie becomes his wife right away.

The Turncoat's Temptress, well, this one is a little trickier, because Basil sort of did turn his back on the group that raised him. But he had to in order to save Nora, who has always tempted him.

The Siren's Sentinel, a whole lot murkier. Sirens, much like temptresses, are women who draw men. Emer is undoubtedly one of those women, but she's not a danger to them like the Guardians believe. As for that Sentinel bit, I'm not giving it away other than to say, Ransom is there to watch over Emer.

And finally, the big reveal, the final title for the final book, the one I was previously calling The Maiden's Match. You can scratch that, erase it from your Internet and caffeine stimulated brains. The final book will be called:

The Crusader's Maiden

Because . . . Lo is on a mission to find something, and Bliss earned the nickname 'the Maiden' from a ghost story.

Whew. So glad those title worries are over.

Monday, February 25, 2013

An Excerpt from The Turncoat's Temptress

I only managed one post last week. I had a bit of difficulty getting my head in the right places. There were shoulder demons and doubtful thoughts and it was all-around ugly. Today I'm back with my head on my shoulders where it ought to be. Nothing restores faith in oneself like edits. I hear you laughing, but sitting down with The Turncoat's Temptress really put some sparkle back in my eyes. To celebrate that, from the book, an excerpt. Which is fitting, because Basil was doubting himself before Nora got a hold of him.

Basil took his hand away from her face and reached inside his coat. He pulled out the tintype, bent, worn, a little faded, and set it on the table.
A younger Nora smiled up at them. Her mind pulled her back to the day the image was taken. When she thought she'd known what the world was about and love was the only thing that mattered. Basil had stood behind the photographer, making silly faces, trying to get her to laugh. She'd mastered her emotions and arranged her face in what she'd hoped was a seductive pose. After the flash of powder, she'd blinked away the light and found Basil looking at her with unmasked passion.
The heat of that look stayed with her. She still felt it, curling at her like flames over paper. It was different than the look he gave her now, but the old spark was there.
“You kept it because it reminded you that there's still some good in the world. And I wonder if you hoped that someday you might come back to it.” She stared at him daring him to deny it.
“I tried a dozen times that summer to tell you why I was at Brighton Manor. What I was. Who I was. Christopher and your grandmother both warned me not to. That it would only frighten you. So in the end I kept the secret.” He gazed down at the photograph then ran his finger along the edge. “Why haven't you run away yet? All this talk of fairytale creatures and the supernatural. Most women wouldn't stay.”
“I'm something of an oddity, Tinwhistle. I think you'd have learned that by now.” She touched the image. “We're magnets. Stuck together in this. Sometimes we might get flipped over, might push away from each other, but we'll always come back.”

Deep breath. 49 days til Basil and Nora meet the e-reader world. It's fine. It's all good. After all, they're the ones facing ancient monsters. Promoting is a piece of cake compared to slaying wanna-be dragons.

Monday, February 18, 2013

My, How Times Change

There was time in my life when I was stone cold traditionalist. I'm extremely conservative (removeth the political meaning from thy mind). I like things done one way and one way only, time after time. Don't touch my stuff because it's where it is because I like it there.

Photo by Fishdecoy
When I was just getting into western novels, watching Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, and writing Play-By-Email western stories, I was wholeheartedly into maintaining the tradition of the American West. Mind, while I was flunking History of the American West in school. It's not my fault, I had two classes with that teacher and she was mercilessly hard. Besides, the American West is not the-dull-and-very-long-history-of-what-happened-right-after-the-War-of-1812. To me, it starts with the Oregon Trail. I thought I would like HAW class. I was wrong. Thank God my GPA recovered from that before graduation.

The west, to me was gunfights, Louis L'Amour, cowboys (sans range wars--boring!), Indians, and pioneers, all wrapped up in bloodshed and fierce determination.

So when Wild, Wild West (1999) came out, I was horrified. Yes, I watched reruns of the original and I was okay with it, but I preferred Gunsmoke. More than the bad script and less-than-stellar acting, the cheesy Southern bad guy, it was the technology that bugged me. I liked the idea of simple times where people relied on stuff that was handmade and had to get by using their wits rather than throwing machinery into the mix. I hated history after the Civil War, where there were cotton gins, steam trains, and factories everywhere. I wanted cowboys pushing cattle into vast stretches of prairie and mail-order brides who traveled by stagecoaches.

And yet . . . I was enamored when I sat in the theater and watched The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) brought us the Nautilus, the flashy car, and especially the silver-plated Winchester repeaters. I went with a friend and as soon as I saw the rifle I whispered, no doubt a gleam in my eye, "A Winchester. It's beautiful." Because like some kind of weird-o, I was fascinated by historical guns.
Photo by Ben41
Photo by Gunmaster45
Especially repeaters. To this day, one of the prettiest guns I believe was ever made is the Henry Golden Boy, featured in Silverado (1985). Although I'm also partial to the Winchester Mare's Leg  like Vin Tanner carried in the television version The Magnificent Seven. I saw a version of this in Academy Sports & Outdoors and I keep trying to convince my husband I would look badass if I had that strapped to my leg while I'm out walking, but he's reluctant to shell out that kind of dough. It was also featured in Firefly as the gun Zoe carried. According to the Internationl Movie Firearms Database, it was also (the same gun Zoe used) in the TV show The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.

Okay, this post wasn't supposed to be about guns. It was supposed to be about why I strayed from traditional westerns into steampunk. The tipping point.

Well, it was LXG that did it. Something about that gung-ho American 'cowboy' Tom Sawyer and the way Quatermain was told by a witch doctor that Africa would never allow him to die. You can see how this fed my special brand of crazy, inspiring me to write a novel with legends and steampunkery. When I began The Treasure Hunter's Lady, it surfaced around Romy, the tomboy daughter of a famous British adventurer. Couple her with a devil-may-care cowboy, which stuck to my western-loving roots, and breathe a little magic on it. It very much took me away from conservative stand on westerns and opened a whole new world.

I brought in airships, designated a band of law enforcement that watches over the airships, named some electromagnetic guns of my own (the Bennett Special, a character favorite called the Lighthouser .745, and the MacAvoy rifle), invented an automobile called Eidolon, and much more reliable than the mail system, created a wireless telegram machine referred to as a 'gram. All of this before the last novel, which is set in 1890.

I have difficulty imagining that I'll ever return to straight historical romance, but I once said I'd never write any kind of novels where there was impossible technology in the 1800s. You see how that turned out.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Lines I'd Love to Include, But . . .

I always have them. Those lines that would be funny or absurd and just don't quite fit in a manuscript. Sometimes when the characters are having conversations, one of them will just come up with an answer that's inappropriate.

Here's some conversation between Lo and Bliss, the characters from The Maiden's Match. He's trying to get inside an abandoned mission in California to search for a demon called the cluitie, but Bliss is determined to keep him out.

 “Open the damn door, woman.”
She resisted the juvenile urge to ask or what? “You've trespassed onto sacred land. The occupants of San Amaro are not required to open the door in times of threat.”
“The occupants of . . . . This mission is supposed to be abandoned. In ruin. Forsaken by godly people and left salted and devastated by pagans.”
Bliss laughed, a bitter sound that burned her throat and ears. “Which are you?”
“I'm the f—king cluitie hunter, that's who!”

I'm 99.9% certain there's not a single f-bomb in any of the L&L books. So this line has to go. Nice try, Lo. Another one was an argument in the 4th book, The Siren's Sentinel, where the hero was arguing with his brother. I wanted so badly to include the word asshat in the dialogue, but it wasn't period appropriate. Maybe someday I'll write a contemporary romance and just sprinkle asshat throughout.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Baby Steps

Today marks the 5th day in a row I've worked on The Maiden's Match. I've written almost 6,000 words on a novel that shouldn't be, on the final chapter of the Legends & Lovers series. I'm keeping the blog to document the journey that will take me to the end of the series, mostly because I want to remember these moments. There are so many good ones I've forgotten during the entire writing process.

Some background on the L&L series for those of you not familiar with the works. It started in 2009, after a  5-year drought of words. Long story short, I started writing again with a historical romance set in Australia. I had such a good time researching a country I've never been to, and so enthralled in their legends, I decided to write a steampunk romance based around the Rainbow Serpent.

It took a little over a week to write out a 28,000 word novella. That novella eventually took on the title, The Treasure Hunter's Lady. It was followed in late 2010 by a novel called The Sky Pirate's Wife, which taunted The Turncoat's Temptress into life. Which spurred me on to The Siren's Sentinel.

Setting changes abound, electromagnetic weapons, airships, airship wrecks, explosions, all sorts of nasty creatures, a secret underground organization that prevents the destruction of the world as we know it, and four heroes and four heroines later, we come to the beginning of the end.

In addition to feature steampunk gadgetry, I dug into the deepest, darkest corners of the Internet in order to bring the supernatural into play. The first three books have American Indian legends behind them. I shifted gears (no pun intended) to Celtic and Norse lore in the fourth book and right now at the pantsing stages of the fifth I have Scottish, Norse, and some Spanish myth in mind.

Some of the characters from the books are recurring. Basil Tinwhistle, from book three (coming to an e-reader near you in April), is a prominent character. The only book he hasn't squeezed into was the first. But the most common character is a Native American woman named Hummingbird (or sometimes called Aunt Renee). I intended the 5th book to be about her and how she got tangled into this mess in the first place. My pantsing brain has other plans. She'll still figure in and we'll still learn her true purpose. Never fear.

My progress has been slow since starting. Five hundred words here, six hundred words there. Little by little I'm learning about my characters. The hero is a man named Roland Bonham, called Lo by his friends. I've seen the movie Gettysburg so many times over the last year because my husband cracks up at the boys from Maine ("You mean, chawge?!"), that I swear I had General Lewis Armistead's name stuck in my head and then character starts talking out of nowhere. His name is Lo and he wants a girl and a book, in short order.

Short order might be pushing it, but it certainly has a beginning, it has some research behind it, and yep, there's a girl.

Baby steps. If I have to, I'll put my head between my knees and remind myself to breath. Just because it's a series end doesn't mean it's an end-end. There are other books to write. And there are 75,000 words left in this one. It's going to be okay. It's all about putting the pieces of this puzzle in their final places. Which is really more exciting than scary.