More than a place--it's a writer's muse.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

OPP-Yeah you know Me or Other People's Paranormal uh...

It's already Wylde Wednesday again! Where did the week go? Time is flying by this month, but I'm ready for October. You know what's in October? Besides my ten year wedding anniversary? And besides the Friday the 13th that will live on forever in the annals (Since it's my naughty blog day, I was tempted to say "anals" of history, because I mean, they were drilled in the butt with the bad luck bit.) of history as bad luck? (You know, the one where the Templars were all named as heretics and murdred because the King wanted their power, he already had the Pope.)Those are actually on the same day, my deliciously Viking spouse creature has a thing for Templar lore.

The best paranormal releases are usually in October in preparation for Halloween, or as other prefer to call it, The Turn of the Wheel. My own novella, The Binding had a Halloween release date. All very ecxciting stuff. So this brings us to my topic for today, non-human sex.

My adoring spouse creature mentioned to me that he didn't see how vampire/human sex was something to aspire to. He said that number one, their man-swords wouldn't work because they reproduce through their bite and nature is all about utility. To which of course I answered him that vampires weren't naural, they were SUPERnatural. Hence is logic was null. He countered with the necrophelia argument. I still haven't come up with a good answer to that. When I think about it that way, it kind squicks me, Miss Unsquickable. Of course, he hasn't managed to sour me on vampage, just for screwing with my Chi he was forced to sit through the entire series of Dark Shadows Resurrection. He was lucky it wasn't Kindred: The Embraced where I drool buckets over Julian Luna. (RIP)

What makes paranormal sex squickable? I've read a host of bodice rippers (I use this term lovingly.)where the innocent virgin was offered to the beast and he tagged the hell out of it while he was in werewolf form. Sure, it was for curse breaking, but she liked it. Is that bestiality? I didn't think so, because it was all allegory for a man fighting the worst in himself to win his true love, and all about her overcoming her fear and trusting for the same. But in the harsh, neon lights of my husband's oh-so logical analysis (Hehee. I said "anal" again.) I can see the paradigm shift to squick.

What do you guys think?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Does Size Really Matter? Chapter Length in Novels (Cell Phone & Otherwise)

Okay, my copyedits are in front of me (arrived yesterday and are due back on 10/9). Between now and then I have several blog-related interviews and guest posts to do (I'll be over at author Jeri Smith-Ready's blog on Friday--you're all invited). But I'm good. Yep. *twitch* ;-)

The fact my copyedits just got here made me return to a question I had about chapter length in novels.

Because 13 TO LIFE began as a serial cell phone novel it was important to keep chapters brief and consumable. If you go and check it out (it's still posted on you'll see most "chapters" would (at most) amount to a single page of text in a standard novel.

When I was getting ready to send my more traditionally designed full manuscript back to my editor at St. Martin's Press, I wound up on the phone with him discussing chapter length. 13 TO LIFE is a YA paranormal romance. And...

  1. According to studies, our youth have a tremendously short attention span (one reason teachers are pushed to design multiple 15 minute sub-lesson plans in a standard classroom period).
  2. Most tv segments are between 10-15 minutes before a commercial break. In my opinion, they have an advantage over books as a story-telling venue.
  3. In a classroom a teacher can get your attention personally and there's always the threat of disciplinary action if you are unresponsive.
  4. On tv, it's action, action, action, or comedy or high drama--whatever it takes to hold you on the couch.
What about books? How do I, as an author, encourage readers to keep going? The obvious is: WRITE A GOOD STORY WITH COMPELLING CHARACTERS.

The less obvious? Understand your target audience's attention span and deal with it. My editor (whom I love ;-) said he thought my chapter breaks were fine. I asked if he minded if I shortened them. He (being quite agreeable and willing to consider options) said I could. I revisited my Textnovel version and tweaked my full accordingly. After he got the manuscript back he responded that he liked the changes I'd made.

Between the phone call discussing chapter length and the results I returned, I looked around online and considered other books I'd read. Which had flown? I immediately recalled one novel by Eloisa James (I know, I know, people have strong feelings about her--I'm on the fan side, so cope) in which she had each chapter be between 9-12 pages. I sailed through that novel and (although I noticed the size) I loved it because I sailed through it.

Here's a link to something Orson Scott Card (yes, controversial, too--again, I'm a fan of his writing) says about chapter length: essentially there are no rules and he uses shorter chapters at the beginning to build pace and lengthens part way through with the assumption the reader's invested by then.

I just finished reading SHIVER by Maggie Stiefvater. It was very engaging, used the traditional romance ploy of switching POVs between the two YA love interests and had MANY chapters that are merely a single page (or a paragraph or three). If life didn't get in the way of reading I probably would have chewed through that novel in a day or two.

So, even if the size of the chapters doesn't necessarily mean a great deal, the long and the short of this post should be that you as the author must consider your target audience, their needs, desires and distractions. Yes, creative writing is an art. But there's a bunch of more scientific stuff that we should consider, too. ;-)

~Shannon Reinbold-Gee
Author of the 13 TO LIFE series (coming in June 2010 with St. Martin's Griffin)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Muse Monday: It's in their jeans--er--genes.

Busting free of stereotypes. ::insert frustrated sigh::

It's easier said than done, particularly when writing fiction. And what better to start Muse Monday with a couple of visuals regarding the same?

Are all women like this?

And all men like this?

The answer? Yes, but no.

As authors, we want our characters to be recognizable as someone our readers could know, understand, and root for. On the flip side of believability, we don't want to write cases of same hero/heroine, different story, either.

Yeah, I really did just say, same, only different. Which makes my point as clear as--well, mud.

The biological truth of the matter is women are women and men are men. No matter how we dice it, we just aren't wired the same. And those wiring differences impact our behavior. So how do authors believably break free from the archetypes, those hardwired behavioral expectations that stand in the way of our creatng unique characters a reader can asssociate with?

As I grow and learn as an author, I'm finding that there's a huge difference between authorial voice and character voice. And if I want to make it in this industry, I realize I've gotta have both. To do that, I have to know what the stereotype if I'm to stand a chance of bursting free of it in a believable, yet appealing manner.

And that all comes down to character building and character voice.

Ryder Black, my Hellhound shifter in my serial textnovel in progress, Surrender the Night is "alpha male" to the bone. And he's been a real pain in the backside to write, because honestly, ultra alpha heroes risk coming off as jerks.

As I built Ryder's world, I realized he has tremendous issues with surrendering to anything, or anybody. And who could blame him? After all, the US NAVY keeps Ryder and the rest of the FANG warriors addicted to mind control drugs. Worse, they kennel the paranormal warriors like military working dogs.

Truth be told, working dogs get better treatment.

To say Ryder isn't all that keen on humanity is the understatement of the century. That is until he meets Dana Darko, the animal behaviorist called in by the Navy to force Ryder to toe the line.

Uh, yeah. Like that's going to happen. Because remember, Ryder doesn't surrender to anything or anybody. He's alpha. He's also got a chip on his shoulder the size of a small planet.

Problem is, Dana has something Ryder needs--the key to his memories. She alone has the skills Ryder needs to master if he is to overcome the mind control drugs the Navy uses to control his memories. And if he is to remember the identity of the woman who haunts his dreams, he must first remember who or what he is--and why.

Ryder needs Dana to get what he wants. To do that, He. Must. Surrender....

But Dana has her own motives for getting close to Ryder. She believes he may be responsible for the death of her husband. Natch, she aims to find out the truth, no matter what. If that means making nice with the FANG, then so be it. The way she sees it, every dog has his day, and seeing as how Ryder wants to get in her pants so badly, she's the natural choice for bringing it on.

If teaching Ryder to overcome his addiction so he can remember what happened to Tristan, then she's going to do whatever it takes to insure that happens. Even if it means sleeping with he enemy.

Enter the conflict.

On the surface, Ryder and Dana are one each romantic heroes/heroines. What makes them unique is their personal histories make them the only characters in the story world who can solve each other's problems. They are forced by circumstance to rise above the stereotypical expectations in order to get what they want.
So know what your characters want. Then block them from getting it in every conceivable fashion. I promise you, they'll rise to the occasion. In Ryder's case, in more ways than one. ;)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Crit by Published and Award-Winning Horror Novelist Ray Garton

This is a special, out of the norm post from Text Diva Saranna DeWylde. Nope, your calendar isn't wrong. It's not Wylde Wednesday. My friend and insanely talented author, Ray Garton is auctioning off a novel critique. Check below for details! He's been in the trenches awhile and knows what he's talking about, my darlings. A great guy who will give you an honest critique and real answers to any questions you have about your novel or the publishing industry! Of course, if you haven't read his Ravenous you should! It's the definitive werewolf novel, it's right up there next to The Howling for me! Okay, on to the dirty (juicy) details!

Have your unpublished novel critiqued by a professional novelist!

Award-winning bestseller Ray Garton is auctioning off a critique.

Are you an aspiring writer with an unpublished novel that you’re eager to sell? Could you use some advice from a professional writer? Would you be interested in having a veteran writer give you a full critique of your novel and answer any questions you may have about writing, the publishing business and getting published? That’s what this auction offers to the winning bidder.

My name is Ray Garton and over the last 25 years, I’ve written about 60 books (it’s been awhile since I’ve done an exact count). My novels include Seductions, Darklings, the Bram Stoker Award-nominated Live Girls, Crucifax, Trade Secrets, The New Neighbor, Dark Channel, Shackled, Sex and Violence in Hollywood, Biofire, Night Life, The Loveliest Dead, Ravenous, Bestial, and the upcoming paperback release Scissors, among others. Four of my books are in the works as movies. I wrote the 1992 book In A Dark Place: The Story of A True Haunting, which told the allegedly “true” story of a family who claimed to have been plagued by demons while living in a former funeral home. The same story was used as the basis for the TV re-enactment and feature film The Haunting in Connecticut. I have written dozens of short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies and in five collections: Methods of Madness, Pieces of Hate, Slivers of Bone, The Girl in the Basement and Other Stories, and ‘Nids and Other Stories. Under the pseudonym Joseph Locke, I’ve written several young adult thrillers and horror novels, including Kill the Teacher’s Pet, Petrified, Game Over, Kiss of Death, 1-900-Killer, and Vengeance. I’ve also written several movie novelizations – The Nightmares on Elm Street, Invaders From Mars, Warlock, and others – and numerous TV tie-ins for shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sabrina the Teenage Witch and The Secret World of Alex Mack. My novel Live Girls (soon to be a motion picture) was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel of the Year by the Horror Writers Association, and in 2006 I received the Grand Master of Horror Award from the World Horror Society.

I am offering a full critique of your unpublished novel. I’ll read the manuscript, make notes (this is a critique and not a line-by-line edit), and then you and I will have a long online chat. We will discuss every aspect of your novel at length, what I think works, what I think doesn’t work, and how I think you might improve your book with an eye toward selling it. I will answer any questions you have about the novel, the publishing business, and writing in general.

I’m just one writer, of course, and I cannot guarantee that your book will sell. The best I can do is offer you my opinion, but it will be an opinion based on 25 years of professional writing experience, of mistakes made, lessons learned, and goals achieved. This auction will be your chance to draw on that experience.

I look forward to reading your novel and doing what I can to help you achieve your goals.

Bid Now

Friday, September 25, 2009

In Praise of Younger Men

As practitioners of textnovelling, the Divas are riding a new technological trend, but we seem to be part of a storyline trend as well. Two of our entries in the Dorchester/Textnovel America's Next Best Celler contest– Liane Gentry Skye’s Muse Struck and my Confessions of the World’s Oldest Shotgun Bride – involve romances between older women and younger men. And as it happens, two of this season’s new sitcoms plow those same, sometimes fertile (pun intended) fields. Descriptions from the network websites:

Accidentally on Purpose (CBS) - Billie is a successful 30-something movie critic living in San Francisco who’s just broken up with her commitment-phobic boyfriend. She ends up rebounding with a much younger man, Zack, who at 22 is just starting out on his career as a chef. Billie and Zack’s fling takes a serious turn when Billie discovers she is pregnant. Not knowing what the future has in store for her, Billie decides to keep the baby and raise it by herself if necessary. However, Zack decides to move in and help Billie with the baby. None of this sits too well with her ex, who tries to win her back, only to discover that she’s now very involved with Zack. Jenna Elfmann plays Billie.

Cougar Town (ABC) - Jules is a single mom in her 40s with a teenage son and a 20-something assistant. After Jules sees her recently divorced neighbor escorting a young conquest to a waiting cab, she confronts him about the double-standard people have when it comes to divorced men and women dating younger. He responds that Jules is just jealous because she couldn’t get a young stud if she tried. So Jules goes out to a bar with her assistant and meets a hot young guy, who later shows up on her doorstep. When the hottie lets his intentions be known, Jules is happy to go along. She’s excited about how the night has turned out until her son comes home early and walks in on her and the hottie during…well, let’s just say the next morning he’s uncomfortable seeing his mother about to eat a banana for breakfast. Courtney Cox stars as Jules.

I was curious about Accidentally because the basic storyline is similar to Confessions. I only saw about the last ten minutes of the pilot, but I have to say, in my humble opinion, Steve beats Zack all to hell in the hero department. Zack has a lot of growing up to do before he’ll make Billie a good mate. And I haven’t seen Cougar Town yet. But whether these shows have been executed well or poorly, the mere fact that they made it onto the air, with proven talent in the starring roles, tells me that the network suits think the public is ready for OW/YM stories. I’ll drink to that!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Showing It Off: Textnovel, Dorchester, and Other Contests That Can Get You Hot.

Contest. The very idea of allowing people read my writing so that they can judge it freaks me out. Not as bad as before I entered my first contest, the Dorchester "Next Best Celler" contest on Textnovel, but I still get a little light-headed at the thought.

I am as inexperienced an author as you can get. I have never won anything. I had never entered anything. In fact, I had been living vicariously through my writer's group, made up of two other authors. Both are published, but for the record, Deborah had been previously been ensconced in non-fiction and Shannon's first book doesn't come out until June of 2010.

In the group, I was the "brain stormer". We would outline plots and toy around with twists. I brought FAE NIGHTS to work on, read aloud a few parts of it, but never shared the manuscript the way my fellow authors did. Why? It felt like I was standing naked in front of them and asking them to paint me with latex.

That is when it began. We were bitten by the contest bug. First Shannon won last year's Textnovel contest, and you can see what happened to her. She obtained the writer's dream of 3 book deal. Deborah enters many RWA contests and recently won the 2009 RWA "Best of the Best" : Contemporary Romantic Suspense award.

How freakin' cool is that?

In June, a few days before my birthday, Shannon called to tell me that I had to enter the Textnovel/Dorchester. No ifs. No ands. And certainly no buts.

What she didn't know was that I had just spent 5 hours sitting in front of my computer, first chapter of FAE NIGHTS loaded, my finger poised over the "Save this chapter" button.

5 hours of wondering, of worrying, of heart palpitations. Remember, Shannon and Deborah had only been allowed glimpses of my work, and I trusted them. Here I was about to strip totally naked online.

By the time she called, I had already been breathing into a paper bag for a few minutes.

I can tell you, it isn't that bad. In fact, I still have the giddy feeling when people vote for me. It's inspiring, and I am so grateful. I wonder now why hadn't I done this before?

I also wonder if entering contests will help me in the long run. I am toying with the idea of doing more after Textnovel/Dorchester is over. I also think about writing for anthologies and actually getting paid for the time I put in. What I would like to know, well, need to know, is what everyone else has done? What are your newbie author stories? What was your big break?

For those who are on the aspiring writer boat with me, here are some websites that will may get your work on the path to awardom. I wish you luck!

Lists of contests:
The Open Directory List powered by AOL of writer's contests, including the Writer's Digest Competitions.

Erotica Readers and Writers Association Along with contest listings, there are also lists of publishers looking for specific submissions, ranging from light romance to erotica.

Romance Writer's of America In addition to the Golden Heart and RITA awards, many of the local chapters have their own they sponsor, such as The West Houston Chapter's EMILY Award, which Deborah won in 2009! See Chapter Contests and Awards

Textnovel You have until November 1st to enter the Dorchester Romance Contest and get 20 chapters up, but Textnovel also has a yearly contest with a $1000 award.

For my future submissions to anthologies, magazines, e-zines, etc, I have to say that Duotrope is the best site hands down. I know, I know, I mentioned them last blog too, but this site totally deserves all the kudos I can give.

By the way, Deborah's award winning novel, WITCH EVER WAY YOU CAN can be read on Textnovel, as can Shannon's 13 TO LIFE, which you will also find on a bookseller's shelf near you in 2010.

Read, Vote, Subscribe!

Brightest Blessings!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What If Your Hero Won't Put Out?

It's Wylde Wednesday here with the Text Divas where we text about the spicier things between the sheets! So, pull up a chair and a Pomegranate-Tini in the stripper boot glass (a favorite of mine) and let it all hang out. There are Godivas for your pleasure while we enjoy a moment of silence to watch the parade of our hunky heroes in their broad-shouldered goodness on their way to work. Watching them step into the pages makes me wonder, what happens when they don't do their jobs? If they want to take a sick day? You can't call in to Cupid, not when your job is true love and certainly not when it comes to the baloney pony horse show where he is the star attraction.

What happens if the hero won't put out? I know ladies, when it happens to you, it's almost like you want to ask the universe, "Did this just happen to me? Am I here right now?" Yes, you are. It really happened. Feel free to insert indigant gasps. At least it's heavy breathing.

Sometimes our heroes get their jocks in a knot, sometimes there are other issues that must be resolved before they'll put on the saddle. Also, it should be noted that while shining armor is an ideal, or even slighlty tarnished armor for our tasty anti-heroes, it has been known to chafe. Being mad at him doesn't help. Neither does throwing things. So what do you do?

Why, seduce him of course. Just like you would any other red-blooded alpha male. In fact, the more reluctant the better. It can help add tension to the scene. Your heroine's actions can be intentional, or that innocent sway of her hips, the lushness of her mouth, or even a physical proximity caused by some unforseen necessity.

But like in real life, our hero can't have it so easily. Not when we had to work so hard to get him where we want him. Oh, no. After you get him going, our dear heroine needs to wash her hair, get her head stuck in the microwave or clip coupons for her bomb shelter stash of Monistat. Or the sky falls, you know, anything to make it impossible for them to do what it was you wanted to begin with.

Sure, it will be a little frustrating for you if your hero's a snatch tease, but dangle it in front of his nose and he'll be begging to put out. You just have to open his eyes and that taunting button-fly to everything he never knew he wanted.

If he still won't put out, well, then you have bigger issues and need to re-examine where you are in the story and if that connection between them is missing.

I'm always the first one in the check out line to take the purple-headed womb ferret out for a walk, but it needs to be a plot device. Sex has to further the story. In my current WIP, there is some demon rodeo action right from the start. Does it further their relationship? No, but it establishes it. It's the part of the plot where the smutty Mephistophelean contract comes in. Sex for the sake of sex is boring. At least when we're talking romance. I will confess to skipping over some sex scenes if I haven't made that connection or felt the tension between the hero and heroine.

If your hero won't put out and you've tried the seduction and he's still being stubborn, the sex isn't the problem. It's somewhere else in your book. Listen to what Hunk-a-licious has to say, he won't steer you wrong. He's your hero after all. Let him save the day!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Pseudonyms: What's in a Name?

Shakespeare probably wasn't the first to wonder, but his words (spoken through the immortal trope of Juliet) are most frequently remembered as asking "What's in a name?"

Many ancient cultures (and even more recent magically-based cultures, subcultures and faiths) believe(d) names held power. The true name (or the soul's name) gave those who knew it power over the one it belonged to. A quick example? The tale of Rumpelstiltskin in which he has claim to the woman's child (her most important contribution to society at the time) until she learns his name.

As writers we hope to be bold (honestly, who wants to read a dull and sparkless book?). Some want our words to inspire, some to incite. Even as "just an author of werewolves" (which to an extent I believe may lead to dismissals of my novels' underlying themes) I hope my writing makes people think. "What's in a name" is something that is laced through my novels-- some will put the puzzle together before the end and some won't. But it's my obsession with names that led to my pseudonym of Saoirse Redgrave.

Saoirse means "freedom" (exactly what a psuedonym should give an author, imho) and I chose it specifically (well, after finding out that Sarah Redgrave--my previous pseudonym, very shortly lived when I returned to PA--belonged to a real gal in NY, where I moved). I thought I was set. I could write under two names, doing educational and "upright" things with Shannon and doing things certain branches of my family might consider questionable (like writing werewolves) as Saoirse.

And it looked like it could work. Saoirse did well for me, writing some freelance ghost-related articles at a popular site and throwing in with to do my pirate story and my "canon fodder story" 13 to Life. If 13 to Life was a flop, I could ditch Saoirse.

But it didn't flop. And Saoirse's hard to spell (all those vowels clumping together!). I went to RWA in DC under the name Saoirse (she's still my official pen name in the organization) and everyone asked how to pronounce it and then said it was absolutely lovely. Some folks recognized it from my @AuthorSaoirse_R Twitter account (now defunct). Heck, Jenny Crusie even signed a book to me: "For Saoirse, whose name is going to look great on a book cover!"

But approaching the St. Martin's Press party at Bardeo, I had the sense that Saoirse might not make it out alive. I knew I'd be meeting my publisher, Matthew Shear. I knew he wasn't totally sold on my book's title (and yet it was SO integral) and I decided if there was a deal to be made, I might just make it.

I shook Mr. Shear's hand, introducing myself as "Michael Homler's girl" since I knew no other editor at SMP then and when Matthew said "13 to Life?" I replied, "Yes, please." He smiled. "We'll talk about it," he assured. Later, standing by the bar and chatting, Mr. Shear said something about the name Saoirse. Something about it being tough for people to pronounce. P.C. Cast was standing there (I was gobsmacked to be talking with her and her father and my publisher--no wonder my brain misfired).

P.C. asked me to spell Saoirse. I did (and yes, I got it right) and she said, "That is difficult." Boom! It was the nail in Saoirse's coffin. And later, when I learned 13 to Life was being kept but that Mr. Shear let my editor Michael know I was willing to change Saoirse... Well, the deal was done.

Last night on the phone my brother was laughing at me about the whole situation.

"So--" he said, "There's no escaping this, huh?"

"No," I agreed.

"You're a werewolf writer," he said.

He knows I hate labels that simplify stuff. I am NOT an Occam's Razor fan.

"And the family?" he asked. I knew which one he meant.

"Will surely disown me by book 3," I confirmed. "Heavy petting," I specified.

He snorted. Then laughed. A lot.

So, kids. When you're devising your pseudonyms, follow the KISS principle, and "keep it simple, stupid." ;-) What's in a name? Your location, your phone number, important details about your life.

And yes, I'm going unlisted. Soon. ;-)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Diggin' the Dirt

Some days, it sucked to be a Muse. Today being one of them...

Those lines look simple enough. I like them. They say plenty about the POV character and establish the tone of the book. They also define the hero's voice at the beginning of my "live" work in progress at textnovel, Muse Struck.

But cripes, what I went through to get the beginning of that book right. That's one of the problems with writing a book "live" online, as is the case with the serial novels in progress at Textnovel, a site that's very much like American Idol for writers.

But I'm not a first draft writer. My first drafts are as dirty as they come. And no, I'm not talking about sex scenes when I say that. :)

Seems I have a love/hate relationship with beginnings. I adore that bright, shiny, new penny feel of new projects when the idea stream runs fast and furious. What I hate is getting deep enough in new books to realize that my beginning isn't really the beginning at all, as was the case with Muse Struck.

While the original opening scene carried its weight to build character and set up a subplot, it didn't do enough in the world building dapartment. But I didn't realize that until my muse hero, Dante Erato, showed on the scene. As Dante interacted with my heroine, a down on her luck photographer, I got to wondering, why Dante, and why now?

Which led to another scene, the one that set Dante's journey with the heroine into motion. Seems Dante has to fall in love. Fast. Or else Gaia's gonna be pissed. That's also the scene that became the beginning of Muse Struck,albeit some 20,000 words after the original beginning.

And yeah, I'm happy with the new opening. But I'm not happy with the hours of paralyzing headbanging I went through trying to get it right the first time. I'm coming to realize if I spend hours looking for that perfect opening, the ideal word, the right image, then I'm just going to end up paralyzed.

Sometimes, the only answer to moving forward is BIKHOK--butt in chair, hands on keyboard.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Writing "The End" To A Serial

A major chapter in the history of serial storytelling will come to an end at 3 p.m. today when the soap opera Guiding Light airs its last episode. After 72 years, the show has fallen victim to low ratings.

Since 1937, a succession of writers, actors and technical people have been telling this story, five days a week, first on radio and then on TV. Through wars, recessions and natural disasters, generations of fans have tuned in to follow storylines ranging from the heartwarming to the bizarre -- love triangles, teenaged romances and characters returning from the dead; mobsters, princes, an angel and a clone.

Though daytime soap operas have been losing popularity for some time, the serial format is alive and well in new technologies -- like textnovels. And on a personal note, Guilding Light changed my life -- literally! A few years ago some GL fans on an internet bulletin board persuaded a lawyer who hadn't done anything creative since high school to try her hand at fan fiction. Fan fic led to romance writing led to textnovelling led to -- who knows what? So this Diva raises her chocolate martini glass to you, Guiding Light!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Cheap Thrills: Free Stuff For Writers

You know that lady at the front of the checkout line who has a ton of groceries, then hands over a thick stack of coupons that all have to be scanned and/or manually typed in? It takes 30 minutes for her to get rung through because she argues over the validity of her .50 coupon? In the end, her total goes from $70 odd bucks to a paltry $6 and your anger at having to stand there is overcome by a little admiration. That's me, and in fact the line actually clapped for me (I have a friend who was at the end of the line who witnessed this. He still shakes his head in disbelief)

I am cheap. I view things as a good deal only if I can get it for what it would have cost me in tax. Or better, free.

Ahh, my favorite four-letter word. For my fellow writers, here are some of the best free bets to be had.

Your Writing:

Open Office
Creative License is a wonderful thing, especially when buying a Microsoft Word program, on sale, is about $100. Open Office is the same thing, but better. It saves, writes and opens stuff with the extension .doc, .rtf, .wps, dot whatever you can dream of. And it is free. I love it. Besides a writer program, it does spreadsheets, databases, and presentations.

Are you a word count fanatic? Always clicking to see how much you've written towards you goal? Wasting precious seconds when you could be writing an awesome novel? Well, I have your savior right here. YEdit2 is a simple notepad with one beautiful difference: You can select how many words you want to write, or add your own goal, and start typing away. On the bottom of your screen you'll see how many words you've written and how may more you have to go. Even cooler, it autosaves constantly. Awesome. For those of you Dirty Drafting, this was created for you

Your story have more twists and turns than the road in Kubrick's vision of King's The Shining? This absolutely wonderful writer's helper is not only an organizer for the facts of your story, but also a word processor, word counter, character encyclopedia, world builder and so much more wrapped into one pretty gift. I have to say, I like this program more than my previous fave Power Structure, and it is $180 cheaper.

Momentum Writer
Miss writing on a typewriter? Never wrote on one, but like the idea? Well, this is for you. Momentum writer won't let you do anything but write, like an old manual typewriter. No backspace, no scrolling, no deleting. No distractions. Just you and your ideas.

Promotion: Blog and website toys

Word Meter
How far along are you in your NaNoWriMo? Let everybody know with this widget. Plug in your total word goal, then how much you actually have done. It will calculate the percentage for you and bam, give you the codes to put it anywhere you want for all to see. Thank you Saoirse!

Open Source Web Design
Open Source Design
Free Flash Templates
Our web presence acts like a resume. With a little web address, a potential agent or fan can find out everything about you you want them to know. You need something classy and mirrors your personality. Instead of hiring someone, I highly recommend you check out these website and blog templates. Already done for you, and under
the Creative Commons License, almost all can be used for promotion as long as you keep their name on the product.

Wouldn't it be great to create an interactive version of your unpublished book, kind of like what Amazon does when you click "look inside"? Well, here you go. Not only can you upload covers, your novel, where to buy it, read reviews, share it on a number of social networks, collect fans of the work and so much more.

Sprout Builder
Create your own widget
I saw this one when a favorite author of mine had been promoting her new novel with a poll that was e-mailed to her newsletter list. I clicked on the neat widget, answered the poll, and then was able to download a chapter in audiobook form. How cool is that. And you can do it to, like the big wigs, for FREE! At the home page click on the pricing link, then scroll to the bottom. You'll see the free link, which is limited but still more than I need.
FREE Limited Plan
Price: FREE
3 Projects
100 MB Storage
10 GB/month Bandwidth
Gigya Distribution
Branded with Sprout
Ad Supported
There is also a 30 day tryout plan that is full, but I find the ad supported isn't bad.

Jigsaw Planet
Love puzzles? Have an awesome cover for your novel? Want to advertise in a different way? Upload any .jpg or .gif, choose size and difficulty, and let jigsaw planet create a neat game to keep your peoples on your webpage, blog, or e-mail it to them. Another Saoirse gem.

What music did you listen to to get your muse on? Use this awesome embedable player to show the world. Tell the backstory of your characters using music and then copy the code to put it anywhere on your blog or webpage.

Keeping organized:

Sonar3 Submissions Tracker
Ok, I have yet to try this one 'cause (I am blushing here) I have yet to actually submit anything anywhere. I am a newbie of the nth degree. When I finally get to the point when I am submissing stuff all over, I will put this baby to use. Here is what the guy who designed it says:
Sonar is a manuscript submission tracking program, and I wrote it because I was going nuts keeping track of short story submissions. This program tells me which market has each story, whether a story has been sold or rejected and which stories are gathering dust instead of earning their keep. If you decide to use it, you will be able to view a list of all your stories and then filter them in various ways (e.g. only show stories which are available to send out). You can add markets, stories and submissions and best of all it's completely free!

Hero's Journey
This is an awesome flash worksheet. You answer questions that are based on some fundamentals found in every epic, with examples from famous movies we have all watched, to make sure you are moving your novel along. Hero's Journey will collect your answers and lay them out for you to print (there is no saving) and you will completely see your novel in a new way, and also see what it is that your novel is lacking. Liane Gentry Skye passed this link to me, and it now a valuable link in my bookmarks.


It is freaking amazing. It encompasses both paying and non-paying contests, publishing houses, and e-zines. I get weekly e-mails of upcoming submission deadlines and they have a great search capability. When I finally do get my stuff out there, it will be because of this site.
Welcome to Duotrope's Digest, a free writers' resource listing over 2600 current Fiction and Poetry publications. Use this page to search for markets that may make a fine home for the piece you just polished. Use the menus at the top and right to explore the rest of the free services we offer writers and editors, including a free online submissions tracker for registered users. We usually make several updates per day, and we check each of the current listings regularly (once a week for most listings) to ensure the most up-to-date database humanly possible.

Erotic Readers and Writers Assosciation
My great friend Amy suggested this to me, and I love it. It also includes quiries for not-so-erotic material. includes links to many of the big romance publishing houses as well as e-publishers so that one may get all the submission requirements in one place.

You know my heart belongs here. not only am I able to get my writing up where everyone can read it (for free) but it doesn't cost me a dime. Textnovel is on the edge of publishing's future. The ability to read novels via your cell phone is a huge sensation in the Eastern world and I am proud to be riding the cusp of it here in the Western part of the planet. Haven't joined yet? Do it now. You are definitely missing out.

Well, there you go. Writing on the cheap. There is no reason to be a starving artist when we have such great free resources. Have any that I missed? Please, pass it along.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Some Like it Hot

Sometimes I feel that as a writer of super sensual romance, I'm working against putting the proverbial cart before the horse when it comes to explicit scenes.

Recently, I've been a bit troubled by calls for submissions that request more explicit sex scenes, more graphic sex scenes, and more frequent sex scenes between characters. Many authors are reporting in that their editors are requesting that characters engage in sexual acts in opening scenes, and sometimes even on the opening page.

As I recently told a friend of mine, I would never get in bed with a guy before page fifty. Why would any of my characters? And that tends to run true with even the hottest of my stories.

Somehow, I wonder if the editors demanding the wild and wooly on page one have missed the boat when it comes to defining just what the book reading public really means when they say they want their romantic fiction to have higher "heat levels".

It seems to me that the emphasis on erotic romance is falling away from romance.

Are readers truly asking for an increase in the page one kink factor, or are they asking for an increase in the sexual and emotional tension b/t the hero/heroine. Isn't it that build up to consummation what leaves our readers all that much more delighted--and turned on--when it finally does occur?

I don't believe erotic encounters can function within the framework of traditional HEA romance without strong emotional connections between heroes and heroines. As a reader, I want to cheer when that relationship comes to fruition. As a writer, I want to take that journey with my characters and milk it for every bit of emotion I can muster.

And I believe it takes more than a few pages to believably build that connection. And lately, I'm finding my full length romances focusing less on the bedroom scenes and more on the tension leading up to them. And I like it that way. :)

What's your opinion? Where does romance end and erotica begin? How do the recent calls for hot and hotter impact what you're reading or writing? I really want to know!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Down and Dirty: The Fast Draft or Dirty Draft Process to Writing Your Novel in Two Weeks

Recently I got asked by bestselling author Ann Aguirre (Grimspace, Wanderlust, Blue Diablo & upcoming Doubleblind) to beta her YA WiP. Flattered (okay, stunned as if by a brick to the head) I asked what stage she was in with the writing and she responded that she'd be fast drafting it starting the following day so she'd have a draft done in two weeks.

Yep. You read that right--a novel draft in 2 weeks.

I'd heard about fast drafting at RWA Nationals this year while sitting in a restaurant listening to author Candace Havens (The Demon King and I & Dragons Prefer Blondes) talk about writing challenges and goals. Candace does workshops on the fast draft technique (and surviving what she calls "Revision Hell"). I wrote 13 to Life (my debut YA paranormal--out in June 2010 with St. Martin's Press) in 5 weeks. Did I dare cut more than half that time out of the initial process?

I asked Ann if she minded me tagging along on the fast draft journey. Ann said no problem. So each day we acted as accountability partners and checked on each other. Set our goals, adjusted our word counters on our blogs, and pushed ahead.

On Twitter some of my followers asked about the process, so I tried to to simplify it. Here's what I said (with additional characters of explanation--140 character limit--puh-leez ;-):

1.) Turn off your internal editor (you don’t need her complaining right now anyhow).

2.) Start writing ("Butt in Chair" as many say), accepting the fact this is a draft & drafts aren’t perfect. (#2 is muy importante ;-)) Keep in mind most people don't get published, but then too--most people don't EVER complete a manuscript. Don't be like them. Tha's an order. :-)

3.) Write 5k each day for 14 days. This is what some call a dirty draft. Yes. It's grueling some days. Yes, there are MANY excuses you can make at the end of the day (we are creative people) about why you couldn't quite hit 5k... Don't spend time on excuses! Spend time on nailing your goal. You will feel freakishly empowered the first or second time you hit it (or surpass it).

4.) In two short weeks this gives you 70k (a real, honest-to-gosh book length manuscript). That length is my approximate that's listed in my multibook deal with St. Martin's Press, so it's a seriously viable number.

5.) Take a step back–set the manuscript somewhere for at least a few days without editing. No touchy!

6.) Approach it with fresh eyes (yours or a crit partner’s) and a positive attitude. Look at what you've already accomplished! Now you're going to make it strong--make it shine. Look for gaps in the plot. Any spots trucks would try to drive through? Fix it. Are your characters evolving in a logical way? If not, wrangle them back in or discover why things changed with them (can we say "subplot" or "backstory"? I think we can!). ;-)

7.) Play “yes and” with your crit partner or yourself while revising – this means accepting changes ("Yes, that's a good idea and I think it'll help if I also...") and by giving the “what if” & “what else” questions your story raises more opportunity to grow.

8.) Polish, but not obsessively (obsession is not healthy & breeds self-doubt). Remember that inner critic we stuffed away in step one. Let her get a peek. If she gets nasty--back in the box! ;-)

9.) Get your query and synopsis super tight – high concept tight.

10.) Send your baby out and reward yourself. Regardless of what editors or agents may say (and many will probably have something you can learn from) you have already taken the hardest first step in this journey. YOU WROTE A BOOK!

~Saoirse Redgrave

Author of the 13 to Life YA paranormal series hitting shelves in June 2010 (why are you reading this last part--you have 5k to write! ;-).

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Who needs a plot?

If any of you have been following my work at Textnovel, then you've probably figured out that I revise, obsessively and often. True, I spend (waste) lots of time wishing I was one of those writers who can see her way clear to "the end" from the very beginning, but I've put enough stories behind me now to acknowledge that it's not going to happen, because I'm just not wired that way.

Not that I haven't tried to plot. I have. But no matter how exhaustive my advanced planning, my beginning product and my end product have little to do with one another.

True, some stories come easier than others. Take my two textnovels, for instance. Muse Struck is a lighthearted, paranormal romantic romp. It's also a gift from my muse. The story has written itself from day one.

But my other romance at textnovel, Surrender the Night, is dark and angsty. It also began as a vampire novel. Yeah, I know. How did I get from vampires to hellhounds turned Navy SEALs?

Umm...truth is, I have no idea! For me, stories, well, they just happen! That makes me what is known in author-land as a "pantser." I create plots by the seat of my pants, literally. That was fine until I actually sold something, only to bring these pesky little things called deadlines into the mayhem I call my life.

Only trial by fire has allowed me to keep the spontaneity in my writing that I love while disciplining myself enough to get to the end within a reasonable time period. When I put some of these tips to tweet these methods out on twitter, I got a few requests to post them.

So, for those of you who asked, here goes! I hope you find them useful!

Ten Coping Strategies for Pansters (as put out over Twitter, emoticons, shorthand and all!)

Pantser Survival tip #1: If you know it, write the ending first & let characters drive you toward it.

Pantser Plotting tip #2: Write the scene burning bright in your mind. Print, put in a binder @ look often @ progression. Is a plot being born?

Panster plotting tip #3 What's the worst thing that could happen to your character right now? Make it happen. w/ gusto. :)

Pantser plotting tip #4: Happy characters don't dance for the muse. Throw every form of misery at them & make 'em sweat. On page 1. :)

Pantser plotting tip #5: Stuck? Double break, pick an obstacle: organic, inorganic, elemental, suprnatural or internal. Proceed w/ story.

Pantser plotting tip #6 (Thanks to author friend, Tracy Madison)Start w/ your hook, 2 plot turning points, ending. Split the story's action b/t 20 2K chapters for an 80K book. So, up to 20K sets up beginning, 20K marks first turning point, 40K turning second point, 60K final turning point/complication and on to resolution near 80K

Pantser plotting tip #7: No plot? No problemo! Just ask, what does your character want right now? Time to throw up a roadblock.

Panters Plotting tip #8: Let go and let Muse. It will all shake out in the revision. (Love this method, but involves mucho rewriting. Not good for looming deadlines!)

Pantser plotting tip #9: Read your latest work before going to sleep. Ask your subconsious work on it as you sleep. Strangely effective.

Pantser plotting tip #10. Open a new email. Summarize your story like you'r emailing a friend about great movie you saw. At the point of your story's block, write, "and then ___" (Fill in blank.)___ You can play w/ multiple scanarios here if you like.

And finally, the one Pantser plotting tip I rely on most often: Prayer. :) If this fails, move on to another story for a week. Then come back. New pespective can work miracles on even the most stubborn story.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Come Get Your Demon On!

How To Lose A Demon in 10 Days

Looking for a fun free read? Come on over between the sheets and see what's going in with Caspian, a sexy Crown Prince of Hell and Grace, our resident witch. It's quite the brew, with Russian mobsters and Dominatrix demons... Not to mention some characters from Russian Fairytales. The Baba Yaga. A good time is definitely not had by all, but the hijinks are certainly fun to watch!

I'm having a blast at Textnovel, there's plenty of room in the sandbox. So come get your demon on!


~Saranna DeWylde

P/S Lovelies, while you're there, check out the rest of these amazing ladies. Fae bad boys in Fae Nights by Jhaea a.k.a. Robin Wright, a muse to die for in Muse Struck by Liane Gentry Skye, and we can't forget Liane's other delicious dish, the Hell Hound Shifter, Ryder in Surrender the Night. I have a crush on Ryder. Then, if you've got your water still handy, come meet the sexy flyboy Steve in Confessions of the World's Oldest Shotgun Bride by Gail Hart.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A Little Bit About Cell Phone Novels:

What are an aspiring romance novelist's dreams made of? Well, besides the obvious, naughty things, a chance at getting your book picked up by a major publishing house is pretty good! Dorchester's Press Release:

Cell Us Your Novel

Publisher Seeks New Romantic Voices through Social Networking Venture

New York City—Dorchester Publishing and Textnovel announce their partnership in an innovative writing competition for aspiring novelists. Beginning today, authors ages 18 and older are invited to participate in America’s Next Best Celler, a literary challenge that pairs the emergent cellular generation with the traditional publishing model. The contest will award a guaranteed publishing contract with Dorchester, the publisher who discovered and nurtured the careers of New York Times bestsellers Victoria Alexander, Christine Feehan and Lynsay Sands.

America’s Next Best Celler utilizes Textnovel’s unique business model that allows authors and readers to create, read and share serialized fiction via today’s most popular and ubiquitous technologies. The site encourages readers to subscribe to developing works of fiction which are disseminated in chapter-length installments via cell phones and email over a period of time. Subscribers offer direct feedback to authors and vote for their favorite serials, fostering an intimacy between artist and fan similar to reality television.

Textnovel was created in response to the literary movement that exploded in Japan a little over two years ago which produced an entirely new genre that now dominates their mainstream publishing industry. In 2007, five of Japan’s ten best-selling novels originated as cell phone serials. Many of the serials, such as Love Sky written by a debut novelist and read by 20 million people, have been adapted for TV series and movies.

With faster cell phone networks and data plans now available, the U.S. market has the potential to experience even more success than Japan. “Textnovel’s business model could revolutionize the entire publishing industry,” says Brooke Borneman, Dorchester’s Sales and Marketing Director. According to Maho no i-rando (Magic Island), Japan’s first and largest mobile novel portal, the site has six million registered users, representing roughly 5% of the country’s population. “When applying this percentage to the U.S. population of over 300 million people, the potential to build name recognition for authors is simply staggering,” states Borneman.

A collision of multiple cultural and societal influences has created the ideal situation for the resurgence of the serial which traces its roots to Victorian era novelists Charles Dickens, George Elliott and William Makepeace Thackeray. “Our increasingly fast-paced and chaotic lifestyles have created challenges for many individuals who can’t or won’t make the time to read. Between fragmented attention spans, the enthusiasm and devotion cultivated by fan participation in reality television and the social networking revolution, we think the time is perfect to bring readers and writers together through Textnovel and we hope to discover America’s Next Best ‘Celler,’” says Borneman.

Dorchester is seeking contest entries in any of the following romantic sub-genres: historical, paranormal, urban fantasy, high fantasy, futuristic, romantic suspense or humorous contemporary. For complete contest details, including rules and regulations, please visit or

About Dorchester Publishing
Dorchester Publishing has published mass market books since 1971, making it the oldest independent mass market publisher in America. Known for its collection of best-selling romance novels, Dorchester also publishes award-winning horror, thrillers and western titles, as well as the Hard Case Crime line of pulp-style mysteries. In addition, Dorchester distributes the bestselling Family Doctor series of health guides in the US and Canada. Website:

About Textnovel
Textnovel is a social network for authors and readers of serial fiction and the first English language cell phone novel website, allowing members to write and read fiction with their cell phones or computers, using text messaging, email and online tools. Textnovel also offers literary agency services to aspiring novelists. Website:

Dorchester Publishing Press Release site

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

READ THIS! Confessions of the World's Oldest Shotgun Bride

Dorchester Contestant Gail Hart and her fantastic contemporary romance. Read, vote, subscribe!

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Out From Under The Covers

This world is a changing, and you can be bedside! Texting Between The Sheets features Textnovel's up-and-coming authors in the romance genre. They are on the fringe of a technological boom already seen in Japan, the cell phone novel. Think Dickens--with an iPhone. You'll find links to their work, their causes, and their creative genius.

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