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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Before Pirates of the Caribbean...

Back in 1985, long before Disney produced "Pirates of the Caribbean," there was a not as famous or blockbusting pirate movie titled, "Nate and Hayes." Remember that one? I had it on VHS and my sister and I used to watch it over and over. Even though the critics pretty much panned it, there was something very appealing about it. When I went on the internet to find the movie poster for this post, I learned it has kind of a cult following. Go figure. But I guess my sister and I weren't the only two who loved this movie.

In "Nate and Hayes," a still youngish Tommy Lee Jones played the part of Bully Hayes, the rascally buccaneer, and Michael O'Keefe was Nathaniel Williamson, a mild-mannered minister whose fiancée is kidnapped by a dastardly pirate named Ben Pease. Through a twist of events, Nathaniel and Bully Hayes partner up and hit the high seas to rescue the fiancée. There's lots of swashbuckling and action, and plenty of attempted humor. Nate (Michael O'Keefe) becomes transformed into the adventurous, dashing hero and what ensues is a bit of a love triangle once the fiancée, played by Jenny Seagrove, is rescued and the three begin swashbuckling together.

Does this sound familiar at all?

Tonight, for some reason, I thought of "Nate and Hayes" and it suddenly dawned on me that it was the precursor of "Pirates of the Caribbean." The characters are pretty much interchangeable. Bully Hayes was Jack Sparrow. Nate was Will Turner, and Jenny Seagrove was Keira Knightley, the love interest kidnapped by that odious Captain Barbosa and taken aboard the Black Pearl.

By no stretch of the imagination is "Nate and Hayes" on par with "Pirates of the Caribbean," and I'll take Captain Jack Sparrow over Bully Hayes any day. But back in its day, "Nate and Hayes" was a darned good little movie and I was struck by the similarities. And once I had them side by side, I was surprised to see that even the movie posters are eerily similar. In fact, they're so very nearly the same, I wouldn't be surprised if they were designed by the same artist.

Now, if I could just figure out how "The Terminator" (the original) has the same plot as "Titanic" I'd be a happy camper. Both were written by James Cameron and I've heard, more than once, that he used the same basic plot for both. Would someone who knows what the heck everyone is talking about please spell it out for me, because I don't see it.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A New Direction

When I returned to writing back in January, I thought I could pick up where I left off. I had plenty of partials to work on and I tried picking them back up again. But, somehow, the spark was gone. Maybe it's just that I've been working at it for so long, I lost my enthusiasm for my favorite genre. Maybe it's because I've been published in my favorite genre and have seen the results. For whatever reason, I lacked direction and nothing I tried put me back on track.

Then something very strange happened. One day a story idea popped into my head that wasn't a western. In fact, the story was set in a time period and locale I've never before tried writing, even though I've read plenty of it over the years. So I started jotting down the basic story idea and my imagination took off! Suddenly, I felt excited about writing again. Genuinely excited and not just forced enthusiasm and wishful thinking. The idea was fresh, at least to me. It was something new. Not only was the genre completely different than my usual, so was the length. For the past week, I've been working on a novella. I know. Long-winded me is writing a shorter story, if you can believe it. And I'm loving it! Because of the shorter length, each day I can see measurable progress. Better yet, at the rate I'm currently writing, I should be finished within a couple of weeks.

I'm not quite ready yet to divulge all the details, but I'll let you know how it goes and what happens. I wasn't going to say anything at all for fear of jinxing myself, but I feel I'm far enough into it now and, hopefully, that won't happen. For several years, writing pals have advised me to try something different. But I'm stubborn. I had convinced myself I didn't want to write something different. Now that I have, my Muse has come out of a long sleep and she's clamoring in my ear constantly. My mood has improved. I have more energy. For the time being, all is right in my little world. I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that nothing happens to dash my enthusiasm and I can keep it up. Wish me luck!


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Blast From the Past

I must be out of my mind to post this, especially since I'm sporting a baby bulge, but here goes anyway. After all, it's just for fun. In response to Magdalena's post over at Magdalenaville celebrating the comeback of the maxi dress, I give you the granny dress and matching lace-up granny shoes, not to mention a pair of super fly sunglasses. Yowsa! The place: Oxnard, California. The year: 1971.

This was the time period when I developed a love affair with western novels. I zipped through all the Zane Grey and Louis Lamour at the Pt. Mugu library, then was forced to seek out other authors to fill my insatiable reading habit. About a year after this picture was taken, I started penning my first western novel. I actually finished it, plus a sequel, and still have the manuscripts stuck back in boxes in a cabinet here in my office. I've often thought about taking them out and looking at them, but I'm afraid to. So, thinking back, I guess I wrote my first full-blown novel around 1972. In what year did you write your first novel?

Peace, baby,


Monday, May 25, 2009

It's Getting Crowded Out There

As more and more romance novels are published, it gets tougher to come up with an original, easy to pronounce, heroic sounding character name. With my current work in progress, I’ve already been forced to ditch my first two name choices for my hero. When in doubt, Google, but be prepared for what a search turns up.

I found my first choice appeared in a Lisa Kleypas historical from several years ago. Even I had read the book, so I have to figure the name was stuck somewhere in my subconscious. So, I scrapped it. I immediately hit on a second choice and ran a search. Even worse, this one appears in a recent JR Ward novel—her famous BDB series—which I haven’t read. Go figure. I was under the impression that all her hero names are emotions—like rage and torment—with a superfluous “h” added to the spelling. I immediately scratched that one off my list, too. So now I find myself with a manuscript partially written and a hero with no name. The funny thing is, this never happens with heroines, only heroes. And it’s starting to be a real problem.

It’s the same with titles. When you come up with a title for your wonderfully unique novel, my advice to anyone would be to run a search. The easiest way is to go to Amazon and search there because if a book is for sell anywhere in the universe, it’s listed on Amazon. Type in your title and see how many books come up. If there are fifteen by various authors, I’d strongly suggest coming up with something else. While titles can’t be copyrighted, why would you want to compete with fifteen other romances out there by having yours coming up midway down, or even at the bottom of the list when someone does a search?

Read any good hero names lately? If so, don’t tell me about them or they might get stuck in my head. There are already too many great names floating around in there. Problem is, each of them already belongs to someone else’s character.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Paid Advertisements on Blogs

Lately, I've been noticing strange things happening when I go to some of my favorite blogs. My Windows goes nuts and starts opening tab after tab of the same blog page. I can't close them out quickly enough. By the time I close one, three or more tabs have popped onto the screen. A couple of days ago, I had to shut down my computer and restart just to escape someone's blog. On others, I get an "Operation Aborted" window from my virus program because the page has something potentially invasive embedded in it. There's also one blog I'm linked to that has as annoying survey pop up in front of my face and slide up and down the screen every time I go there. I'm forced to chase it down and click "no thanks" to make it go away. Has any of this been happening to anyone else?

I finally figured out that these things only happen on the blogs that have all the paid advertisements embedded in them. So it would seem that Google's AdSense and my Windows program do not co-exist peacefully. Just wanted to let you know. So if I've left you comments in the past and suddenly don't, it's nothing personal. It's just that I'd rather not have to restart my computer as the last resort of getting out of your blog.



Tuesday, May 19, 2009

How The West Was Loved?

Well, this image should have been the cover for Angel, instead of that big rearing stallion. This actually fits. Nah. That big stallion is gorgeous. Yee-haw!

Been absent for a few days, but only because I've been busy. I've been working on something but, for now, I'm holding the details close to my chest. Tonight, I was trying to play catch-up to see what everyone's been up to. I will read all your blog posts. I promise.

Anyway, I was on my own web site and, for some reason, I clicked on a link and discovered something new at the end of it. A site calling itself "How The West Was Loved." (edit: on further investigation, this appears to be an offshoot of BookStrand. Never heard of them either.) Here's a link, for the morbidly curious. Evidently, they've taken over sponsorship of the Western Authors Directory, whose link I have prominently on the front page of my web site. I gave it a quick look for now, but plan to keep tabs on this site. Simply because anything to do with western romance always catches my attention. Plus, it might be interesting to watch one of these places evolve from the ground up. At first I thought it was another resource for western authors, but it turned out to be a start-up e-pub. They've got a gi-normous list of series on the front page, plus a few other things, and it says, "Coming in Fall 2009." All I can say is, good luck to them.

Note to Mags: I read "The Unlacing of Miss Leigh" and enjoyed it very much. I've always been a sucker for a beauty and the beast story. Given the short length, it was surprisingly good. Thanks for the recommend!


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Tonight's Idol Results

I admit, I was shocked by tonight's results. I would have thought Danny would be the only one who was truly safe simply because he's the only one who was never in the bottom three all season. After last night's performance of "You Are So Beautiful," I thought for sure he'd make it through, especially after he was safe following that awful rendition of "Dream On" last week. Wow. What a difference a week makes. Since there were only a million votes separating the top two, it looks like many of the Allison fans swung their support over to Kris, like they promised.

Simon said next week's finale may very well be a "ding dong," and he may be right. I think the judges are in for a big upset. Here's why. It goes back to that million votes separating Adam and Kris tonight. With Danny out of the picture, his fans are threatening to power vote for Kris next week. That would put Kris way over the top, which = major upset.

For the first time in several years, I don't really have a favorite. I think they're all talented and will do what they will with the opportunities they'll be given. Who rises to the top after it's over remains to be seen. Past seasons have sometimes proven, the winner doesn't always emerge the victor. Just look at Chris Daughtry, who left the show in fourth place. So, next week, I'm going to sit back and relax and enjoy the show. Both Adam and Kris will get record deals, so they're both winners. I'm sure Danny and Allison will emerge from this with recording contracts as well. It's a win-win situation for all concerned. The American Idol title has become a matter of bragging rights and publicity for the winner, but it doesn't always ensure success after the lights go down. I wish them all the very best of luck.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Good Grief

The other day, I went to the eHarlequin site and bought two of the Historicals Undone titles. I was curious to see how they're written. I mean, these are only 10-15,000 words. And I write historicals. How long would it take to write 10-15K words? Huh? Huh? But I see that most of these are Regency set. Wonder if they'd be open to westerns?

Anyway, I bought two titles, including the one from this cover pic, and it took me until just a few minutes ago to figure out how to get them into my computer. I really hate to admit that, but it's just the truth. I bought the books in PDF format and when I downloaded them, I got ACSM files, which are links to nowhere, according to my computer. I ended up having to download a newfangled Adobe reader and setting up an account with them. But the files still wouldn't download from the site. I still got the ACSM url links, and when I clicked on them, a window popped up to tell me they couldn't be opened because they were corrupted. Well, great. I finally tonight got the bright idea to manually drag the ASCM files into the newfangled Adobe reader file and, VOILA!, it worked. The things downloaded and now I have them. But, wow, what a bunch of crap. I've downloaded plenty of free ebooks in PDF format and never had a problem. I think this has something to do with the DRM versions of these files.

In other news, I've been having my annual month of May identity crisis. Last year was the worst. It was exactly one year ago yesterday when I swore off writing forever and dropped out of sight. That lasted a whole eight months and I nearly went insane in the meantime. On second thought, maybe I actually did go crazy and just don't realize it. I once told Mary, I thought I was losing my mind. She told me that crazy people don't know they're crazy, so that meant I must not be--crazy, that is. Personally, I think there's room for argument.

Speaking of identity crisis, I've gotten into a real muddle with my work in progress. Muddle really isn't accurate, it's more like I've come to a screeching halt. After thinking about it for a couple of days, I realized I've got two other plots trying to butt in. This is the result of writing an entire manuscript without knowing diddly about GMC and THEN going back and trying to fix it. I brainstormed so many different GMC scenarios, two of them were evidently pretty strong and got stuck in my head. Now they're trying to butt in on the action. So I've got a heroine with a three-way split personality. She should be all the feisty, can-do girl, but shades of the strong-willed, independent and the emotionally damaged heroines keep rearing their heads and trying to drag their baggage into the mix. The only solution I can see is to promise these two gals their own stories somewhere down the road and hope they'll behave themselves long enough for me to finish heroine number one's story. Sheesh.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Reference This

Is there any one reference book you keep close at hand at all times? Mine is a dictionary--an old dictionary--and I keep it on my computer desk, within easy reach. Every dictionary I own is at least 40 or 50 years old, and those old books have been the source of some grousing within my family. We used to play Scrabble every Christmas when my brothers and sister were here and they always complained about my outdated Webster's and told me to get a new one. Well, not on your life. I love my old dictionaries and wouldn't part with them. Every year, I explained that I write historicals and have no use for a newer version, which earned me an eye roll from my sister. A week or so ago, hubby and I were at the indoor flea market and I spotted a dictionary that was much older than any of mine. The thing was at least 6 inches thick and I know my eyes lit up when I saw it. I hoped hubby might take a hint and get it for me for Mother's Day, but I guess that's too much to wish for. Subtle hints usually go right past him unnoticed.

Although... he did surprise me years ago with an antique copy of "The Cottage Physician." The print date in the front of it is 1895. All the pages are loose from the binding and I have to be careful when I take it down and look through it but, by some miracle, the pages are all still there. It's a wonderful resource for how ailments and injuries were treated back in the late 1800's and even has drawings of the medicinal plants that were used.

Like most writers, I have a large, very eclectic collection of reference and how-to books on my shelves. Everything from Medieval Arms and Armour, costume books, the Everyday Life books covering most time periods, to folklore of the British Isles during the Dark Ages, to the entire collection of Time-Life's Old West Series, and many, many things in between. I have several of the Writer's Digest writer's references, including Body Trauma and Armed and Dangerous, but the one I don't have and always meant to get was a reference on poisons and deadly potions. And that reminds me of something that happened years ago.

I was working on a western about feuding ranchers and came to the part where a watering hole is poisoned. I had no idea what they might have used to taint the water and turn it deadly, so I called my uncle, who's a farmer and he also owns a large number of cattle. I put the question to him this way--"If you were going to poison your neighbor's pond, what would you use?" Bear in mind that this was during the days when hardly anyone outside of my household knew I wrote. There was a very long stretch of silence at the other end of the line. Finally, he spoke up and asked, "Why do you want to know that?" I explained that I was working on a story. but he remained skeptical. I never did get an answer out of him. And later, I heard from another relative that my uncle had mentioned my interest in pond poisoning to a few people. I still have to laugh every time I think about it. Did my uncle truly think I meant to poison someone's pond? Good grief.

That isn't the only backlash I've experienced from asking weird (to normal folks) questions. Once, I had a lawyer follow me from his office nearly to my car because I'd given him a hypothetical situation and asked about having someone who owned a great deal of property and cash assets declared legally dead. I'm sure he was convinced I was the heir who needed to have this done to my long, lost mother. I tried to explain that it was just for a story I was writing, but he wasn't convinced. The last thing he said as I was getting into my car was, "If you decide to pursue this, I hope you'll come and see me. It sounds like an interesting case." Sheesh. After that, I learned not to toss out questions to just anyone who I thought might know the answer.

As usual, I got off track and on a tangent with my little stories. So, which references do you use most often? Have you ever gotten into a strange situation from asking questions only writers ask? If so, what happened?


Thursday, May 7, 2009

My Baby Grew Up

Today was my son, Matt's, birthday. This picture was taken 20 years ago, on his very first birthday. That's me holding him so he can see his cake, which had a pair of clowns on it. Sentimental me, I still have one of the clowns in a Tupperware container in the freezer. Earlier this evening, we had the traditional cake with candles and we sang happy birthday. Right now, he's out with friends, but when he comes back, I might drag the frozen clown out of the freezer and show it to him. But he--who has a pizza box from his first date tacked up on his bedroom wall--would probably tell me I'm weird for keeping a frozen clown all this time.

Looking at this picture now, it strikes me kinda funny. That old dining room is long gone, along with those horrible dark walls, and this room is now my office. It also strikes me funny that I have the same hair now as I did then. I don't remember having short hair back then.

Here's my little guy after he'd had his fill of cake. He's looking kind of sleepy. That's my dad sitting at the kitchen table behind him. He passed away nearly 17 years ago and Matt doesn't remember him. On that first birthday, Dad got Matt a big yellow dump truck and pushed him all around the house in it. It seems like yesterday and I can still hear his squeals of laughter. Today, we gave Matt accessories for his Toyota. I don't know where the time went. My baby is all grown up.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Allison Iraheta

This year's American Idol has the best top four ever. But I was so disappointed in the voting results tonight. After the past few weeks, and especially last night, Danny should have been the one to go home. Allison has given a solid, outstanding performance EVERY week and I'm going to miss her. I had hoped she'd make it to the finale. I love this young lady's voice and I hope she has a big career ahead of her. I'm an Idol fanatic but, strangely, I'm not much looking forward to next week after what happened tonight. I can't imagine either of the two guys left going up against Adam in the final. Allison really blew the lid off with her farewell performance. I'm glad it was the Joplin song because it suited her so well.


The Kickass Heroine

I have three manuscripts in progress that have, what I would consider to be, kickass heroines. I don't mean kickass in the sense of the modern heroine you find in today's paranormals or futuristics. My heroines don't have state of the art weaponry, nor do they know the self-defense techniques of jujitsu, where they're able to turn a man's strength against him with the flick of a wrist. These heroines are all stuck back in the 1800's, when they had only their wits and sometimes skill and brute strength in their survival arsenals.

Skill and wits, I can live with. But what about brute strength? How can a romance heroine possibly stand toe to toe with a man and still retain her femininity? Therein lies my dilemma.

These women all are doing what was considered to be a man's job. Bounty hunter, secret service agent, and rancher. All these occupations require a certain amount of physical activity and strength. Would a woman capable of doing these activities still be considered feminine and desirable by the opposite sex?

Maggie Osborne wrote quite a few of these types of heroines. Not only were they tough as nails, they were downright gritty. Two that immediately come to mind are Jenny from "The Promise of Jenny Jones" and Low Down (yep, that really was her name) in "Silver Lining." I enjoyed both of these books immensely, but these two heroines had an image problem, in my opinion. They were so very tough and gritty, they came across as rather manly and unattractive much of the time. (again, this is this reader's opinion) While this worked for Ms. Osborne, I'd rather not have a Calamity Jane type as my heroine. It just doesn't seem to mesh when you have a hero who's handsome as sin--especially when you toss the two together for the love scenes.

Anyway, I've been giving a lot of thought to these heroines lately. These gals are the types of characters I love to write. But can I pull them off, make them as tough as they need to be, and still retain their feminine believability as a romance heroine?

Which brings me to another example. Remember Sharon Stone's character in "The Quick and the Dead?" She was tough, and she was out for blood and vengeance. Yet there wasn't a manly bone in her body. I think the secret to her characterization was that she was very vulnerable, on the inside and in private. In public, she showed no weakness. But when she was alone and behind closed doors, her fear, her softer emotions and even her physical pain came out of hiding. She was just a regular woman after all, attempting to do something extraordinary in the world of men.


Edited to add: I just happened to remember... Since I mentioned "The Quick and the Dead," I can't end this without adding that the plot twist at the end of the movie was a direct rip-off from "Once Upon a Time in the West." Sharon Stone's character was a female version of the harmonica playing Charles Bronson. Same exact goal, motivation, and plot twist.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Monday Blues ~ Not So Much

Well, it's Monday and I'm feeling better all the way around. Don't really have anything new to report today, but I wanted to post something, if for no other reason than to get that Doom and Gloom post down from the top of the list. So here's a little hodgepodge for you.

Magdalena Scott has a very interesting thread of comments about independent bookstores going on over at Magdalenaville.

Angel in the Rain is on sale right now at Fictionwise for 50% off. I don't know if that applies to all their e-books, but it looks like all the Wild Rose Press books have been discounted.

The news out of romanceland is that book sales are on a big upswing. Some people are predicting that happy times are here again, but I'm a little more cautious than that. I have a feeling if/when the economy starts to recover, romance books sales will probably taper back down to their usual levels. In the meantime, though, this is very good news indeed!

Hope you all have a terrific week! I'm off to write now so I can try to get in on this upswing in the romance market. ;o)


Saturday, May 2, 2009

Doom and Gloom ~ Day Three

I wasn't going to post anything about his, but I think I need to get it off my chest. I've been moping for three days and gotten nothing done except a lot of walking the floor and staring out through rain-spattered windows.

My husband's small business was robbed Wednesday night. Yes, just days after I wrote the Brinks Stinks post. I took that down, by the way, because I realized I had given potential thieves too much useful information about the store's security system. And yes, Mags, I also concluded that the false alarm the other night was probably just a dry run for the thieves to see what would happen.

Here's what did happen Wednesday night, without going into minute detail. The thieves disarmed the security system, then went to the back side of the building, where they couldn't be seen from the highway, and cut a hole through the back wall. They built a blind for themselves using discarded metal racks and old signs and they must have worked at the wall for quite a while, using tin snips and a pry bar. They peeled through two layers of metal and the material between and essentially opened the wall like a sardine can.

After all the panic and mess, we ended up lucky--this time. The thieves took only the Marlboros and a small number of other items. It amounted to 68 cartons of cigarettes. But it seems they were mainly interested in the Marlboros because they took those and left all the rest. How strange is that?

In the aftermath, hubby and others have worked feverishly to restore order. The builders came the same day and replaced the damaged sections of wall. The security people have corrected the flaw in the security system (we hope) and are in the process of doing an update with state of the art camera equipment. And let me tell you, this is setting us back a pretty penny. But how can we afford not to do it. Our income is dependent on this little business.

All of this, plus a number of other things, has left me in a state of mind that I can't really describe. I feel restless, insecure. I feel like I need to do something, but I don't know what it would be. I'm seriously considering taking classes and learning a skill I could do from home that would be relevant in today's workforce. This excites and scares me all at the same time. It's been thirty-some years since I was in school. Can an old dog actually learn a new trick and produce a bit of income? My personal circumstances force me to stay at home. I had always hoped I could earn money from writing. But the reality of that is, writing fiction for publication is like buying a lottery ticket and hoping it comes up a winner. And you're only allowed one ticket every few months or even years. So, realistically speaking, what are the odds?

I don't want to give up my writing dream. But at the same time, I feel I must do something more than what I've been doing. My husband carries the entire load. And he's a brave man. When he lost his good, long-time job three and a half years ago, we were forced to live off his retirement. We were essentially down to nothing when he made the decision to start his own business. It was an act of desperation, but he made it work. Now I feel I need to help him. Especially since Wednesday night. We were lucky this time, but the reality is, we could be wiped out financially next time around.

Sorry for the doom and gloom, but that's just reality sometimes and, just now, I'm standing right smack dab in the middle of it.