18 December 2010

How would Phineas and Ferb handle Benita Bizarre?

Saturdays aren't what they used to be. When I was a child, I looked forward to Saturday morning all week. The parents would sleep in and the TV would be all mine (well, ours, I have brothers). We'd watch cartoons until our eyes glazed over--or until we'd get into a  fight over the channels.

I'd get up early and watch the Bugaloos, a strange show about bugs with British accents who were always escaping from a witch, Benita Bizarre, who wanted their music or their wings. Then I'd watch Ultraman, a strange show about a superhero who helped a Japanese team fight monsters (Yes, I wonder about my strange taste in TV shows).

Then my older brother would get up, switch the channel to Bugs Bunny, Wylie Coyote or Scooby Doo, and we'd get into a fight over what to watch until Pop would get up and threaten to send us outside, to our rooms or into next week.

Now, my niece and nephews can watch cartoons any time they want on a dozen or so cable channels. Disney has at least three and there's a couple of Cartoon Networks, but cartoons are nothing special.

Yes, they still fight over what to watch until I come in and turn the channel to Phineas and Ferb. Yes, they still all like something different, but without a special day for cartoons, there's no ritual for getting up and watching them, and there's nothing at stake in the fight over what to watch.

If you lose the 10 a.m. fight, you can watch a rerun of the same show at 2 p.m. By being available 24/7, cartoons have lost their specialness. I kind of miss that.

06 December 2010

Guest Blogger talks about Christmas in Bayeux

I'd like to thank Keena for having me on the blog and allowing me to visit today. Just a little about me: I was born and raised in Manchester, NH. When I was 18, this New England Patriot fan joined the US Army for a great adventure and spent 7 years overseas in Germany. I met a fair-haired California boy and we were married in Denmark in 1991. Little odd fact: I went to Berlin before the wall fell in 1988. Now, the adventure over, I work for LAPD as a 911 Operator.

I love Keena's historicals. I enjoyed Anam Cara and Ties that Bind. As I write this, I'm currently reading Enthralled. Keena really captures a vibrant authenticity of the period she's writing. When I learned about the Bayeux Tapestry, I knew I wanted to talk about it today.

I picked Bayeux, France as the setting for my Christmas story which is included in "A Christmas Collection, Stimulating." Why Bayeux? Because it is the closest city to the beaches of Normandy and I always wanted to visit the beaches.  A military cemetery is nearby and American soldiers are buried there from World War I and World War II. The land is considered American soil.  As I did my research on Bayeux, I discovered the tapestry.  And what a delicious discovery it was!

The tapestry isn't really a tapestry, it's an embroidery, but it depicts William the Conqueror's conquest of England in 1066. In William's time, people believed his wife commissioned the tapestry, but through modern day history detectives, it is believed William's half-brother, Odo, commissioned it.  It is believed to have been finished in 1077, just in time for the dedication of the Bayeux Cathedral.

The tapestry contains several panels and takes up the length of a wall. It begins with Edward the Confessor sending Harold Godwinson to Normandy. Harold tells William Edward wants him to be king after he dies.  A star with a tale appears on the tapestry. It's believed to be Halley's comet. According to astronomy, Halley's comet would have appeared 4 months after Harold was crowned king. (I'm not giving away the plot of the tapestry! –wicked evil grin)

Interesting note: 2 panels of the tapestry are missing and were reconstructed. 

The tapestry was first found in the Bayeux Cathedral in 1476. Remember William's brother, Odo? He was the Bishop of the Cathedral.

Several reproduction exist and can be found in England, Denmark, and New Zealand.

I wonder if any of Keena's characters have had a chance to see the tapestry…

BLURB: Aiden Seward is an Iraq war vet who has gone to the Beaches of Normandy to heal his wounded heart. Noel Rousseau was the girl he knew as an exchange student years ago. Can Noel help heal the ache in Aiden's heart?


Her cheeks reddened, but she only gestured toward the hall. "It's this way."
They entered the main room and he saw that the tapestry hung on the wall opposite of them. It filled the space entirely. Aiden stood stock-still, admiring its craftsmanship.
"We believe it commemorates the Norman conquest of England in 1066. We all call it a tapestry, but it's really an embroidery." She paused, then pointed. "Of course, the hero is William the Conqueror. His forces defeated those led by the English king, Harold Godwinson."
Aiden walked the length to the tapestry, marveling at the story and how the work had been well preserved for close to 1,000 years.
"Edward the Confessor had no heir so he sent Harold to tell William he would rule England once Edward died. Harold, however, usurped the throne."
Aiden pointed to a star with a tail. "Is that a star?"
She grinned. "Modern interpretation believes it to be Haley's comet. It was a bad omen for Harold."
"What happened next?"
Noel giggled. "William conquered him."
"Silly me. I should have known that." He grabbed her waist and pulled her against him. Their eyes locked, hers smoldering with desire. Damn. He wanted to kiss her. Right now. Screw his willpower. Aiden grabbed her hand and led her to the nearest hallway. Empty, thank God.

Buy Links:

Create Space, Print book: https://www.createspace.com/3494425

Check out the Story Teaser on You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-muZ0dhOvSE
Find me on the web at: http://sgcardin.tripod.com

Goodie Time: Leave me a post and I'll pick out two winners to receive an autographed postcard of the cover. Tell me about one of your Christmas traditions and I'll pick a winner to a print copy of A Christmas Collection, Stimulating. I'll come back on 07 DEC to pick the winners.

26 October 2010

Witch of Blackbird Pond

I haven't posted in a while because I've been cheating on this blog. Yes, I've become a polygamous blogger as I promote my new book, ENTHRALLED.

Today, I'm being interviewed at Terrific Tuesday and we're rediscovering the book, The Witch of Blackbird Pond. Have you read it? I think almost every woman did when she was a girl.

And if you're really interested in where I've been, here's a list:

21 October 2010

One Inch Closer to Hell

ENTHRALLED, my fourth historical romance, is officially on sale today.

It's a great day for several reasons. In many ways, Enthralled is the hardest story I've written to date. The relationship between William and Amilia is complex and layered from the very first word. They are childhood sweethearts, denied to each other because of social expectations and family ambitions.

Additionally, William of Ravenglas presented his own own unique challenges. He’s arrogant, in danger from the sins of his past and driven by a need to do “the right thing.” He can be rigid and judgmental, but he’s also quick to forgive and loyal to a fault.

He is how I imagine chivalry and courtly love collided with human failings. Duty and honor don't always go hand-in-hand for him, and his struggle between the two is partly what I love about him. He's a deeply flawed man who wants to live with honor and integrity in a world where he sees little of either.

Typically, I create heroes who are in desperate need of redemption. They don't fall from the straight and narrow path, but jump from it. For William, one step off that path leads to another misstep and then another. Like most of us, he falls one inch at a time and that is extremely hard to write and still make him heroic and lovable.

19 October 2010

Sometimes a really good villain is all you need

I love a good villain. The right villain can make a classic out of a B-movie and leave a reader reluctantly sympathetic to the cause. In my opinion, a good villain needs three things:

  1. An understandable goal.
  2. A firm belief that the ends justifies the means.
  3. A complex nature, complete with a good side, i.e. he may blow up the museum to stop the looting of his culture, but he takes his mother to church each Sunday.
In my latest release, ENTHRALLED, my villain gave my critique partner chills. I also shocked myself in that I took a historical figure that I've studied and in some ways admired, and then turned her into a dispassionate villain that will stop at nothing to achieve her goals.

In the book, Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine's attempt to murder her husband, King Henry II, and rule as regent through her eldest son. Although the historical record is more detailed for Eleanor than for many medieval women, we know little of her personality, her desires or her opinions.

She wed Henry of Anjou (later King Henry II of England) in 1152, months after her marriage with the French king was annulled. Henry was 10 or 11 years her junior. She gave birth to at least eight children during the marriage, and the youngest, John, was born in either 1166 or 1167 when she was approximately 45 years old.

However the marriage began, it ended badly. She encouraged estrangement between father and sons, and led her sons in rebellion against Henry in 1173. She spent 15 years locked in a tower, released by her sons on the king's death.

Given those facts, the Eleanor in ENTHRALLED is cold and calculating, yet understandable (I hope).

The story takes place seven years before she sparks rebellion among her sons, but at 44, her legendary beauty is fading, her husband is openly in love with another woman, and her children are no longer under her direct control.

Her motivation is simple: She’s standing at the edge of irrelevancy—and she doesn’t like the view.

15 October 2010

The World's Oldest Sport

Last week on the Hearts through History RWA loop, a casual reference to the 1900 Olympics in Paris noted that tug-of-war was part of the competition.
1908 U.S. tug-of-war team

Talk about intriguing.

I had no idea that tug-of-war was once an Olympic sport. To be honest, I assumed it wasn't played anywhere but on playgrounds, college campuses and family picnic areas.

Curious about this bygone sport, I spent a few days researching tug-of-war, and its gold medal history, spending a lot of time on the official websites of the Olympic movement and the site of the Tug-of-War International Federation.

Yep, there's an international federation.

For those who might not know (I know you know, but my journalistic training demands I explain the sport) tug-of-war is played when opposing teams, somewhat equal in number and weight, grab hold of either end of a rope suspended over a hazard of some sort, i.e. water or mud (history suggests Vikings played tug-of-war over the campfire). At a signal, both teams tug on the rope, trying to pull the other team into the hazard.

A few facts about the 1900 Olympics:
  • Events were held in Paris as part of the 1900 World’s Fair and were so under-promoted that not all 997 athletes realized they were taking part in Olympic competitions. Overall, only 375 tickets were sold.
  • Organizers didn't hold an opening ceremony. Events began May 14 and ended Oct. 28.
  • Women competed for the first time in these games. The first women's competition? Croquet.
  • Mixed teams (not gender but nationality) completed in five sports, including tennis and tug-of-war.
  • Tug-of-war made its debut as an Olympic competition. Other sports:
    • Archery
    • Artistic gymnastics (which included pole vaulting)
    • Athletics: combined, field, road (cross-country) and track
    • Basque Pelota (think team racquet ball played across a net and you’ve got the general idea)
    • Cricket
    • Coquet
    • Cycling
    • Equestrian, jumping
    • Fencing
    • Football (soccer)
    • Golf
    • Polo
    • Rowing
    • Rugby
    • Sailing
    • Shooting
    • Swimming
    • Tennis
    • Tug-of-War
    • Water Polo
Only two teams competed in the tug-of-war competition on May 14. Winner was the best of three, and a Danish/Swiss team competed against a French team and won 2-0. This was Sweden’s first gold medal.

During the 2004 Olympics in Saint Louis, six teams competed, four from the host nation. U.S. teams won all three medals. At the time, clubs fielded tug-of-war teams, so there wasn’t a national team from any country. In the 1908 London games, British teams won the gold, silver and bronze. According to the BBC, the final match was between two English teams comprised of policemen, with the London police team beating Liverpool's police team.

Tug-of-War was dropped from the Olympic games after 1920. But the Olympics were hardly the beginning or the end of the sport, which dates back thousands of years. Egyptians played tug-of-war, as did the ancient Greeks, the Vikings and other sea-faring nations. It's still a popular sport in India, Europe and South Africa where the 2010 Tug-of-War Championships were held in Pretoria.

Coming up: the International Tug-of-War conference is scheduled for January 2011 in Taipei. If that’s too far to travel, The European tug-of-war championship will be played in September 2011.

Cross-posted at http://historicalbellesandbeaus.blogspot.com/2010/10/worlds-oldest-sport.html

13 October 2010

Heads Up. 7.1.98

In March '97 or thereabouts, the makers of the film Armageddon sent me this promo item about the movie (I was the features editor for a newspaper at the time). The clock was set to "count down" to the movie's opening day. The marketing worked. The whole newsroom was all aware of the movie, but even more aware of the clock. As the days clicked by to 7.1.98, we all waited to see if the clock would explode or something.

Alas, it just turned into a regular clock. We were disappointed.

Since then it's counted down days to vacations, job changes, trips abroad, and during one memorable week, to Friday. But no more. Sometime this summer the Count Down clock died. Kaput. Extinct.

An era is over. R.I.P.

12 October 2010

Cleaning my personal midden heap

Somewhere a future historian weeps.

I'm getting ready to move, and as I go through my possessions, culling what I no longer need, wear or want, I've been digging through several boxes that I've carted from place to place but haven't opened for years. Going through the cards, letters and journals in these boxes is like an archeological dig into my life. Suddenly I remember:
  • Not believing the super-skinny girl from college who said her guilty-pleasure food was fresh kiwi (mine was a chocolate milkshake and onion rings)
  • Going out with one guy and running into another one that I was also dating (who knew they were friends)
  • Having to tell a friend I couldn't spend a month backpacking with her because I'd gotten a job (I should've gone backpacking).
I've found notes from friends whose addresses have long since been lost, letters from boyfriends past, and cards and photos from over the years that show how kids have grown, people have moved, lives have changed.

And much of it went into the trash.

I even tossed all my journals, but not before leafing through them and realizing what a maudlin, self-absorbed idiot I could be at times.

It's not that I don't value these sentiments or memories, but I find that paper, often saved haphazardly, doesn't mean much to me (heresy for a trained historian like myself). I'm more interested in finding these friends and seeing how they are now. 

What did I keep? Generally first and last letters, notes that completely captured the sender's personality and anything unique, such as the Christmas card from a guy and his cat decorated with kitty-litter snow.

Now that's something a future historian can use for his dissertation topic. I'm sure of it.

08 October 2010

The Birds

Back when I had a day job, I would have the occasional "closed door day." These basically meant I planned to disappear into my office to finish up a hot project. It was a signal to others not to call or knock unless something or someone was broken, bleeding or burning.

I'd planned for today to be a closed door day, too. I'm almost done with my WIP and I want to finish it. This means no email or trolling Facebook while I write in what I hope is a white heat of creativity.

But now there are the birds. These birds are sitting on my balcony rail, watching me with a gleam in their little eyes that make me think of The Birds (not the movie, which is scary, but the book, which is terrifying).

Birds have an odd affinity for me. Ask my friends. They'll tell you about me being followed down the streets of Charleston by a chicken. Or around a St. Louis zoo by a vulture. Or from room to room in the little gray bungalow by a wood pecker.

An owl even followed me home once in Charlotte, but that was OK. He ate the squirrels in my magnolia tree and I actually had blossoms that year.

I'm telling you this in case the birds turn feral and mistake me for Tippi Hedren. Someone should be able to tell the police the birds were local.

06 October 2010

Extreme connections

After a full day of writing, I spent Sunday night sprawled across the couch feasting on Mad Men and then destroying my brain with "Hoarders: Buried Alive and "Sister Wives."

I'm not usually one to watch reality TV, but as I was flipping through the channels these piqued by interest. In other words, they drew me in like a gawker at a car-train accident. As I watched, though, I realized these shows are at either end of the same spectrum. They're both about connections, or lack thereof.

The Hoarder's show is heartbreakingly raw as hoarders try to clean up their homes and lives. What is painfully obvious is the hoarders don't have any real connections to other people. Instead, they focus on things.

Most have suffered a traumatic loss and cling to things with the excuse (and very real fear) that they might need them one day. As a result, their house is a maze of trash,  empty boxes, mismatched socks, gloves and shoes, and too often dead rodents or pets. Their relationships often seem as jumbled and mismatched. Many have distant, hands-off relationships with family, including those who live under the same roof. The hoarders have withdrawn into their internal world and the reconnecting process is painful.

At the other end of the spectrum is Sister Wives, a show about a polygamous Mormon family with one husband, four wives, and seventeen children. Personal beliefs on polygamy aside, I suspect the kind of suffering in isolation that leads to extreme hoarding wouldn't happen in such a family.

The very nature and number of the relationships and household structure requires an openness and emotional intimacy that would make it impossible to hide away when something or someone breaks your heart.

It makes sense. Words are approximately seven percent of a conversation. Tone of voice is 38 percent and body language is 55 percent. In other words, it's easy to lie with words, to say we're doing great, to hide the heartache and the frightening loss of control that cause us to cling to stuff. Face-to-face connections force us to be more honest with others, and by extension ourselves.

The more numerous our connections the greater the likelihood of our honesty.

Connections are on my mind this week because I've been sorting through my possessions, deciding what to toss, donate or pack for my upcoming move. I'm always ambivalent about moves. I love the idea of going someplace new (in this case, someplace much warmer) and meeting new people. But I also hate to leave people behind.

Sure, there's email, IM and Facebook, but these can't replace meeting someone for lunch or supper and talking about your day, your boss, your muse. A quip on Facebook, a link on Twitter, a quick email to "see how you're doing" isn't really a connection. It's just a reminder that we have these connections. Keeping those connections strong and honest is up to us.

01 October 2010

What I'm reading

A few weeks ago, Kendra Leigh Castle on a blog asked posters to share who is our favorite, unapologetically bad boy. I answered Methos, from the old Highlander TV series. The character was a 5,000-year-old immortal who could be a loyal and trustworthy, but when it came to the sharp edge of a sword, he was always--always--out for No. 1.

My answer won me a copy of Kendra's new release, Renegade Angel. The book is about Raum, a fallen angel, who's also on the outs with hell. He works with a motley crew of other dispossessed demons to snuff out lesser demons and their half-human progeny. His latest assignment brings him to Vermont and to a half-human/half-demon woman he's determined to save--even if it destroys him.

Typically, I'm not a fan of vampires, weres and demons as heroes. Maybe it's my Southern Baptist upbringing or the heretical influence of gnosticism, but I like monsters who are monsters not monsters who are really just misunderstood.

So I was a bit skeptical about a book with a fallen angel/demon hero who is bad to his soulless bones and proud of it.

That said I enjoyed Kendra's voice immensely. Her characters are vibrant and her world-building so vivid and detailed that I could've sent a postcard from the Infernal City. I even found myself liking the hero who ends up with the key to something he doesn't want: redemption.

In the end, the story isn't about demons or monsters, but about the power of love to give us faith. At its core, Renegade Angel is a redemption story, and I'm a complete sucker for redemption stories.

26 September 2010

Guess who's coming to dinner

A few weeks ago, I took a survey among some of my Facebook friends about who they'd invite to share a meal if the pesky rules of space, time and reality were suspended for the day.

The question is far from new. It's a common icebreaker to make strangers more comfortable around each other, and it's a game I played in college when my study group needed a break.

Over the years, I've found people answer in one of two ways: They choose people they admire or people they miss. The eight friends who answered the question mostly picked people they admired, although two wanted to see their grandfathers again. One wanted to meet her maternal grandmother and a fourth wanted to visit her father.

These numbers are too low to be statistically relevant and you shouldn't make decisions based on these conclusions (yes, that's my legal disclaimer) but I always find lists like this interesting. So without further ado, the choices included:

  • Three writers: Nelly Bly, Dean Koontz and Mark Twain
  • Two fictional characters: Trixie Belden and Belle Watling 
  • Jesus (chosen twice)
  • Jefferson (chosen twice, but only one person picked Jesus and Jefferson. Mmmm...)
  • Two revolutionaries: Nelson Mandela and Paul Revere (no one picked Gandhi)
  • Archimedes
  • Anthony Bourdain (guess someone must cook)
  • George Carlin (I'm going to this party)
  • Rounding out the guest list: Martha Washington, Mary Boleyn and Elizabeth Taylor

As for me, it varies by mood. Sometimes it would be a family reunion with my maternal grandmother (who I didn't meet) along with a favorite great aunt and great uncle. But on the days I'm feeling particularly snarky, I'd invite Churchill, Machiavelli, and Eleanor of Aquitaine to the table.

How about you? Who would you invite?

21 September 2010

Packing for Mars

I picked up a new book over the weekend that has totally charmed me. Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void, written by Mary Roach (author of Stiff), explores all the weird and mundane stuff that gets left out of the press releases.

Like most authors, Roach begins with a series of questions, then answers them in a wry, but still slightly awed style.

She lets us know that barf bags don't work in zero-gravity conditions (0Gs) and explores at length how the human psyche deals with living for months on end in cramped spaces with people who will eventually irritate you to the point of murder. For the most part, space agencies don't talk about interpersonal relations in space. The official reports omit the fist fights (probably a laugh to watch in 0Gs) and the sex (also probably a riot in 0Gs, but let's not watch).

She also delves into the challenge of actually sending a team of astronauts to Mars. Given that it would be a five-year journey (if not longer) we'd have to assume conflict and coupling. The criteria for facilitating the latter became so complex that one astronaut suggested eunuchs. A joke, I hope.

These travelers must be able to function equally well in times of tedious boredom and imminent catastrophe. They also will become the ultimate authorities on how to reuse, reduce, recycle (filtered urine as drinking water?).

And despite the predicted isolation and stomach-turning beverages, her book stirs the ancient desire in me to travel. Very far.

As a child in the mid-70s, I read everything I could find on Mars, studied the planet, and even wrote NASA to find out what kind of qualifications I'd need to become an astronaut.

NASA wrote back, saying to study math, science, engineering, and then pointed out that only men are astronauts. I was furious. Going to Mars was an item on my bucket list before I knew what a bucket list was. 

Why my fascination with Mars? I don't know. Who can explain why something captures our imagination and becomes a lifelong interest? What causes some people to follow sports with such a fervor they can recites stats for any team in any league while others build model train sets that include entire cities, even the bordello on the wrong side of the tracks?

I suspect these interests have roots in our earliest dreams, relics from the time when all things were possible and imagination and reality hadn't yet become separate in our minds.

It's still good to dream, and though I won't be crossing Go to Mars off my list, Roach's book is providing me with an interesting peak into the world of those who just might make the journey.

18 September 2010

Offended by Rank Objectification of Writers

Disclaimer: This is not mine. I found it by following a link from a friend and it made me laugh, then wince, then look for the hidden camera in my office. 

There is this thing currently going around tumblr about why dating a writer is good. I think it’s nice that this thing is going around, because I like writers, and lots of us could use more dates. As a writer who has dated people, though — including other writers — I would like to offer some correctives to this list.
The items in bold are the alleged reasons to date a writer. I have replaced the original commentary with my bleak corrective, in lightface.
  1. Writers will romance you with words. We probably won’t. We write for ourselves or for money and by the time we’re done we’re sick of it. If we have to write you something there’s a good chance it’ll take us two days and we’ll be really snippy and grumpy about the process.
  2. Writers will write about you. You don’t want this. Trust me.
  3. Writers will take you to interesting events. No. We will not. We are busy writing. Leave us alone about these “interesting events.” I know one person who dates a terrific writer. He goes out alone. She is busy writing.
  4. Writers will remind you that money doesn’t matter so much. Yes. We will do this by borrowing money from you. Constantly.
  5. Writers will acknowledge you and dedicate things to you. A better way to ensure this would be to become an agent. That way you’d actually make money off of talking people through their neuroses.
  6. Writers will offer you an interesting perspective on things. Yes. Constantly. While you’re trying to watch TV or take a shower. You will have to listen to observations all day long, in addition to being asked to read the observations we wrote about when you were at work and unavailable for bothering. It will be almost as annoying as dating a stand-up comedian, except if you don’t find these observations scintillating we will think you’re dumb, instead of uptight.
  7. Writers are smart. The moment you realize this is not true, your relationship with a writer will develop a significant problem.
  8. Writers are really passionate. About writing. Not necessarily about you. Are you writing?
  9. Writers can think through their feelings. So don’t start an argument unless you’re ready for a very, very lengthy explication of our position, our feelings about your position, and what scenes from our recent fiction the whole thing is reminding us of.
  10. Writers enjoy their solitude. So get lost, will you?
  11. Writers are creative. This is why we have such good reasons why you should lend us $300 and/or leave us alone, we’re writing.
  12. Writers wear their hearts on their sleeves. Serious advice: if you meet a writer who’s actually demonstrative, be careful.
  13. Writers will teach you cool new words. This is possibly true! We may also expect you to remember them, correct your grammar, and look pained after reading mundane notes you’ve left for us.
  14. Writers may be able to adjust their schedules for you. Writers may be able to adjust their schedules for writing. Are you writing? Get in line, then.
  15. Writers can find 1000 ways to tell you why they like you. By the 108th you’ll be pretty sure we’re just making them up for fun.
  16. Writers communicate in a bunch of different ways. But mostly writing. Hope you don’t like talking on the phone — that shit is rough.
  17. Writers can work from anywhere. So you might want to pass on that tandem bike rental when you’re on vacation.
  18. Writers are surrounded by interesting people. Every last one of whom is imaginary.
  19. Writers are easy to buy gifts for. This is true. Keep it in mind when your birthday rolls around, okay?
  20. Writers are sexy. No argument. Some people think this about heroin addicts, too.
    (Source: 52hearts)
    Cite Arrow reblogged from douglasmartini

    16 September 2010

    Three things every writer should know

    If you write Romance inevitably you hear: “Why do you write that? You could do better.”

    The implication being that either you’re talentless or happy endings are so unrealistic that no real author would want to write them.

    Personally, I always laugh it off and say, “Well, I started out writing a murder mystery, but then my hero met the heroine.”

    Despite my reply, the implication that writing happy endings somehow requires less talent or effort grates on me like stop-and-go traffic. However, it’s one I’ve had to answer—and will have to answer—throughout my career. As part of my media-training workshop “Meet the Press on Common Ground” I work with authors to help them give the best interviews they can. I also advise participants to be ready to address three key topics:

    1. What do you write?
    2. Why do you write it?
    3. What is your current book about?

    Developing key messages that cover these three areas help you answer the questions smoothly, succinctly and consistently.

    Key topic 1: The first is the theme of your writing. Theme explores timeless ideas, is usually implied rather than stated and should be summed up in a few words, i.e. “duty vs. honor” or “being true to yourself.” Some famous themes:
    • Cinderella: perseverance leads to triumph
    • Beauty and the Beast: things aren’t always what they seem (or don’t judge a book by its cover)
    • Snow White: love triumphs overall
    My theme, which runs through all my works whether contemporary or historical, is free will vs. fate. Does what we are determine what we will become? This plays out in choice and consequences. My characters make all the wrong choices and find themselves on the divide between gain and loss, happiness and heartbreak, with no easy way out.

    Key topic 2:  Although you should never have to defend our genre, you will. I write romance because I like crafting stories that put characters on the divide between happiness and heartache, gain and loss. And it’s this divide—the knowledge that the story could go either way—that makes writing romance so challenging and satisfying.

    Key topic 3: This is the hook for your current story. Hooks should be pithy, memorable and focus on conflict. For example, my current book ENTHRALLED is about a man in love with the most dangerous woman at court—the king’s mistress.

    Whether these questions come from friends or an agent, knowing what you’re going to say beforehand will help you get your points across without losing your poise.

    X-posted at  http://www.caseycrow.com/general/three-things-e…-should-know-2/

    15 September 2010

    Please welcome my guest, Lynda K. Scott

    Hi, everyone. Please join me in welcoming my friend and fellow author Lynda K. Scott.

    My hubby likes to wait until the Very Last Minute to go shopping for birthday or Christmas gifts…which explains why I got a shower head for Christmas one year. Or why I got a can opener for a birthday present some time later. It’s taken him a long time to finally learn that those are not the sorts of gifts one gives to the woman he loves and cherishes, not if he wants to live, at any rate.

    It’s not that I’m all bling-bling (though I do like my sparklies) or high maintenance. I just think a gift should show you know what the recipient likes or would like. It should reflect his or her personality, desires or interests. Which is why I was delighted when hubby gave me The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks for my birthday.

    I can see you scratching your head but stay with me.

    I write science fantasy romance with a few forays into science fiction or fantasy romance or urban fantasy. So The Zombie Survival Guide is, for me, a reference book. There’s lots of good information in there, especially if you encounter, well, zombies. Don’t laugh–I believe I worked with one for several years before the economy went south and we all needed other employment. My daughter claims her first grade teacher was a zombie. I met the woman once. My daughter may have been right.

    Back to the book, it teaches you a lot of fairly good, logical things to do to survive a zombie attack. And it tells you how to avoid becoming a zombie victim (basically, don’t stand and scream like a Hollywood starlet). It shows how to create a bug-out bag (a backpack easily carried that holds items essential for survival. It also explains the necessity of head shots when whacking zombies and why to avoid closed, cramped quarters like sewer lines when trying to evade zombies (a piece of advice I didn’t need).

    The book is actually quite amusing in a grim sort of way.

    That’s the key point for all fiction…to amuse the reader, to entertain and maybe to teach a little something.

    HEARTSTONE, my novel, was written to entertain the reader. That was my goal–to write a love story full of adventure, wondrous places and filtered through human emotion. While there are some science principles in it, I didn’t write it as a science ed book. If it teaches anything, it teaches that Love Is Strong and True.

    And no matter how amusing The Zombie Survival Guide is, it just can’t compete with a good love story.

    Eric d'Ebrur is out of time. He must find the legendary Heartstone and fulfill the ancient Gar'Ja bond he shares with the Stonebearer. But when he finds her, he discovers that love can be more dangerous than the Gawan threat. Eric can defeat the mind-controlling Gawan but will it cost him the woman he loves?

    After terrifying episodes of hypersensitivity, Keriam Norton thinks she's losing her mind. When handsome shapeshifter Eric d'Ebrur saves her from the monstrous Gawan, she's sure of it. But insane or not, she'll find the
    Heartstone and, if she's lucky, a love to last a lifetime.

    HEARTSTONE is available in both print and ebook format. To buy:
    Mundania: http://www.mundania.com/book.php?title=Heartstone (Great News! If you buy Heartstone through the Mundania site, you can use the code LSCOTT10 at checkout and receive a 10% discount on your total
    Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Heartstone-Lynda-K-Scott/dp/1606592335/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1281979082&sr=1-1

    To get or stay in touch with me:

    I’d love you to go to my website and check out the prologue for Heartstone. My editor and I decided that the novel was just fine without it but I thought readers might like to see the scene that originally started the story.

    13 September 2010

    A messy desk is a sign of genius, right?

    Have you ever put something right there and then had it move on you?
    That happened to me this morning--or sometime in the last month. I spent the morning sifting through the wreckage that is my office looking for something. And while I've found a coin purse that I've been seeking, a purple pen that I thought my nephew lost and a now-expired coupon that I needed two weeks ago, I still didn't find the receipt for my allergy medicine so I can get it refilled.
    It moved on me.
    I don't know where it went, but I suspect Florida.
    Of course, I've always heard that a messy desk is a sign of genius. If so, I'm a rocket scientist by the look of my office.
    Typically, I'm a fairly neat housekeeper. I dust and vacuum regularly, don't like clean or dirty clothes piled in the bedroom, and I never use my treadmill as a coat rack. But this cleanliness (obsession, some have called it) doesn't extend to my office. Never has. Probably never will, if I'm honest.
    My filing system is a series of piles--this one for receipts, that one for unread magazines, and this really sloppy one for notes and ideas for books. Books spill off the shelves and pile up on the floor. Pens litter the available surfaces like ants at a picnic and new/half-used notebooks are everywhere else.
    In fact, the recipe for cold fusion could be in this room and corporate spies would never be able to find it. I suppose that is the upside of this mess. I'd know immediately if anyone rifled through my stuff because not even James Bond could go through my desk and put everything back where it goes.
    That's a good thing, isn't it?

    11 September 2010

    A true medieval woman?

    After my disastrous, first five-minute viewing of Pillars of the Earth, I wasn’t sure if I would attempt a second viewing or not. But I did. I’m drawn to the Middle Ages like a passerby to a “do not touch” sign. 

    After fast-forwarding through the burning of the White Ship to placate the history geek in me, I settled onto the couch with a bowl of chocolate-covered blueberries. For those of you without the Starz channel, Pillars of the Earth is an original miniseries based on Ken Follett’s novel of the same name. It tells the story of Prior Phillip fighting seemingly insurmountable odds to build a cathedral while England falls into anarchy around him.

    I haven’t read Follett’s book, so I have no idea how the Starz mini-series compares to it.

    I’ve heard from others that he writes strong women well, and I think that’s apt praise.

    Ellen, the mother of Jack, is not only a strong woman, but also one of the most realistic medieval characters I’ve seen in historical fiction. As fearlessly played by Natalie W├Ârner, Ellen embodied the “flesh” side of the era—as opposed to Prior Phillip who stands in for the “spiritual” side of the era. When she urinates in front of Bishop Waleran to let him know exactly what she thinks of him and his judgments, she came alive to me as a medieval woman.

    A modern woman wouldn't do that.

    Many people forget, or just don’t know, the role urine played in the medieval era. From medicine to making wall plaster to removing lanolin from fleece, urine was a useful part of daily life. So the insult wouldn’t have had the same ew factor for our medieval bishops as it likely did for viewers.

    In my upcoming book, ENTHRALLED, my heroine weaves and she also dyes her own thread. That bit of personal history isn’t relevant to the story, so I didn’t go into the fact that she would’ve used urine not only to clean the wool but also to make the dyes.

    During the era (and prior), urine also was used as a bleaching and tanning agent, as part of medical treatment, including this interesting way to diagnose infertility from The Trotula.

    “If the woman remains barren by fault of the man or herself, it will be perceived in this manner. Take two pots and in each one place wheat bran and put some of the man’s urine in one of them with the bran, and in the other (put) some urine of the woman … and let the pots sit for nine or ten days. If the infertility is the fault of the woman, you will find many worms in her pot and the bran will stink. (You will find the same) in the other (pot) if it is the man’s fault. And if you find this in neither, then in neither is there any defect and they are able to be aided by the benefit of medicine so they might conceive.”

    Even today, some people promote a urine treatment for everything from athletes’ foot to aging facial skin. The idea is interesting but I’ll stick with my creams, thank you.

    03 September 2010

    A bit of bragging...everyone join in.

    For the past couple of weeks, my writing life has felt like I'm slogging uphill, weights tied to my ankles while a hurricane rages and mud splatters up to my knees. I don't feel like I'm writing enough, what I do write feels like dreck and my characters are beginning to sound like two-year-olds: whine, whine, whine.

    But while working on edits yesterday, I tripped over a couple of sentences that reminded me that, yes, I an do this. So I thought I'd share. The set-up: My hero is trying to find his runaway sister, Charlotte, who refuses to come live with him after their parents are killed in a car accident.
    Tipping his head to one side, Nick rolled it slightly, feeling the slight pop of cartilage and bone in his neck. He rolled his head to the other side, then froze, trapped in a memory of his father doing the same. Grief rolled through him, a wave of want and anger that he had no idea how to manage. Bereavement was like Charlotte. He couldn't reason with it, anticipate it, or walk away from it.
    All he could do was not let it rule him. 

    I don't remember writing it, but I'll keep it.

    Because these up and downs are simply part of a writer's life, I'm throwing this blog open to you. Please share a snippet that reminds you that you're a writer. I think we all need to brag a bit every now and then.

    01 September 2010

    Of dormice and dull wars

    Ever have one of those moments when the name of something familiar and common seems just out of reach--and as you flit through your memory banks in hopes of finding it, you pull up every strange fact you ever learned instead?

    Welcome to my world. My brain seems to be stuck on "strange and odd" storage mode. Meanwhile, everyday details elude me.

    This morning, I woke at the unholy hour of 6 a.m. with a burning need to know the name of a movie/restaurant plaza that I've been to a thousand times.




    None of those were right, yet I knew they were close. As I lay there wondering why the name of this place was so important, I ticked through every C word I could think of.




    I do this a lot, mind you. Forget the normal stuff but remember the oddities. Don't chalk this up to my age. It's always been like this. Even as a child, I was a font of obscure information but would have trouble remembering how to spell "have."

    What this means is if you want me to remember your birthday, post it on Facebook or send me a meeting notice. I do good to remember my own most years. But if you want to know how many fountains Kansas City has or what a Seldon Crisis is, just ask.

    After a fruitless, 20-minute search of my brain this morning, I got up and looked online because I really, really, really wanted to go back to sleep. I typed in the name of the movie theatre--and there it was.


    Still with no idea why I needed to know that, I went back to bed...and lay there wondering how it is that I can remember the Roman method for preparing dormice or the outcome of the Toledo War, yet the name of an amped-up strip mall eludes me.

    I never did go back to sleep.

    27 August 2010


    Like many small towns, my hometown has a traditional summer festival that celebrates a unique aspect of American life just for fun. In this case, it's Derby Days, which is always held in August and begins with a parade down Main Street.

    Parade participants are staples of small-town life: The high school band. Little League football players and cheerleaders. The youth soccer association. Churches, businesses and veterans. This year, the armed forces were represented by a small group soldiers from conflicts as far back as World War II and as recent as Afghanistan.

    Whenever I see a group of marching veterans, I always wonder about those not marching.

    Years ago, during an interview for the dedication of a new VFW Post in upstate New York, the topic turned to post traumatic stress disorder. "We didn't have a name for it," a WWII veteran said then (I'm paraphrasing) "but we all knew we weren't the same. We talked to each other."

    But not everyone talked about it. My great-uncle Powell Henry was drafted into World War II. Because he'd been studying to be a doctor, he served as a medic, both in Europe and Asia. Although he was physically unharmed, he wasn't the same man after the war. When he came home, he put away his med kit, hid his medals and never told his stories. He lived on the family farm, growing tobacco, until his death in 1989.

    In my studies and research for medieval romances, I've never come across an individual knight's reflections on war. In fact, I've not come across an individual's reflection on anything. However, drawing on more modern experiences, I assume the Crusaders (at least some of them) returned home different men. After all, how much can "being human" have changed in a thousand years?

    The truth is I have no idea whether 12th century knights were changed by war or if they ever sat around the hearth and discussed it with fellow veterans. I make it so in my WIP, but I can do that because it's fiction. 

    How about you? As an historical author or reader, do you think war has always changed those who fought?