Tilting At Windmills

Sanity is a slippery slope at times. We all know this. We’ve all fought our share of four armed giants and lost. None of us as innocent as when we started out. Certainly, as supporters of the romance genre, whether as reader or writer, we’ve defended against countless giants in the form of cynics and naysayers. Some might say we are the Don Quixote of the literary world. The laughingstock. The discounted. The delusional.

Romantic ideals don’t put food on the table. No matter the ideal is food for the mind. Reality must be dealt with. But how we deal with it is up to us.

man of la manchaI saw Man of La Mancha at Globe Theatre last night. Can you tell? In case, like me, you’re unfamiliar, it’s a play within a play. Tax collector, writer, soldier, and unfortunate poet, Miguel de Cervantes, is tossed into prison and is waiting his hearing by the Spanish Inquisition. First, however, he must defend himself against his follow prisoners to save his most precious possession. His unfinished novel, Don Quixote. The trials and tribulations of a mad knight.

Don Quixote is a lot bonkers. He’s read too many books about chivalry and knights and romance. Poor sot. Determined to resurrect the notion of chivalry, he sets out on a journey.

I shall impersonate a man. His name is Alonso Quijana, a country squire no longer young. Being retired, he has much time for books. He studies them from morn till night and often through the night and morn again, and all he reads oppresses him; fills him with indignation at man’s murderous ways toward man. He ponders the problem of how to make better a world where evil brings profit and virtue none at all; where fraud and deceit are mingled with truth and sincerity. He broods and broods and broods and broods and finally his brains dry up. He lays down the melancholy burden of sanity and conceives the strangest project ever imagined…. to become a knight-errant, and sally forth into the world in search of adventures; to mount a crusade; to raise up the weak and those in need. No longer will he be plain Alonso Quijana, but a dauntless knight known as Don Quixote de La Mancha. – Miguel de Cervantes, Man of La Mancha

Yeah, there are days I’d like to lay down the melancholy burden of sanity too. Then again, I am a romance writer and reader. So…there you go. Fortunately, I haven’t read so many romance novels my brains have dried up. Or given me unrealistic expectations, a familiar taunt and most insulting insinuation by the way.

Here’s the thing. You know he’s nuts. But…you can’t help but root for him, even if there’s a little pity mixed in. He sees the world, not how it is, but how he wishes. In this age of text messages and the illusion of 750 Facebook friends, why not dip your toe into the pool of delusion. Not as a full time job, of course.

I come in a world of iron to make a world of gold.- Don Quixote, Man of La Mancha

I loved this play. It inspired me to think and wonder. I’m not quite sure I understood it all, but that only makes me want to see it performed again. Because, you see, I couldn’t help but relate to Don Quixote. And that’s the thing about this play. There’s a little Don Quixote in all of us. Reality can break a person. Therefore, we must bend it a little to suit ourselves.

Which loops me back to romance. Romantic fiction is necessary. Stories filled with sole purpose of traveling the winding, uphill road to a happily-ever-after are important.When reality presses in, pick up a romance novel. Immerse yourself in modern acts of chivalry. Spend some times with heroes or heroines who you know will fight to figure it out. Let them inspire you. Give you a few precious moments of peace. Of adventure. Turn the pages, dream the impossible dream. At least for awhile.

When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams — this may be madness. To seek treasure where there is only trash. Too much sanity may be madness — and maddest of all: to see life as it is, and not as it should be!  – Miguel de Cervantes, Man of La Mancha

If you get a chance to see Man of La Mancha I hope you take it. I hope it inspires you. I hope it brings out the Don Quixote in you, my fellow travelers.

 

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Baton Blog Hop

I’ve been invited to the Baton Blog Hop by JB Lynn, who writes laugh-out-loud suspense and mysteries, along with goosebump-raising thrillers. Sounds good, eh?  The extra great news is she usually has a contest running and now is no different so check out her Contest Page and enter to win!

Time to answer a few questions!

1) What am I working on?

I’m working on my second Aspen Lake novel. Life is small town Aspen Lake is heating up again, on the streets and between the sheets. Kate Logan, boutique owner, is fighting to get her life back on track. Seth Stone, starving artist and carpenter, is leaving reality behind to start again. But when a extremist religious group move to Aspen Lake and make it their mission to shut down the annual Gothic Revival Festival Kate is organizing, trouble brings them together.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I guess it differs because it’s my voice telling the story. Hopefully, what you’ll find is everyday men and women who don’t have all the answers and are looking to find their place in the world. Along the way they find their happily-ever-after. Also, Aspen Lake is a small town in the province of Saskatchewan, Canada. Not many of those around, LOL.

3) Why do I write what I do?

I write romantic suspense because that’s what I love to read. I love torturing my characters. I love strong male leads, and smart female heroines. But I also love a good villain. I not sure what that says about me…

4) How does your writing process work?

Gosh, it’s all over the place. I fit it in when I can, but I try to write everyday. Therefore, I write in chunks. My writing groups holds three or four writing challenges a year. I love those and writing long side and being inspired by writers I admire.

Passing the baton.

Meet Elizabeth Lang, who I have privilege of knowing! Elizabeth is a science fiction and fantasy writer and author of The Empire series. Lucky you, you can check out some free stories and other things here.

Happy Reading Everyone!

 

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Latvia? Where it that again?

I love the Olympics! Even though I’m not a huge sports fan, there’s just something about these games. It’s…well, the Olympics. Anything is possible. There are plenty of magical moments.

There is inspiration to be found in the determination, dedication, and spirit of each competitor, whether they make it to the podium or not.

Here in Canada, we take our hockey seriously. VERY seriously. To lose out in the semis would be devastating. Kind of like it was for Russia yesterday, only that was worse…because hometown losses suck worse than others obviously. Like we almost did to Latvia. Because where is that again? Oh yeah, at the corner of Russia and Lithuania.

Yesterday their twenty-one year old back-up goalie, Kristers Gudlevskis, proved he could take on a team of NHL veterans and almost, but not quite thank you, God, shut them down. Although, the rest of his team did have something to do with it. He stopped 55 out of 57 shots. That’s, like, incredible. He’s Tampa Bay Lightening draft and plays on their farm team. Um…I think that’s about to change. He’s probably already filming a Visa commercial.

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He left it all out there as the cliche goes. Every drop of everything he had. This kid deserves Latvia’s version of a medal of honour. He certainly deserves our respect.

Greatness. It’s all around us. In every nook and cranny. Waiting to inspire us.

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Off The Grid Postcards!

I love them! Thank you Elizabeth Lang for doing up these wonderful postcards!

Off the Grid postcard 1Off the Grid postcard 2Off the Grid postcard 3They’re so pretty I had to share. These are my favorite type of promotional items, along with bookmarks. A reader can always use more bookmarks, right? What do you think? Do like seeing postcards with quotes from books on Facebook, blogs, etc? Do they peak your interest? Tempt you to investigate further? Share your thoughts on promotional items?

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A Moratorium on Man Boob Book Covers

Romance heroes are a sight to behold. We get it. Don’t get me wrong, I like to look at nice pair of man boobs as much as the next person but could we please, please call a moratorium. The other day on Facebook I saw some promotion for a lovely heartwarming Christmas romance. It pictured a house out in the country, snow everywhere. A real snow globe moment. With a fence and a cowboy lounging against it, no coat, open shirt, man boobs on display. In the winter.

Brings new meaning to freezing your nipples off.

I mean, come one book publishers. Wake up. No one in their right minds would ever–okay football fans but they’re the exception– be outside in winter without a shirt. Not even romance heroes. Because they’re smarter than that. Hopefully. Or else I’m putting that book down and never returning.

There was another cover. This one with a huge storm brewing in the background. Dark, heavy clouds ready to break open any moment and rain down a heap of trouble. Another cowboy. Hat, jeans, nice belt buckle, oh wait – NO SHIRT. Out on the open plain waiting to get struck by lightning.

You can tell they weren’t boy scouts. They aren’t prepared. They didn’t even know enough to wear a shirt. Let alone a coat. They did have the hat part covered so I suppose they should get points for something. Or maybe those points should go to the powers that be deciding on what book covers will sell the most books.

I’ve noticed a couple of times lately, authors on Facebook asking opinions about covers or asking readers to vote on the one they prefer. I like that idea. Let’s do more of that. Then maybe publishers will get a better idea of what readers are looking for in book covers. Sexy people with their clothes on, especially during winter or a storm. Readers can see them undressed, in all their glory, later on. Inside the book, using their imaginations.

I love sexy covers. But I also don’t want a stockpile of naked man chests in my TBR pile. Whether it’s my ereader or the literal pile on my nightstand. I like the book covers with landscapes. I also seem to be drawn to ones that are black and white. or have objects significant to the story.

So I went to my Facebook page in search of a cover without a half-naked someone on the cover. I scrolled down and down, until I gave up.

So how about you? Had enough of man boobs on covers? What to see a different type of cover? Do you have a favorite book cover?

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Ready, Set, Write!

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Today it’s all about the ghosts and goblins but National Novel Writing Month starts tomorrow. And that’s all about the writing.

nanowrimo

November is also about mustaches and raising money for a good cause.

kim coatesAnd that’s a random picture of Kim Coates who plays Tig on the TV show Sons of Anarchy which I love and don’t know why. He sports some pretty awesome facial hair. Anyway…

I’ve never written a story about a guy with a ‘tache. But I’m writing a story about a guy with a Dodge Demon he calls Veronica.

dodge demonHe’s into grunge rock and wood carving.

travisfimmel1And he’s falling for Kate. Who lives in this tiny apartment above her boutique.

Kate's Apartment4So while I won’t be doing NaNoWriMo, I will be writing. I’ll be participating in a writing challenge along with other members of my writing peeps, The Saskatchewan Romance Writers. They’re an awesome bunch. And November is the perfect time to get some writing in before all the Christmas festivities start. Although I’m Canadian and therefore have already celebrated Thanksgiving. Some of you will have to write and cook a turkey.

When Kate Meets Seth…

Kate’s quick scan started at his scarred work boots, past cargo pants with more pockets then she had good intentions, she lifted a brow, and not in favor, at his Pearl Jam t-shirt. Great hair. Six feet plus in height. His stance made it clear he didn’t give a crap about any of it which added a little bit of wild to the Mr. Long and Broad look he had going on. Her fingers twitched. That made her nervous. And nervous didn’t project the right image.

“Can I help you?” She plunged into the Kate Logan act. Relished the comfort of the fit. The shaky Kate disappeared behind a raised brow and the strut that had made her famous.

My second Aspen Lake novel is taking shape. Happy writing, Everyone!

 

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A Sneak Introduction to Off The Grid, My Next Endeavor

Well, my edits are back in the hands of my lovely editor. I have a feeling Off The Grid is this close to preliminary gallery territory. Yay! I’m so excited about this story. Besides creating (hopefully) engaging characters, I loved exploring the widening gap between the rich and the poor in this one. Off The Grid takes place in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, which has long been dubbed Canada’s poorest postal code. My heroine, Dr. Sophie Monroe, is a Doctor for a Downtown Eastside clinic and an activist. Caleb Quinn is a Family Law lawyer, ranked one of Canada’s Top Lawyers Under 40.

Working Blurb for Off The Grid

A committed doctor to Vancouver’s inner city, nothing fazes Sophie Monroe. Until a pregnant teenager shows up at her clinic on Christmas Eve requesting sanctuary and claiming the baby’s father is one of the city’s most influential businessmen. One who has threatened to do whatever it takes to safeguard his reputation. Sophie is in over her head and thankful when aid shows up in the form of an attorney who’s a little too confident and a lot too sexy.  

All Family Law expert Caleb Quinn wants is a date. One chance to prove he isn’t the elitist jerk Sophie assumes. Helping deliver a baby is not what he has in mind. But before long protecting a traumatized teenage mother and her son become his first priority. Even if saving them pits him against the baby’s father, a childhood friend. A man who will do anything to keep his dark side private.

But justice never comes cheap. Will doing the right thing cost Sophie and Caleb their reputations? Or their lives? 

The First Paragraph

Dr. Sophie Monroe lifted her face to the cold sting of falling snow. The flakes cooled her heated cheeks. Their fresh scent cleansed her mind of the day’s battles. On the ground it covered the everyday debris of crack vials and castoff condoms. Litter from the urgent business dealings conducted in the shadowed alley behind her clinic. In the waning light of the gathering storm she studied the dark doorways relieved to find them empty.

A Look At Who Inspired The Leading Characters

I feel bad that I don’t know the name of the gorgeous guy from The Bay flyer. I was struggling finding a real life image of the hero in my head but the minute I saw this flyer I knew.

Diable CodyThis is Diablo Cody who, among many other accomplishments, wrote the screenplay for Juno.

There you have it. I was getting too excited not to share. Can’t wait to share more, like cover reveals and release dates! Here’s to surviving Monday and the last days of summer.

 

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Emotional Force and Donald Maass with a Cameo from Steve

Josh's 19th and Donald Maass 003This last weekend I attended a Donald Maass workshop. To say I was excited about meeting him, but also learning about his writing philosophies, is putting it mildly. A one day workshop for which two other writers and I traveled from one province to another for a total of eight hours of driving each way. Also, the members of the Calgary Association of the Romance Writers of America (CaRWA) rock! They were friendly and open and picked the most beautiful spot to host a writing workshop. We spent the day at the foot of the Rocky Mountains with the sun shining and the scent of cedar in the air.

No doubt, the man is inspiring. My head is full of ideas and a new or reinforced way of looking at character.

But the drive there, the time spent discussing writing with three other writing buddies, was also full of awesomeness. If laughing takes years off your life, I definitely lengthened my lifespan. Note: It’s hard to drive when you’re laughing so hard you’re crying. OMGosh. Also, what are three writers unconcerned about while driving to a Donald Maass writing workshop? How much gas is in the gas tank. Sheesh. We coasted into a acreage just off the highway hoping for a miracle. Thank goodness for Everyday Heroes like Steve, who gave us his last litre of premium gas. He also offered to rescue us if that last bit of gas was not enough to get us to the next gas station.

A Tiny Look Into a Donald Maass Workshop

This workshop was based on Maass’s latest craft book, Writing 21st Century Fiction, High Impact Techniques For Exceptional Storytelling. In it he shares his thoughts on the future of fiction, genre fiction in particular which he suggests is dying. That the New York Times stats suggest newer genre transcending novels, such as The Help and Water For Elephants are enjoying far more than their share of weeks on the list. Genre fiction appears there but for far shorter amounts of time. One to four weeks versus 60 weeks or longer. The reason? There are a few of them but one of them is:

The Emotional Impact of Captivating Characters

We spent a fair bit of time learning about creating captivating characters. Okay, most of the day. Indeed, the very first thing we had to do was identify the feeling we were most afraid to put down on paper. The idea is to tap into deep emotion and create from there. Then we had to think of a spot to inject this feeling into our main character. Also  the concept of conflicting wants within a character.

He used the example of a college student writing final exams. You are reaching your goal, on the cusp of getting that degree you’ve struggled and worked hard for. Are you excited about all the study and work that has to go into writing these final tests? No. You’d rather be anywhere else then taking those final steps. Simplistic example, yes. But you get the idea.

There should be a war going on inside your character. What do they want most? What is the cost of getting it? If you’re familiar with Maass’s WTBN Workbook you’re familiar with his ideas on conflicting desires or feelings. On inner conflict. Tension of Every Page. In Writing 21st Century Fiction he spends a lot of time on: micro-tension.

My notes on writing emotionally:

  • skip expected emotional experience
  • don’t write what we think we should
  • stir readers’ hearts by being utterly and completely honest
  • wake them up
  • grab them in a personal way by being true

The only way to do this is to write from a personal place. To take experiences of extreme emotion and apply them to our writing. Do not write safe. This way readers will not get what they expect but what is true and comes from a deeply personal and conflicted internal space. Write personally and make heart to heart connections. Answer the hard questions. Even if, or especially if, it casts a harsh light on the main character.

To have the greatest emotional impact you have to get out of your own way. Use feelings of shame and fear. Tap into insecurities. Figure out a character’s deepest, darkest secret. This is why we wrote down the place we were most afraid to go in our stories. You don’t want to go there? Too bad. You need to be able to take your characters there in an authentic and true way. You need to be able to create an intense emotional landscape for your characters. You need to be able to write that into a character’s inner journey.

Don’t worry I’m not going to ask you to reveal your greatest fears but to simply say if you have a chance to attend a workshop by Donald Maass take it. However, feel free to share the names of books you’ve read lately that transcend genre? That move past the  literary typecasting of dull and depressing?

I’ll share mine: Before You Go To Sleep by SJ Watson.

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Day of Pink

 

day of pink

Another reason to wear pink. Today is the International Day against Bullying, Discrimination, Homophobia and Transphobia in schools and communities.

With ignorance comes fear – from fear comes bigotry. Education is the key to acceptance.” –Kathleen Patel

Bullying builds character like nuclear waste creates superheroes. It’s a rare occurrence and often does much more damage than endowment.” – Zack W. Van

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Because I loved him then and I love him now.

I don’t know how much the reading of quotes will help a person suffering the immediate trauma of be bullied in the now. But it makes me feel proactive by posting my thoughts. As someone who never quite fit into the (very) small hometown I grew up in, I’ve suffered the displeasure of people who never knew quite how to take me or what to do with me. And the need of certain people to put me down in order to build themselves up. Power taken anyway they could get it. We didn’t call it bullying in the ’70’s. They called me sensitive.

All I can say is Thank you, God! for books. They kept me sane until I found a place and friends that accepted me for who I was. Loud, girly, and always ready to offer an opinion.

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A Little Wine and Cheese

I love cheesy movies. I don’t need to tell you that wine goes good with cheese. Everyone’s already aware. But if you’re looking for a recommendation try Wonderwall, a lovely Shiraz out of Australia. Delightful. Now, onto the cheese. I could also add an addendum here about falling for Alan Rickman. Because my pick for best cheesiest feel good movie ever is Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves. With Kevin Costner. I never got tired of watching it. There’s something about prowess with a bow and arrows that is very appealing.

Maybe I have tree house envy. For an exiled group of outlaws, they built an incredible fortress in Sherwood Forest without access to anything. Like a Home Depot. Or Lowe’s. Or nails. And they way they got the blacksmithy up and going and manufactured all those swords was nothing short of a miracle.

And then there’s my love for Alan Rickman. See how I tied that all in together? And also because Robin Hood is one of my favorite stories. I also loved the recent Russell Crowe version. But that’s another blog post. Which I wrote but can’t find.

Let’s start with the Sheriff of Nottingham, should we?

“That’s it then. Cancel the kitchen scraps for lepers and orphans, no more merciful beheadings, and call off Christmas.”

 

Yep, he’s a badass. In the best, cheesiest way possible.

We won’t get into Kevin Costner’s sometimes-it’s-there-and-sometimes-it’s-not accent. He’s still adorable as Robin Hood.

I’ve seen knights in armor panic at the first hint of battle. And I’ve seen the lowliest, unarmed squire pull a spear from his own body, to defend a dying horse. Nobility is not a birthright. It’s defined by one’s actions.

I swoon in the face of such clarity of thought. For a member of the aristocracy he’s quite liberal in his thinking. I guess fighting with King Richard all those many years and then escaping as a prisoner of war gives one perspective.

And let’s not forget his I would die for you line. More sighing ensues.

Then there’s Morgan Freeman. Whom I love. Because he’s Morgan Freeman. And he has that excellent voice. He could be reading instructions from a shampoo bottle and I’d still listen.

A wise man once said: “There are no perfect men in the world; only perfect intentions.”

I mean, come on!

Are you with me? Or do you have your own pick for best, cheesiest movie ever?

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