The Quirky Ladies is a group of eclectic (and dare I say quirky?) ladies who are passionate about writing romantic fiction. All types of romantic fiction...paranormal, fantasy, historical, erotic and contemporary. Bring it on!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Secondary Characters--They're too damn fun!

The other day Dalton blogged about her stuck hero, his frustrating silence and the breakthrough they achieved together in the chiropractor's office. I commiserated, believe me. My protagonists like to torture me, refusing to develop in the nice character arcs I'd imagined when I faithfully explored and defined their GMC's and envisioned their penultimate evolution following the most terrible of black moments. (Yes, I'm a plotter, though discovering every day I'm less of one than I thought. But that's for another blog.) So it's a true pleasure and often titillatingly fun to slog through the sometime dungeonlike torture of writing these main characters and arrive at the easy flow of secondary characters.

Secondary characters. My fingers fly on the keyboards giving them witty lines, playing with outrageous personalities, alluding to their own weighty baggage that I'm not responsible for resolving in the story. They offer up so many possibilities and I don't have to deliver on them. At least not right away. They're easy. I can have fun with no nagging worry. Or so I believed.

I'm a series writer. I love books featuring the same hero and heroine working their way toward achieving some ultimate goal or resolution. It's the urban fantasy model, or that's how I look at it. That means I've created a whole host of alluring secondary characters that must appear in book after book and whose own GMC's (which I created as spur of the moment delightfully fun exercises) now have to be realized without taking too much time away from my main protagonists' stories. This is in contrast to many other talented authors who write series with great secondary characters, each installment featuring a different set of heroes and heroines from the same world building cohort (think Suzanne Brockmann for instance). The secondary characters in one book all get to have their time on center stage in another. Unfortunately, with my model I have to deliver satisfaction to my readers without allowing these supporting personalities to be featured in their own tales. What was I thinking?

I know what I was thinking--this is fun. In the end it's a challenge I enjoy. Will I keep up the habit? Probably. Will it drive me crazy in new ways aside from the torture from my main characters? Most likely. But I've fallen in love with Tarn and Sebastian, Qest and Christian, Del, Shiv and Morgana. Maybe someday, once I'm published, you'll be lucky enough to fall in love with them too.

In the meantime, here's a toast to secondary characters and the smiles they bring to our faces. Bottoms up!


Writing is like shoveling snow!

So after shoveling for what may be the tenth time in a month, I’ve decided that writing is like shoveling snow.

Sometimes, the snow is fluffy, light – it sparkles like fairy dust. The bright sun kisses your face as you inhale clean, crisp air, your body moves with ease and grace as you lift the snow from one spot to another, going about your work with purpose. Other times, it’s soggy, heavy, messy, and each move you make is a major chore. Every time you lift the shovel, the snow feels like you are moving a mountain one rock at a time.

Over the years, I’ve found my writing can follow much the same pattern. There are days when I can write for hours, the words pour out of me like music flowing from a secret symphony only writers can hear, but few understand. My mind, my heart, my body soar in unison as I attempt to bring my characters and my story to life. I can write chapters at a time, thousands and thousands of words.

And then, there is that other kind of day. I struggle with every word, the page before me taunting me. Hours go by and I manage only to string a page or two of words together and I’m not happy with any of them. Again, the pages mock me; remind me of all the other things I should be doing other than writing; all my insecurities churning inside me, chipping away at my resolve to continue.

But…then I remind myself. If I write a paragraph, a page, a chapter or a whole manuscript, I’m writing. And, as all writers know that’s the whole point. Whether it’s fifteen minutes a day, two hours a night after all the chores are done, or a glorious all day writing extravaganza, writing feeds my soul, writing is an essential part of who I am, so any writing is meaningful writing.

No one said it would be easy. In fact, if it was so easy everyone would do it. Simply put, it’s the difficulties and disappointments we go through as we move along this writing journey that make the special moments so poignant and the successes so joyous. So pick up your pen or start typing at your keyboard….and write.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Silent Hero

Paulo spoke to me today.

It's been awhile since he's truly let his feelings be known, even though I repeatedly ask him and sit there, finger tapping on the keypad, waiting for more than a word or two.

"Don't you love the heroine?"


"Don't you want the heroine?"


"How much do you love her and want her, Paulo? You're going to have to do better than that."


This has been our conversation for weeks now. I know what the problem is; I don't have any experience writing a hero for a short story. I'm used to having time to get to know the characters inside and out, and that just isn't the case here. But I can't let that stop me. This is a fantastic learning experience, so every day I set the heroine up in a new light and I ask Paulo what he is thinking.

Today, Paulo spoke to me. He chose the perfect moment, as any man would. I was face down on the chiropractor's table, covered in heating pads. No paper, no pen, and I have the short term memory capabilities of that forgetful fish in Finding Nemo.

"But I am ready," Paulo argued. "Is this not what you have wanted? The woman of my dreams is posing nude for me, and I know now that I love her. I wish to tell her and show her using every adjective and verb in the dictionary. Except 'gifting her with my purple-headed throbbing tumescence'. If you use that, I am going back to Italy and never showing my face in America again."

There was only one thing I could say. "Si."

Then I took the heating pads off, walked over to the counter, and started writing everything else Paulo had to say on the chiropractor's sticky notepad. The doc came in while I was flipping to the 3rd sheet, but she didn't say a word. She's known me for ten years. I finished up there and came home, finally got to flip on my laptop, and began to type from my notes.

Paulo spoke to me today, and it felt damned good.

Penelope's Romance Reviews

Romance lovers, there's a new reviewer in town...and her name is Penelope. Check out Penelope's romance blog for her "not so humble opinion" on the latest offerings of your favorite romance authors. She would love to hear from you!

No, really, I'm going to blog. I mean it.

This blog is turning into something of an epic undertaking for me. I'm sure when it's done, it won't look like much more than the usual sort of blog, but honestly, the distance I've traveled to get to this point is ridiculous.

I started my first blog, a veritable sonnet to how happy I was not to spend this past weekend shoveling, while I was at work. Yes, at work, in my office, doing something they most certainly do NOT pay me to do. Don't tell, okay? So anyway, I'm sitting there, waxing poetic about the 12 inches of fluffy white powder that didn't fall on Saturday (but apparently will again soon) when my boss comes in and sits down to talk. Ugh. I minimized the screen quickly, and he didn't see anything, but by the time he was done talking, it's safe to say I'd lost my mojo.

And like a fool, I exited without saving.

Fast forward to later on in the afternoon, when I tried to get my blog on once more. This time, my commentary was driven entirely by a bizarre conversation I'd just had with my husband about his parents. I know all in-laws are weird, but seriously, mine are in a league reserved for the very most special people. It was a good article, a dang funny blog, the general contents of which will no doubt make it onto your screen at some point, but then I ran out of time, had a meeting and I had to shut down to take my laptop with me to present and, well...

Like a fool, I exited without saving.

Fast forward again to when I get home after a long day of work - because contrary to the opinion you've no doubt formed about me and my blogging issues at work, I actually did spend a great deal of time working hard. Before I can get home, though, I go to a friend's house to visit for 45 minutes with my architect (there is a blog subject there, too) after which I get to my house just in time to feed my son and get him to bed and read him a story and soothe him goodnight and and and... Finally, I sit down at my computer, start to type, and do that super-freak thing where I hit just the WRONG two keys at the same time and my browser goes back a page, thus blowing away my entire blog entry on the importance of achieving work-life balance.

Honestly, there was a moment where I couldn't decide if I was going to laugh or cry. Fortunately, laughter won out, but only because my husband was giving me that 'oh dear God, she's going to lose it - grab the baby and run!' look and I was feeling contrary enough to not let him be right.

In case you're wondering, I have learned my lesson. I've been hitting save periodically throughout this entire writing process. There is some famous quote about insane people doing the same thing three times and expecting a different result. I don't want to be that person.

So that's it. That's all I'm going to blog about today - blogging. Wikipedia (the source of all truths on the internet) defines the blog as a Web site, usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video.

By this definition, I now count myself a blogger. Woo hoo!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Writer's Journey

Okay, so I received another rejection letter for my submission of a historical novel.  After the proverbial punch to the gut passed, I realized I was fine with it.  Unlike a standard form letter, the editor took the time to give me positive feedback about my work.  Her words encouraged me, softening the edges of my initial disappointment.  Of course, rationalizations will get you everywhere.  However, Confucius says, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step," and that is how I view this writing process, as a journey.
The road can be a long, winding, uphill battle.  Sometimes I fly along, the creative juices flow, while the miles breeze by and the pages turn.  I see 'the end' just over the horizon.  Other times, the ideas dry up, I'm out of gas, and I grind to a halt.  This all comprises the writer's journey. But as long as I'm enjoying the ride, I will continue and I am.
Why wouldn't I?  I have my characters to keep me company.  They often take the lead, surprising and delighting me with the unexpected turns they choose to take -- whether I plan for these detours or not.  My story brings me to different time periods and on exciting adventures.  In writing historical novels, I also pick up fascinating tidbits along the research route. Just the other day, one of my critique partners shared with me the origins of the expression "cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey." Great stuff.
Through joining writing groups, attending conferences and workshops, I have met wonderful people and formed lasting friendships along the way. These women share similar interests and experiences.  They can relate to characters talking in their heads, jotting down ideas in the middle of the night, or struggling to drive and write at the same time.  They also understand the many hours spent holed up alone, immersed in another world, and the annoyance of reality snapping you back to the present.
Writing is a journey.  I may not reach my destination today or tomorrow, but as along as I can enjoy the ride, I'm on board for the whole trip.

Monday, January 19, 2009

2009 Let Your Imagination Take Flight Conference

On behalf of the New England Chapter RWA, the 2009 NEC Conference Committee is happy to invite you to register for our 2009 Let Your Imagination Take Flight Conference.  The conference will take place March 27-28, 2009, at the Sheraton Tara in Framingham, MA.  The Quirky Ladies own Tara Holt is the conference chair this year!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Klaus Boys Will Not Be Denied

Are you one of those people who drag your battered, tinsel-strewn Christmas tree out to the curb at the break of dawn on December 26? Celebrate Boxing Day by flinging all of your family heirloom decorations into the basement? Stuff the dilapidated gingerbread house into the garbage and breathe a huge sigh of relief?

Well, I am.  As much as I love the holidays, I can't wait to start fresh for the New Year.  There's nothing like a clean slate.

Now just imagine that you're a writer, and your write about...Santa Claus. And the North Pole. And elves and magik and romance (of course), but imagine that this seasonal topic obsesses your creative mind twelve months of the year. When the spring bulbs are in bloom, the sultry heat of summer beckons, and the crisp crunch of autumn ushers in apple-picking season, you are still writing about Christmas.

At the end of December 2008, I finally hit my limit.  After finishing my first book, Sweet Inspiration, I was struggling to start book two of my five part series about the Klaus brothers (yes, those Klaus brothers).  I hated my characters, the elves were taking over the story, and the manuscript was strewn with profanities (the elves tend to get a little bit rambunctious).  I decided to try my hand at historical romance.  An idea for a story was bobbling around in my head for quite a while and I figure I could give it a go.  So I made peace with my decision to temporarily shelve the Klaus brothers.  This decision was a reasonable, rational, market-savvy choice.

And then I took the kids for haircuts yesterday, and while I was waiting I picked up a travel magazine.  Inside was an article about Greenland.  A two page photograph of a snowy landscape caught my attention.  This photo was literally sucked me into the page.  I could feel the bitter cold, hear the howl of the wind, suffer in the isolation, and marvel at the beauty of the sun glistening on the ice.  And before I had a chance to analyze my thought process, I became Andi, intrepid newspaper journalist, searching for Sven Klaus and the truth about Klaus Enterprises, lost in a relentless snow storm in a landscape just as bleak and beautiful as the one I was viewing.  I got that jolt of excitement when a story pops into your head, and you start brainstorming and can't stop.  And I knew then that I wasn't yet done with the Klaus boys. Even if the decision isn't quite rational, marketable, and maybe a tad outside of the proverbial romance box.  But I rationalized to myself, as I started to flesh out this new story, that maybe it's not so bad to have a little Christmas spirit 365 days a year. So, here I go again....