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!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Quirky Bit O' Fashion

There are plenty of celebrities rocking a quirky style. Rihanna's kooky red hair. Johnny Depps' blue glasses and fedora. Lady Gaga's meat dress. But my favorite is Helena Bonham Carter. She always looks like she just escaped from a wind tunnel. When asked recently about her innovative style of dressing, she responded "For me, fashion is all about fantasy and putting unlikely things together. That's what I love." Her outfit at the 2011 Golden Globes is typical. It's a Vivienne Westwood dress and mismatched shoes. Red and green...maybe it's for Christmas!

This ensemble is wicked witch meets housefrau meets old Jewish guy (socks and cardigan). Love it!

This is shoes with hunks of satin and a chenille snake? I'm not sure. Oh yeah, and some rags in her hair. 

Well, I'm not sure if Helena won a Golden Globe. But I'm nominating her for Quirkiest Celebrity Dresser of the week. Congrats!

Happy Friday,

Sunday, January 23, 2011

People Watching - An Essential Tool in a Writer's Toolkit

People watching has always been one of my favorite things to do. Observing human behavior can be amusing, confounding, poignant, even irritating. A simple smile or touch, an act of kindness no one else notices (seemingly), or an act of bonehead proportions that makes me realize my friend Joe is right - half the world are jerks. Time for me to put my favorite pair of rose-colored glasses back on, but I digress.

After a lot of thought (I'm a Libra, we weigh all our options forever until ready to take any plunge), I have decided I will likely (see how my scales are still balancing there) purchase a condo or small house this year. I saw five properties in one day. On this rapid fire Sunday everyone I met brought me back to my favorite part of people watching, it's always grist for the mill of character development.

People watching can be so illuminating, especially when you are plotting your current WIP and working on character sketches. This weekend while looking at various properties, I felt like an actor doing Improv. Going from property to property, meeting real estate after real estate agent, reminded me that there are so many different types of people in this world, many of whom do the same job, but approach it from so many varied directions.

There was the long-term real estate agent that scuffed at a neophyte such as myself, forcing me to get my game on and ask real questions so at least I would know what I was doing at the next property I saw.

There was the geeky agent with a nervous laugh, who couldn't look me in the eye, but admitted he was the owner's cousin and they were just throwing him a bone. Even though I knew the property wasn't for me, I still took his card. I guess I threw him a bone too.

There was the bewildered agent struggling to unload an undesirable property, doing her best to keep herself interested, while trying to get me to want to buy it. I stayed for 20 minutes because she reminded me one of my aunts, and I felt bad she had to waste her Sunday in a home that will be on the market for months, I'm sure, since it was over-priced, falling apart and came with creepy neighbors peering through windows to see what was going on next door.

There was the pushy agent who swore he had so many potential buyers that unless I gave him a check today to hold the property, had 20 percent to put down and could move in February, I was wasting his time. I made him show me three condo options. Yes, I did waste his time, not because I couldn't afford the property, but because I would never buy anything from him.

Then at the last property, which I almost didn't bother with because I was tired, I found a real potential property of interest, and a real estate agent who was kind, thoughtful and really wanted to make sure I find the right place for me. She had six other buyers she was showing the property to at the same time, yet found a way to make us all feel welcome. Regardless of what happens with the property I saw, this very nice lady is now my real estate agent.

As writers, we spend a lot of time in our heads. We are all borderline schizophrenics if we are really honest about it - after all, multiple people talk to each other and have whole lives inside our heads. Observing our own behavior, and the behavior of the people we meet is a great way to add nuances to our characters, so they remain as alive in our heads and hearts as they are to our readers on the written page.

Happy People Watching!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Quirky Bit O' News

Here's a quirky bit o' news for the week....hee hee! I love this! From Germany.....

"An owl that had evidently drunk too much Schnapps from two discarded bottles was so inebriated that it got picked up by police. The bird will be released once it has sobered up.

'A woman walking her dog alerted police after seeing the bird sitting by the side of the road oblivious to passing traffic,' Frank Otruba, spokesman for the police in the southwestern city of Pforzheim, told SPIEGEL ONLINE." (From Spiegel Online International).

The owl was not subjected to a breathalyzer, but one of its eyelids was drooping!

I hope the owl enjoyed the Schnapps.

Happy Week,

P.S. Please don't forget to vote for Sam's review at The Romance Studio. Voting is open until Sunday, Jan 16! Thanks!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Little Tiny Squee

First, let me say that I'm really, really sorry that I've been so long between posts to the Quirky Blog. It's not because of a lack of love or desire for being a part of the blogosphere. It's that I have this crazy job that keeps me away from the thing I truly love -writing in any form. Novel, blog, an email to my poor friend Amy in Tacoma who probably thinks I'm dead it's been so long - all have been waiting for me to get some headspace and put pen to paper. Well, okay, fingers to keyboard, but you get the idea.

Anyway, the point is that no matter what - you name it, I like to write it.

A close second on my list of joys is reading. And nothing makes me more stupid giddy than reading a review for something I wrote. Good, bad and ugly - it means someone read it, took an interest and is being kind enough to offer me and my potential readers their feedback. Now sure, a bad review can make a girl cry, but a good one can make a girl's week!

And here's a goodie for sure:

And as if that wasn't enough to make me do a happy dance, I'm up for 5-Heart Sweetheart of the Week. If you think that's just as great as I do, please vote for me HERE.

So, that's all for me. I know - too short. But it's baby steps for now. Maybe someday I'll be able to quit the pesky job, but until then, I will carve out more time for The Quirks and my characters.

In fact, I think I hear Patrick, Brandon and Destiny calling me now...

Monday, January 17, 2011

Shivers Up My Spine

Yesterday I heard a story from another mother as I sat in a group discussion about how children understand death. Her son, five years old, had been adopted from Korea as an older baby. I'll call him Matt for expedience sake. Eight years ago her biological son had passed away. I'll refer to him as Luke. It turns out that as best as the record trail can determine, her adopted son Matt was born on the exact day of Luke's death. When he was three, Matt (an early precocious talker) spontaneously told her that he had met Luke in heaven when he had died and God was giving him a new body. The comment came out of nowhere. He's the kind of kid with sixth sense written all over him. I call this an old soul. He's made other pronouncements over the years, talking about how he's met such and such a person who knew his family before when he was in his other body.

These are the moments that confirm the famous Shakespeare line from Hamlet: "There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

Life is a strange thing. Too strange for us to ever understand. I've always wondered if we as writers are actually channeling the stories that are out there in the universe, some pre-existing cache that are just as real and alive as any other piece of creation. I believe any act of creativity is part of the great mystery of the universe. I don't mean to be morbid in my post. The backdrop of the story is tragedy, and the grief around it is real. Death is perhaps the ultimate mystery. But from time to time we run into a particular reminder of these mysteries and we stand in awe. Or at least I did last night.

Writing fantasy, as I do, is not so strange in light of the actual oddities of life. It's actually quite boring compared to the real deal.

What do you do in face of Mystery? Somehow, as uncomfortable as it makes me feel, it also brings comfort.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Is Steampunk Here To Stay?

It seems like something new crops up every week as the "hot new thing" in romance. M/M stories. Comedic vampires. Snarky first person heroines. Amish dudes?

Steampunk has really taken hold in the last year as a sub-genre of romance. I inhaled Gail Carriger's quirky Parasol Protectorate Series. The Iron Duke was universally hailed as one of the best books in 2010. It makes me steampunk here to stay? Or is it just a flash-in-the-pan? A temporary trend that's not going to last?

What is steampunk exactly? According to Wikipedia, its a "sub-genre of science fiction, alternate history and speculative fiction that came into prominence during the 1980s and early 1990s. Specifically, steampunk involves an era or world where steam power is still widely used--usually the 19th century and often Victorian era Britain--that incorporates prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy."

Two examples that I've read recently are Gail Carriger's quirky series (Soulless, Changeless, and Blameless), and The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook. Carriger's books are light-hearted fun, a mix of historical/paranormal/steampunk romance. I can't imagine a quirkier mix of elements...vampires, werewolves, paranormal politics, funky mechanical inventions, tongue-in-cheek comedy, and proper tonnish protocol strictly enforced by the spunky heroine, Alexia. There are dirigibles, mechanical beetles, automatons, a fully loaded parasol covered with weapons, and more. The steampunk inventions are silly and fun, but the glue that holds these books together is the romance between the soulless heroine and her lusty werewolf spouse.

The Iron Duke is an altogether different species of book. The steampunk vision in this world is dark and threatening. There is no comedic relief in sight. Brook's world is perilous indeed, and we find microscopic mechanics that have insidiously infected the human body and forced it into slavery. Steampunk is not merely a backdrop for this story; it is the story. This frightening alternate world has been horribly transformed by these strange mechanical inventions...zombies roam the land, the human populace has been permanently altered, and the romance is intense and feels desperate at times. This book is a fascinating example of steampunk world-building.

I'm not sure if the steampunk genre will be a long-term component of romance. However, I do think that sci fi and romance is a daring and successful combination. Whether it's steampunk or biopunk, or aliens or water-based societies, the choices are endless. The sky is the limit with the imaginative options for this marriage of genres. For authors looking to flex their creative muscle, steampunk offers a glittering opportunity to imagine an alternate world and re-write history.

Just don't forget the romance.

If you're going to tack "romance" at the end of this genre, then you need to remember the most important element--the relationship between the hero and heroine, their conflict and resolution. Funky inventions and nail-biting adventures need to complement the romance, not fight with it, overshadow it, or replace it altogether. It's a tall order....incorporating all of these complex elements into one story, but that's the challenge for the writer of this genre.

I'm not sure if steampunk will fizzle out or continue to gain popularity. But the interest in sci fi/fantasy romance, which allows a huge creative outlet for authors, certainly will. I find it curious that steampunk has gained so much, well, "steam" (pun intended). Maybe folks are eager for an alternate reality. Maybe they wish they could re-write history. Or maybe they just want to be entertained. Whatever the reason, steampunk looks like it will be here for at least the foreseeable future. Enjoy it while you can!

What do you think about this new sub-genre? Do you love it? Or are you tired of new trends?

For more information about these books, please check out the reviews at Penelope's.

Happy Reading,

Monday, January 10, 2011

In Defense Of Adverbs

As I work on my WIP, I become acutely aware of the "rules" of writing. You know, the ones that say passive voice is bad, adverbs are bad, adjectives are bad. Each and every sentence gets scrutinized and rewritten, as I attempt to leave just two approved parts of speech behind.

Nouns and verbs.

And not just any old verbs....must be ACTION verbs.

Which makes me wonder...who the hell decided these rules, anyway? It seems like word discrimination to me. What if your character is passive? What if your scene is lazy? What if an overabundance of action verbs becomes irritating? So, it's time for me to make a confession....

I like passive sentence construction.
I like adverbs.
I like adjectives.

The bottom line is that writing with only nouns and action verbs gets boring. The other parts of speech help mix it up a bit, keep things interesting.

Consider this....

A dishrag.

Now, consider this....

A bloody dishrag.
A dirty dishrag.
A starched, pressed dishrag.

These wonderful, unfairly-discriminated-against-words called adjectives give us important clues about a scene and/or character. Why is the dishrag bloody? What kind of person irons his dishrags? Adjectives are getting a bum rap for sure.

Here's another sentence to consider...

He smiled.
Noun and action verb are present. And boring!

Let's try....

He smiled brilliantly.
He smiled wickedly.
He smiled tentatively.

Think about how much more information we now have about the character and his action. Way more interesting. Adverbs rock!

Now, let's address passive sentence construction. Here's a "proper" sentence...

Annie regarded her plain reflection in the mirror.

Here's another way to do it using the frowned-upon, evil passive verb...

Annie was plain. Annie was boring. Annie was the most unpopular girl in school.

I personally think using this passive construction is more effective. Annie looking at herself in the mirror is a passive activity, she's not a go-get-em type of gal. She has bad self-esteem and that comes across using this type of passive sentence structure and repetitive style.

So, in conclusion, I would just like to say that word discrimination has no place in writing. And anyone who passes judgment on these sad and misbegotten words should do a little bit of soul-searching. There is a time and place for all parts of speech and all forms of sentence construction. And don't even get me started on fragments.


Rule-Breaker Extraordinaire,

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Brand New Year

Happy 2011! I am personally thrilled to leave 2010 behind me (that whole irritating heart attack thing) and am looking forward to a brand new year. The Quirky Ladies are busy working on new books, finishing up old books, entering contests (go, Vicki!), submitting manuscripts, and embracing change with positive attitudes.

We have decided to expand our blog to include other topics that touch on quirky/fun/entertaining/pertinent bits of news, in addition to writerly subjects. This will include movie/book/music reviews, links/discussions to cool websites and news, photos and discussions about travel and hobbies, and interviews with favorite authors. We will also be spotlighting fellow NECRWA members from time to time, and of course continuing to discuss topics that affect us as romance writers.

Coming up on the interview and discussion with NECRWA writer Ella Drake, whose upcoming release Jaq's Harp is a "twisted fairytale/biopunk/futuristic romance." I love the idea of putting a new, funky spin on the legend of Jack and the Beanstalk. This week I will be exploring steampunk, a hot new sub-genre of romance. I think steampunk is about as quirky as you can get!

I hope that all of you are excited about the new year and new possibilities!

Happy Quirky New Year To All!