Monday, October 13, 2008

NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo, wtf?

For those who don't know about this great thing, it is National Novel Writing Month, starting November 1st, in which aspiring writers from all over the place get together to write a novel in a month. National Novel Writing Month Ah Ha! I have learned to hyperlink!

The goal of NaNoWriMo is to challenge writers to produce a work (it doesn't have to be complete, let alone GOOD) of 50,000 words. It is just for fun, but it has grown so much in the last few years, it is a regular phenomenon.

So I am signing up, yet another way I am trying to hold myself accountable and PRODUCE, and I challenge you to do the same!

Starting November 1st, I will keep a word count of the writing I produce during the month of November, which will be more of my "Empress" story still, but I am not going to count what I have until that point. I don't even know if that sentence made sense, but anywho...

I am tired for the day, so I am out!

Back on Track after Hiatus...

Well, it has been a MINUTE to say the least, since I have posted seriously here... I have been posting the chapters I had already finished over the last month, but have seriously let my writing go slack lately...

So I apologize, not just to anyone who graces me with their presence to read this, but also to myself... Not to make excuses, but since my job started officially full time, and I have also been going to school, and the younguns, and the house, well, I just let myself slip, but I am ready to resume my work and my posting since I am acclimated to my new routine... well, for the most part! :)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

What's for Dinner?

Ok, I really think maybe I haven't been eating enough lately. Why, you ask? Well, because I was just noting that just about every single chapter I have written so far has mentioned food of some kind. Haven't noticed that yet? Well, you probably will.

Now I love food, but I have an even more practical notion about why I have made mention of this so often (which I hope will become less as I go on), and this is simply because I don't think enough attention is paid to normal, everyday activities like eating, bathing, and relieving oneself in the course of natural bodily functions in books. I mean, these are things that everyone has to do... so why don't the characters in books do them? Or are the authors just leaving all that interesting stuff out.

For instance, in Syndra's case, she has never had to experience catching, preparing, cooking, etc. her own food. It's always been done for her. She's never had to think about bathing, someone has always come and done it for her. She's never... well, you get the point. She has had a very sheltered life.

Malik, on the other hand, has had extensive practice in living off the land and procuring his own nourishment, and thusly, will usually be doing these tasks. However, keen mind that Syndra has, she wants to know how to do everything, why things are this way, why you do things that way. Really kind of annoying, but she's a smart gal so she catches on quickly and doesn't have to have things explained to her twice.

Now I am going to go back and do a brief re-write, because I read something somewhere recently about how there's never a comment about hairy legs in romance novels. Um, yeah, historical romances especially... like they were shaving their legs back then. So I am going to address this point in my book. Syndra gets waxed, oh yes, indeedy! Ouch, that's a lot of skin that's being subjected to that, but hey, she's used to it. What she won't be used to is wandering around the countryside with all these prickly hairs popping out all over the place. So, it won't be dwelt on, but it will be mentioned, which I hope some readers might find endearing. Makes it all seem more real, yeah?

Ok, ok, back to food. What kinds of foods will they eat in Lunatia? Well, in the palace, you will obviously find lots of rich, succulent foods. Lots of spices, that sort of thing. I am envisioning curries, stews, whole roasted animals, that sort of thing. If you've been reading along, Chapter 5 coming soon has some interesting stuff involving food.... hmmm... But on the road, food is much simpler, they'll be catching fish, harvesting berries and other fruits, greens, catching rabbits, hey, maybe Malik will shoot a deer... Prolly not, awful lot of meat for two people... Maybe when they get some company.

Bread is like my favorite comfort food of all time, and I am seeing lots of fried bread (see: cornbread), flat bread (ie: pita, tortillas), that kind of thing. Best examples of what kind of foods you might eat in Lunatia? Take a trip to an Indian or Moroccan restaurant, and that's what you'll likely find in the palace, on a more subdued scale in the country.

All this being said, I am going to find a recipe for you, so let's have:

Lunatian Chicken (aka Chicken Jalfrezi, courtesy : www.indian-food-recipe.com

Chicken breasts - 1/2 kg
Oil - 1/2 cup
Onion (Piyaz) - 2 no's chopped
Ginger (Adrak) - 1 inch striped
Soya sauce - 1 tablespoon
Vinegar (Sirka) - 2 tablespoon
Ketchup (Sauce) - 1 teaspoon
Tomatoes (Tamatar)- 2 no's diced
Green chilies (Hari mirch) - 2 no's
Red chili powder (Lal mirch) - 1/2 teaspoon
Pepper powder (Kali mirch) - 2 tablespoon
Mono sodium Glutamate - 1 teaspoon
Salt to taste

Wash, clean the chicken thoroughly and cut chicken into long thin strips.
Heat oil in a pan and add onions and fry until transparent, then add ginger, chicken and
soy sauce and fry for 5 minutes.
Add tomatoes, green chilies, chili powder and salt and cook on medium heat, stirring
occasionally for 5-6 minutes.
Reduce the heat to low, add vinegar, black pepper, mono sodium glutamate and ketchup, cover and cook for another 10 minutes.

Now, I would imagine it would be ok to leave out the MSG, but you would want to serve this with some kind of bread, I like Parantha (you can find a recipe above), but for a cheap substitute, find some really soft pita and you'd be ok. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Writing For Charity

Hello my fellow bloggers, writers and readers alike!

Pardon the blog silence of the last few days, busy holiday weekend and all that!

I am going to ask you all to do something for me now... See that little link off to the side to "Unleash Your Story"? Well, click on that for me and help raise some money to help the Cystic Fybrosis Foundation.

I have started a team called "Kestrel's Bloggers" so you can help participate by joining my team and become a fundraiser yourself, or you can offer a donation to help me reach my goal.

The way I am understanding this is: I set a goal to write however many words during the month of September (I am going to aim for 10,000), and you can contribute a set dollar amount to help reach my fundraising goal of $150.

If you would like to join my team, send me an email, and I will add you, and then you can set your own writing goal for yourself and add a button to your page to get donations of your own! Add a button to track your progress.

I have no idea if I'll be able to raise my goal, but I thought it was such a wonderful idea, I had to sign up!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

What Is Seduction...

Seduction... hmm... powerful term here huh?

I have reached a point in my writing where Syndra and Malik are at an understanding... The sexual tension is there, but they are both resisting... Oh, I love it when they do that... But you can't hold out forever, not when there are two characters as HAWT as these two are... whew!

So my question is, what is a great way to get these two back together? I have it! It's dancing...

And I'm not talking about just any old kind of dancing... Not to spoil it too much, but Syndra and Malik are going to be meeting up with a band of gypsies before too long, and traveling with them for awhile... This is Syndra's opportunity to really become involved in a social group, and find herself, if you will... Malik is watching from afar, like he does... and then we have: Belly Dancing!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belly_dance

I am so dying to take a belly dancing class! I think it is one of the most beautiful art forms and empowering dances out there... The movements are sexy, and coming from someone who used to LOVE to dance, and I mean LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE, when you find that place in your mind and become one with the music, well... wow...
I used to work at a renaissance faire (yes, I am one of those weirdos in costume), and every time I got near a drum jam I couldn't help but join in with the other dancers, though I had no formal training, it just kind of takes you with it....

Will Malik be able to restrain himself? Hmmm...

But let us please take the time to really read this article, because belly dancing is an ART form, it is NOT glorified, stylized STRIPPING!!! I will be portraying as it originated, a social activity for women... If you have never seen a live belly dancing show, find one now! But here is a decent example of what I am going for... it's long, but it is worth it!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Motivation...

I am suffering a serious lack of motivation lately... Not so much about my writing, because I'm still excited about it and have been jotting things down whenever I'm sitting still... just IN GENERAL...

This is really bad though, because it is affecting my school... I haven't finished last week's assignments which were due on Sunday night, and I haven't started this week's yet either... I am planning on saying my internet went out and I couldn't get to the library or something as my excuse, though I'm still gonna lose points... But I am taking a frigging Business Law course and it is boring me retarded because I don't understand half of it, I need Business Law for Dummies...

My house... Because gosh darn it! WHY is it always my responsibility??? No one else does laundry, no one else does dishes, no one else picks up trash, no one else vacuums or changes sheets... Is it because I live in a houseful of boys or just because they are lazy? My hubby pulls the whole "I pay the bills and you don't make as much money as I do" bulldooky, and he's just such a MAN about it, there's no arguing with him... Though I was blissfully delighted when he opted to stay home with the sick baby the other day and HE hadn't accomplished anything either because of it! I was like, see... HAHAHA, I do PLENTY, and I don't get PAID for any of it!

I am highly motivated about my job, and actually pretty DESPERATE to get it going already, but my store has been delayed opening ANOTHER week, and I'm like WTF, I have to pay daycare people!!! I can't do that if my store isn't even open and I can't get hours... Hell, if they would let me I would go finish up the work the contractors are lollygagging over this moment and we'd be open yesterday! But, whoa, hold on there, I'm not in charge yet, and its not my company, I can't do ANYTHING, but hurry up and wait as my bank account dwindles...

But yeah, its hard to keep up motivation when things drag ya down like that, man! I am a go-go-go person and this is driving me nuts. My only wish is that one day I can go-go-go on my writing and be making money at it so I can hear my lovely hubby and darling boys say "Shhh, mommy is writing, its important because its her job, so let's go clean the house for her!" Ahh, sigh, that would be bliss... And wow, I just noticed (though I have noticed this habit before) that I really love ellipses... You know, those little dots that indicate an unfinished thought? I like em when I'm writing my own personal thoughts because there's just so much more I could say, but then it would just be ranting so I will just leave as this.... :)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Soundtracks...

Do you ever go through your day, music on the radio, thinking about things going on in your life, and feel like your life has a soundtrack? No, just me? Well, ok...

I've had times where I have read books and then heard a song, and said to myself, if they ever make that book a movie, this song should be on its soundtrack!

Well, I don't know if all of my song choices over the years would fit on an ACTUAL soundtrack for the books I read if they were made into movies, but still, when I hear them, I think about those books, or characters, and I am brought back to that world...

I was thinking about this because of a discussion post over at the Romance Banditas, a great blog I found by fellow writers/readers (see related blogs), and got to thinking, what songs might end up on the soundtrack for "Empress" (man, I gotta think up a new title)...

So I was riding in my car today, listening to Depeche Mode... I am a child of the 80's and 90's, yes indeedy, and I dig all that British Pop invasion during that time frame (since I missed the first go-round with the Beatles... speaking of which, who has seen "Across the Universe"? Brilliant!) Ok, back on subject... Depeche Mode... AH!

Ok, so I heard the song 'Judas' from the album "Songs of Faith Love and Devotion", (which is in a tie for fave DM album along with "Violator"), and I thought that the lyrics to that song really speaks about how Malik-Tor feels towards Syndra-Kai during this story, at the point where he feels like he is falling for her, but thinks she really needs to prove herself, since she's been rather deceitful in the beginning...

I will figure out how to get an MP3 player posted up so you can hear the song in its entirety, but for now enjoy a snippet on the mini Amazon player over there...
Here are the lyrics though:

Is simplicity best
Or simply the easiest
The narrowest path
Is always the holiest
So walk on barefoot for me
Suffer some misery
If you want my love
If you want my love

Man will survive
The harshest conditions
And stay alive
Through difficult decisions
So make up your mind for me
Walk the line for me
If you want my love
If you want my love

Idle talk
And hollow promises
Cheating Judases
Doubting Thomases
Don't just stand there and shout it
Do something about it

You can fulfill
Your wildest ambitions
And I'm sure you will
Lose your inhibitions
So open yourself for me
Risk your health for me
If you want my love
If you want my love
If you want my love
If you want my love

Ok, so I might be mad, but this song just hit me and I couldn't stop thinking about it, so I decided to post about it!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Chapter Two now posted...

In case you hadn't seen it yet, Chapter Two of "Empress" has just gone up at Publish Kestrel, make sure you check it out and tell me what you think...

I wanted to get the chapter out before the weekend, since it will probably be very busy for me, but I wanted you to have something to read in my absence...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Apologies...

I haven't had much opportunity to really think out a post, so just wanted to drop a quick note...

School for my oldest son started this week, and I've been training for my new job, plus my youngest son has come down with an ear infection... Fun...

I inadvertently made the error of telling my main squeeze that I was writing again, and he was like, "What? But there's laundry to do!" Yes, this is true, but writing for me is something I don't really feel much of an option about. If I don't get it down on paper (and even if I do) these characters are beginning to dominate my thought processes, and they will not be silenced!

This may seem weird, as most of you probably have supportive/understanding spouses who let you have your foibles, but mine is well... a pain in the tuckus sometimes... Love him dearly, don't get me wrong, but he is definitely a man with a plan, and when I am being my delightful airheaded self he gets aggravated, even though I make him laugh... :)

So, in between loads of laundry and dishes, dirty diapers, running to daycares, schools, grocery stores, work and my own school, I am still toiling away in secret, determined to crank out this book if it kills me! Well, maybe I won't go that far... :)

I am going to have to make some kind of posting schedule for myself when my store opens up and my life becomes routine, but my intention is to post a chapter a week, and as many updates on where I am in the process as I can!!

Thanks all!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Xan-Rul Casted...

So Xan-Rul is becoming quite a surprise for me... when I initially thought of this story, he was the bad guy, but I didn't have anyone for Syndra-Kai to talk to... Talk about a lonely upbringing, huh? So I thought, well what about her mother's Companion being her tutor? So he got a bigger part and I got a different bad guy now.
His role is also expanding as I write, so I feel it necessary to include images of what I conceive him to be...
And all I can see is Yul Brynner in "The King and I"...


Now poor Yul is dead, but Chow Yun Fat reprised the role of the King in "Anna and the King", however, I see him from "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"...

I like Chow Yun Fat, but even better is Ken Watanabe, you know him from "The Last Samurai", "Letters From Iwo Jima", and "Memoirs of a Geisha"... I think he is just great...

Now if we could just get him to smile every so often, I picture Xan-Rul as a very serene, meditative character, but not without a sense of humor...

Monday, August 18, 2008

Side by side...



Awww, they really are cute... You better watch out Zac Efron! LOL

Malik-Tor, In Pictures...

Ok, now I have a picture in my head of Malik, he is much older than Syndra-Kai, but he can't be so old it's weird, you know?
He has that tall, dark and handsome thing going for him, and he has to be old enough to look dangerous, but he has the soul of a poet, and that has to come through his face as well.
I had a tough time trying to find the perfect blend in one person, but here are a few images to give you the idea...
I started out with an idea of Oded Fehr, you know him from The Mummy (the guy with the tattoos on his cheeks) and Resident Evil.

If only he were 20 years younger...
Then I thought about Billy Zane...


Now he is just yummy, but honestly, sorry Billy, but your acting stinks. He is just way over the top... And he's almost TOO clean-cut perfect, if you know what I mean... I need darker... Again, he's too old as well... (Malik-Tor is only 25 after all)
Ok, did some more image searching, here's a guy you'll be seeing soon, he is playing the young Captain Kirk in the latest Star Trek movie, his name is Chris Pine...

Hmmm...where else could I go for yummy actors that haven't necessarily hit mainstream yet? I know... SOAP OPERAS!!
Here's a couple that could fit the bill...
First up, we have Eyal Podell, of the Young and the Restless... wow...

Next, we have Agim Kaba, of As The World Turns...

And last but certainly not least, if I had to pick one right now that I think could do the job right, it would be Tyler Christopher, who plays Nikolas on General Hospital...

Malik-Tor has golden eyes, so contacts are in order as well, but since I cast Vanessa Hudgens as Syndra-Kai, I think these two would make a really cute couple... What do you think?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Inspiration for Syndra-Kai

I am a very visual person, so it helps me sometimes to have an actual picture of what I am holding in my mind...
So I thought I might post a few images that I have thought of when I created Syndra-Kai in my mind.
For starters, the story of Aladdin (Disney version) comes to mind... I hope I'm not straying to close to that story line, even though it's a common theme, and yes, some of the characters in there I have found to be inspirational... For one, of course, is Princess Jasmine.

But Jasmine is imperfect for my purposes, so then I think, well, if I were going to cast this as a MOVIE, what actress would I want to choose?
The absolute perfect actress that comes to mind is Elizabeth Taylor- she perfectly personifies what I think of when I picture Syndra-Kai.
As Empress, I am thinking along the lines of Liz in Cleopatra (without the horrific eye makeup).



The most striking thing to me between Liz and Syndra are her eyes and her poise.


Of course, Liz is well past her prime to actually PLAY this role, so if I were to be put in mind of a more modern, young actress, I came across Vanessa Hudgens (of High School Musical fame)... put some violet contacts on this chick and tell her to act like Liz, and I think we have a winner...

I'm going to go track down images of the rest of my main characters thus for so you can get an image yourself...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Whoops...

They weren't supposed to do that yet, they weren't! Naughty naughty...

But the words of the story were just flowing out of me, and it just happened...

One minute they were kissing, and then she was supposed to say, oh, never mind, I'm not ready, blah blah blah, and well... You'll see...

Can you wait for Chapter 6 now? I'm so sorry to be giving away these teasers, but I think everyone who likes good romance would like this one...

Whew, I think I need a cold shower myself...

Romantic Tension...

Ah, love is in the air... No wait, its just LUST!! Yet, anyway.

So I know I haven't posted the first chapter yet, it is ready, I think, but I will wait until Monday. In the meantime, I have gone on a writing kick, and just let things carry me where they will. But I just had to take a minute break, because I just wrote the first real sexual-tension loaded scene, and I just had to comment.

What do you think is sexy? This varies for so many people, but for me, it is the tiniest details. My scene involves Syndra-Kai and Malik-Tor feeding each other, and teasing each other, all while the whole palace watches, unaware of what is really going on between the two, and how hot and bothered they are feeling at the moment. I think that is just sexy as hell!

One, feeding each other in a sensual way already is hot, but when you are doing it in public, yet its still a secret, that kicks it up a notch, don't you agree? See, everyone can see what Malik is doing, but because Syndra has to wear a veil, they can't see her reactions to him. And that's not even getting into anything that might be going on underneath the table. I just have to say God Bless Malik-Tor, because he has some hell of self-restraint right about now, and I do not envy his having to stand up in front of all those people suddenly. Luckily, the cut of his clothes in my mind covers any potentially embarrassing evidence. :)

Oh you guys just wait... AWWW it's in Chapter FIVE! Hang in there, we'll get there.

Friday, August 15, 2008

A Note about Wikipedia...

The Wikipedia is a wonderful Internet resource. But if you are researching on the Internet, it is important to realize that the Wikipedia is a communal tool. It strives for accuracy and reliability, as well as including references, just as any good research tool would. However, because the Wiki consists of data that is compiled and added to by users, it may not be 100% accurate all the time. Anyone can submit to the Wiki, and even though there are people who go back through each submission and check for accuracy and such... Well, I will just leave it to you to imagine how many people are online and capable of typing anything they wanna type, whether its real or not.

I love the Wikipedia as a starting point and as a general reference tool, same as you would use any reference tool. If you want a quick definition or full description about something, it's sufficient. If you need more indepth or specific information, you can get good resources from there as well, but you need to dig further than the Wiki will give you. Plus, the Wiki will warn you if an article needs to be checked for errors or needs references. Pay attention to these.

If you've never come across the Wikipedia before, check it out, because it is awesome!

Research

*Just a warning to everyone* Some of what I may be discussing or forwarding you to might be somewhat disturbing. My general thirst for knowledge means that I feel I must research every detail that might be applicable to my story, even if it is somewhat gory. Now that I've warned you, go ahead and read on.

Whoa, why the big brouhaha? Well, today I am going to talk about what it means to be a eunuch. See, Malik-Tor (new change to his name), is facing the prospect of becoming one of this club, and he's not too excited about it. Find a definition of what a eunuch is here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eunuch (one day I will figure out how to make a hotlink...)

Anywho, it's one thing to say he's facing losing his manhood, and one to wonder exactly what that might entail. So I was curious and went web-browsing. I won't list all my links here because I was at it for quite awhile.

Castration was pretty popular in a number of cultures, especially in China, India, and even amongst the Early European Church. (See Castrati in Wikipedia) Eunuchs were often quite revered or placed in positions where it was an absolute must to have someone trustworthy. Government positions, harems, that sort of thing. Anywhere the possibility of someone seeking more power and passing it on to their offspring was likely. Political overthrows were entirely possible in many places, and being a eunuch meant you couldn't have children yourself, therefore less likely to have personal aims to strive for.

There are a number of methods one might choose to castrate a human, and I was thinking... Just what would the people of Lunatia think was appropriate? Castration generally falls into two categories: medical and chemical. I won't discuss chemical because its a more recent development, and when I think of Lunatia, they are somewhere pre-Industrial Revolution, and they've been doing this for centuries, so chemical is not likely where they would have gone with this.

Medical castration as well comes in different forms as well, but let's discuss the two main ones, surgical and burdizzo.

Surgical castration means exactly that; you can cut off everything completely, you can completely remove the testicles, or you can just cut the vas deferens, which is what happens during a vasectomy. (However, after a vasectomy, because the testicles are intact, sex drive is unimpaired. For Lunatians' purpose, we want to get rid of this as well, so vasectomy is not the way to go here.) The primary method chosen by ancient cultures seems to be complete removal, and yes I do mean complete, the WHOLE package is gone. Surgery can be quite risky, what with all the blood vessels involved, plus the chance of infection. Plus, the mental pictures here are quite gory, and I don't think it lends itself to a good chance at explaining delicately.

Burdizzo castration is similar to the methods chosen when castrating animals, which is done ALL the time, for any number of reasons. Basically, there is a giant clamp (called a burdizzo) applied to the testicles (everything else is left intact), which cuts off the supply of blood to those organs. This kills the organs, they shrivel up and are re-absorbed by the body. There is a chance this method might fail; perhaps the clamp is placed incorrectly, or the body might recover. However, if you were going to be "nice" about it, this is probably the best method.

I read testimonials online from men who desired castration, for whatever reason, including horror stories about people who chose to do it to themselves. It seems to me that they agree that the burdizzo method is the most "gentle". I don't care what anyone says.... OUCH and OMG are what comes to mind. But I have to with where the story takes me....

Ok, so there's the gory details. I chose burdizzo, simply because it seems the method most likely to have been chosen by my people. If you equate it to castrating animals, its also the easiest, most efficient, and least likely to kill somebody in the process, which they would want to avoid at all costs as well.

My dilemma now is how much of this information do I include in my story. I've read lots of romance novels where the author does everything possible to disguise the facts of life with fancy prose or pretty imagery, but I don't want to have to decipher what an author means, I want them to give it to me straight, and doesn't sacrifice my tender sensibilities. I will admit, even I have been shocked by some of what I've read when an author has obliged, so I want to be somewhat delicate or too many people will just stop reading right then and there. It also makes it harder to fit into a genre and get published. After all, the idea is to keep people reading, buy your stories, and make money. Publishers can't do this if you are making people sick to their stomachs.

What I am thinking of doing is making my characters have a discussion about these details, get it out there to let people know exactly why Malik-Tor is in such a panic... I mean, wouldn't you be????? Keep it short, simple, and to the point, and then not dwell on it. This suits Syndra-Kai's personality quite well, she's like me in that way, don't beat around the bush, just tell me how it is already. Being a Princess, this is not likely how she would be treated, but she is tutored by her mother's Companion, Xan-Rul, who has undergone this procedure, and he won't lie to her.

So there you have it. Do you think it wise to include a discussion like this into the story? I think it's important to give a sense of urgency early on that this is really not a good situation Malik-Tor finds himself in, and he will do anything, agree to anything, to get out of it. Syndra-Kai has literally got him "by the balls". OMG, bad pun, but I'm sorry, THAT is funny...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Chapter and Story Length...

Ok, so I'm well and into my story, past what I thought would be a good break for the first chapter. Then I start looking at my word count. I'm at 1,750 for the first chapter. Sounds like a decent start, but its only like 4 pages long. So that doesn't feel quite right to me and I do a little digging to see what publishers look for in manuscripts.

I found this site to be a great resource (http://www.charlottedillon.com/WritingRomance.html).
Don't be put off because it says "Romance", even if you don't write romance, there are alot of general tips and tricks that come for readers of all sorts.

Things to remember if you plan on submitting a manuscript:
(check out the "Writing How To" Link, and then "Manuscript Preparation")

1. Standard manuscript format is in 12 pt. Courier Font, 10 words per line, 25 lines per page.
- Word can be set up this way by giving yourself 1" margins all the way around, and instead of just double-spacing, you can set it to either 1.5 or "Exactly" and type 25 pt. in "Paragraph" options. I have numbered my lines as well just to make sure I'm where I need to be.
(So this right there doubles my page count, right? ok, so now I'm up to 8 pages.)

2. Start each chapter with a chapter heading about halfway down the page. (9 pages now)

3. At this point, it is important to remember that an editor will count each page as 250 words, whether the page is full or not. This probably bumps up actual word count in many cases. (This makes 1750 look like 2250).

4. Guidelines for various publishing houses vary, so it is important you're targeting the right kind or you just end up on the "slush pile", so make sure you check that your story is compatible and marketed in the right places. (My particular genre for this story is falling under "Fantasy Romance", and even within this there are variations. I am aiming for a pretty good sized novel, so I am aiming for 75,000 words, which seems to be about mid-line. Great, only 72,250 more to go!)

5. Chapter length can vary, but for a decent sized novel (100,000 words), average chapters break around 15 pages. (Uh oh... Some more quick math says that if my average chapter is the same size as what I have now, I will need 33 chapters. I have a basic outline of the action I foresee for my characters, and I am only getting to 24 chapters, plus a Prologue and an Epilogue, could it be I don't have enough material????)

Ok, so I'm not super stressing, because right now, the point of my writing is just to get it out there... I know very well that with my fellow blogger's help and my own critical eye, I will be hacking and slashing, adding and embellishing, and my story will be fully fleshed, but just for safety's sake, for now, I am combining what I feel should be Chapter Two into One. This isn't too bad of a stretch, it's really just a change of POV (point of view), so now I think I can establish a pattern. If each chapter spends some time with each main character, (for the most part) it approximately doubles the chapter length.
Following this plan so far, I am now at a first chapter length I am somewhat happy with, 14 pages, with Word's count falling at 3,540, an editor's count would be 3,500. All the same, I think it still needs some work. Please don't think by any means anything I post is considered a final draft, it's posted to gather opinions on what should be added, changed, or just plain trashed. I am ok if you are brutal!

So there are my views on chapter length, in your own writing, feel free to make things as long or short as they need to be to make you happy. Chapters have a way of ending themselves, usually on some cliffhanger or change in time and/or place.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Names again...

I hate coming up with names. It is so important to a story, both for characterization, as well as flow.

This trouble I have even extends into my personal life, as I agonized over the names I gave my children. My youngest's name was even left so much to the last minute that we had to poll the nurses to see which name they liked the best.

So I have agonized over my main character's names for Empress, as well as the name of her country, city, etc. I think I am happy with her name as Syndra-Kai, but if you have suggestions, please feel free! Right now, I have my hero's name as Malik-Tobar (after much consulting of the baby name book mind you). Once upon a time it was Vin-Malik (the Malik part seems to be sticking with him), but I already have a character in another book named Vincent, and he's stuck with that. So maybe a little help here too? Any ideas? Well, maybe you need to get to know him more... I think I want to stick with hyphenated names for people, but of course those can always be shortened to nicknames...

As for place names, I think I have settled on the country, as well as the head state, being called Lunatia, and the capital Lunatium. Very Latinesque, so not so far removed from reality that a person can't identify with this place. Here are the rest of the "states" and their capitals...

Cathantias, Cathannum
Peranthias, Peranthium
Engana, Engannum
Arcuatia, Arcuatium

(credit here to the place name generator found at: http://nine.frenchboys.net/country.php for inspiration)

Of course, I still need a name for the mountains, any rivers, the oceans, and the other main continent that surrounds Lunatia (see previous post), but its a start

Do you have an artistic side?

Allrighty, so EMPRESS it is... I have lots of ideas for this story that I am ready to get crackin on, but first I wanted to ask if you all might want to help out!?

Do you have any skill at drawing, or perhaps computer design, something like that? In every just about every fantasy novel (like Empress) set in a land you are unfamiliar with, and where the main characters go on a journey around that land, there is usually a map to reference, somewhere on the inside cover or in the first few pages. I would like to incorporate that sort of thing with this story, but my art skills are rather lacking.

If you would like to help, just email me @ cmcarr12@gmail.com, and we can commiserate about details, and you can get an opportunity to be part of my project! Rest assured you would receive credit! If you would like to make a preliminary drawing or would just like some more information about the land in question, here are some basic details, things that HAVE to be incorporated into the map to correspond to the story.

The Empire of the Silver Crescent is a large continent/island sandwiched between a larger landmass on this particular "planet". Long ago, fissures around this continent separated it from the rest of the land (think Pangaea), resulting in a crescent shaped country. Silver in this world is the most precious metal, and aside from small deposits in the rest of the land, all of the silver is concentrated in the mountains that bisect the country. Hence the name of the empire, and the reason it is so rich!
The main city where the empress resides lies in the center of the inner curve of the crescent, and the large gulf is protected by barrier islands at its opening. There are cities at either tip of the crescent as well. The mountains lie to the west of the city, about 3 days ride. There is only one mountain pass, accessible only for about 2 months in summer, and there is a large desert immediately on the other side that runs to the coast. A number of oases dot the desert. To the north, there is a large chain of lakes, to the south there is a thick and very nearly impenetrable forest. Caravans traverse the countryside, traveling from town to town, trading goods and providing entertainment. (These are the gypsies of this land, of course.)
The land is divided into 5 "states", each with a capital, and there are roads that lead from each of these cities to the main capital. The rest of the land is mainly rural countryside, filled with farms, streams, small ponds and such.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Character Development - Lottery

Heroine: Zosephine (Zoe) Maria Benedict – age 32

-Job: Office Secretary
-Appearance: About 5’8”. Honey blonde hair, green eyes. “Statuesque”.
-Intellect: Though Zoe has never had the opportunity to go to college, she studied with Doug while he went, and she has also read a lot, taking her daughters to the library and studying while they did.
-Family: Adopted at age 6. Adoptive family deceased. No memory of biological family. Has two children, Ashley? (16) and Brittany? (8). Husband, Doug, deceased two years.
-History: Zoe cannot remember her childhood prior to the age of 6, when she was adopted. Sometimes she has nightmares of screaming and blood. She was adopted by a loving couple and raised in an average, middle-class home, but she always felt something missing. She ended up pregnant at 15, and Ashley was born when she was 16. She eventually married Ashley’s father, Doug when they graduated. Doug earned a college scholarship, and while Zoe worked odd jobs and took care of Ashley, Doug went to college, and eventually became a veterinarian. Before his death, they appeared to have a picture perfect life, 2 beautiful girls, a nice home, two cars. Doug was killed in a hit and run car accident, and upon his death, it was revealed that he was heavily in debt because of a gambling problem. There were two mortgages on the house and a number of large loans. Zoe had to sell the house and the vet practice, her jewelry and anything else of value to bring down the debt that the life insurance policy wouldn’t cover. She went to work as a secretary to support Ashley and Brittany, but has barely been scraping by. She keeps her kids hopes up each week by buying a lottery ticket and watching the drawing with them.

What Zoe does not remember about her past is that when she was small, her mother worked at a casino and often drank and gambled. When she lost, she would come home and take it out on Zoe, but always hid it from her husband. During one particularly bad episode, Zoe’s father caught her in the act and shot her mother in front of her. Zoe was in shock and taken away while her father went to prison. Zoe has blocked these memories.
-Aspirations: Zoe has finally worked herself debt-free, and is starting to save money for the girl’s college. Her credit is ruined because of her husband, but she is starting to recover. She hopes one day to move to a small town somewhere and maybe open a coffee shop.
-Attitudes: Zoe has always just wanted to be loved, and have a peaceful life. She has been self-sacrificing all her life and she is even more bewildered by her husband’s actions because they never fought, and she had no idea what he had been doing. She is kicking herself for being so naïve and is starting to chafe at the direction her life has taken.
-Perceptions: Zoe has never let on how she feels about things to anyone, covering her emotions with a smile and keeping busy. She has always been that active PTA mom, helping out everyone she meets. She is seen as sweet and loving, and certainly naïve now that the truth about her husband has come out and her circumstances have changed.
-Hobbies: Reading, crafts, gardening, her kids
-Goals: Maybe not for a long time, but when the kids are grown and off to college, Zoe dreams of living in a small town and owning a coffee/book shop.

Hero: Brandon??? – age 34

-Job: Playboy – sole heir to family fortune and investment firm, Brandon has never had a REAL job. He does have a Business Management degree. He’s mostly spent time gambling since gaining access to his trust fund.
-Appearance: About 6’2”. Dark hair and grey eyes. Toned physique, but from gym memberships, not real hard work. Classic “metrosexual”.
-Intellect: Brandon is actually quite intelligent, good with numbers and a fair understanding of business practices, law and politics. Can carry on an intelligent conversation about just about anything.
-Family: Parents and Grandmother (paternal) still living, though quite disappointed in him. Have disowned him since losing his family’s original “plantation” which was included in his trust fund.
-History: Raised to one day inherit and take over the family fortune and investment business, Brandon went to college to study business. Got in some minor trouble with drugs (marijuana) and drinking (a couple DUI’s). Obtained access to his trust fund ($20 million plus the family plantation, which is in disrepair). Proceeded to blow through it with an expensive penthouse in Vegas, fast cars, lots of partying, and not to mention gambling. Foolishly lost his family property with a private card game with a casino “boss”, and promptly disowned. Figures he can redeem himself by wooing and marrying the naïve young lottery winner that’s just bought the property.
-Aspirations: Brandon knows he’s really screwed up this time and figures he’ll get out of it with his charm, getting back the family property and a new fortune in the process.
-Attitudes: Cocky and arrogant. Likes to “dress to impress” and thinks he is irresistible. Always searching for the next good time.
-Perceptions: Like most playboys with no ambition in life, he is not really taken seriously. His life is filled with “friends” that have quickly abandoned him now that he seems to have lost everything.
-Hobbies: Aside from gambling and partying, he enjoys the outdoors and is surprisingly good with kids.
-Goals: Can’t see past getting back the family property and getting Zoe’s money. Figures his family will come around if he can clean up his act.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Character Development - Australia

Heroine: Marisa Bailey (?) – age 20

-Job: Former governess, currently a prisoner at penal colony in Western Australia (Frederickstown [Albany]) 1827
-Appearance: About 5’2”. Black hair, blue eyes. Olive toned skin. Slim, but curvaceous.
-Intellect: Educated at formal English boarding school. Gift for languages and grasps book learning quickly. Is naïve when dealing with people, and almost too trusting.
-Family: Mother (Spanish) deceased as child. Raised by Irish father, whereabouts unknown.
-History: Marisa’s father sold himself as an indentured servant to get the money to pay for her boarding school education. He wanted to ensure that she would have a way to support herself. When she completed school, Marisa arrived in London looking for work, and any trace of her father. She secured a position as a governess with a wealthy family, and was happy until their oldest son came home from school on holiday. He propositioned her, and she refused. As revenge, he accused her of stealing. She was convicted and sentenced to 7 years transportation to the penal colony that had been newly established at Frederickstown, in Western Australia.
-Aspirations: She is somewhat resigned to her fate, but she prays that one day she might be able to prove her innocence and find her father.
-Attitudes: She has always been soft-spoken and gentle-natured. Her experiences thus far have toughened her to the harshness that life can be, and she has seen much she wishes to forget. She tries to keep to herself, and thus, has few friends.
-Perceptions: The other women think she is snobbish and that she puts herself on a pedestal. Some of them have taken up with men to earn a living or as protection, and Marisa’s sober attitude and seriousness brings them down, so they avoid her.
-Hobbies: She loves children and thought she was following her passion as a governess. She loves the beauty of the country, and often volunteers to work outside.
-Goals: She is trying to serve out her sentence as quietly as she can so she can return home (perhaps early) and look for her father.

Hero: Lieutenant Trevor Anderson ? – age 26

-Job: One of the soldiers assigned to the prison detail in Frederickstown, Australia
-Appearance: Honey blonde hair, green eyes, goatee. Very erect, military bearing. Lean and athletic build.
-Intellect: Learns quickly but is not very interested in books. Good head for business, but no place to apply himself. Very logical, as long as emotion does not cloud his judgment.
-Family: Youngest son of a good family, with one older brother and one older sister. All still living in England.
-History: As the second son, he did what was expected of him and joined the military when his schooling was complete, though he has no love for it. Rather hot-headed, he got in trouble while gambling for starting a bar brawl. Part of his punishment was being sent to Australia. He feels bored, stifled by the restrictions, and angry.
-Aspirations: He does not hate his brother for being the family heir, but he does feel somewhat cheated because he has nothing of his own. Although he hates the circumstances that have brought him here, he is falling in love with the Australian countryside, and is thinking of staying to build his fortune in the new territory.
-Attitudes: Doesn’t know how to express himself very well, and often finds himself angry and frustrated, with no outlet. Prone to violent outbursts. Has a good sense of humor when at ease, and doesn’t like to see people mistreated.
-Perceptions: He is well liked when in a good mood, but people are very careful not to arouse his anger.
-Hobbies: Hunting and fishing, playing cards
-Goals: By supplementing his income with gambling, and with nowhere to really spend it, he is saving to claim his own homestead.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Character Development - Empress

Heroine: Princess Syndra-Kai (up for debate), age 15 (16th birthday looming)

-Job: Heiress- Syndra will assume the throne shortly upon her 16th birthday, but first she has to follow all the royal ceremonies and protocols.
-Appearance: It is against the law for any but her closest attendants to look upon the face of the princess until she is either married or assumes the throne at age 16. However, Syndra is about 5’4”, with black hair and violet eyes, and olive toned skin. She is very slender and still quite childlike in build, although she is strong and has the promise of curves to come. Her hair must be styled in Royal fashion, long and in a high ponytail upon her head, decorated with a silver circlet and other adornments throughout. Also, her right nostril is pierced with a silver ring. Her clothing is flowing and tent-like until she comes of age, when she may wear more form-fitting pieces. She wears bracelets and rings of silver, with silver armbands as well. (In this world, silver is more precious than gold, and is the main commodity traded by her country, accounting for its great wealth. Gold is worn by the middle class, and copper by the commoners.)
-Intellect – Syndra has been fully educated in all the history, culture, politics, etc. that she will need to run her country. She chafes at this training, wanting to bring in advisors and minds from around the world and begin modernizing her country, to bring it out of the “Old Age”. She is still very young and inexperienced to fully understand much of what she is taught, so she relies on her father and her tutor for now. Because she is not of age yet, no one really listens to her opinion on things, except her tutor, whom she often practices debate with.
-Family: Only father still living, her mother having passed away in childbirth when she was young. The child was lost as well. Her father has been relatively distant since the loss of her mother, though he is loving and kindly towards her. Syndra has cousins, the daughters of her mother’s sister, who would happily inherit the throne in Syndra’s place should anything unfortunate happen to her.
-History: Syndra has been in training all of her life to become Empress one day. Sheltered from the outside world, she has had lessons detailing the history, laws and foreign policies of her government. What concerns her most at present is one of the traditions she wants to change as Empress. Every girl in the Royal Family has followed it without question until Syndra. The custom is that on her sixteenth birthday, she must choose a man among the common people to take her virginity. Any single man in the city at the time of her birthday between the ages of 18 and 25 is eligible and is required to report to the palace one week before the princess’ birthday. The walled city is closed and heavily guarded during this time so no one may leave. This has never really been a problem, as it is considered a great honor; even though once the deed is accomplished the man will be castrated and will serve as the Empress’ companion for life. No man other than her husband is permitted to lay with the Empress after that, and no one other than the Empress may lay with her servant. His status as a common man prevents her from marrying him, so he is castrated to prevent another woman taking her place. The custom is intended to signify the Empress’ closeness and love for the common people and it dates back centuries. The man who was her mother’s companion is now Syndra’s tutor and confidante. Over the years, he has become more learned and no longer believes in the need for the custom, though he does not regret his part and the love he shared with Syndra’s mother. He has taken it as his duty to enlighten Syndra and keeps her informed of the customs and knowledge of more modern countries. It is because of him that Syndra is inspired to bring modern technology and ways to her country, inviting in the outside world. She also is aware that in order to do this, she must sacrifice her virginity and some poor man’s manhood to accomplish her goals.
-Aspirations: To enlighten her country, educate the people, and equalize the balance of power, giving everyone a say in the government, though the Empress still retains ultimate authority.
-Attitudes: Though Syndra has lofty goals, she is still a relative child, as well as a sheltered princess. She unconsciously expects people to succumb to her every demand without question, and no one has ever defied her. However, she is sensitive to others and does her best to be thoughtful and kind.
-Perceptions: Syndra is completely unknown outside the palace walls, so rumors about her abound. It is generally agreed that she is likely a spoiled brat, who has no active interest in changing the status quo. Of course, the opposite it is true, but it is really only her tutor that is close enough to know any different.
-Hobbies: Syndra is not really permitted hobbies, since most of her time is taken up with lessons or meetings with her father and the country’s advisors. She does enjoy the garden and reading, especially the works of noted traveler/adventurer Malik-Tobar.
-Goals: Once she gets past her birthday and assumes the throne, Syndra plans to travel her country and begin to make repeals of antiquated laws and customs.

Hero: Malik-Tobar, age 25 (If anyone has read “The Duchess” by Jude Deveraux, Trevelyan is the inspiration for this character, though Malik is a bit meaner and more serious than Vellie.)

-Job: Professional Traveler/Adventurer/Writer – has spent the last 10 years traveling the world and the interior of his country and writing about it. He has since retired due to the death of his father, and has come home with the intent on helping his family by working within the government to bring about reform.
-Appearance: About 6’0”, black hair and golden yellow eyes. Deeply tanned skin, with a lean and athletic build. Has some interesting scars and tattoos from his travels.
-Intellect: Extremely intelligent. His travels have exposed him to many kinds of technology, languages and other types of knowledge from the outside world. He feels this gives him the right credibility to be an advisor to the palace.
-Family: Oldest son of the family, with a younger brother and sister, both married with children. Father recently deceased, and siblings sharing care of mother.
-History: When Malik turned 15, he left home as a sailor in order to help support his family. His encounters throughout the world and his writings have generated enough income to keep them comfortable. He has become quite famous. Recently receiving word that his father has died, Malik has returned home to begin a career in government. However, he arrived a little ahead of schedule, intending to miss the Empress’ birthday and coronation. He got the date wrong and is currently trapped in the city for the Choosing. He is considered a member of the common class and as such is required at the palace since he is still just 25.
-Aspirations: Now that he is home, it is Malik’s intention to become involved in government and to petition the young Empress on behalf of her people, to modernize the country and begin major reforms of its antiquated ways. He has seen too many poor, diseased and uneducated people to sit back and do nothing.
-Attitudes: Having seen so many things, both wonderful and horrifying, Malik is motivated to better his country. He has no real personal ambitions beyond caring for his family. This includes the need to take a wife, with his brother to carry on the family name and doing fairly well. He is well skilled in the ways of women, and only feels the need to use them for pleasure; though he does enjoy the rare circumstance a woman displays intelligence and a quick wit. He is a great public speaker, and has an animal magnetism and compelling manner that draws people in and makes them listen to what he has to say.
-Perceptions: Women throw themselves at him, and men admire his intellect and respect his opinion. Being rather famous, he is sought out, but he has no particular friends, and is a mystery as a person.
-Hobbies: Learning. Malik has indulged his thirst for knowledge and now desires to turn it into something useful. He feels confined by the city, but feels it is his duty to work for the betterment of his country.Goals: At the moment, it is finding a way to avoid appearing for the Choosing, as he feels it is an antiquated custom and entirely unnecessary, not to mention barbaric. Beyond that, gaining a position of influence within the government to push for reform.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Character Development - Anne and Kate part 2

Hero: Gabriel Francisco Xavier Montez, usually called Xavier or just Montez, though Kate often calls him by ‘girly’ nicknames like Gabby or Franny, occasionally Monty – age 29

-Job: A Major for the Yankee army, he is a lawyer who investigates criminal cases that involve soldiers. He is currently stationed in Natchez, Mississippi.
-Appearance: About 6’0”. Mexican and French heritage. Black hair and dark brown eyes, deeply tanned skin. Lean and well toned build. Very dapper.
-Intellect: Highly intelligent, educated in Boston. Very perceptive of people, and great with words.
-Family: Mexican Nobility, Father of Mexican descent, married a French Noblewoman. Youngest son of the family of 4 older siblings, with a brother as his father’s heir, and 3 sisters, all are married and still living in Texas.
-History: The family was settled in what would later become Texas, and his father was influential in the government of the Republic of Texas, even fighting in the Mexican American War. Xavier was born in 1837. As the youngest son, he was sent to receive his education so that he might have a career, and went to receive his law education at Harvard in Boston in 1855. Later, he moved to California and opened a law practice, which is where he met Alexander. (More later) He joined the Union Army with the first Draft in 1861. Although most of his fellow Texans joined the Southern army, Xavier was not in agreement with their cause. He found himself stationed in Natchez, Mississippi at the end of the war, and was then a Major. His present job is as investigator.
-Aspirations: Although he is close to his family, as youngest son, he does not feel obligated to return home to Texas to settle. He and Alexander have agreed to become business partners, and when they are released from service in the Army, plan to settle in the expanding Midwest. Xavier is getting tired of being a lawyer because of all the disappointments with failures in the system, so he would like to start a quiet homestead somewhere like what his father has in Texas.
-Attitude: Because his family has ties with nobility and are very wealthy, Xavier is very proper, with a mind very attuned to his ‘duty’. He has a strong sense of justice, which is why he chose to become a lawyer, and did not sympathize with the Southern cause in the Civil War. He seeks to always do what is right. He is also under pressure from his family to find a ‘proper’ bride, so he is often seen at parties, though he has not found anyone that piques his interest.
-Perceptions: He is a young debutante’s dream… but he is very reserved. He is seen as the dark and mysterious type, and he and Alexander are the targets of many husband hunters.
-Hobbies: Xavier has been known to play a hand of cards or two in gentlemanly circles, as well as your typical upper class pursuits. However, Xavier really just prefers the peace of the outdoors with horses and such.
-Goals: Along with Alexander, upon leaving the Army, Xavier has plans to settle in the Midwest and start a cattle ranch. He would like to find a willing bride of the right quality, but also the right strength to endure the hardships he knows are there.

Hero: Alexander Phillipe Durandt, called Alex or Durandt, Kate calls him ‘Lexi’ – age 29

-Job: Alex is also a Major in the Union Army, serving as a Doctor. He is currently stationed in Natchez, Mississippi.
-Appearance: Very tall, about 6’4”. Sandy blonde hair and blue-gray eyes. Very broad and muscular, but with a surprisingly sensitive touch for his size, from being a doctor. Also very dapper.
-Intellect: Extremely intelligent and well read. Keeps on top of latest medical inventions and treatments.
-Family: French father and English mother. Father deceased, mother living in San Francisco, California.
-History: Born in England in 1837 on the same day as Queen Victoria’s coronation. Moved to America with the start of the gold rush in California that began in 1848. His father claimed rights to a gold mine in the mountains near Sacramento, but was murdered in 1850 in an attempt to gain control of his mine, which was quickly becoming very profitable. Alex’s mother assumed control of the mine and its operation, fighting off would-be suitors and trespassers and becoming VERY rich in the process. Alex is very proud of his mother in this regard. The mine ceased production in 1855, having played out its vein, and Alex was sent to England to train as a doctor at his mother’s insistence, seeing the need for competent doctors in the quickly growing state. She retired to San Francisco, and leads a very social life as one of the richest women around. She has no interest in remarrying, and Alexander will inherit the bulk of her money, the rest going to charity, which she has invested. Alex moved back to California after school to practice, and met Xavier there. He also joined the Union Army with the first Draft in 1861. He served in many field hospitals throughout the war, and is currently in Natchez, Mississippi.
-Aspirations: It was no great trial to Alex to become a doctor, his inclinations are to help people less fortunate than he is, and he finds comfort in his job. He has seen much death and pain in the war, but is not completely disillusioned yet. He is partners with Xavier to start a cattle ranch in the Midwest, where the plan is for Xavier to control the handling of the ranch, and for Alex to be the ‘face-man’, handling deals with buyers and suppliers.
-Attitude: Perhaps because of his education in England, Alex is very proper like Xavier, but because of his early life in the gold fields of California, he is no stranger to the working man’s life. He can still remember living in a cabin and working from sunup to sundown with his mother. He admires his father for risking everything and giving up his life to protect what was his, and hopes he can make his mother proud. He plays the society game because his mother wishes him to do so, but also like Xavier, he would rather just be outdoors. He can spot a gold-digger from a mile away, and gets close to few people.
-Perceptions: Alex has a British accent, inherited from his mother and his time in England, and women find him OH so charming. He has a quick wit and sense of humor, and is often cracking witty jokes. (All too often, they are over everyone’s head.) He is the target of husband hunters not just because of this, but also because it is well known that he is extremely rich.
-Hobbies: Having spent so much time amongst rough-neck gold miners in his youth, Alex has a healthy appreciation for the rougher aspects of fun, though he reserves his company for officers rather than the lower ranking soldiers. He would still rather just be outdoors.
-Goals: Alex wants to prove he can be successful on his own, rather than living off his inheritance. So his plan to start a ranch with Xavier is his opportunity to do that. He would also love to find a suitable wife, but figures it’s going to take some time before he can find one that’s interested in more than just his money and good looks.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Character Development - Anne and Kate Part 1

Character Development – Anne and Kate Lawrence
Because I have two heroines and two heroes, this will be posted in two parts.

Heroine: Anne – Suzanne Lawrence, Sioux Anne – age 19
-Job: Wannabe debutante – Anne’s father is a merchant in Natchez, Mississippi, post-Civil War. She sometimes helps her father out since her brother has not returned from the war yet. She does her best to try and win over the local Southern “ladies” who have cut out her family because her father opted to sell to the Yankee army when Natchez was invaded.
-Appearance: About 5’0”. Blonde hair, blue eyes. Very soft-spoken and proper. Slight frame, but still curvaceous. Often deemed bird-like.
-Intellect: Anne is well-educated; despite the war, her father was able to keep her in books, and she helped in his store as well, so she’s good with numbers. She also is in charge of managing the household, so she is extremely intelligent and competent.
-Family: Fraternal twin, Kate. Father, Charles Lawrence, brother Theodore (Teddy). Mother died due to illness near start of war. (4 years ago)
-History: When the Civil War broke, Anne and her sister were only 13 years old. Their brother Teddy left to fight for the South, even though they did not believe in slavery, they still believed the South’s rights. When illness broke out in Natchez early in the war, their mother died, and their father was devastated. By the time the city was invaded and held by Yankee soldiers, the family was no longer in support of the war, and Charles opted to do the inevitable and turned to supply the Yankee army in order to keep his daughters safe. Contact with Teddy at that point was impossible, and he could not come home. Now that the war is over, they expect Teddy to arrive at any moment. They had heard through Yankee officers that he had been held in a prison, and with the war over, the prison had released everyone, though they must come home on foot.
-Attitude: Anne is sweet and seemingly pliable. She seeks to please everyone around her, yet has a backbone of steel for dealing with unpleasant things, so it is difficult to shake her composure. She wants to be liked, and would like nothing more than to be accepted by society. She dreams of meeting a handsome man to sweep her off her feet, get married and have children. She is the consummate home-maker.
-Perceptions: Everyone who meets Anne loves her for her sweetness. Because her father unfortunately turned ‘traitor’, the rest of Natchez ‘society’ acts like they shun her, though secretly they wish nothing more but to welcome her back whole-heartedly. Unfortunately, she also has the complication of her sister, Kate… More on that later! On the other hand, because she is such a beauty and with such sweet charm, she is a top candidate for suitors, so she is never invited to big parties, just tea with the ladies.
-Aspirations: Anne dreams of marriage and children, running her own household and becoming a society lady. Beyond that, she is content so long as she can care for those around her.
-Hobbies: Reading, Music, and all things domestic. She also plays card games with her sister Kate to keep her amused, so she knows a lot about gambling.
-Goals: To meet a man and fall in love, get married and have babies. She also hopes that her sister Kate will calm down and do the same, though she does sometimes envy her free-spiritedness.

Heroine: Kate – Katherine Lawrence, Kiowa Kate – age 19
-Job: Scallywag and Tomboy– Kate is the black sheep of the family. Her father is indulgent, and in the absence of her brother, it was Kate to whom he taught the rudiments of riding, shooting, gambling, and the rest of what were considered “manly” pursuits. His philosophy is that Kate will some day grow out of it, he trusts in her judgment and ability to take care of herself. Indeed, she can fight with the best of them, and any man stupid enough to tangle with her quickly regrets it. She likes to wear breeches, and is often filthy because of hard riding in rough terrain. She gambles quite a bit, and has done her part to relieve many Yankee soldiers of their ‘hard-earned’ money, so she has helped to support the family, and has quite a stash of her own.
-Appearance: About 5’8”. Red-haired and green-eyed. Slender and athletic build, but curved in all the right places. She raises quite a few brows, towering over not a few men, and scandalizing everyone with her tendency to wear men’s clothes and show off her curves. She enjoys fights with men who try to take drunken liberties.
-Intellect: Kate is extremely perceptive, but not interested in book smarts. She has been educated like her sister, but has turned her brain towards figuring out things like counting cards and figuring out if people are bluffing. She covers this quick intellect with outrageous actions like challenging people to fights, drinking people into oblivion, and having shooting contests. People don’t even realize Kate is taking advantage of them, writing her off as a half-wit woman.
-Family: same as Anne
-History: same as Anne
-Aspirations: Kate has absolutely no clue what to do with her life. She enjoys gambling, drinking, fighting, riding, etc. but has no real ambition in life so far. She has saved a lot of money, and thinks maybe one day she might start her own bar… or something. She finds men attractive, but has yet to find one she can’t outwit, so they aren’t particularly challenging or interesting, so she has no real interest in marriage. She enjoys upsetting the status quo (obviously), and laughs when the society ladies talk about her. She realizes this hurts her sister Anne and immediately feels sorry, but Anne is such a sweet and forgiving soul, she quickly forgets.
-Attitudes: Devil may care, Kate does what she wants and truly doesn’t care what other people think. She is deliberately antagonistic, and fiercely defensive of her family. Any perceived insult could set her off. She enjoys gambling because of the challenge in outwitting an opponent.
-Perceptions: Although she is very beautiful, Kate is considered rude and scandalous. ‘Society’ decries her behavior, and the local population of Yankee soldiers has often underestimated her. She has never actually broken the law, but certainly tries her best to incite and infuriate people.
-Hobbies: Drinking, gambling, riding, fighting, shooting, pissing people off.
-Goals: Rather aimless at the moment. Steadily increasing her income, but not sure exactly what to do with it.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Character Development - Salome

Heroine: Salome Mercer/Kestrel Sinclair – age 20

-Job: Plantation owner, growing tobacco and hemp near Charlottesville VA, currently left in charge to an overseer. Shipping Magnate, as alter-ego Kestrel Sinclair. Kestrel was created to buy out Salome’s brother’s shipping business when he mysteriously went missing two years ago. The law forbade Salome, as a woman, from purchasing the business herself, so ‘Kestrel Sinclair’ came into being, as a mysterious rich man, interested in expanding the company. As Kestrel, Salome has become very successful.
-Appearance: About 5’6”, Black hair and very light, almost clear green eyes. Fair skin, but prone to tan to a golden color. Very fit, though shapely figure, from years of riding on the plantation and captaining her ship.
-Intellect: Salome has a good head for numbers, and is exceedingly logical. She has read widely, but finds no great joy in it, preferring the outdoors.
-Family: Parents deceased (Names?). Mother died when Salome was 10 years old, her Father when she was 16. Brother (Anthony [Tony]) Missing for two years.
-History: When her mother died, her father educated Salome and her brother, in anticipation of them taking over the plantation one day. Her father is dedicated to operating the plantation without the use of slave labor, unheard of for the time. Instead, he purchases slaves with the intent to free them and offer them a position as shareholder in the plantation. Salome is the more interested in the plantation of the two, and when their father dies, Salome buys out her brother in order for him to invest in a shipping business. With modest success, he disappeared on a routine trip to the Caribbean two years later, when Salome was 18. Declared dead, his business was put up for auction, and Salome purchased it as Kestrel Sinclair. She has run the business since, with constant expansion, while she continued to search for her brother, and leaving the plantation in the hands of her overseer. Now 20, a new stipulation in her father’s will has come to light. If her brother is deceased and she is unmarried when she reaches the age of 21, the plantation is to be sold to give her a large dowry and money to live on in a townhome in London. With her brother still missing, the only way to protect her property is to marry before her birthday. She heads for London, to see her father’s sister, whom she has never met, and to plead for a Season with her aunt as her sponsor.
-Aspirations: Salome wants to live her life with no one to tell her what to do. She cold-heartedly takes emotion out of her search for a suitable husband, looking for one she can tolerate and that won’t likely stand in her way. She also wants to find her brother, convinced he is still alive after all this time.
-Attitude: Salome is very logical and precise in her actions. She has a team of private investigators on call to research potential clients for her business, and even for a husband. She also runs a fleet of ships through the shipping company whose primary purpose is to gather information about her brother. She does not care a thing for what is ‘fashionable’, or what is ‘proper’. She has a deep caring and concern for those in her care, whether they be the shareholders on her plantation, or the crews of her ships. In turn, her employees are completely dedicated to her as well.
-Perceptions: Salome is an enigma to everyone she meets. She hides her emotions and thoughts so well, it is hard to get the upper hand when dealing with her. She is uninterested in social activities, and until now has rejected any men who have been interested in her. As Kestrel Sinclair, Salome has gained a reputation for being exceedingly shrewd, and has contacts around the world. It is rumored that Kestrel has even garnered the protection of pirates to keep ‘his’ shipping lanes safe. Kestrel has never lost a shipment, even if delayed by weather. There is a tight veil of secrecy regarding his person, as no one has ever seen or spoken with him, except through his agent. Even his crew cannot be penetrated by spies.
-Hobbies: Horses – When her brother is found safe, and she is free to lead her life as she would once again, Salome dreams of breeding horses on her plantation.
-Goals: To obtain a suitable husband that she can live with and will let her manage her business without interference. She wants to go home desperately and can’t stand the city. She also wants to find her brother, as well as who conspired to take him in the first place so she can extract revenge.

Hero: Donovan Tremaine, Earl Verney – age 25

-Job: Playboy – or so it seems. Since assuming his inheritance, to all appearances he is living the life, buying horses, gambling, escorting beautiful women to parties (though he never throws them himself). Secretly, he runs an inflammatory news press that decries the practice of slavery in the States, as well as the practice of indentured servitude out of Britain. His paper also fans the political flames leading to the war of 1812.
-Appearance: About 6’1”. Half-Indian through his mother. Wears his hair long in the Indian fashion, yet has piercing blue eyes from his father’s side. Reddish toned skin like an Indian as well. Lean and muscular physique.
-Intellect: Widely read and knowledgeable about all things political. Not much of a head for business, never having had much money until now. He leaves it in the hands of capable friends who invest for him.
-Family: Last living son of his line, inheriting title from skinflint great-uncle. His father had moved to the States (Boston), and ended up marrying a local Indian. Both were ostracized, so although sensitive to the Indian cause, he has no particular ties there. His father ran a small local newspaper, which is how he learned the business. His father was never officially disinherited, so upon his uncle’s death, he gained a title and a huge deal of wealth. No living relatives.
-History: After claiming his inheritance, he seized the opportunity to continue his underground paper free of suspicion by living in the public eye as a devil may care playboy. He is under pressure from his lawyers and friends to quickly marry and produce an heir, but he really longs for the kind of loving marriage his parents had.
-Attitude: He has an innate sense for people, which aids him in moving through high society, as well as in his underground activities. He feels a strong sense of right and wrong, and seeks to eliminate injustice. He is very good at disguising his true feelings.
-Perceptions: He is written off as a frivolous man, and those in society only refrain from calling him a ‘dirty half-breed’ because of his wealth and position.
-Aspirations: Very noble-minded, he wants to help bring an end to slavery and oppression, but he also realizes that his position as a ‘half-breed’ hinders him, which is why he must work secretly.
-Hobbies: Horses – the only thing he really likes to spend money on. He is building a breeding stock of racehorses.Goals: To continue his newspaper and build a respectable public image (when he finds the right woman), so he can overcome the stigma of ‘half-breed’.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Character Development - Gyrfalke

Not that I’m trying to sway the vote, but this is the story I’ve put the most into. Here are some further details about my Heroine and Hero. I will be doing a series on all my major story ideas to date on the main characters, or at least what I have of them so far.

Heroine: Gyrfalke- age: 24
- Job: embroiderer in the service of John of Burgundy at an estate in Northern France (I think Senlis is a likely site, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Senlis%2C_Oise ). She trained herself while in Paris, working with her father. Her work came to the attention of Lord John, who hired her and she moved to the estate. She has been there nearly ten years, which is when her contract expires.
- Intellect: Literate and well spoken, relatively good with figures.
- History: Was fifteen when she arrived at the estate, had an affair with a lowly carpenter when she was nineteen, now has a 5 year old son. Is still unmarried, since she refused to wed, is considered unsuitable and tainted. Despite that, her attractiveness still draws manly attention, which she encourages to a point by flirting, and then spurning possible suitors, confusing many because her ex-lover wasn’t exactly a “catch”. The estate chamberlain was interested at one point, and is her primary adversary in her problem achieving higher status as seneschal because of her refusal to become his mistress. Her ex-lover was killed in a drunken dispute, so she is raising her son alone. His one dream is to someday become a knight.
- Aspirations: Originally, she wanted to be ‘seneschal’ (manager), which would have made her responsible for the training of new workers, as well as in the position to offer advice on projects. She would also be in charge of her own bookkeeping and able to control her clientele, as well as demand higher payment for works. These aspirations have become increasingly harder to attain since the birth of her child and her refusal to marry. She has turned her dreams toward the desire to leave the estate and move back to Paris and create her own guild of embroiderers.
- Family: Father lives in Paris as a ‘burgher’, or merchant, with her mother. One brother, who will take over the family business.
- Appearance: About 5’7”, red hair and green eyes, Father is French, Mother is Welsh and Irish. Fair complexion and slim, but well-rounded figure, considered unfashionable for the times.
- Attitude: Outspoken (tendency to speak out of turn), Rebellious (hates to follow the norm, preferring to do what she feels is right), Determined and Goal-Oriented (knows what she wants and is constantly making plans for the future)
- Perceptions: Intractable (has often gotten into trouble), Negative (her ‘constructive criticism’ is unsolicited and unappreciated), Unemotional (gets close to very few people, and those she is not close to call her an ‘ice queen’, also because she is ruthless when negotiating contracts for her work)
- Hobbies: Falconry, is good friends with the head falconer, and helps him train birds. Clothes- with her father a cloth merchant, and with her own skill with a needle, her wardrobe and those of her friends is the envy of many “ladies”. She designs clothes and creates them as a side job to supplement what she makes through the estate.
- Goals: Saving to return to Paris and start her own guild upon the expiration of her contract. On the lookout for a husband that will give her both LOVE and POSITION, so that her son may become a knight, and to strengthen her position as guildmistress. Realizes this is not likely to happen, and takes great pains to remind anyone addressing her as “lady” that she is indeed, NOT a lady, as if to defy them and demand criticism.

Hero: Vincent de Lannoy – age 28
- Job: Mercenary soldier, currently in the employ of Henry V, contract expires soon. Decorated hero of the battle of Agincourt
- Intellect (Great with numbers, literate)
- Family: bastard son of noble lady, since adopted by step-father, though not an acknowledged heir, only to receive knight’s training. Family lives in None, France; Mother and Father still living, half-brother and sister. Family is close, but very private and not actively political.
- Aspirations: Hoping to earn enough by his high mercenary fees to purchase his own small estate, and earn a title in the process, depending on who ends up king.
- Appearance: About 6’2”, olive tone skin, dark eyes (Father is rumored to be Moorish). Dark hair, but shaves head bald ‘Norman fashion’. Very muscular, but moves with grace. Very deep voice.
- Attitude: Very private, few friends. Refuses to give details about himself, and permits rumors to circulate about his origins (perhaps even starts a few himself). Determined and goal-oriented, has systematically accumulated wealth with intentions of gaining his own land. Risk-taker (Not afraid to challenge the status quo, by refusing to swear fealty to a king)
- Perceptions: Evasive (doesn’t answer direct questions unless it suits him, and hard to tell if he’s telling the truth), Uncouth (doesn’t follow fashion, and often appears plain or rough-mannered)
- History: Shrouded in mystery, but the known and confirmable facts are that bastard born, yet adopted by his noble step-father, he was trained as a squire and became a knight, as was customary. Fought as mercenary, creating a name for himself on the battlefield, until he came to the attention of John of Burgundy, who brought him to Henry V. Fought at Agincourt, and is considered a hero. Unknown facts include that, yes, his father was indeed a half-breed Moor who had raped his mother. When a young knight, had an affair with a young noblewoman who ended up pregnant, but rid herself of the pregnancy with an abortion, and went on to marry a rival knight. Is on the lookout for a wife, but must be one nothing like his previous experience with “ladies”, and must have a brain on her to run an estate while he is gone. Unfortunately, his trust level is shot, so if need be, he will marry just to produce an heir once he gains an estate.
- Hobbies: Falconry (something in common with Gyrfalke), mentoring (being a bastard himself, he has employed others, helping them to achieve their own goals. This is not widely known information, as he has since limited himself to using them in lower-ranking positions.)
- Goals: To own his own estate and be respected as a fair and just lord, overcoming the title of ‘bastard’.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

What's in a Name?

Everything! A name can completely define a character. How romantic is it to read about a heroine who is supposed to be strong, willful, beautiful, intelligent, etc. but is stuck with a name like “Martha”? (No offense to any Martha’s out there.) But when it comes to a romance novel, it truly is a struggle to come up with that perfect name!

I’ve experienced this sort of trouble countless times, and how does one resolve it? Baby Name books or websites are a great starting point. (http://babynamesworld.parentsconnect.com/) is a good reference.

Things to consider are:
1. The way a name sounds – if it is too hard to say aloud, it is probably not a great choice. Imagine your lead characters stumbling over themselves trying to whisper in passion.
2. The way a name looks – This is important, because if a reader has to look at a name throughout the whole book, it needs to be interesting.
3. The meaning of a name – You might think that the name “Kennedy” is perfect. It looks good, sounds good, brings to mind images of President Kennedy, great man that he was. But did you know that it’s meaning in Gaelic is: armored head; deformed head? Someone is going to catch that!
4. Uniqueness – You want your main characters to stand out from the crowd. While it is perfectly okay to choose a common name, you might want to think about updating the spelling to make it different. Don’t go too out there or you’ll make readers scratch their heads.

Now me personally, I have a liking for Gaelic/Celtic names, names with elemental meanings, and weird as it is, I prefer names that start with what I consider pretty letters (this may vary for you); A, F, J, K, L, R, S, X, Z are some of my faves.

A little background on some of my character’s names:
Gyrfalke – Originally, her name started out as Kestrel, like mine, but I already had a character named Kestrel (Salome); and further research into falconry told me that a Kestrel was not exactly a “noble” bird, so I opted to change it. The gyrfalcon is one of the most favored birds to use, so I looked into different spellings from different languages, and Gyrfalke is German. It sounded the most like a possible name, so there you go. (You might hate it, but her name is official!)
Salome – Her real name is Salome Mercer, her pseudonym is Kestrel Sinclair. Salome is the notorious dancer that demanded the head of John the Baptist. Quite the man-eater, as is my character. She is scheming and eminently practical, but also very passionate. This name just fits her perfect. As for Kestrel, in addition to being my own nickname, a Kestrel is a rather flighty bird, and Salome’s alter ego is a very mysterious character. Sinclair sounds prestigious to me, so there you go.
Anne and Kate Lawrence – Their names are actually Suzanne and Katherine, being twins, they opted for nicknames to save time with each other, as well as to distinguish themselves from “society”. I was also trying to think of names that could be adapted into pseudonyms for when they are on the trail of their prey. Sioux Anne and Kiowa Kate; or just Sioux and Kiowa as they’ll be known.
Zoe Benedict – Her name is actually Zosephine, which combines two of my favorite names when I was younger, Zoe and Josephine.

Up for debate:
Empress – Because this story takes place in an “alternate world” if you will, I need her name to sound sufficiently “out there” while still retaining properties of known names. In my mind, her country has a very Indo-Arabic feel to it, and in lots of fantasy, names are often hyphenated. Tentatively, her name is Syndra-Kai. When I get to that point in my writing, I will take suggestions and put it to a vote.
Elf – I have no idea what to call her yet! I need to do some digging into elven lore; there are so many people out there who are so into this kind of thing, I want to stick with “Lord of the Rings” type language or names when it comes to her people and her name, to keep fantasy writers in step with me. I can’t go calling her “Jane”.
Australia – I don’t even know, back to the baby name books. Something traditionally British I think, considering her origins.

Anyone else out there have thoughts on naming characters?

Friday, August 1, 2008

Influences

What discussion by an author would be complete without covering the author’s influences?

The very first romance novel I ever read was “A Rose in Winter” by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss. I loved it so much I then read everything she had ever written to that point and have kept pretty good tabs on her work since. She does have a newer book out that I haven’t read yet, but now that I know there is one, I’ll be picking it up soon. Her website can be found at: www.kathleenewoodiwiss.com

I can’t really say what it is I like most about her writing, except that it is really believable. She does a great job painting the visual for her reader so you can almost imagine yourself there with the characters. Her dialogue is compelling and often funny, and for the most part her characters are wonderful, fully fleshed personalities. I will say that I really prefer her earliest works over anything more recently. If anyone has read “The Flame and the Flower” and knows Heather and Brandon, and Brandon’s brother Jeff, knows that Jeff got the short end of the stick when it comes to brides. Raelynn is just a moron, and I can’t stand stupid female characters.

Ok, enough ranting, here are my top picks and absolute must reads by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss.
“A Rose in Winter”
“Ashes in the Wind”
“Shanna”
“The Wolf and the Dove”
“The Flame and the Flower”

My next favorite author would have to be Jude Deveraux. You can read about her here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jude_Deveraux . Her official site through Simon and Schuster is a pain to navigate, and mostly just trying to get you to buy books, rather than link them in any sort of sensical fashion.

I can’t tell you which of her books I read first, but she has a tendency to do things in groups, primarily by family. Almost every one of her books will feature a Montgomery or a Taggart. (If you get to reading her, you’ll know what I mean.)

Jude also does a great job of setting the scene for her readers, and she moves through time periods with ease, even having one book about a time traveling knight. (“A Knight in Shining Armor”) But what I love about her most is her gift for dialogue. Her characters are witty, funny, and very to the point. It makes for really great reading, and I wish someone would make one of these books a movie already!

My top picks for Jude are:
The “Velvet” Series – introduces the Montgomery family, very important to understanding later family stories
The “Taggart” Series – introduces the Taggarts, cousins to the Montgomeries, and just oh… so yummy!
“The Duchess”
“Mountain Laurel”

My next favorite author is Johanna Lindsey. I love her pretty much for the same reasons as I love Jude Deveraux, but she is more prolific. I can’t really say much more except demand that you start reading her! You can find a great site for her here: http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/l/johanna-lindsey/

My top picks are:
The “Malory-Anderson” Series, but specifically “The Magic of You”
“Defy Not the Heart”
“Warrior’s Woman”
“Man of My Dreams”

I love to read many different authors, but when it comes to romance novels, these are my top three. Other favorite authors include:
Louis L’amour, Stephen King, Anne Rice, Nora Roberts (J.D. Robb), Amanda Quick, Laura Kinsale, Rebecca Brandewyne, LaVyrle Spencer, Zane Grey, Michael Crichton, James Patterson, Dean Koontz, Nicholas Sparks, Jeffrey Deaver, (just to name a few).

I also have a big interest in trying to get my oldest son to enjoy reading as much as I do, so I’m all into the Harry Potter series, and other popular children’s books out there now. Here are a few good ones: The “Redwall” Series by Brian Jacques, The “Chronicles of Narnia” and “Lord of the Rings” Books, the Lemony Snicket books, and well… I could just go on and on and on… But I think I will stop here for now!