Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wee-Bit (and a bit more) Wednesday

Hello, and welcome to the second installment of Wee-Bit Wednesday, where I parrot the ever-popular Teaser Tuesday posts on a different day with a different title. :)

This week I thought I’d spare all of the people who aren’t crazy about mushy romance scenes and give you a scene from Chapter Two. I’ll apologize in advance for the length (it’s a bit more than wee), but this was really the only good way of starting and ending the excerpt in order to avoid confusion and give it a nice hook at the end (even though that’s not the end of the scene in the book).

This excerpt is (almost) directly after Chapter One, which I’ve posted on my blog many times to show you how I work through my drafts and create my revisions. If you’re interested in reading what happens before this excerpt, you can read the entire Chapter One here. Now I’ll shut up and let my Wee-Bit do the talking. (As always, honest crits are welcome…specific crits are appreciated!)

**Warning: The following excerpt uses strong language.**

A wave of icy water slapped Dom to full awareness.

He sputtered and choked on the water that managed to invade his airway. Despite his efforts to get to his feet, a strong force held each of his limbs down. He blinked over and over, trying to bring his surroundings into focus through the cold rivulets that streamed from his hair and into his eyes.

A single torch bathed him in a circle of light, taunting him with the harsh reality of his grim situation. He lay on a metal table with his wrists and ankles locked down in iron shackles. Cool, damp air met his wet skin and raised his flesh in a fair imitation of brail. The thick, musty odor of dirt walls assaulted his nostrils and lay heavy in his lungs. An archway was carved into the packed earth across from him as the only means for entry into the room. The stacked wine barrels in one corner provided a weak argument that he was in a storage cellar and not some surreal cave-like dungeon.

Breathing fast and heavy, adrenaline coursing through his veins, Dom met the eyes of his captor. All at once the memory of his walk home slammed to the forefront of his mind. He hadn’t been slipped a Mickey after all. Just knocked out like he’d pissed off Mike fucking Tyson.

The man – Griffin, he recalled – stood holding the bucket that had no doubt been carrying the frigid water only moments ago. Wincing with the pain in his head from the man’s mean right hook, Dom struggled against his bonds. He desperately wanted to beat that fake-fanged smirk right off of him. “What’s the matter, asshole? Afraid to fight me like a man?”

Griffin answered with a patronizing laugh. “On the contrary, Dominic. I can’t wait to fight you once we’re on equal ground. I’m sure you’ll make an excellent punching bag.”

“You son of a –”

“That’s enough.”

Dom looked past Griffin to where the new voice, ringing hollow and cold, emanated from the doorway. Griffin’s cocky attitude fell dead away, like a child being scolded by his father. He bowed his head in reverence and stepped away from the table, allowing the other man to step into the fiery spotlight.

He looked older than Griffin, maybe in his forties, but still possessed the same huge frame as the younger man. His long hair was jet black with occasional interruptions by streaks of silver. It draped over his body like a dark tunic that covered the top half of his crimson robes. His pallid skin was bloodless, devoid of any sign of life. But it was the man’s eyes that made the hair on the back of Dom’s neck stand on end. His pupils were lost in rings of matching obsidian and the reflection of the orange flames danced in the black depths of the soulless pools.

Dom’s breath caught in his throat. The man reeked of malice; his very presence exuded an evil energy that suffocated Dom like an invisible pillow against his face. He concentrated on dragging air into his lungs as he studied his newest captor and obvious leader of whatever deranged group was holding him.

“Let. Me. Go,” Dom managed between clenched teeth.

His newfound enemy smiled that same fangy smile. “Over your dead body, I’m afraid.”

Dom felt his control snap. “What the fuck is going on!”

“Where are my manners? Apologies. I am Lysander, Lord of the Diabolus Umbra. You are a guest in my humble lair,” he gestured with his palms upraised, arms opening to the sides, like he was showing off a luxurious home. “Welcome.”

“Guest? Guests usually receive invitations in the mail, with the option of declining. They aren’t kidnapped and held in a cellar. If I’m a guest then let me off this goddamn table,” he said, jerking on the iron bracelets.

“I am sorry for the restraints, but I can assure you they are only temporary. Once the change has been completed, you will not only be freed, but you will have the honor of being my second in command with much power.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” Dom ground out through a clenched jaw. “If this is some kind of twisted sacrificial ritual for you guys, I suggest you get a fucking goat!” He again tried pulling free, this time using one prolonged contraction of every muscle he possessed. He growled against the tremendous strain, his veins rising in webs under the stretched skin of his biceps and forearms. With his muscles burning and his strength depleted, Dom let his body go limp and his head fall back to the table with detested resignation.

“I will explain more fully when you have an open mind, however, I am willing to enlighten you with the abridged version.” The older man tented his fingers in front of him and lifted his empty gaze to the ceiling. He began to move with contrasting grace, practically gliding around the table as he spoke. “I am a very powerful Being. Your kind would call me a vampire. I have need of you to join my clan in order to get close to the one Being I need as my queen.”

Any hope of reasoning with the man just flew right out the proverbial window. He was obviously Lord of the Loonies. A delusional man who thought himself Dracula on the hunt for his very own vampire bride. The pure insanity of his situation caused a small amount of amusement to overshadow his fear. “Let me see if I can get this straight,” he began to clarify. “You’re a vampire, and you need to make me a vampire, because I’m the only one who can get you the woman you want as your queen.” A chuckle escaped from Dom and echoed through the dank space. “Ever consider E-Harmony? I hear they do a bang-up job of finding you the perfect mate. And the upside is there’s no felony involved.”

The corners of his captor’s mouth lifted and his lips parted, once again displaying the freak-show fangs he was wearing. “Ah, you have a sense of humor. I find that quite refreshing. I am sure it is a trait my queen-to-be admires in you, as well.”

“Okay, look, pal. I’m not convinced you’re anything more than a lunatic with a God complex, but for the sake of argument I’ll play along with your insane little theory.” Maybe he shouldn’t be taunting the man, but he couldn’t help himself. The whole situation was just too much and this guy was a complete whack-job. “Let’s just assume for the moment that what you say is true. Who is this chick you want as your queen that I’m the only one who can bring her to you? I’m pretty sure that Big, Tall and Ugly over there would be able to get whoever it is for you just fine. Or he could tell Johnny, to tell Steve, to tell Becky that you like her. Here’s a tip: if she starts doodling your name inside hearts all over her notebook, you know she’s hooked.”

He heard Griffin growling in the shadows. By the sound of it, Dom didn’t think he was endearing himself to the man. Like he cared.

Lysander completed his orbit around the table and resumed the study of his captive through narrowed eyes. Black, horizontal slits pinned Dom in place, much like his metal restraints. “You have a very sharp tongue for someone who is in such a precarious situation. There is a time and place for that humor of yours. That is something you will learn quickly.”

Dom heard the underlying threat in the man’s voice. It was the type of thing he’d heard on a daily basis growing up. A switch flipped in his mind and he responded in an equally threatening tone. “Actually, I’ve learned that if you’re going to get a fucking beating one way or the other, you might as well speak your mind. And no matter what kind of beating I get, I always make sure to return the favor.”

A wicked smile formed on the man’s pliable mask of a face. “Very well, I will tell you. Not because you ask, understand, but because I shall enjoy your reaction. The girl that is fated to be my queen does not yet know of her Destiny. According to my sources, she must come to my bed willingly to set the proper wheels in motion. I feel that with you at my side, that would be an absolute certainty.”

Dom gave him a humorless laugh. “Sorry to disappoint you, but no female likes me that much. I’ve had my share of intimate escapades, but girls typically start to despise me once they realize my non-committal attitude isn’t about to change. You’ve obviously got the wrong guy.”

Lysander studied his claw-like nails as though he were bored. “You are quite mistaken, dear boy. I know for a fact that the female I need would quite willingly follow you anywhere. After all,” he threw Dom a malicious sneer, “Angelica trusts you with her life.”

Dom’s eyes widened, his nostrils flared. Terror filled his veins with ice, immobilizing his body even as his heart threatened to send him into cardiac arrest. “I’ll fucking die before I let you go anywhere near her,” he said in a low voice.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Terrible Twos-day: Beta vs. VHS - Part II

Yesterday I discussed the first of two schools of thought when it comes to editing our WIPs: the School of Betas. The school where the teachers gently hold your creation in their hands, helpfully mark it up with red pen, and hand it back saying, “Again. This time with feeling.”

But, not every writer agrees with the use of Betas. *pause for collective audience gasp* It’s true! I’ve read their advice online exclaiming, “Don’t show your work to anyone under any circumstance!”

This group of writers vehemently oppose the Beta way of life. Instead, they are strict believers in the Vamp and Hide System, or VHS. (Yes, I made that up, so I wouldn’t start throwing that term around expecting people to know what the fark you’re talking about, unless you have a penchant for people looking at you like you have two heads.) They vamp and revamp their work all on their own and hold it so close to their chest that their skin begins to grow around the edges of the pages, fusing creator with creation in a grotesque display of paranoia. (Ew, that was gross. Sorry.)

The thought process that drives a VHS user is simple: no matter who your Betas are, once they have their grubby little paws on your unpublished - extremely vulnerable – manuscript, there’s nothing stopping the Beta from stealing your ideas, your words, your babies. Instead, the VHS-ers trust in their own abilities to write and edit the perfect story until the time comes for them to boldly submit their work with only a single set of eyes ever gracing its pages.

Wow. That’s intense, right? Now, please don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying that the VHS-er is wrong or convoluted in their way of thinking. In fact, I still haven’t decided which school I’ll be attending when I’ve reached that glorious false-sense-of-manuscript-perfection.

My inner (and quite possibly over-trusting) literary soul cries out for the use of Betas. I need to know what others think. Did the story work as well for them as it did for me? Is there anything I’ve failed to explain properly? Did I over explain in some areas? Are there plot holes I’ve blinded myself to? And, damn it, I want to know if it’s genuinely good!

But my soulmate (who is always wisely cynical) says I shouldn’t be bandying my ideas about a circle of people I barely know, like a lukewarm version of Hot Potato where the players get to hold it as long as they want and take a hunk off here or a slice off there. I shouldn’t trust anyone not to sell my baby on the black market or run away with it into the night, cackling at their good fortune and my naïve trusting ways.

Maybe there are ways to use Betas and not have to worry about the security of your ideas. What about using people who are knowledgeable in the craft of writing, but who aren't pursuing novel writing careers? Or using Betas who are in a different genre than you.

Or maybe there's really no reason to worry at all and the people we meet on the wonderful world of blogging are just as I am: out to connect with other writers and sincere in my wishes that they succeed just as I hope to.

So, which school do you attend? Beta or VHS?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Terrible Twos-day: Beta vs. VHS

I originally said that Terrible Twos-day would be an informative post on two things that knowledgeable professionals say writers should never do. I’m not abandoning that theme entirely, but rather twisting it into a discussion on two schools of thought that continue to plague me when it comes to my book: Do I use Betas or the VHS?

When I was a wee lass in Small Town, Wisconsin, my family stepped into the future and became proud owners of the latest and greatest technology: the VCR. (The very first videos we rented were The Muppets Take Manhattan and WHAM!’s Greatest Hits Videos. Don’t judge me!) When you rented videos, you had the option of renting a Beta version or VHS version of your desired movie. The type of VCR you owned determined which version you rented for your viewing pleasure. To this day I have no idea what a Beta version of a VCR looks like, or what the difference between the two are (nor do I particularly care).

Nowadays, when I hear the term Beta, it’s linked to a new-and-improved version of software or hardware or Tupperware that hasn’t had all the bugs, kinks and wrinkles worked out yet. Therefore, they label it “Incredible Thing You Must Have version 18.0 Beta.” This tells us they want us to take it for a spin and let them know what we think is great, and not so great, about their latest and greatest Thingamabobber.

So how does that apply to our writing?

It doesn’t.

It has to do with our editing. The people that read your finished manuscript are called your “Beta Readers,” or more affectionately, “Betas.” Here’s an example scenario of why some (most?) writers use Betas:

Writer: YES! Finally, my manuscript is complete! I’ve poured over every last word, every tiny comma, and there’s nothing I could possibly change, add, delete or embellish to make this better. Here, my lucky little Betas, read and bask in the literary glory that is my polished book.

Beta #1: Ooh, this was really good, but I think it would be even better if you changed this, this, aaaaaaand this.

Beta #2: Yes, and don’t forget to make this part a little clearer and this part a little stronger.

Beta #3: Right. Oh, and also, I don’t think this is necessary to move the story forward…or this…oooooooor this.

Writer: Well, button my britches, you’re all absolutely right! I’m so glad I had fresh sets of eyes to point out my story’s weaknesses that I couldn’t see for myself. Now my book will be even better. Thank you, Betas!

In summary, Betas can read and analyze our work more objectively than we can. We are the mothers, painstakingly dressing and primping our children for their big debut to the world. We look at them with blinded pride and say to anyone who will listen, “Look at what I have created. She is beautiful beyond compare and I have dressed her in the finest clothes and styled her hair in a unique and wonderful way.” Then the photographers – or Beta Readers – show up for the photo shoot and says, “Sacre bleu! Zees will not do! Ze clothes are so last season and her hair ees like she stuck her fingair een ze light socket. Tsk tsk tsk. Non, non, non. Come. I will fix and zen she will shine like ze Eiffel Tower, non? OUI!”

(I’m not sure why the Beta Readers were French in that scenario, but you get the picture.)

But if we’re going to use Betas, who do we chose? How do we know they’re qualified to take on such a task in the first place?

I could tell you all day long how knowledgeable I am in the world of fiction writing and my role as a Crit Partner or Beta Reader would be invaluable to you. But I’d be lying. I’m not qualified in the least! All I can tell you is what I liked or didn’t like as a reader. I’m not worth a damn as an editor, unless we’re talking spelling errors. I can catch those with my eyes closed. But when it comes to technical writing? Sentence structure? Nope, don’t ask me, ‘cause I have no idea.

And, maybe I’m completely off the mark here, but I feel like 99% of the people I’ve met through the wonderful world of blogging are in the same position I’m in. Finding their writing voice and struggling to finish their current books or projects. We’re not published. We don’t have years of success under our belts. We’re newbies, novices, hopefuls, students. From reading snippets and teasers, I’ve discovered so many people whom I truly think are talented writers with bright futures ahead of them. But others seem to like my snippets as well, but again, I’d like to reiterate that I am not qualified to be a Beta, so raw talent doesn’t necessarily mean I have the tools to refine my work or anyone else’s.

I know a lot of you have Betas already. What were your reasons for choosing those people? Are they personal friends of yours? Are they internet friends whose work you admire? Give me your thoughts on the School of Betas.

**Because this post ended up being so obnoxiously long, I’m breaking it up into two days. Part two will air tomorrow morning, where I’ll discuss the VHS option of editing your work. (the following is said in a ridiculous New York accent---->) Frankly, the whole thing is making me a little verklempt, so I’m giving you a topic to talk amongst yourselves: Tupperware. It’s neither Tupper, nor ware. Discuss. (One million points and all of my love to the person(s) who can tell me what that’s from!)**


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Wee-Bit Wednesday

As promised, here is a small wee-bit of an excerpt (okay it was smaller – about 500 words – when I started, but once I finished revising and editing it ended up 895 words) from Chapter 9 of my As-of-Yet-Untitled Paranormal Romance. Although I’m hoping you enjoy it and gets you super psyched about my book (after all, that’s the whole point of giving you a wee-bit, isn’t it?) I would still appreciate any constructive critiques if you have any. Fluff is great, but please only give me honest fluff, so I can grow as a writer. ;)

“This is my fault. I knew better, but I was selfish. I let myself need you too much. I’m so sorry, Dominic.”

Angelica felt an arm slide under her knees and one around her back before she was lifted into his lap. The blanket fell away from her shoulders as he pulled her hands away from her eyes, allowing the wetness to trail down her cheeks. Dominic cupped her face and used the roughened pads of his thumbs to wipe them away. Thoughts of regret consumed her mind, yet his tender touch and the intimacy of his stare had her body responding in a manner that contradicted those thoughts.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, but none of this is your fault. Look at me,” he said when she’d lowered her eyes. She obeyed, unable to deny him even the smallest request. “I accepted what I am a long time ago. Hell, I’ve even been grateful at times. If I was still Mortal I never would’ve been able to protect you last night. As long as I can use my strength and powers to keep you safe, I’ll never regret what I am.”

Angelica desperately wanted to believe him, but her guilt held fast, refusing to subside even a little. Keeping Dominic as her close friend all those years had placed him in danger. She had knowingly made him a walking target to those who wanted to destroy her. He had no idea that because of who – or what – she was, he’d been forced into a state of half-life for all eternity. And it scared her to death to think he might hate her once he learned the truth.

On a shaky sigh she closed her eyes, one of which overflowed with the sorrow that filled her heart, releasing a single tear from beneath the fan of lashes. It slid over her skin, her shame evident in the trail of moisture it left in its wake. Soft, cool lips pressed lightly to her cheek and took with them the droplet in mid-descent. When he spoke, his breath caressed her cheek like a faint winter breeze, causing shivers that had nothing to do with temperature to ripple down her spine. “God, I can feel your sadness, angel.” His voice was low and gruff, like he struggled to force sound through gravel. “Tell me how to fix it. I’ll do anything.”

Reluctantly she opened her eyes and stared intently into the steel-blue depths of his. “What if I were to tell you that I could have prevented all of this…if I’d just kept my distance from you?”

“Sweetheart, that’s ridiculous,” he said gently.

Her eyes searched his, silently begging him for an answer. There was nothing ridiculous about her claim and she needed to know where she stood. He pushed a long breath out through his nose with a slight flare of his nostrils – a familiar sign he was acceding to something she wanted against his better judgment.

“I’d say I don’t give a damn what it prevented. I wouldn’t give up any of our time together. I swear. Not for any reason, no matter my consequences,” he answered with a harsh tone.

The conviction of his answer soaked into the speck of hope she’d been holding in her heart until it expanded so much her chest hurt. Tears, originally borne of fear and sadness, but now tangible drops of relief and happiness, flowed unchecked down her face.

Dominic’s features softened with a look of resignation. “How can you doubt how much you mean to me? How much you’ve always meant to me?”

His gaze slipped from her eyes and settled heavily on her lips. “God, woman, is there any emotion that doesn’t look good on you?” he said in a gruff voice.

She drew her brows together and opened her mouth to ask him what he meant by that, but he didn’t give her the chance.

“Even when you cry you’re beautiful. Your eyes look like submerged jewels behind the tears you try to keep from falling. The apples of your cheeks turn the prettiest shade of pink. And your lips...” His thumb lifted from her cheek and trailed lightly over the fullness of her lower lip. “They get all swollen and pouty. And eventually, when you get nervous or unsure about something - like now - you suck one corner between your teeth, which is enough to bring any man to his knees.”

Angelica immediately released her lip on a gasp of surprise. No one had ever said anything so innocent, and at the same time so provocative, to her before in her life. The butterflies returned to flutter wildly in her stomach and her heart beat a rhythm, hard and fast, against her breast.

As his gaze traveled back up her face, black lashes lifted to reveal silvery-blue orbs that held a raw, molten desire. His eyes penetrated her soul and rendered her mindless, her every thought forced into submission by the overwhelming power of her physical urges. Urges she’d denied herself almost her entire life.

Very, very slowly, he closed the short distance between them. When his lips were only a breath away from her own he held still, poised at the threshold of no return, giving her plenty of time to back out now and run the other way.

She didn’t.

Now keep in mind, that when I look at this later today, I'll be changing things AGAIN. It seems to be a never-ending process of progression. But anyhoo - what do you like about it? What didn't you like about it? Do you have a favorite line? Lay it on me!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Melodramatic Monday

Holy FARKING Canoli, what have I gotten myself into?!?!

As I said in my Friday post, I master-minded this new blogging schedule where I'll be posting 2-3 times a week with alternating days, each day with its own theme. Now that I've had some time to think about it, I don't think I could've put more pressure on myself if I had ASKED SUPERMAN TO PRETTY-PLEASE-WITH-A-CHERRY-ON-TOP PLACE A FREIGHT TRAIN SQUARELY ON MY SHOULDERS!!!

Then to top it off, everyone that commented basically said the same thing, "You're crazier than a senile Hollywood stunt man with Alzheimer's, Maxwell!!" (And when you think about it, that truly would be a crazy situation. I mean, the poor guy would probably forget why he'd just been set on fire or thrown off of a building.) Okay, so I may be paraphrasing just a skosh, but you get the gist. I thought a lot more of you followed blogging schedules and I was just following your good examples. APPARENTLY I WAS SUFFERING FROM MASSIVE BOUTS OF BLOGOSPHERE DELUSIONS.

However, before I huddle in the darkened corner, rocking back and forth while hugging myself to find my "happy place," I'm going to give this a shot. After many failed weeks, I may just cry "UNCLE," "MERCY," or "FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY PLEASE MAKE IT STOP," but for now, we'll just have to see if I can make this happen.

Have a SUPERTY-DUPERTY LOVE-A-LICIOUS MELODRAMATIC MONDAY everyone!!!! And don't forget to tune in for WEE-BIT WEDNESDAY where I'll share a snippet from my book. If you have any requests on content, let me know (scary, thrilling, action, romantic, funny, whatevs).  :)

Friday, April 2, 2010

Introducing the new and improved Passions On Paper look (& other changes in the program)

Lookee, lookee! I changed my blog to reflect a more passionate image. Did it work? Do the gi-normous roses in the background incite your deepest desires?......No?.......But, it's kinda pretty, right? Well, that's what we're sticking with for a while anyway. Who knows what it'll look like in six months. ;)

I've decided to try keeping a regular blogging schedule, so all of you can know what to expect and make sure you tune in on your favorite days. You know, for those of you (and I know there's not many, but I don't want to rule anyone out) that don't wake up every morning totally jonesing for a Passions On Paper fix.

So I've created a theme for each weekday that will inspire my blogs for that particular day. I reserve the right to change these themes at any point, which will most likely be due to realizing these ideas were bunk to begin with. *tee hee* At any rate, these are my ideas so far:

I'm not exactly sure what that will mean. I might rewrite a certain passage in a melodramatic way just for fun, or maybe I'll rant melodramatically about something random in my crazy brain. Or maybe I'll make it an opposite day and not be melodramatic at all. You just never know what I'll come up with.

This is the day that I'm going to try and find two things that a writer should never do. Whether it has to do with querying, submitting, writing, what have you. It's going to be a day of educational warnings. Please don't think that I'll be writing this post with any sort of personal knowledge. I'll be doing research to hear what the experts say. Or maybe I'll ask the experts (if I can get them to acknowledge me) what they're #1 tip NOT to do would be.  Either way, we'll be learning together.

I recently discovered that a lot of bloggers do a Teaser Tuesday, where they post a small section out of anywhere in their WIP (work in progress) to get readers interested and buzzing. I thought this was a great idea, however, I've decided to tweak the idea just a bit. Afterall, if tons of people are teasing everyone on Tuesday, then it comes down to choosing your favorites to read because you won't have time to get to all of them. So I'm going to do it on Wednesdays and I used the Wee-Bit to aptly describe that I'm giving you only a small amount and to provide my much-loved alliteration for my title.

I like this title because it sounds like FREE agent, which is an actual term, and of course, it keeps in line with my "TH" need for THursday. I LOVE IT! Okay, so on this day I'm going to highlight three literary agents. I'm going to cover different genres, since not everyone is a romance addict writer like moi (though I personally don't know why anyone would want to read or write anything but). Again, I'll be learning right along with the rest of you on this one. As of right now, I have one dream agent, but in the event she turns me down I have to be prepared with others to submit to (after I pick up the pieces of my shattered heart and broken dreams and cry like a little girl for at least a year).

And last, but not least...

This will be a "holy cow, what in the world is she going to post today" day. The sky's the limit. Maybe I'll have a fellow blogger or author interview. Maybe I'll turn it into a FAN-TASTIC FRIDAY where I feature one of my beloved fans (aka followers)! Maybe it'll end up being a FORGOT TO BLOG FRIDAY. Even I have no idea what I'll do.

So there you have it, ladies and gents. My new (soon to be attempted) blogging schedule. But before you go all Passions On Paper overdose on me, I'd like to inform you that I'll be alternating the weeks on these. For example, the first week I'll be doing the Mondays and Wednesdays and the next week I'll be doing Tuesdays and Thursdays. Fridays are a wild card. You never know when I'm going to throw one of those in there.

Okay, so what do you think? Do you like the proposed schedule? If you have any ideas that are better than mine (which is highly likely, since you're all blogging super geniuses), let me know!