Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Love to hate those villains

I adore villains. They are almost always my favorite characters in books and movies. I don't know why, but there is something about a bad guy that makes my heart flutter. And even a few bad girls can do it for me too.

The best villains are three dimensional, real people who have been forced into the lifestyle they lead. They are not inherently evil, they just do what their set of morals think they can do. And the hero/heroine lives by a different code of ethics.

I always tell people that the mice think the cat is evil, but he's not. He's doing what he feels is right. And good villains are this way too.

Of course there are antagonists that are completely evil. They are selfish, heartless, and driven to get what they want. These can be fun small doses. I like the mean, spiteful bad guy once in a while, but I really do like to feel for my villain. Sure, I want the hero/heroine to prevail in the end, but it makes for more interesting reading to see the progression from just a guy to holy crap this dude is a jerk.

My villains tend to be, well, not really people. I have bad guys in some of my books, but in the majority of them the antagonists are the characters themselves. What? Yes, it's true.

Their feelings, their emotions, their own wants and needs are getting in the way of their own happiness in most of my books. These stories don't need a person to screw things up because my characters are doing that just fine all by themselves.

Dakota Rebel

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My Favorite Villain

Sometimes, the villains are the best part of a story in my opinion. They’re fun and interesting and usually just very misunderstood. Today I’m going to tell you about my favorite villain: Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty.

She’s just a girl who wants to be invited to the parties but is always left out. So she doesn’t have pretty skin like all the popular kids—the green pretty much lets her off of “fairest of them all”. When she asked for a puppy, her parents got her a raven. Thanks mom and dad…as if she wasn’t already fighting creepy with the black clothes and bad skin.

She could have gone emo, but that went against her grain. She likes to smile. So it freaks people out and they call her grin evil. What do they know? Sometimes she’s just thinking about a good cup of coffee. You’d think with all her powers she could get one. Starbucks builds everywhere. Do you think they could build near her castle? Do they thinks trolls and goblins and dark fairies don’t need coffee? Heck they need coffee more than anyone. They work nights…a lot of nights.

Night owl, black clothes with bat-wing edges, green skin, yellow eyes like her dad (thanks again, pop), raven for a pet… She’s got outcast written all over her. She was the kid all the teachers warily watched in high school. They should have been watching the jocks who relentlessly picked on her. She could have turned them all into toads. Okay, she did once, but that was an accident.

She couldn’t help it. She’s got all these cool powers and a touch of temper. Of course people just thought she was freaky, so she went off and hid in that creepy old castle with the goblins. She decided to call them minions to get past the fact that they’re goblins and frankly scare her half to death. It’s a bit of a contest…who’s scarier. She must always win if only for self preservation. Of course the popular kids shun her for that, too.

And then there was that spinning wheel thing. Could people just appreciate the work she got them out of? Noooooo! She just knew the king would overreact and burn them all. C’mon, who really dies from a prick of the finger? She was exaggerating. No because stupid Stefan is such an overreactor, she’s going to once again have to prove her power again. It’s just like when they dated once: He was the rich kid, venturing over the tracks and she thought he was serious about seeing past all her baggage. What a bunch of crap he’d spouted. “Your eyes are my sun” my foot. At the first sign of peer pressure, he was gone.

Really, the minions are better. More reliable, too.

So then, she tried to go the route of the older woman with a younger man. Stupid Phillip. He was all about being the bad boy and defying his father and experimenting with BDSM. But the first time she chained him in her dungeon, look what happened. Wuss.

So this is Maleficent. Alone, misunderstood, getting angry…she has a rich background with many factors that have molded her into the powerful villain she is. If you look deeper though, you find she’s just a wounded little girl who once really wanted a puppy and acceptance.

All villains are like this. They have a story. They weren’t just born the evilest of evil. Look at them, study them and give them reasons for the way they are.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The bad guy

Quite a few years ago, there was a television show--MacGyver. It was pretty popular, enough for seven seasons which isn't bad in a competitive television market. Each week, he was pitted against one kind of villain or another. But around season five or six, the writers came up with a recurring villain named Murdoch.

In some ways, Murdoch made that show. You see, for season after season, MacGyver was pitted against villains that weren't quite as bright as he was so they had to come up with odd stunts and weird ways for him to solve problems with his trusty Swiss Army knife and duct tape.

But Murdoch... well Murdoch was more on par with MacGyver so the match was more interesting. The writers could come up with psychological situations and more open-ended solutions. Murdoch was the archrival that MacGyver never quite defeated.

So what's my point? In our stories, we need to carefully match our villains with our protagonists. If one or the other is too strong, too bright, too bad, too good, then the reader loses interest. The reader wants to root for the good guy, but if the good guy clearly outmatches the bad guy, then we are sending mixed signals. The bad guy becomes the underdog. In the same way, if the bad guy is far stronger than the good guy, we're signaling that he in fact is the alpha dog. There needs to be balance.

There are a number of ways to balance the equation. We can have a less than intelligent villain who has no moral compass. We can have a bright villain who has doubts. We can have a villain who is convinced that he is righting a wrong. But we must balance our villains and protagonists so that they are matches.

After a couple seasons, Murdoch's character disappeared. And when that happened, so did interest in the MacGyver character. He was too much. Too bright. Too good. Too moral. Strangely enough, we needed Murdoch to balance MacGyver, to give him doubts and make him question his decisions. That's a good villain.


Sunday, December 28, 2008

A New Year's romance

Here's a New Year's treat you may have missed:

Djinni and the Geek

By Cindy Spencer Pape

Available now from Ellora’s Cave:

click on the cover to buy

Review: Fans of steamy love scenes will not be disappointed in the least since Anissa and David have great chemistry together. Cindy Spencer Pape has written one appealing genie tale that should leave you with a smile on your face knowing that a geek has finally found a wonderful love with a woman both beautiful inside and out.”~~Katie from Romance Junkies

Blurb: Computer science professor David Garvaglia is nobody’s idea of a hero. Is he? When David opens an antique puzzle box and finds a Djinni, his first thought isn’t for wishes, it’s how to set her free. Anissa has spent centuries as a prisoner of the box and has dreamed of the day some handsome master would release her. But she also has to adapt to the twenty-first century, and defeat an evil wizard. Besides, once she meets David, she’s not so sure she wants to be freed.

And here's a New Year's excerpt for you...

They stayed long enough for a five-minute visit with the new mother and a fleeting glimpse of the red-faced infant. Then they walked with Wesley and Ben down to the hospital entry and were nearly out the door when the security guard looked at the television mounted high on the wall of a seating area. “Hey everybody, it’s one minute to midnight.”

They all paused, as did the one or two other groups passing through the lobby. Sure enough, on the television screen was a scene of a large clamoring group of people standing shoulder to shoulder and watching an enormous glowing orb that seemed to hover over the city streets. Numbers on the corner of the screen flashed the countdown to the New Year. When it reached ten seconds, the orb slowly descended and everybody began to chant. “Ten. Nine, Eight…”

As she stared at the nearly unbelievable program, she barely registered the fact that David had snaked an arm around her. He slipped his hand up under her fluffy pink coat and clamped it around her waist. When the chanting crowd reached one, everybody on the screen and in the lobby yelled, “Happy new year!” Then David bent his head and kissed Anissa, soundly on the lips. It was long, wet and intimate and it caught her so off-guard that she forgot all about where they were and that they had an audience as her body melted into his.

She stumbled on her high heel when David finally released her lips and he caught her tight against his chest. When she heard the smattering of applause from the guard, David’s friends and whoever else was watching, she hid her face in his wool-covered chest.

“Happy New Year, Anissa.” The chuckle that accompanied David’s softly spoken words vibrated through his chest. “If we play this right, this year should mean the start of a whole new you. Not that I’m objecting to the old one.”

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Guest Author: Susanne Saville

The Grip crew welcomes guest author Susanne Saville!

My holiday tradition subject involves Boxing Day. When I was little, I always wondered if it referred to boxing the sport or boxing as in doing up boxes and putting them away after Christmas. It turns out, Boxing Day has nothing to do with either.

Boxing Day is a British holiday (and thus also celebrated in Canada, Australia, etc.). It is the day after Christmas (although your day off from work could be a different day depending on when Christmas falls). In the Regency period, which is when my historical romance THE SECRET HUNTER is set, it was the day that you thanked the people who worked for you by giving them money or food or textiles. Like a Christmas Bonus. Say you're Mrs. Darcy, then you'd bring a hamper to each of your tenants' cottages on your estate.

No one really knows why it was called "boxing" day. One of the theories is that this was
traditionally the day the Poor Box was opened (the wooden box into which you would drop
coin donations in the church) and the contents were given out to the poor.

The website gives this as an
explanation for Boxing Day in 1770:

"Our tithes must be paid each month at the church. The money goes to support the church and the poor members of our Parish. Our mother let me put the coins in the box at the back of the church. There is an alms house on the edge of town. On the day after Christmas, Boxing Day, which is Saint Stephen's Day, the alms box will be broken open and the money will be given to the widows and orphans at the alms house. It makes me feel happy to know that we can help the less fortunate people in our community by paying our tithes at church."

As noted in this quote, Boxing Day is also Saint Stephen's Day. You know how Good King
Wenceslas looks out "on the Feast of Stephen"? Well, now you know that carol is set on Boxing Day. :)

Happy Holidays!
- Susanne Saville

by Susanne Saville
available now from

Blurb: When Gwenllian Lloyd literally knocks dashing Daniel Wyckliff off his feet in Bath's Sydney Gardens, she is unaware intrigue looms before her. The year is 1804. England fears invasion from Napoleon's France. Gwenllian has just met the man of her dreams, but is he a man she can trust?


Book Trailer:


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays one and all

I am not at all a religious person, but I love Christmas. Or Yule, or the Solstice—whatever you want to call it. I’m not the least bit picky as long as I can bake cookies, decorate a tree, give presents, and sing. Which is the tricky part, as no one really wants to hear me sing. Even the dog covers her ears.

Almost every society we know about has some sort of celebration around the winter solstice. It may have started as a prayer to make the sun come back, or to commemorate the survival of the tribe during a particularly vicious winter, but I do believe there is a deep, primitive need in any society, for festivals, and like it or not, if you’re a twenty-first-century American, Christmas is what it’s called by the masses.

Many of the traditions I love are pre-Christian in origin, and a few others are fairly recent. I don’t care. Using evergreen plants to symbolize that life endures through the winter makes sense to me. As I type this, we have over a foot of snow in my yard and more coming down. Believe me, I get winter. And Dr. Seuss’s Grinch is a modern tradition I love just as much as my great-aunt’s cookie recipe. I enjoy Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” and my husband’s punk rock Christmas music. “Christmas Night of the Living Dead,” is particularly amusing if your mind is sick and twisted like mine. (“Her face is green and the snow is red…”)

So what does my family do for the holidays? I’d love nothing more than to have a huge open house with dozens of guests. But alas, everyone I know has other plans. So our holiday gatherings are small. I bake lots of cookies, and we all exchange gifts. On Christmas morning, btw, none of that Christmas Eve business—that’s cheating. You can open whatever’s in your stocking whenever you get up, but no fair waking anyone else up before nine or ten. When the kids were little they got up early, but now, I’m usually the first one up. I never sleep on Christmas Eve.

So I usually have some muffins or something to munch on with fruit while the stockings are opened. My dh usually cooks something wonderful for brunch a little later. Once everybody is up and has emptied their little cache of goodies (nothing over ten bucks goes in the stocking), then we take turns opening presents one at a time. Late morning my father (and sometimes my brother, who lives with him) will come over, and by early afternoon, my in-laws arrive, weather permitting. Somewhere after the presents are opened, we take turns showering, and brunch is served. Then later in the afternoon, we’ll all head over to my brother and dad’s house for dinner. Both Dad and Mark have girlfriends this year, but I don’t know if they’ll be there or not, so dinner will be for anywhere from eight to ten people. Like I said, small. There will be a call to my nephews in California, and maybe one to my husband’s aunt in Texas.

By evening it will all be done, and we’llbe back home, puttering with new toys and gadgets, or maybe watching a movie. It’s all pretty low-key, but it’s mine.

Whatever or however you celebrate, I wish you and yours the very best. Have a safe and happy holiday season.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Freakazoid? Maybe.

So I'm weird. I know, I know...shocker right? Anyway, my family has never been big on tradition. We are more of a situational family. What we do and when we do it depends on what is currently going on in our lives. But I suppose the one constant has been to wake up too early on Christmas morning and open gifts. From that point many different things occur.

1. We pack up Jr. and take her to Mr. Rebel's family's house for the afternoon.

2. We pack up Jr. and take her to my Dad's house. This one will be sorely missed as it was my second favorite way to spend Christmas.

3. My favorite way to spend Christmas...Alone. Yes, that's right. I like to spend the day by myself playing with the toys I get for Christmas. Jr. often goes to Lansing with Mrs. Rebel Sr. (I don't think I've ever talked about my mom before. LOL. She needs a better nickname.) Then the Mr. is required to go to his family's and I get the house (and the DVD player) all to myself.

Honestly, I have never minded being alone. On Christmas or any other day. I think it's because I'm an only child. I don't need other people around to have fun. I don't feel neglected. I am just fine. After the kid opens presents, Christmas is really just another day.

I am not at all scroogy either. I like Christmas. I just don't need the family togetherness part of it to make me happy.

I don't know if anyone is going to let me have my loner Christmas this year however. Everyone seems very concerned that I am going to lose my mind if I am alone on a holiday. But I kind of wish they would. Let me cry if I need to, let me scream at the empty house, whatever I want to do. And I certainly don't want the Jr. to witness it if I do happen to break down that day.

Anyway, I am not traditional in anything I suppose. And Christmas is just one more example of how weird I am.

Dakota Rebel

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Paulin Family Christmas

We don’t have a ton of holiday traditions at my house, in fact I’m a bit non-traditional. The tree picture on the blog today is my Christmas tree. If I had to have a tree, I wanted it to be special. I wanted something my kids would remember and laugh about when they get older. My family didn’t have a lot of traditions when I was growing up, but I have created a few for my husband (who didn’t celebrate Christmas as a child) and kids.

There are a few things we always do.

Cookies. There must be cookies. The kids and I make several kinds throughout the season. Additionally, I make special Czechoslovakian nutroll cookies every year on the 24th to celebrate our heritage.

Family. My mother, brothers and their families and my family get together on Christmas eve to celebrate the holidays and that is the official start of our celebration. We eat and visit and open gifts. Afterward, we go to church.

Togetherness. On Christmas morning, I get up early and light the tree. The gifts were put out the night before, and it looks pretty all lit up. But we know we weren’t the first ones to check out the tree. As my husband and I lay in bed, we always hear one of the kids go out and peek then report back to his brother. The four of us eat breakfast together. I always make egg bake. Afterward, we gather around the tree and open our gifts. One thing we’ve always done on Christmas is reserve the day for us. We don’t do outside family obligations on Christmas day. It’s the four of us. We stay home and relax and spend time together.

Movie. In the evening, we go and see a movie together at the theatre. It’s always something the entire family can watch. Last year, it was National Treasure 2. This year is Bedtime Stories.

Do you see a theme? It’s togetherness and memories. That’s our family tradition.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Tacos

Everyone has a set of traditions that mark their celebration of the holidays. We have tacos every Christmas Eve. Why? As a remembrance of friendship above and beyond the usual. In this vignette, I tell the story.

Christmas 1981. We lived in Houston, Texas, far from our families. My dad called to tell my husband that he needed to come home. My husband's father was very ill. We could not afford for everyone to go and our daughters were both in bed with the flu. We decided that he would take our sons with him (mostly because I knew that he would have to make frequent stops if they were along). When they arrived in Chicago, my parents planned to take the boys to Indiana to stay with them.
I was fine until Christmas Eve. Then the loneliness engulfed my. My friends were all busy with their extended family gatherings. My extended family lived far away. My daughters were sleeping the holidays away, too sick to care if they had gifts or not. I was feeling underprivileged and deprived as I stood at my kitchen counter eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
The telephone rang. My friend, Linda, inquired about my plans for the evening. I admitted that I did not have much planned except a shower and bed. She told me to get my purse and coat ready. Lester, her husband, was already on the way over to pick up my girls and me. We were invited to her home for the evening. I protested that the girls were sick. She pointed out that they could sleep at her house as well as mine.
When Lester arrived, we wrapped the girls in blankets and carried them out to the car. The trip to their home was short so the girls slept through the journey and were soon cozily asleep in bed. We spent the evening quietly, playing board games, eating tacos, and singing along with Handel’s Messiah. It was a lovely peaceful evening. Just after midnight, Lester drove us home.
On Christmas Eve our family has tacos as a remembrance of that Christmas Eve spent with loving, compassionate friends. Of all of my friends, they were the ones who saw my need and acted. It was an action made more remarkable because they were Jehovah’s Witnesses, who do not believe in observance of holidays… not even Christmas.
A miracle.


For another Christmas miracle, check out Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Break on Through

This is a rather timely post as I’m currently writing outside of my comfort zone. I’m writing so far out of it in fact, that I’ve decided to use a pen name with this series. Yes, I was fool enough to commit to an entire series in a genre I’ve never come close to attempting before. I’m writing a book that is in the highest heat level the particular publisher offers. Oddly enough, the writing is coming easier by the day.

I stalled early on with a m/f/m love scene. It took me nearly a month of writing, deleting and rehashing before I finished it. Once complete, the rest of the story seems to be falling in place and nothing is taboo. To be quite honest, I’m beginning to have a lot of fun with it.

Yet, I wonder if I would be so easily swayed if I were still trying to write this under my own name. There is something very liberating about anonymity. Yes, I still had to stray outside of my own comfort level, but I do so with the knowledge that if I choose to keep it entirely a secret, no one will ever be the wiser.

I told myself I wanted to use a pen name so that my readers wouldn’t be blindsided by just how graphic this novel is, but in retrospect, I think I chose to use the pen name so I could get as nasty as I wanted and never have to worry about my mom or even worse my nonni stumbling across the book and wondering just what kind of a depraved man they have sitting at the dinner table with them at the holiday feast. In that respect, I’m willing to test my own comfort level, but not that of those around me.

As it is that time of year, I have a special present for all of my readers: A free short story.
You can read it Here.

Happy Reading!!!!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Just Do It!

I love challenging myself to write outside my comfort zone. I think it makes you grow as a writer, and it keeps your writing fresh. It also lets you determine what you do best. Which may not be what you thought when you started out.

In 2007, at the urging of my editor and several friends, I decided to try my hand at a short romantic story. Up to that point, my work had been longer novels, which I love, but it was fun to do something shorter. The result was Beltaine Bargain, also my first historical. It was nice to discover that I could do something different, and still have my readers like the results.

My next challenge that year was to write an erotic romance. My earlier books were steamy, but definitely mainstream. Out of that challenge came Between a Rock and a Hard-On. As a friend said, "Boy when you decide to go for it, you really go for it." I followed that up with the full length novel Djinni and the Geek, and have been happily writing erotic ever since. (Though I still like my mainstream books too!)

So in 2008, I needed a new challenge. There's no question that the best-selling sub-genre in on-line romance is menage, particularly m/m/f. I wasn't sure I could write that--it just wasn't in my comfort zone. But what, I thought to myself, if the characters weren't human, with our conditioning and mores? After only one week of writing, Three for All was off to my editor, and after just one month, it has become my best-selling book to date.

So that's it, right? Another year, another stretch? Nope. This summer, the lovely Kaenar Langford sat on my deck and we chatted with other writers from TEB, and she proposed that we all write an anothology together called Naughty Nooners. Each story would take place over a lunch hour, and all would be m/m.

M/m? Me? But one of my characteristics is that I absolutely hate being left out. And I did have an idea. Out of that challenge I produced Lust in the Afternoon, and my new identity of Cian Fey. The Naughty Nooners anthology will be available on January 5, and I hope readers will love Ted and Gray just as much as I did while writing them.

So what's the challenge for 2009? I have no idea. Cian's work is a little darker and grittier than Cindy's, so there will be more work in that area I'm sure. Definitely more menage stories--my family likes the paychecks, and honestly it was a blast to write. Beyond that? Who knows? But I know that one of my resolutions will once again be, "Write at least one story that's totally outside my comfort zone." Hey, I did it this year!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Who thinks up this stuff?

I have a confession to make. I am the one that came up with this topic. And I picked it awhile ago. Back when I was working on a mainstream book. That stalled. Because this book was out of my comfort zone I figured it would be great to blog about my progress and how you have to push through barriers and try new things and blah, blah blah. And then...well I stopped working on it completely and don't really have any desire to. I don't want to push through anything. I don't want to try new things. I want to stick with what I am good at and produce quality (not to mention saleable) work.

So I am going to take a turn on my own topic. Not a full reversal, more of a slight curve. When I started writing erotica I wrote M/F. My first two books were M/F. Then I thought perhaps I could maybe throw another M in there. So I wrote M/M/F. It was fun, if a little different for me. I liked the story and so did my publisher and editor. So I ended up writing a M/M/M/F. And that one was pretty good too if I do say so myself.

But round about seven months later I got an itch. An itch to write something I had never dreamed of attempting. And this itch wouldn't go away. In fact, it turned into a full blown annoyance of hive proportions keeping me awake at night with it's need to be written. So fine. I wrote it. "Mitch" was the first M/M I'd ever attempted. And before it was even finished I was invited to join in a lovely M/M anthology called Naughty Nooners. So I whipped up "Raven" then went back to "Mitch." I loved Mitch. I loved him so much that I had a hard time letting go of him when the book was done. I didn't want to write about other boys. There was only Mitch and other boys could go to hell.

Of course, I am a writer. And this is not how we work. I got a new itch. And "To Hate and To Hold" was born. I fell even harder in love with Ethan and Jamie than I had been with Mitch.

So what is my freakin' point already? Well I don't know. But I suppose I can leave you with this:

If you are a brave and talented person, feel free to step outside your comfort zone and write about whatever the hell you want to. If you are like me, a little scared to change drastically, you can always take a slight curve and write the genre you already know you're good at in a different way than you have been doing it in the past. You may just find that your comfort zone stretches further than you thought it did.

Dakota Rebel

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I Like it Here, Thanks

My comfort zone is spacious so I usually don’t find myself very limited. I have my grade school and high school English teachers to thank for that. They made me write many different types of fiction over the years. Thanks to them I don’t feel a lot of fear about branching out.

If I want to write something, I do. I don’t feel limited. However, I find I prefer certain types of books. I gravitate toward them and avoid others. Fantasy, Historical, Contemporary (m/f, m/m and ménage), I write them all.

That’s a lot of material to fit in one comfort zone.

It’s also not always easy. For example, writing BDSM didn’t come without hours and hours and hundreds of pages of research. By the time I started writing serious BDSM stories (instead of light kink) I was well versed in the techniques and mindsets of the participants. The same goes with ménage. Hours of research.

For me, understanding and knowledge define my comfort zone. If I’m writing fantasy, I thoroughly flesh-out the world. If I’m writing a historical, BDSM, ménage, etc., I do the research necessary for me to feel well-versed in the subject. That’s my best advice for anyone who wants to try writing in an area where they feel unsure. Learn the subject. Make it yours. And you’ll feel right at home.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Waaaaay out...

Everyone has a comfort zone. Writers in particular have a comfort zone that they tend to stick to over the course of their career. There are valid reasons for writers to continue in their chosen genre. One reason stands out more than others--it's what the readers expect.

How many times have you settled in with comfortable author, confident in what you can expect, only to be disappointed or upset when the story isn't in the genre you expected? I know that has happened to me more than once.

Actually, something very similar happened when my first two books were released. Chrysanthemum was a wild, funny, outrageous book set in an alternate Arthurian universe. Dancer's Delight was not particularly funny. While set in a very unusual universe, the actual story line was more vanilla. Both books were the beginning books for new series. One reader commented that while she really liked Dancer's Delight, it was different. There was a vague hint of disappointment in that reader's tone. In this case, I had moved just a little out of the reader's comfort zone.

Writing out of our comfort zone can energize and refresh us, allowing us to try out new ideas and genres. It doesn't necessarily have to be shocking. If you're an erotica writer, try writing a romance with no sex. Or perhaps you're a paranormal writer, so write a contemporary novel. Moving out of our comfort zone--if we embrace it--can be liberating and freeing.

Sometimes, it can be as simple as answering a challenge. In a discussion with some other writers, we speculated about how far we could carry the concept of were-animals. What would be toooo way out? One person rashly mentioned that I could write about whatever the others came up with... and I did. It was a romance with a were-tick. Actually, it came out pretty good. You just never can tell what you might come up with when you move out of your comfort zone.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

This Week's Guest: Bronwyn Green

The Grip is thrilled to welcome this week's guest Bronwyn Green!

Thinking With My Hands

I wish I was the kind of writer who could finish one project and skip blithely on to the next. I know people like that. Many of them are my dear, dear friends. Sometimes I hate them a little bit because they have this awesome talent that I clearly don’t possess.

Unfortunately, I’ve come to realize that I need some downtime between writing projects. I need to recharge my creative batteries before I can plunge headlong into another story. My best method of recharging is pretty simple — create something else—something non-writing related. Something that doesn’t require the use of a computer. Something handmade.

There’s satisfaction in knowing you’re about to create something from nothing. Seeing a pile of fabric, or a heap of clay is a lot like seeing that first blank page of a new manuscript where the blinking cursor invites you to fashion a whole new world. Only, at this point, I’m tired of creating new worlds—I want to make something more tangible—something I can wear, or drink from or give as a gift.

My favourite recharging medium is clay. The wedging/kneading process is great for taking out aggression and by the end of a story, I usually have a fair amount of tension built up. Whether I’m throwing on the wheel or handbuilding, I find the sensation of clay squishing through my fingers soothing. But that’s nothing compared to watching a bowl form before my eyes as the wheel spins round or watching a sculpture slowly take shape as I pinch and mould. What started out as shapeless lumps of clay are now candle holders, faery figurines, bowls, wall sculptures and my favourite tea mug.

I think the reason this form of recharging works so well for me is that it involves a completely different set of mental processes than writing does. It’s almost like thinking with my hands. In addition to pottery I also like to think with my hands while sewing, knitting, cross stitching, drawing, stamping and jewellery making, but working with clay will always be my favourite method of recharging.

The Grip bloggers have had some wonderful suggestions for the care and recharging of the creative process, and I appreciate the opportunity to share mine. Thanks guys!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Full Steam Ahead

How do I recharge? Well, it usually involves sleep or at the very least a mindless evening where my toughest decision is what kind of food I want to have delivered in as we veg around the house.

I lead a pretty hectic life. Between the day job, writing, promoting and playing hard on the weekends with our various family activities and adventures, I don’t get a lot of sleep. There just aren’t enough hours in the day and something’s gotta give right?

Usually about every four to five weeks my body rebels against the abuse and forces me to give it a little downtime. During these periods (which last about a day or two) I usually sleep for eleven to twelve hours where I feel lucky to get five to six hours the rest of the time.

I keep thinking that as I grow older I won’t be able to maintain such a schedule, but so far it has worked for me for the better part of twenty years and shows no signs of slowing. I’m sure I’ll eventually get to a point where all the extracurricular activity holds less appeal, until then I say life is short. Squeeze the most out of every day that you possibly can.

Down Time

Recharging for me takes two forms. One is to spend time with friends, laugh, be loud, and usually play silly games, some of which involve, as we so gently put it, "killin' shit." Yes, I'm a geek and I'm talking about those goofy role-playing games that many of my friends never outgrew. Face it, killing monsters, even imaginary ones, is a great way to blow off steam. Giggling idiotically with fellow writers also does the trick. (S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y NIGHT!, Dakota!)

My other recharge is the opposite, the solitary one. What do I do when I need to escape the hustle and bustle? Go figure. I read. Yep. I read someone else's books. If I'm trying to recharge from work stress, then I'll read something totally different than my writing. Usually historicals. Read a really good one yesterday morning, and it wiped away a lot of the previous day's stress. Didn't get any writing done that morning, but I gor back to liking my writing. And that's worth a lot.

This time of year, I also try to indulge in a few Christmas specials, if I can sneak them in when the guys aren't around. I can get away with "Bad Santa" or other crude & funny holiday movies around the guys (which is okay, as I like those too) but I also like to see a few romantic ones, which the guys can't stand. So I do like to recharge my holiday spirit when I'm on my own.

However you like to recharge, never feel you have to defend your methods. As long as it doesn't hurt anyone else, do what you need to do, and don't feel guilty about it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Better than Batteries

Starbucks and Ben E. King. These two things can keep me going like nobodies business. If I am run down, if I am out of ideas, if I am fed up with writing in general and swear I will never touch a keyboard again I go to Starbucks for a Quad Espresso with Two cups of ice and pop Ben into the CD player. Viola! I am a happy girl.

If I am in a really terrible funk I play around on the internet for hours. I like to scan the gay boy's blogs because I LOVE them. I check out LOL Catz. I go to YouTube and browse stupid videos for HOURS. Basically anything that makes me laugh is great for recharging.

I am also fortunate enough to live close to some fantastic authors. I know I can call them at almost any time and they will meet me for food and fun at a moments notice. This is great. Whether Cindy and I are bouncing ideas off of each other for books, or Brynn and I are just talking about our kids...this is one of the best forms of recharging I could ever ask for.

I don't wind down often but when I do I am severely lucky that I have friends to pull me up and help me get going again.

Dakota Rebel

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Recharge ME

Since I work a more than full-time job, write and am raising a family, I find that recharging is imperative to keeping it all together. It’s also the most neglected part of my life. Often when I’m engaging in those activities that nourish my soul, I find myself thinking “I should be working” or “My manuscript is waiting to be done.” It’s hard to shut off those voices, and sometimes the very act of trying to recharge becomes as stressful as not doing it at all.

That’s no good.

Here are three tricks I’ve come up with:

1. Schedule this time. There’s something freeing about having a time that is designated for yourself. You’re worth it. Do it.

2. Don’t let have-tos infringe on this time. This is what I mean: often my outlets can become projects for other people. In comes the stress again. Try to focus more on what you’re doing for you.

3. Put your foot down when it comes to work hours. My job could literally run from the time I get up until the time I go to bed and there would always be more to do. Designate “work hours” and stick to them.

As far as outlets go, I find there are a few things I really like to do, things that free my brain, “de-stress” me, and get my creativity flowing again.

I love to scrapbook and make cards. This is perhaps my greatest outlet. Strangely, most of my cards are never sent to other people. I just make them as something artistic to do or I give them away to other people to use. I used to make all my Christmas cards but that got to be a chore so I stopped.

I draw. I’m not a doodler. I’m very good at still-lifes and animals. Sometimes I draw people, but they’re sketchy. Portraits aren’t my strong suit. Often I’ll just open a magazine and sketch animals that are in photos. Or I’ll ‘copy’ a book cover into black and white pencil.

I sing or play the piano. I can’t do both at the same time. I’m part of a choir and I’m part of a contemporary band (as a singer). I’m also a soloist at church. Music has always been an outlet for me. Sometimes if I’m stressed, I just get in my car and drive and blast the radio. Or I’ll drive and sing, sometimes off-key, at the top of my lungs.

Most importantly, I just find some time to be alone. I think this is the place I’m often short-changed and where others are, too. Since I work at home, I’m not surrounded by office personnel all the time, but I do have family members around me constantly. When part are at school, others are at home. When others are working, the rest are at home. Being alone, in silence, is the most important creative outlet I have, and it’s the most difficult to get. I’ve found that in the constantly spinning world around me, solitude is the one thing I need daily in order to recharge. I actually start to shake with built up stress if I don’t get it. I’m a real crank, too. I require a time when I know I’m not going to be interrupted mid-thought or startled out of my skin or subjected to other people’s noise. When I can, I go to the park or again, take a drive, or take a walk…anything to be alone with my thoughts. Ironically, I’m the only one in my family who desperately needs this.

Or who knows I need it. I think many people would be surprised by how rejuvenating they’d find a few minutes silence and “aloneness” if they tried it.

In this holiday season, I’d encourage all of you to find some recharge time. Perhaps you need a few minutes of solitude or an artistic outlet. Find it and immerse yourself—guilt-free—for a short while every day. I hope you find a calm and well-being that will see you through this hectic time so that you can have a merry holiday with your sanity intact.

Monday, December 8, 2008


'Tis the season to be jolly..." Well, maybe not. Many people find the holiday season (October through early January) very stressful for a host of reasons--financial, emotional, and physical. I'm about 90% hermit so the hustle-bustle of shoppers, chirpy carols and awful traffic really leave me less than jolly. Over the years I've developed a few strategies to help me stay loose and relaxed.

1) Get enough sleep. I can already hear those of you who know how late I stay up, howling in protest. But the secret isn't how late I stay up--its how late I sleep in. Every night, with few rare exceptions, I sleep seven and a half to eight hours. Every night. I have no children, no outside job, and no commitments except to myself. I've reached the time in my life when I can do pretty much whatever I need to do. I need sleep.

2) Eat right. The reason so many people are jolly at Christmas is because they're on a sugar high. Realllly high. I seriously try to stick to a sensible eating plan as much as possible during the season--particularly when I'm out of the apartment for the day. Don't skip lunch. Don't munch on something inappropriate because I'm hungry. Often women (yes, females!) forget to eat. Don't.

3) Stop. Every day stop whatever you're doing for twenty minutes. Sit down. Put your feet up. Close your eyes. Breathe. It would be really cool if you could do this when no one is home and the television/radio is off. Listen to the silence and remember that it will come back as soon as the holidays are over.

4) If possible (due to weather) go for a short walk. No, I'm not advocating a hike. But a walk around the block or parking lot can be enough to get a breath of fresh air and some sunshine. Fifteen minutes of sunshine everyday can help mitigate the effects of SADS. Also, it helps boost your vitamin D. Most folks are short on that handy vitamin.

5) Pray/meditate every evening. Before you go to sleep take time to be thankful for all the things that went right during the day. Start with the fact that you woke up that morning. It's not guaranteed that you will. Then go through the day. Be thankful that you can get out of bed. Not everyone can. Can you see? Hear? Feel? Then you are blessed. Be thankful for the safety of your family. See? When you spend time each evening reminding yourself how blessed you are, things aren't nearly as stressful. Oh yeah... you'll sleep better.

This is my recipe for less stress. I'm sure my blogmates will have more terrific suggestions. So stop back by each day. In the meantime, please share your tips!


Sunday, December 7, 2008

hot new Holiday Series starts this week!

Catch the New Series Mistletoe Magic
coming this December from Ellora’s Cave

Dec. 12: #1: Breath of Magic by Regina Carlysle:

Powerhouse attorney Liza Woodward knows a little something about losing control and it’s been her life’s mission never to do it again, especially when it comes to small-town lawyer Tyler Blackwell. Ty takes one look at the woman he’s always loved and knows it’s way past time he seduced away the control she wears like a suit of armor. It will take a steady hand, a bit of dominance, and a little breath of magic from a Christmas Elf to win this sassy Texas woman.

Dec. 17: #2 Touch of Magic by Desiree Holt:

Maddie Woodward is in a pickle. The last person she expects to see when she returns to the family ranch for one last Christmas is her former lover, Zach Brennan. He’s hotter as he ever was, all male and determined to get her naked. She’s just as determined to show him she’s over him—until she ends up in his bed, enjoying the wildest sex of her life. A night of uncontrolled, erotic sex shows her that Zach is far from out of her life. Now if she can just get him to help her convince her sisters not to sell the ranch…

Dec. 19: #3 Whispers of Magic by Cindy Spencer Pape:

Hoping to get back in Santa’s good graces, Sparkle the elf takes on a difficult assignment—arrange a merry Christmas for photojournalist Jenna Woodward. Jenna has just lost her parents, her job, and her cheating “fiancé”. Rancher Mitch Sterling doesn’t want his face on a book, but he does want Jenna back in his life. He offers a deal—he’ll sign off, if she agrees to be at his mercy for one day. Jenna left him once because she was afraid of his Dominant lifestyle. Now, with help from a magical snowstorm, Mitch has twenty-four hours of tempestuous passion to convince her that she’ll love being his sub.

Dec. 24: #4: Elven Magic by Regina Carlysle, Desiree Holt, & Cindy Spencer Pape:

When three of Santa’s elves were ordered to provide happily ever afters for the Woodward sisters, they promised themselves a celebration if they were successful. Sharing a motel room during their assignment created a whole new level of sexual awareness among them, where boundaries were breaking down mentally day by day. With arousal at its peak after they all succeed, they decide to indulge in a sexual game of Truth or Dare, which will give a whole new slant to their friendship and allow them to explore their darkest fantasies—maybe even love.
Reader Advisory: Contains m/m/f sexual encounters.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Guest author Brenna Lyons

The Crew of The Grip would like to welcome guest author, Brenna Lyons:

Stereotypes, Archetypes And Author's License
By Brenna Lyons

Talking to editors is often very disheartening. Authors are told that publishers want three-dimensional, unique, complex characters. At the same time, authors are often discouraged from providing them...or, at the very least, from providing ones that don't match their own ethnicity.

At RT 2006, a panel of several African American editors resulted in some hard feelings. The editors reportedly said that non-AA authors shouldn't write AA characters, because they aren't AA and can't know... One African American colleague of mine reports that she was told to change her main characters from Hispanic to AA, because "No one would buy Hispanic characters written by an African American woman."

Okay, let's take a break for a moment and dissect that. The complaint isn't that the AA author got fact A-12 wrong or mistranslated X word. The complaint is that she isn't qualified to write a character who doesn't match her in ethnicity.

The fact is, authors write about people they aren't and things they haven't experienced every day. It's called researching for the book or world-building. It's safe to say that I'm not a man, not a fairy, not a zombie, and not an alien, though that last one has been postulated before.

Sometimes, what authors write comes about from extrapolation from what we do know and empathy. Having built a world with certain mores, laws, and cultural expectations...and a character with certain physiological, psychological, and emotional attributes, the author can further extrapolate and empathize the character into appropriate responses.

Sometimes, it comes about from true research. If you're writing a gay man, asking a gay man if the scenes read true isn't out of the ballpark of possibility. When writing an AA character, a Caucasian author may well base certain facets of the character on AA friends.

If authors waited to write something, until we were or had experienced it, most of the fiction market would never get written.

Which brings me to stereotypes. In the same way that editors discourage authors from writing characters that don't share their ethnicity, readers and editors often want to stick to stereotypical characters.

Authors of AA characters are often told (even if they are AA authors themselves) that their characters "sound too white." The truth is that not every AA person in America was raised in such a manner as to have become fluent in what Dave Chappelle often calls "street vernacular." Even if the person does, making a tally sheet of how much of the character's waking moments he/she must default to street vernacular disregards the character in favor of a stereotype.

New authors often ask how to write men (if the author is female) or women (if the tables are turned). These authors are struggling with the line between believability and stereotype.

The fact is, how a character reacts has much less to do with being male or female and much more to do with likes, dislikes, environment, personal expectations and the expectations of others, temperament, phobias, physicality, and so forth. Not all men like sports, and not all women like to shop. You have to build the character and then let that character react.

There are many ways to build a character. Some authors set the psychology and let the character and plot unfold around it. Some build the plot then rationalize the psychology that would precipitate certain key responses or turning points.

And some use archetypes. There are many lists of archetypes. A search on the web will bring up everything from the Jungian archetypes to tarot archetypes to Pearson's model...and many more.

The trick to using archetypes is to remember that all archetypes are, by design, somewhat two-dimensional. A good character, like a real person, should have several main archetypes identifiable in his/her personality. Ideally...and realistically for most people, these individual archetypal drives should war within the character, when a conflict arises between two possible archetypal responses to a situation.

The complications to all of this come in a couple of core problems.

You will never be able to erase the safe-zone some readers and editors have created. Even if you base your character on a real person, someone out there with a personal nit about the subject is going to claim the character is unrealistic and may be vociferous on the subject.

If you mean to parody, you may rightfully dismiss the idea of complex, three-dimensional characterization in favor of the singular archetype and/or the stereotypical character. But, be warned that such characters easily slip off the narrow beam between amusing to annoying. And, some stereotype representations may be seen as "in poor taste."

Finally, writing something you don't know requires utilizing a "head space." If an author cannot get inside an alien psyche and think for the character, the characterization may come off erratic and/or flat.

TYGERS (Renegades series 1)


If Katheyn O'Hanlon had one wish, it would be a memory of her childhood and the source of her nightmares. Psi-linked to her four-year-old nephew, she is dragged back to Pittsburgh to confront a renegade psychic. Kyle's father has been brutally murdered, and Kyle claims his toy tigers have done the deed led by Ty, the Siberian. It is up to Katheryn to remember where Ty is and how to destroy him before he destroys everything she cares about.

Is Kyle haunted by the homicidal family ghost or being driven insane by the horrorscope trapped in the depths of Katheryn's mind? Can Katheryn keep Keith Randall, an old flame, who takes the job of Kyle's counselor, out of the line of fire while she does her work when all Keith wants is to be wherever Katheryn is?


Whether or not that would change her plans was immaterial to Dianna. She could not permit Katheryn to walk blithely into an ambush. What choices her daughter made after that were beyond Dianna's control. Katheryn had survived once. If she was as resilient as an adult, and Dianna was sure that she was, Katheryn might have nothing to fear in coming home.

She moved to the phone to page Katheryn, but she froze with the receiver in her hand. The sound behind her was unmistakably a growl. She turned slowly, taking in the scene behind her in horror.

They were there-the tigers, circling around her. They crouched as if preparing to pounce, their shoulders bunching and their tails twitching like a nest of cats playing with a mouse. Dianna swallowed painfully and backed toward the wall. The tigers advanced as she retreated, keeping their distance constant as their claws clicked on the tile floor.

Kyle's story flashed through her mind. The tigers had attacked Peter. They really did it, didn't they? They killed Peter. The receiver dropped from her fingers, and she covered her face with her hands.

"It's not real. He's playing with me," she chanted over and over again.

She lowered her hands and sobbed in relief. Gone. There was no one in the kitchen but herself. As her shaking subsided, her anger rose. Carol may hate it, but Kyle had to know the truth. Maybe if he knew the truth, he would reject Ty, and this could end...she hoped. Ty had a way of getting what he wanted.

Dianna pushed off the wall and stormed up the stairs toward Kyle's room. She'd wake him up from the damned nap he'd fallen into after their talk if she had to. Kyle could stop this. She was sure of it, and he would stop it. Dianna would do anything she had to do to make sure of it.

She glanced up at the open door to his room. The tigers were scattered around the floor. She hesitated for a moment then forged on with a growl of irritation. Toys. Just toys. Despite whatever sleight of hand Ty was employing, they were just toys. She had to remember that.

She glanced up again. They were lined up outside the doorway, waiting for her. Dianna squared her shoulders and walked at them. "You're not real," she informed them. "I'll walk right through you. You can't hurt me."

The tigers moved their shoulders in preparation to attack, and Dianna laughed lightly at the threat. As she reached the white tiger, the one Kyle thought of as Ty, his paw flashed out. A searing pain tore at her ankle, and she recoiled several yards. She looked at her leg in shock. Five welts burned an angry red through her pantyhose.