Do witches have a bad name?

tarot-cards-magic-fortune-telling-gypsy-esotericDo witches have a bad name in romance?

I’m just wondering because while we had a vampire craze and a werewolf craze, which merged into a shifter craze, we haven’t really had a witch craze.

If you think about how paranormal romance became so big in pop culture, it was through Harry Potter, a witch, so it’s odd that we haven’t had a huge craze of romances featuring witches. Now, that’s not to say that there aren’t some fantastic romances about witches, we absolutely have. But none have inspired other writers to jump on the bandwagon and write more witch stories.

Is it because the category is so broad? Witches are, after all, simply people with the ability to wield magic. That could be mean anything.

They could be hocus-pocus witches who need a magic tool (like a wand) to create the magic. They could simmering witches who need magical ingredients (snail’s toenails and eye of newt) to create potions that do magical things. They could be innately magical where they just need to think or will something to have and *poof* it happens. Or they could be elemental magic, which is quite popular—although it too has not seen a craze like the vampires and shifters—but it’s a really fun area to explore, tapping into the Earth’s natural energies to control magic.

So, is that the problem? There’s just too much choice? Too many variants?

Personally, I love witches. I find the possibilities a wonderful opportunity to create something new and different. And, as you might have guessed, I really love bringing in an elemental aspect. The Earth itself is so powerful and full of wonder that it’s not a huge leap to think about harnessing that power into something magical.

As I’m working right now on the fourth book of my magical series, I wish that I had more books to read that featured witches. Naturally, with too few books in the sub-genre that I like, I feel compelled to write them myself. But if you know of any good books that feature witches, I’d appreciate it if you could share them below.

 

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Negative Space Story Telling

WARNING

**THIS HAS SPOILERS OF THE MOVIE ARRIVAL**

If you haven’t seen the movie, don’t read this post–yet!

arrival_movie_posterAfter having just watched the movie Arrival, I am marveling at the story telling. It was mind-blowing, but not in what we were told, not in what we were shown, but in what we weren’t told; what wasn’t shown. In the negative space of the story.

We were given all the facts. Aliens come to our world. A linguist works on figuring out their language. As she does so she has flashes of scenes of her and her daughter. The trick that the screen writers played on us was showing us the first scene in the movie out of context, and then slipping to the beginning of the movie. We assume that the story is linear (since most of the time that assumption would be correct) and therefore that the prologue happened before the start of the movie. It is only at the end of the movie that we realize that it was the end, the future that we were show, and that the scenes the heroine envisions are not flashbacks, but flash-forwards.

The most wonderful thing about the movie, and about any good book, is that it didn’t end when the screen went to the credits. The movie continued in our minds—indeed, we couldn’t stop thinking about it, deconstructing it, discussing it. That is a great story!

I’ve recently been working through Lisa Cron’s book, Story Genius. She posits that great story comes from the journey, the change and the growth of the protagonist. But Arrival has taught me that a great story is not the one that the author writes on the page, but in the dots that the reader puts together themselves.

Give the reader enough information—in the form of scenes—and allow them to connect it into a cohesive story. What the reader will put together will be so much more meaningful, more powerful, than anything the author could have written.

Yes, as I’ve written before, writers can change the minds of their readers by emotionally involving the reader in a story, but it is so much more powerful and life-altering is it when the reader comes up with the meaning themselves. It’s doing, not watching that allows us to learn. It’s figuring out the meaning, not someone telling it to us that gives it power and significance. It’s the negative space, what is not told or shown, where the strength in good story telling lies.

Have you seen Arrival? What did you think? Have you read any books that had negative story telling in that way? What did you think?

Expertise

I’m in the process of reviewing my editors comments on a new short story/novella. It’s the bonus story in my Merry Men Box Set #2 (which will be available December 15th).

box-set-2In Box Set #1, I included the story of how the parents of the hero in one of the books in the box set met, so I thought it would be fun to do that again. The problem is that to write this story I had to learn all about the treaty negotiations between France and Spain at the beginning of the Napoleonic War. That would have been fine. I love history. But I didn’t just have to learn what happened, I had to figure out how a negotiator would have actually conducted his negotiations. I had to figure out all of the nuances in this delicate task and the underlying political consequences of each move.

I had to learn all about the politics at the time and how treaties are actually negotiated! Ugh! I am not a politician. I don’t like politics all that much. It’s really slippery stuff. But in order to write a convincing, authentic story I had to have an idea of how these things worked and how people who engage in politics (and treaty negotiations) think. Once I did that, I had to make sure that the story wasn’t actually about the politics (because, lets face it, you don’t want to be reading a dry recounting of a pretty minor treaty negotiation, you want to be reading a romance novel!), but about the people. studying

It made me start thinking… as writers, we actually have to know a lot about things work. If we’re going to have someone murdered in a book, we have to know exactly how it happens, how the blood spurts, how it feels to hold a gun, or sword, or whatever the murder weapon is in your hand and how to wield it. Just how hard is it to slice off someone’s head? Well… actually, it’s really hard. There’s a lot of bone and tissue and tendon in there that you have to slice through. Why do I know this? Because I’ve written about it, so I had to learn about it.

I’m beginning to think that if people knew how much research goes into every novel, they’d have a lot more respect for writers. We become experts in whatever it is we’re writing about. We need to be in order to write convincing stories.

How is it then that writers are dismissed and thought of in the lowest possible terms? We know how to kill you. Er… I mean, we know a lot of stuff! 🙂 History, medicine, politics, law, you name it, if a novel has been written about it, that author had to know that subject pretty darn well. No wonder the authors I know are so intelligent–intelligent enough not to get upset when our work is dismissed as frivolous.

So, what is your specialty? What could you write about? Or what have you learned by reading a great book?

Will you Nano?

nanowrimoNational Novel Writing Month starts in just a few days. For many writers, their normal writing life stops so that they can participate in this annual ritual of trying to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. For others, they see this as an opportunity to finally get to work on that book they’ve been wanting to write for years.

Since I write full time anyway, I rarely participate in NaNoWritMo (as it’s called). But this year, although I’ve gotten a head start, I’m in the process of trying to get a book done within the month.

My impetus isn’t just for the fun of it, or to see if I can do it, but rather because I was asked to write a book for a particular series and given a deadline of December 1. Luckily, I was also give two extra weeks and a word count of 25,000 instead of 50.

That being said, I will actually need to have the book done before the end of the month so that it can be edited and ready to be published by December 1–most people who participate in NaNoWriMo just try to finish a first draft, not have a book ready to be sent out into the world by the end.

So far, I’m managing to write 1500-2000 words a day, so I’m hopeful that my book will, in fact, get done on time.

So what exactly is this this quickly-written new book? Something completely new to me–a time-travel, paranormal, gay pirate romance! Yes, I was asked to write an LGBT pirate romance.

As I said, I’ve got a good start on it! Check back next month and I’ll tell you how I did, and hopefully by then I’ll even have a book description for you!

So, are you going to participate in NanoWriMo? If so, are you ready?

Something different

Do you like predictability in the books you read? Do you want to know exactly how it’s going to work out? How the characters are going to get from the beginning of the book to the end?

I would hazard a guess that the answer is a resounding “no!”.bored

We like surprises. We like something a little different; out of the ordinary.

If you’re a romance reader, you already know that two people in the book are going to end up in a committed relationship and usually by the second or third chapter you know who those two people are.

If you read mystery, you know that if there’s a dead body at the beginning of the book, by the end you’ll know who killed that person. If you read sci-fi or fantasy you’ve got a good idea of what you’re going to find when you crack open the pages of the book—a different world that the author has created and that you’re going to have fun exploring and learning about as you read the book. There may be magic or some complicated science that we could only dream of coming true.

You know this going into the book, but you don’t know what that world is going to be like or how the characters will have to navigate it. You don’t know who “did it” in your mystery. You don’t know what the hero and heroine of your romance are going to have to go through or give up in order to be together.

That’s the fun of reading a book.

So, if I told you that I wrote a Regency romance and you were a reader of Regency, you would expect ball rooms, lords and ladies, maybe some clever dialogue and all of it written in the third person (“He did this” and “She did that”).

If I told you that I’d written a Gothic romance you’d expect a haunted castle, a damsel in distress, a family curse, perhaps. It would be written in a dark, brooding manner, right?

Well, I just hate those stereotypes! I like to mix things up. So I’ve written a rather light (okay, there’s some spookiness, but nothing that will give you nightmares) Gothic Regency romance in the first person (“I did this” and “I saw that”).

What?!

MLG_400.jpgYes, you read that right. It’s a Gothic romance – there’s a ghost haunting a house with a deep, dark, troubled past. There’s a heroine who is in danger—although she’s not exactly a fainting ninny. She’s smart, and clever, and faces her obstacles head-on. It’s set in the Regency, although there’s not a ball room in sight. Okay, there are lords and ladies and maybe some clever dialogue (if I may say so, myself). But this is definitely not one of your Georgette Heyer-type romances.

It’s weird, and it’s different, and it’s fun, and there’s a slight mystery to it as well.

So, who’s up for something different? It’s called My Lord Ghost and you can check it out here.

Drilling for deeper meaning

Drilling below the surface.jpgI hate writing book descriptions. I have a really hard time writing them. However, writing a book description is a great way at discovering what your book is really about.

Yes, I have just spent the past 3-4 months writing the book, but I was focusing on characters—making sure they are well-rounded three-dimensional people who grow and change and learn. I need to make sure that they’re likeable. That readers will connect with them. I spend a lot of time on this. I get to know these people—how they think, how they react, how they speak, what’s important to them, even down to what they notice when they walk into a new place.

I spend a lot of time on my plot as well. I need to make sure it’s got all the ups and downs, twists and turns that a good, exciting plot needs to have to keep readers turning pages. I need to make sure that there are good times and bad. That the conflict is strong, but not overwhelming. And I need to make sure I give readers what my husband calls “gifts” – those moments in a romance when you just sit back and smile and relax, or laugh out loud because what your character is doing or saying is just so wonderful or funny. I work hard to make sure all of this is there in the story.

As I write my books, what I don’t think about is theme—the over-arching, deeper meaning. It’s there, I just don’t think about it. I don’t put it in deliberately. I leave that to my subconscious mind.

All books have this deeper meaning whether we put it in deliberately or not. We all have some deeper idea or concept that we’re inadvertently or subconsciously teaching to readers. Most writers have one theme that is repeated in all of their work—mine is “fish out of water”. In every book I write, there is someone who is out of their element trying to fit in. It’s something that I feel deeply about and have experienced, personally, throughout my life.

But frequently, it’s when I finish my book and start to think about the book’s description, that’s when I realize what the book is really about. Usually, this is discovered bit by bit, piece by piece; a sentence here, an idea there, as I analyze what my characters’ goals really are.

In my upcoming Regency romance, My Lord Ghost, which I’m still editing and getting ready to send out to my beta readers (as soon as I get it back from my editor, those who signed up to beta read will get their copies), I know that my heroine’s goal is help the ghost she discovers when she’s sent to Yorkshire as punishment for being too bold and introducing herself to people, well, men, in particular—okay, to handsome men. Her goal, which she, herself, states in the book, is to help this ghost move on to his greater reward, to heaven. That is what she wants to do. It is her external goal.

Her internal goal is to somehow figure out how to grow and mature so that her father allows her to return to London—at least that’s what she thinks it is. That’s what I had in mind as I wrote the book. However, after I finished writing and started trying to write my book description I realized what really happens to her. In one inadvertent sentence, I summarized her entire journey: Laia grows from a young woman concerned only with her own pleasures (meeting handsome men and flirting with them) to someone concerned with the happiness of another (the ghost).

There it was. The summary of the entire book! She grows from being self-centered to thinking of someone else. It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? But I didn’t see it! And the amazing thing is that it’s the theme of the entire book because the same can be said of my hero.

When I dug into him and what he really wanted and how he grew in the story, I realized his growth was exactly the same as hers! He too grows from someone who is thinking only of himself (in his case it’s his grief and despair caused by horrific events in his recent past) to someone who begins to think and care about someone else (the heroine).

I didn’t do that on purpose! I didn’t even know it was there. I was so focused on writing my story, on making sure my characters grew and were likeable, I never even saw that there was a deeper meaning there; a deeper story. It’s only when I needed to summarize the book for the description that I discovered this.

So here it is… the book description for My Lord Ghost:

She only wanted to save his soul. He needed to save her life.  

Irrepressible Laia Grace, raised far from proper Regency society, is delighting in being amidst the ton. But when she naively falls foul of a notorious gossip, her father decides that she needs to grow up – and banishes her from society. If only he knew that he was sending her into much greater danger – and not from the ghost that is rumored to be in residence at the country manor!

Marcus, Lord Bolingbrook, is haunting his own home. Hidden in the secret passages and priest holes of the mansion, he is trying to cope with the tragedies in his past. But his gloom is dispelled by the unexpected arrival of a bright and enchanting companion, and his chivalry revived by the urgent need to rescue her from peril.

Will he risk his life – and his heart – to save her?

As soon as I have a firm publication date, I will be sure to share it with you—it’ll probably be around mid-September.

Where do you work?

BrusselsWhen the sound of bird song has just about drowned out the sound of traffic and my nose is beginning to run, I know I’m in the right place. This is where I want to work.

I’ve found a bench to sit on because, once again, I’ve forgotten a towel to place on the wet grass. I find the one mostly clean spot on the one bench along this path because it looks like someone had a dance party on the rest of it the last time it rained.

Few people walk by here. Every so often someone comes by Bench.JPGwalking their dog, which just means that I need to be careful about where I walk because people don’t always pick up afterward, especially not here in the woods. And there goes the occasional runner while the whine of a saw provides background music.

Yes, it’s here that I can work. And if the sun decides to make more of a show of it today, I can move to a more open spot where I can catch some rays.

This is summer to me. Walking to the woods. Working outside. Enjoying the warmth of the days. Even here in perpetually raining Brussels, I’m taking advantage of the time I have to be outside.

BoireMy mind works better outside. It works better for having the walk to get here. My imagination can expand in the open and yet not too much that it wanders away from where I need it to go. The woods, the trees, they keep me centered and allow me to focus.

This is working in the summer.

Where do you work in the summer? Do you take a break from your usual work space or continue on as usual?