Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Links for Focused Time Wasting

There is a lot of talk about how the internet is a horrible time suck, a devil waiting to distract writers from their work. This certainly is true. However, cruising the internet also can be a great way to recharge the brain or refocus and find fresh solutions to writing problems.  The trick is to set limits on the time spent online or the number of sites visited.

In the spirit of focused time wasting, here are a few blogs and websites I use for inspiration and recharging.

  1. Strangest Situation--a practicing child psychologist and writer, blogs from her unique perspective about psychology, books and more. http://thestrangestsituation.blogspot.com/

  1. Llewellyn—Along with the books they publish and merchandise, their website has a ton of articles on all things new age, paranormal and supernatural. Fresh articles are added regularly.  Also, many of their writers have blogs focused on various areas of expertise. http://www.llewellyn.com/journal/article_topics.php   and http://www.llewellyn.com/blog/

  1. Archaeology News from EuropeAll kinds of funky and informative news clips. Follow them on Twitter and click on the link when a topic hits your fancy.  http://archaeology-in-europe.blogspot.com/

  1. YouTube—Yup, I’m recommending YouTube--as long there’s a connection to your current project. If you want a hint about my current WIP, here’s what I watch for inspiration. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ZXKu9B-DEU&feature=related

  1. Scott Eagan—He is a literary agent who represents romance (which I don’t exclusively write). However, I regularly read his blog because his advice is solid and inspiring. http://scotteagan.blogspot.com/

  1. Heroines of Fantasy—Three sharp as a tack women writers blog about a variety of topics such as: food in fantasy, the realities of traveling on horseback . . . and they offer a look at writers and novels which break from the mainstream http://heroinesoffantasy.blogspot.com/

  1. Stephanie O’Dea--last but not least, because we all know writers are short on time, this is a wonderful website with amazing techniques and recipes for slow cooking  http://stephanieodea.com

What are your favorite time wasting links?  Do you have a problem with spending too much time online or do you easily curb the urge?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Interview with Suzanne Warr

Cabinet: Why chickens? And all that land? And how does that affect and/or contribute to your writing?

Suzanne: Chickens because they make me laugh, and keep me entertained. Also, I like their eggs. The five acres because I really do need that much space between me and everyone else while I’m writing. It’s a dangerous process, and spectators need to stand back.

Cabinet: Costuming--you do it big and you do it gorgeous. (I'm thinking of a hoop skirt crushed into a suitcase in Denver . . .) What's the appeal? Do you ever dress up like a character?

Suzanne: If dressing up is reserved for Halloween, the average person only gets twenty to eighty costumes in their life. Where’s the fun in that? I’d dress up once a month, if I could. I was Bellatrix Lestrange for Halloween.

Until the telepathy breakthrough works itself down to people like me, it’s the best way I know of to get outside my own head. When else can I curse all the people who deserve it? I have also made up a character as I created the costume. It’s interesting to think about each piece of bling and imagine what history it would have for the character I’m dressing up to be.

Cabinet: I just heard a great panel of authors say how they're nothing like their daredevil characters--their leading ladies are the daring sort the authors wish they were themselves. You, however, are a martial artist, sword fighter and spontaneous building climber. How does the daredevil in you contribute to your own characters or writing?

Suzanne: Writing is itself a high-adrenaline sport with way too much risk for the probable returns, so it makes sense I’d be a writer now that I’ve stopped risking my neck on a regular basis. As for my characters, I guess I still indulge in a little wish-fulfillment. I’ve never had a zipline for my backdoor, and I’ve never defeated a demon. My characters get to do both. But I have been told that my fight scenes are both entertaining and realistic–I guess the hands on research has paid off.

Cabinet: You write many genres–picture book, adult short fiction, middle grade, YA and (gasp) even a romance novel that’s gathering dust. Do you have a favorite, and why or why not?

Suzanne: I’ve definitely found my favorite medium in middle grades. I guess that should’ve been a no-brainer cause that’s where I migrate to in the library or bookstore. But, I really think that writing on a variety of projects, ranging from science fiction to mysteries and yes, even romance, has helped me develop different skills as a writer and explore my craft. Which is a fancy way to say I can justify my constant dabbling cause it helps me be a better writer.

Cabinet: What is your closest call with a peanut?

Suzanne: Hmm, that would probably be the day I showed up to my son’s school for volunteer time and discovered every desk in the classroom loaded down with a heaping tablespoon of peanut butter. They were making edible teepees, and the peanut butter was the glue. Idiot that I am, I tried to stick it out and help. I got to re-think the wisdom of that decision all afternoon in the hospital, with an IV shooting me full of Benadryl and a big bruise on my leg as testament that my epipen had worked just fine. Nowadays, I carry a double-barreled pen, because my second reaction comes on pretty fast, and I can sniff out peanut butter from across the room. That onerous smell is my cue to leave!

Cabinet: You’ve had a number of short stories published. How does writing short fiction differ from novel length? Any tips on writing short stories?

Suzanne: The truth is, I’ve never figured out how to write short stories, but let’s not tell that to the editors who published them! Mostly I write flash pieces (snapshots that use less than one thousand words) or novels, and when a short story works, I shrug and thank my muse. I do think that becoming somewhat enured to the rejection side of publication and learning to work with editors on rewrites has been invaluable.

Cabinet: And finally, one last question the Cabinet just has to know: When or where do your story ideas come from?

Suzanne: I have a contract with a hive of Polytheneroids on Pluto. They feed me ideas, and I give them our extra chicken eggs. So far they’re buying my story that chicken eggs are priceless and rare. Let’s not disabuse them of that notion, okay?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wardrobe Malfunction!

Hi Cabinet friends!

I'm back home from a book tour for my third novel, SILENCE, and thought you might like to hear about the dark side of touring. Namely, traveling with a teeny tiny carry-on suitcase for, wait for it, an entire month.

It was probably a crazy idea to think I could do it (hello! I love shoes! And shoes take up space!) but there was also this growing fear that since I was flying to a new city almost every day, if I checked baggage, and it got lost, it might never catch up to me. In the end, I decided to sacrifice fashion and variety for the simple necessity of clothes, period.

First, I determined I had enough room to take exactly seven outfits. Then I picked my clothes oh so carefully, making sure each piece could be used in at least two different outfits. (In real life, when people do this to minimize buying lots of clothes, I think it's called wardrobe capsule. It's a pretty accurate description. Capsule = small case. Small case = Becca's carry-on bag.) For example, I packed a simple white button-down shirt that could be worn with a skirt and scarf, with jeans, and under a cardigan. In theory, it was a brilliant idea...until I spilled marinara sauce down the front of the shirt about a week into the tour. Marinara sauce is NOT easy to remove via hand-washing in a hotel sink.

Which brings me to my next survival tip: travel-size Tide laundry packets. My awesome assistant was wise enough to supply me with a handful of these, and even if they didn't get my clothes clean, at least they made them smell good. Every night, even if I arrived at my hotel close to midnight, I made laundry a priority. In one case, the drain on the sink was broken and wouldn't hold water. In which case I jury-rigged my own drain using a plastic shower cap. Just call me MacGuyver.

I towel-dried my freshly washed clothes, then hung them to dry overnight. If I woke up the following morning and they were still slightly damp, I utilized the blow dryer. In fact, if memory serves, I never once used a blow dryer on my hair. But I can think of at least four mornings when I frantically waved the dryer over damp socks.

Oh, and I did catch a lucky break once. While in Chicago, my hotel had a coin-operated washing machine. Moira Young (BLOOD RED ROAD) and I had all kinds of fun chasing down enough quarters to wash a load. It was work, you must understand. And then when Moira inserted her money to buy soap, a box of fabric softener shot out instead. It was DEVASTATING. Okay, maybe you had to be there.

All in all, I was impressed with myself for rising to the challenge of making seven outfits last for thirty days. There was only one thing I didn't think of.


I don't know why it never occurred to me that readers would take pictures at my events. And post them online. And tag me. During my month on tour, my Facebook feed was filled with pictures of me wearing a pink-and-blue striped dress in San Diego. And then again two days later in San Fransisco. Oh, wait, and in Chicago. Ah! The same dress in Boston. And London. And even Toronto.

By the end of the tour, I swore to Moira and Elizabeth Miles (FURY) that the minute I returned home, I was going to light a bonfire in my backyard and burn my clothes. And probably chant, "Burn, baby, burn," as I danced around the flames with glee.

But here's the thing. I can't stop wearing those same seven outfits. Is it a curse? An addiction?

Or have I simply realized how easy life is when I don't have to worry about what to wear?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Writer's List of Thanks (and a little NaNo tip)

A couple of my Cabinet buddies had great ideas for my post today: How to NaNo (Been There, Done That); and Loving and Hating your Manuscript--The Art of Revision. The fact is, I'm just not feeling all that informative today (meaning the murk of November is making my brain fuzzy). But those sound like great posts, hopefully one of us will write them (hint, hint).

What you get from me today is a writer's list of thanks. I figure it will be easy to come up with this if I'm truly thankful. We'll see...

  1. Writing. Duh! (You can tell I'm really reaching here).  I'm grateful for anyone who ever set story to page, committed words to forever, and who inspired me to do the same. Long live imagination and the hope of touching another life with wisdom...or just pure entertainment.
  2. Critique buddies. It takes a certain kind of friend to point out all your flaws in such a way that you want to thank them afterward. My writing friends are twined around a special part of my heart that spills into every facet of my life.
  3. Computers. Oh yes. Word processing programs. Email. Can you imagine doing all this in longhand? 
  4. Hope. I think writers must be the most hopeful people on the planet--even the naturalists. Without hope of completion, publication, communication...why write? (Professionally of course). Hmmmm, I may be hitting on the reason I haven't written in quite some time here.
  5. I like fives. It just seems there needs to be five things in a decent list. PUBLISHERS! READERS! Thank you, thank you. (Oh, and those little things like family, conferences, seeing my books in print, organic raw chocolate and the delete key...I love you, too).
And for those who just want a NaNo tip:

For the love of Castle, if you want to finish, JUST WRITE THOSE WORDS! Don't look back. Just go, go, go!

Your editorial hat will never in a million years get you through NaNo. Just type. Seriously.

Did you make a false move? Who cares. Just zing your character to a new place and go.

NaNo isn't about sonnets, it's about words. You can SO do it if you just type the words. Now quit reading this and go type.

No editor.


 No deleting. None.


(Now editing, that's another story. We should probably cover that in December.)


Type--and remember to be thankful that you can and are!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Rose and Carmen Giveaway!

I really wanted to have Ginger do the drawing in person, and not just cause Ginger's one of my most favorite people. Well, okay, that was why. :) But, seeing as Ginger and I live on nearly opposite sides of the country, that just isn't possible.

I settled on the next best thing. Closing my eyes, I imagined I had Ginger's glorious curly hair, just like the hair my mother promised me if only I'd eat the burnt crusts on our homemade bread. The hair felt lovely. Then I stretched my imagination even further, and pretended I had Ginger's sweet disposition and unfailing kindness. My imagination starting cracking at the seams, so I gave my bowl of names a quick shake and dipped in my hand. One name for Rose, one for Carmen. I could picture these lovely stories as I drew out the names and wanted to linger in my Ginger-fied state, but my imagination coughed, sputtered, and spit out a WARNING: OVERLOAD IMMINENT red flag. Sigh. Well, I enjoyed the few minutes while they lasted!

And those little bits of paper? The ones you're all waiting to hear about? Alright, let's open them up. The winner of a signed copy of Wild Rose's Weaving is:
Mirka Breen! Congratulations! I know you're going to love it--guaranteed!

Now let's just open that second slip of paper and see who's going to be giggling their way through Carmen's Sticky Scab:
Marcia Hoehne! Marcia, you must have really good karma as I seem to recall your having an extra interest in Carmen, and now you'll be getting your own copy! Yay!

Congratulations to both of you, and thanks to everybody for entering. If our winning M ladies can send me an email with contact info at spartan_writer at yahoo dot com with your info we'll get the books out to you!

Once again, thanks to everybody for playing and congratulation to Ginger on her book bday!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Interview: Kersten Hamilton author of IN THE FORESTS OF THE NIGHT

Today the amazing Kersten Hamilton has stopped by to answer a few questions. We’re going to be discussing IN THE FOREST OF THE NIGHT (the second book in her Goblin Wars series), writing complex stories, second novels, sexual tension, Shakespeare and more!

Please feel free to leave questions and comments for Kersten. She’ll be checking back through out the day to answer them—and she is an amazing source of wisdom

Pat: Welcome, Kersten. Before we get going, could you please give a quick overview of the Goblin Wars series, in particularly IN THE FORESTS OF THE NIGHT.

Kersten: The Goblin Wars is the story of Teagan Wylltson, whose family is an unlikely mix of Stormrider and the human blood of Myrddn Wyllt, the real Merlin the Magician, and Finn Mac Cumhaill, cursed by Fear Doirich, the Dark Man, to die young fighting Goblin Kind.

I really like the description my editor wrote for In the Forests of the Night:

Teagan, Finn, and Aiden have made it out of Mag Mell alive, but the Dark Man’s forces are hot on their heels. Back in Chicago, Tea’s goblin cousins show up at her school, sure she will come back to Mag Mell, as goblin blood is never passive once awoken. Soon she will belong to Fear Doirich and join them. In the meantime, they are happy to entertain themselves by trying to seduce, kidnap, or kill Tea’s family and friends. Tea knows she doesn’t have much time left, and she refuses to leave Finn or her family to be tortured and killed. A wild Stormrider, born to rule and reign, is growing stronger inside her. But as long as she can hold on, she’s still Teagan Wylltson, who plans to be a veterinarian and who heals the sick and hurting. The disease that’s destroying her—that’s destroying them all—has a name: Fear Doirich. And Teagan Wylltson is not going to let him win.

Pat: A lot of scenes in your novels are packed with characters and dialogue. It feels to the reader like they’ve stepped into a bustling family. Were you raised in a loud active family? And could you share some tips about writing scenes with multiple characters not only talking, but physically doing different things?

Kersten: I grew up with four of my seven siblings, and little or no parental supervision. My mom was out of the picture and my dad worked nights and slept days, so we rarely saw him. The usual state of affairs at our house was merry chaos. I grew accustomed to it and continued the tradition after I married—only with many, many more people. We (my husband and I) have always had an open home, where people could come if they needed a place to stay. Some people have lived with us for months, and some for years. The most we have ever had under our roof at one time was seventeen. So, yes. We are a loud and active family.

Pat: Was Shakespeare Irish? And what about his muses?

Kersten: Of course he was. Even if he was born in England. Of English parents. But the Irish muses gave up on him. Too much humor for a proper Irish story, and way to many happy endings! J

Pat: In addition the main fears and concerns, your stories have ever-present subtler worries (such as Mamieo’s heart problems). Were these details something you preplanned when developing the characters or is it something that emerged as you wrote?

Kersten: They definitely emerged as I wrote. ‘Meeting’ my characters is one of the things I love best about writing. They all have such complex, real lives! I really, really miss them when the book is over.

Pat: Second novels—any advice about writing them?

Kersten: Yes! Someone very brilliant (I don’t remember who) once said, “Nobody reads a book to get to the middle.” The second book of a trilogy fills that dreaded ‘middle’ of the story arc. The story had to be bigger without losing touch with the things people loved in the first book. You have to ramp up the stakes while moving the story forward. And remember to surprise your readers. On a very tight deadline.

Pat: The Greenman, Mab, Fear Doirich . . . Do you have a favorite non-human character or myth?

Kersten: Actually, yes!  I do have a favorite non-human character, one that I would  like to be. I’ll tell you if you promise not to laugh. I would like to be….A FAIRY GODMOTHER! (Stop laughing. You promised!)  No, it is not the poofy pink sparkly outfits that I adore. (I’d wear jeans and a t-shirt) Its what fairy godmothers do: they show up at a key point in someone’s life with the tools or opportunities the person needs to achieve their dreams. What could be better than that?

Pat: LOL. I can so see you as a fairy godmother. Okay, I mentioned in my review of IN THE FORESTS OF THE NIGHT that I was going to ask you a couple of questions related to sexual or romantic tension.  Here we go.

The budding romance between Finn and Teagen really sizzles. Is writing romantic tension a craft aspect you work on specifically or does it come naturally?

Kersten: Action and adventure come naturally to me. Romance I have to work at. And kissing scenes make me blush. Some of the most romantic scenes in these books have no kissing—but they still make me blush!
The way I work at it is by reading a lot of classic romances—Pride and Prejudice is one of the romances I study. First we meet the characters and are shown exactly why they do not like each other. And there are very good reasons for them not to get along. Then, slowly, we are allowed to see deeper into each of the characters as they change and become perfect for one another. Tension comes from the fact that we know what they will miss out on if they don’t come together.

I really like books such as The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer and the Amelia Peabody mysteries by Elizabeth Peters by as well.  They are masters of mischievous romance. And what is true romance without a little humor? I never did like Romeo and Juliet. Some of the funniest moments in my own books are also the most romantic.

Pat: Balancing the main plot and subplots in your stories must be difficult. When you revise, do you sometimes have to cut back on subplots to let your main plot shine through? Aka—how do you avoid having the romance take over the storyJ

Kersten: I think that you have to drop your characters into such a BIG story that the readers are always a little worried about what will happen next. A little on edge, even during the kissing scenes—because it all could be taken away in a single story heartbeat. And…there are always so many sub-plots in my own life that I guess they come naturally to me.

Pat: What one piece of advice would you give new authors on how to strengthen the romantic tension in their own works?

Kersten: Don’t move the physical relationship forward too fast, as if sex were relationship. Romantic tension is just another word for anticipation. Don’t lose the delicious relationship building and anticipation that comes with love.

Pat: One last question. Where did the title IN THE FORESTS OF THE NIGHT come from?

Kersten:  From William Blake’s poem:

The Tyger:

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?
And what shoulder, and what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? and what dread feet?
What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?
When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?
Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

Pat: Oh, yeah. And I still think Ms. Skinner is one of the scariest characters.

Kersten: Ah, Ms. Skinner. Anyone with a heart will cry for her by the time the books are done. I promise.

Pat: Thank you so much Kersten. Will you be willing to stop back later and answer questions?

Kersten: I will be! Thanks for having me on your blog, Pat!

Pat: Here’s a link to my review of IN THE FORESTS OF THE NIGHT

Order TYGER, TYGER and IN THE FOREST OF THE  NIGHT  today from you local bookstore on check it out online: