On Writing & Publishing by Robin D. Owens

Personal notes on writing techniques, writing a novel, my writing career and threading your way through publishing a book.

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Location: Denver, United States

RITA Award Winning Author -- that's like the Oscar, folks! Futuristic/Fantasy Romance and Fantasy with Romantic Subplots.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Today is the last day at the day job. Not my choice. I haven’t told many people online, though I’ve known for over a month. I am a contract worker and knew this day would come, but I’ve been here 6 years. But it’s a big corporation and near the end of the year and cutbacks are looming for the regular staff, too.

I have been coping with fear and depression. Coping.

I’ve been dithering about what to do. I don’t usually dither (I'm a "J" in the Meyers-Briggs (sp?) profile). I would LOVE some time off to write (and when I was in deadline crunch I prayed for that and look what happened ;) ) I’m at the end of my contracts with both Berkley and Luna – so I have to work up new proposals…two for Berkley, I think, and the last 3 of the Summoning series for Luna. I must revise my paranormal romance series so it can go out again – that’s 3 books...

So if I didn’t go back to work, it would be a good time to write. Yes, money is an issue. I hadn’t planned on the well-paying dayjob disappearing so fast. I HAVE told my agency that I’m available. They looked at my resume and saw it was "ancient" so I have to do that, too. I'm pretty sure I moved it over to the new computer 2 years ago.

Of course, there’s always the lottery….

May all outer life worries vanish for you as you write today.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

You can do it! Wordcount – again. And again.

In these days before deadline (when one book gets behind it’s hard to keep up with others down the line) I can barely face sitting down at the computer. I have a goal of 10 pages a night – 4 hours after work and that’s bad. The goal is too large. When a goal is too large we will do almost anything to avoid it because meeting it is nearly impossible.

So put goals within your reach – my standard is about 3 ½ pages an evening. I feel comfortable with that (10 on my off days).

OTOH, when you MUST, you can do it. A couple of the past weeks, I sat down, telling myself I couldn’t make the 10, but I could surely do 5 (when I didn’t want to do any at all), or at least 3…

Both times I made over my 2500 words. If you start writing, the muse will come and if the muse comes, she graces you with words.

I also check my word count far too often (I have a button on my toolbar), 500, 610, 763, 1067, 1201…not good. Hey, I’m telling you my faults so you can AVOID them.

One Tuesday night last month I didn’t want to write, put my butt in the chair late, was interrupted to go and get my galleys from my friend who line edits for me, and came back and sat down again. Finally, finally, I got into the groove and the scene went well. A touchy scene I didn’t think I knew how to write – Winterberry getting information from someone without being obvious. Still don’t know if I pulled it off, will have to wait for my mentor to read it to find out. The scene, and a bit I added to an earlier chapter, made my word count 2273. Well, 2273 is NOT 2500. Surely I could do less than 200 more words?

I glanced at the scene. Tidied it up, which meant cutting.. IN NO WAY ARE YOU ALLOWED TO PAD YOUR SCENES TO MAKE AN ARBITRARY WORD COUNT. NOT ACCEPTABLE.

So what to do? I let the muse help me. I started another scene (which is THE best time to end a writing session) and got caught up. It was short, and I even finished it. Final total 2637.

And it didn’t take 4 hours. It was 3 ¾ INCLUDING the time I went to my friend’s (she’s close) talked with her about Sorceress, and picked up the pages, went and got gas. Writing daily also means (usually) writing faster…or maybe I’m just far enough into the book to know my characters and how they’d react and the bits of the plot line I should be working on. Yup, worked in sequence, too.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Villain Speeches At The End and Writer Speak

As a reader, I like villain speeches at the end pretty much if they add to the motivation of the character. When I was revising Heart Quest, I changed the ending at the persuasive logic of my mentor, Cassie Miles, who is better at writing mysteries and suspenses than I am. And, heavens, figuring out police procedure on Celta was NOT easy for me...

Anyway, she advised a villain speech at the end. Well, I just didn't think it was needed. Frankly I didn't care about what the villain had to say. No excusing his actions. So I DID revise, but when I let Cassie know I'd sent her an email (she doesn't always check), I said in writer speak. "I didn't do a villain speech, it was more like 'I'll get you,' 'No, you won't,' 'Yes, I will.' Big struggle. Bang. Bang."

The writer-speak amused me because there is NO "bang" "bang" on Celta. This particular scene was written with blazers -- laser ray guns, etc. I suppose I could do "sizzle. sizzle." But EVERYONE knows what "bang, bang" means -- at least in a mystery/suspense. I suppose it means something else in sensual romance/erotica....

May you get a lot of bang into your writing today.

Sunday, November 27, 2005


Ok, I slept in, then I had a call from my mentor and we brainstormed on the plot of one of the Heart series books (I'm at the end of my contract for these). So I'll want to get to it and write down my 2 pages of notes while it's fresh.

But since this is a daily blog, I have a committment to you who read it...even on Sunday after a holiday.

Brainstorming: That's when two or three or more writers get together to throw out ideas about a a book -- plot ideas usually, though character and motivation can come in, too.

IMPORTANT RULE FOR BRAINSTORMING: The person who is writing the book usually knows, in general, where the plot was going or enough about their characters to want some specific ideas -- within the confines of their story. So giving them "advice" that will change their story or not work with the characters they set up, does not help them and can leave them frustrated.

i.e. Someone finds a dead body. They WILL call the police. It doesn't help if you go on and on about how this person would run away and cover up the crime instead of calling the police. Take it as a given. They'll call the police, now what happens? How will they feel? How will they react? What will they do next?

Yes, I used a real instance. Yes, I have broken this rule to my shame.

May all your plot twists fall neatly into place today.

Gotta run!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Ouch...Life Imitating Art Imitating Life

Well, in my novella, Road of Adventure http://www.robindowens.com/images/novella_pdf.pdf I have my heroine dying (it's a Second Chance At Life Story) by falling down the stairs and hitting her head on a newel post. I got that idea when, ha ha, I fell down the stairs a couple years back (AFTER I'd decided to pay for my own health insurance after going bare for about 7 years). Anyway, I fell down the top part of the stairs (combination of just turning the lights out at night and mistaking the stairwell for the bathroom, I now burn candles in the bathroom), so I hit the landing and not the newel post. Shakes you up for sure.

I included in Road several things that had an impact upon me. One was the fall down the stairs, one was the crash of two small planes mid-air over my area (you DO NOT forget the cops calling and asking you to look for body parts -- in your trees), and one was a favorite cat having to be put to sleep. So it was a special story and fun to write, and I like/liked it.

Every book will have bits of you in it, whether it is motivation, the color of a bathrobe, the layout of your apartment. Expect it, and, of course, use anything that comes up.

Well, I was reminded of Road this am when I ran up the stairs with my hand along the rail and a sliver goudged under my little fingernail. Ouch! I think I got it all, and as you can see, it isn't slowing my babbling much, but -- Geeze (as Jake would say in Road), I use the banister all the time, where did that rough spot come from? I don't know, but I did find it and will sand it down and stain it...but meanwhile I got caught in the cylcle of Life Imitating Art Imitating Life...

May you use everthing possible today.


Friday, November 25, 2005

Soundtracks for your books

Have I spoken about this before? Sometimes it's hard to recall, since I've been doing this since May. Anyway, usually as soon as I sit down at the computer, I hit the key for My Music. I started soundtracks with Heart Choice, and only had a few there (Straif's theme, Mitchella's theme and some Celtic tracks). Guardian of Honor was better, most characters had themes -- Alexa was a saxaphone track, Reynardus had this low toned, dark, surreal melody. Sorceress of Faith also had a few tracks...but with Heart Quest, I exploded. I wanted enough to be able to work a couple of hours and still keep in the story. Well, Trif was a musician (who knew?) with tin whistle, pan pipes, and silver flute (learned interesting facts about silver flutes).

So I had Trif's theme, Winterberry's theme, a couple of "chase" songs, Trif makes a HeartCall and I have that, too, a kitten jig, and some atmospheric music.

And, ahem, some sound tapes (Steven Halpern, Kelly Howell) for earphones for Increased Creativity etc... I like this stuff, and it helps me focus.

I anticipate putting the soundtrack of Heart Choice (now two books back for me, but still the latest released for you all), up on my website for my Worlds page in Decmember...something else to do.

Love to all, and may you incorporate sound in a new way in your stories today.


Thursday, November 24, 2005

Writing About Holidays

First, thank whatever Diety(ies) you believe in for being a creative person! And everyone is creative.

Second, if you are writing, thank the Diety(ies) that you are exploring your creativity and not stifling it. I did that for a long time and it was miserable, I mean, I couldn't even watch "Singing in the Rain" because of the "Gotta Dance" number -- I wanted to write but wasn't following my dream.

Now, for the topic. Writing Holidays. This can be a great challenge because you'll want something in the holiday to focus on your plot, or more likely, the relationship between characters. If a love relationship is failing, there could be an "echoing" effect of how previous holidays were so full of love and joy. If there has been a loss -- well, you know. What of a boss and a employee -- are they stranded at an airport? Does the boss do the old Scrooge manipulation thing? Does that relationship finally break?

I haven't done any holidays in Lladrana (Luna). But I've spoken of some in the Heart Books. Discovery Day was a big deal in HeartMate -- but my characters missed it, and because Danith (heroine) missed it, it was a Bad Thing for the relationship between her and T'Ash. I thought of Discovery Day as a mix of Independence Day and Thanksgiving...the colonists ships were lost, mutiny was rife (yes, I have a prequel novella, sometime about that later) finally they probe a star system and find a planet, send another probe (hey, where did you think that crater that the Great Labyrinth came from anyway?), and find a new home. A tough place to live, still, Celta, but it's home for them now.

If you're writers (and not doing the party/cooking thing) you're probably observant and perhaps especially on holidays. So look around...and enjoy. May peace and prosperity come to you this Thanksgiving Day.


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Motivation for Writers

I have a bibliography that I use for my Survive to Write, Write to Survive Seminar (How to Hang in There Until You're Published). So here it is.

For Motivational Quotes, Affirmations and Creativity Exercises, and the Story Machine visit my site at http://www.robindowens.com/freeyourartist.htm OF COURSE, I USE IT MYSELF!

The Artist's Way, a Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron with Mark Bryan; J P Tarcher; ISBN: 0874776945; (July 1992)

The Observation Deck, A Tool Kit for Writers by Naomi Epel; Chronicle Books; ISBN: 0811814815; Book&cards edition (September 1998)

Tarot Affirmations for Positve Growth and Change by Sally Hill, Pamela Colman Smith, Mary Hanson-Roberts

"Never Quit" Little Message Window Cards by Compendium Incorporated

Self-Care Cards by Cheryl Richardson and Jean-Paul Avisse

List Your Self, Listmaking as the Way to Self-Discovery by Ilene Segalove and Paul Bob Velick; Andrews McMeel Publishing; ISBN: 0836221796; (October 1996)

The Sacred Journey; personal journal and appointment book by Cheryl Thiele

Insights on Being a Writer, thoughts to Stimulate a Writer's Mind flipbook by Lisa Craig and Sue Viders, contact http://www.lisacraig.com to purchase

Walking on Alligators, a Book of Meditations for Writers by Susan Shaughnessy

Stephen King on Writing, a Memoir of the Craft (particularly the middle section) by Stephen King

Chicken Soup for the Writer's Soul, Stories to Open the Heart and Rekindle the Spirit of Writers, edited by Jack Canfiled, Mark Victor Hansen, Bud Gardner

May motivation be easy for you today.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Using Quotes in Your Books

I worry a little about the title Sorceress of Faith, because "faith" usually has the connotation of being linked with spiritual belief, and that isn't quite what I meant with the title. Marian must learn to have faith in herself.

And that's easy to say, but not as elegant as putting a nice quote in the front of the book. Nora Roberts does this often, makes sections of her book and adds a quote to explain. I hadn't found anything that really struck me until Sorceress of Faith, and AFTER I turned in the "front matter." So the quote that is most integral to the story never made it and I'll have to content with putting it on my Worlds and reads page. http://robindowens.com/reads/sorceress_of_faith.htm

So here it is: Faith is the daring of the soul to go farther than it can see. -- William Newton Clark

May quotes inspire you and your writing inspire quotes!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Years Pass...timelines, details and AHA! moments

I had a problem in Heart Quest with timeline. I've been moving along the timeline fairly rapidly because I know people want Tinne Holly's story and that can't happen very quickly after Heart Duel. So, HeartMate opens at the round year of 400 years after colonization, and Heart Quest is now at 405.

But when first writing Heart Quest I didn't KNOW how much time had passed in the story and some of the scenes were written as if only a couple of months passed, but most were written as if a year and a season had passed. So when I came up to a point where I ran into a scene that was on the shorter timeline I sometimes had problems.


Like when I have a house being restored in Heart Choice that should not still be empty after a year and a season in Heart Quest. Why is it empty? Restoration is going slowly? The owner had a sentimental attachment to it? There's a BAD ROOM in it? Violent death had taken place there? All ok, but not great reasons. I actually went back and forth as to whether I should adjust the timeline backward, but then that would mean a baby was not born yet and I have it on stage a few times. Nope, no going back.

The blank page helped me. I just picked up off the hook I'd left the night before and started writing. I put in that the restoration was going slowly, then decided that wasn't a good opening hook and I needed something faster, and opened a bit earlier in the scene. And with the first words, hit an "AHA!" moment.

I realized I'd had something (as usual) set up in Heart Choice that I could work off of in Heart Quest.

The nobles with great Flair (psi power) live in Residences (mostly looking like great manors or castles on Earth -- hey, it's my world!) http://www.accessromance.com/scrapbook/index.php SCROLL DOWN AND CLICK CLIVEDEN, or go HERE: http://robindowens.com/worlds/worlds_heartchoice.htm#pictures. These Residences are sentient houses. They are alive -- characters can address them and get the library (computer info) but they also have personalities of their own. Well, in Heart Choice I have this house that is becoming sentient. So why is it still empty? Because it is taking time being "born." Easy...just a few sentences here and there, and the matter is explained and my readers will never know the struggle I went through.

And yes, writers pay attention to details, especially when Years Pass.

May all your details be easily included today,

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Promotion 101 == A Flyer

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

First, know your market. I attended Mile Hi Con this year, as I have for too many years to mention, long before I was even seriously writing. Here's a flyer I made up for Mile Hi Con. I put my 2006 wallet calendars of Sorceress of Faith beneath it. MHC is mostly for readers and readers of sf/f, and they are organized by DASFA (Denver Area Science Fiction Association, so I noted that on the flyer). I have done some Heart book stuff for it (usually booklets, but not this year). So the quotes I used focused on science fiction fantasy and the comparisons to Marian Zimmer Bradley and Anne McCaffrey.

The wallet calendars do best if the calendar side is shown and maybe one or two with the book cover, especially the Luna books.

Note I said where readers could buy my books, and when I had my reading. Hmmm, I think Who Else books might also be the last place where you/I could find the first printing of HeartMate...I think I'll be seeing Nina this evening at a gathering to watch Connie Willis' movie, so I'll ask her about them. I think I only have 3 and none are in what you would call pristine condition...used for readings or reference or attacked by the cats.

May all thoughts of promotion be absent from your writing today.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Leigh Wyndfield!

Image hosted by Photobucket.com“White Heat” featured in SECRETS, Volume 12 by Leigh Wyndfield
(Red Sage, July 2005)

Raine has spent the last few years avenging her murdered team, but the cost has been high. She’s hiding in an icehouse in the middle of nowhere from one of the scariest men in the universes. Walker escapes from a burning prison, staggering to safety. Imagine their surprise when they find out they have the same man to blame for their miseries. Passion, revenge and love are in their future.

Leigh Wyndfield spends her free time reading anything she can get her hands on, watching movies, and skiing or hiking, depending on the season. Unable to find romances that take place on other worlds, she started writing her own. Her books have won awards and finaled in published author contests, including the PRISM, More Than Magic, the Holt Medallion and the Dream Realm Award. Her novel, IN ICE, was nominated by RT Magazine for Best Erotic Romance of 2004, won a PRISM Award and the Write Touch Readers Award! Romantic Times calls her work, “Engrossing, enthralling and entrancing.”

"White Heat is stunning" -- Jane, Fallen Angels.
"WHITE HEAT is full of action and adventure and will keep readers turning the pages and waiting with baited breath to see what happens next." -- Angel, Romance Junkies
4 ½ Star Top Pick RT Bookclub Magazine

Website: http://www.leighwyndfield.com

Friday, November 18, 2005

Day Job v. Writing

Day job v. writing. I was working yesterday, indexing documents (my current project) and thinking more of my writing than normal when I went into the kitchen to get some tea. “We go through cups like there’s no tomorrow,” said my neighbor in the next cubicle who takes care of the kitchen (it's part of her personality to ensure everything in the office is tidy). I murmured something, I don’t even know what as I jolted back into reality. Here she was thinking about styrofoam cup supplies and I was in a tall forest of golden sunlight talkng with the Sidhe, thinking of crafting an urban fantasy.

Since she’s worked with me for years, she knows my mind goes off and twists a bit…but this dichotomy was deeper yesterday. We would have been totally baffled by each other.

Then there's the guy who asked, when he learned I was a writer, if as I was doing normal things, I wrote in my head like "Robin turns down the short hallway, seeing her reflection in the glass door...." I said no. Maybe I think of dialogue, but it isn't about me.

If possible, may you be lost in musings today, and if not, well, you can always work on the kitchen...

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Gave into Temptation

**Shuffling feet** Instead of writing I visited Smart Bitches and used the Sexy name decoder....This was TOO much, and talk about something hitting close to the bone....

width="240" height="180"
alt="Ravishing Outstanding Babe Incomparably Needing Overwhelming Worship and Erotic, Naughty Stimulation"

It's the Overwhelming Worship....

Love to all,
Robin (no, you don't have to bow...this time).

Spelling and Grammar

First, don't ignore them in school. I never learned how to diagram a sentence, but I did learn other things. Once you write you learn even more from your various crit buddies, one of whom will be a grammar Queen/King. Since I got marked down on a contest before I was published on split infinitives, I know about them, too. Copy editor always on me for farther and further...and my two different publishing houses punctuate differently, as does my wonderful person who does the page proofs for me...

But I'd say I have a pretty good handle on spelling and grammar -- not great, and you will see that I don't spell check this blog as often as I should...but, hey, this is the real me. You might also notice that I tend to do "British" spelling -- "controlling" etc.

Yes, be as scrupulous as you can with spelling and grammar, DO use the spell check on all your work. DO have someone check it if you feel shakey (sp?) in it -- those "ey" words can get me, too.

A FEW typos or spelling errors won't kill your chances. Bad grammar might unless you are using it to make a point, and for that I hope it's only in one person's POV and anything else you write is pretty-much-correct English.

The reason for most of these rules are so that we can communicate well through writing.

And, huh, when I hit the little spelling tab on the above menu, nothing happened. So guess I have to depend upon myself...and Learning Spelling was a Childhood Nightmare for me, not kidding, along with Cream of Corn soup.

Love to all, and may all the words flow from you in perfect shape today.


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Readers' Expectations -- Pushing Buttons and Crossing Lines

For those of you who didn't read the comments yesterday...it prompted this blog.

Oh Robin, I just picked up Heart Duel. Again. I started this book a while ago, felt ambivalent about Holm and put it down somewhere.


Well, while cleaning my house, I FOUND the book and picked it up again. I went back a few chapters and now things are rolling along.

Uh, I guess I'm glad you found it?

Now that I have given you a heart attack about the whole "she put down the book" scenario, let me explain something.

Putting it down had nothing to do with the writing. I have read all your other heart books and loved them. It had to do with these two characters. As a reader now a little more than halfway through, I realize that these two cut reeeeaaaallly close to the bone of my psyche. Holm is a pushy alpha. Pushy in a different way than T'ash. Holm treds the thin line of dominant v. domineering and in the beginning I was not liking him at all because I thought he was crossing the line.

I know exactly what put you off and why, and probably the exact scene. I liked writing the scene and liked the scene, but had several very negative comments by my first readers. I finally left it in because I was too far along in the book and the scene was one of those blocks I couldn't take out. Just couldn't wrap my mind around how to achieve the same effect and write it in a different manner.

I also had a VERY rough scene in Heart Duel that I rewrote. It was (for me) way over the line, and I think my readers would have found it disturbing and never have trusted me again. So it's something I've kept to myself and will never see the light of day, but I can't really bear to delete it from the computer...yet.

I, myself, have a very hard time with any scene where the heroine asks the hero to leave her home and he doesn't. A hero staying after the heroine insists he leaves will not happen (unless she's too sick to take care of herself, and even then I think I'd have him transport her to somewhere she'd get care and not be solely with him).

Lark is very similiar to me. She is a closet romantic and extremely practical. I'm that way which is odd for a romance writer cause you would think a RW would be proclaiming this stuff from the rooftops. So not so.

Anyway, this book had a very VERY rocky start (for me) but as the story progresses and the characters change I am seeing this book, which hits a visceral note, possibly becoming my favorite of all the heart books.

So, what a reader brings to a story can be just as important as the writer's words.

Thank you for the lovely words, and you're right, if something pushes my buttons, it's harder to read. If my expectations aren't met, it's worse.

Some readers can fall into the story because the characters are different from their personality and some readers struggle with those same characters because they identify so strongly that it hits uncomfortably close to home.

I have a reader who closely identified with the Romeo/Juliet situation as her own many years ago and she loves this book best.

OTOH, Holm is not as smooth in this book as I'd set him up to be, so that irritated other readers...

Either way, it's darn good storytelling, Robin.


Thanks Moonhart/Terri, I appreciate you sticking with the book. It is all too easy to leave a book lay, especially with all the other entertainment possibilities surrounding us.

And usually an author knows when something is going to push certain buttons and/or alienate readers and only hope that they'll hang on for the ride, or won't throw the book across the room and vow to never buy you again.

Re: Writing and Publishing. Watch the lines you decide to cross. Weigh them. Do you want to continue to write or are you willing to give up your career? Is the character name, title, scene, book worth fighting for against all odds? Take chances, but know when and what you are doing and accept the consequences.

May the muse be with you today,

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


When I learned I was going to be published, I was the member of a couple of writing loops. I figured that many futuristic/fantasy readers would be computer literate and that the best promotion for me would be online. I’m an introvert and pretty shy in person.

At that time I also had started designing a website and was ready to upload it, but ditched it for a more professional look. And I literally studied HUNDREDS of websites to find what I might like. I LOVED the late, lamented Moira’s Web Jewels, especially the dark sets, but I didn’t want light lettering vs. dark pages.

And in my search, I found Writerspace and their chat room http://www.writerspace.com/chat . Writerspace was beyond my budget as an individual author (they still host Berkley Authors, though) http://www.berkleyauthors.com , but that was where I hung…and still might log in on Saturday night.

Then Berkley Authors got a message board and I hung around there and my email loops – those were where I posted most often.

Then came Luna, and I spent LOTS of time at http://www.luna-books.com and my message threads, and still drop in on my thread a few times weekly.

But the place I’m most online nowadays is here, on my blog.

Hmmm. Now to tie this into writing and publishing. Well, all the above places are where writers and readers get together and can participate in discussions on books and writing and whatever…so find a welcoming place for yourself…and, of course you can spread yourself too thin. I keep hoping that when I become a full-time writer, I’ll play more with readers in different venues. We’ll see.

May you find your place inside and outside of yourself today, and write of it.

Love to all,

Monday, November 14, 2005

Urg! Changing names

Ok, I just posted for today, but didn't check my character's name (Cratag Maytree) and called him Maythorn. Shoot! This is what happens when you change a character's name. It's terribly difficult to recall the right one down the line, especially if it's a minor, secondary character. Cratag was originally Cratag Whitethorn.

THEN I did a search of my computer file for Heart Duel, where Cratag appeared, and I have him down as Cratag Hawthorn, too! I'm pretty sure that got missed in the book, so I'll have to check.

I changed his name from Whitethorn to Maytree near the end of Heart Duel (Heart Book 3). At one point he was giving a sword to Straif Blackthorn (who's been mentioned since the first book, so I COULDN'T change his name). I thought Whitethorn-Blackthorn was just too precious, and even if I had done it inadvertantly, my readers wouldn't know that. So Whitethorn had to go. I remember Whitethorn. I don't remember Maytree.


So, that's a problem. And since I'm an author with a cast of thousands, I'm the one who is supposed to remember. Not my overworked copy editor or editor.

My apologies, and may all your characters keep their own names.

Cast of Characters and Set Ups

Cast of Characters Waiting in the Wings

The wonderful thing about writing a series, like the Heart books, is that when I come to a point in the current story that I NEED a character to fill a part, I already have them. Do I need a Healer – there’s Lark Hawthorn Apple. Do I need a guard? There’s Winterberry or Cratag Maythorn, or even one of the Vine bodyguards.

Even if the need is more amorphous – I need someone whose Flair (psi power) is a catalyst for others -- I have Marigold. Or someone whose brain isn't quite right...there's little Avellana Hazel. (And yes, those of you who don't read my books, all characters have versions of plant names, even if it's species -- like Zanth/Zanthoxyl, my tough alley cat Familiar).

On the other hand -- in Heart Quest I had a mystery, and Winterberry, NOT of the strongest magic and status, was the hero who would track down the killer. However, in Heart Choice -- the book most recently out, I'd just written about a hero who WAS a tracker. So he had to go. Oh, nothing major or permanent, he just couldn't be in the book.

BUT in one of the many threads I'd also previously set up, my tracker was sent on errands by the Councils, and also performed rescue missions. So he's been away.

Sometimes it's easy, and sometimes threads you've inadvertantly laid down books before are rewoven into a new tapestry. That is the marvel of a series...

Love to all, and may you have brilliant thoughts of good threads today!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

"Night Mares" By Mary Janice Davidson

Image hosted by Photobucket.com“Night Mares” featured in BEWITCHED, BOTHERED AND BE-VAMPYRED by MaryJanice Davidson
(Triskelion Press)

Welcome to Brokenoggin Falls, where the housewives are not only desperate, they’re Witches! (And one of them might be a Harpy) The spells cast by moonlight frequently go awry. And there are times when toads and Chihuahuas seem abundant as black flies in the summer, the dragons are a little touchy, the Forest Trolls are in danger of extinction from teeny-boppers, the Gryphons need help conceiving and...the scientist are crunchy and good with ketchup...

All proceeds from the sales of this book will go to the International Red Cross.

At a birthday party for the Disdaine Triplets, the little darlings decide they aren’t pleased with the party or the guests and use magic to create their own fun. That night the town and all its residents are visited by the infamous Night Mares who wreak mayhem as only giant ponies prancing through your house can. (First episode with story & characters created by Lynn Warren.)

Be on the lookout for MYSTERIA, an anthology expanding on the episode MaryJanice created in BEWITCHED, BOTHERED AND BEVAMPYRED. MYSTERIA (Berkley) hits shelves in August 2006!

May all sorts of images arrive in your writing today...

Love, Robin

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Obsessive Vocation

I think about writing all the time. My life revolves around writing – meal planning, time management, purchasing. Not to mention studying technique, trying to do better, or the very act – writing.

Or thinking about writing, lying on the bed and staring at the ceiling. Or dreaming and wondering what that’s telling me about writing or how I could incorporate it.

I’m not sure this is healthy, but it’s the way I am. I’m a Scorpio, so I think that’s part of it. I worked hard for a long time before I sold, that’s part of it, too, and I wonder if the obsession will ease when I become a full time writer.

I need a life.

I anticipate the day when I am a successful, full-time writer. I think THEN I will get a life, but secretly believe that I’ll just get worse...

May your writing balance with the rest of your life today!
Love to all,

Friday, November 11, 2005

Hang on for the ride!

Sometimes the muse grips you and doesn't let you go until you write an inspired scene. This has usually happened to me in a BIG way in at least every book I've published, and makes me feel as if I'd taken a step to being a better writer. In HeartMate, there was an echoing dialogue back and forth between the hero and heroine during her Passage (a Passage is a mental, emotional and spiritual ordeal that has to do with finding, freeing and controlling psi power – Flair).

In Heart Thief, it was when I cut between the hero and heroine action scenes – he was returning to the place where he'd been abused as a child, and she was tracking a family member who was ready to destroy their home.

In Heart Duel it was when I did the unusal twist at the end – especially as Holm walks out of his father's office.

In Guardian of Honor, it was Alexa's climb up the mountain which was more lyrical than I'd ever expected, and the love scene, which was the same.

But the one most powerful for me, still, is in Heart Choice. I call it the ballroom scene. I knew Straif had issues with the ballroom, but when he described what actually happened in there, and what he did – that came out of nowhere for me and grabbed me by the throat and the hands and made me write it. I don't know that I will ever be able to read that scene and not react.

One of the reasons I write, hoping to be better technically, but also courting the muse who bestows such incredible gifts.

May you all have a scene rush through you.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Animal points of view.

Ok, I know great authors have done this successfully, like Nora Roberts. And I tend to enjoy it, but I’m dubious about doing it.

In my Heart books, which are romances, I’ve stuck to only 2 points of view, the hero’s and the heroine’s. And as much as I love the cats and other Fams, I WILL NOT be doing their points of view. I mean, I might extrapolate how they might think, and show it in dialogue, but do we really know how they think? I don’t.

In the Luna books I’ve used more than one point of view. In Guardian of Honor, there was Swordmarshall Thealia, heroine Alexa Fitzwalter, hero Bastien Vauxveau, and Singer’s Representative, brother to the hero, Luthan Vauxveau (a future hero if I’m able to sell the next three).

In Sorceress of Faith there is the heroine, Marian; the hero, Jaquar, and a Sorcerer’s and Sorceress’s point of view (I think. I might have only used the Sorceress).

BUT, in the Luna books, I’ve been setting up the flying horses, the volarans, as being somewhat sentient (more than the Fams), as I develop them in Defender of the Flight, I’ll decide whether or not they get a point of view.

Thus the topic. Now the questions (probably a better topic for Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Books)…is animal point of view something you like? Good writing? Effective? Interesting only if they are more mentally developed?

May you nail point of view today.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Disappearance of Characters

I admit it. When I was writing Heart Choice, the FamCat, Drina, disappeared for long periods of time. Now, I know that much of my following is there to see the Fams and enjoy them, and Drina was a real piece of work – a Queen Of The Universe cat. So I had to go back and put her in, or give her reasons for not being in a scene that I'd written and had no part for her. I think I was successful on both counts.

But disappearing characters – along with vanishing plot points – is something to be very careful of. It can pull the reader from the book, which is the worst thing that can happen, because if a reader puts down the book, they might not get back to it, might recall the next time they're in the bookstore and a new book of mine is out that they never finished the last. If they start thinking of wasted money, I am DOOMED. Then someone has to prompt them to buy the book, and who knows if that will happen? And yes, I know I've said this before. But THIS IS THE BOTTOM LINE, so I will repeat it. Probably at least once a month.

So when I notice a disappearing Fam, I put at the top of my ms chapter or scene "INSERT DRINA" Then I do or I give a reason why Drina isn't there. She spent a while pouting in Heart Choice, and given her character that was fine.

May your scenes contain all the characters you need today.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Appearance of Characters

Yes, I know I tend to have a cast of thousands. I'm pretty sure it makes a book less accessible for readers, but its something I have to work at to keep reasonable, and when I'm writing fast, I can't. Someday, when I am a successful full time writer, I hope to have the time to really CRAFT a book. Hopefully I won't overthink it...

Anyway, I was writing this morning and Trif (my heroine) turned around and there was Vertic (FamFox of my hero, Ilex Winterberry). I had no clue that Vertic would show up, but a little set up conversation occurred and it felt right.

This is one of those wonderful things that happens when you're a writer – the appearance of a character at the right time, an unknown plot twist.

I'm sure it's what keeps us writing.

Love to all, and may you receive an inspired surprise today.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Cut Scenes

All right, I can't always recall what I've discussed or not, here, and really don't have the time to check out the topics. I suspect in the future I'll be making a list of topics so I don't repeat myself often...

Anyway, Heart Thief was the book with the most cut scenes. I REWROTE that book at least five times and it came in WAY over wordcount (my wordcount for Berkley tends to press their limits). So I had to cut. All of the scenes that were predominantly fantasy (at one point I was writing it as a fantasy with romantic subplot), had to go. I still have scenes I could put up on my website monthly for about a year...and yes, that's a seague.

My November website is up! Since I'm part of an author community now, they're very strict and want updates by about the 15th of the month. That's usually far too early for me, and I can't make those deadlines, so my website tends to be a little late (and always has been).


WORLDS -- this is where the seague comes in...Under Heart Choice I put up a "Pinky Wants to Become A Fam" that didn't make it into the book. We saw a brief conversation, and the results, but nothing as long as this, and I intended to make it longer still...

My recent news is up, and, of course, my Free Your Artist Page with exercises exploring Home and fun free links with the monthly divination and ecards changed...

Love to all (and back to writing -- it's going well today except there was a brief power outage or surge that clicked off my machine. Luckily I only lost a couple of lines).

May all your scenes be keepers today.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

His Dark Desires

Oh, yum! A hot read for those chilly nights!

Image hosted by Photobucket.com HIS DARK DESIRES by Jennifer St. Giles
(Pocket Books, Nov. 2005)

Can any woman resist the fire in his eyes—and the danger in his kiss?

From award-winning author of The Mistress of Trevelyan (2004 National Readers Choice Award for Best Historical and Best First Book, and 2004 Maggie Award for Excellence in Historical Fiction) comes the sensual tale of a woman haunted—and a man possessed—by an all-consuming love. . . .

You are in danger. Trust no one. The terrifying words from a mysterious letter echo in Juliet Bucheron's mind. Destitute ever since her husband disappeared in the Civil War, Juliet has turned her New Orleans ancestral home into a boarding house -- despite the rumors of ghosts, the whispers of scandal, and the stain of murder. But even more unsettling is Juliet's new tenant, a handsome stranger named Stephen Trevelyan. Wealthy, educated, and seductively compelling, Stephen fills Juliet's heart with uncontrollable longing -- and her head with suspicion. Something, she senses, is lurking beneath the surface. And someone is stalking the hallways after midnight. As the danger draws nearer, Juliet wonders if she can really trust Stephen. But as he pulls her closer, she knows she cannot resist him...no matter what the price.



A former nurse and home educator, this award winning author loves to create unforgettable heroes and heroines, who against all odds, fight and win the battle for love—the human need that drives us all. She lives in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and three children.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Best Advice For Writers

A while back I was asked the best advice I'd ever gotten on being a writer. A bit of this might have been used for a Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Newsletter, but not the whole thing.

I've received lots of advice (and read even more) from various people over the years I've been writing. For me, advice usually ends up as little catch phrases I can easily remember like "Don't ever compare yourself to other writers," or "Don't judge your previous work by what you're capable of now. If you could have done better, you would have."

Maybe it should be less negative and more lyrical:

You are so unique,
Exceptional ideas,
Prismatic snowflake

Silver of the past
Is not the gold of today
Yet brings rare value

(I had to do the haiku because my Mom just got back from a 3 week trip from Japan where she was named the haiku queen)

May your words come in many forms today,

Friday, November 04, 2005

The Evils of Drink

I've been depressed lately (will tell you all when I come to grips with my situation, nothing deadly), and having problems sitting down to write. So I decided that I'd swig down a couple of fingers of dark rum (the only liquor I have) before I faced the blank page (dangling threads). I did. I've had that bottle for about 3 years (rum cake), and I knew it could be a Bad Idea and lead to Addiction, but I did it anyway.

After my eyes popped back in their sockets, I felt pretty good. But I forgot that the last time I drank anything more than a glass of wine was maybe at my Mom's birthday in February where I had 2 glasses of white wine at dinner...anyway, the liquor went straight to my head. Odd that. Obviously I've lost the tolerance my college days gave me...LOL....anyway, I DID feel much better – but sleepy. At 5:30 pm.

I DID start on the writing and the dialogue immediately veered in a different (character revealing) direction than I'd imagined...but you know, I drank too much. I did a little set up for one thing and a few lines later I forgot the Brilliant Idea...

Yup, drank too much. Couldn't have been more than a half an ounce, I used a little teacup, gol-darnit! Enough to make me Not Quite Here, but not enough for the Room Spins. Anyway, bottom line is that it might be a good idea when totally desperate, but not something I'm going to try again any time soon. And I'll have to use a lot less liquor. Good thing the bottle only is about 1/4 full...Also interesting that the characters became less inhibited too. And is that good or not?

So I suppose the point of this rambling post is that even in an Altered State, a person can write. And it might be good. Or it might be BEYOND trash. Yeah, I did about 4 pages then crashed. The pages came fast and (I hope) good, but not as many as would happen if I'd been sober (I'm SURE).

Don't try this at home. Or -- make sure you don't try this ANYWHERE but home.

Love, Robin
May you get all the inspiration you need outside of a bottle!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Dangling Threads

I worked on some scenes this morning, sewing together two and starting two more, and in all I wrote enough so that when I come back to them I won't go "Huh? What was I thinking? Where should this go?" and I also left some handy threads dangling, a sentence that needed a followup, a question in dialogue that needed an answer, an action that needed a reaction.

The blank page can be frightening, so leaving a thread dangling can be a real lifeline. You (I) don't just sit there and think about reading email or picking at my cuticles or downloading from emusic.

If you can't write out a scene due to time constraints (such as going to the day job), or it dries up on you, at least push yourself to a few lines that will give YOU a hook to work on when you come back to it.

That's my writing advice for the day. May multiple hooks come to you.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Story Background, Story Threads “False” Set Ups

I was listening to an audio of one of J.D. Robb’s "In Death" books and thinking about story threads. These books are futuristic thrillers/mysteries, so the mystery thread is definitely there and I was following the “catch the killer” thread. Eve Dallas (the cop heroine) was setting up a sting operation, but, you see, I’ve already read the book and know that this sting never goes down. The plot climaxes and ends in a different way, and I don’t think this sting thread was a false trail.

I think this is story background that works something like this – I, the author, know the sting isn’t going to happen, but my heroine is closing in on the bad guys, what would she be doing? Setting up a sting, so that’s what she has to do. So that thread is started but never comes to fruition (sorry for the mixed metaphors -- seed is planted and never comes to fruition...).

For instance, in my own work (Heart Duel), throughout I mention a charity ball. In backstory (stuff that happens before the story starts and readers are told of it), Holm and Lark meet at the planning of it when Holm escorts his mother. Holm insists on taking Lark to the ball. But this never happens because I have a turning point set up that destroys their plans.

After a certain point in time as I was writing, I knew that this particular set up wasn’t going to happen – but Holm would have invited Lark and Lark would have worried about it, so I HAD to include that. And, in fact, the ball DID proceed and Lark met with someone who’d just come from it, she and Holm just missed it. So this is off stage stuff that makes your story richer.

Hope that all makes sense.

May you weave all your threads well today.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

2nd Sale, Sometimes Harder Than The First

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After HeartMate sold, I continued submissions to agents. I was rejected a few more times before I hooked up with someone. My editor knew at the time of HeartMate's sale that I had three follow up books partially completed. In May 2001 I forwarded a proposal for Heart Thief to my agent that went to Berkley/Jove, and put the first chapter of Heart Thief up on my website.

I promoted HeartMate as much as my time, bank account and personality could stand. I knew Berkley's promotion of HeartMate consisted of the cover. Even though I felt Berkley/Jove would be cautious in buying another futuristic/fantasy, I was still hopeful they might purchase Heart Thief. I really wanted a book out in 2002 and kept asking my agent what was going on. By March it was pretty evident I wouldn't have a book out this year. I learned HeartMate had some distribution problems and the print run was small. My agent severed our relationship. When people asked me when Heart Thief was coming out, I had a pat answer: HeartMate is the first futuristic/fantasy romance published by Berkley/Jove and they are awaiting sales figures before buying Heart Thief. My editor did tell me she WANTED to buy Heart Thief, so I remained hopeful.

Cindy Hwang called in May to offer me a contract for Heart Thief. I accepted. She stated that my forwarding reader (ESPECIALLY BOOKSELLER) appreciative comments, and the fact that booksellers were reordering HeartMate, was what gave her the power to make me the offer. Heart Thief came out in June of 2003.

May excitement and enthusiasm infuse your writing today!

Love Robin

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