Monday, December 27, 2010

Holidays, Shmolidays: The Holiday Swag Edition, and I make a cover!

I'm not one for holidays... well, except for Halloween. And Christmas, I guess. But being nonreligious myself, and living with a Buddhist, this time of year becomes a celebration of togetherness, good tidings and changing seasons.

And, oh yeah... gift giving.

Materialistic, I am not. Accepting gifts makes me very uncomfortable. Second only to giving gifts. I am the world's worst gift-giver. So I was quite pleased with myself when I settled on a handful of gifts we could both benefit from, and this has become a tradition of ours. (Somewhat. Except when I bought him a guitar last Christmas, I have no desire to play. Not that I don't get anything out of watching him play, though...) Tools, because what man would refuse power tools? We're getting into building things now, another story altogether, and I won't say "no" to a hand-made dining table if he wants to make me one. Also picked up some dharma books, which I really should read myself.

And for me? I received a bundle of Adobe programs, including the one I wanted most... Photoshop! Why did I want Photoshop?

Well, not so I could do this:Okay, yeah, so I could do that.

I've been busy this last week with a seven hour drive south (think warm beaches!) to my grandmother's for Christmas. I love my grandmother, but the woman stays up until 3 in the morning and then wakes up at 7. I hope I have her energy when I'm her age, but right now, I need my 8 hours of sleep. Though her schedule has infected me with a little bit of insomnia.

Tomorrow (5 a.m., urgh) we're back on the road for a seven hour drive north to see the BF's family... think beaches-covered-in-snow, thank you, East Coast Blizzard of 2010!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dreaming up inspiration

I was always envious of people, writers in particular, who claim to have found inspiration for their stories in their dreams.

I envy them for two reasons. For one, it seems ideal -- go to sleep, a function you normally do in the evening anyway, and wake up with a storyline. The second reason is, I very very rarely have coherent dreams.

A small sampling of my dreams from over the years:
- I was a gummy worm, and I was trying to get from one end of a table to another
- I was a shrub observing the dream, but I was also Will Smith, and I was getting married behind my apartments
- From my old dream journal: I'm running paper towels across campus with my brother and sister. I'm late for my Japanese test, so I keep telling them to hurry. My brother is whining because he says the paper towels he's carrying are too heavy. I tell him to be quiet, he's only carrying 19. I'm carrying 12, according to numbers that are supposedly on the bag. I give my sister my key so she can get in the room, and tell her to call my (now ex)boyfriend and give it to him so he can give it to me later.

But every once in a while, I have a very lucid, very coherent dream.

This is a dream from September. Soren is a character I've been working on for a long time.

Soren and I are in the bell tower of a church, hundreds of feet in the air. He wants me to stay with him forever, to become like him. We climb the rafters of the church with ease, though the construction makes no sense, it is like a ladder to get to the top of the tower. When we reach the top, Soren wraps his arms around me so that I can see nothing. I feel myself wobbling, terrified of heights as I am. He promises he will never let me go. Slowly I am able to open my eyes, and the first thing I see is the strong jaw of my fictional hero, strawberry-blond hair pulled back into a ponytail. He looks more ethereal than human. I become aware of my surroundings, which looks all too real. The air is crisp and cool in my nose, and I can smell the wood from a fireplace burning down in the streets below. The fog rolls back, and the first thing I see to my left down on the ground is a cemetery. Even from this height I can see individual grave stones. I see the lights from houses, and everything is so beautiful. I am so aware of the warm body holding me. I have never been loved this much by a man before.

Soren tells me this can all be mine, if only I would become a vampire like him.

The daylight begins to roll in, and the dream feels more like a dream.

We fly down through the rafters again to make it back into the church before Soren is harmed by the sunlight. We don't make it too far, for our feet hit a platform that was constructed during the night over the hole we climbed up through. I yell at him to go, but he cannot. Fortunately we do find our way around, but by this time the sun is up and we can see that the church is now occupied by construction workers building a city inside. We roll and we hide through the streets around the church. The sunlight doesn't seem to be having a physical effect, but more of a psychological effect on Soren.

The construction foreman finds Soren and captures him. I go to him and I bare him my neck. I tell him to feed from me so that he can heal. He refuses and says with the suns effects, he cannot and would never bite me. His fangs will not descend.

It is with this feeling of defeat that I wake up.

And then last night, I had another realistic dream, that got me out of bed to make coffee in the wee hours of the morning because I just couldn't shake it.

I dreamt that I had been offered a three-book contract with the publisher I'm aiming for, and I dreamt through the book I had written for them. It wasn't a particularly engaging story at all, not one I'm going to write anyway. Some erotic wolf shifter series which actually did have a plot, conflict and even resolution. It's more the inspiration that I needed to get back into writing now that I'm on my vacation for the next month. (Well, they call it vacation, even though I'm not paid for it!)

Just waiting for my muse to catch up!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Alpha Heroes - Pictoral Inspiration, Part 1

When I think "alpha hero," about fifty percent of the time, I think of this guy:

Johan Hallgren

Johan Hallgren

Oh, to have myself thrown over those strong, Viking shoulders....

J Hallgren

All right, I'm a simple creature. My weakness is Swedish metal guitarists. Or any nationality of heavy metal musicians, really.

Not that I'd run off with one. I just like to look.

I blame it on being brought up listening to Slayer.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Holidays, shmolidays Part I

I wrote a long post about how I don't celebrate most mainstream American and religious holidays. I don't even celebrate my birthday. The conclusion of the post was that I personally find Thanksgiving a holiday of hypocritical origins, bombarded from infancy with the false image of pilgrims and Indians coming together in harmony (that same Native American tribe was displaced by the English settlers not 20 years after "thanksgiving," then warred with them thirty years after that--turns out the Wampanoag potentially feasted with the English in the first place to ally with them in war against a rival tribe).

As I get older, though, I have learned to appreciate the last Thursday in November as a celebration of family, friends and harvest. Though I don't eat meat, and am a firm believer in ahimsa, I'm on board with the idea of family gathering in revelry.

And really, any holiday where pumpkin pie plays a leading role is just fine by me.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

NaNoWriMo: The Wall

Only at 2500 words and it's already November 7. And I have no idea what I'm doing with my story.

But hey, first love scene down! I needed to get some words in today, so I decided to write something interesting -- at the end of this scene, the heroine learns that the "hero" knows more than he's letting on.

Not much of an update, but I'm not feeling this "write as much as you can" thing I'm making myself do.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

NaNoWriMo: Day One-ish

Well, technically Day 2, since today is November 2.

Have you ever studied so hard for a test that by the morning of the exam, you know the content inside-out. You know it so well that you could practically teach the curriculum to your peers, write a textbook about it, and for sure, pass the test.

Until of course, you sit down at your desk, with the exam in front of you, and you go completely blank. The problems look familiar, but you have no idea where to start. No point of reference, so you panic, and...

Well, eventually it comes back to you. Hopefully before the class period is over.

I spent the week leading up to November plotting.*

*Renee's Plotting: Thinking about the story a lot, researching random but potentially relevant things on Wikipedia mostly, taking few, if any notes. Most importantly, listening to music to set the mood, then getting distracted by one particular album and listening to the whole thing through without giving any thought to why she was listening to it in the first place. Then finally opening up a Word document and scribbling down a few random thoughts about her characters and what she wants to do to them.

Right, so I spent that week doing what I call plotting and other people might call not doing anything at all. But honestly, I spent a lot of time thinking about what I was going to write come November 1. I had (in my head) most of what I wanted to happen planned.

Then on November 1, I looked back over my "notes." I listened to the songs I had queued up. And I felt... nothing. So I played the music louder, which did nothing but anger my partner who doesn't care for my music too much.

I decided that damn it, I was going to write something even if it didn't lead to anything. And I did. And it sucked, but whatever. Five hundred words on a page, and I was done for the evening.

Thankfully, I got back into a groove today with my original plot idea when I made one major change that I'm really nervous about. I changed the perspective of the story from the intended third-person to first-person. This cuts out oh... two other perspectives, for sure, but once I had started writing using the word "I," the words literally fell onto the pages. Well, appeared on the screen, since the screen is upright and things cannot fall horizontally.

So I guess to keep myself accountable (that's what this whole blogging thing is about, isn't it?), I'm going to post my daily word count, total word count, and favorite lines from what I've done so far. I'm going to start from today though, since yesterday's literary vomit is going to sit and simmer until I find something better to do with it. And it also helps me with the awkward conclusions to blog posts, if you hadn't noticed... closing isn't one of my strong points.

November 2
Daily WC: 1,523
Total WC: 1,523
Favorite line: "...if she hadn’t been crying, some might have considered her pretty.
She was crying because when I lifted my hand to touch my face, my cheeks, my lips and chin, she did the same."

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Monster mash blogfest entry...

My first ever blogfest. Thank you, roh, for hosting this event! See the entry page for the details.

In the past few hours (or one hour, whatever) since my last post, I decided just to go ahead and rewrite the entry the best I could, so I could say that it was d-o-n-e before I went to bed last night. I don't feel it's as good as the last one, but I'm still at 999 words. Turn that upside-down and make this entry even more devilish!


My first coherent thought was that Lisa was too irresponsible to change Chester's litter box. Lisa, my roommate, was well-intentioned, but had the maternal instincts of a sea turtle. I could only hope that the poor cat was smart enough to direct his outrage over the messy litter at the sole human in the house that was physically capable of implementing some change there.

You know, the human that wasn't holed up against her will in a cold, moldy basement.

I honestly had no idea where I was, or how I had arrived there. I remembered walking to my car from the gym, cursing not too inaudibly about the chilly October evening and why was the parking lot for the gym so far away from the exit. Suddenly, I heard footsteps running up behind me, and the two lessons of aikido that came free with a one-year commitment at the gym just were not enough training for when my attacker pulled a canvas bag roughly over my head. I want to say I fought bravely, gave the assailant a run for his money, but since there was that suspicious time gap between walking to my car and being locked in a basement, I can’t.

The light from the full moon outside was just enough to help take in my surroundings. The basement -- and I was sure it was a basement after taking in my surroundings, having no furniture besides the cot I’d woken up on-- was not much larger than my living room. The stone walls and high, barred windows did not exactly exude hospitality.

Years of studying horror movies had prepared me for this moment. I surveyed the room for any obvious methods of escape, and crossed those off my list. A metal doorknob glimmered at the top of a rickety wooden staircase, but even if it were left unlocked, I wasn’t that stupid. In a suspenseful moment, the victim might be able to shimmy through the narrow bars six feet off the ground, only to be ambushed once she escaped.

A bang from the door upstairs startled me out of my plotting, followed by heavy footsteps ambling towards me, and I was face-to-face with my attacker for the first time.

The top half of his head was concealed by a short canvas sack, not unlike the bag he had pulled over my own head earlier. Two holes had been cut for his eyes, which gleamed yellow with their own luminescence. He was easily seven feet tall, clothed in a shirt and pants that looked pieced together from multiple garments.

I screamed when he reached for me and kicked him hard in the shins as I scrambled off the cot. The monster howled, his blackened teeth gnashing as he made a second go for my wrists. Calloused fingers threatened to crush my carpals like they were bubble wrap, and he dragged me to the top of the stairs. I screamed and kicked as we went through several hallways, trying to remember the route for escape when we reached a final door that the monster pushed open with his free hand.

What I saw was the last thing I had expected.

A ballroom opened up before us, with heavy crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, their light reflecting off the polished marble floors below. Paper Halloween decorations, cutout silhouette cats and black-and-orange streamers littered the elegant room, making it look more like a high school dance than an adult dinner party. Round tables covered with dark linens dotted the perimeter of the room, while costumed party goers milled about from one end to the other. A few danced, but most chatted while they sipped on their champagne.

My captor loosened his grip on my wrist. Never one to waste an opportunity, I wriggled free and grabbed the first person who passed by me, a woman in a floor-length gown wearing a black cat masque. “Please, help me! I’ve been kidnapped!”

The woman turned to me slowly, obviously lacking the sense of urgency I was trying to incite. She gave me a once-over, and smiled. “Frank, darling, where did you find such a lovely date?” “Frank” grunted a reply from behind me.

“Date?” I exclaimed. “He abducted me out of my car! Why aren’t you calling the police?”

The woman’s amusement was getting a bit irritating. “Oh, the poor dear. Frank, is this true?”

Horrified that this was really happening, I whirled around. Frank’s head was hanging, though I couldn't see the expression on his face, the noise he made sounded like a child that had been chastised. He was...ashamed?

I looked back at the woman. “What’s going on?”

Her grin widened, her brilliant white teeth in sharp contrast to her blood red lipstick. I nearly yelped when a pair of fangs appeared in her smile. She laughed, a bell-like sound, and handed me a small orange card that she pulled from her purse. “It seems that this poor monster took our Halloween party invitation literally.”

I read the embossed black letters on the paper silently -- “Monster Mash - October 31. Trick or treat and bag yourself a date for the year’s biggest celebration!”

“Dear,” the vampire-cat woman called to a man in a black cape a dozen steps away. “Paul. Come meet Frank’s date for the evening. A human, can you imagine?”

A man in a wolf getup approached us, covered in costume fur I assumed. Only as he got closer, and the distinct but faint smell of dog hit my nose. The man’s face was elongated, and when he smiled his long canines poked from either side of his mouth.

“You’re... you’re a werewolf.” I pointed to the woman. “Those fangs are real.” I turned around to face “Frank” again. “And you’re a...”

Paul, the werewolf, chuckled. “When you figure that out, let us know. Come and join the party, love. This is, after all, the year’s one and only Monster Ball.”

Monster mash blogfest entry... coming soon. I wrote it in Google Documents and for some reason, the document only saved after the first two hundred words or so.

So bummed. :(

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Moving into the future... cyberpunk style

After finding out the story I had put my heart and soul into over the past few weeks is a near carbon copy of a Bite that was written earlier in the year, I've been more than a bit bummed out in the writing department. It was a big kick in the behind, since I really liked the voice I developed through that story.

I'm not trashing it for good, but I'm too disheartened to continue with it for now until I change a few elements... and I'm not ready to touch that yet.

Keeping up with the commitment to write every day, for the first time ever, I've been working on character sheets for a novella I'm planning to submit to Samhain's Cyberpunk anthology by February 2011. I think this is a realistic goal for me, and the characters are becoming more "alive" to me every day.

You know, for all of the two days since I conceived them.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Now-Year's Resolutions

I procrastinate. I can't help it. But even worse is when I get the drive to start something, get distracted, set it aside, and forget to come back to it.

Did that at work today a few times and each time I'm reminded how scatter-brained I am. I wish I could multitask efficiently. I love working on multiple things at the same time, hence my last post. I have three or four "babies" at a time that I'm working on, and have trouble focusing on one. The problem is, I don't finish any of them.

So on my bike ride home today, I started making a list of New Year's Resolutions. "Stop procrastinating" was at the top of the list.

Then figured that I was just procrastinating by waiting until the New Year to start, so I'm creating a list of things I'm going to start doing right freakin' away.

- Stop procrastinating!

- Exercise or be active for at least one hour a day, even if it's just walking. I take a bike in for my commute to work, half an hour each way. Easy! And on the day's I'm not commuting, well, there's plenty more I could do!

- Write at least 500 words a day, five days a week even if it's not on a story I'm trying to finish. But it has to be fiction. Blogging doesn't count.

- Read at least half an hour a day. Blogs don't count!

- Take a lunch break! I've become terrible at eating regularly now that I've been promoted at work. That 8-mile commute I did today? I did it on a banana. It's 7:30 p.m. and my only solid meal today was a banana at 5 a.m. this morning, then a tablespoon of sunflower butter before I ran back out to get some shopping done. Not good!

- Meditate regularly. I promise, Renee, it will be good for you.

Are these hard and fast rules? Is this list finite? To both of those, absolutely not. But I need it as some kind of motivation. Let's see how it goes...

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Rewriting Process

So I've come to terms with the weaknesses in my current WIP. Namely, that I want to change the target line from a Spice Brief to Nocturne Bite. Why? I just don't think it has the potential to be "spicy" enough given the amount of plot I need to weave in. I love, love Spice Briefs, but it's just not there yet.

The fact that I've committed to a story is a big step forward for me. I have about a bajillion ideas floating around in my head at a time, no fewer than three or four of those are 5,000+ word WIPs sitting in my writing folder on my desktop.

What do you prefer? Your one "baby" that you devote all your love and affection to, or are you in an open relationship with multiple WIPs at the same time?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Like Christmas every other month!

I work full-time, and really wish I had time to read more often than I do. Since my commute has changed since my last job where I was taking a bus to and from (and hence had more time to read), the number of books I go through in a month has declined from 5 or 6 to 1.

Thankfully, Harlequin Reader Services gives me a gentle reminder every two months that I need to get down and start reading! This weekend, I received the following four books in a neat little package on my doorstep:

This month is especially great for me, because I haven't read a single title from any of these authors yet! (Yeah yeah, *hiss, boo*) I'm a bit thrown off by the different style of cover used for Heather Graham's book The Keepers, because as silly as it sounds it just doesn't feel like a Nocturne. So, I think that's the one I'll have to start with first!

On another note, I do like to consider myself an environmentalist. I recycle when I don't reuse a container, I eat low-impact foods, create so little waste that between two people in the same house, we throw the garbage out maybe once per week, usually because someone put food in the trash and it's getting smelly. But lately I've been criticized because I *gasp* read hard copies of books.

I do have a Kindle application on my iPhone, which I do use occasionally. I have several dozen books on Kindle, mostly classics and free reads from Harlequin and Ellora's Cave, so I don't consider that in lieu of my hard-copy book collection, which runs upwards of several hundred books. (I'll catalog them one day, I swear.)

I don't throw books away, never never. Not even if I've read them a hundred times (or five, which is the most I've ever read one book -- The Neverending Story by Michael Ende, so well-loved that the cover has been taped back on). So it's not a matter of creating waste with my books at all.

To me, nothing beats the smell of a real book, the weight of it in my hands, the sound it makes when I turn the pages, the paper cuts I get when I'm so excited that I'm turning the page too quickly. But when it comes down to playing passenger a 20-hour road trip up or down the East Coast and I'm getting a craving for some Vivi Anna, I just can't conjure up a book out of thin air without Kindle!

How do you feel about eBooks versus hard copies of books?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Critique me, please!

So after jumping back onto the wagon and writing my fingers off, a few CP's have given some pretty harsh criticism on my beloved WIP.


I'm thrilled for this. While I like a yes-man, I love a make-it-better-this-way-man even more. One gave me some excellent resources, a few of which Ill be posting in a widget on the side of this blog.

Now... once I'm done being ill, it's back to writing. For now, just sipping chai and hoping that my sinuses clear out by Monday so I can finally get out of bed and go back to work!

Sunday, September 19, 2010


A term I use to describe the inability of my longtime partner to make our relationship mean something to the government using the "M" word (since we both are pretty sure it means something to us and our families), I also suffer from severe commitmentphobia.

I am approximately 400 words away from completing my first ever MS, and what do I do?

Scrap it.

Not because I think it sucks. Not because I don't want to finish it. But because those last 400 words need to be perfect, need to do all the other words justice to tie together that one niggling loose end that would bring the whole story to a beautiful and blissful end.

Eh, not to be.

As a writer, I am severely attention-deficit. I fall in love with my heroes and heroines and mull over their lives for weeks and months (if lucky) at a time. When it comes to finishing them off though, it's time to move onto the next best thing.

So how do you finish a story? I feel that as a pantser I'm at a disadvantage here, because there is no clear-cut ending to my characters' saga.

When do you know that a story is finished? I know how I want it to end, but when do you feel comfortable closing the figurative cover, content with the knowledge that you've done everything you possibly could do to make sure your couple (or triad, or what have you) has reached there HEA (or happy-for-now)?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Finally, an introduction!

I began this blog as a way to chronicle my adventures in the romance-writing realm. On the precipice of finishing my first full story for publication, my personal life intervened and put the completion of this story off for another few weeks.

I feel like I am chronically in this state of in-between. Even after over two decades of writing for pleasure, I have a difficult time sticking with one story to the end. I say, no more! This blog is my accountability log. I will use it to post my progress, to keep in touch with fellow writers, to review stories that have inspired me, and whatever other ramblings I can't keep to myself!

My name is Renee. I'm excited to begin this adventure!

Saturday, August 28, 2010