A Slice of Orange


The Jonathan Winters Syndrome

August 28, 2008 by in category Archives

Do you remember the comedian Jonathan Winters? I recall a story that he had a hard time distinguishing his persona from that of his characters, to the point that he descended into an almost multiple-personality state periodically. I got curious and looked it up on Snopes to see if it was true…no reference there, so for all I know, the story is urban legend.

In any case, what got me thinking about this was my relationship with my characters. Now granted, I’m a character driven author, but even so, I’m getting worried.

My first novel was set in the countryside in and around Los Olivos. I feel that I could hop in my car right now, drive up, and visit Sam and her dog Rocky in the old Victorian she renovated. If she wasn’t home (probably out riding her motorcycle with Rocky riding pillion in the milk crate strapped to the back) I could stop at the Farmhouse Café and have a cup of coffee with her best friend Jesse, who owns the place.

See what I mean? These people became so much a part of my life that I’m starting to scare myself. Am I alone in this? Does anyone else get this attached to their characters?

I wonder if information would have Sam’s cell phone number…

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A Fantasy Life

August 27, 2008 by in category A Fantasy Life by Janet Cornelow tagged as ,

By Janet Quinn Cornelow

Barbara Clark, aka April Reid, and myself, aka Janet Quinn, had a book signing last Saturday at Sunshine Books in Cerritos. It was quiet, but we had fun and sold some books. Linda McLaughlin came and visited with us and took pictures.

I started reading a fantasy series written by Lilith Saintcrow. The main character is Dante Valentine who is a necromance. I didn’t sort them when I started, so I am reading them out of order which makes for a bit of confusion at times. She does write well enough that the books stand alone, but a character that was dead in the last book I read is alive again in the next one. That probably isn’t bad since I always read the end first anyway to see who is going to live.

What fascinates me about these books is the world that Saintcrow built. I like dark urban fantasy where the heroine can take out the monsters. This world is filled with creatures that have different powers. There are Magi, Shaman, Necromances, and various creatures who are not quite human. There are also demons and Lucifer who have a great deal of power over the world. There are even humans, which are pretty much throw away creatures that no one seems terribly impressed with.

The author has also created a world post Christianity that lives by rules formed after the fall of Christianity. There is a glossary in one book explaining all the terms that she has created. This is a very complicated world housing good and evil beings who fight each other to defend their own lives. There are even those who Death has refused to take.

Saintcrow had to have spent a great amount of time building this world. She has covered everything from religion to education. It is a great example to look at if you are thinking of doing world building.

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Conference High

August 25, 2008 by in category Archives tagged as

By Lori Pyne

Celebrating first sales and hard won achievements with writer friends from around the globe reinvigorated my soul and reinforced my commitment to my own dream.

The student inside of me gleefully absorbed the various ideas, suggestions, techniques and tips presented at workshops attended. Greedy girl that I am, I impatiently await the arrival of the full conference CD. I know there is more gold to mine from workshops missed. If I am lucky, they will arrive just as the information learned begins to fade.

The workshops did not have a monopoly on information. Much knowledge could be gained while sharing coffee, meals, a seat in the lobby and even elevators with fellow attendees.

Nationals in San Francisco was everything I expected, and more than I anticipated. I arrived uncertain as to my current writing path. I left with a firm sense of the direction I should travel.

I expected to glean more knowledge. Encouragement and confirmation were welcomed bonuses.

Did anyone else experience surprise bonuses?

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Are you my friend?

August 24, 2008 by in category Archives tagged as ,

By Isabel Smith, Harlequin Editor

OK, I am somewhat anti-social as well as being older than 20something, but that hasn’t protected me from getting sucked into a social network!

Here’s my etiquette dilemma:

What do you do when you get a “friend” request from someone who you’re not sure you know. Yes, you check out their lists of friends & hopefully find people in common that may jog your memory. But what do you do when, in the ‘family’ of the romance, there are a lot of people who might know of me, just as I might know of them, but we don’t actually know each other, have never spoken or met.

Are they my…friend?

When I launched into the uncharted waters of virtual reality, I ran around & made all my friend’s children ‘friend’ me (the 20somethings were everywhere). Then I discovered authors, and found good friends there. But for me there was a delicacy—I felt I had to actually know someone to friend them. I wasn’t using the site to do business, reaching out to strangers to expand my circle. I was just trying to find my friends—people I knew, had worked with, had met—virtually or actually.

I tried to always write a message with my friend requests saying Hi, often reintroducing myself and reminding them how we knew each other. That seemed, well, friendly. Like when you see someone at an actual event, you say ‘Hello, I’m … and we know each other from….’ Even if you know them well, you still say Hello! And if you don’t know them, of course you introduce yourself.

I realize that there are those for which ‘size counts’ and like counting piles of money, they delight in piling up a virtual world of people who are willing to be a notch in their friend-post. But I’m just not that kind of girl.

So I have actually ignored friend requests when I didn’t know for certain that I knew the person personally (sorry), and it makes me feel so ungracious! But all these requests are impersonal—no note, no greeting, just click here so I can add you to my list—I don’t even need to say Hello. And there’s also no place on the sites to share your philosophy or to alert people of your feelings on friending.

I worry that I might actually know them, that I ought to have remembered them—I’ve met them at a conference, they’re a Harlequin author, I took them out to dinner, they were kind enough to host me at an event, or may have read my blog (thank you!).

But just like at an event, if someone came up to you and said, ‘You don’t know me, but I’m a fan of your writing/met you briefly @ a conference/heard you speak…& would like to connect’ you’d be happy to get to know them. They’ve reached out, shared something of themselves, we’d found common ground and become new friends, or a friendly acquaintance. Or just a business colleague who chats and hands you their card.

Seems to me the same framework could—should—apply in this virtual world. Friend is a word that means something, and that matters to me.

Many years when I was a 20something my older brother’s buddies would complain bitterly that often the girls they were checking out & were interested in wouldn’t “put out.” My girlfriends noted that that was likely because they weren’t “putting in”—actually reaching out & putting themselves on the line.

I’m not comfortable ignoring people, but I do think I am going to maintain the standard. I’m not putting out unless the requester ‘puts in.’

Isabel Swift

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Advice to Myself as a Newbie Author

August 22, 2008 by in category Archives tagged as , , ,

by Shauna Roberts

Today’s Guest: Dee Ann Palmer

A former nurse, Dee Ann Palmer now writes full time under her own name and as Carolina Valdez and Carol Holman. Her latest publication as Dee Ann Palmer is the mystery story “Marathon Madness” in the anthology Landmarked for Murder (Top). This month, her Carolina Valdez alter ego publishes “Tie ‘Em Up, Hold ‘Em Down” (Amber Quill Press), an erotic e-novella about two firefighters in love.

Dee Ann, if you could travel back in time to before you were first published, what advice would you give yourself?

I would tell my prepublished self that I should learn how to research.

My latest project illustrates the importance—and the difficulty—of researching a story well. As I began “Tie ‘Em Up, Hold ‘Em Down,” I wondered whether I was crazy to tackle a story involving slow-pitch baseball, firefighting, and search and rescue. After all, it was a big chunk, and I was the one crafting the story. I didn’t have to do this! Call me dogged—or maybe just plain stubborn—but I stuck with it.

You need to understand those subjects weren’t entirely new to me. That’s what gave me the courage to use them. The men in my family had played baseball while I cheered from the sidelines and brought refreshments. Training to be a MIC (mobile intensive care) Nurse many years ago, I’d spent twenty hours in a fire station in a neighboring town, hanging out and riding with their paramedics. That gave me an atmosphere from which to create my own station and a glimpse into how they lived while on duty.

There are no women in this novella, but I’d recently seen a presentation to eighth-grade girls by a female firefighter, and I even knew the seventy-pound weight of their backpacks was the same whether carried by men or women.

I’ve watched “Dog Whisperer” on TV, seen TV specials on search-and-rescue teams, and, in my Sisters in Crime chapter meetings, heard an expert witness on search hounds who breeds Bloodhounds.

No matter how familiar the subjects I’d chosen were to me, I researched them. The tools I used included the Internet, personal interviews and the local library, with its interlibrary loan system, periodicals, books, and videos. I could have accessed the Internet in the library if I hadn’t had my own computers.

As an example, I decided to use a Bloodhound, but what colors did they come in? How much did they weigh? An email contact with a breeder gave me that information. I decided which color I liked and gave my hound a name. An Internet look at search and rescue teams gave me clues as to other hounds used and revealed that some are air scenters and others are ground scenters. Because Bloodhounds are ground scenters, I chose an air scenter as my second dog.

A look at online photos of the SAR team in my county as they assembled to train sparked the opening scenes of my story.

As for firefighting, I spoke by phone with a battalion chief in my town and stopped firefighters when I saw them ready to leave a call or found them in the supermarket. Did they sleep dormitory style? Who was in charge on a call? Yes, they still come down poles and only have one minute to hit the mat at the bottom once the alarm sounds. A loudspeaker tells them the nature of the call and what to roll. The captain confirms it via print out.

Because I was writing about gays, I didn’t have the courage to ask for a tour of the main firehouse in my town. I did tell one man I was writing a romance filled with macho firefighters. He just laughed.

And, yes, I read three novels about gays, bought the ebook The Joy of Gay Sex, and looked up gay toys and sexual practices on the Internet.

I checked our local firefighter job descriptions online. Googling firefighting equipment and gear led me to ask about the mat and the boots and suits they use on different calls. I saw yellow suits in the back of an engine when I spoke to some men leaving a call up my street. Yes, they leave their suits in the truck or engine.

Well, what do you know—there are trucks and there are engines! Different purposes for various calls.

Obviously, I wasn’t going to use all the information in my story, but it would’ve been stupid not to look in depth for more than I’d personally experienced. I guess the short answer to whether all that research is necessary is YES. It makes your story ring with authenticity.


Dee Ann Palmer’s Website is at http://www.DeeAnnPalmer.com and her blog at http://www.dee-ann-palmer.blogspot.com/. The anthology Landmarked for Murder can be purchased from Dee Ann or online at Amazon.com.

Her Carolina Valdez Website is at http://www.CarolinaValdez.com and her blog at http://www.carolina-valdez.blogspot.com/. “Tie ‘Em Up, Hold ‘Em Down” is available at Amber Quill Press and will be available at Amazon.com.

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