Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Out of the Mouths of Babes


Sometimes a child can make you see things a whole different way, simply because she doesn't want to see things a whole different way. Sadie and I were playing with Play-Doh the other day, and she had a fit if I changed the shape of the stuff. Rolled it like a hotdog? Shriek. Flattened it like a pancake? Shriek. Cut it in half? Double shriek. She wanted the purple blob just the same way it came out of the can and was crabby when she couldn't get her way.

Most of us are like Sadie---we want the comfort of our known world. We buy our favorite authors, we watch our favorite shows, we hang out with our favorite friends, we visit our favorite blogs (and thank you if you're reading this). We know what we like, and that's not a bad thing. But I never want to get too comfortable. My next book will be a challenge I hope to pull off. My hero will be kind of unheroic---a morally challenged, damaged man who will be transformed by the love of a good woman (the still first nameless Miss Peartree). What have you done lately to stretch your Play-Doh?

The difference between perseverance and obstinacy is that one comes from a strong will, and the other from a strong won't. ~Henry Ward Beecher

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Job Core


Not Corps. Don't want you to think I don't know how to spell. My current heroine is a writer of gothic novels, and her writing plays a central role in Mistress by Marriage. This is not the first time I've wound up with a writer-heroine. They do say to write what you know, and when you're stuck in front of the computer, you forget there are other possibilities out there.

One of my very earliest novella characters was a romance writer who didn't believe in love. She got the guy anyway, and had twins to boot. *Snort*. Then there was infamous Kelly King, who wrote several romances simultaneously, much to the dismay of her mixed-up couples.

It's hard to find the proper 'career' for a historical heroine. Writing historicals is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, you can get away with all sorts of Uber-Alpha-Maleness and unprotected sex that would be extremely irritating in real life. On the other hand, women were expected to play a very different role in society, and to be true to the era, you really can't have a heroine running around claiming she wants to stay unmarried and be 'independent.' Are you telling me that instead of having a nice warm hero in her bed, she'd rather be at the mercy of her father, her brother or some cross-eyed cousin? I don't think so. Getting the balance right between 21st century sensibilities and 19th century reality is tricky.

What are 'acceptable' activities for your historical heroines? If you write contemporaries, how big a role does employment play in your plot?

March is Women's History Month. Go out and make some!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

It's All Greek To Me



The other day was "Find Out What Your Name Means Day." We celebrate these odd 'holidays' in the library. I post a little sign at the circulation desk and add a book if I've got one. So that day I brought in 20,001 Names for Baby, which I bought long after I had my four kids. I use it for my heroes and heroines, although mostly they pop up in my head with their nametag already on. My name from the Greek means 'pearl.' It is 'one of the standard female names in the Western world.' It's no longer quite so popular, but in my family (on both sides), pretty much everybody was named Margaret, including my mom.

A couple of posts ago, I invited you, my divinely faithful readers, to help me with my next book. Never mind that I still have about 22,000 words to go on the current one. Ding ding ding. We have a winner. Ely suggested Master of Sin for the title, which I love with ever fiber of my pure, pearl-like being. Andrew seems to be sticking as Andrew. In Greek, it means 'masculine.' which is interesting as his backstory is complicated. Miss Peartree has yet to find a first name. I suppose she can stay Miss Peartree for an indefinite number of pages until Andrew gets her out of her laces and into bed. At some point she will give him permission to use her Christian name, whatever it is.

My current hero Edward is Old English for 'wealthy defender,' which suits him nicely. His heroine Caroline is the feminized version of Old Germanic Carl/Charles, which means 'man.' Hmm.

Do you know what your name means? If you don't, I can look it up for you. :) Do you pick your characters' names with a nod towards symbolism? What have you named them?
Words have meaning and names have power. ~Author Unknown

Friday, March 6, 2009

Change of Pace


This has nothing to do with romance, but something to do with love. I'm so proud of my youngest daughter. She works for the non-profit organization Citizen Schools as a team leader in their after school program in the Boston area. Like many non-profits, Citizen Schools is feeling the pinch of the economic downturn. Campuses have closed, there have been staff layoffs, and kids are at risk. Employees have been asked to raise money, and I'm providing the link to Abby's donation page. Don't worry. You can read her page without money being sucked immediately through the Internet, and find out more about Citizen Schools, too. Any amount, no matter how modest, will be appreciated. Citizen Schools was featured in Time Magazine's 21 Ways to Serve America. Read Abby's story and spread the word!
P.S. I told Abby I was going to put up this post, and she thanked me profusely. Then she squealed. "You mean, it's right above your last post? The one about, um, about..." It's tough to have a romance writer for a mom, LOL.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Talking Dirty


I'm a big fan of Thesaurus.com. I often have it minimized when I write. Do you know if you type in clitoris, this is what you get?

No results found for clitoris:
Did you mean clamorous?
Thesaurus suggestions:
glorious
culture

glitz
literacy
cauterize
cultural

cultured

I kind of like clamorous. I picture the little erectile organ all party-like, making some kind of insistent squeaky noise. Glorious is great, too. Center of my womanhood and all that. I'm not sure my clitoris is glitzy (shades of the Glittery Hoo-Ha. Do you know my husband called it a hoo-hoo when he was little? I guess he didn't get the memo. My family called it a quincy, which confused the hell out of me when I had to memorize the presidents and came upon John Quincy Adams.) It may be cultured and I'm very grateful it's not cauterized.

Why, you ask, am I even looking clitoris up? It all has to do with literacy.I have been steeped in sex. (Ely says this would be a great name for a soup or perfume.) I have spent a considerable time in recent days lengthening (ha) my sex scenes in the first two Mistress books. Once again my grandmother had scrubbed my mind from any dirt, and the writing results were disappointing. I made my two line and two paragraph scenes turn into two pages. At least. Voila!

I'm never going to be a Tab A/Slot B girl. I skim reading other writers' sex scenes, although I'm sure they suffered and slaved away writing them. I'm more interested in the emotional dynamics of the couple. My agent Laura Bradford sent me a hilarious book for Christmas: The Big Book of Filth. In it is just about every historical slang word for body parts and sexual acts. Somehow I don't think cockshire is going to replace vagina any time soon. I'd rather go with name-it-not and call it good.

Here's the BBOF's 19th century slang for clitoris. There's no jewel or pearl or bud or rose to be found. Please tell me your preference, or suggest your own!

little shame tongue
little ploughman
man in the boat
little old man in the boat (yeah, that makes me feel much better)
button
Sex: the thing that takes up the least amount of time and causes the most amount of trouble. ~John Barrymore