Friday, March 28, 2008

Dame Topaz -- Carrie Masek

Carrie is a fellow member of Jewels of the Quill and a past rival. We were finalists last year in the Dream Realm awards for YA fantasy. She was the winner and rightfully so. Jane

1 Which comes first the characters or the plot?

I usually start with a character. Often, the character will jump into my mind and nag me until I sit down and write his/her story. I usually have a sense of the beginning of that story and where it will end up, but I learn the path the character will take to get from the beginning to the end while I’m writing.
2 How do you create your characters?

I’m not sure “create” is the right word for the way my characters evolve. I start with a general feel for my characters and get to know them better as I write. A really good example of this happened while I was writing my vampire thriller, TWICE DAMNED. I was three quarters of the way through the first draft, around page 180 in the published book, when I discovered that in addition to the survivor’s guilt, my main character was driven by a need for vengeance. His guilt was a passive emotion; it was the call for vengeance that kept him going in the face of despair. That’s one thing I love about writing, the way I discover things about my characters and their stories as I go.

3 Do you make a plan or go with the flow?

As you can probably guess from my answers above, I tend to go with the flow. I’ve tried to plot out books, to outline and structure the story before I start writing, but that has never worked well for me. The story goes along the way I planned for a while, but inevitably one of the characters will decide to take the story in a different direction. When that happens, I can either, “go with the flow,” or I can try to force the characters to stick to my plan. The last time I tried to force a story, the characters went on a four week sit-down strike and refused to do anything until I threw out the outline and gave them free reign. Now, I don’t even try.
4. How much research do you do?

I love digging through books, surfing the internet, etc. It’s fun, interesting, and a lot easier than writing. To avoid the temptation to research my writing time away, I do the bare minimum research necessary to start a story and then do spot research as needed. Referring back to TWICE DAMNED, for instance, before I could even begin the story, I needed a time-line for WWII, including the date for the fire-bombing of Dresden. That was enough to get me going, but once I reached the scene where Dresden burns, I went back to my books to learn details like the pattern of damage, specific areas and buildings that were destroyed, facts about the people in the city (including refugees fleeing the invading Russians), street names, landmarks, etc. When I’m deep in a story, I find it easier to resist the urge to sit down and read the whole research text.
5 How do you select the characters goals and the reasons they want to accomplish them?

I don’t so much select my characters’ goals as uncover them. Writing the first draft of a story is a process of discovery for me. During it, I learn what a character’s motivations and goals are. I use the revision process to sharpen and clarify those goals and to find ways to reveal them to the reader in the course of the unfolding story.6 What are you working on right now? Do you work on more than one thing at a time?

In addition to polishing my contribution to the upcoming Jewels of the Quill Valentine’s Day Anthology Magical Kisses, I’m finishing the first draft of one novel and seriously thinking of going back to two others I have waiting in the wings. I would like to be one of those focused people who can tune out distractions and give all their attention to one project at a time. Unfortunately, I’m not. Unless I’m writing to a deadline – deadlines are wonderful focusing agents – I tend the write the story of the character who’s yelling at me the loudest. Rarely, the other books’ characters will stay politely quiet until I finish the story. More commonly, they all start demanding attention and I find myself trying to write two or more novels simultaneously. 7 What's in the pipeline, contracted but no publication date?

I’m working on stories for both of the Jewels of the Quill 2009 anthologies, Magical Kisses and Tales from the Treasure Trove, Vol. 5. I’m also finishing sequels for two of my published novels, TWICE DAMNED (Mundania Press, 2005) and A DRAGON’S TAIL (Double Dragon Publishing, 2005). 8 What's on your back list.

Mundania Press put out a wonderful pair of anthologies in 2004 called Beyond the Mundane. One volume, Flights of Mind was full of fantasy stories. Unravelings, was an anthology of horror and mystery. I was delighted when my story, “Cybergeist,” was selected to be included in Unravelings, and very sad when the anthology went out of print last November. If any of your readers run across a copy of either anthology, they should grab it. The stories in both are excellent.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Dame Tanzanite -- CJ Winters

1. Which comes first, the characters or the plot? Usually neither. I choose a setting and the time frame, because I use the setting as a major character in the plot. Once those factors are established, I develop the plot beginning, the ending, and a couple of incidents or plot points.

2. How do you create your characters? Once I have the setting and time, the characters sidle into the story, first by telling me a little about their astrological patterns. For instance, Autumn in Cranky Otter, the final book of my series featuring the love stories of four generations of mothers and daughters, began because I wanted to set a story in the beautiful, contemporary Arkansas Ozarks. I decided the heroine, Autumn, was saddened by the recent losses of her husband and her mother (heroine of the previous book), and looking for a new start in life. I also wanted her to be psychically gifted, though unaware of it in the beginning. So Autumn became a Scorpio, perhaps the "deepest" of the astrological signs. For love interests, I discovered two very different men wandering around in my head, one happy to take up the challenge of wooing and marrying Autumn, the other only lusting for her --

3 Do you make a plan or go with the flow? As I said, I need the security of knowing the beginning, the ending, and a couple of points in between. From there on I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer. To my astonishment, a plot unfolds–albeit very slowly at times–in chronological order, usually giving me no more than a peep around the next corner. My subconscious knows that if it gve me the whole story in a gulp, I’d be too bored to write it. I only work when I know very little about where the story is going.

4. How much research do you do? It depends on the story, particularly the time frame. My first novel, Moon Night, is a time-travel romance set in the Ozarks in 1894. I was raised on a farm so many primitive rural aspects of the location and period are familiar, partially through my mother’s tales of her childhood. Other details required only light research. The sequel, A Star in the Earth, however, takes place in 1906 Boulder, Colorado, and required a good deal of research. In addition to books, a librarian in Denver was a tremendous help in establishing the setting. I don’t get trapped in research; once I locate the nugget of information I need, I move on.

5 How do you select the characters’ goals and the reasons they want to accomplish them? It’s an organic process, stemming from the skeletal plot and the characters’ astrological patterns. I began studying astrology in the '70s, so that understanding is part of my knowledge.

6 What are you working on right now? Do you work on more than one thing at a time? 60% of a romantic suspense novel. A lengthy short story about the Busybodies, characters from Deadknots, my new anthology of short paranormal mystery stories with Jennifer DiCamillo. I work on one thing at a time, though I may set a project aside for months or years and tackle another.

7 What's in the pipeline, contracted but no publication date?Princess and The Tanzanite Necklace, a short story contracted for the Jewels of the Quill anthology, Tales of the Treasure Trove, Vol. V.

8 What's on your back list? The generational series of love stories I mentioned above include Foredestined Summer (1920 upper Midwest), Fires of War and Winter (1943 Denver), A Dazzling Spring (1961/2 New York City and Colorado), and Autumn in Cranky Otter. Moon Night and its sequel, A Star in the Earth. Sleighride, time-travel romance (1811 Vermont). Right Man, Wrong Time, time travel romance (1859 Missouri). Mai’s Ties, contemporary romance, my only novel without a psychic twist. Show-Me Murder, cozy mystery trio. Deadknots. Other short stories: The Tanzanite Curse, The Tanzanite Return, and White Elephants, in Jewels of the Quill anthologies.
C.J. Winters--Paranormal, Romance & Mystery--
Novels and New Deadknots anthology--

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Dame Jade -- Barbara Raffin

Barbara is one of the Jewels that I've met. She was a very enjoyable and funny person. Janet

1 Which comes first the characters or the plot? Actually what comes first for me is a what if? In other words a situation. I suspect that's plot, but since my next step is to wonder what kind of character would find themselves in that situation, I'd say I really start with character. Plot then come from exploring how my characters are affected by the situation. Is it a good place for them to be or not? What conflicts them about the situation and gets them in trouble?>

> 2 How do you create your characters? Sometimes I'll fall in love with a movie character and use him as a basis for my hero. In one of my yet to be published books, I had a heroine who was an eternal optimist. I based her on a friend of my who has the most wonderful child-like enthusiasm for everything. However I pick them, I create them by first knowing their greatest strength and greatest weakness. I look for traits that separate the characters, yet draw them together in spite of their best efforts. I love details and little jokes like the one TIME OUT OF MIND where the heroine has just had the scare of her life and frantically runs through her botanist father's house seeking something to ground her. What does it is a coffee mug given to him by one of his grad students. On the mug are written the words "Botanists have stamin Power." Not only does this give the heroine and the read a chance to take a breath after a harrowing sequence, but it makes the heroine think differently about her father. She'd never before thought of him as a sexual being.>

> 3 Do you make a plan or go with the flow? I definitely go with the flow...or should. In my current work in progress, I had a strong idea who I wanted the heroine to be. She fought me and fought me and fought me. I finally gave up and said, "Honey, if you want to antagonize a murderer, go for it." The book took off and I eventually realized this new heroine was who this hero needed. Listen to your instincts. Believe in them. But most of all believe in your characters. But I do like to know my turning points and definitely my ending before I start writing the story.>

> 4. How much research do you do? That depends on the story. THE VISITOR, which is set practically in back yard, didn't require a lot of setting research. But when it came to the hero seeing auras, I read everything I could get my hands on about auras and what their colors meant. THE INDENTURED HEART took a lot more research because it was set in mid 1700 colonial America. I needed to know everything from mode of dress and travel to politics (there was a juicy scandal that worked perfectly into the plot). I was amazed to learn slaves of the period had far more rights, like reading and gaining their freedom, than they had later after importation of slaves was banned. Since my heroine was building a ship, I needed to learn what woods were used, how to shape wood for a hull if the right angle couldn't be found in the natural bend of a tree, not to mention the superstitions that went along with building a ship. And there was more, much, much more>

> 5 How do you select the characters goals and the reasons they want > to accomplish them? I love psychology and am fascinated with why people do what they do. The character who has the most to gain or lose by fighting or giving in to the set up situation is the easy one to start with. In WOLFSONG, Walker has been deeply injured by a 'city' woman who'd found his American Indian heritage trendy. He vows never to trust a woman again. Now he's forced to take in a housekeeper for the wolf study headquartered at his cabin and damned if she isn't another "city-bred" girl. Which brings me to how I pick out the second main character. Bring in a character who is going to challenge and nettle the first character to know end..even if she doesn't mean to as in WOLFSONG. Madison has come to the camp to search for a rapist which requires she get real close to all the guys. How do you think that goes over with Walker, the only one she doesn't come on to? He doesn’t' know he doesn't fit the general description of the rapist.> >

6 What are you working on right now? Do you work on more than one > thing at a time? I generally work on one thing at a time. Right now I have a hero who's the latest trend in new age TV, a psychic in the vein of John Edwards, and who's on trial for murdering his wife. Do I hear murmurs of OJ Simpson?>

> 7 What's in the pipeline, contracted but no publication date? Nothing contracted for at this moment. Though I'd love to find a worthy publisher to re release my TIME OUT OF MIND.>

> 8 What's on your back list. Wolfsong, Time Out of Mind, The Indentured Heart, The Visitor. I'm also in two of the JOTQ anthologies" Treasures of the Heart and the EPPIE winning Tales from the Treasure Trove, volume I.> --Barbara Raffin (Dame Jade) www.BarbaraRaffin.comThe Visitor

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Dame Turquoise

Here's the first of the promised interviews. Jane Toombs is Dame Turquoise and a long time friend. Since I'm Dame Amber, we do compliment each other as we discovered when we wrote Becoming Your Own Critique Partner, 2003 EPPIE winner.
1. Which comes first, the characters or the plot?For me, an idea leads to a plot. Only then do I find characters who will fit the plot, Occasionally I may feel a need to write a story about a certain type of character--say a vampire whose only wish is to die. In a case like this, the character would come first--but that's rare for me.

2. How do you create your characters?I have no real plan for them. They just take on life as I write about them. After I write about three chapters I know them well enough to understand how they'll act and react. So I guess I'm a pantster when it comes to characters.

3. Do you make a plan to go with the flow?I'm definitely a plotter. I first write a long, rambling outline, some of which gets condensed if I'm forced to write a synopsis. But outline or synopsis, I deviate from it when I write the story, though I do start where indicated and end where I thought I would.

4. How much research do you do?Usually more than necessary. Since I've been writing for a long time, though, I have a lot of material stored to refer to.

5. How do you select the characters' goals and the reasons they want to accomplish them?The goals have to fit the plot, but my characters pretty much let me know as I write how they're going to get there.

6.What are you working on right now? Do you work on more than one thing at a time?I just finished a possible H/S Nocturne Bite (electronic novella) and sent it to my agent. I've started #2 --there are 8 proposed in the series. I'm also working on my JOTQ Valentine story "The Third Kiss." And I have several novels with the first three chapters written--I plan to finish at least one of them before the summer's over. I generally, but not always finish one work before starting another.

7. What's in the pipeline, contracted but no publication date?Mischievous Music Duet, two rights-back Regency novellas--Mischievous Match maker and Music Of The Heart--bought by Amber Quill Press. Forsworn, the fourth book in the Temple Of Time series has been sent in again (they lost it) to New Concepts Publications.DiskUs has two of my rights-back short stories, Snakeskin and My Brother, My Brother listed as upcoming.

8. What's on your back list?My back list is too long to post. I did just get my print rights back from NCP for The Moonrunner Trilogy and plan to have Lulu print them. Karen Wiesner is helping me with this project. A lot!Jane

Monday, March 3, 2008

Self Interview

Every writer has their own way of "making words," as my granddaughter said when she was three. "Grandma's making words. Be quiet." I've talked to other writers, read volumes on writing, and taken writer's courses. I've taken a bit here and a piece of advice form there and worked out my own system. So have most of the writers I know. I'll be inviting friends to answer the questions, but first I'll start with myself.

1. Which comes first, the characters or the plot?
For me, an idea occurs and that develops into a plot. I jot notes or have them running in my head for a time. I put myself to sleep at night telling the story and the only characters are he and she. No names, no physical description. Once I decide on the plot I go looking for characters. When I wrote The Temple of Fyre (New Concepts Publishing) a spicy fantasy romance, the idea began with opals that turned into fyrestones. Gems capable of starting fires if the user had the talent. Then I had to consider the temple and the priestesses arrived, but in general now specifics. Finally, I decided there had to be a rebellious priestess and a man who could help or hinder her and an evil priestess. Now it was time to create the characters.

2. How do you develop your characters?
I've written a bit about this in an earlier blog.

3. Do you make a plan or go with the flow?
I'm a planner. Once I have the idea firm, I develop my characters, explore the setting, decide on a time line and do any research that will jumpstart me. I'll do more research later as I need to refine what I'm writing. I answer the questions,
Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. This becomes a short synopsis. Then I write a chapter synopsis and on to the rough draft. I do several drafts and revisions. Though I have all the elements planned, the story remains fluid until all the drafts are done. Revision is where the story comes alive.

4. How much research do you do?

I happen to love research but I also know how I can be led easily from one fact to another and one book to another. Then I lose sight of what I'm working on. When I begin writing I do a general research, close the books and move on. While researching All Our Yesterdays (New Concepts Publishing) I made the plan and then researched each place only looking for what I needed to know. I slipped up a few times but managed to remain on track. I needed customs, dress, significant periods, jewelry, food and housing. Most of all I needed to stay on track. While doing the research, I often find the where and when of a story. When I'm tempted to look up something I don't need, I tell myself that research is a siren tempting me.

5. How do you select the character's goals and the reasons they want to accomplish them"

Most of my characters have several goals. These goals and their reasons for wanting them for me add pivot points to the plot. There are goals that they want in the world and inner goals to satisfy themselves. In the beginning the goals are general and this becomes more narrow and personal as the story progresses. A romance begins with the general wish of the hero or heroine for love and moves to the specific goal of a particular man or woman. The reasons are contained in the particular traits they have been given with both positive and negative traits, the obstacles they face and the secrets they hold inside. The secrets are a reason they believe their goal will fail. In On Opposite Sides (New Concepts Publishing), Jenessa, a widow, knows her marriage was less than wonderful and admitting this is hard when everyone believes otherwise. For Eric, his secret is that he was the supervisor in charge of the ICU where Jenessa's husband died and he was responsible for the short staffing. Jenessa believes this is the reason her husband died. Admitting he was at fault for his accident is another secret she must face

6 What are you working on at the present time? Do you work on more than one thing at a time?

The Dragons of Fyre is my current project. This is a spicy romantic fantasy. This is where I'm concentrating but I am doing a bit of work on another Seduction story, the third story in The Henge betrayed story and researching one with an Egyptian background. Since I write my drafts in pen and then type them into the computer, once I finish a draft of a story until all the chapters or scenes are typed in, I will work on a draft of one of the other stories. As well as being eclectic, I'm also a fragmented writer.

7 What's in the pipeline? Books that are contracted but not released yet.

A Silken Seduction coming from New Concepts Publishing

The third in the Jewels of Earda series coming from DiskUs Publishing

8 What does your backlist look like?

The latest is a short novella in Tales of the Jewels IV -- Woman Cast In Amber from Whiskey Press

From Mundania -- The Henge Betrayed -- Flight

From Zumaya -- Becoming Your Own Critique Partner written with Jane Toombs EPPIE winner in 2003

From Clocktower -- Shortcut To Love

From Hardshell Word Factory -- Obsessions and Come Into The Light

From DiskUs Publishing The Jewels of Earda -- The Quest For the White Jewel and The Brotherhood of Mages, Whispers Out of Yesteryear and Prescription For Love

From New Concepts Publishing -- Murder and Mint Tea, Requiem Murder, The Midas Murders, On Opposite Sides, A Minor Opposition, A Double Opposition, All Our Yesterdays, Gemstones, Heartthrobs, The Doctor's Dilemma, A Marriage --Inconvenient, A Savory Seduction and The Temple of Fyre