Monday, December 31, 2007
I'm Lexie O'Neill, a writer living not far from Charleston, South Carolina, but raised on top of a mountain in the backwoods of Virginia. In fact, I'm staying with my sister right now and looking up at Tinker Mountain as I struggle to find just the right words. Yesterday, twin fawns munched grass in her front yard and not long before that, a black bear destroyed yet another bird feeder. It's a different world.
Maybe that's why I write about different worlds. My entry in this contest, Backwoods Invader, was about an alien prince crashing in these mountains and having to deal with the rednecks--including one Delaney Harris who'd rather not deal with another strong man.
The manuscript I'm starting to send out is called The Eddy Complex. It's a medieval version of The Oedipus Complex, only twisted (as if the original wasn't strange enough). There are fat fairies and cruel unicorns and predictions which may or may not come true.
Now, I'm waffling between working on The Lion's Den, a total departure in that it's a contemporary about a church secretary who just happens to fall for the guy who's inherited the local strip joint. Or The Electra, a follow-up to the Eddy Complex, in that it's a new version of a greek myth. In The Electra, I plan on writing about a princess whose parents are estranged and her father loves her more than anything, and attempts to prevent her from meeting any suitable suitors. As if that will work! OR I might do a follow up to Backwoods, in which the feisty middle sister meets the younger son who has been deposed, called Backwoods B----.
So what will I write about in future blogs? If you're interested, I plan on writing about my writing and writing in general. I also hope to throw in what my chapter of RWA is doing--shameless promotion for everybody!
Before I go, thanks to all the other finalists who have posted before me--and the guest bloggers--so far and to come! Have a Wonderful New Year!!!!!!!!!!!
Friday, December 28, 2007
We talk with goblins, owls and sprites. If we obey them not, this will ensue,
They'll suck our breath, or pinch us black and blue.
That is definitely not going to happen here! Everyone is welcome to Title Magic – although the name does give away the fact that you might be running into a few sprites, shape shifters, or Celtic legends from time to time. There may not be many owls - but with Savanna around, there's bound to be a sexy big cat prowling through.
Hello everyone - I’m Evonne, the one from Wales – land of rain and dragons. After the inspirational posts over the Christmas period I have a hard act to follow. Thanks ladies!
Not being able to match my predecessors, I decided not to try. (Knowing your limitations is a great strength.) So - for my debut on the new blog I thought I’d give you a quick run down on the sort of things I might be talking about in future posts.
When I heard that Shakespeare quote in the theatre recently I knew I had to use it on Title Magic, as it seemed so apt for the things we write.
As you can guess from that, when I'm not writing, my big love affair is with the theatre. Which means that when it's my turn to entertain you on Title Magic you could be getting the occasional review of a play, if I've managed to see something especially stunning. And, of course, there might be a certain amount of drooling if a particularly favourite actor is mentioned -- though I'm sure my fellow Title Magicians will yell at me if it starts to get too messy in here.
Another thing that I'd like to do occasionally is to give you a small glimpse of my homeland, Wales. A magical, mystical country, and one that I'm sure will appeal to those who like to stray into the mists and mountains of the paranormal. It’s a country rich in tradition and folklore, a lot of which is dedicated to things otherworldly - with a dragon on the national flag and a national anthem that talks about poets, singers and warriors. (In Welsh - of course.) It also rains a lot. A lot.
What else am I likely to chat about? Well, of course there's my perpetual interest in reading. And food, and shoes and gardens …
But what about the writing? I’d like to introduce you to some of the people and organizations in the UK who have helped me learn about the craft of writing and maybe pass on any good tips, (or juicy stories) that I hear. And tell you about books by other authors that I’ve particularly enjoyed.
As far as my own work is concerned, my current work in progress is a romantic suspense, not a paranormal. Caz Elmore has lost someone she loves, in tragic circumstances. Then a man comes calling, who shakes up her whole world. Can she trust Devlin, a man with no past, to help in a search that takes her half across Europe? I'm trying to create a fast paced, sexy read, and as I know you know, that’s never as easy as it sounds.
I think it’s time I stopped waffling – but before I go I would like to remind everyone that voting in round three of American Title IV ends on Sunday 30 December. If you haven’t voted yet – please do. The whole contest is about you – the voters - and the book that you want to see make it to the end.
Remember – the finalists are totally in your hands. Use your power generously.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
I love how I can take Santa’s classic greeting and slap an “e” on it and it becomes a garden implement. From ho to hoe with the power of one letter. If I slip a letter in front and one at the end, I have another word. That is pretty darn nifty. Since I’m a writer, I think words in general are amazing.
One of my favorite hobbies is to collect odd tidbits about words. For instance: did you know the word “hussy” used to mean housewife? Yep. Calling a woman a hussy went from descriptive to abusive. Why did it change? Ever so slowly, people used it in an increasingly vicious way.
Words can be amazingly flexible like the word “square”. You can have a square meal, you can square up the corners, you can make a square deal, and you call someone a square. Before 1950 it meant that person was a solid citizen with their head squarely on their shoulders, but ever so slowly it suffered the same fate as hussy. Calling someone a square now means a backwards-thinking person who just isn’t hip. Of course, folks generally don’t use it today. Calling someone a square nowadays would mean the name caller would be the square one for using a word so hopelessly dated. Like my use of the word “hip”.
Sadly, some words die from disuse. Words like “queme”, which means to please. Some words have been around longer than you think. Take for example the word “mellow” meaning laid back. Well, mellow has been in use since 1730.
If you can’t find a word that fits, why not make up your own. Shakespeare changed nouns to verbs or added suffixes and prefixes to get the perfect word for his tales. Writers of science fiction often create new words to describe things in their novels. The legendary sci-fi writer Larry Niven even created his own expletive called “tanj” which is actually an acronym for “there ain’t no justice”.
No matter what you do today, have some fun with words. Slip a few obscure words into your conversation and see if you can get them back into common usage, or make up a new word and share it with us here.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
I love Christmas. The weeks of preparation, the slow build of excitement, the black moments (no Nintendo Wii’s to be found anywhere!), the happily-ever-afters (Best Buy just got a shipment of them in!)…the season plays out like the plot arc of a good novel. All my favorite story elements are there: Romance - mistletoe hanging in doorways…Adventure – the search for the Lost Ark is nothing to the search for the last minute gift… Magic – elves, Santa Claus, flying reindeer …and Love - family and friends gathered together.
So maybe that’s why the days after Christmas give me the same feeling as writing “the end” on a manuscript. I’ve been so focused on the holiday that now I can finally look around, stretch, and see what else is happening in life. As much as I enjoyed it all, I feel like I can finally unwind and relax for awhile.
Today I might finally go see the movie Enchanted, if I can talk one of the four males in my family into going with me (ha!), or I might read one of the books I got for Christmas - I’ve just discovered Loretta Chase, and I also received Sharon Shinn’s Archangel - or maybe I’ll hit the stores and see if there’s any good sales.
What are you up to in these days after Christmas? Are you still celebrating with family, back to work, enjoying some time off? And those of you who don’t celebrate Christmas, do you have any special plans this time of year?
If you’re reading this later, you probably have a completely different way to celebrate. But no matter how we observe the winter holidays, it’s almost guaranteed that every year’s experiences and memories, treasured or not, change us. They help shape us into the person we will be by this time next year, and for Christmases to come.
I know this to be true in my case, anyway. I learned the meaning of tradition from my father the first time he read the Christmas Story to us from the family bible the year after Great Grandpa passed away. I studied the art of diplomacy as Mom worked out the holiday schedule with grandparents, aunts, and uncles on both sides of the family. Even the occasional gift had a profound meaning. Like the plastic toy typewriter I used to pound out my grade school stories. Or the small book of recipe cards my grandmother gave to me, filled with handwritten instructions on how to make the dishes she served at her table. I’ve never managed to get any of them quite right, but I treasure that book more than any other in my library.
All of us here at Title Magic wish you a very happy holiday. And whether you’re listless and full of pie, or you’re briefly escaping the hoopla for a moment of peace and quiet, we’d love it if you’d share a memory or two with us. Merry Christmas!
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Having studied the realm of herbs, and of essential oils, the Magi’s gifts of frankincense and myrrh were not only sacred and considered to be magically protective, these potent resins were also used in many healing applications. As to the gift of gold, yes valuable as we would consider gold today, however the frequency or vibration of gold is powerful, an enhancement of spiritual abilities. Do we need to mention the alchemist’s eternal quest to turn lead into gold, as another clue to our mystical heritage? Does it simply mean transforming our baser natures to the elevated frequency of gold, or elevating to our golden angel natures?
Ahhh, my good title magicians, that was not my original topic. Alas, it was on the realm of lucid dreaming and the incredible magic of Christmas eve. Lucid dreaming was first mentioned on our ATIV loop by Anitra. While I don’t have her advanced ability to lucid dream, I occasionally have a real doozy, some of them spectacularly good (my very own beautiful white Pegasus once), and some in the category of a Boris Karloff nightmare. However, good readers all, let me write the tale as I remember it.
Tiny, before kindergarten age, I had no idea what Christmas was all about, only that there were yummy new things to eat and it caused lots of excitement, especially my parents who put up the real fragrant-special tree and eagerly talked about Santa Clause. My dad’s blue eyes glowed with a happiness I will always treasure and remember that night before Christmas. Well, it was just me and my younger sister then, sitting with my dad while he, dramatic as a poet actor, read Twas the night before Christmas to us. My teensy imagination lit up like the bulbs on the tree, before lightbulbs twinkled, when you had to figure out which one had gone bad on the string and replace it before the tree would be bright with colored light again.
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen! Those immortal words are what I remembered most about the poem that christmas eve night. Santa Claus and his reindeer, the magnificent reindeer...More rapid than eagles his coursers they came...in my imagination I could see them flying through the night sky, the snowflakes whirling ‘round them. They looked magical, these elegant beasts with branch-like antlers. And I felt magical, light as air, all tingly fizzy inside.
I swear that poem danced in my head as we set out the hot chocolate and cookies for Santa. My eyes were filled with twinkling stars while my dad assured us that Santa would somehow make it down the chimney we didn’t have in our GI bill ranch house. I still remember heading off to bed bouncing on my tippy toes. Kissed goodnight and tucked in, I imagined Santa in his miniature sleigh with his eight tiny reindeer flying toward us, much better than dreaming about sugar plums. And soon I heard them...the pawing and prancing of each little hoof...on my very own rooftop. Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen! Santa called to his reindeer team. I heard it plain as day. It was so real, their hooves on my roof, I woke up to the loud jingling of sleigh bells, like the ones you hear on the horse harnesses as they pull the sleigh over the snow to grandma’s house. Springing out of bed, I ran outside to a beautiful white blanket of snow, so cold on my bare feet. Santa had landed on my roof. He waved, stepping out of the old-fashioned handsomely-carved sleigh. Prancing spiritedly on that new fallen snow were Santa’s life-size reindeer decorated in the red leather finery of their harnesses. They were exquisite creatures, their fragile-looking legs, their thick brown coats glistening with snowflakes, the drifting flakes falling from the black heavens. Their faces were noble, their eyes large and brilliant as they looked down at me. I remember being entranced by the regal tangle of their antlers. And I wondered what it would be like to ride on one of their backs as they soared through night. Santa shouted down to me, a jolly voice reminding me he couldn’t deliver his gifts until I was back in bed.
The next morning when I dashed outside to see my dad, who was fiddling with the outdoor lights, I was surprised to see no blanket of snow, only short brown grass. But I simply ignored that tiny detail and exuberantly told my dad I knew Santa was real because I had seen him last night. Despite my dad’s rather puzzled expression I went on to tell him about hearing the prancing hooves on the roof, about running outside and seeing Santa and all his reindeer. I think he tried to tell me it was dream. But I was so insistent in all my glorious detail, he ended up nodding and smiling. And not spoiling anything for me. Thank you, Dad.
And no one, not any playground gossiper or any kid’s cruel attempt to spoil Christmas for me, could ever convince me Santa wasn’t real. After all, I had seen Santa and his sleigh full of toys, and his reindeer...oh, his majestic reindeer too. In fact, I may have turned a few kids back to the magic of Christmas simply because I believed. I truly believed. Until, okay, seventh grade. Laugh if you want. That’s okay. I had a Christmas spirit then, that I still treasure to this day. It was magic. It was pure magic instilled into me for a lifetime.
That lucid dream was absolutely real to me, as real as anything I have ever experienced since. That enchanted dream still feels as if I lived it, and remains as vivid inside my mind as any memory.
As I write this, my fellow life magicians, I realize like a flash, tore open the shutters and threw up the sash - realize, I hope my stories are as movie-screen vivid, as magical and magnificently real as my Santa lucid dream, for everyone who chooses to read my otherworldly novels.
A special thanks to Anna Campbell for being our first guest blogger. Don’t you just luv that delish romance-splendid cover. Her inspiration and her writing is a gift to us all.
To my Title Magic buddies, thanks for getting the blog ball rolling. Okay, I’m seeing the traditional typical bright shiny red ornament rolling, rolling...my imagination never gives up, I swear.
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like a the down of a thistle,
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"
Clement Clarke Moore (1779 - 1863)
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Friday, December 21, 2007
Hi there, Title Magicians!
Huge congratulations on finaling in this most grueling of contests. I’m in awe of all of you! Huge good luck to the girls still battling it out in the competition. Can’t wait to see who wins!
Thanks so much for asking me to be your first guest blogger. I’m enormously touched and flattered that you picked me. Mind you, I’m a newbie myself so perhaps my experiences will resonate with what at least one of you (and hopefully more) will go through VERY soon. Whoo-hooo!
When Trish Milburn, my Bandita Buddy, and I were talking about topics, she suggested contests. This seems like a great idea except I’m sure you girls know much more about contests than I do!
So I thought I’d give you a personal history of my experiences with contests.
As many of you know, I took forever to sell and people often ask what kept me going through all that rejection and disappointment. Well, partly it was love of writing itself – I gave up once because I decided it was a childish dream to want to be a writer, but I couldn’t bear it after about 18 months and I went back to my stories. But something else that really kept me soldiering on was writing contests.
And this was before I discovered the amazing and glorious world of ROMANCE writing contests run through the American chapters.
If I saw a short story contest through a magazine, I’d enter it. Thankfully, I achieved just enough success to encourage me that I wasn’t completely hopeless at this. My favorite contest was a romance one run by Woman’s Day, a very popular magazine over here, and Harlequin Mills & Boon. I came in third one year and won my first computer. Not only that, we had a gala reception in Sydney which meant a flight, a limousine ride, a night in a very swish inner city hotel then a party where the three prize winners were made to feel like princesses for a day. I still have a photo of me in my very embarrassing ’80s navy and white-spotted drop-waisted dress (ouch!), clutching a huge bunch of flowers. The dress may not be so pretty, but the flowers and the big smile on my face tell it all!
Then a competition changed my life.
After I came back to writing, I joined Romance Writers of Australia. I was fiddling with a couple of manuscripts that were fun but completely unpublishable. One was set in 18th century Austria and Hungary. Yes, I know, a hugely commercial setting! But it had this great first kiss with a major plot turning point. So with complete trepidation, I entered it in the 2001 RWAustralia First Kiss competition. To my utter shock, I ended up placing and the comments indicated I was writing publishable material even if the subject matter wasn’t!
This was enormous validation to someone who had worked on her own for so long. And from people who wrote romance for a living which was even more important. So I sat down and had a long hard talk to myself (no wonder the neighbors think I’m slightly cracked!). Perhaps I should try and write something more overtly commercial and have a genuine go at getting published.
I’d always loved books set in the Regency, and I knew quite a lot about the period for various reasons. Perhaps I should write a Regency. My next manuscript was The Magnificent Marriage which finaled in the 2006 Golden Heart, the first and only year I entered. The book I wrote after that was No Ordinary Duchess, also a 2006 GH finalist. That book went to auction and eventually was released by Avon as CLAIMING THE COURTESAN.
So I’ll always be enormously grateful to writing competitions!
And speaking of competitions, my favorite comment today wins a signed copy of UNTOUCHED, my latest Avon historical romance, and the Anna Campbell desk calendar. Tell me your history with writing contests or ANY contests, really! Good luck!
Thursday, December 20, 2007
I have a beautiful chocolate-shaded burmilla pedigree cat that I used to show in her younger days. I’m not sure what the cat show scene is like in America, but here in the UK a neutered female gets to qualify as a Premier if she wins three open classes for her breed. She can then make it to Grand Premier if she wins three more special classes for Premiers.
Well, my sweet little girl Meg made Premier and won one Grand Premier class before she had an operation to remove a lump on her belly. Then she decided to chew off all the fur around the stitches. Needless to say, we gave up on the show scene. Bald patches don’t go down well with the judges.
Although she has the face of an angel, she has the heart of Attila the Hun. Any poor little creature that dares enter our garden usually meets with a sticky end. (Often under my kitchen table.) Her latest quarry has been a nest of rats in the compost heap—only these rats wouldn’t go quietly.
One evening, she came in bleeding from the neck. Discovering two puncture marks among her fur, I quashed my initial excitement that maybe she was about to become a vampire and cleaned the wound. It didn’t look too bad, so I waited for it to heal. Instead, over the next few days, two more bites appeared on her neck. This definitely called for a professional opinion.
I fetched the cat carrier down from the shed roof, and off we traipsed to the Vet. After cleaning the wound, he stifled his laugh and announced she’d been bitten by a rat. The indignity of it! I assumed she’d learned her lesson and would give the compost heap a wide berth. No such luck. Staking out the compost heap became her raison d’être, and we’ve had to resort to a dusk curfew—if we can find her. She’s got very sneaky and persistent.
This brings me to the man. (Not because men are sneaky and persistent, of course.) When I pulled up in the veterinary center car park, which doubles as a car park for the local pub, I parked beside a sleek blue sports car. No idea what make. All I can say is it was one sexy car. While I scuttled around the car to retrieve my poor mewing cat in her cat carrier from the front passenger seat, the owner of the sports car sauntered out of the pub.
Twenty something, dark hair, dark eyes, faded jeans, killer smile; he so belonged in that car. I couldn’t imagin a sexier guy and, believe me, I spend a lot of time imagining sexy men. All in the course of my art, obviously. As I fumbled my purse and keys, we both arrived between the cars together.
In deference to youth and beauty, (and hoping to watch him pour himself into the sports car), I stood back to let him open his door. Eyebrow raised ever so slightly, he extended a hand toward my door and said, “Go for it.” Having expected words such as ‘after you,’ I was momentarily stumped before my brain whirred into action.
Not to be ungracious, and rather conscious that I probably resembled his grandmother, I fumbled around undoing the seatbelt securing the cat box while he waited. I was fully aware Mr. Luscious’s gentlemanly instincts were probably wearing a bit thin by now. In all likelihood, he’d taken in my baggy jeans and ratty fleece, all decorated with a liberal coating of white cat hairs, and was thinking, ‘get a move on you stupid old woman.’ Of course, he was too polite to say anything.
The point to all this rambling? The gorgeous man and sports car were great, but still just eye candy. The moment he opened his mouth and said, ‘Go for it,’ a character was born in my head. Just those few words spoke volumes about his personality.
I’d love to know of an incident or person who has inspired a story character for you.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Bob has a reputation for being a bit goofy with all the happy little trees and footy hills and things, and that’s what has made him an enduring cult icon. But as he talks and taps that fan brush on the canvas, he weaves this whole philosophy about art that transcends form.
No, really! I mean it! Let’s look at a few quotes culled from the web.
“We don’t make mistakes, we have happy little accidents.”
“That's why I paint. It's because I can create the kind of world that I want, and I can make this world as happy as I want it. Shoot, if you want bad stuff, watch the news."
“There are no mistakes in your world.”
What can a writer get from all of that? An acknowledgment that art is supposed to be fun. A reminder that we write for ourselves as well as for our potential audience. Permission to play, to make mistakes in pursuit of our craft. The realization that said mistakes aren’t the end of the world, nor are they permanent.
As a writer, the simplicity of this happy little philosophy appeals to me. And, although I do sometimes get blocked, or frustrated, or scared of failure or criticism, and probably always will, I like to think that having these ideas in my writer’s toolbox will help get my words out as well as keep the things I can’t control in their proper perspective.
The Happy Little Philosophy isn’t going to engage every writer, though. And that’s all right! Just know it’s there for those times when you’ve agonized over the same scene for days or a particularly scathing comment about your latest work has you glancing sidelong at the blinking cursor.
I hope you’re enjoying our launch week here at Title Magic, and we look forward to seeing you back. Happy Wednesday!
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Welcome everyone to Title Magic!! We are thrilled to launch this blog, as all of us finalists have gotten very close. This will be our new home on the net, and we invite everyone to stop by, sit back with drink, and enjoy your time with us – which brings me to the topic that's been sitting at the forefront of my mind.
I like to ride in the fast lane – and have the speeding tickets to show for it, lol. But riding in the fast lane also applies to several other aspects of my life, including writing.
When I have a story idea, it usually comes all at once. I find myself scrambling to crank out the pages to get the story onto paper. Since I’m only free on a handful of weekend, I devote those weekends to writing. Sometimes, I’ll write non-stop for a full 17-18 hours a day and get 75+ pages done that weekend. That’s my way of justifying not having time to do it during the weekdays. Just like with driving. I figure I can run a little late, step on the pedal, and still get there on time. It works, but only when there’s no traffic and I’m not being pulled over.
Same thing with my writing regime. It works, but only when the ideas keep coming and life/family doesn’t interfere.
But I’ve realized that if I woke up earlier, finished getting ready sooner, I’d actually have time to enjoy my commute to work – and save some money on those speeding tickets and my car insurance. I’m not on constant edge and endangering myself and those around me with my maniac driving. And I’m not accelerating the wear on my car. Sometimes, it’s not about the destination at the end, but the journey to get there.
While the way I write seems to work for me for the time being (I mean, I haven’t gotten any speeding tickets that I know of from it), it’s only a small part in this journey I’m taking. My destination? Well, it will change as my journey progresses. Landing an agent, getting published, earning enough to write full time, making the bestsellers list, earning my first six-figure deal (okay, so that’s a l-o-n-g stretch). But that’s why the destination isn’t as important to me. It’s all about how I got there – the friends I’ve made, the relationships built, lessons learned, knowledge gained, etc. Those are the things that you must make time for no matter how busy you are or hectic life seems.
Don’t rush to get there and miss out on the good things. If you persevere, you’ll get there when it’s your time. And if you do it right the first time, you might be able to avoid that speeding ticket, or hooking up with that bad agent, or missing that clause in your contract that binds your rights to them for life.
Since becoming an American Title finalist, I’ve been given one of the best advices I’ve ever received since starting my writer’s journey. This advice was given from some of the former American Title finalists and perfectly sums up my point of view on this crazy journey we call life:
Enjoy the ride.
Monday, December 17, 2007
Voting for American Title takes place online during five rounds of competition. After each round, unfortunately the two contestants with the least amount of votes are eliminated. But they aren't eliminated here! Even though we're down to six contestants in the competition as of today, all of us are staking our claim in the blogosphere. We'll be bringing you daily (M-F) posts on writing-related topics of all kinds and some wonderful guest bloggers from time to time. Our first guest blogger will be the fabulous Anna Campbell this Friday. Anna is the author of the much-talked-about Claiming the Courtesan and this month's Untouched. She always has wisdom, and often a good bit of humor, to share with blog readers.
Since the contest is still under way, the six of us who are still in the running would very much appreciate you checking out the latest round starting today (the information is typically up in the late morning) and cast your vote. Round 3 lasts from Dec. 17 through Dec. 30. I know it's an incredibly busy time of year, but it only takes a moment to vote. And the stakes are high. The winner of the competition will have her book published by Dorchester.
Regular blog topics will start tomorrow, so we hope you'll bookmark Title Magic and make a point of visiting and commenting every day. We're excited about the group's endeavor. And now some questions for you:
1. What would you like to see on writing-related blogs that you haven't?
2. What types of things do you think are covered too much or are just not of interest?
3. What keeps you coming back to a blog day after day?
We want to make Title Magic a blog destination, a place where you can learn something and have fun at the same time.