Thursday, December 30, 2010

Story Basics, Part I

My friend Opal Mirror and I have had an interesting conversation since my post on Catching Up On The Classics.

He says he likes to write setting, but has trouble with narrative and character development (whereas I'm all over narrative, but setting is ridiculously hard for me). So, for both of us, I thought I'd go over some concepts and see if it helps us (and you, too).

Character development - creating a fictional person who is as confused and searching as a real person - isn't easy, but there are some tools to help you on your way.

The first tool set involves basic questions such as:
  1. What does the person need to learn?  Humility? Self-Confidence? That his uncle murdered his father and then married the widow?
  2. What are her flaws? Is she a careless listener? Is he greedy? Hamlet had some serious focus issues, for example. His job was to kill his uncle, not everyone else!
  3. What is her greatest fear? Gertrude did not want to face the truth of her actions - that she had committed incest by marrying her brother in law.
  4. What is his best quality? I always thought Hamlet's best quality that was he didn't take the ghost's words for granted - he had to investigate and prove the truth to himself.
  5. What is the price she will have to pay if she doesn't learn the lesson(s)? Since it took Hamlet so long to learn what was going on, he left behind a trail of innocent dead.
These are just ideas to start the brainstorming process. More character tools to come!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Out and about.

I'm the sort that needs a lot of intellectual stimulation, or my brain goes crazy with the self-criticism. I finally remembered that in the midst of a crisis of confidence last night. So today, I took the light rail into Portland, along with my journal and camera, and took a day to remember the outside world.
My feet and the poem to former mayor Bud Clark.

Pasta, tea, and writing at the Davis St. Tavern.

Some of the best hot chocolate around! With cardamom whipped cream, even.

Wandering around the Chinese Garden. The sun came out occasionally, too!

These frozen yellow flowers smelled like love -sweet and unending.

Outside the Tao of Tea

I adore this little waterfall.

Next to the waterfall, there's this little mysterious cove. I imagine tiny pirates in there.

Stepping stones.

Fu dogs are joy.

Stopped by Oregon Leather to be amazed at the colors and creativity of leather working.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

For my Charming Man

Feeling the love today. :)

Sun and Moon
by Gina Zeitlin

It's all about sex,
we both know that.

But     what I wonder is
after every molecule of desire
in my body has been satisfied
the sudden moistening, the deep
fierce aching and raising heat
the throbbing glory of release and the cries
of need and pleasure have dissolved
into the air,

Something like my soul slips from me
and goes to you,
without choice or question,
and wraps itself around you
all night, like the breath
of the moon.

And why
I carry the thought of you
as constant as any sun
in my heart.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The best intentions

Making a Literary Life
A dear friend's manuscript was rejected this past week. I was going to write something profound about rejection for her -  basically rehashing the brilliant advice Carolyn See gives the world in Making a Literary Life (which is one of the absolute necessities for an author). It's a genius book and the chapter on rejection is one of the kindest, most life affirming pieces of advice I've heard in my life (and I've heard more advice than I can possibly count).

But I simply wasn't up for picking the best parts and I certainly was not going to copy down the entire fourteen pages of the chapter. So I will share the final paragraph:

It's not personal. It's not death. It's just a death experience. And the way to defuse rejection is to turn it into a process: cosmic badminton. So that you can wake up in the night, think about it, and actually smile.
And now, something else to keep you smiling:
Sacher Torte with whipped cream and coffee, at the Sacher Hotel, in Vienna.
Because decadent chocolate torte and Viennese coffee with more whipped cream make the world a better place.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Getting Silly.

In my short story challenge, another friend dared me to challenge the stereotypes of absolute dominance and submission.

The deepest submission

“Tonight, our pet, is the final test. If you pass this one, you will be our fully collared live-in slave, both owned and cherished.”

Her words sent a shiver down my spine and through my cock, making the bell on the end of its cage chime.  I kept my lips firmly pressed to the shining floor by her foot. What would my Master and Mistress do to me? They had tested me over and over since I approached them to be their slave.

Their stern hands and whispered orders gave delights, and revealed my secrets. They peeled me open like an artichoke, demanding I give up my tender heart.

“Wait for us in your basket,” his deep rumbling voice ordered. I kissed his feet, careful not to brush my stubble against his skin, and scooted to my dog den -a deep wicker basket lined with cushions. To be kept like a dog, waiting on their whim, was all I wanted. I yearned to found worthy of their permanent collar.

My Master and Mistress were flawless physical specimens of dominant power. She towered at six feet, with radiant skin and glossy black hair. He was even taller, and surely heaven would forgive me if I thought of a Tom of Finland drawing whenever I saw his sculpted body and strong features.

The heavy tread of his boots heralded his arrival.

“Come here.”

I crawled out of my nest and touched my lips to the boots I had learned to polish to his exacting standards.

“Look at me.”

Smiling in delight, I let my gaze range up his perfect body encased in black leather. His strong calves, muscular thighs lead to an enticing bulge in his codpiece. I always knew I had done well when he rewarded me by letting me look at his rippling belly and chest. I finally reached his face, and gasped.

A bright red clown nose sat in the middle of his Greek god features.

Astonished, I flicked my eyes to my Mistress. Her face carried no such outrageous adornment. Her corset and opera gloves hugged her body as closely as I yearned to touch her. A six foot long singletail slithered behind her.

But instead of her usual sky high heels, pink fuzzy bunny slippers waggled their ears at me as she stepped forward.

“Well?” Her imperious voice snapped me out of my stare.

I looked at the object in her hand.

“Do you accept our token?” he asked.

I stared between them. A grin broke out on my face. I grabbed the deely bobbers from her hand and shoved it on my head. The bright green glittery shamrocks wobbled back and forth as I sat up.

“I’m yours,” I declared.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Ice Hard.

A long time ago, I challenged my good friends to stretch my erotic imagination. Give me a scenario, a kernal of an idea, and I'd come up with a short story from it. One person said I should write a sexy scene in an ice fishing hut.

It's a Minnesota thing. Just roll with it.

Ice hard

Minnesota in winter was a hard place.

But not nearly hard enough, Mrs. Bjorn Johnson concluded. That damn Bjorn, fishing addict he was, had been up in that there damn ice fishing hut for the entire weekend, tending to the entirely wrong set of holes.

How was a woman supposed to get any lovin’ this way? She’d even wore her sexiest nightie -the long insulated green one without any feet – to bed last night, but her beloved Big B merely gave her a wet smacking kiss on the cheek and rolled over.

Discouraged, she’d put her footie pajamas back on and spent the night coming up with her cunning plan. If Mohammad couldn’t come to the mountain….

Already dressed in her warmest garments, Julika, sturdy, independent woman she was, strode across the three foot thick ice and throw the blowing snow to Bjorn’s sizable red ice-fishing hut.

Not even knocking, she flung open the door. “Hello, darling,” she sing songed, walking into the heated room.

“Holeee cannooooli, Julika, what are you doing here?” Bjorn’s arousing Minnesotan drawl tingled her neglected places as he leapt to his feet, nearly upsetting the chair he’d been perched on watching the black waters under the ice. His shirt sleeves had been rolled up, revealing strong forearms. Julika pressed her thighs together at the sight.

“Why, can’t a devoted wife see to her husband’s comfort?” she purred, peeling off her thermal mittens, her scarf, ear muffs, and stocking cap with the panache and confident cocked hip of a showgirl.

Bjorn gulped.

She unzipped her down coat, tooth by agonizing tooth, holding Bjorn’s gaze the entire time. He swallowed as she tossed it onto his small table, scattering fishing magazines and a lone copy of Maxim. She’d pin his ears back good about that later. Right now, this real life woman’s real life needs demanded attention. She was on a mission.

Her insulated vest went next. She peeled and tugged and unzipped and unbuttoned until she stood before him in her boots and clinging silk thermal long johns.

“Bjorn, I just had to know how your…pole…was doing.” Julika ran her hands up and down her torso and breasts just like she’d seen in the stripper aerobics tape Annika had snuck to her under the table at the last Church Ladies’ Social.

Her man’s blue eyes bugged out at her hard nipples and unbound hair. A gratifying lump appeared in his flannel lined jeans.

Leaning against the table, she spread her legs, letting him get a good look at her puffy hoo-ha pressed against her longies. Her fingers delved past the waist band of the drawers and stroked aching flesh.

“Now, you gonna provide for your woman, Bjorn Johnson, or am I going to have to become a DIY gal?”

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Catching up on 'The Classics'

I'm always watching movies and reading books, trying to learn more about writing, structure, and what makes a story dazzling. I've been on a musical kick, seeing how the writers tied the music to the story, used it to advance the plot, or used it to reveal a character's innermost self.

In Silk Stockings, Cyd Charisse's solo dance with her lingerie clearly tells the viewer that here is a woman who is finally embracing her yearning for pleasure. It's one of the most tender and touching metaphors for female sexuality and orgasm that I've seen.

So from this movie, I learned how to engage a reader in more than just the motion of the ocean, but also the emotions of the motion, so to speak.

On the downside, I learned just how necessary character development is. In Pal Joey, Joey starts the movie with being run out of town by the police. Because he'd been pouring drinks for an underage girl in his hotel room. For some reason, this was considered funny back in 1957.

I was yucked out immediately. And I stayed yucked out, because Joey remained a complete dog. Kim Novak played a helpless innocent (another Waif on our hands!), and Rita Hayworth played a woman who actually owned her sexuality. Which means, of course, that she got dumped. Here's the trailer to get you started.

What I learned?
1. I need to pay attention to the mores of your time, and what is considered funny.
2. Sometimes, I just want to watch the movie for the musical numbers, and not the plot. Or the characters.
3. If I'm going to write a jerk or someone in need of redemption, I need to show some kind of reason why anyone would cheer for this louse.

In order to get this foul taste out of my mouth, I had to watch some Mae West movies.  My Little Chickadee to the rescue.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Getting Sweaty

c. Linda Mercury

Soon, we’ll dress,
our outer selves again. We’ll
wipe off the sweat and come and
button and
zip and
knot. We will
search for
food and drink and outside

We will look
tidy and neat and polite and civilized.
We will
smile and
act nice.

We endure those lies for our insides are
hot, wild, crazed,
just a little


We know who we are.
We can survive
just a little


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

To heck with it.

Anyone who comments on my blog will get a unique, hand-painted fan! Let me know your favorite colors and send me your snail mail address in my email!

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Another give away for the holiday season. Be the first person to tell me the name of my heroine (named in yesterday's post) and get this lovely hand-painted, one-of-a-kind fan. :)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Forgetting the obvious

Recently, I was asked, "What is your manuscript about?" from someone who had known me a while.

I have always thought I did nothing but talk on and on about it, but this brought me up short. Maybe I am not as forthcoming as I thought I was!

So, here is my synopsis of Dracula's Secret.

The Twelfth Annual Conference on Paranormal Citizen Affairs has called the entire world to Portland, Oregon. Celebrities, politicians, protestors, and special interest groups have flocked to the City of Roses to weigh in on the state of relations between the supernatural minority and the human majority.

Not everyone in town has the best of intentions. Valerie Tate, one of the few remaining vampires in the world, has come to Portland with a very simple goal: to kill Dracula’s brother, Radu Tepes. The murder is her last act in her own attempt at redemption for her sins.

Hitler’s alliance with the supernatural and the occult, most notably with Vlad Tepes, the infamous Dracula, did not win him the war, but it did, for once and for all, establish that Paranormal Citizens (PNCs) existed. The revelation forced a global ‘coming out’, and in the following years, PNCs, like other minorities, integrate into society with varying degrees of success.

One of the great success stories is the charismatic but shady Radu Tepes, Dracula’s younger brother and also a vampire. A so-called hero of the French Resistance, he rose from the devastation of the war to form the Consortium for Concerned Citizens (CCC), a political action committee dedicated to integration. The world anticipates him to announce his candidacy for President during the conference.

But on this fateful Halloween night, a man with an aura like sunlight comes between Valerie Tate and her prey. A former Army Ranger and chaplain, Lance Soliel is no stranger to the carnage of human and supernatural aggression. Tired of bloodshed, he retired to run the Tualatin Mountain Homeless Shelter, a privately funded mission that has been plagued with serious financial mismanagement. With less than twenty-four hours of funding left, Lance has nothing to lose. As a result, he single-handedly kickstarts the integration movement by inviting two homeless werewolves into his Shelter.

Valerie wrenches herself away from watching the little drama to continue her mission. But Radu’s vanity unwittingly saves his life. His fury at being upstaged interferes with Valerie’s tightly structured plan. Valerie scrambles to regain her advantage.

She rescues Lance from a Radu-backed attack on his life. In the resulting aftermath of adrenaline and surprising lust, their attraction leads them into a passionate embrace. Lance’s repressed sexual desire for dangerous women erupts; Valerie’s own dark and mixed sexuality explodes furiously to the presence and scent of a salvation bringer.

As attracted as he is, being involved with a vampire would ruin Lance’s career and expose his own past. Rather than consummate the attraction, they delicately interrogate each other during a drive in Valerie’s classic muscle car. Lance attempts to discover Valerie’s personal secrets and Valerie probes his past. They stonewall each other, but he reluctantly agrees to let her become his bodyguard. Valerie plans to use Lance as the bait in her trap for Radu.

Radu doesn’t rest in his attempts to remove Lance and the other powerful figures in his way. Violent and personal attacks break out all over Portland as the Conference begins.

The attraction between Lance and Valerie blossoms under the pressure of constant vigilance for his life, even as their secrets prevent trust. Sexually, they break all taboos and boundaries. Emotionally, Valerie refuses true intimacy by withholding her true identity.

For Valerie is Vlad Tepes, Radu’s older brother. Six hundred years ago, Dracula had been born a woman. Her parents constructed the identity of Vlad for their daughter’s protection. She remained a man until World War II. During the fall of Berlin, Valerie engineered the death of Dracula. For the first time, Vlad hid by revealing her true self.

Lance’s commitment to less-violent solutions convinced Valerie to avoid fratricide. Final death would catapult Radu straight to martyrhood, furthering his unhealthy agenda of world-wide, violently enforced PNC hegemony. That epiphany fuels another: killing only leads to more killing. This radical idea forces even greater change than she was first willing to pursue. But her very existence hinges on this discovery. She vows to use all the skills she learned in the centuries she protected her real gender.

Radu tries to discredit Lance with a dark secret: his best friend, John Janté, had been severely damaged in a supernatural attack that Lance believes was caused by him. The guilt rode Lance his entire life, keeping him isolated and unable to trust his judgment.

What neither Radu nor Lance knows is that John is just fine. So fine, in fact, he has a job at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Physics). John arrives in Portland in just the nick of time to refute Radu’s claims that Lance would let someone else suffer for his mistakes.

His stock going down by the minute, Radu makes one angry, last attempt at Lance’s life. He lures Valerie and Lance to a mutual acquaintance’s yacht. Silver knives poison Valerie and throw her into the lake. Radu takes Lance hostage and threatens to keep him as a blood-slave.

John rescues Valerie just as she collapses from the silver poisoning. He charms her with his courage and wit. They ally in order to save Lance.

In the ensuing fights, Valerie’s devastating secret is revealed. Radu attempts to reconcile with his sibling, but she has changed too much to try to rule the world any more. As Valerie bleeds out, Lance feeds her his blood and unwittingly shares his own secret.

Lance knows sin even more than Valerie. He is one of the Fallen; a member of the Host that left Heaven with Lucifer. In order to earn his own redemption for his pride, Lance has ridden the Wheel of Life over and over, proving his willingness to serve the lesser beings.

Saving a vampire shows his final humility, and he is rewarded by being given back his wings and sword; the first of the Fallen to re-ascend.

The three heroes embrace, safe but uncertain as to their future. Lance has Divine work to do. Valerie’s quest for redemption has ended with Radu’s disgraces, and John has found people to love and protect. As Lance flies away with his fellow angels, he promises he will come to John and Valerie as soon as he can. John and Valerie hold each other as Lance ascends with the sparkling host.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Rejections and all that.

Dracula's Secret got rejected by Berkley yesterday.

In order to keep myself optimistic and encouraged, I frequently read this quote to myself:
Here's what I tell my students on the first day when I teach one of my creative writing courses:

You will be published if you possess three qualities- talent, passion, and discipline.

You will probably be published if you possess two of the three qualities in either combination - either talent and discipline, or passion and discipline.

You will likely be published if you possess neither talent nor passion but still have discipline. Just go to the bookstore and pick up a few "notable" titles and you'll see what I mean.

But if all you possess is talent or passion, if all you possess is talent and passion, you will not be published. The likelihood is you will never be published. And if by some miracle you are published, it will probably never happen again.

Write Away: One Novelist's Approach to Fiction and the Writing Life
Since I have both passion and discipline, I feel most optimistic. :) Talent? Time will tell that. :)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Doing the pretty

Surround yourself with beauty.

The Avanti Lounge from Dania Furniture.
Today, The Charming Man and I went shopping for a new bed. For the last ten years, we've enjoyed the bohemian delight of our mattress and box spring right on the floor. But it is finally time to feel 'grown-up', and off to browse the furniture stores we went.

We were both drawn to quirky, fun styles and soon it developed into a game of what personalities would like what kinds of furniture. So! I challenge my friends to play the game with me.

Who would like this style of sofa? Tell me what kind of character would sprawl on such a deliciously unusual piece?

note: Both The Charming Man and I sat on this lovely thing. It's quite comfortable.