Friday, April 27, 2007

Why Did It Have to Be Snakes!!??

My mother, who is 84, came tiptoeing into my bedroom yesterday while I was writing and said in her softly sweet southern voice, "There's a snake on the patio."

Again? Okay, we do live in Florida. This is not unexpected. But of all the things that have wound up on our patio - lizards, stray cats, squirrels, turtles, possums - I really hate snakes the most. This is a typical Florida backyard. We have a pool surrounded by a deck. This entire thing is enclosed by a "cage." That's a huge steel and screen structure that 1) keeps leaves and junk out of the pool, and 2) satisfies the county pool-enclosure ordinance.

But apparently the snakes in the neighborhood consider it a challenge. I am told that they can make themselves reallllly flat and crawl in under the doorframe. Anything for an afternoon sunning oneself by the pool, I suppose.

Our options are two: Death by shovel, or freedom by broom out the door. No, there are not three options. Leaving it on the patio is not one. The kindness in me wants to sweep it gently out the door to live another day. But once it starts striking at me, all bets are off.

This one, however, scared me to the point that I could do neither. I've never seen this before, but as I approached him, he lifted up his tail and shook it at me with a vibrating motion. Exactly like every rattlesnake I've ever seen on every Saturday morning western movie.

So, we had to get the big guns for this one. My mother went inside and got The Boy. (Yes, the same one featured in yesterday's My Space blog about the picture, etc. ) First, he wanted to run back in and get the camera to take a picture of it. I should have known not to ask him for help. Finally he scooted it about six inches closer to the door with the pointy end of the shovel. This was going to take several hours at the rate he was going.

Enter The Girlfriend. She took one look at the situation, heaved an impatient sigh, and said, "Give me the broom. "

Thirty seconds later, ladies and gentleman, Snakee was running free in the bushes along side the family room. Probably trying to get a good spot so he could peek in and watch Survivor. Maybe he had a relative on the show.

Never send a Boy to do a Woman's job. Turns out, it was not a rattler. It was a Black Racer, known for vibrating its tail when it senses danger. But it is not venomous. Lucky for him.

I will use this in a book sooner or later.

Have a wonderful day!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

My Space, Your Space, Our Space

Gone are the days when a housewife sells her romance novel to the only game in town, then waits for the money truck to drive up to her house. Today there are hundreds of choices for the romance-buying dollar. Werewolves, Time-Travel, Inspirational, Paranormal, Suspense - just to name a few - have increased the offerings to the traditional, contemporary and historical of two or three decades ago. These are not your mother's romance novels!

This is a good news/bad news thing. For the reader, it's great. So many choices. Every heat level, every sub-genre. It's a wonderland for those who love a good romantic escape. For the writer, not so good. Readers are still devouring all kinds of novels, but the author has to fight harder for his or her sales.

It's no longer enough to be a good storyteller. Now you have to also be a good promoter. It used to be that meant holding a signing at your local bookstore when your book debuted. Now it's much more than that. You have to be on your game all day long, every day. And one of the key places to play this game is My Space.

This is a free site where each user gets his or her own page. They provide you with the basic framework. You spruce it up according to your own taste and/or skill. It's not too difficult. Even someone as computer illiterate as I am can create a pretty good offering. I even figured out how to do a slide show with my four available covers.

The "friends" are the big thing there. You ask people to be your friend; they ask you to be their friend, then you link these pages to each other. Then their friends can find you. And their friends. And so on. It's the kind of thing that builds on itself.

The friends are kind of cool. I know a woman who has Brad Pitt as a friend. And another who has Paul McCartney. Thing is, you don't have to actually BE that person to use the name. I seriously doubt that Brad is busy on My Space. It's hard to get a connection when you're following your love interest to some third world country to pick up yet another child. Sir Paul, on the other hand, probably doesn't have that much to do these days. And we know he's not busy watching Dancing with the Stars. Well, not after Heather was voted off this week, anyway.

My son has a Space. His girlfriend made him accept me as a friend. But when I left a comment there, he deleted it faster than he can make the leftovers disappear from the refrigerator. And I won't even mention the picture of him on the girlfriend's Space. I haven't seen that much of him since he stopped wearing diapers!

Well, that's it for now. Between the blog, the website, the Space and the Yahoo loops, I have to find some time to actually write!

Have a wonderful day!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Reality Show Overload

Our national networks have made it possible for us to watch reality programming every night! There was even a minor squabble a few weeks ago when Idol went a few minutes past the hour, thus stepping on the opening of that week's Dancing with the Stars.

It may be that these two are the most popular, and they are polar opposites. In one show you have absolute unknowns with an amazing amount of talent. In the other you have relatively well-known stars with absolutely no talent for the task at hand. I'm not sure which is more frightening.

You have to admire those people who audition for Idol. When will they get that it isn't enough for Grandma to think you're a great singer? If Simon Cowell doesn't buy it, you're going to be humiliated. But they line up for a shot at the show by the hundreds of thousands. The celebrity dancers are equally gutsy. They stand to make complete fools of themselves if they don't have the least bit of rhythm. Celebrities are usually attention-grabbers, though. They will do almost anything as long as everyone talks about it afterward.

How does this relate to writing? Let me count the ways. Too numerous to mention are the times some tearful woman has shoved a dog-eared manuscript into my hands begging me to read it because she got rejected again, but her mother says it's the best book she ever read. Of course she said that. She's your mother. It's in the contract she signs at your birth. If you want to know what's wrong with your book, listen to the words of those rejecting you. They usually will point out one or two things that could make a huge difference.

The best piece of advice I ever received about writing came from a woman teaching a creative writing class. She said, "The only opinion you should pay attention to is that of someone who's in a position to sign a check to you."

True that. Is your mother editor-in-chief at Harlequin? No? I didn't think so.

But still you'll see those people coming out of the Idol audition room, fat tears coursing down their cheeks. "I don't care what they say! I know I can sing. They'll be sorry."

My cat sounds better than that when I accidentally role my office chair over her tail.

Still, you have to admire the spirit. Don't give up. Follow your dream. Just don't expect Simon to vote for you.

Have a wonderful day.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A Rose by Any Other Name....

Yeah, I know The Bard says it would still smell sweet, and I know that's true. But that doesn't mean I don't agonize over finding the perfect names for my characters.

Names have connotations for people that we want to avoid or invoke, depending on the meaning. For example, you'll probably never find a hero in either book, movie or TV show named Adolph. And remember when "The Greatest American Hero" series changed the name of the lead after someone named Hinkley shot the president? Names DO matter. That's why I spend so much time selecting them.

There are plenty of websites that will help with this chore, whether you're naming characters or expecting babies. Behind the Name is a good one. And Cool-Baby-Names has a special category of names used by Shakespeare, several of which he created. And he wanted us to believe names don't matter!

Jessica is one of his creations for the Merchant of Venice. I used that name for the HEIRESS. It just seemed to fit her. Look for Olivia, created for Twelfth Night, in my next work. If all goes well, that name will have special meaning to her.

For my heroes, I like names with a snap in them. Zach. Jack. Jake. Mack. I'm going to run out of those pretty soon. But I'll avoid the weaker names at all costs.

When I was a Tween, we had a Barbie board game. I can't remember the title, but it was something along the lines of Barbie's Dream Date. The object of the game was to wind up with Ken at the prom, but there were three other date possibilities. Two of them were not so bad, but if you got stuck with Poindexter...well, you can just imagine. It was almost better to stay at home and miss the prom.

I actually dated a Dexter when I was in college, but THAT will never wind up in a book.

J. K. Rowling does the best job of naming her characters of just about any one I've read, althought I'll give a nod to Stephen King for Stuart Redman in THE STAND. You probably have to read the book to get why, so let me just say this. If you haven't read THE STAND, do so at once!

One final thing - if you're naming a child, don't choose anything with more than ten letters. Virtually everything you can order personalized only allows ten spaces for the name. Take this advice from the mother of Christopher.

Have a wonderful day!

(Not my real name!)

Monday, April 23, 2007

Brianna's Reviews

There are few things a writer loves more than hearing what other people think of his or her work. That's easy in the romance community because there are so many online review sites. BRIANNA'S MAGIC has been out about a month, just the right time for picking up a handful of very nice reviews. Here's a sampling:

"Ms.Carnell wrote a beautiful story, filled with magic."

-----Anne Chaput, ecataromance

"If you’re looking for a fun, romantic read with some pretty hot action, Delia Carnell’s Brianna’s Magic is a great choice."

-----Anna Mae Garland, JERR

"Ireland is a magical place, and this was never more evident than in BRIANNA’S MAGIC...A sweet, yet sensual story, be sure to check out BRIANNA’S MAGIC."

-----Jennifer Bishop, Romance Reviews Today

Very kind words from all three review sites. Thanks for taking the time to read the book and share what you thought of it with others. Anyone else read something recently that they would like to share with us? Post your comments.

Have a wonderful day!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Saturday Afternoon at the Movies

My Cerridwen editor lives in Australia where they've been under drought conditions for something like two years. When she mentioned a touch of rain this morning, three of us in the group came up with the image of Gene Kelly in Singin' in the Rain. I said it was my all-time favorite movie scene. Which led me to think of what else I would put on a short list with it.

Here are some:

Rhett carries Scarlett up the stairs - I don't even have to explain this one. If you're reading the blog of a romance writer, you KNOW what I mean

"I'll have what she's having." Again, you know the movie. My Prince took me to the deli last year.

"If you don't get on that plane..." The final goodbye scene in Casablanca. Oh, my. This film has great moment after great moment.

The poison cup scene in The Princess Bride. Ah, but the whole film is spectacular. As you wish.

Rear Window - when Jimmy Stewart is watching Grace Kelly in the killer's apartment and is helpless to warn her when the man returns. Wow. That's suspense. Even having seen it a few times, it still scares me.

I reserve the right to add entries to this list without notice. Now I think I'll go watch a movie.

Have a great day!


Friday, April 20, 2007

Polishing the Heiress

Each of us has his or her own method for perfecting our stories once we finish writing them. I tend to write flat out with not much thought for word choice or detail. Then once I get the story down, I let it sit for a while, do something else for a few days. Later, when I go back to it, the story seems fresher to me. A lot of the time I will see things that I'd forgotten about.

This isn't always fun. Consider THE RUNAWAY HEIRESS. Poor thing, her parents died in a car accident when she was seven. No, nine. Wait a minute, eight! First of all, it surprised me that there were so many references to her age at the time of her loss. Second, why couldn't I make up my mind how old she was?

"Tell me the terms of the trust fund?" "What were the conditions of the trust fund?" "How does that trust fund work again?" Geez! Is the hero a complete moron??? I think he got it the first time, didn't he? Perhaps it was the author who didn't get it.

Where did she go to school? Yeah, I made the mistake of naming the all-girls' academy. But what did I name it? Where is the reference? Let's just call it "The Academy." How's that?

Her best friend Fran lives in a converted warehouse loft apartment. Either that, or she lives in a 1960s ranch-style house. Which is it? Make up your mind!!

And I won't even go into that whole issue with the curly quotes.

Well, you know what I'll be doing today. I hope you have a lovely day.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

In Dreams

Having finished the short story - finally! - and begun the polish on the Heiress, I was a little concerned because I didn't know what I was writing next. Usually I have the idea planted and growing while I'm finishing up the current project. Not this time.

My best friends have a dental practice. They get a jillion magazines a month, and every time I go in there, Jeanette makes me take a big stack of them home with me. She gives me things like Cosmo and Men's Health because sometimes the pictures are helpful. I've spent considerable time flipping through those slick shiny pages seeking inspiration. Nada.

My clock is set for six every morning. Sometimes I get up then; sometimes I hit snooze and sleep a few more minutes. Today I hit snooze. And I dreamed.

I was sitting in my grandmother's backyard under the pecan tree, writing in a spiral bound notebook. "And finally, you come home because this is where people love you."

All right, it isn't much, but it's a start. We have a heroine who grew up in a small town in Georgia. For some reason she left it. For some other reason, she came back. And it seems to me that she came back wounded because she wanted to be with people who loved her.

I was born in Thomaston, Georgia. Back then it was a small cotton-mill town. Now it's a suburb of Atlanta. But all of Georgia is a suburb of Atlanta these days. We moved to Florida when I was four. But we always went back. My grandparents lived there until they died. Every Mother's Day, every Thanksgiving, every summer, we were there. I know this town, and I know its people. This could be my next book. We'll see.

There are still many details to work out - who is the hero, for example? But at least I have something simmering. Now, back to the Heiress.

Have a great day!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

It Always Begins Small...

Yesterday it was my turn to write at a group blog I belong to. It's called Goddesses of Storytelling, and you can read it here:

I didn't set out to write about Virginia Tech, but when I sat down at the computer, I found I couldn't NOT write about it. These kinds of horrendous stories seem to sneak up on us because our minds won't let us think about the entire thing all at once. First we knew there had been a shooting in a dorm. Then we heard it might not be over yet. Next we knew there was gunfire in a classroom. The story came to us in little pieces.

Other disastrous events follow the same pattern. I was thirteen years old. My Algebra teacher had asked me to take some papers to the main office. As I walked back to the classroom, two boys were in the hall. One said to the other, "Did you hear? The president's been shot." Ridiculous, I thought. Those boys are just being silly. Minutes after I returned to the class, there was an announcement over the intercom system. President John F. Kennedy has been shot. Of course all classwork stopped. I remember my teacher speculating that this would have an impact on the stock market. I can't imagine why that was his thought, but we all react differently to things, don't we? Just minutes later, there was a second announcement. Our president was dead.

Twenty or so years later, I was standing at the end of my driveway with my toddler son in my arms. We always went outside when there was a NASA launch at Cape Canaveral. Even on the other coast, we could see the rocket boosters and the vapor trail in the bright Florida sky. He was squirming to get down. I was pointing at the widening plume of white smoke. Then suddenly the plume split and produced two separate arcs of white trail, now heading back down. This is wrong, I thought. It isn't supposed to look like this.

Jump forward about fifteen more years. I was in my office at my family's business. My sister called. She was on her way to the office and heard something weird on the radio. An airplane flew into the World Trade Center. How bizarre. Must have been one of those small private planes, we thought. Never crossed our minds that someone could orchestrate an attack of that scope and intensity.

This age of instant communication allows us to receive things in little pieces, little bits of information that we then piece together to make the whole picture. But always we find the human element, the emotion, the story behind the story. We must never forget in the face of great tragedy that we need to always be kind to each other, always show our feelings to our loved ones, always strive to make our world a better place.

Have a wonderful day. Hug someone you love.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Whatever Happened to...

Suzanne Ashley?

You remember her, don't you? Famous romance novelist in the late eighties to early nineties? Okay, so I succumbed to the most popular procrastination technique of the twenty-first century writer - googling oneself. Only I didn't google my real name, or even my current pseudonym. I googled my old Harlequin name.

Yes, you can actually buy copies of my 1989 release with Silhouette from Somebody had it listed for $18.00. EIGHTEEN DOLLARS!!!!!! My own MOTHER wouldn't pay that much for it!

I do know this, though: I have about twelve copies of it myself. I'm going to watch that site. If someone actually does pay that much for it, I'll be putting five or six copies up on eBay! Heck, I have it in three languages! Consider the possibilities.

I was thinking of adding a Suzanne Ashley page to my website, maybe making it a tribute page, something about how we all miss poor Suzanne. We hear she's still in a coma. Thing is, the population of people who would get that joke is very, very small. I may do it anyway, though. Just for fun.

So I found this one picture of the cover out there in the great World Wide Web:

Looks a little ratty, doesn't it? Then I realized (Remember, I'm blonde. Sometimes it takes a while) I could take a picture of one of my nice clean copies with my digital camera. How do you think that picture of the T-Bird got there? Duh!

It's a pretty nice cover, as eighties romance covers go. I would have preferred to have Fabio as the model, but this guy's not bad. I like that they worked the roses into it. And it looks like they're in Zachary's rooftop greenhouse. I suppose I filled out an art sheet for this. I don't really remember.

Hey, that reminds me! Somewhere I have a picture of me with Fabio! Stay tuned. That could wind up on the website too!

Have a great day.


Friday, April 6, 2007

Short Doesn't Mean Quick least that's what I'm learning. Having finished the first draft of THE RUNAWAY HEIRESS, I put it aside for a bit to let it settle before I go back and tweak it. I know it needs a little work before I can submit it. So to keep myself busy while HEIRESS simmers, I thought I'd write a short story.

I've never attempted this form of fiction. You would think it's just like writing a novel only shorter, wouldn't you? It's not quite that easy.

First, I had that whole lotus issue (see the post below this one). I spent way too much time resolving that one. I'm happy with the way that's going, but there is so much more to deal with. The thing is, in a short story, every single word has to perform. There isn't room to ramble around. You have to be sharp and precise. So I find myself agonizing over each sentence. I've changed words more times than I care to think about. I've altered sentence structure to enhance the flow of things.

Then there's the research. Why-oh-why did I set out to write a short story set in Singapore? I've never been to Singapore! I wasn't entirely sure where it was on the map before I looked it up. Oh, yes, I knew it was "over there" in the vague direction of Kuala Lumpur, and other cities whose names roll off the tongue with the ease of dishes in a Chinese restaurant. But I'm learning so much! For example, chewing gum is not allowed in the Republic of Singapore. English is the official language of business. And not surprisingly, the potent cocktail Singapore Sling was invented there.

And if that weren't trouble enough, I made the main character a sailor. Cue Crosby, Stills & Nash, "I have been around the world." Yeah, that's about all I knew about that!

But it's fun, this learning process. I'm going to know a lot more about a lot of things by the time it's over. And that's always good.

Besides, tonight is the night we go to the Thai restaurant. Ah, the things we do for research!

Have a great day!

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

A Lotus-Covered Door

Truth in fiction. Is that possible? Fiction is by definition not fact. But we want it to be real, don't we? Even though it's made up, it has to be reasonable. Like, you wouldn't have a character get into the back seat of a T-Bird, right? There is no back seat, and even though this is fiction, it should be realistic, right?

So what am I to do with my lotus-covered door?

There is a song written in 1939 called "A Little Street in Singapore." It's been recorded by no less than Frank Sinatra and The Manahattan Transfer. And a great Hawaiian group that my Prince and I love called the Peter Moon Band. Every time I hear this song, I get a particular image in mind, and I wanted to write a short story around that image.

The second line of the song refers to "a lotus-covered door" which brings to my mind a heavy wooden door with lotus blossoms growing all around it, probably even cascading over the edges. It's a really pretty image. Too bad they didn't make it a jasmine-covered door. That would work.

I spent a little time with my good friend Google, checking out the lotus blossom. It's the same thing as a water lily. It grows in mud. The blossoms float on the top of the water. How does the lotus cover a door?

Not to change the subject, but I swear I'm going to name a character "Google" one of these days.

Back to the lotus. This has bothered me for two days. I even asked my girlfriend Jeanette, the resident gardening guru, and she suggested we go to a Thai restaurant for dinnner. Maybe someone there can offer some insight. Great idea. I've already made the reservations. In the meantime, I'm coming up with a different way to cover the door with lotus blossoms. Because I really love that phrase. I want it for the title of the story.

I'll let you know how it goes. And I'll bring back any leftovers from the Thai restaurant.

Have a great day!

Monday, April 2, 2007

Those Darn Kids!

That's what they seem like sometimes. Impudent children. Rebellious teenagers. A writer can have a love/hate relationship with his or her own characters. You start off with a clear idea in mind. You know exactly who they are and what they're going to do. Then all of a sudden they take off on some wild tangent you never dreamed them capable of pursuing.

Take Jake and Rebecca, for example. (I'll deal with them later for breaking into my blog.) When I first started writing this book, I had a pretty good idea of who she was. Upscale. A survivor. Someone who's dealt with her past and built on it. Jake wasn't quite as clear for me. All I knew was he'd somehow lost all that was important to him and he barely scratched out a living now.

Then Rebecca walked into his life, and he started calling her "doll." Just that one simple nickname defined his character for me. He's the kind I call the reluctant hero. He doesn't want to join the cause, but he can't abandon it either. Like Rhett at the end of the first reel. He'd rather be playing a civilized game of poker, but the war is raging. What's a man to do?

I love that kind of guy. Rough around the edges. But always, always unable to keep himself from doing the right thing, the noble thing. Even Rebecca gets it. She knows there's gold inside. It may take her a while to get to it, but just the promise is enough to keep her chipping away at his carved-in-stone exterior.

And nothing is appreciated if it comes too easily.

Right, kids?

Have a great day!