Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Make It, Bake It, Grow It

My large family decided years ago rather than spend tons of money on everyone or draw names, we would do make it, bake it, or grow it Christmas gift. This is my this year's effort (and my Santa's helper, who sanded and primed the gourds, and the cut holes). My sister Jewel grew the gourds. I painted them. They haven't the final coat of polyurethane on yet, but I thought they turned out pretty good. Hopefully, wrens will like them for homes this coming summer. Outdoors I think they should last one or two seasons. By then, Jewel will have grown more gourds (the season is too short where I am), they'll have cured long enough to shed their outer skin and I can then make more birdhouses! Hope everyone liked them as much as I liked painting them.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


This is my week to go through all drawers and file folders, closets, and containers, to discover out what's where, what's needed, what's not, and what needs a new place. This way I at least start the year out organized. It's a big deal. Going through bills and receipts, deciding what to keep and what to toss. Later I might find I've pitched something I really needed to keep. That's one danger. The other danger is resorting something into a safer, saner place. Sometimes that space is so secure I can never find it again.

Writing science fiction and fantasy, I always imagine there is a black hole, a time-space dislocation, someplace near me. When I need something, it is usually in that alternative universe. That item does return to this time and place until it is no longer needed, has been replaced or is forgotten. Then, something desperately needed exchanges place with it. That's why the annual reorganization is needed. It often flushes out those dislocated items.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Heroine Completes Her Hero's Journey

Fifth post on Pride and Prejudice.

Just when Elizabeth Bennet feels attraction to Darcy and he seems to return her regard, she learns from her sister Jane's letter that Lydia has run off with Wickham, and her world falls apart. This event is without doubt the ordeal every hero must face. Lydia represents the shadow, who acts on the base innermost desires inside of everyone. Certainly for a Regency Miss, the desire to thwart the very tightly corseted society demanded of every woman with any pretense to gentility, must have been a very strong hidden dream.

It is often hard by today's standards where the individual is judged by their actions to understand how one sister's moral failure tarred her siblings, but that is how society used to view women, and not so terribly long ago. Lydia's indiscretion affected the matrimonial chances of all of her sisters. If Colonel Foster and Elizabeth's father and uncle did not take immediate action to find Lydia and force Wickham to marry her, the whole family would be smeared with her shame (as would Colonel Foster, with whom Lizzy was staying). None of the Bennet sisters would have made good marriages. Elizabeth knows this and feels guilty for not having disclosed Wickham's character. A promise to Darcy stopped her. Luckily, the couple is found, and they marry.

The visit of the newlyweds to the wife's family is, in turn, hilarious and disgusting. Their arrival begins the journey back from the wilderness Elizabeth has been in on her journey to find love. Lydia is unrepentant, still careless and oblivious of anyone but herself. while many sixteen-year-olds share these characteristics, most are not so totally ignorant, most know right from wrong. Perhaps Mrs. Bennet's behavior had an undue influence on Lydia; after all, Lydia was her favorite. But if that is so, why did her influence not affect Jane and Elizabeth, who are both clearly humiliated by Lydia's actions and behavior? Lydia, during her visit, forgets a promise and tells Elizabeth that Darcy was at the wedding.

This information drives Elizabeth to find the truth of Darcy's involvement in forcing Wickham to marry Lydia and save the family's reputation. When Darcy visits, he is distant, throwing Elizabeth into a flurry of self-doubt. His intervening with Bingley brings Jane her happiness, but Elizabeth doubts any man would offer again after the refusal she gave Darcy. Before Elizabeth can finish her journey, she must face more gatekeepers. One comes in the form of a letter from Mr. Collins to her father, and Elizabeth must dissemble to her father. The other is the more formidable ordeal in the visit from Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who demands Elizabeth's promise not to marry Darcy. Here Elizabeth proves true to her journey's lessons and faces rudeness and hostility with calmness and honesty. It is not long after this visit that Darcy returns to Longbourne. When Elizabeth faces him with her thanks and gratitude, she earns her heart's desire. Mr. Darcy renews his pledge of love and desire that Elizabeth should become his wife.

The last minor ordeal Elizabeth faces is telling her family she has won the prize, the elixir of life, marriage with Darcy, that her quest sought. Both she and Darcy are changed people, both have found love in their choice of mate, and as true of many journeys, Elizabeth will not return home, but begin a new life as a woman married to an affluent man.

I hope these few posts on Pride and Prejudice have shown how the Hero's Journey has worked through this story. I am a true believer that stories are tied to our individual psychologies and our own paths along the Mythic Hero's Journey.

The five posts on Lizzy's journey:

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Elizabeth's Transformation

Fourth post on Pride and Prejudice.

Elizabeth has always prided herself on her insight and acumen on the people around her and has learned from watching and listening to her father, no doubt. Since beginning her hero’s journey to find her other half, in this case a man she can love, she has endured Mr. Darcy’s overheard dismissive rebuff, Mr. Collins’s boastful self-importance ineptly hidden by his mask of humility, Mr. Wickham turning away to court an heiress, Mr. Bingley’s abandonment of Jane, a visit to her former suitor, Mr. Collins, now married to her best friend, and finally, Mr. Darcy’s impassioned but disdainful proposal. Her road of trials has been long. Now, unexpectedly, Mr. Darcy’s unexpected letter gives her the ultimate fortune, truth. She accomplishes this by giving up her own conceits and prejudices and examining her own motives.

A new world emerges from her insight. She begins by seeing both Wickham and Darcy in different lights. Once home in Longbourn, she also sees her family’s failings and is embarrassed by their less than suitable behavior. When the proposed invitation from Mrs. Foster for Lydia to move to Brighton with her, Elizabeth pleads with her father to save Lydia by not permitting her to go. She has seen the disaster that awaits, not only Lydia but all of her sisters; but her efforts are all to no avail.

Although the prejudice with which she viewed her world has gone, Elizabeth has not finished her journey. While traveling with her aunt and uncle, Elizabeth encounters a much different Mr. Darcy and his home of Pemberly. He is no longer so haughty, withdrawn in his own superiority. However, any hopes of a beginning a friendship with him are dashed by Lydia, for news arrives that she has run off with Mr. Wickham.

The five posts on Lizzy's journey:

Friday, December 4, 2009

Thank You!

I hope everyone enjoyed my guest author's post. Billie says she will drop by again, an event I look forward to. My thanks to her, and to Phyllis for their contribution to the hero's topic. Click on their names to visit their websites and take a look at their books.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Mystery and The Hero's Journey

What could they possibly have in common? The setting can be anywhere and any time period - mysteries cross borders and time zones as easily as any other genre. So it is no surprise when they look to the hero's journey for character types.

For most of my work, I do an intensive character sketch - part of that is to pick which hero or heroine (most of my sleuth's are female) best suits the particular story I'm telling.

In Small Town Secrets the sleuth/heroine, Chaneeta Morgan, is a strong independent woman, made strong by her circumstances. While Chaneeta is a strong heroine such as an Amazon Woman heroine, she leans heavily toward being a Madonna.

Amazon women are capable, independent, self-sufficient. But Chaneeta is more than that, she has a soft side a mothering side. She is the chairperson of the small town where she lives - She is the owner of The Golden Kettle Cafe, she is many things to many people. Example:

Someone is bent on burning it down one building at a time. Can Chaneeta and Olga bury their rivalry long enough to use their powers to stop the arsonist before the town is destroyed, or will the skeleton in the Town Chairperson’s closet be her undoing at the hands of Editor in chief of the Daily Nettle Newspaper, Olga Corn?

Chaneeta is vulnerable, but not defenseless. She is not above receiving help, she does not need everyone's approval though she would sincerely like it, because she feels better when people like her. Olga Corn, her rival and most time nemesis is a shape-shifter doing whatever it takes to get what she wants.

While Joseph Campbell's Hero's journey elucidates the hero's journey for me, Christopher Volger also explains the journey when he says, "We test out our ideas and feelings about some human quality and try to learn more about it."

As readers we find our answers, or confirmation of our beliefs, in the books we gravitate to again and again as our favorite reads. Wise old woman or man, mentors, guides, heroes and heroines are all necessary to tell a story that readers are willing to spend time reading and it is our joy to write. Mystery and suspense are my favorite genres and they benefit greatly by exploring the various aspects of the Heroes journey.

Billie A. Williams.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Heroine Wants Love

Third post on Pride and Prejudice.

Elizabeth's quest is to find love within marriage. Women today look for the same thing, but now, many women are capable of supporting themselves, so marriage is not a dire necessity. In Regency England, however, women of the upper social classes had two choices: marry well or become a spinster and live off your relatives in poverty. Love didn't often come into consideration when looking for a husband. Neither are ideal choices, as today we know how many marriages break down. Elizabeth is twenty, hardly a spinster, but she lives in a rural area with limited choices, and her dowry is meager. Oddly, in a few months, her journey will introduce her to four possible suitors, and she endures three proposals. Luckily, even in this pre-baseball era, Elizabeth need not fear three strikes and you're out. Her third proposal is a homerun.

At first, she finds Mr. Darcy an arrogant man, caught in his pride and uninterested in her. Shortly thereafter, the Trickster-Herald, her cousin, Mr. Collins, arrives at Longbourn with the intention of ending a family dispute and marrying one of Mr. Bennets' daughters as a solution to the entailment of the estate. Since Mrs. Bennet tells him Jane is taken, Mr. Collins sets his sites on Elizabeth. Why is he a Trickster? Because of his comedic effect. You cannot but find his behavior humorously appalling. He toadies up to everyone while he admitting to Mr. Bennet that many of his flattering comments are rehearsed. In his proposal he acts like a Threshold Guardian, taking Elizabeth near the innermost cave and the conundrum found there: financial security while married to a foolish man or an eternity alone. Mr. Collins remains the Trickster with Mrs. Bennet, encouraging her to believe in his good intentions, but when Elizabeth thwarts him, he proposes to her best friend; another trick, and breaks his word.

The horror for Elizabeth is that Charlotte accepts and may have even worked to bring about the proposal. How is Charlotte to live with such an overweening, egotistical man whose abject humility only exposes his overwhelming pride? As a Herald, Mr. Collins calls Elizabeth to the adventure of marriage; but Elizabeth's intelligence tells her how awful a marriage with such a man might become. Her refusal of the call only shows her good innate sense.

She also meets Mr. Wickham, a ShapeShifter Shadow character in his attractive disguise. Everyone welcomes handsome Mr. Wickham to Meryton. Elizabeth enjoys his attentions and he seems very gentlemanly, plus he encourages her prejudice against Mr. Darcy. He tells her of Darcy's perfidy to himself. This seeming gentleman turns into the worst type of cad later in the story, his actions bringing evil and disrepute the Bennet family. Wickham never proposes to Elizabeth, but certainly behaves in such a manner that the reader believes he wants to.

When Elizabeth goes to visit her best friend and her rejected suitor, she encounters Mr. Darcy again, visiting his aunt, Lady Catherine De Bourgh, Mr. Collins' patron. He brings with him Fitzwilliam Darcy, his cousin. Colonel Fitzwilliam also pays attention to Elizabeth, but he is upfront that his desire will not lead to marriage; he cannot afford it. A proposal appears, though, from Mr. Darcy. Again, Elizabeth rejects the proposal when he asks "Could you expect me to rejoice in the inferiority of your connections? To congratulate me on the hope of relations whose condition in life is so decidedly beneath my own?" She answers, "You are mistaken, Mr. Darcy if you suppose that the mode of your declaration affected me in any other way than as it spared the concern which I might have felt in refusing you, had you behaved in a more gentleman-like manner."

In my baseball metaphor, Eliza has been to bat twice and stuck out, deliberately made a choice not to play. Mr. Darcy, she thought and believed the most arrogant, conceited, with a selfish disdain for the feelings of others. In his own way he disgusted her as much as Mr. Collins.

Mr. Darcy throughout the story plays several archetypes. In the next pages he becomes a mentor, a wise person who gives the hero a gift to help them on their journey. For all of Elizabeth's poor opinions of him, the very next morning he very civilly approaches her, and hands her a letter.

The letter, the mentor's gift, provides Elizabeth inner vision. In two or three readings, she learns her own blindness, sees her actions and her family's behavior for how it looked to others. She learns truth. The mask of her self-blindness has been ripped off, and from now on, Elizabeth will see.

The five posts on Lizzy's journey:

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sexy Heroes by Phyllis Campbell

I want to give a big thanks to Rhobin for letting me be a guest on her blog!! Love ya, girl!

So, what makes a hero sexy? To me, it's his personality. It's the way he treats the heroine. And of course, he must have a soft side to him. He MUST be yummy inside and out. (grins) I hope I've made all my heroes yummy, and so far my readers tell me I'm doing a good job. Hee hee. That's good to hear!

I have two more books coming out this year, which brings a grand total of NINE books released in 2009. Whew! I feel exhausted. But I'm still pushing to get more published next year.

Tomorrow will be my next release - Queen Of Hearts will be released with Bookstrand Publishing.

Dr. Cecilia Ashby is forced to disguise herself as a man in order to practice medicine in a small Southern town after the Civil War. When she stumbles across an injured gambler in an alley one night, will her ruse get the better of them both? Especially when she finds herself attracted to him.

Gambler James Lawrence has played his last hand and finally has enough cash to buy back his family’s plantation that the carpetbaggers took from him…until he’s blindsided, robbed and left for dead. After an interesting stay with the town doctor, he finds his stolen earnings in the hands of the young thief and his sister, Cecilia Ashby, now residing on his plantation.

James and Cecilia both want the plantation, but do they want a long-lasting love even more? Battling deceit, betrayal, and disguises, the two must confront their biggest challenge yet – themselves.

And in December, my historical - Belong To Me will be released with The Wild Rose Press.

Please check out my website for more of my SEXY heroes!!

Now you tell me...what do YOU think makes a hero sexy?


Guest Author Phyllis Marie Campbell

Look for posts from Historical and Contemporary Romance author, Phyllis Marie Campbell, who will be talking about her books. When you read below you'll see this story sounds absolutely scrumptious. If you go to Phyllis's site, you'll see some covers that just beg you to read the story!

Look for BELONG TO ME, coming Dec. 11, 2009, to THE WILD ROSE PRESS……
A masked ball—a night of seduction.

Tired of being without her wayward husband, Charlotte Hamilton travels to New York to find him. She discovers him at a masked ball. Her revenge on him is that he doesn’t know who she is, so she seduces him. He talks her into a bargain—to stay as his wife for a month and then if they don’t suit, he’ll grant her a divorce. What she uncovers about his life is far more than she bargained for. In addition to the disguises in his closet from his investigative business, she stumbles across secrets. Those of which she wished she’s never known.

Swept into a whirlwind of mystery, passion, and adventure, Charlotte must discover the truth of her own heart before it’s too late for them both.

Gray Days

It's hard for me to be cheerful when everyday looks like this! 
However, it isn't snowing, so perhaps maybe I should be happy about that! 
I am! I am!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Yin and Yang in Pride and Prejudice

A second post on Pride and Prejudice.

To understand the hero’s journey, a reader must be aware that the underlying issue is psychological rather than a reflection of life. In general, the meeting, fussing, and melding of the hero and heroine is about the integration of yin and yang within each of us or the acceptance of the conflicting opposites of self; men accepting their feminine side, and women accepting their masculine. Most romance stories are expected to end with happily ever after or at the very least a happy for right now, ending. This union creates the required ending -- the soul has integrated assimilating all aspects of itself forever.

Perhaps you disagree. Why isn’t a romance just a romance? Anyone who has been in love knows that there are facets of the person they love which they do not understand, that within any healthy real relationship there will always be conflict and that even soul-mates have occasionally gone their separate ways. We know change comes with time, and even the most perfectly paired partners may grow apart. Accepting that happy ever after is about this unification, and the gratification arising from our inner being makes sense.

If the yin-yang part is true, then do the other characters in a novel represent a part of the reader’s psyche? Simply, yes. They are archetypes representing characters present in mythology and folklore from around the world, and from our very dreams: mentors, heralds, shapeshifters, shadows, and tricksters. Does Pride and Prejudice have them? Yes, it does, starting with allies and enemies present right within Lizzy’s family.

As parents, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet are obvious mentors. It is important to note all mentors don’t give sage advice, because in reading Pride and Prejudice, both Mr. and Mrs. Bennet are often portrayed as self-serving. Perhaps by the standards of the early 19th Century, they were good parents, but from some of the author’s observations, I doubt it.

Lizzy admits to Lady Catherine that her family had no governess, yet all the girls seemed educated. They could all read and write, and Mary seems to delve into books for her amusement. Who taught them? My guess, Mr. Bennet as a good mentor. Who else could have? He lives in his library to escape Mrs. Bennet. He has passed his love of observing the foibles of his contemporaries to Lizzy, the child closest to his heart.

As Lizzy’s closest sister and ally in all things, Jane often acts as a mentor. She cautions Lizzy about listening to Mr. Wickham’s gossip about Mr. Darcy. It is partially on Jane’s behalf that Lizzy rejects Mr. Darcy’s first offer of marriage.

Mary, as middle sister, is almost an outsider. She is neither close to her older sisters who are the more beautiful and brighter, nor is she a companion to her younger, much sillier sisters. Her bon mots and the inappropriate quotations garnered from her studies drive not only her family to laughter but also the reader. She is a rather vague character, overlooked by everyone, even Mr. Collins for whom she might have made a perfect wife. The reader learns she is the least attractive of her sisters, loves music but is too pedantic for a good performer. So what is her function? My guess is that Mary stumbles through the story as an ineffectual family herald. Her words often give hint to the troubles her sisters will face.

Kitty and Lydia I’m placing together, as Kitty alone has no function. She barely has a purpose as a character except as an inhibitor for Lydia's wilder silliness. For much of Pride and Prejudice, Lydia and Kitty are tricksters, a characters whose purpose is comedic relief, and whose mischief brings about change. Together these youngest sisters bring Jane and Lizzy back to earth, embarrassing Jane and her before the higher society Mr. Darcy and the Bingley represent. They impede their older sisters from reaching too high. When Lydia is removed from the family, and particularly from her counter-part Kitty, to go with the Fosters, Lydia changes to a shadow. A shadow represents those evil impulses we think about in our darkest soul, but seldom act upon. When Lydia runs away with Mr.Wickham, she ruins not only her own reputation, but those of her sisters.

Next ... Lizzy's mythic ordeal.

The five posts on Lizzy's journey:

Friday, November 13, 2009

Elizabeth's Journey As Hero

1st Post on Pride and Prejudice. Finally, back to my topic on Mythic structures in literature.

If the novel Pride and Prejudice follows the Hero's Journey, as laid out by Joseph Campbell, and as outlined by Christopher Vogler in The Writer's Journey, then Elizabeth will follow steps in a psychological journey of mythic proportions. What are the stages?

The beginning one reveals the hero's ordinary world. Shortly thereafter, the hero receives a call to adventure, often with an initial refusal. Afterward, a mentor often induces the hero to cross the threshold into an unfamiliar world to find their personal treasure. Only the strong survive in this new world, and even they are not guaranteed success.

In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth (Lizzy) Bennet's normal world is quickly revealed as is her journey, which is summed up in the first line: It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. So it is the dangerous journey of marriage, the pitfalls, trials, and tribulations of finding a life partner, and the uncertainty of a lasting love that Lizzy travels. Her world is the gossipy, limited upper-crust society of a small, 19th Century English town. This world changes when Mr. Bingley buys the local estate, Netherfield Park, as discussed by Mr. And Mrs. Bennet in the story's opening pages. The mother of five girls, Mrs. Bennet's goal is for her girls to be suitably married as fast as possible, for without a son, Mr. Bennet's estate is entailed away. This leaves her and her daughters' security at risk. The reader soon discerns that the marriage between Mr. and Mrs. Bennet is not one of wedded bliss; however, in this society, girls are expected to marry and accept the resulting marriage no matter how successful or unsuccessful.

At the Assembly, Lizzy, after overhearing a snub of herself, snubs the snobbish Mr. Darcy. It is obvious that Lizzy's pride causes her to refuse her first call to adventure. Since her sister Jane and Mr. Bingley share a sudden infatuation, Lizzy's disgust for Mr. Darcy and her unwillingness to lower her pride and toady up to him like so many of her cohorts are wont to do, turns her from the only other eligible single man in the area. That situation changes with the appearance of her cousin, Mr. Collins, and with Mrs. Bennet as a marriage mentor to her girls, all hell breaks loose...

The five posts on Lizzy's journey:

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

6 Months and Counting

April is six months away, and so is the release of Stone House Farm. Here's a short excerpt:

“What could you possibly know about my situation?” Amanda said. “And how does any of this involve you?”

The smile never faltered. “I understand it is a very generous offer.”

Amanda’s rage fired anew. Melisa had no part in this, and her opinion was not only unneeded but also unwanted. “Generous if I were willing to sell out what my family has worked generations to build. I’m not.” Amanda turned back to Wade Preston, grabbed the letter from his hand and clutched it in her fist.

His frowning gaze turned to Amanda, his brows lowering until they nearly touched. “I don’t know what you are alleging. As I said, this is an offer at fair-market price for your property.”

“You missed the threat of an eminent domain seizure. I don’t care what dirty tricks you try with the bank, or the county planning department, or the commissioners, or the township board. I will fight you every step of the way.”

“Then you better hire a lawyer,” Melisa cut in with a practiced tinkling sound that substituted for a laugh.

“Melisa…” Wade’s tone held a warning and his scowl deepened.
Amanda kept her regard on Wade, hoping her expression said I won’t back down. If she hadn’t been so pumped with adrenaline she wouldn’t have felt so defiant, but Melisa’s confidence ate at her self-assurance. Her diffident side advised retreat. Having said what she wanted, she turned on her heel and swept out of the office, escaping any further humiliation.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Yep, God help me, another new cat

No one sleeps with the peace and relaxation of babies. Here is Fred sleeping. He doesn't look particularly comfortable with his head and shoulders hanging off the pillow like that, but he is sound asleep.

Being the youngest, you'd think Fred would be at the bottom of the pecking order. However, Fred is pretty much king of the roost through sheer charm and stubbornness. He has even inveigled the old toms Jack and Tom into playing with him. When Fred wants food, he demands first share. Fred is first to any bowl or plate; he owns an utterly voracious appetite. He climbs into the middle of the plate spreading his legs out as far as they will go, and growls at anyone who attempts to take a bite before he is finished. He is also a obstinate little cuss. We're not going to get along unless he learns some manners!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The WHAT? Moment

On death, survivors, and secrets.

Someday most us have to weed through the possessions our parents or other loved ones left behind. In most cases, their stuff will be familiar—the furniture, cars, boats, and other vehicles, perhaps their craft tools, and the objects, photos and art they kept on display. Drawers and closets hold the products people buy, use and keep: clothes, shoes, health care, beauty and cleaning products. Some things bring sweet memories. Others we deem junk and wonder why our loved one kept whatever object we’ve decided is junk. Finally, there is the what-the-hell object.

I remember my mother was going through her mother’s dressing table when she found Grandma’s what-the-hell object. The second drawer down on the left side held a stone—a good-sized stone, too, smooth and round in shape. My grandmother had MS for the seventeen years I knew her. She was tied to a wheelchair. This was in the days before handicap accessibility ramps, which wouldn’t have changed anything for Grandma because she wouldn’t leave her house. She didn’t want anyone, especially the neighbors, to see her disability.

That rock had to have been in her dresser for decades. I know she sat at that dresser every night, so this rock was always close at hand. It must have held an inherent emotional memory for her, but no one living knew what. The rock was returned to the wild, where I guess it belonged. That wasn’t the only WHAT? moment Grandma left her children. They discovered a marriage certificate and not one with my Grandpa’s name on it. She had been married before! Apparently, the marriage was annulled. Surprise!

We all have secrets. Many of us keep objects to cherish the memories they represent. As a pack rack, I tend to keep lots of stuff. I’m at an age that I can see an ending closer than a beginning; understand mortality. I’m sorting through my possessions, trying to get rid of the unwanted and unnecessary, let my kids know their great uncle who died in the Korean War made that table in high school type of information. Will they care? But I’m sure I have many stones, too. It’s amazing how many items have the WHAT? quality to them. If I value something so much, maybe I’d better leave a record of why it was special. How many WHAT? items have you stowed away in closets and drawers? Anyone know why you keep each one? Do you want them to know?

Monday, July 13, 2009

New Book Contract

November 2019: Temporarily out of print -- look for it soon on Amazon.

Next April, check out STONE HOUSE FARM at Champagne Books! My first impression has been what a great company. The story is set in Manistee, Michigan. Hopefully the first of several Michigan romances.

Here's a teaser:

Wade’s eyelids flickered, but he didn’t respond.

Amanda continued shouting at him, unable to stop even though she doubted he heard. She pulled his body on the sled. His eyelids fluttered again, then his eyes opened.
He raised his head and his gaze locked on her. “You!” His soft, hoarse outcry cost him, his head fell back in a helpless fashion and his eyes closed to mere slits. He gasped as she pushed him further on the sled, his face grimacing, his eyelids scrunched shut.

“Why not me? You’re trespassing on my property.”

Wade’s words came thick and slow. “That why you shot me?”

Of course, an important part of the story is a stone farmhouse. Already in edits! Can't wait to see the cover!

Monday, June 8, 2009


I know I am off my own topic, which I plan to return to, but I had to post this.

As a cat owner, I just had to read this article in June 2009, Scientific American Magazine, The Evolution of House Cats. Authors Carlos A. Driscoll, Juliet Clutton-Brock, Andrew C. Kitchener and Stephen J. O'Brien discuss their research into the genetic and archaeological findings. They give a creditable argument that house cats developed earlier than the Egyptian times previously thought. It was interesting to say the least. One sentence really caught my eye:

"And as to utility to humans, let us just say cats do not take instruction well. Such attributes suggest that whereas other domesticates were recruited from the wild by humans who bred them for specific tasks, cats most likely chose to live among humans because of opportunities they found for themselves." See whole article here.

I started laughing. Opportunists? Cats? I definitely believe cats chose to live among humans. To say we have domesticated cats is a mistaken notion. The truth is: cats domesticated us. They find us very useful. Good owners provide their cat owner's every need. While they are often neutered by their 'owner,' enough humans do nothing about their cats' sexuality, providing ample means to keep the species going. Yes, cats usually ignore orders of any type. They only hunt creatures humans consider vermin at their own leisure. Who else works just for a few contented purrs from their cat? And yes, there are not perhaps as many good 'owners' as cats might wish, but enough to keep millions of cats happy. The rest keep hunting.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Where The Story Starts 2

So how does the Hero's Journey work? I’ve taken three romance stories many people have read. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, published in 1813; at the very beginning or romance writing. Devil’s Cub by Georgette Heyer, published in 1932, one of the first historical romances, and Legally Blonde, the movie, released June 2001 based on a novel by Amanda Brown, a romantic comedy.

Why not use science fiction or fantasy stories? Because that’s where you expect to find mythological and folktale characteristics. If the precepts of the hero’s journey work, they should work across all genres and all media.

Opening sentences of Pride and Prejudice:
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. However little know the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered the rightful property of someone or other of their daughters.”

Within two sentences Jane Austin has established her setting (Austen’s contemporary society) – a typical upper-class neighborhood. This is the ordinary world of the heroine. Austin also indicates the impending journey about to start.

The opening sentence from Devil’s Cub:
“There was only one occupant of the couch, a gentleman who sprawled very much at his ease, with his legs stretched out before him, and his hands dug deep in the capacious pockets of his greatcoat. While the coach rattled over the cobbled streets of the town, the light from an occasional lantern or flambeau momentarily lit the interior of the vehicle and made a diamond pin or a pair of very large shoe-buckles flash, but since the gentleman lounging in the coach wore his gold-edged hat tilted low over his eyes, his face remained in shadow.”

I had forgotten the way this story started. I’ve always considered it Mary’s (the heroine) journey. And while most romances are about the heroine’s journey, Devil’s Cub is about the hero’s journey. That is why the story starts in Dominic’s very exclusive self-centered world. It’s his world that changes. While you might think his abduction of Mary significantly changes her world, it doesn’t. Mary remains the same character as when she first walks into the story.

From Legally Blonde (the movie) opening scene:
A pretty girl in close-fitting clothes riding a bicycle with an envelope addressed to “Elle" in the basket. She is riding through a college town, passing frat boys and pulls into a sorority house. Scenes shift between typical happenings in the sorority. Hawaiian singer Hoku sings “It’s a Perfect Day.” (It’s a perfect day, nothing standing in my way.)

Everything about this is so upbeat. Elle Woods, the heroine, has a perfect life. She is blonde, beautiful and lives on the surface of life with few cares and expectations that only good can come her way. Change is about to come, and Elle changes, but still expects good to come her way.

So there you have it, openings showing the ordinary world that is about to change as the world of adventure calls.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Where the Story Starts

Most stories start with an ‘Initial Situation’ or a depiction of the main character’s ordinary world, his home. Here the reader learns about the main character, his family situation, and any prophecies or forewarning about this character. This setting indicates the hero’s condition, the world in which they currently live. Valdimir Propp called it the ‘Initial Situation,’ and Joseph Campbell, the ‘Call to Adventure,’ which he says, ‘signifies that destiny has summoned the hero and transferred his spiritual center of gravity from within the pale of his society to a zone unknown.’

The Initial Situation also gives hint to the basic problem, or the main character’s lack, or a lack in his family or community. There may a coincidence or mistake that reveals a hidden secret or something amiss that the hero must be resolved. These mishaps are often an invitation to journey, the chance change -- whether it be to find new love, to solve a murder, to save the world, or to visit an altogether different world. Adventure calls promising change.

With today’s fast-paced society, stories have also sped up. Opening scenes, first paragraphs and first chapters have to have a ‘hook,’ a dilemma or situation that grabs the reader's attention and pulls them into the story. Often this occurs in the character’s common world. In the various CSI television programs, it is the murder as it happens or the discovery of a body and then shortly the main character and his investigation team that serves as the initial situation and call to adventure.

Check it out. Think about TV shows or any book you’re reading. Can you identify the initial situation and the demand for change? It might be in the opening credits, an opening scene lasting a minute or less, it might be a sentence, a paragraph, or a whole chapter.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Illud Tempus

Most fairy tales start with what is called ‘illud tempus,’ (now and forever) or a temporal-spatial determination meant to take the reader from their world to the world of the story. In stories from oral traditions it used to be the opening line, ‘Once upon a time.' That clearly informed listeners that the story did not take place here and now, but some timeless place both now and forever.

Admittedly, stories no longer begin with ‘once upon the time.’ However, the ‘illud tempus’ shows up in other forms through most of our media. There are book titles and covers that inform us about the change of place and time, plus those few pages a reader turns to in every book before the story begins – just a few seconds to take a break from reality. In television shows there are the initial introduction scenes and driving music that inform most viewers that the show is about to start, taking them to an imaginary place. This happens in movies, too. Watch for images during these openings. They are often rich in mythic symbolism.

In addition, few of us listen to the stories in the original, oral tradition where ‘once upon a time,’ or ‘a long, long time ago,’ are needed. We chose to read. By making that decision we choose, at least initially, to suspend our disbelief about the impossible and improbable. We give our agreement to visit this story’s world in the now and forever.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Collective What?

For those readers unfamiliar with the phrase 'collective unconscious' it is similar to actions you take that are driven by your personal unconscious but on a deeper level. This is where boogymen, demons, and angels are found, along with many other dream characters. According to Calvin Hall and Vernon Nordby in A Primer of Jungian Psychology, "Man inherits these images from his ancestral past, a past that includes all of his human ancestors as well as his prehuman or animal ancestors."

The archetype characters in stories are identified as hero (soul-figure), mentor (teachers, crones, shaman), threshold guardians (characters who represent roadblocks to success), heralds (characters who issue challenges or announcements), shapeshifters (characters who are constantly changing mood, motivation, or appearance) , shadows (usually the villain) and tricksters (characters who are comedic or mischievous but drive change). There are more, but for stories, most fall into the listed types... And, some characters in a story can change archetype during the story. A secondary character might be a mentor, change to a herald or threshold guardian and end up a trickster. It's not the label that counts, but the function.

So authors who consciously create characters based on psychological archetypes found in the collective unconscious use themes universally identifiable, as pointed out in Christopher Vogler's The Writer's Journey, Mythic Structures for Writers. Vogler worked to identify these structures in movies for production companies. The question becomes, can you write a story without using archetypes? Probably not as these phenomena have resided in stories forever and they infiltrate every medium that humans create. Whether you use them to advance your story is another question.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Reading and the Collective Unconscious

During the last century, several scholars and scientists published studies on mythology, folklore and fairy tales, stories that had started with oral storytellers in man's pre-literacy, early history. They wanted to understand the persistence of these stories. Moreover, they knew certain story motifs were encountered in many unrelated cultures and time epochs.

Their ideas developed from the emerging study of psychology. One of the claims Joseph Campbell made was that these tales were necessary for the development of the human psyche. The researchers found that in a subliminal way, these stories helped the listeners overcome the demons, terrors, and dilemmas haunting their dreams and found in their everyday lives. Further, they thought these stories helped society's members learn the morals and customs of not only their culture but also humanity.

Vladimir Propp, a Russian scholar, studied Russian fairy tales and in 1928 wrote the Morphology of Folk Tales, which was transcribed into English sometime in the 1950s. Essentially, it described a series of plot devices found in every Russian fairy tale. Another eminent scholar, Joseph Campbell, in his The Hero With a Thousand Faces released in 1947, tied a similar story morphology with the archetypes and the 'collective unconscious' of Jungian psychology.

What has this to do with readers (or those watching television dramas, movies, or at a guess, those playing video games, for that matter)? Only that these archetypes and plot devices thread through our own modern stories; at least the one we seem to like best.

As a writer, I find this fascinating. Does that mean if all writers follow these structures every story will be like another? Not at all. Stories that contain these forms, just like snowflakes with only six sides, can enjoy an infinity of difference. A plus side – these story forms are already known to engage the audience.

In upcoming posts I will try to show the popular archetypes and structures found in our media today and how they operate, so come back soon.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Are You Helping to Make A Difference?

If you don't watch NBC nightly news and have missed the Making A Difference segments, you are missing some inspiration from everyday Americans, the type of thing that is going to get us through this financial crisis faster than in the '30s. Go to Making A Difference and see what ordinary, every-day Americans do for strangers. I am a huge believer in random acts of kindness. It balances so much that is bad in life.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

We're to blame, too.

The economy is a catastrophe. Our government bought wholesale the idea that business institutions were immune from the greed, stupidity, lack of foresight, market unawareness, as well as social ignorance, and unethical behavior of those who might run those same institutions. In other words, humans run our financial and business markets.

Perhaps that’s why man originally decided on laws and regulations a couple thousand years ago. So tell me, just why did our governors give up on this idea?

Oh, yes! Payola. They were more concerned about reelection results and getting re-elected than the country's welfare.

But let’s fess up. We’re guilty, too.
  • For believing commercials that claim credit cards were better than cash.
  • For believing we could send thousands of jobs to other countries with no effect.
  • For ignoring those who were falling behind in a 'booming' economy.
  • For being told the 'real' customers were the shareholders.
  • For going on ‘Buy-me’ binge for the last few decades.
  • For signing loans we knew we couldn’t afford.
  • For not saving.
  • For believing bigger is better.
  • For only 1 out of 2 of us, on average, voting in any election.
  • For even fewer contacting their Congressmen and giving them an earful.
The list goes on . . . and on.

At the cost of gaining a reputation as a pain in the a$$, start telling your reps your thoughts. About everything! Don't let them get away with this behavior again. You see where it gets us.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Jack Update

Well, a year later and Jack is still with us. It was a near thing. He spent last winter in isolation downstairs with daily visits. He spent the summer outdoors. After three other cats were attacked, he was nearly shot. The only reason he is alive is the marksman missed the shot and Jack skedaddled. This fall we began bringing him inside again. The other cats have slowly accepted him although there occasionally is some spitting and yowling. He has made himself to home and is very vocal in his opinions.

Update: in August of 2012 Jack went out one afternoon and like four other cats within a two month period, didn't return. Either a coyote or an illegal trapper took our cats. While Jack never became tame enough to approach when he was outside, we could pet him when we put out food. He always ate on top of my desk and would jump up there to demand dinner.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Finished a New Novel

I finished my first romance novel in the last week of December. I've submitted it to an e-publisher. It may be the first submission... it may be the last. I have a list of titles for romances, all based in Michigan. This particular story revolves around one of the typical stone houses found throughout the state.