Friday, December 31, 2010
Ring the Bell, Close the Book, Quench the Candle
As 2010 draws to a close, I’ve been thinking a lot about such endings. I just finished a marathon session of revisions on one of my novels, and one of the things it needed was a stronger ending, a sense of closure. Because it’s the first book in a series, it is also a beginning, so I had to carefully straddle tying up everything that came before with the promise of things to come.
Now that’s it’s done, I’m dealing with that special brand of postpartum blues only other writers understand.
For me, at least, there’s only an infinitesimal moment between basking in the incredible sense of completion and joy of that last line being written, and the onset of an oppressive and overwhelming sense of loss. I suspect that’s why a lot of us write series, to keep our imaginary friends alive. We come to know them so intimately—they have to really live for us for the magic of fiction to work—and then, poof, they’re gone: straight from the breast to leaving the nest.
I have a similar experience when I finish reading a wonderful book. If the author is good at what she does, she has made those characters real for me, that world a place where I’ve felt for a few hours I was actually within it. It’s why I also love reading a series, to keep the magic alive.
Eventually, though, everything has to end—but even in “real” life, every ending also marks the beginning of something else. It’s one of the reasons I love this time of year and the wintry celebrations, regardless of religious context, that mark the mystery of the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. (In the northern hemisphere, anyway; I imagine those of you from Down Under and other places south of the equator may take a somewhat different meaning from it!) Most of these holidays have a common theme: light in the darkness. We trust in the magic: the wheel of the year will turn, and the day will be reborn to swallow up the night. And those little lights in the darkness remind us that no matter how dark it gets, this, too, shall pass. Spring will come again, and there will be new stories to tell.
I'm trying to remind myself of this now. I do have new stories to tell, and many of the old familiar characters will live again. Even the revisions I’ve finished will ultimately lead to more beginnings: submissions, rejections, and eventually (one hopes!) acceptance for publication…and then the cycle of revisions will begin again. No story is ever really finished. What I need to learn to do is celebrate the literary endings the way I do the Winter Solstice, because without endings, the new beginnings cannot come.
When a new idea begins to germinate, and you write those first words, there’s nothing like it. It can be like opening a Christmas present…or Pandora’s Box. You never know exactly what you’re going to get, but the joy is in finding out, and diving into that “new relationship energy”—a blank page full of possibilities. There are usually only two things I know when I start a new story: how it begins, and how it will end. The rest is a magical journey.
So when I quench the candle, maybe I should light another, just a little light in the darkness as a reminder that the wheel keeps turning. (And maybe I should celebrate at The Zodiac in Kim Novak-black leggings and bare feet, and listen to a little Stormy Weather on the bongos. ;) )
I suspect I'm not the only one winding things up as the year comes to a close. Today is the last chance to mark "done" on last January's New Year's Resolutions. Every year, I tell myself I’m not going to make any, but every year I have a little list in my head anyway, and this year, I managed to achieve a few significant ones, including selling my first novella. What about you? Do you make resolutions? Do you keep them? What are you resolving to do when the bell tolls to ring in 2011?
Monday, December 27, 2010
Unicorns and Centaurs and Faeries, Oh My!
Okay, so as the mom and stepmom of four boys, I have spent a lot (and I mean a LOT) of time playing the "Who would win in a fight?" game. This applies to superheroes (ala, Q: "who would win in a fight, Batman or Superman?" A: Superman, since Batman isn't even really a superhero, he's just a rich dude with gadgets and a grudge). But it can also be applied to a vast and eye-opening array of random things (ala Q: "who would win in a fight, Sprite or Cheeze Wiz?" A: Sprite, because if you shake it really hard it spurts out like a cannon blast, not to mention its impressive corrosive powers, whereas Cheeze Wiz is just orange deliciousness). As the kids get older, the responses get more and more coherant and scarily well thought out, but no less ridiculous. For a bit of HBM fun, I ask thee:
Of all the magical creatures, who would win in a fight, and why?
At first, right off the bat, I'm thinking unicorn. Mainly, because I am a child of the 80's which was the most magical of times for the unicorn. I had thousands of unicorn stickers (puffy, holographic, glittery, scratch-n-sniff, you name it), posters, stuffed animals etc. But after much internal debate, and a short period of mourning, I'm left with the sad realization that a unicorn is really just kind of a horse with a horn stuck on its head. Why is that more impressive than, say, a deer, with TWO horns? So, Im'a throw my lot in with the siren. Mainly because whatever anyone else tries on her, she is just going to use her awesomeness to lure you into her trap and smash you on the rocks (of DOOM! Sorry, that's a phrase my kids use all the time. Slap it on the end of any noun FTW. Read my erotic romance novel...of DOOM! Mwah hah hah hah hah!)
So, what do you think? Magical creatures cage match: Who comes out alive????
Friday, December 24, 2010
Baking Holiday Magic
At our house, my husband cooks the meats and I bake the desserts and breads, etc. One thing I enjoy is making breads that are not necessarily desserts, such as cinnamon gingerbread, pumpkin bread, apple spice bread, banana nut bread, etc. This year I tried a different one. Date nut bread. I had never eaten dates until a friend said she loved them and I should try them. Turns out they are the perfect addition to bread. This is an excellent dessert or snack during the holidays or any time of year. You can eat it for breakfast or brunch, too. You can make your own icing, or simply spread butter on the hot bread. Or you can eat it plain. It’s very moist and tasty. I found this recipe online then modified it the way I wanted. I love creating my own versions of recipes.
Date Nut Bread
1 to 2 ½ cups pitted, chopped dates
1/8 cup butter
1/8 cup virgin coconut oil
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla
¾ cup all purpose white flour
¾ cup natural whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts)
½ teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9x5 inch loaf pan. Cooking spray works well.
In a medium bowl, combine the chopped dates, butter and coconut oil. Pour the boiling water over them, and let stand until cool. When the dates have cooled, stir in the brown sugar, molasses, vanilla, and egg until well blended. In a larger bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nuts and salt. Stir the date and sugar mixture into the flour mixture until blended. Pour into the loaf pan. Bake for 50 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Enjoy!
Instead of coconut oil you can use all butter. The amount of dates varies because the original recipe specified 2 ½ cups dates. I only had an 8 ounce package. When I chopped them they probably equaled 1 cup and the bread turned out great. The original recipe said all purpose flour, but I used half whole wheat to make it healthier. The original recipe said walnuts but I used about 1 ½ cup pecans. Leftovers of the loaf can be sliced and frozen, then reheated in the microwave. You could also make muffins and the baking time would be less.
Hope you enjoy! And don’t be afraid to experiment with your food. :)
What is YOUR favorite holiday treat?
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you! I wish you all good things in the New Year!
Nicole North's erotic romance novellas have been described by reviewers
as "exciting, high octane, captivating, scintillating, sinfully delicious
and pure romance." Her stories contain "heart and heat, killer love scenes,
magic and extraordinary characters." Her books from Red Sage include: Beast
in a Kilt in Secrets Volume 29, Indulge Your Fantasies (July 2010), Kilted
Lover (Nov. 2009) and Devil in a Kilt is in Secrets Volume 27 Untamed
Pleasures (July 2009). Laird of Darkness will be her first novella from
Carina Press, March 2011. Scoundrel in a Kilt will be released in a future
Secrets volume. Though she has a degree in psychology, writing romance is
her first love.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
MAGIC: FACT OR FICTION
By: Barbara Longley
For as long as I can remember, I've been fascinated by the concept of magic. Not the "Las Vegas" illusion show variety, but the "really make shit happen" kind. Does it truly exist? Is it real, or does it only happen in books and movies?
Before one can prove the existence of something, that which is to be proved/disproved must be defined. What is magic? This is where the fun begins. I've done research, sought out the source, investigated the occult, shamanism and Wiccan beliefs and practices, all in search of a working definition for magic. In summary, and by pulling bits of this and that from a plethora of disciplines, magic is: bending the environment to one's will; manipulating the elements to affect a desired result; making shit happen because you can. We do this on a daily basis, only we aren't aware. It's magic, and we are all gifted.
In my upcoming release, HEART OF THE DRUID LAIRD (Carina Press/Sept. 2011), Dermot MacKay focuses his will to ignite purifying herbs and beeswax candles. He can do this in two ways: 1) draw the already existing heat out of the air in the immediate vicinity, concentrate that heat and touch it to those things he wishes to light, or 2) he can cause friction between molecules in the atmosphere, creating heat for ignition in much the same way that water molecules cause lightning.
Yeah, but that only happens in books, right? Wrong. How many of you have central air conditioners in your home? How does it work? Air flows over a condensing coil. The coil draws the heat out of the air, cold air flows through the ducts to cool your home. Magic.
I hear the mechanical engineers out there, the skeptics and the naysayers. "That's not magic," they say, "that's science." Hah! Scientists are simply modern day wizards with credentials. Consider the Internet, 4G networks and laser technology. Scientists have manipulated microwaves, sound waves and light waves, bending these elements to their will to send us images, information, videos, you name it. Magic.
Consider the "talk to plants" experiments from back in the seventies. Two sets of identical plants grown in identical, controlled environments. One set gets encouragement on a daily basis from the lab techs. They talk to the plants, touch them, love them. The other set gets sunlight and water. Over and over it has been proved that the plants who were loved grew better, were healthier, and produced better flowers, fruit, whatever. The lab techs (junior wizards) made shit happen. Magic.
We use only ten percent of your brains. At some point in our evolution, I predict the remaining ninety percent will have everything to do with magic. Some say the Mayan calendar 2012 thingie is not about the end of the world, but about a new era in mankind's journey. Some say it will be an ere of remagicking the world. Oh, I do so hope that's the case.
We already create our environments, realities and futures, we just don't know it. Magic is real. Disagree? Agree? Weigh in here, people.
Monday, December 20, 2010
Fantasy or Paranormal Romance?
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the categories within the fantasy and paranormal romance genres. I told my husband that and he gave me a blank stare. He did ask. So okay, maybe I’m a dork but I do think a lot about things like this.
As a writer I want to get my book into the hands of the people who are out there looking for a book just like the one I’m writing, who will take it to a good home and snuggle with it under the covers. So I do think that labels are important and necessary. I just want to get it right. And so I thought - what better place to explore this than here with a group of authors who write from one end of the spectrum to the other? Especially since Carina is publishing both straight fantasy and romantic ones.
So here’s my understanding of the breakdown. (I intended this as a basic list but even here I find myself combining terms.)
- High/Epic Fantasy. Alternate world. (Lord of the Rings)
- Contemporary/Urban fantasy. Real World. Contemporary times. Jim Butcher (Dresden Files) or Patricia Briggs (Mercy Thompson series)
- Historical Fantasy/Alternate History. Real world. Historical Time Period. Emma Bull (Territory), Naomi Novik (Temeraire series)
- Dark Fantasy – Horror + Fantasy. Stephen King (Dark Tower series)
- Paranormal romance. – Contemporary fantasy + Romance
- Fantasy romance. Usually High fantasy + Romance
- Geesh I almost forgot Steampunk which so far as I can tell is one part Historical Fantasy and two parts SciFi with a twist of zombie.
I think that the difficulty is that when PNR (paranormal romance) was at its frenzied peak of popularity, everything was slapped with a PNR label. Now that people are saying they’re starting to burn out on PNR, maybe some refinement is in order so that the shifter and vamp stories still get into the hands of the people who love them. (Like me. Because I always will.) And people who are looking for something maybe a little bit different can find that too.
Now for a specific question and a large part of the reason I’ve been thinking about this lately…
I’ve been working on a story that without the romantic element would be firmly in the contemporary fantasy category. It draws heavily on Norse mythology and is about a quiet Midwestern town called Ragnarok populated by descendants of the AEsir (tribe of pagan gods). The town stands on a fault line between worlds. The townspeople are the grandchildren of refugees who escaped from Asgard when their world was overrun by fire demons. They guard the portal between worlds and over the course of the story the main characters do cross between dimensions.
This is a romance.
I’m getting this ready for submission right now and trying to figure out how to query it. So my fantastical readers and writers…how would you label this one?
Is it a Paranormal romance?
A Fantasy romance?
And while you’re thinking about that, feel free to argue my categories because really, where would be the fun in all this if you didn’t?
Thanks for stopping by and helping me out!