Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Skyrim Challenge!!

November rolls around once again, and the question on everyone's lips is: who's doing NaNoWriMo?

Me, that's who! {cheers resound}

Well, sort of. I'm already half done with this manuscript: it was at 48K when November began.

So the object isn't to write 50K in a month. It's to finish the MS, however long it may turn out to be. I may need 85K. I may need 100K. I don't know yet. And I'm shortening the deadline to November 11. Because, y'know, go hard or go home, and all that.

Just 11 days to finish my novel. Why?

Need I say more?

This awesome game releases on November 11. The local store are saving me a copy. If the book ain't finished, I don't get to play.

I'll leave you to imagine my sense of urgency. Can't talk now. Gotta write...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

My new series!

Lo and behold, my new deal announcement from PM:
Erica Hayes’ new dark paranormal romance series, beginning with REVELATION, set in a decadent, near-future Manhattan, in which a young medical examiner who’s lost her faith must team up with a fallen angel warrior to stop a gang of demons hijacking the Apocalypse and creating hell on earth, in a two-book deal to Leis Pederson at Berkley by Marlene Stringer at The Stringer Literary Agency (World).
If it's on PM, it must be real! I'm so excited. It's dark, and has lots of action and urban-fantasy elements, but it's more focused on the romance than my Shadowfae books. Angels with flaming swords, demon princes, stolen vials of holy wrath. It's not post-apocalyptic: the Apocalypse is happening, right now. There will be earthquakes. The sky will rain fire at some point. Oh, and a zombie plague. What more could you want?

Book 1 is currently called REVELATION (as in the Bible, geddit?) though that might change. The MS is done and on the desk of my new editor, the lovely Leis Pederson (who also edits my bud Kylie Griffin's fab new fantasy romance series! Small world...) And I'm cooking up Book 2, REDEMPTION, about an angel who's determined never to sin again but falls for a hellcursed vampire.

REVELATION is slated for a Fall 2012 release, from Berkley Sensation in ebook and mass market paperback.

Does this mean I'm not doing any more Shadowfae books? Yep. At least for the time being. There's a Shadowfae short story, CHERRY KISSES, in the anthology HEX APPEAL from St Martin's Press, due for release I think later in 2012, and edited by the fabulous P.N. Elrod. And I have some other maybe-plans you'll hear about in due course.

Apart from that, I've been working on some new stuff. A superhero story. A new UF tale about a selfish magical thief who stumbles over an archvillain's evil plot to rule the world. A Renaissance clockpunk story, set in a dark, alchemy-fuelled Venetian Republic. And my perennial favourite: angels vs. aliens!!

None of this is finished. None of it is sold. I promise, you'll be the first to know...

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Why we love dark romance, and a little story about Diamond...

Angela at Dark Faerie Tales is hosting a really cool event called Fantastic Fables, where authors put their characters into fairy tales and see what evil shenanigans ensues. Bwahaha...

Want to see what happens when a wise-ass pink glassfairy gets the job as fairy godmother to Cinderella? Of course you do. So come join the fun and check out my little story here. As well as many other tales by some wonderful authors, and loads of prizes.

Also, I'm guest blogging today at the Qwillery, talking about why dark romance is so hot. And yeah, giving away a book. Please come visit! Thanks so much to Sally for inviting me.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Giveaway winner, and stuff

Thanks everyone for hitting my blog and Twitter and Facebook with so many lovely 'yay!' messages on my release day -- you guys rock!

Without further ado, the lucky randomly-chosen giveaway winner from Tuesday's post is...

Jenn/Seduced By Books!!

Congrats, Jenn -- if you see this, drop me an email and I'll arrange for your prize. Thanks to all for entering.

A quick linky: here's an interview with me on the blog of the fabulous Rowena Cory Daniells, author of KING ROLEN'S KIN. She's doing a series of interviews of female fantasy writers, and kindly invited me to take part.  So come and chat about gender differences in fantasy writers, and get a behind-the-scenes look at how I created the Shadowfae Chronicles, here. I believe there's also a free book up for grabs.

And in a little while, I'll be at Dark Faerie Tales as part of their fabulous Fantastic Fables blog event, where authors take their characters and put them into a fairy tale. Giggle... I'll post the link when it's up.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a date with The Cape and a block of Cadbury chocolate.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

It's Blood Cursed day!!

After spending the last umpteen weeks seeking an answer to the important question is it possible to lurk at your own blog? (A: yes. Yes, it is.) I've resurfaced, to give a quick hurrah! for release day for BLOOD CURSED! Yay!

Enter the fierce, fantastical world of the Shadowfae, where blood is a drug, magic is a crime, and love is the most dangerous weapon of all...

To a vampire, nothing is sweeter than bloodfairy essence -- and Ember is the most sought-after fairy on the underworld circuit. Selling her blood to the highest bidder -- and robbing her clients in the process -- Ember has unwittingly become a target of dark and dangerous forces. Her enemies are everywhere. And if she hopes to survive, she needs protection...

Diamond is a glassfairy who, for better or worse, knows his way around the vampire underworld. Smooth as silk and tougher than trolls, Diamond is Ember’s only chance to keep her magical blood inside her body, where it belongs. But he also poses a threat to Ember, a strange kind of danger she’s never experienced before: She’s falling in love with him...

Sweet! This one got a 4-star review from RT Reviews, which is always nice :) You can read the first chapter online at my website, and there's an extended excerpt up at Heroes and Heartbreakers (you need to log in to read that one). Also a nice review at Among the Muses. Thanks!

I'll be traipsing around the internet talking about it over the next week or two, doing some giveaways of backlist and the like, so keep an eye out, and I'll post the links here when they happen. You can also follow me on Twitter for -- let's face it -- more frequent updates.

But right now, I'm feeling generous. Leave me a comment on this post -- yup, that's right here -- before midnight on 3 August (US west coast time) if you'd like to win -- I'll pick a couple of random commenters to win your choice of one of my books. One of my only giveaways for BLOOD CURSED -- because, y'know, I want y'all to buy it :) -- so get in while it lasts...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Cool Aussie authors

April is Aussie Author Month in celebration of AU/NZ authors of popular fiction.

Participating sites are BookThingo, A Writer Goes On A Journey, Fangtastic Books and Adventures of an Intrepid Reader, along with any Aussie authors and readers who want to have a go.

Seeing as the month's' half gone, I guess I'd better step up... here are a couple of cool books by Aussie authors that I've read and enjoyed this month.

Thief of Light by Denise Rossetti, second in the Four-Sided Pentacle fantasy/erotic romance series.

Denise is the author of the delightfully erotic Strongman (m/m) and The Gift of the Goddess (f/m/m) from Ellora's Cave, and The Flame and the Shadow from Berkley Sensation, which features (among other things) a menage/romance between a guy, a girl, and the guy's shadow. I shit you not.

Denise writes wonderfully realised fantasy, emotional romance and luscious eroticism. Her heroes are tough and sexy and real men without being assholes, and her fantasy heroines aren't wusses, but they're not leather-clad tramp-stamp bitches with annoyingly snarky mouths, either. Real people in fantasy, oyy.

The hero in this book is an opera singer, and he has a magical Voice that compels people to do his bidding, but he's sworn never to use it to control anyone, since once he gave a careless order and someone died. But he can't resist the challenge when the heroine seems to be the only one who's immune to his musical charms. It's fantastical, sweet and sexy. Check it out.

Endless Lust by Lexxie Couper, second in the Seven Deadly Daemons series.

Lexxie writes erotic romance for Ellora's Cave and others. Endless Lust is the lead novel-length title for EC's new Shivers line of erotic horror. And erotic horror is just what it is.

This is a spooky book about a woman who's visited by a persistent and deliciously violent ghostly lover she can't see. He gives her intense pleasure, but she's terrified -- who is he, and what does he want from her? And does her dark and sexy new colleague at work have anything to do with it? It's erotic and creepy and cool. It has stalkers and black magic and hot sex with an invisible dude. And it's a romance!

Next on my list of Aussie reads is Death's Sweet Embrace by Tracey O'Hara, book 2 in her Dark Brethren UF series. It has heart-eating serial killers and a snow-leopard shifter heroine. Also Power Unbound by Nicole Murphy, second in her Dream of Asarlai contemporary fantasy/romance series, about a secret society of magical beings who are hunting down their stolen sacred texts.

Oh, and in other news: I'm going to RWA national in New York! Apparently being half the world away wasn't a good enough excuse not to come. Hope to catch up with you all there.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Self-publishing: but dude, I just wanna be a writer

A lot of fuss at the moment about self-publishing, and whether it's the way of the future, when we've got big-name authors turning down six-figure contracts and people without a platform selling zillions of copies per month of their self-pubbed books.

Yay and good luck to those people. I'll buy a self-pubbed book to read if I like the look of it. No prejudice here.

But I don't want to self-publish, and here's why.

The main advantage of SP that's being touted seems to be money. As in, the author makes more of it per book, because they're getting the whole (or nearly all of) cover price, not just a small royalty. So why let a publisher profit from your work, when you can take all the money yourself?

See, thing is, that's like saying to me, "Wow, Erica, you could make much more money as a lawyer than you ever will from your books. Why don't you go work for a law firm?"

And I could, y'know. My uni (college) degree is law. I'm admitted to the bar. I could go work for Local Law Firm, Inc. doing divorces and traffic violations, and I can tell you right now, I'd make more on a junior lawyer's salary than I'm getting right this moment writing for a NY publisher.

But I want to be a writer. I don't want to be a lawyer.

Nor do I want to be a copy editor, a cover artist, a back cover copy cruncher, a printer, an e-book layout designer, a publicist, a distributor, a web marketer or a sales guru.

I want to be a writer. Every day, I get up, I exercise, I shop for food, and then I spend the rest of the day writing and plotting and revising and crunching revisions.

It's my dream job. And I'm not giving it up to spend my working day in hell. No matter how much the devil pays.

Sure, I do promo. Everyone does promo. But for me, it's an opportunity. It's not an imperative. I have a publisher's sales and publicity force to help me, and those people are doing stuff for authors, even if sometimes it looks like they aren't. If I didn't have them, I'd have to spend my writing time doing what they do. Ditto on cover artists, editors, layout people and so forth.

Look at interviews with the latest self-pubbed bestsellers, and see what they do all day. When do they write? Never, or as near to never as makes no difference. Sound like fun? Uh. No.

So forgive me if job satisfaction is more important to me than money. I'm weird like that. I've worked enough jobs I didn't like to know how miserable it makes me. I'd much rather use my publisher to help me reach readers, and spend my time doing what I love. Even if it means I only get a small percentage of cover price.

And hey. If that means I'm missing the chance to sell a squillion copies of my latest for $2.99 and become rich and famous? Well, shit. I guess that boat in the Bahamas will just have to wait a while. Like I'd have the time to sail it if I was self-pubbed anyway.

Seriously, people. It's not all about the money. So sue me.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Distance makes the plot grow snappier

So I was on the phone to my CP yesterday, and she was telling me about her WIP. She'd been brainstorming new ideas for like a hundred hours, but she gave me the fifteen-minute condensed version, with only the ideas she'd decided to keep. She got to the end of what she'd done, and said, "Yeah. And now I don't know what should happen next."

Pause. "Well, it's obvious, isn't it?"say I.

My CP: "No."

Me: "C'mon. You've set everything up perfectly. It has to be {insert plot here}."

Stunned silence. "Damn. Why didn't I think of that?"

Does this happen to you? Me, all the time. I work on an idea so much that I get too close, and I can't see the big picture any more. I get confused by all the little details, and the overall structure gets obscured. MY CP gave me the Reader's Digest version, and I was able to jump on the key points, where all she could see was mess. Cool, huh?

So leave it for a while. Work on something else. Get some distance, and then go back to basics.

Yesterday, in fact, this worked for me too (yeah, it was a busy day: save the world, cook up WIP, rescue CP's sanity, bake cookies). I was designing a new trilogy-based series. I had the backstory and characters all worked out, and knew kinda what happened in book 1. Then I spent an hour all confused about what should happen at the end of book 2.

Well, duh. Book 2 is like a 2nd act climax. The bad guys have to succeed, and the hero gets smacked down. Whatever your hero wanted at the beginning? It just got taken away. Big time. Along with everything else they've decided they wanted along the way. And more than that -- the very idea of what's good and bad in the book should get turned on its head. What they're striving for looks hopeless.

"Luke, I am your father. Oh, and I just cut your arm off. And guess what that means? The Dark Side of the Force is stronger than you, you puny little weed. You'll NEVER win."

So when I get stuck, I go back to first principles: what does the MC want? What do the bad guys want that's opposed to the MC's goal? And what could they do to make it as hard as possible for the MC? What's the worst thing that could happen to the MC, not just at a specific plot point, but in the big scheme of the story?

How the hell is the MC going to fix the mess you've made?

Answer? Who cares!! If *you're* asking that question ,you can bet the reader will be too. And that's exactly what you want.

Anyway. Later. Gotta fix book 3 now :)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Back from the dead

Me, that is. No zombies or anything. But I've finished my BLOOD CURSED edits (yay!) and sent them to my editor. Yippee! Back to normality.

Which means another MS to revise and another 2 to outline {rubs hands together}. Fun times!

I've also caught up (I think) on my internettage. I should have replied to everyone's emails now! So if you're still waiting on a reply or an interview or a giveaway from me, drop me a swift reminder, please :)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Chapter breaks and pacing

Today, another thrilling episode from Erica's Writing Epiphany Files. Call me slow, but hey, I'm still learning. I'm just doing it in full public view :)

This week, I have figured out chapter breaks. Ta-da! Chapter breaks are about pacing. More specifically, they're about the illusion of pace.

In fact, pace itself is an illusion. The events in the story are what they are, whether it takes 10 pages or 200 to tell them. But we can slow down or speed up the action in the reader's head, according to the effect we want.

We use a number of tools for this. Short or long sentences, simple or complex. Choppy or smooth word rhythm. Paragraph breaks -- shorter is generally faster, though a long paragraph can be intense and gather momentum, and short paragraphs can also slow the action down if you use them right.

And the chapter break. I'm talking about the one that comes in the middle of a scene, where there's no change in situation or setting or point of view It's just there. Why?

To create a hook. To make the reader want to read on. See, I just did it then, with the paragraph break.

Sure, but how does starting a new chapter achieve that? The words and events will be the same, right?

Yeah. But that white space does strange things inside the reader's head. They anticipate. They turn the page (or flick it, now we're e-friendly). It creates the illusion that the story is going faster. But to do that, you've gotta get your hook right. Where can you cut your chapter for maximum effect?

I've been studying them. Some authors are great at it. J.R. Ward, for one, in her angels series. They come in two basic flavours.

There's the holy shit, I can't believe that just happened! hook. Your character does/says/learns/decides something wild or unexpected or dangerous, that will have grave consequences. OMG, what did you do? Cut.

And there's the holy shit, what's gonna happen next? hook. Your character is about to do/say/learn/decide something wild or unexpected or dangerous. He's in a serious jam, and something's about to give. Crap, how will he get out of this? Cut. Also appearing as the will-she-or-won't-she? break. She won't really do that, will she?

Sometimes, you have the choice: do I cut before the bombshell, or after? There's no firm answer to that. Depends on how big the bomb is, and who's got the most to lose.

But be careful. Cut like this too often, and your reader will get wise to you. And a long string of short chapters does no one any good. So save it for the big moments.

And just for me, don't get tacky: if you're gonna cut in the middle of a love scene, something spectacular and emotional better be happening :)

So what about you? Do you like reading cut chapters? Adore the little cliffhangers along the way? Or are you wise to those silly writers' tricks, and just want to get on with the story? 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Head down, bum up

Yep, I'm still here. I know you all live for my scintillatingly witty blog posts, so rest assured I haven't been sucked into cyberspace or eaten by zombies.

But I have been up to my eyeballs in editor revisions for BLOOD CURSED, my August release. Nothing like being in the middle of revising one manuscript and having to switch to another, at short notice, that you haven't even thought about for eight months. Also, nothing like giving yourself a short deadline :)

Note to Self: Self, next time when they say, 'when's the soonest you can get it done?', don't say 'next week'.

But it's getting done. Due in by the end of Feb, so you'll see more of me around here after that.

I've also been tinkering with my next outline, another fallen angel romance. MS #1 is called REVELATION; this one's called REDEMPTION. Heroine is a sultry vampire chick. Yeah, I just wrote 'angel' and 'vampire' in the same paragraph. So sue me. You know you want to read it.

I have to do up a short synopsis for it by weeks' end because (yay!) I'm heading to Sydney in mid-March for a workshop with Michael Hauge! Yay! Did I say yay? It's gonna be amazing.

But yeah, I've gotta know what my MS is about first :) Self, see note above.

I've also got a contest to run, the fabulous Valerie Parv Award from Romance Writers of Australia, and that opens tomorrow.

Busy week. No time to talk. Gotta run.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Revising: what to do after 'The End'

So I've typed THE END, done my little happy dance and basked for a while in the sweet sunshine of how awesome I am. Now what?

Well, it's time to pull that baby out and revise. But what does that mean? How do I know what to fix, what to leave alone? Well, like any good neurotic obsessive outliner, I have a plan. Let me share it with you...

At this stage, my manuscript is one big .doc file with scene breaks indicated by #. No chapter breaks yet. But it's in reasonable shape, with no really big holes or {insert fight scene here}. Yes, I am feeling smug about that :)

First pass: does the story work?

I start at the beginning, and go through to the end. Never mind if I already hate the ending, or know the scene on page 157 where he bakes lamingtons in his birthday suit is crap -- I'll worry about it when I get there. Why? Because I'm looking for overall effect. Is the story working? Are the highs and lows where I want them? And are they high or low enough?

I like to read one scene at a time, in order but in isolation -- that helps to break it up into manageable chunks -- and ask the following:

Plot holes. Mark all the dumb bits, and make notes on how to fix them for later.

Scenes that don't do anything. If there's no action, no revelation, and no character arc goes anywhere, it's not doing anything. Mark for deletion -- but also mark any essential info that needs to be relocated somewhere else.

Things that aren't adequately explained. You, the author, know how the spaceship or the terrorist's bomb or the Secret Vampire Society works. Make sure the reader does too -- but only as much as they need to.

Motivations that don't show. Again, you know why your characters make decisions. Make sure the reader understands -- look at the introspection and the dialogue to make sure it's clear on the page.

Character arcs that fall flat. This is a tricky one. How do you test if your character arc is working? Well, I like to go back to basics. Ask what are the conflicts that the character needs to resolve, and in what order? Then, go through your scenes and make sure it's happening on the page, not just in your head.

Sound like a tick-the-box exercise? It is, kind of. I like to make a little list for hero and heroine, noting the scenes they appear and following what their arc is doing in that scene -- what it's actually doing, not what I wanted it to do when I wrote that scene. Plot events are just the catalyst for the romance -- how is the character changing emotionally in response to them?

So my list might look something like this, with initial conflict, reversals and notes to myself:
Scene A: heroine has trust issues. Meets hero and thinks he's lying to her.
Scene B: heroine fights attraction, dithers about whether to trust hero and decides she must proceed alone
Scene C: heroine needs help to {plot event} and hero helps her. (Note: do better with this. She should be tempted to trust him but too afraid)
Scene D: She finds out that he endangered his own life to help her in scene C. He must have another agenda. But she decides to trust him and go along with his plan to {plot event} (Note: make her motivation to trust him clearer: she needs his help because {reason})
Scene E: is captured by bad guys and believes hero has betrayed her. (Note: make it more believable that she would immediately assume this.) Decides she was foolish to trust him.
This is a quick-and-dirty example that I just invented on the spot, but see what I mean? You're tracking the progress of the character's change, and you can match what you've actually done against what needs to happen. This way, it's easy to see where your arc falls down.

So that's it for first pass. Once I've fixed those things, it's down to the more techie stuff, like chapter hooks and line edits.

I'll let you know how it goes...

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The whole 'authors behaving badly' thing...

Always seems to be some author willing to stick their neck out -- whether in well-meaning ignorance or malice or genuine cluelessness -- and point the finger at someone who gave them a review they didn't like. Normally, I stay out of this stuff, but on this one, I have to comment. Rant alert. I warned you...

I don't get it. Really, I just don't. Being published means that people are going to read my book. Not all those people will like it. And not all those people will write a review that I think does the book justice.

So suck it up, and move on. This is the real world, and it does not owe me good reviews, or readers, or sales, or a legion of contented fans. It does not even owe me courtesy or a 'fair chance'. In an industry that releases several hundred books per week, I am lucky if my book gets read at all.

A reviewer has taken the time to read my book, when they have literally thousands of other entertainment choices. They have then taken the time to post a review. Whether I like what it says or not, that person has spent hours of his or her life on me and my book.

Sorry, but the only appropriate response to that is "thankyou". Even better, a private message that says: "Thankyou, and I'm sorry the book wasn't for you. Here's a link to your site on my blog, and would you like review copies of my other books?" Even if they say "no, thanks, I'd rather fork my own eyeballs out than read any more of your trash", I've lost nothing.

It's simple arithmetic, folks: readers are more willing to give a second chance to an author who is gracious than they are to one who's an asshole. Maybe they'll like my next book better. And if I can get one more reader by being nice, that's a win. Last I heard, "nice" is still free.

Remember, the reader doesn't know if this is the Book Of My Heart, or just something I tossed off during the cricket lunch break. What's more, they don't care. All they get is the words on the page. And all they care about is the entertainment value I've provided them for their money. I know this, because I'm a reader too.

Hey, I wish as much as any author that inadequately-explained "this book was rotten" reviews would go away. But like it or not, by publishing your work, you are putting yourself out there for criticism. It's not for the faint-hearted. You have to learn to be gracious. Retweet the so-so ones as well as the good. Offer copies of your new release, even if they didn't like the last one. And if the review was genuinely rude, inappropriately personal, or by someone who clearly has it in for your genre and is looking to pick fights -- maybe the best response is simply no response at all. And then ring your crit partner and cry, if it makes you feel better.

If you can't do those things? You'd better take a long walk in the hall of mirrors, snowflake, and ask yourself if you really want to be an author.

P.S. The worst review I ever got was for my very first book, from Kirkus Reviews (yeah, nothing like getting sniggered at as a debut author in the Serious Literary Press, in front of, oh, I don't know, thousands of potential readers?). They absolutely loathed SHADOWFAE. The review mocked my plot, laughed at my sex scenes, derided my writing style -- by quoting verbatim sections it thought were particularly disdain-worthy -- insinuated that I must be one sick mo-fo for even writing something like this in the first place, and concluded by saying something like: 'this book isn't for everyone, and hopefully it's not for anyone'.

I'm still here.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Typing 'The End', and what now?

In case you missed me trumpeting it all over the interwebz, I finally got to the end of my manuscript. Yippee! I love typing THE END. Even after however-many manuscripts, those two little words never get old.

I do actually type THE END, too. Do you? It looks so niiice on the page...

Anyway. It's done. In less than two months, which is record time for me. So I had a day off. And today, it's back into it: planning for book 2 of this series, the one with the ice-hearted bastard and the vampire. Sweet!

I'm under no contract for these stories, so for once I can do what everyone says you should -- let the MS sit for a while before hurtling in to revisions. Normally, it's a day or two, and then on with the slash'n'burn -- I just don't have time to let it stew.

Besides, I love my stories, and I can't wait to get back to them. Yeah. Author impatience. That's probably the real reason. And the advantage of revising while it's still fresh is that the plot arcs are all still clear in my head -- I can see where I've let the story down in terms of making those key moments hit hard.

On the other hand, the line edit stuff can be a dead loss, if I do it while I still remember typing the words. It's difficult to be ruthless so soon. That's the stuff I like to leave till later, if I have the time.

So how do you like to go about revisions, if you're a writer? Jump right in? Leave it a while and move on to something else? Or (shudder) do you let your crit partners read it straight away, warts and all?

And do you type THE END?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Getting to the end of my manuscript...

Nearly to the end of my WIP. Yay! Chocolate all round.

Usually what happens at this point is that I revise my outline, because the scene-by-scene breakdown won't be quite right. I'll have understated the importance of some elements and overstated others. Especially at the end of a novel, the balance between elements -- otherwise known as pacing, and it's not a magic word but a structural and technical trick -- is crucial if you don't want to lose your reader.

Subplots, I'm talkin' to you.

It's the third act, okay? People don't care about you... well, they do, but what they really want to read about at the climax is the main characters. The romance. How they get the bad guys.

How subplots wrap up is secondary. That's why they're called subplots

But without them, the main action won't make sense. Characters discover things and decide things. The scenes need to be there. Unless I want to cut those secondary characters altogether, and restructure, and, y'know. Rewrite the whole frickin' book.

So I'm keeping the subplot scenes short and to the point. Giving them the most gripping hooks at start and finish as I can. And interweaving them with the main action. Short scenes add to the illusion of pace, too, but for pulse-pounding excitement, you can't go past the old trick of actually having something happen. Ahem. I could point the finger at certain UF and romance series, but that'd be childish... 

So as a reader, how do you like your endings? Do you want the bad dude defeated, the romance resolved and boom, that's the end? Or do you like more of a slow let-down after the climax, with more happy-ever-after epilogue scenes? Or (shudder) do you adore the cliffhanger?

Monday, January 31, 2011

Why love scenes get the rewrite treatment

I'm a big outliner, see. I know in advance what all my scenes are and where they're going. Where to start and when to stop. What has to happen in terms of plot and subplot and character arc. Call me neurotic, but it's how I stay sane.

So that's why I don't do out-takes or deleted scenes on my website -- because there aren't any. Well, there were a couple for POISON KISSED, because (ahem) my editor had me cut a subplot or ten. But I changed the plot to make it fit, so the deleted material is now redundant -- it no longer happened, and if you read it after reading PK, you'd go, 'huh? didn't that guy die?' etc..

I also rarely have to rewrite a scene. Sure, I edit the crap out of them. But I almost never cut and start again.

Except for love scenes. Curses. Not rocket science, huh -- the characters have sex, the end. But sometimes I get the tone of the scene wrong -- it's harsh instead of dreamy, or teary instead of breathless, or the wrong character initiates, or whatever. I (and they, hehe) get halfway through and it isn't working.

When the tone is wrong, the dialogue and the choreography will be wrong, which means the emotions you're eliciting will be off the mark. There's not much you can do except start again.

See, if your book is a romance and the characters don't do it until late in the book -- or if all the sex up until that point has been meaningless in terms of the love story, and this is the Love Scene as opposed to the hot sex scene/s -- it usually means they've been putting the Love Scene off, consciously or unconsciously. So emotionally, the Love Scene will be an acceptance or a surrender by one or both characters -- they admit that things have changed, and they can't go on in denial. And even though I outline up the wazoo, it's not always clear to me exactly who is surrendering what until I get there.

And if I don't get that right, the scene will fall flat. I've been setting up an emotional arc for all those chapters -- now's the time to finish it off. The sex can be as hot as you like, but if the emotional payoff isn't there in the Love Scene, no one will care.

So yeah. Let's just cut that thousand words and start it again, shall we?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Recovering from Australia Day...

Had a lovely day in the backyard with cricket, barbecue, the Triple J Hottest 100 and an inflatable pirate-ship swimming pool. Awesome. And I even got some writing done in the morning. Kind of a perfect day. ( I have a pic of the pirate ship pool, but I'm redacting it to protect the innocent. An inflatable water cannon and much beer was involved.)

I tried to think of something sage and wise to say about our national day, but I couldn't come up with anything more to the point than what I wrote last year. So here it is, re-blogged in all its glory:

It's Australia Day today. Jan 26th. Kinda like the Fourth of July, except... well, we don't have a war of independence or anything patriotic and macho like that to celebrate for our national day. So instead it's the anniversary of the arrival of the first British settlement on these shores in 1788. Captain Arthur Phillip in his nice blue Royal Navy uniform, if you believe the portraits. Convicts, Royal Marines and a whole lot of blokes with rum. Rum was important. We had a Rum Rebellion once. How cool is that?

Anyway. Some people say we shouldn't be celebrating a day that led to ruin, disease, displacement and death for many indigenous Australians. They think we should choose another day to celebrate our national day. I can see their point. But be that as it may, and whatever day we celebrate, I believe we've still got a whole lot to be thankful for.

I'm thankful that we were once a British colony, because they gave us representative government and the common law, even if it means we've still got the Union Jack on our flag and a few assholes down at Cronulla like to wear it while they take out their dumb hatred on others.

I'm thankful for hot summers and lazy school holidays spent in the garden, at the beach or down at the swimming pool, even if it means we've still got the highest rate of skin cancer in the world and I've never seen a white Christmas. And I'm thankful for winters that aren't six foot deep in snow, even if it means that I can't ski and have never ice-skated on a lake.

For great Aussie food, for vindaloo, pad thai, gyros and turkish pida, for fish and chips, tapas, tandoori chicken, spaghetti bolognese and moussaka, shish kebab and chilli con carne and lamb chops on the barbie. You bring it here, we'll eat it like it's our own.

For Aussie Rules football in the winter, for speckies and meat pies with tomato sauce and Lloydie's mark of the century. For Ashes cricket, Warnie's Gatting Ball and Freddie Flintoff consoling Brett Lee, for John Aloisi ripping his shirt off in celebration when the Socceroos made the World Cup, for that crazy ice skating guy who won Olympic Gold when everyone else fell over.

For gun laws that mean it's practically illegal to own a firearm, even if it means only criminals have got them, because it means I can walk down the street at night without fear. I'm thankful that I can still switch on free-to-air tv and watch the Aussies thrash Pakistan at cricket, and then go down the pub for a lemonade or two with my Pakistani mates without anyone beating the crap out of anyone else.

For long haul flights and six-hour layovers at Singapore Airport on the way to London, for being so bloody far away from the rest of the world that going anywhere is the adventure of a lifetime. And for that gorgeous scent of eucalyptus that hits you when you step off the plane in Sydney or Melbourne, that fragrant air and blue sky that means you're home at last.

For simple, quick, transparent elections that can't be bought by the highest bidder, at least not on national tv. For a government that can't lock me up without trial and a judicial system that can't execute me or torture me or make me incriminate myself. For a minimum wage, single digit unemployment, a welfare system that won't let me starve and a health system that doesn't ask me to swipe my credit card.

For clean air, clean water and ample living space, when so much of the rest of the world has none of them.

So say what you want about Invasion Day or whatever. We all live here. This is our country. And we've got it pretty good down here.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Summer Lovin' at Strange Candy

A quick shout out for Summer Lovin' at Strange Candy Reviews -- a month dedicated to summer and romance. Interviews and giveaways with some hot romance authors -- including, of course, me :) I'm blogging about sweaty boys why romance and the heat go so well together, and you can win a copy of my book POISON KISSED here. The event ends 2 Feb.

Also, a yell for my mate Tracey O'Hara, whose fab new paranormal romance DEATH'S SWEET EMBRACE comes out this week. It's book 2 in her DARK BRETHREN series, and it looks hot. You can check out her blog tour dates here.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Zombies are cool

No Friday Fancies this week, because I'm away. But I read WARM BODIES by Isaac Marion on the plane today. Nice little zombie love story. Aww.

I've been doing a lot of zombie thinking lately, as they've been cropping up in my manuscripts all over the place. Why aren't there more zombies as real characters in paranormal fiction? There's your cannon fodder zombie, sure. But also your self-aware yet helpless zombie. Your self-aware and angry zombie. And your sensation-starved, self-disgusted yet flirty zombie with attitude.

Whichever -- a dude who's come back from the dead must have a story to tell. It's a place that none of us have ever visited. A zombie comes back to us with the answer to life's ultimate mystery. Even if we don't like what he's got to say. How is this not fascinating?

We need more zombies as main characters in urban fantasy. That is all.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

GMC: it's not what they think they want that counts

I've been writing synopses, plotting, thinking about GMCs* and all that carry-on, and I had one of those minor epiphany moments I thought I'd share with you all (y'all? Youse? You know what I mean).

External motivation is usually easy, right? In your GMC? They want to slay the vampires or stop the serial killer or find the Magical Artifact of Plot-Driving. And the motivation is usually pretty simple -- if they don't, the vampire will eat everyone or the killer will kill again or the bad guys will rule the world.

It's the internal motivations that give us the trouble. Not so simple. And here's where my epiphany comes in.

Say you've got a character with a troubled past that's stopping him from finding true lurve. His last girlfriend fell off a cliff because he failed to save her.** And now he's convinced he's Dangerous and Unworthy of A Good Woman's Love.

His solution? Become a cold snarky rude-ass bastard and push away every woman who's even faintly interested in him. Which happens a lot, because he's, like, the hottest dude on the block. Of course.

So the GMC is easy, right? His internal goal is to hide from love by becoming a cold snarky rude-ass bastard. Like so:
G: to hide from love
M: because he killed his last girlfriend, and he thinks he's unworthy of love
C: chicks hit on him all the time and it's like, really hard not to pick up. And hey, the heroine's hot.


Heh. NO. No, no. You'll only confuse yourself. In a romance, no one's goal is to never find love. Hiding from love is only what he thinks he wants. He may behave like this initially, but his real, secret goal is to become whole again -- to accept that the cliffhanger incident wasn't his fault and that he is indeed Worthy Of Love.

So your GMC will actually look something like this:
G: to prove himself worthy of love
M: his last girlfriend died and he thinks it's his fault; ever since then, he's avoided relationships by being a cold snarky rude-ass bastard
C: he doesn't want to let his guard down, in case he gets hurt again (this is important. Sure, he doesn't want to drop any more chicks off cliffs -- but the real pain he's trying to avoid is his own. It's a romance. That's the way it is. Learn to love it, or go write a thriller.)

Note these things about the comparison between those two GMCs:
1) the real goal is a secret. It's the opposite of the way he's actually behaving at the beginning of the story. And it'll be the heroine who makes him lose his cool and go for what he really wants.
2) the conflict in the first one is silly. Not being able to articulate a sensible conflict is usually a good indicator that you've got the goal wrong.
3) the real conflict? His own emotional pain. Sure, sometimes there are other aspects, but usually in a romance it's 'because if he goes for his goal, he risks getting hurt'.

And you want to know the really good part?

This transition the hero goes through, from living his pretend goal to striving for his secret goal? From living behind a facade, to showing his true colours in order to get what he really wants? Character arc, folks. And it happened while you weren't watching :)

* That's Goal, Motivation, Conflict, for those who aren't up with teh buzzwords, dude.
** ahem. Not as silly as is sounds, okay? I've actually used this one -- Indigo dropped his ex-lady in SHADOWGLASS and boy, does it carve him up. Literally :)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Wicked Enchantment giveaway winner

The winner (randomly selected) of last week's Friday Fancies giveaway of a copy of WICKED ENCHANTMENT by Anya Bast is...


Congrats! And thanks to everyone for playing. CL, if you see this, email me on ez at ericahayes dot net and we'll arrange your prize.

Lovely sunny weekend here. Finally stopped raining after however many days. No floods, but very wet. I've been working on my synopsis for the new MS, and I've finally got it down to a manageable length. Now I can forget about it for a while and get on with the manuscript... only 20K-odd to go...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Grave Witch by Kalayna Price

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading:

1) Grab your current read.
2) Open to a random page.
3) Share at least two 'teaser' sentences from that page -- no spoilers, please!
4) Share the title and author so others can add it to their TBR if they like the teasers.

The first time I encountered Death, I hurled my mother's medical chart at him. As far as impressions went, I blew it, but I was five at the time, so he eventually forgave me. Some days I wished he hadn't -- particularly when we crossed paths on the job.

--From page 1 of GRAVE WITCH by Kalayna Price

And, the obligatory self-adulation:

I tilted my glass again, my bloodseduced mouth already watering for more.

He grabbed my arm, stopping the glass an inch from my mouth. Sweat shone on his lean-muscled wrist, his grip light but steely. "You shouldn't drink that shit."

"Why not? Afraid I'll embarrass you?"

--From page of POISON KISSED, by me :)

Got any cool teasers this week?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Cutting that damn synopsis

For most writers, synopses are a big whingefest, basically. Woe is me! I have to write a synopsis to submit to a editor because she wants my series! Or: This horrible nasty agent requested a full and synopsis! Oh, noes! Whatever shall I do?

No sympathy from the real world, folks. Just get down and do it. I've been hashing out one for my WIP* and having loads of fun.

My method, for what it's worth? For the first draft, just write. This is the hero, this is the heroine, they meet, this is what happens, they fall in love, black moment, the end. Don't worry about how many pages it is, or whether there are subplots and secondary characters, or too many names, or whatever. Just get that structure down.**

Then, go and add more. What, are you crazy? Yes, but you still need to add more. I'm talking about emotion. The romance part. The shattereds and overjoyeds and heartbrokens. Action and reaction, emotional turning points. Make sure you're telling the story of two people falling in love. No matter what else is going on.

Then, go back in and cut it.

Cut it for excess unnecessary wordage, you don't need. Cut it by summarising subplots and eliminating repetition and stuff that's in there twice. Cut it for description and character names that don't need to be there aren't required (yeah, and using five words when two will do). Cut it for action that you don't need to explain and unnecessary plot lines that don't need to be there, because hey, this is a romance, not an action story. "They slaughter the villain and escape" is elegantly sufficient.

And then, go back to the beginning, and cut it again. And again. And again, until it meets your word limit.

I've still got 300 words to go. Snip, snip, snip...

* Before it's finished, naturally, like a good little plotter. All you smug into-the-misters can bite me, okay? Sometimes being too cowardly to pantz is totally worth it :)
** If you don't know what the structure of your book is... well,  see note 1.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Friday Fancies: Wicked Enchantment by Anya Bast

Friday Fancies is where I make you all sit down and listen to me gush about a recent read I really liked, and then give you the chance to win a copy. As ice cream from toddlers? Right. Let's go.

This fortnight's Friday Fancy: WICKED ENCHANTMENT by Anya Bast, the first in her Dark Magick paranormal romance series.

What it's like: Faeries. Seelie and Unseelie Courts. Wild happenings. The hero is dark and mysterious. The heroine isn't a pain in the ass. What more do you want? :)

Why it's cool: lush paranormal scenery, and a nice twist on the old Seelie/Unseelie thing. Scorching hot sex. Passionate romance that goes beyond 'ugh, you are my mate, let's shag'. Uh... yeah. Seriously? For good old-fashioned sexy paranormal romance, you can't go past this.

If you're a writer: Ms Bast is the master (mistress?) of the simple, in-your-face, state-it-in-a-sentence romantic conflict. The hero is hot, but he's been sent to entrap her. That's it. And Ms Bast makes it go far, far beyond anything you could reasonably expect. The sensual tension is ever-present and ever-increasing, even when they've already done it.

And I'm not sure if maybe the author knows a lot of really cool guys to model them on, or something, but her heroes always know exactly what to say to make me melt. The dialogue is tres sexy, something a lot of authors struggle with.

Her Elemental Witches series is just as simple, just as hot, and just as good. Get thee to Anya Bast, folks, and have some fun.

Right. Wanna win a paperback copy of this awesome book? Of course you do. Just leave me a comment here, follow this blog, tweet me something nice, etc.. No nasty remarks about the cricket, please. We're still hurting down here...

I'll choose a winner at random. Giveaway closes midnight east coast US time next Thursday, 13 January. If you live where the Book Depository ships, you can win. And if you've already got WICKED ENCHANTMENT, and you're lucky enough to win, maybe we can talk about another of Ms Bast's books as the prize.

Any recommendations for some more sexy paranormals? What have you read lately that floated your boat?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Why villains should be sexy

A slack blogging week? Why, yes, I'm having one. Thanks for asking.

Having missed the gobbledy glee that is Teaser Tuesday (because I was writing, folks, so it wasn't a dead loss, on my part at least) I figure I'll slip in a random Thursday post to make up for it.

Been thinking about villains. More specifically, urban fantasy and paranormal romance villains, who are often the sexiest dudes in the book, bar the hero, and possibly not even him. Back in the day, villains were smelly, ugly, weaselly little creatures with no sex appeal. So what's changed? Why do wee need to write villains sexy?

The first reason, of course, is that in PR and UF, you never know who's going to be the hero (or heroine, for that matter, but we'll stick with boy villains for now) of the next book. And in those genres, heroes, on the whole, need to be conventionally hot. If the majority of your readers don't think your hero is a hottie, then you're not being cute or clever or daring, folks. You're just cheating your audience. Sorry, but that's the way it is.

That doesn't mean you can't think outside the box. Odd things can be sexy if you write them properly. And it's a really fun exercise in character motivation to make those nasty habits you gave him as the villain sympathetic when he's the hero.* Joey in my book SHADOWGLASS is a nasty snake-shifting gangster with... well, let's call it a mild torture fetish :) By the time POISON KISSED comes around, you find out why he behaves like that, and if your heart doesn't bleed for him, you either don't like blondes (see above) or you're dead. Joey is a different guy when you see him through different eyes.

The second, more important reason is that if you do it properly, sexual tension equals conflict. In UF/PR, you're writing a sexually charged fantasy world. Sex appeal is a weapon, especially if your world is dark, and if you don't let your villain wield that weapon, you're putting him/her at a disadvantage. And if you weaken your villain, you're weakening your main characters.

In POISON KISSED, the heroine, Mina, has issues with a rival fairy gangster called Diamond who's trying to seduce her over to his side. The fact that Diamond's totally hot (and Mina's starving for it because Joey won't do the deed) makes resisting him a lot more difficult. If he wasn't her type, he'd be a lot less effective as an enemy.

Of course, Diamond has nasty habits, violent impulses and a selectively blind conscience. He wouldn't be a bad guy if he didn't. But he also has a histrionic gallant streak a mile wide, a weakness for pretty ladies in distress and a hopeless bleeding heart under all that glass and attitude. Which made it a whole lot easier to write him as the hero in BLOOD CURSED.

In fact, I don't think I've ever written an unsexy villain. Can't remember reading many lately, either. Can you think of any PR/UF books where the bad guy is a total turn-off? Did it work?

* It's even more fun to do it in the same book {*cough* ironfairy serial killers *cough*}

Monday, January 3, 2011

Another set of new year's promises

Welcome back, and happy new year! Seems pretty much the same as the last one so far. Lovely warm weather, too many leftovers in the fridge, and we're still getting beaten at the cricket. Sigh.

Still, never too late for some new year promises. Mine are the same as usual: write more, faff less. Sell some more stories. Find the time to play more music.

What are your new year's resolutions?