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?