Ooops, did I say that?

Sharon Ashwood
October 20, 2010  •  No Comments

skull_n_bonesAh, yes, those subjects one should never touch. They glow in the dark, radiating with a white-hot intensity, daring the author to slip them into her story. There should be a warning alarm that sounds during these moments, with an automatic computer shut-down that forces the writer to rethink her plans.

There is the risk of offending readers. There is also the risk of climbing on a soap box, where it’s all too easy to sound preachy. There’s nothing worse than being offensive AND boring.

So why not skirt the difficult questions altogether? Because fiction has a plot, and a plot has conflict. Depending on who your characters are, that will often come back to hot button issues like sex, politics, and religion. If an author doesn’t have the honesty to dig to the bottom of their character’s issues, the book will come out as compelling as cream of wheat. So what to do?

There is a trade-off when it comes to addressing “tough” subjects in fiction. I look at it like I would the spice cupboard. A teaspoon is good; dumping in the whole jar is too much. For this reason, I skirt the best-sellers dealing with chronic child abuse and head for the pulp fiction featuring demon abuse. Somehow it’s more okay in a fantasy setting.

Yes, that’s weird and perhaps hypocritical, but taking hot topics one step out of the here and now and putting them in the realm of the fantastic allows us to look at them more dispassionately. After all, much science fiction successfully deals with power struggles (often political ones), environmental issues, and ethics. That’s one of the things I love about the genre—it makes me think, engaging my mind as well as my heart, but it does so in a subtle and entertaining way.

I try to model my stories that way, and on a good day I get it right–I hope! My aim is to bring a complete world into being, with all the good and bad that goes along with it. The big difference is that all those difficult subjects, while present, are never the focus of the story. I write paranormal romance, not social commentary for vampires.

Though it would be interesting to hear what Dr. Phil would have to say about Dracula and his wives. Was locking up three wives in the castle basement the first clue that there was something funky on the domestic front?


Signing karma

Sharon Ashwood
October 13, 2010  •  No Comments

feather-pen I remember once upon a time Anne Rice came to town and the line-up snaked through the local mall and out the doors. I had two thoughts. First, I wanted to write books that people loved that much. Second, I was glad I’d phoned ahead and my signed copy would be waiting for me at the cash desk the next day and I could buy it sans line-up. Yes, I’m bad for not sticking it out for hours to meet Anne Rice, but patience never has been one of my virtues. I think I collected some bad signing karma that day.

Signings are odd events. From the author’s perspective, they’re fabulous, exhilarating, glorious romps when people show up. When they don’t, it’s mortifying. As far as I can tell, there’s little rhyme or reason as to whether it will be busy or dead, which makes every occasion a nail-biter.

How do “live” signings happen? Often the stores arrange them, or sometimes the authors do it themselves. When I was first published, I organized some events locally and then some a plane ride away in my “home” town. Setting up the events at a distance was an eye-opener. Out of about 5 stores, one actually remembered I was coming AND had the books available for sale. Another time, I drove all over Seattle looking for a store I never did find. I think it had disappeared into the gray, just like in Kat Richardson’s books. In other words, the logistics can be frustrating–and I’ve worked off every bit of that bad signing karma!

However, when the right magic strikes, a signing is a high-energy live performance. One or two of those events is all it takes to create an addiction. It’s wonderful to get an email from someone saying they like my work. It’s way, way better to have them tell that to my face. I love readers, I love meeting them, and I love that connection that comes from sharing the same imaginary world.

And fortunately, there are many people much more patient than I am about meeting authors!

Do you collect autographs? Is there a story about how you gone one?


Lies, all lies

Sharon Ashwood
October 5, 2010  •  No Comments

The worst part of writing a proposal is that I’m sure I’m lying. I’m lying because my books never follow exactly the path I map out for them. If I already know all the twists and turns, what’s the point of writing it?

That being said, my poor editor needs something to go on. I’ll need to be in the business a lot longer before “trust me, it’ll be great” will be enough for the publisher to cut a cheque.

So, I have to apply seat to chair and type something up. Usually this means (for me—like Annette says, it’s different for each editor) a very detailed synopsis with all the internal and external plot arcs explained. It can also mean writing about the first fifty pages.

In order to do all that, I have to complete the absolute worst part of the book—the beginning. I hate, hate, hate slogging through those first few chapters. Getting them just right takes a healthy chunk of the total hours of book construction. So, by the time I’ve pulled a proposal together, I think they should absolutely buy the stupid book because I’ve already done 50% of the work of a bleepity whole novel. As you can tell, the whole process puts me in an intense mood. 👿

Part of the process involves convincing my characters to play along. It’s a tough thing, because it’s a bit like saying: “C’mon, I know that you could be revised and end up as a border collie or a talking teapot, but for now just pretend you’re a Samurai warrior transported through the centuries to wreak vengeance on a major city.” But he knows that if the proposal’s rejected, it’s back into the ether with a resounding “poof.” With a deal like that, sometimes it’s a little hard to get your hero to assume the position. They keep snarling something about contract clauses.

So that’s what I’m doing right now:
• Bullying heroes and pleading with heroines to behave.
• Bashing at a synopsis in hopes that dumping enough words on the page will make it coherent.
• Drinking way too much coffee.
• Trying to remember how good it feels once the book is underway.

And that’s true. Once I get the green light, I’m in seven kinds of heaven and it’s all worthwhile.

What nasty job do you dread–but feel great once it’s done?


Am I crazy?

Sharon Ashwood
October 3, 2010  •  No Comments

Okay, so I used to sew. A lot. It’s just with writing and stuff I don’t have much time anymore.

However, Readers ‘n Ritas is having a masquerade night, so I need a costume. I looked in the Halloween costume shops and, well, yuck. Once you’ve sewn yourself, those puppies don’t cut it, and they’re pretty expensive for what they are.

So then I wandered onto the Simplicity pattern site and found this. And I think I’m going to make it by mid-November. We’ll see!!


Roast beast. Or not.

Sharon Ashwood
August 25, 2010  •  No Comments

My parents had one of those two-hot-dog hibachi grills. I’m not sure what it was good for, since it was cast iron and unsuitable for backpacking. I think it might have held half a dozen charcoal briquettes if you stacked them carefully. A burger would have overwhelmed it.

In later life, I attempted back yard grilling, but al fresco dining always resulted in el freezo. I seem to go for windswept properties designed to suck the heat out of food and/or blow dinner into the next yard. Happy crows, sulky me. Consequently, most of my satisfactory outdoor experiences have happened at other peoples’ parties.

One of my university friends had genius parents who could cook absolutely anything in tin foil. There I learned the joys of barbecue baked potatoes smothered in cheese, onions, bacon, and chilli if you had it. As a starving student, one of those babies could keep me quoting Swinburne for a week (three days if it was Milton involved—there’s got to be a 2:1 ratio of energy burn for Paradise Lost).

Other times, once we all got so busy that potluck became the norm and no one admitted to eating dessert anymore, I appointed myself salad girl. It was an easy role to uphold and dietarily correct.

Bean salad is a classic, but can be kind of boring. This recipe definitely is not and makes a good meal:

Cook 2 cups of fresh beans (green and/or yellow) chopped into 1 inch lengths
Add:
– 2 cans (drained) of mixed beans (kidney, white, pinto, etc.)
– 1 bunch freshly chopped parsley
– ½ mild onion, minced
– 1 cup mixed Italian olives (spicy is good)
Mix:
– ¾ cup olive oil
– 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
– 1 tablespoon crushed garlic
– ¼ cup lemon juice
– Handful of fresh chopped herbs (basil, oregano, and marjoram are all possibilities)
– Salt and lots of pepper

Pour marinade over beans and chill overnight.

And (not so dietarily correct) this is the best berry ice cream you’ll ever eat:

Crush 1 quart of hulled strawberries or raspberries. Add 1 cup of sugar and stand for an hour.
Dissolve a package of gelatin in 6 tablespoons of boiling water. Stir into berries. Add the juice of one lemon and cool until nearly set. Fold in two cups of whipped cream and pour the mixture into a wet mold (or just a pan if you don’t wish to get fancy). Chill for 12 hours if you wish to unmold it. Or, if you’re impatient, freeze for a couple of hours.


Tales from the TBR

Sharon Ashwood
August 18, 2010  •  No Comments

Like most people who are fond of books, I have a terrifying TBR pile. Once a year I go through with a bulldozer and decree that if a volume has no home on a shelf, it goes to our local charity booksale. I feel good about myself for a few days, and then new books start creeping in, settling quietly on tabletops and neat stacks on the floor. In a month or two, I’m back where I started. Oh well, as addictions go at least it’s legal.

What’s on the pile for summer?

Vamps, weres, cyborgs – what’s not to like?

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A diet book that actually makes sense. Bottom line: eat organic

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This is an oldie but goodie. I’ve not read the League series before, but it’s proving addictive!

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And of course, some research materials.


Reward for a busy day

Sharon Ashwood
August 15, 2010  •  1 Comment

I love the concept of a day off. Unfortunately, Sunday is Do Everything day around here. Y’know. Laundry. Groceries. Clean. Water the plants. The whole domestic enchilada. The manly vampires that populate my story worlds unfortunately do not vacuum, but instead leave their greatcoats and weapons littering the place. Pests.

However, in pursuit of the day off concept, I read one of the Harlequin Undone ebook short stories. I got a bit of a brain cramp figuring out the download process onto my Sony (I’m a technological nincompoop) but eventually got it figured out and downloaded four of these. Yeah, I love a good wallow in the historical pond now and again, and this seemed like a quick way to gratify my urge for a hot Duke. Sadly, they’re just as bad about the greatcoats and weapons, plus he left his horse in the kitchen, but whatever.

I picked A Scandalous Liaison by Elizabeth Rolls to read first. I started it a few days ago when I splurged on an end-of-holidays pedicure, and just finished it now. This is the only Undone I’ve read so far, but it was exactly right for my mood. The author puts a lot into the brief tale: loss, longing and redemption with just a dash of the grittier side of old London. It was warm and romantic. It delivered what it promised. It was the hit I wanted.

Nice to know there’s a source of quick “rewards” for days of drudgery. Anyone else read these or the Nocturne Bites? Recommendations?


Happy retirement!

Sharon Ashwood
August 14, 2010  •  No Comments

This is the first day of my mom’s retirement. She took some time off when I was little, but otherwise she’s worked all her life and long past the usual retirement age. I’m glad she had the health and energy to do that, but enough! I’m delighted that she’s now enjoying her well-earned vacation.

Not that she’ll be idle for long. She’s already sizing up projects, so I got her a hefty gift certificate from the garden centre. That way she can have the fun of figuring out how she wants to use it. Of course, since I own the car that’s good for moving things, I shall probably be involved before long. I’m popular when it’s time for Christmas trees and bags of garden soil.

Well, I can’t complain. After someone’s birthed me, raised me, educated me, and launched me into the world, I can haul a little dirt.

Have fun, mom.


And here I wanted temptation

Sharon Ashwood
August 13, 2010  •  No Comments

Blogging today at Tawny Weber’s blog and KMN Blogspot

On another note…

It’s natural that when I have a lot of work to do, I try not to do it. Ergo, while I’m facing hefty revisions for Frostbound, bad girl that I am, I’m checking out the fall TV schedule.

I might have saved my time. There are a few things I’m glad to see coming back (Castle! Supernatural! Fringe!) but there isn’t a huge parade of interesting new programming. Certainly nothing like the swath of paranormal-themed shows we’ve seen the last few years. We’re back to sitcoms, cop shows and … sitcoms and cop shows. I like CSI, Law and Order and friends, but yikes! Variety is welcome.


Poopmobile

Sharon Ashwood
August 12, 2010  •  No Comments

No, it’s not my old Hyundai. This article gives new dimensions to recycling.

The “Bio-Bug” is a Volkswagen Beetle converted to run on human waste. It’s the creation of a sewage utility in Bristol, UK, and is the first car in the UK to run on byproducts of sewage processing. If it’s a success, Wessex Water, the utility company that made the car, will have its subsidiary, GENeco, make more.

Assuming an annual mileage of roughly 10,000 per year, it takes 70 homes to produce enough biogas to fuel the car annually. Another project involves recycling food waste into fuel. The article observes that “recent studies have suggested Americans alone discard more energy in food waste than is produced by all of the oil and gas reserves laying off American shores.”

Now there’s food for thought.


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