December 16, 2009 • No Comments
On the road for work today, which meant float planes and Skytrain and who knows what all to get to the meeting hours later. Meeting was brief and successful, which was a blessing, and then there was the reverse trip. That pretty much ate today.
It was pretty when the plane taxied through the harbour because the legislature is all Christmas lights and sparkle. However, I was really happy to get out of the killer shoes and power suit and turn back into a pumpkin.
Baked for the Christmas potluck (coconut squares. Must try one just to be sure they’re up to snuff). Now I’m printing off material for tomorrow’s critique meeting. Not really exciting stuff, but it feels good to be caught up for once.
December 15, 2009 • No Comments
There’s been quite a flurry of blogs and interviews with the launch of SCORCHED, and I’ve been busy, busy, busy. I just turned in a proposal for book four, and I’m still waiting for the revisions on UNCHAINED. Right this second, I’ve finished everything due this week. All I can say is WOW. Maybe I’ll make it to the post office to mail my Christmas cards tonight!
This has been the oddest fall. I’m working at two different positions for my day job, which means two offices in two separate buildings a fifteen-minute walk apart. No, this wasn’t planned–one my coworkers passed away. I’m happy to pitch in, but I’m grateful I finished school a month before this all happened.
But, things are looking up. The new-job learning curve is easing off a bit. I’ve got a week’s vacation between Christmas and New Year’s. All my writing obligations have been completed more or less on time. There’s holiday stuff to deal with, but that’s going to be fun. Eggnog ho!
November 4, 2009 • 1 Comment
I’m always fascinated by the traditional idea that all vampires are rich. Presumably this is a function of two things:
One: they have a castle or two somewhere in Eastern Europe stuffed with valuable heirlooms and
Two: they all get rich because they live forever.
These are of course fallacies. Castles are expensive to run–which undoubtedly explains the mandatory tropes of cobwebs, skeletons and other signs of residential neglect. Housekeepers are expensive. Plus, it’s a good thing Vlad’s a corpse, because heating the old family pile costs a small fortune all on its own. Flogging the family silver on eBay is only going to net so much cash. Nope, he’s better off in a condo.
As far as amassing a fortune over time goes, that would depend on one’s business sense. Just because somebody’s Undead, that doesn’t mean she or he’s good with investments. I don’t care how long I linger on this planet, I’m never going to fully understand derivatives.
I figure the number of financial whiz kids in the supernatural community is about the same as in the human population. They exist, but they’re in the minority. Some will, with luck and experience, have a nest egg for those days when it rains angry villagers with pitchforks—but that wouldn’t cover the day to day necessities of black leather and styling gel. So, at least some of my characters work. Some even like the satisfaction of a job well done.
What occupations they have depends on their talents and skills. Mac, the hero of SCORCHED, was a cop before his luck ran out and after that he remains, more or less, a kind of cop. He’s the type of guy who identifies with his career. My werewolf is a computer science professor, my werecougar a journalist, and my witch had to go back to school because she couldn’t figure out the business side of ghostbusting. What they do is a big part of who they are and how they fit into society. When I say the werewolf is the first of his family to pursue an academic career, to escape the family construction business and strike out on his own, we learn a fair amount about who he is before we even get to the business of being furry. He’s an educator, a dreamer, and a solver of puzzles, and that all comes together in his classroom.
Who we are is a complex bundle of factors that includes the nine to five—be that a.m. or p.m. Because a lot of my stories revolve around how non-humans fit in a human world, the work world is a goldmine for humour and character quirks. It’s also a great source of conflict.
After all, who hasn’t had at least one co-worker who was a good candidate for a flesh-eating monster in disguise?
October 20, 2009 • No Comments
The traffic of ideas between TV and popular fiction is a two-way street. Who started the vampire craze? There’s a perfect opportunity for a big ol’ chicken and egg argument.
My theory is that books are usually a bit ahead in terms of creative exploration because, basically, books are cheaper to produce. Plus, there are more of them, so the odds of a trend-setting dark horse are greater. A publisher can gamble on a book that costs thousands in hopes of another Laurell K. Hamilton among the thousands of books published in a year. A TV pilot costs millions, and there are only a handful of prime time spots available. Really, innovation has become part of a numbers game. There are, of course, brilliant exceptions—Jessa and Annette both mention Buffy—but the vast majority of new shows stay within a fairly narrow creative bandwidth. Those that stray tend to die fairly quickly, especially if I like them.
Of course, if a hot new thing gets legs, the replicas follow. It’s a miracle if the tender new shoot of an idea survives the flood of imitations, which often aren’t as good as the original. I’ve never been a huge fan of reality TV, but the early examples had some novelty value. Pioneer House was actually pretty interesting and Mad Mad House was a guilty pleasure. What was on this summer—not so much.
But how does TV influence popular fiction? TV has the advantage of speed—especially news magazines and entertainment shows—to pick up on what’s on the public mind from one day to the next. Because of the time lag between writing and publication, ripped from the headlines is a little more leisurely for the novelist.
In my opinion, where the influence of TV really comes in is as a testing ground for subject matter. Lots of stuff comes and goes—it won’t be long before we forget all about the boy in the balloon—but the media stories that persist iron themselves into our collective social consciousness. You can start counting backward when you see a big news story, a super-hot trend, or the emergence of a new archetype (a slayer like Buffy, or a hot spy like Jennifer Garner in Alias). In six months to a year, you’ll see their reflection on the bestseller racks.
In fact, I take a paranoia poll every so often. Walk up to any bestseller wall in a bookstore and read the back covers. What are people worried about today? Terrorists? Epidemics? Greedy entrepreneurs? What are they hoping for? Rags to riches, love, justice? Our hopes, fears, and aspirations are all there. Popular fiction is a mirror into our day-to-day minds—sometimes profound, sometimes banal, but I think more true than anything coming out of an academic think tank.
What do you think will be the hot topics a year from now?
October 19, 2009 • No Comments
Although there days when I think the Demon Lord of Kitty Badness would make a nice muff, car polisher, or other inanimate and incapable-of-badness accessory, I love him to bits. He was a rescue kitty with eye infection, ringworm, and upper respiratory problems—a bit too old to be kitten-cute but young enough to be rambunctious. In other words, hard to adopt. Lucky for him, he was a good salescat. When I walked into the shelter, he bounced up onto the scratching post and touched noses, and that was it. He came home and became my resident comic. It took him a long time to settle down and completely trust humans, but now he’s curled up on my feet while I write this.
Companion animals are dear to many authors and readers alike. They show up on their web site, in bios and dedication pages, and sometimes have bit parts in the books themselves. Unfortunately, there are far too many furballs that have a hard time getting by. I recently went with a friend to rescue a couple more cats and saw a lot of sad faces waiting for a home.
Realistically, no one can take care of more than a few of these bright sparks. However, we can support those wonderful volunteer organizations that carry on the work of rescuing cats, dogs, and other creatures and placing them in good homes. One of the organizations in my area is the Greater Victoria Animal Crusaders and, as a tie-in with SCORCHED, my December release, I’m going to be fundraising for some of their furry friends in need of medical attention.
As a preview, here is one of the GVAC’s recent success stories:
Pax was found as a tiny stray kitten. This little fellow was very skinny, couldn’t eat and was unable to walk. He was rushed to the vet where it was found he had about five huge bite wounds that were badly infected. His wounds were cleaned up and he was put on antibiotics. A few days later he crashed and was near death. He was rushed to the vet again where he had to stay for five days and put on an IV and had X-rays, many tests, and stronger antibiotics. It was worth it, though—a healthy, happy Pax was recently adopted into a loving forever home.
And he’s just one of the many furballs that are saved by a little help from their friends. In November I’ll start posting holiday e-cards on my web site at www.sharonashwood.com. For every one sent, a donation will be made to the GVAC to provide veterinary help to the sponsored critters. It seems a perfect way to combine writing and animals, two of my favourite things.
Does anyone have story about pets and writing?
October 7, 2009 • No Comments
I’m not a car person. If I pop the hood, all I see are dark, greasy, and vaguely frightening shapes. On a good day, I can add washer fluid.
So it was an interesting process dealing with characters who were definitely into their rides. Lots of eye-rolling and heavy sighs as I made inappropriate vehicular suggestions. For Alessandro and Mac, I ended up flipping through millions of pictures on auto sales sites until I found the right cars.
Alessandro needed something flashy but classic at the same time. He drives a a red two-door T-Bird with custom chrome and smoked windows. No sun roof for a vampire. He bought it new in the 60s and maintains it himself, so it’s in excellent condition. He never locks it. Only an idiot would touch something that was his. If you tried to eat take-out in it, he might snap your neck.
Mac is a lot less uptight about—well, everything really. He has a black two-door Mustang. He likes her a lot, does the basic maintenance himself, but doesn’t have a lot of time to fuss. He’s not a perfectionist, and spilled coffee only matters if you get burned.
Holly drives an ‘87 Hyundai Pony. I gave her that because I had one at the time and it fulfilled the same requirements she needs: cheap to run, amazingly reliable, and no one would ever think of stealing it. It has manual everything but there’s no question that it will start every time and keep going till it runs out of fuel. Reliable and low-maintenance. What more can a girl ask?
I miss my old Pony sometimes. It was my first car and took me through a lot of adventures. Once its excellent handling saved my bacon when a logging truck lost its load right ahead of me on the highway. It finally started to wind down and it wasn’t easy to get some parts any more, so I traded it in on a Saturn. I like the newbie, but after 20 years together I sometimes feel like a traitor for letting the old faithful Hyundai go.
Do other people have special memories about their first ride?
October 5, 2009 • No Comments
In the world of the paranormal romance, demons are growing nearly as popular as vampires and were-critters. Whether this reflects a desire for the badder bad boy, or just for an alpha hero that doesn’t require plasma slurpies or a chew toy, we seem to be in a Dantë-esque surplus of the demonic. I’m guilty of adding to the horde: the hero of Scorched (Signet Eclipse, Dec 1/09) has his own brimstone moments. It’s not that he’s a bad guy. He just tried to pick up the wrong girl in a bar. It happens.
And, where there are demons, angels (fallen flat as my last souffle) are not far behind. I’ve noticed a flock of the ex-angelic gracing romances these days. Not surprising: Entities finding their way across the old good/evil dividing line is an interesting subject, no matter where they start out from. Romance is often about redemption and, if love is the agent of change, it’s hard to find a reader who doesn’t root for a hero who, after a suitably rocky start, turns out to be good. Not so good he can’t adore his woman’s earthly charms, mind you. A few rough edges have to stay. Otherwise, they won’t fit into our human lives and families.
I’ve often wondered, though, about the practical side of paranormal romance. Case in point: what about the subtle but pervasive sulphur smell clinging to the carpet and drapes after your demon sweetie has invited the boys over for poker night? Will Febreeze take care of that, or do you need to exorcise the rec room yet again? And then there’s that gross head-spinning thing he always does after a few drinks on New Year’s Eve. That never goes over as well as he thinks it does. Boys will be boys, whatever the species.
There could be rocky moments in these happy-ever-afters. Nevertheless, we live in hope. The animal rescue societies can’t hold a candle to the vast number of fanged, furry, and feathered we romance writers have rehabbed and found forever homes. Fortunately, we don’t require a mandatory spay/neuter program.
Collectively, we’ve done good work rescuing the noble lover from grave, pit, and dog pound. However, domesticating the demonic does have a “farthest frontier” feel about it. I mean, after all the ectoplasm and belching of flame, after we’ve redeemed all the bad boys in hell, what next?
Anybody find sea monsters sexy? I mean, we’re talking lots and lots of flexible tentacles here …
October 4, 2009 • No Comments
Yesterday was fascinating – I went to a friend’s house and played recording engineer/the monkey pushing the buttons while other people worked, however you want to look at that. Once upon a time I played with a band, and so had some mic stands, a decent mic, cables, etc. With the addition of a mixer and a laptop with podcasting software, I was a portable recording unit. If I only knew how to use half the stuff, I’d be in business.
Anyway, add two actors and we were recording promo stuff for Scorched. A big, huge, sloppy thank you to both of them for being patient with me and their willingness to play the were-cougar DJ, Errata, and the FM Guy. Lunch was the least I could do!
My only question was why I was exhausted afterward, when all I did was sit around and try and look intelligent underneath the headphones? Did you really think I was actually turning any of those buttons on the mixer?
The results of all this will land on the website eventually … stay tuned!
October 3, 2009 • 1 Comment
I’ve taken some time off the day job to shove Unchained closer to the finish line. This book has had a very disjointed writing process. Part of it was finishing up with school – I kept having to stop and write an assignment or exam. I had a few other writing commitments to take care of. Then, there is promo for Scorched, and the whole living as a functional adult problem. Good for practicing multi-tasking, bad for writing.
So, I had to set some time aside and give it priority. Yesterday, I made the mistake of going to email first, and that held me up until about noon. But, I wrote a complete chapter after taking a walk. I had one of those insights that I really only get partway into a long work – a real sense of what’s at the bottom of a character’s personality. It cleared a lot up for me and I think will make the story a lot more understandable for the reader. Ashe is a fairly straightforward gal, but even she has her blind spots.
If all else fails, always ask the vampires what’s going on. They always seem to know.
September 23, 2009 • No Comments
To me, guilty pleasures are indulgences—definitely things my idealized higher self deplores, because she’s the type with money in the back, the ideal physique, a clean kitchen, and a better working career. But that version of myself is a bore and I switch her off as often as possible. I’m at peace with my baser instincts.
What gives me that sparkly feeling of getting away with something I perhaps should not? What cost too much? What’s a taste sensation I should skip but can’t? Where do I fail in my responsibilities and love it? Stay tuned, because I made a list.
How to be guilty? Oh, let me count the ways – or ten of them, at least.
10. My red boots. Yes, they were expensive imports. Yes, the heels are high. Whatever. It’s my feet.
9. Suffed grape leaves from that little Greek place in Sidney that makes the best darned lemon sauce. Nom nom nom!
8. Buying my Christmas holiday read hardcover and not waiting for the paperback.
7. Hotel room writing sprees. Mini-bar, laptop, room service: go! Of course, I paid a substantial sum of money for that conference I more or less ignored, but whatever …
6. Fashion magazines. Utterly useless. Love ‘em.
5. Horror flicks. Cliché counting is a great drinking game.
4. The BIG bag of red licorice at the movie theatre. Red vinyl! Yum!
3. Going on computer/email/phone strike for 24 hours. Ah, peace.
2. The Friday meltdown: lying on the couch with a book and a glass of wine and ignoring the million chores waiting for me. (Bonus points for refusing to move because it would disturb the cat.)
1. Friends’ nights out with appropriate world domination discussion.
That last one isn’t really a guilty pleasure, but I value it so much it should be. There’s no substitute for conviviality and nachos. We need that face time to catch up, to plot and plan, and relieve the stresses of unplanned adulthood. Diets are blown, restraint programs sunk, but it’s still cheaper than psychotherapy!
I think that’s the point of guilty pleasures–they’re small transgressions, but have a high payoff in enjoyment. Blowing off a little bit of steam is healthy.
Question of the day: When standing in the junk food aisle and faced with enough money for one treat, what would you pick?