Ghost of prose past

Sharon Ashwood
March 11, 2009  •  No Comments

Picking out favourite scenes is a tough job because if a chunk o’ prose is working, it carries impact. If it doesn’t, chances are it hits the cutting room floor. Until you’ve tried to stuff you personal War and Peace into a 100,000 word length, you have no idea how cruel an author can be to those lesser scenes. I write long, so usually something gets taken out before all is said and done.

That’s not to say all the surviving scenes are created equal. Some are character development, some action, some purely there for the romance. Others change the entire universe of the story with a single phrase. I really think those moments are what stick with us – Luke Skywalker finding out Darth is Dad, Sam figuring out Frodo’s not going to drop the Ring into Mount Doom, or Elizabeth Bennett figuring out what Darcy was really thinking. Often these scenes reveal deep truths about the characters involved. They’re unexpected, but contain a perfect logic when they’re revealed.

Where do these moments come from? Darned if I know.

I’m what you might call a misty plotter—never quite flying into the mist, but never clear on a lot of significant detail. In other words, I know where I’m headed, but the scenery is always a surprise and I’ll stumble on a lot of the universe-changing stuff when I least expect it. In Ravenous, the answer to one of the major story questions smacked me in the face before I knew it was there. I felt pretty dumb. I mean, I’m supposed to know what’s going in my own book, right?

Some days we’re just the office help.

Someday I might pay handsomely to keep this all quiet …

Sharon Ashwood
February 24, 2009  •  No Comments

Cross posted from

The topic “favourite paranormal stories that I didn’t write” is a bit ambiguous. Does that mean a story that someone else wrote? Or does the “I didn’t write” mean books that I wanted to write, but never got to? Too many of those to list in one blog!
The topic might also mean my problem children—books written or partially written that will never see the light of day. I have at least five ‘under the bed’ books. My earliest full-length, complete novel was written when I was 16, and it was a coming of age story which I believed worthy of common stock in Kleenex. Enough said.
During university I wrote a peculiar novel about a frat house where some of the Romantic English poets lived and attended classes. I also had John Constable and Eugene Delacroix having a torrid affair. There was a beach-at-dawn duel between John Keats and the narrator. No, I don’t know what I was thinking. Probably exam stress.
Then there was one I wrote when I was incarcerated in Secretarial College. Yes, that’s where (during the last major recession) cash-poor English majors went after graduation and there were zero jobs to be had. We weren’t allowed to wear jeans and had to sign in and out. Absences required a doctor’s note. A come down from cum laude, let me tell you.
I wrote, during the particular hell known as typing class, a comic adventure about a vampire, a werewolf, and a tiger’s eye ring. Writing was my means of mental survival and, what the heck, I was typing, wasn’t I? It was a very hot summer, I was stuck in a room with about forty IBM Selectrics all going at once, and the roof next door was being tarred. Blargh!
While I was clerking at the mall part-time, I wrote another historical involving a consumptive poet, an opera-singing count, devil-worship, a secret baby, sorcery and, oh, a few other odds and sods. It had (she says with a sentimental quaver) my first ritual sacrifice scene.
There were others, plus a boatload of fragments, bright ideas and things that puzzled my editor. Yes, I’ve become much more aware of the demands of the commercial market, but I’m glad I wrote for a long time with no eye to sales potential. I had amazing adventures, made mistakes with gusto, and plumbed the depths of cheesy plots—all with no one (except teachers and employers) looking over my shoulder. Now I can settle down and proceed with more method, less hysteria, and a snowball’s chance of getting another human to read it.
Those old manuscripts had better stay buried, though. Good thing I’m too poor to be worth blackmailing!

Cat adventure

Sharon Ashwood
February 23, 2009  •  1 Comment

I had the best job in the world this Saturday. My task was to tag along with a friend and help her make wise decisions about cat adoption. Notice I used the singular.
This was a bit like taking a tippler to a wine tasting. Temptation was compounded by the fact that I wasn’t the one smuggling a hard luck story home and trying to explain it my furbles. This was fun shopping entirely on someone else’s dime.
To make a long story short, we ended up at the pound, just to look. They had a half-dozen or so strays there, but there are hundreds of unwanted cats and kittens in the city that have landed in shelters. Most are volunteer-run organizations. This was a very small sampling—lucky for us, because it was heartbreaking enough as it was.
We went into the back area with the cat kennels and met Samson. He resembles Sylvester, if Sylvester had a bad accident with a weed whacker and was subsequently electrocuted. He’s a long-haired boy about five years old who was living wild, but he was obviously a spoiled pet at some point. He reminds me of a swashbuckling cavalier fallen on hard times. Once the matted fur is taken care of, he’s going to be gorgeous.
And then there was a female chocolate point ragdoll named Rosebud (the name has to change). She had been dumped in the wild, probably because she needs medical attention for one eye. Like Samson, she’s an affectionate, purring sort who had a good home once upon a time. She is a beautiful, elegant animal that really needs a crystal food bowl and silk cushions to complete the look.
After a masterful job of justification, we took both home. Samson was in my lap in no time, playing Velcro kitty. Rosie took a little bit longer to gain confidence, but was checking things out by the time I left that night.
Yes, I really did an excellent job making sure my friend just looked and didn’t take anyone home. However, two needy cats that were abandoned by their former owners found a loving guardian. This was a happy ending. I wish we could have taken them all.

Wretched furbles

Sharon Ashwood
February 22, 2009  •  No Comments

Okay. I know cats can’t read. They’re cats, not people.

However, don’t you think it’s strange that the Demon Lord of Kitty Badness, who has never, ever bothered a book before just poked fangmarks all over the BORROWED copy of Dogs and Goddesses? (couldn’t do it to a book I owned, nooooooo–well, I guess I own it now!)

Apparently, in a house owned by cats, no other divinities need apply.

Food for thought

Sharon Ashwood
February 19, 2009  •  No Comments

Okay, so I had one of those unfortunate blurting moments the other day. I’d gone for lunch with a friend to an okay-but-not-upscale restaurant near work. I’d ordered a bagel and cream cheese, no sides, and coffee. It was a nice lunch, but when we got to the till to pay, my mouth engaged before my brain.

“Thirteen-fifty?” I exclaimed in a squeak. “For a bagel?” Okay, there was salmon involved, but still. That bagel wasn’t even toasted.

Nevertheless, I could have handled it much more diplomatic fashion. It wasn’t the server’s fault the place was engaged in highway robbery, but I was so startled I reacted without thinking.

But my problems could have been much worse. Check this out:

Seems a businessman and five guests went to Milan’s Cracco restaurant and ordered the white truffles. When the $5,000+ bill arrived, he was so put out he refused to pay. That is a lot to pay for underground fungus but, like me, he should have checked the menu before committing to the meal.

Seems we high flyers have to watch out for those luxury foodstuffs these days.

Hotel Dracula – nice, but does it take Aeroplan?

Sharon Ashwood
February 18, 2009  •  No Comments

I’m blogging at on Thursday Feb 19, plus I have contests up there.

(x-post from

I can see my characters getting into vacations. My werewolves would do the whole extreme outdoorsy thing, Holly would want to go to a shopping mecca, and the vampires would opt for a tour of the Paris catacombs. Monsters need vacations as much as anyone else does, and one of the huge benefits of integration into human society would be freedom of movement—also known as the right to rack up humungous, over-inflated hotel bills and deal with snippy concierges.

Tour agencies catering to the bump-in-the-night crowd would soon spring up. Transylvania package tours (Visit the homeland! See where it all began!) would quickly outnumber the Mexican sun fun vacations. Specialized airline carriers (sun-proof windows, no flights during the full moon, in-flight catering best left unexplained) would rapidly emerge.

Yet there would surely be glitches. Dealing with the passport office is a challenge at the best of times. Imagine trying to provide proof of identity when you were a peasant born in a mud-floored hut back in the middle ages. Then there’s airport security. No one but an idiot would try packing a broadsword in carry-on, but what about the fangs and claws? Are werebeasts subject to classification and quarantine as live animal cargo, or will a rabies tag suffice? Can a witch only pack mini-potions that fit in those stupid baggies?

Then there’s the danger of layovers and delays, when vampires go from tourist to luggage. As the sun comes up, the airline officials walk the winding line-ups of disgruntled travellers, issuing complimentary body bags for the vamps and coffee for their human companions. Not a pretty sight.

Still, the world holds plenty of surprises and mysteries, even if you’re millennia old, and what’s the point of an extra-long life if you can’t explore? In a world where magic literally lives next door, there’d be even more to see. Of course, this new wave of tourism would bring consequences, including publicity and endorsement deals for The Loch Ness Monster and Ogopogo. They’ve already noticed Sasquatch has his own beer commercials.



So that was winter …

Sharon Ashwood
February 11, 2009  •  No Comments

First of all, another guest blog announcement – Thursday, Feb 12, I’m at and there will be another copy of RAVENOUS up for grabs.

I’ve finally managed to catch my breath.  I feel like I spent October/November racing for a book deadline, then there was snow storms and Christmas, then I spent January and up to last Saturday polishing off a course.  Last week was the exam plus the launch of RAVENOUS. Somewhere in there I changed agents. Life has been full.

One might ask why the heck I’ve been doing courses as well as writing and working full-time. Well, before I had any idea that I would actually get published, I was in a job I didn’t like much. There was an opportunity through my work to take upgrading on their dime. I grabbed the chance and started stuffing my head with finance courses.  I got a job I like much better, and I only have one more course to go before I get my certificate. It’s all good, except for the fact that going back to school–even part time–looks very different when one has been out in the real world for a while.

Rant warning:

I think the biggest thing I notice is how impatient I am. I want the facts, I want them now, and I want to know exactly what’s expected of me. I expect my tutors to be quick, courteous, and accurate. I want value for money, engaged instructors, and the means to make what I learn relevant to my job.

Apparently, I am dreaming. I don’t remember my old university being this sadly out to lunch, but this one is on a downhill slide. I’m doing correspondence, so the materials we’re provided are key to to the learning experience.  What started as a few typos in the answer key has degenerated to things like scrambled answers on the multiple-choice mid-term, references to audio-visual aids that simply aren’t there, and waiting up to a month for some basic assistance from the tutor. I’m starting to feel like I’m learning in spite of the course.

End rant.

Of course, sometimes what one learns has nothing to do with the class at hand. I recall a former music teacher who listened to my grumblings about how I was scrambling from  commitment to commitment. She said, quite calmly, “So you’re busy. That means you’re interested in things. After all, what else would you be doing with your life?”

I think about her a lot.

Just a bloggin’ fool

Sharon Ashwood
February 5, 2009  •  2 Comments

Today I’m over at To Be Read ( and tomorrow at Yankee Romance Reviews (  Copies of RAVENOUS are up for grabs, so come on down ….

More strange science

Sharon Ashwood
January 29, 2009  •  No Comments

Okay, so we’ve all seen Jurassic Park and know that no good can ever come of hatching dinosaur eggs.

 Nevertheless, like the nightie-clad heroine in a horror film, somebody just HAS to go into the dark basement of science and see what extinct critters they can conjure up out of archeological DNA.

 So, the exotic pet market can stay tuned. Want a woolly mammoth? There’s apparently a mammoth genome project with a genetic map on the way. I just hope they simultaneously recreate woolly mammoth food. I doubt our modern plants are quite the same.

 Not so much of a problem for the proposed saber-toothed tiger, who could have a tasty scientist to go if kitty kibble doesn’t turn his crank. Apparently lions are close enough relatives that one could serve as a surrogate mom.

 Speaking of which, one of us could be an incubator for a brand-new Neanderthal baby, though I’m not sure they’ll get a whole lot of volunteers. Some might even claim to already have a few teenaged models living in the basement.

 Other interesting possibilities include the short-faced bear (a third taller than a polar bear), the Tasmanian tiger (actually a marsupial), a glyptodon (armadillo as large as a car), a woolly rhino, the dodo, the giant ground sloth, the moa (ostrich-type bird), the gigantic Irish elk, the giant beaver (why?), and the gorilla. Yup, the gorilla’s populations have dwindled to the point that they’re collecting DNA just in case.

 There are problems with the quality of extant DNA and in finding suitable surrogate mothers. The odds aren’t great for successful resurrection in some cases, but the idea of seeing some of these beasts on the hoof is admittedly intriguing. Ethical questions aside, there’s a little kid inside that really, really wants to see a saber-toothed tiger. From a safe distance.

Novelists Inc.

Sharon Ashwood
January 20, 2009  •  No Comments

Today is my first time blogging at Novelists Inc.! The link is here: and the topic is Novels: More than clever devices for trapping and holding house dust.

Please come visit!