Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas to All, and to All, Some Good Reads!

Everybody loves presents. Here's a list of presents from authors to readers--free reads!

  1. Update: December 26, 2007 through January 1, 2008: Free Harlequin eBooks! You can download one book a day.
  2. Paperback Writer's 2006 Free eBook Challenge
    This here is a big, mama-jama list o' free fiction. Lynn Viehl (she of the Stardoc & Darkyn novels) challenged her blog readers to write original free stories for their readers. Also, check out the sidebar for links to Viehl's outstanding freebies.
  3. be delicious by Annie Dean (Ann Aguirre)
    Friends to lovers. Short. Sweet. Hot. There are actually four free stories on this page. I haven't read them all yet--but only because I'm pacing myself. ;o)
  4. Meeting in Darkness by Imogen Howson
    Clicking around on the Drollerie Press site, I came across the cover of Ms. Howson's forthcoming YA novel, Frayed Tapestry. It is a thing of beauty. And the hook is cracktastically hookalicious. That book's on my list. Meeting in Darkness was Howson's contribution to the Romance Divas Free eBook Challenge. It's short, sweet, and I adore her writing style. Also, her freebie, Helen is available at Drollerie Press.
  5. One Night Stand by Dionne Galace
    What happens when they stay for breakfast? (Good gory fun. This story is not for the faint of heart or the weak of stomach.)
  6. The Serial
    No, this isn't shameless self-promotion. Okay. It's not just shameless self promotion. It's a Watch This Space announcement. Tumperkin's two-part short story, the Ring, is on it, and, come January, there will be something new.
All right. That's it, y'all. It is time for me to go forth and shop. (Yes, I know it's Christmas Eve). Here's hoping your Christmas is full of peace, love, and many, many good reads.

P.S. This list is by no means complete. Mostly, it's what I could think of off the top of my head. If you have recommendations for good free reads, please post them in the comments.


Saturday, December 22, 2007


Wow, Part 1: Demon Night
I just finished the ARC of MelJean Brook's Demon Night that I won from Dear Author. I'm still gathering my thoughts on it--there's a lot of plot, and backstory, and detail. I don't know quite what I think of Demon Night but I am certain of two things:

  1. Meljean Brook can write.
    Really. The opening of chapter one was a marvel of pacing and deftly placed detail. It sucked me in, and made me want to reread it a few more times just to admire it.
  2. I want to read Brook's other books.
    Not just because this book was jam-packed with characters from earlier novels, but because I want to read something that's not quite so full of characters and ongoing plot and backstory. As a newbie reader jumping in on the third (?) book, I gotta say, Brook handled all those elements extremely well. But her big, complex world full of angels, demons, guardians, vampires, secret government agencies, prophecies, and conspiracies is like a hot bath--it's enjoyable, but it's also something you want to ease into.
Wow, Part 2: Sundial
I picked up my copy of Carrie Lofty's Sundial a couple of days ago. It's a novella, and a damned good deal at $3. Sure, it's only 67 pages, but there is at least 250 pages worth of longing, tension and angst packed into those pages. Plus, vespas! Also, a hero with a little moral ambiguity, 1950's Italy, and the loveliest final line I've read in a great long while.


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Fiddler and Her Proofs

I should be all aglow with happiness--the final version of Like a Thief in the Night is turned in, and the excerpt is up on the Samhain site. Instead, all I see are things I want to change.

I can't help it, I'm a fiddler. I nitpick. I tweak.

Editor Laurie and the ever-patient Bam can attest, every time I send in a draft, something is different. I just can't help it. Just yesterday, I noticed in Ember chapter 8 that I described fabric as jacquard when I really meant brocade. O, the horror! I can't believe I did that! (Sorry, Anonymous Auction Winner!). It will be fixed in the full PDF.

I can't leave well enough alone. I change a word here, a sentence there. When a question about my main character that wakes me in the middle of the night like, "What does she do when she's not killing people?" I have to answer it.

It's like some kind of curse: Lo, and she shall edit nigh until the very end.

One of these days, I'm going to have to learn to let go. Maybe I can do that by obsessing on my next WIP?

WIP Title: Rohais
Word Count: 7,000/95,000
Current Favorite Words:
Alone of all my sisters, I was not named to honor queens or saints. Instead, my stepmother named me for the climbing rose on the south wall of her garden, with its sweet scent and wicked thorns.


Does the Romance Genre Need a Make Over?

Another great post over at Dear Author wherein Jane wonders if a makeover would get the Romance genre a little respect from the mainstream.

Now, I hate mantitty, secret babies and clinch covers as much as the next gal-who-also-likes-to-occasionally-read- in-public-or-on-the-bus, but not even a tag team of Oprah, Tyra and Ty Pennington could spruce up the genre enough to get it an invite to the Mystery/Sci-Fi/We're almost literature Prom.

It's not that I'm down on Romance. You know I'm not. Thing is, Harlequin's many secret babies, Fabio dressed up like a metrosexual Indian, and those clinches that defy the the limits of human flexibility--they sell. And since they sell, they aren't going anywhere--not unless those of us who hate them rip off those cute calico "bookcovers" we bought at the last garage sale our romance-reading 80-year-old neighbor had (the one where she tried to sell you a whole box of Cassie Edwards novels for $0.50) and stop buying books with covers we hate.

And since I am not about to forgo one of my favorite genres for 3-5 years just to make publishers change their ways, I will suggest that those of us who would like to class up the look of our reading material give up on lifting all boats with a rising tide of respectability and focus our attention on the well-crafted vessels that aren't weighed down by the claptrap and cliche for which our beloved genre is (somewhat justifiably) mocked.

In the comments at Dear Author, I suggested that the Romance genre follow in the footsteps of comic books--er-hem, graphic novels--and think up a new name for books that aspire to a more artistic level. Comic books were long reviled as thinly-plotted, tawdry niche-market geek-boy fantasies. There were plenty of good--great--comics out there, like Love and Rockets or The Watchmen, but they never got any respect because they shared shelf space in dingy, geek-filled little stores with the afore-mentioned tawdry niche-market geek-boy fantasies. And then some clever person decided to christen the good stuff "graphc novels" and the rest, you know, is history.

So here's my question: What do we call our classier, more literary-leaning subgenre of Romance novel? And how do we make it stick?


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Forget Santa Clause, I Want the Green Fairy

Editor Paula Guran on the Juno Books blog did a post about absinthe. It is quite fashionable right now. Damn, but I hate to be a trend hopper. My husband collects interesting liquors the way some men collect baseball cards, and he's been wanting a bottle of the EU-legal stuff for a couple of years. As the exchange rate has only gotten worse over time, I decided it was now or never and ordered him up a bottle for Christmas.

I've been curious about absinthe for a while. How could anyone who loves art nouveau not be? Add that to my general impressionability (I am the girl who started smoking in college because of all those classic Hollywood movies--don't worry, I quit.), and it's a wonder I didn't belly up to the absinthe website and order a bottle sooner.

Then there's the allure of the ritual. I must admit, I am a sucker or food and beverage rituals. Currently, I have tea service in both the English and Japanese styles, Turkish coffee (I start by roasting the beans), South American coco, and, of course, more bar paraphernalia than you can shake a swizel stick at (oh, I just love those itty umbrellas). And I'm really wanting a samovar so I can make myself a good cup of Persian tea (I blame the local Persian eatery, and Marjane Satrapi's Embroideries for that one.) Also, I'd really like some of those little things to make Vietnamese coffee.

I have a feeling I probably won't like the absinthe. I've never been a big fan of anise, and that's a major flavor in la fee verte. But I'll probably like the ritual of it. In the case of my tea/coffee/coco habits, the ritual is as soothing as the resulting beverage. Our society does everything so quickly--fast food, fast coffee, and lots of both as we travel so we can keep going, going, going--it's nice to slow down and take the time to go through a series of steps before savoring the fruits of your patience (this is especially true with the drip, drip, drip of Vietnamese coffee--you have to be patient, or you'll go crazy). And when you have guests, the ritual gives you time to talk while you're preparing, and a good excuse to linger over your coffee, tea or cocktail once it's finished. When you have to wait for something, you generally don't want to just gulp it down.

Anyway, point is...what was the point? Oh, yeah, slow ritual = good. I'll let you know what I think of the absinthe after we open the bottles at Christmas. :o)


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

In Praise of Genre Fiction

If you read genre fiction, you've probably heard the laundry-list of complaints about it from readers of "serious" literature: formulaic, cliche, tawdry, unoriginal, and--worst of all--popular. Genre Haters seem to think any novel shelved by plot or content is, by definition, a lesser species of fiction.

But that's a load of bullshit. If bookstores started shelving "Sprawling, multi-generational family dramas" together, you'd find The Godfather, The Corrections and Love in the Time of Cholera in the same section as the oeuvre of the late-yet-still-writing VC Andrews. Would proximity to the late Ms. Andrews make the first three books any less worthy? Would it make Flowers in the Attic any less addictively terrible?

Genre haters have a tendency to compare the worst of genre fiction with the best of literary fiction, and then acting like it's a foregone conclusion that "literature" would come out on top. And, worse yet, if a bit of genre or popular fiction is particularly good, they start calling it literature. By subject matter and structure, Jane Austen's stories are romances, but, somehow, because they're so very good, they're literature. Likewise, the insanely popular, often maudlin and always melodramatic works of Charles Dickens transcend the author's immense popularity and often trite subject matter (Oliver Twist, anyone?) and wildly popular roots to become "literature".

The way I see it, there are only so many plots and themes out there, and, depending on historical era and geographical location, some of those plots and themes are more popular than others. So what if genre fiction works with a predetermined set of known elements--so does opera. Does musicians and music-lovers hate on opera for all those tales of doomed, stupid lovers? Nope. Opera lovers love the music. The subject matter is just a framework.

That's kind of how I feel about genre fiction. Genre is a framework around which I can let my imagination run wild. If you pick up a murder mystery, you know somebody gonna get killed, and the crime is gonna get solved. But the how, where, when, and why of it--oh, those are some fabulous details. If you pick up a romance, you know folks are going to fall in love, and no matter what kind of crazy shit happens between the words "Chapter One" and "The End" those folks are gonna have some kind of a happy ending.

One reason I like writing romance is that it incorporates elements from every other genre. Absolutely anything can happen between Chapter One and the End--mystery, adventure, intrigue, emotional drama. Romance novels can be contemporary, historical, futuristic, speculative, magical. Romance offers an incredible latitude of possibilities built around the simple, easily accessible framework of a romantic relationship.

The other reason I like writing romance? The happy ending.


Thursday, December 6, 2007

Pay it Forward Giveaway

A while back, Nice Mommy and Evil Editor Angie had a fun contest. She said she would send something to the first three people to reply to her post. The thing is, the winners have to pay it forward and hold a similar contest.

Which is quite a nice kick in the pants for yours truly. I keep meaning to hold a contest (all the cool kids are doing it), but I have this problem when it comes to actually putting stuff in the mail. (Yet another reason I like ePublishing.)

Knowing my natural penchant for postal-avoidance, I thought and thought and thought, and ate a Godiva truffle, and thought some more about how to give something away without having to mail it.

Here's my solution: I do an electronic give away. Instead of oh-so-cute and cuddly hand-sewn items, I will give away cold hard pixels. I have at my disposal, Photoshop, Illustrator, Fireworks, Flash and a lovely new toy called a Wacom tablet that lets me draw straight into the graphics program of my choice.

Maybe you've been wanting a flash banner for your website, or a pretty cover for your free ebook, or an anime avatar drawn in your image. Here's your chance. The first three people to respond to this post get the web-only file type of their choice, three hours of work by me and up to three of their favorite royalty-free images from or to be purchased by me for use in their shiny new file.

Examples of graphics stuff I've done:I did a bookmark for Ann Aguirre using images from the cover of her forthcoming novel Grimspace. Check her kick-ass quote from Sharon Shin! I asked that part of my payment be a signed copy of the book--I am so looking forward to reading it. Have been since I read the excerpt on her site ages ago.

I did the cover from Ember using this royalty free image, and, depending on the version, a copyright-free illustration from the original Perrault version of Cinderella or a curl of smoke as the background.

Then there's the anime avatar, which, apparently, looks enough like me to get me recognized at a LARA meeting IRL. But maybe that's just because anime me also has short hair and brown skin and there aren't so many women fitting that description being newbies at RWA local chapter meetings.

Also, here's the Flash banner I did for Like a Thief in the Night before I got the cover.

Here's the static banner ad I did after. I still need to update the Flash image...

I also did all of the graphics on this blog layout, and my web site (but don't take the website as an add--I did it all in one afternoon and I totally intend to re-do it up nicer when inspiration strikes me. :g:)


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

We Have A Winner

Many, many thanks to the bidder who won the Ember auction with a bid of $35. She asked to remain anonymous, so I'm not printing her name, but I will sing her praises. In addition to being generous, and having excellent taste in reading material, she is a kind and humble person--far more so than me.

Because, let me tell you, if I had something before everyone else got it, I would gloat so much. How much? A lot. Just watch me spend the rest of the week gloating about the ARC of Meljean Brook's Demon Night I won over at Dear Author.

I'm so busy getting my gloat on, I didn't even finish singing the praises of the kind, noble, humble bidder who even went so far as to donate an amount higher than her winning bid to Mercy Corps.

So, let me resume:

Dear Mystery Lady,

I hope you enjoy your advance copy of Ember. Specifically, I hope you enjoy the car chase and the gun fight in Chapter 8. I hope you are shocked and amazed by the heartwarming alien abduction in chapter 9. Most importantly, I hope you are touched and amused by the surrealistic denouement in which Ember wakes up in her bedroom in Lancaster, California and realizes that the whole story was just dream she got from eating pork rinds and pop rocks with Pabst Blue Ribbon beer while watching her little sister's DVD of Disney's Cinderella on a replay loop.

(Sure, we both know that's not what happens, but everyone else has to wait.) Happy reading.

Thank you again.



Sunday, December 2, 2007

The Mysterious F.L.E.: In Praise of the Final Line Editor

You already know how fascinated I am by the whole editing process. Perhaps if I am published several more times, I will become jaded enough to complain about it, but, for now, it's super neat-o cool. My editor Laurie has been great about explaining the process, the schedule, and all that. She's fabu to work with, besides. (You should check out her blog.)

But today, I'm going to write about a far more mysterious person, the FLE. I got the Final Line Editor's revisions on Like a Thief in the Night this week. Wow. She caught mistakes I've missed again and again. Little things that would totally jump out and annoy a reader, like mentioning "bullets" when only one shot is fired. And big things like an anatomical inconsistency in a love scene that I am totally embarrassed to have missed.

On a side note: I always wondered how authors could make such mistakes in love scenes, and now I know: Cut & Paste. The love scene mistake the FLE caught was not the result of me not knowing how everything fits together, but the result of a previous version of the same scene that had the characters positioned in different locations relative to each other. I thought I was being economical by not rewriting the entire scene when I decided it should run differently. I guess now, as a reader, I will have to be a little more forgiving of those sorts of mistakes.

Anyway, FLE, you eagle-eyed woman of mystery--I salute you. :o)


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Thirteen Things I've Done Instead of Writing

1) Reading Books
2) Reading Blogs
3) Working on a new cartoon avatar (right, unfinished & low res. All apologies to the late Alphonse Mucha whom I totally ripped off)
4) Sleeping
5) Eating
6) Day Job
7) Trying to forget I ever saw this
8) Enjoying the 12 days of Kitschmas on Ship of
9) Brainstorming Pay It Forward contest ideas
10) Auctioning one early full PDF of Ember
11) Tormenting my cat with the laser pointer (it never gets old)
12) Running errands
13) Playing Heavenly Sword


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Ember Auction Update:Current High Bid


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Enlightened Self-Interest: the Ember eBook Auction

People seem to like Ember. Some of those people have even said they would pay cash-money for the chance to read it in one sitting. If you are one of them, here's your chance to put your money where your mouth is. Specifically, I'm actioning off 1 (one) full, prettified PDF copy of Ember one month in advance of its culmination on The Serial to the highest bidder.

No, I haven't gone all money-hungry. IT'S FOR CHARITY. For charity, people. Here's how it works:
  1. Starting Wednesday, November 28th, you send me an email naming an amount you'd be willing to donate to Mercy Corps charity. (bettiesharpe at gmail dot com)
  2. I will post the highest bid for each day on this blog--no names, just bid amounts.
  3. The highest bid I receive by 12:00 pm Pacific on Wednesday, December 5 2007 wins.
  4. You, the generous winner, go to the Mercy Corps site and donate. You choose which program your money goes to. Crisis in Sudan, Cyclone Victims in Bangladesh, Where Most Needed--pick whatever program moves you. You'll also get the tax write-off :o)
  5. When you donate online, choose the option to donate in honor of someone. Enter "Ember", and have it sent to my email: bettiesharpe at gmail dot com.
  6. Once you've completed the donation, save an electronic version of your web receipt and email it to me. The web receipt will not list your full credit card number, but it will list the amount you donated and your address (same as if you won a book in a contest, and you had to send in a mailing address). I'll treat this information as confidential and will delete the file after I've seen it.
  7. I send you a copy of the full PDF of Ember--weeks before anyone else will read it, and you (the generous winner) get to join the small and select club of fabulous people who have been kind enough to read Ember in its entirety: Jodie, Bam, Kate R. and My Mom.
But wait! There's more! Along with your early copy of the Ember eBook, you'll get:
  • The smirky satisfaction of knowing what's going to happen before almost anyone else does.
  • The the warm glow that comes from helping fellow human beings who are in need.
  • An income tax deduction in the amount of your donation.
(Flippantly Asked Questions)

But I thought you said Ember was free?
Ember is free. I wrote it intending for it to be a free eBook, and it will stay that way through the end of its run on The Serial, and for the foreseeable future on my website.

Why Mercy Corps?
Because 90% of the money you donate to Mercy Corps goes directly to charitable work around the globe. Because they fund a wide variety of innovative programs. Because they need to feel better after losing the Nobel Peace Prize to Al Gore.

If I win the auction, can I taunt other readers? What about spoilers?
If you win the auction, you can taunt to your heart's content. Taunt early and taunt often, but DO NOT reveal any spoilers.


Saturday, November 24, 2007


Talking with my mother on the issue of coming out of the writing closet/letting people read my stuff, I realized that my whole conflict/shyness thing is totally a control issue. (Sorry to go all therapy-talk on you)

But here's the thing: Writing is the Ultimate Control Trip. I can create a world, and have it be just the way I want. I control every aspect of what I write...right up until the point that someone reads it. Then it becomes theirs.

Unlike my characters, readers can think anything they want. They can love or hate my writing, my story, my characters. They can use my writing as a reason to love or hate me. And I can't control any of it.

How awful is it to go from complete control to no control at all? This must be why some writers hate reviews. Not only does the reviewer take over your work, they then proceed to write about it, and thereby present your writing in a way you might not want it presented.

I never understood why authors behave like fucktards ((c) 2007, Karen Scott), lambasting people who don't like their work and trying to shout down critics, bloggers and/or commenters, but surely, this must be the reason.


It's so hard to give it up. It's hard to know that your work, and you will be judged. And that you have no control over it. I guess I always expected judgment from some nameless, faceless "readership". That I could deal with--that is something I know I can't control. But what about my near and dear? People who know me, people whose opinions I value in my everyday life?

What if they read my stuff and don't like it? Or, what if they read my stuff and decide I am some crazy perv because my stories contain teh sexin'? Or that I'm secretly psycho because my stories are usually kinda violent? What if? What if? What if?

Screw it. I love to write. I'm not going to stop writing because of "What if?" And I certainly don't want to run around shouting at people who form opinions of my work that I don't like. I'll just have to learn to let go.


Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! Spend time with your family. Eat a big meal. Watch way too much football. And curl up with a good book.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I'm Covered!

The cover and blurb for Like a Thief in the Night are up at Samhain. Yay! It even has an ISBN number. Oooh, don't I feel official.

“Like a Thief in the Night” by Bettie Sharpe

Genre: ,

ISBN: 1-59998-865-8
Length: Novella
Price: 3.50
Publication Date: January 15, 2008
Cover art by Scott Carpenter


She’s a heartless assassin; he’s an immortal thief. In another life, they would have been lovers. In this one, he’s her target and she’s his prize.

A Strangers in the Night story.

Death comes like a thief in the night. For reclusive thief Sevastien Aniketos, death comes in the form of slinky assassin Arden Black. But Aniketos has a surprise for his would-be killer—he is immortal. And he is about to turn the tables on the pragmatic femme fatale.

Arden finds more than she bargained for when she sneaks through the window of Aniketos’s glass penthouse to take his life. The immortal thief is no victim; he’s a clever strategist who has set his sights on capturing the lethal lady and making her his own.

Trapped with a man she cannot kill, Arden slowly succumbs to Aniketos’s scheme of seduction, ceding her secrets, her loyalty, and eventually her heart. But when Arden’s wicked past catches up with her, Aniketos is faced with a choice.

An endless life without Arden, or a paltry mortal lifespan with the woman he has come to suspect he cannot live without.


Friday, November 9, 2007

Out of the Closet (a little).

My mother came to visit yesterday on her way down to Oceanside. We did the usual: talk nonstop, clean my house, complain about the government, eat lunch out, buy kitchenware, paint our toenails and stay up way too late talking.

And somewhere in the middle of that packed day, I printed out a copy of Ember, handed it to her and said, "I wrote this. You can read it if you want."

She sat down and read through the pages. She smiled. She laughed. She pointed out erroneous homophones. When she was done, she said she liked it. And that she was touched that I'd dedicated it to her. And that all those other mothers who'd told her, back in the day, that the Disney versions of the fairy tales presented a less violent, less frightening message to little girls could just stick it--they didn't have books dedicated to them.

Aw. Have I mentioned that my mom rocks?

In other news, Jane at Dear Author was kind enough to give Ember a mention.


Sunday, November 4, 2007

It's Official!

My author information and book blurb are up on the Samhain Publishing site. I wonder what the cover will look like...


Saturday, November 3, 2007

Sally Field Moment

I'm not going to go all "You like me, you really like me!" on you, but I am over the moon that folks seem to like Ember, which is running as part of The Serial over on Bam's site. I really wasn't sure. I mean, I like it, but I generally tend to like what I've written for about a month after writing it. With a little distance, I start to notice the flaws--though even then, I'm not sure of my appraisal because I tend to be really hard on myself.

And it's not like I get all that many outside opinions on my stuff. I'm pretty secretive about my writing. To the best of my knowledge, exactly 3 people have read Ember in its entirety--and I've never met any of them face-to-face. You have no idea what a huge step it was for me to accept the opportunity to place a story on a high-traffic website like Bam's. Of course I jumped at it, but I was so nervous. And with the exception of the opening scene, the only people I've ever shown Like a Thief in the Night to are the editors at Samhain Publishing.

Obviously, I have issues. Issues which I really need to get over if I want to keep up with this writing thing.

I don't talk about my writing, I don't pass it around to friends and family asking them to read it. Actually, I don't even show it to friends and family when they ask to read it. The way I figure it, my loved ones will feel compelled to say something nice, even if, say, they usually don't like or read Romance, Fantasy, or Sci-Fi. End result: 100% of the people to whom I've dedicated my stories have not read those stories. Granted, one of those "people" is the supercute solar-powered Maneki Neko on my desk*, but the other 88.5% of those people are: my husband, my mother, my sister, my father and my best friends.

My mother reads all of the genres listed above. But who wants their mother to read stories they've written that have S-E-X in them? Eew. I'll hand my stuff over to my sister any time she asks, but she's a teenager, straining under the required reading of her college courses, and the last thing I want to do is give her another book she feels like she has to read. The toughest one is my husband, who thinks Romance novels are silly, and tends toward non-fiction and sci-fi stories with male protagonists. He's asked to read my stuff a couple of times, and I've put him off a couple of times. If he doesn't like books like mine, why would he like mine?

Like I said, I have issues.

So I'm thinking I need to get out, get together with some other writers, take a class, stop being so damned secretive--something! Because I don't like the phobia thing. It sucks to be so nervous about something I love so much.

*Yes, I really do have a story dedicated to my solar-powered lucky kitty. It's so cute!


Friday, November 2, 2007

Kate Rocks Well

And she's nice, too. So maybe one day she'll forgive me for that silly play on her name. But.Srsly: Kate.Is.Awesome. Bam is too busy, like, having a Real Life or something (loser!) to run her fabu monthly contests right now. So Kate Rothwell has taken the torch and run with it. She is doing a November Contest.

The Big Secret.
(Dunh. Dunh. DUNHHHHHH!!!!)

Prizes include a $20 GC to Amazon or Samhain (If you win, pick the Samhain one and you can stock up on books by this mahvelous writer, Summer Devon.) and a button that says, "I'm a Professional Award-Winning Author".

Go forth and enter.


Thursday, November 1, 2007

Ember Goes Live

The first chapter of Ember is up on Bam's (a.k.a. Dionne Galace's) site. Go check it out.

A PDF and html file of each chapter will be available on my website the day after Bam runs the chapter on her site.


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Bettie, the Duchess

Dear Reader(s),

Good news, y'all. The fires are out, the relatives are safely back at home (with some water issues, but, still, doable), and Yours Truly is a Duchess.

I won the title in the Smart Bitches "Guess That Lonely Heart" contest, but I feel like a bit of a scheming hussy, because I was actually the second person with the right answer--the first poster simply neglected to include the name of the book's heroine in her response.

Perhaps this makes me an evil Duchess? Woo hoo! But don't worry. I won't let it go to my head.

Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, you may kiss my ring. Oh, wait, that's the Pope, isn't it? (Wouldn't it be cool if the Smart Bitches bestowed ecclesiastical titles? Cause I totally want a mitre.) I suppose a simple curtsy will have to do. (See how gracious I am?)

Hugs and kisses,

Her Grace, Bettie Sharpe...


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Until Further Notice

No posts this week.

We've a house full of relatives displaced by the San Diego fires. So far, their houses are safe, but very smoky and without utilities. Thousands of people weren't so lucky. The Red Cross has a special designation set up on their web pages for those want to donate money to help victims of the California Wildfires.


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Short & Sweet: The Not a Review eBook Round Up! (pt. 1)

I ought to get some blogging mileage out of the eBooks I've read. But, I'm lazy, and I procrastinate. Sometimes it just so difficult to put my completely arbitrary and fickle opinions in print. So here's part 1 of a round up of eBooks I've read lately--Short and Sweet. Or, pleasantly tart. Or, like aspartame , with an aftertaste that some people don't mind but other people find foul. Anyway, short.

Up this round: Natural Law by Joey W. Hill, Blackberry Pie by Bonnie Dee, Boundless by Dean, Dee, & Galace, Hunk of Burning Love by Veronica Wilde.

  1. Natural Law, by Joey W. Hill
    I've heard so very, very many good things about this book, I had to give it a try. If you've been under an even more obscure rock than the one I was under, and haven't heard of this book, I'll warn you, it's a BDSM Romance. Given that my stories tend to be a little--shall we say, violent?--you may think it strange when I say that while I found this book to be wildly romantic, I did not find it hot. Ok, maybe a little.

    Thing is I'm not fond of rules in books, because that makes for a lot of 'splaining. And these BDSM people, apparently they have rules, rules, rules. Which, given the sorts of things they do with (and put into) each other is probably a very good thing. Anyway, Hill manages a pretty non-intrusive primer on the subculture her characters inhabit, but that sort of exposition is a stunt which less talented writers should not practice without benefit of a spotter and a net.

    So, teh secks? Not so much. But the romance--the Romance!! Joey W. Hill rocks. The two main characters, they have to get all psychological and shit, finding each other's boundaries, and learning to trust. And there's a BDSM psycho killer on the loose. But never mind the psycho killer. It's the boundaries/trust/emotion thing going on with the protagonists that makes this book riveting, emotional, wildly romantic, and--dare I say it?--sweet. Rating: Sweet as Pure Cane(d) sugar.

  2. Blackberry Pie by Bonnie Dee*
    It takes some kind of chutzpah to set a short, sweet, hopeful romance in poverty-stricken 1930s Appalachia. And let me tell you, friends, Bonnie Dee puts the C&H in chutzpah! Not only did she set her romance in rather depressing (pun intended) era, she made it an erotic romance. And then, girlfriend made her hero a minister! Oooh. Ladies and gentleman, can the Amazing Ms Dee pull off such an astounding feat of Romance-writing daring-do?

    She sure as hell can. And then some. Dee has the chops to back up her nerve. Blackberry Pie is sweet, emotional and hot. Rating: (You knew this was coming) Sweet as Pie.

  3. Boundless, by Dean, Dee, Galace
    Usually, anthologies are like a box of assorted chocolates--there's at least one you won't like. Not so, this anthology. It was like a box of Godiva Truffles, where even the confection I liked least, was still very tasty.Seven Days by Annie Dean
    My favorite of the bunch was Annie Dean's Seven Days. Theresa, an aspiring nun about to take her vows when a sexy devil named Dev tries to tempt her to forgo her vows, and with them, her immortal soul. What a gem! Like Godiva's Dark Chocolate Raspberry Truffle, every element of this story came together to create a treat of pure perfection. Short stories often seem too short, but Seven Days was just right--sweet, nuanced and rich.

    The Straw Man by Bonnie Dee
    A thirty-something rural woman's unwitting wish transforms a scarecrow into the man of her dreams for a single night, but they want to stay together forever. Short and sweet. Despite the brief timespan of the novel, Dee manages to make the Romance believable. This one was like Godiva's Dark Chocolate Truffle. Tasty and sweet, it hit the spot.

    Waking Kitty by Dionne Galace
    I have to admit, I was hooked by this story way back when Bam posted the first chapter in the writing samples section of her website. When hard drinking, skeptical old fashioned reporter Jack meets pink-haired waitress Kitty, strange things start happening. The first chapter is a knockout, but the rest of the story feels rushed. Of the three, this is the story I felt should have been longer. The love story kind of gets squashed in between Kitty's journey of self-discovery and all the crazy happenings. It's kinda like Godiva's Dark Chocolate Key Lime Truffle--the delicious tartness is often too much for the thin shell of chocolate surrounding it.

  4. Hunk of Burning Love by Veronica Wilde*
    You may not know this, but I ::heart:: Elvis. And I ::superheart:: Elvis impersonators. But now that you do know this, you won't be surprised when I squee! like a thirteen year old fangirl after a pack of pixie sticks about Veronica Wilde's Hunk of Burning Love. But please don't write the book off because of my fandom. Hunk of Burning Love is a fun, well-rounded short story. You should read it. Rating:Fried Peanutbutter and banana sandwich, with honey on top. Mmmm!

Up next time: The Dragon Knight by Summer Devon, Hard to Guard by Nina Mamone and Blood Will Tell by December Quinn.

*Just to note, in addition to my usual arbitrary biases, my first novella, Like a Thief in the Night will be part of Samhain's Strangers in the Night anthology along with stories by Bonnie Dee and Veronica Wilde. For me, this is cause to celebrate because my story is appearing alongside the work of two such mahvellous writers. For you, you may decide this compromises the integrity of my review.

If so, please remember the following:
  1. I never claimed to be impartial.
  2. I am being honest about how much I like those books.
  3. This is Not a Review.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Happy Dance

I finally finished the WIP I've been working on for the past 3.5 weeks. Instead of running 12,000-15,000 words, Ember came in at over 31,000. That's a big baby.

Charm is a curse. Love is a fire. And this story? It's is no fairytale.

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
31,304 / 15,000
Time to take it off the old WIP board.

I spent more time on it than I'd planned, but I don't regret it. Ember was sitting on my hard drive at 1,500 words for at least a year. I just could not motivate myself to write it for sale. But once I started writing for fun and web content, the story just took off.

Perhaps the reason for my hesitation was that I have a longer story set in the same world that I like better. The other story, Rohais is also first person narrated. I was beginning to think the narrative voices of the two main characters were a bit too similar. The funny thing is, now that the story is finished, I don't think Ember sounds too much like Rohais.

So, what have I learned.
  1. Writing is fun.
  2. I do not need the motivation of a deadline to finish a story (but it helps).
  3. I shouldn't talk myself out of stories I haven't written yet. Maybe the things I'm worried about won't be a problem.
  4. Some stories run longer than you think they will, and that's OK.
Look for Ember in November.


Excerpt: Ember

If you were wondering which fairytale I ripped off and ripped up to write Ember, this excerpt should answer your question.

I was not surprised when, scarcely nine months after my mother’s death, my father returned from one of his buying trips with a cartload of second-rate silks and a new wife. I wasn’t angry, either. He was the sort of man who needed a wife. He needed stability, love and care. He needed someone to remind him to eat in the mornings and to take him to bed at night.

When I saw the carriage trailing his cart, I’d high hopes of his new wife. But then he told me she was a beautiful, impoverished noblewoman. He called her a delicate flower who needed his care. He told me his new wife had two daughters just my age, and he promised we would be the best of friends.

My father herded half a dozen footmen out to hold the horses, set up the stairs and open the door so he could help his new wife down from the carriage. Her hand preceded her from the dark interior. It was delicate and powdered white, gilded with a filigree of rings and bracelets. Her fingernails were varnished pink. The stones in her many rings twinkled prettily in the sunlight, but I knew they were glass.

My stepmother’s foot followed next. She wore shoes of gaudy pink satin, frayed at the toes, studded with dull glass gems, and capped by a spindly wooden heel that would barely support its wearer from one end of her bedchamber to the other. I do not mean to be cruel when I say this, only factual: I knew her for a whore before I ever saw her face.

...She paused when she saw me, and I couldn’t blame her. I knew what I looked like—my cold expression, my red hair and freckled skin, my black eyes smoldering like hot coals. Her eyes flicked to the torches flanking our door, noting, I am sure, the way the flames yearned toward me though the wind urged them in the opposite direction.

Her face tightened beneath its façade of paint. Her white-powdered hand wavered on the verge of greeting me. In that moment, she realized my father’s tales of an innocent, biddable daughter were spun from the same wishful imagination that had let him believe her to be a noblewoman, and to believe the two hard-eyed whores (scarcely a decade her junior) who peered out of the carriage behind her were her daughters.

“Step-mamá!” I greeted her, taking her shoulders and kissing her powdered cheeks. My lips came away white with a mixture of lead and lard, but it was worth it for the expression of surprise that crossed her face. When my father wasn’t looking, I wiped my mouth on the cuff of my velvet sleeve.

“Come inside, let me show you and my new sisters our home. I know we shall be ever so happy together!”

With my father’s help, the three women wrestled their threadbare satin skirts and listing panniers up the stairs and into the house. I showed them to the parlor, which still stank faintly of burned flesh, and directed my new step mama to sit in my mother’s blue leather chair.

“I just knew you four would get along,” my father said, beaming from the doorway. I hadn’t seen him so happy since before my mother’s illness. “I’ll leave you ladies to get acquainted while I see to the unloading of my latest shipment of fine textiles.”

My new stepmother’s lips parted on a word as the door swung shut. I think she was going to say, “Wait.”

I smiled, pleased as a spider to have so many flies trapped in my parlor. I winked at the hearth and it roared to life, shooting flames up the chimney and sparks onto the rug. The candles followed, lighting all at once.

“Please don’t hurt us!” One of my new stepsisters pleaded. Despite her shopworn satin and powdered hair, she suddenly looked young and frightened.

“We didn’t know,” said the other. “We didn’t know Master Drayman’s daughter was a Wise Woman.”

“A witch,” I corrected, smiling wide to show my teeth.

copyright 2007. Contents of this website are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.


Monday, October 15, 2007

EXCELlent Freebie: 70 Days of Sweat Multi-Project Word Count Tracker

If you haven't signed up for the 70 Days of Sweat challenge, go have a look. It's kinda like NaNoWriMo, except, not a month, not so intense, and more focussed on quality output. OK, so it's not like NaNo. And that's not a bad thing.

Last time around, I made a handy, dandy spreadsheet to track my progress. This round, I'm making that spreadsheet available to anyone who wants to use it. If you don't mind a teensy bit of shameless self promotion, hop on over to my website and download a copy. If you don't have Microsoft Excel, go to and download their Office suite. It's Free! The OpenOffice Calc program reads Excel files (and the Writer program is a great word processor).


Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Tall Order

When I try to recall the Romance novels I've read from the eighties they blur into this weird image of a hydra-headed chimera of asshole billionaires, white savages and pirates--all somehow depicted by Fabio--forcibly seducing a veritable secretarial pool full of foot-stamping, head-tossing, chin-lifting virginal heroines. And, I seem to recall, that for most of those asshole billionaires/white savages/pirate princes, "tall" was 6' or maybe 6'2".

Lately, though, I can't seem to find a Romance hero under 6'4". And don't even get me started on paranormal romances, where the heroes remind me of that episode of Gilligan's Island where the castaways found a box of radio-active seeds and inadvertently grew giant versions of garden variety vegetables. In paranormal, it seems, there isn't a hero under 6'6".

To which I say WTF?! Heroes have gotten super-tall, but heroines have remained small and feisty. Whenever I see such a pairing in print, I imagine the heroine as a fluffy Pomeranian (not unlike my current favorite TV dog, Mr. Muggles) yapping around the hero's feet. If authors are going to keep writing giant-sized heroes, they could, at the very least, make their heroines a few inches taller, too?


Sunday, October 7, 2007

Wrap It Up

Updating my WIP list, both here (right) and on my website, I noticed something: I have 9 viable stories on the ol' hard drive, of which I have finished exactly 2 --two! dos! deux! ni!. I've had good luck with both of my finished stories. Like a Thief in the Night will be released by Samhain in January, 2008. And the editor who rejected Bright said she liked it, but thought it would work better as a longer story (a sentiment with which I totally agree. Keeping that story to novella-length was a bitch and a half. I like it better as a short novel.)

But, really. Just two finished stories? Out of over 200,000 words? That is some lousy track record. The problem with being a seat-of-the-pants writer is that the writing is only fun when I don't know what's going to happen. Three of the remaining seven other stories on my hard drive are in, or very close to, their final chapters. And that's when it gets tough. Writing to find out what happens next, that takes no discipline. But writing when you know what's going to happen. That starts feeling like work. ::sigh::

But, I do suppose that if I ever want to realize my childhood dream of becoming the biracial, American Barbara Cartland, I'm gonna have to pull up my socks and get down to work.


Thursday, October 4, 2007

Validate Me

Today was kinda tough. I was feeling kinda run down with the job. The writing is wrapping up to the point where I'm pretty sick of the story, but it still needs some polishing. And then Google Reader (my preciousss) serves me up the following link courtesy of editor Laurie at grammargeek:

You Scored an A

You got 10/10 questions correct.

It's pretty obvious that you don't make basic grammatical errors.
If anything, you're annoyed when people make simple mistakes on their blogs.
As far as people with bad grammar go, you know they're only human.
And it's humanity and its current condition that truly disturb you sometimes.

For the record, despite what the all-knowing test thingy says, I am not a grammar fascist. I mess that stuff up all the time. But, oh, how I adore a good multiple choice quiz. Once again, I feel validated. (For the record, I also aced this NSFW quiz. And people said I'd never use my history degree. hah!)


Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Can't Talk. Writing.

Can't talk. Writing. In the mean time, please enjoy this photo of the palm tree in our back yard. It used to be rather scary and disreputable-looking. There were likely all manner of yucky little creatures living in its beard of dead fronds. But we got it trimmed--a palm tree make-over! And now, it's practically iconic.

I used to think every Californian had at least two of the following plants in their yards: roses (blooming through January, natch), citrus tree(s), palm tree(s), avocado, Bermuda grass (not necessary, but it's unavoidable).

But, palm trees and Bermuda grass excepted, none of those plants are drought-tolerant. And we are in a drought. Which means I ought to get out and enjoy my roses before they're gone, gone, gone.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

I'm a Geek

Desperate for content, I'm writing a "free read" for my website. I'd originally envisioned a short story of 9k-12k words. And, knowing me, I'd figured it would come in just south of 15K. Today I hit 14,900 and I still have a chapter (or two) to go. I've officially upgraded the thing from a "free read" to a "free eBook". Kinda like the Free ebook challenge PBW did last year. I wonder if she'll do it again this year?

Anywhoo, being the complete and utter geek that I am, I decided to spend my daily recommended allotment of procrastination making a cover for my eBook in progress. So here it is. I even paid for the images I used, all nice and royalty-free legal ($1 each!).

I'm kinda iffy about the teaser text, which currently reads: She paid the price of magic to escape the curse of love. A bit melodramatic, but so is the story, what with the finger-chopping, and all (what can I say? I've seen one too many yakuza movies.).

So, what do ya think?


Saturday, September 22, 2007

Shamless Photo Opportunity

The weekend before last, I was working on my tan. Now, I'm staring out at rain. Rain! In September! Usually things are on fire right about now. I can't complain, though. We need the rain. But I can look back on...the way we were.

Actually, I'm just looking for an opportunity to post a few pictures I took this summer.

Here be Dragons
My husband and I were driving through Chinatown a couple of weeks ago and we passed this dragon troupe finishing up their day. The troupe was spread out over a whole block. The second picture is the stragglers at the rear. They looked a little tired, and I can't blame them. It was hot!

Despite the heat, it was a beautiful day to be in downtown. The air was very clear and the sky seemed as high and wide as my imagination would allow.

I like to joke about the smog, but the sad fact is, in the summer it often hangs around and gives everything a dingy brown cast.
I'm sure that smog is doing something awful to my lungs, but the good days remind me why I couldn't live anywhere else.

Every time I look at this picture (left), I'm amazed it was taken in Downtown LA during late summer--and I took it!

Shoutout to Kate who reminded me that I'd best get blogging. I was unexpectedly out of town this week and busy, busy, busy. But that's no reason to neglect the blog.

I've also been spending my downtime (Travel is great for downtime. Thanks, TSA!) writing a freebie story for my website which the lovely and talented Dionne Galace (a.k.a. Bam, who Swears It's Not Chick Porn) will debut on her site (thanks!).

But here's the problem with doing the author website thing: I have to walk my talk. I love it when an author includes one or two short stories on their web site amongst the usual excerpts and multi-paragraph teasers. Which means, I need to write a complete story for my site.

Write Now
I started up last weekend, and I'm 11,500 words into a 12k to 15k story called "Ember". Problem is, the damned thing's running long. I always start off worried about making my word count, and end up running over it. So I'm editing. I firmly believe you should "Kill Your Darlings" but they're so hard to kill when you only wrote them a day or two ago.

I think I need to find a writing/critique group.

In addition to the writing, I'm reading Wings to the Kingdom by Cherie Priest, who Kate linked to a few days back (see what you did?). I finished the previous book, Four and Twenty Blackbirds before I even got back to town. I was kicking myself for only packing the first one. At the time, I thought I wouldn't even have time to finish Blackbirds, but I forgot that a good book makes you make time for it--usually at the expense of sleep.

This just occurred to me: Rainy weekends are perfect for reading and writing. I think I like the rain, now.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Go to Your Happy Place

I love being a California kid. Granted, the waters pictured are the pristine currents of Malibu, and not the seedy shores of Venice where, as a child, I whiled away many an afternoon, sun-browned and bored off my gourd asking "Please can we go home now?"

In the summer, when Venice and the former People's Republic of Santa Monica were overrun with tourists, I would stare at those plump, ruddy Midwesterners, and sun-shaded, be-visored Japanese tour groups and wonder why in the world people would want to spend their summer vacations here.

People from other places think that summer is the best time to go to the beach. And, sure, it ain't bad. But every California kid knows that the best, Best, BEST time to go to the beach is a hot day in September. The tourists have all gone home, the sun is hot, the breeze is cool, and the water is ice cold.

On a hot day in September, you can have the beach all to yourself. The view for which rich folks pay millions (over and over again--those houses tend to wash away) can be yours for the price of the gas it takes to get there.

Those ugly toes in the picture are mine. And so, for a few hours, was that lovely stretch of beach.

I wonder what the weather will be like this weekend?


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A place where nobody dared to go / the love that we came to know / They call it Xanadu ...

Like the movie (or the Broadway musical) taught us, everybody loves a muse. And if everybody loves a muse, how does everybody feel about five muses? Pretty damn good (love is a geometric progression, yaknow?). So check this out: five scorching hot writers (including my partners in crime for Samhain Publishing's forthcoming Strangers in the Night anthology, the lovely and talented Bonnie Dee and Veronica Wilde) have formed up a blog called Erotic Muses, and they're having a contest to celebrate.

Each writer will give a copy of one of her eBooks to the winner. That's five free eBooks, y'all. Here's what you can do to enter:

  1. Click the link.
  2. Read this week's entries.
  3. Answer questions about the entries.
Good luck!


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

What Can HD Do for You?

It had to happen sooner or later--my darling hubby, who is both an electronics geek and a frugal buyer, finally found an HDTV that met his exacting tech standards and skinflint budgeting requirements. I was happy for him, but I didn't think having a brand new 52" HDTV would change my life much. Boy, was I wrong.

HDTV is the biggest boost my self-esteem has had since that summer when I was 19 and I got approached by three casting scouts in the same week (a week later, I found that two just wanted to pick up on me, but until then, I was floating.) .

Here's the thing: Everyone looks bad in HD. Everyone.

Well, not bad, per se, but real. Average. Not so different from you or me. Brad Pitt has a rough road map of little lines on his face--not the greater Los Angeles Metropolitan Area, but definitely a small city with a complex transportation infrastructure and a pothole problem. Cate Blanchette has freckles and little lines (that only make me love her more). And the cast of Lost? They really do look like they've been trapped on a desert island with no sunblock. Or, at the very least, they look their ages.

Thanks to HD, I have seen wrinkles, freckles, under-eye bags, stray hairs, secret moles, scars, thick make-up and camouflaged break-outs on people who previously looked flawless. Now, when I look in the mirror, I don't feel so bad about the little lines I notice starting in my forehead and around my eyes, the fading scars from the "teenage" acne I didn't outgrow until after college, or the smattering of stationary moles/freckles across my cheeks. People who are professionally good-looking have all those flaws and more.

Modern technology has well and truly revealed the Hollywood glamor machine for the fragile facade it is. Thanks, HD!


Friday, September 7, 2007

I DO Has Internets!

Whew! My new and improved web page has arrived. I spent my free time today making graphics and slapping together pages. All in all, I think it ain't bad for a day's work.

I went with a film noir / pulp novel theme, because that's what I'm interested in, lately. I reserve the right to change my mind.

Go check it out!


Thursday, September 6, 2007

I Can Has Internets?

My editor (God, that's so fun to write!) wrote today with a bazillion attachments and groups and such, including instructions on how to write my Samhain Publishing author bio (squee!). No surprises there, but I listed my website, which, currently, is, well, just an address with this picture.

Like it? I drew it myself to commemorate The Cutest Haircut Ever. When my husband saw the cut, he said, "You look like an anime character." Which I, loving anime the way I do, took as a compliment. And inspiration.

Only problem is, the Cutest Haircut Ever was hell to maintain. As much as I like to picture myself as the sort of woman who will straighten/style her hair and apply makeup every day, I just ain't her. So I'm curly again. I ran to the hairdresser waving the goth-flapper spread from American Vogue's 8 lb. September's issue over my head like a battle flag and Oswaldo turned me into a less frizzy, biracial, supertall Clara Bow. My neck looks twelve miles long. I should draw a new picture.

But all that's beside the point. The point is...What was the point? Oh, yeah: I Have To Get My Web Page in Shape!!! Don't know why I haven't already, except, you know, a glaring lack of content. But I has web chops (used to do the design thing during college, back in the era. But didn't everyone?) and a copy of PhotoShop, and I knows how to use 'em.

The only thing standing between me and a semi-decent web home complete and utter lack of inspiration. I'm still super-keen on my girly-girl blog graphic (the flower, BTW, is Foxglove, so it's not too saccharine) but I feel like my web presence needs to be about something.

So I started asking myself:

  1. What's your style as a Romance writer? Um. Villains are people, too?
  2. What themes do your current stories and WIPs have in common?
    Sex! Violence! Explosions! Sly references to classic Hollywood films. Everything and the kitchen sink!
It wasn't until much later, when I was extolling the virtues of John Woo's Hard Boiled to my HK Cinema-deprived little sis ("...and then, after the villain sets the hospital on fire and his henchmen shoot people in wheelchairs, Hot-Young-Chow-Yun-Fat has to save the babies. And then the baby pees on him!") that I realized where I'd snatched my winking "everything and the kitchen sink" aesthetic from.

Cue the angels singing...Ahhh-ahhh-AHHHH
I want to be the John Woo of Romance Novels!
What the fuck-all this has to do with a web page, I don't know. But I'll figure something out.

Also, have I mentioned? I'm drunk. Tipsy. Glass and a half of white wine with dinner. I'm a cheap date, not an alkie. Really.


Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Accent Confusion

I've been thinking about accents. Namely, how to write characters that have them. Writers usually indicate a character's accent in the following ways.

  1. Phonetic Approximation
    When authors reproduce the sound of accented words, which leads to French characters saying things like, zee instead of "the" and Scottish characters mispronouncing every word that isn't a Scottishism like "Och!" "Lassie," or "ken".
  2. Foreign Phrases
    Authors often sprinkle a character's words with non-English phrases. For example, French characters will say things like, "Mon Dieu! He is a spy. We must inform Le Resistance!" And Russian characters will say "Das Vidanya ." when they leave.
But here's the thing. I know or have known people whose first languages are Spanish, French, Hatian Patois, Russian, Georgian, Czech, Chinese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese and Japanese. None of these people sprinkle their English-language speech with words from their native language. If anything, it's the other way around, as I often hear English phrases mixed into their conversations with family and same-language friends.

Aside from the phonetic differences in pronunciation, In my experience the thing that distinguishes a non-native English speaker is sentence construction, and, sometimes, gendered pronouns. For example, a native Spanish-speaker might say, "I dreamt with..." instead of "I dreamt of..." because "Dreamt with" is a direct translation of the Spanish construction, "Soñar con...".

I much prefer to use word choice and sentence construction when portraying an accent, but the problem is, the reader may be unfamiliar with these cues. Which I guess is why so many authors use phonetic approximation or foreign phrases. What to do?


Thursday, August 30, 2007

Where There's Smoke

There is something graceful about the silver curl of smoke across a black and white screen. Marlene Deitrich's leisurely exhale wreathed her beautiful face in a haze of smoke and mystery. Bogart and Bacall's side-by-side cigarettes at the end of The Big Sleep hinted at what happened when the screen faded to black.

Hollywood spent years glamorizing cigarettes, and even after they stopped, the images cigarette companies paid to produce live on in some of our most cherished films. Parents ranted and railed about Joe Camel when I was a kid, but it wasn't a poorly animated spokes-dromedary that prompted me to pick up a smoke when I "grew up" and left for college. It was Marlene Dietrich, Myrna Loy, Lauren Bacall and a hundred other golden-age actors (most of whom died of lung cancer).

Yes, classic films made me smoke.

About fifty percent of college students who take up smoking quit, and I was fortunate enough to be one of them. I had a brief relapse a year after graduating when I fell in with chain-smoking Europeans (my French friend's secret to keeping her perfect size 6? "Eat less, smoke more."). But smoking is lethal, expensive, and stinky. And I hated the idea of being an addict.

Smartass and I have been watching Mad Men, AMC's new show about advertising executives in 1960. I'm still not sure whether I like it, but one thing I think is genius is the way the show makes smoking look disgusting by constantly depicting smoking. Instead of the silver-screen glamor of Hollywood, Mad Men shows the way ordinary people smoked. Characters smoke while driving, while eating, while pregnant. Doctors smoke during exams, office workers smoke at their desks. It's positively awful. And, I'm told, completely accurate.

Lately, I've been thinking about smoking, and my experience as a smoker versus the glamorous image I still have in my head. In my writing, I often use smoking to indicate a character's self-destructive tendencies. When I'm writing urban fantasy or paranormals, many of my immortal characters smoke. And they look good doing it.

I have my doubts as to whether or not this is OK. When Buffy and Angel didn't use protection on Buffy the Vampire Slayer angry parents lambasted the creator, Joss Whedon. Whedon's response was, the show is fiction. Angel was undead, for goodness sake! People know the difference between fiction and reality.

But that was sex, and this is smoking. Given the power that glamorous images have in our society, is it ethical for a writer to glamorize smoking, even in impossible, clearly fictitious circumstances?