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.