Happy Holidays

Winter is upon us and there is nothing like a cozy blanket, a warm drink, and a good book to help you survive.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Hedda Hopper



Hedda Hopper began her career as an actress in silent movies. She was a beautiful woman who appeared in more than 120 movies in twenty-three years. In the 1930's her acting career began to wane and she needed to find a new source of income. On Valentine's Day in 1938 she became a gossip columnist and Hedda Hopper's Hollywood appeared for the first time in The Los Angeles Times. Her career made her a household name and she made regular appearances on radio and television. She wrote a regular column until her death in 1966. 

Hedda Hopper was a remarkable lady with a stunning career, but this column is not actually about Hedda. The plan is to use her name as a segue into a favorite writing topic of mine...

Today we are going to talk about Head Hopping!



Yes, Head Hopping

What is Head Hopping, you ask.

Head Hopping is when for no apparent rhyme or reason, you switch your Point of View character. It tends to be a novice mistake. Many of our favorite authors did this when they first began, but editors and readers both dislike the habit. It jars them out of the story, and once a reader is jarred out of the story, she may never return. That is not good.

For the basis of this article the romance genre is going to be used as the primary venue, but head hopping occurs in all fields of fiction.

In a romance there are two primary characters. The hero and the heroine. If a romance is written in first person, you only get the POV of one character. (We are not going to discuss omniscient point of view in this column, because it is obsolete in romance.) In the last century most romances were told only from the point of view of the heroine, but sometime around the mid-eighties or early-nineties, the hero started getting more of a point of view and the readers ate those romances up. Sometimes you can throw in the villain's thoughts, but if you do this, you want to give him/her a strong presence, not just throw them a line of two in order to describe what the heroine looks like, how buff the hero is, what kind of shoes she is wearing. 

When you show readers the world as seen by the point of view character, make sure it is important to move the story along, for the reader sees the world through that character's eyes.

Do not switch heads in the middle of a scene. A scene should be told by the character who has the most at stake in that scene. That way you can include their inner thoughts, their inner turmoil, which you cannot do if you give the point of view to the wrong character. (Or-heaven forbid-an outsider!)

In my current WIP, The Billionaire's Counterfeit Bride, I have a scene that has six people in it. Three are window dressing and have no dialogue, the other three characters are the American Ambassador, the hero, and the heroine. It would be easy to tell the scene through the Ambassador, but he doesn't have any skin in the game. In order to engage the reader she has to know what the heroine is feeling. This scene belongs to Cassidy and no one else.

Later in the book, Cassidy has been attacked and is unconscious. Because Cassidy is out of it, there is only one person we can live this scene through, and that is Theron, Cassidy's hero. Sure, we could later learn what happened by having Theron explain to Cassidy what happened while she was knocked out, but then we would not learn how he felt while the action was happening and the reader doesn't have the chance to see what has occurred because she is being told about it later.

Point of view is how we engage the reader, how we immerse the reader into the plot, the feelings, the adventure.

If we want to tell the reader how a character smells and we give the dog a point of view, he may tell us she always reminds him of rolling around in a field of lavender. In this instance, will the reader really relate? Especially if that dog never appears with a point of view again?

Which scene of the following scenes do you think would evoke the reader's compassion more? 

A pregnant woman staggers up to a no-name cashier at the local grocery chain and the cashier thinks, "Oh no! This woman looks like she's going to have that baby right here on my conveyor belt. Gross." 

Or: 

Dulcie felt another sharp pain in her lower back. The baby had been pressing hard on her sacroiliac for months, but it had never felt this bad before. The cash register looked like it was ten miles away. She put most of her weight onto the shopping cart and allowed the wheels to carry her down the aisle. Just a few more steps and she would be able to pay for little Chelsea's lunch. Just a few more steps. A gush of hot liquid exploded down her legs. The sound of water hitting the floor was followed by her heart also dropping to the floor. It was too soon. Much too soon. The baby wasn't due for two more months!

Finally the register was only two steps away. The cashier would have to get the manager to call 911. Dulcie looked into the cashier's eyes and the girl crumbled onto the floor. Dulcie's warped sense of humor kicked in as she suppressed a giggle and wondered who needed 911 more.

Point of view is important. Don't throw it away. Give it to the important characters. You can always find another way to let your readers know that the hero has a tattoo over his heart or the heroine is wearing Jimmy Choo's.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Blank Screen

I love it when I begin a new project and I see the blank screen. That great expanse of white is calling to me, begging me to fill it with a jumble of letters that will eventually become a story.

I, my dear friends, am a pantser. No, no, no. I do not run around pulling men's pants down to their knees. (However, it is a thought to be considered.) In the writing industry a pantser is someone who sits down and writes, no lengthy outlines, no fifty page synopsis, no binders full of notes. Just the writer, the writing instrument, and the words in the author's head.

Each word that hits the computer screen is a surprise and the story can take you places you wouldn't believe. There are times you have to rope the characters in and pull them back to the original story.

My friend Karen Frisch, author of What's in a Name is my opposite. She is a plotter. She writes extensive notes. She shuffles them around, cuts and pastes, until she has the story in the order she wants it, then she sits down and fills in the good stuff that holds the story together. She knows once she sits down that all her research is done. Her plot is set. Her clues are embedded. She has a firm road map and she knows where it is taking her.

Amanda Torrey, author of Teen Fury Unleashed, is a plotster. She does some of her plotting ahead of time, but most of her writing comes from the seat of her pants.


I have one story, I refer to as my psychotic thriller, that I am a puzzler with. I do not work on this book often, but when scenes come to me I write them down and place them where ever they belong in the story. I had actually written the final chapter the same day as I wrote the first chapter and ever since I have been adding puzzle pieces to the middle. I'll let you know how that works out when I have a chance to finish it.

What is your method of writing?



Monday, January 7, 2013

Nom de Plume, Does a Writer Need One?

Today a friend of mine announced on facebook that she has a new "author name", and someone asked why an author would write under another name. As an author who uses a nom de plume I have decided to try to give an answer to this question.

There are many reasons for a pseudonym. The reason Mary Anne Evans (George Eliot) and the Bronte sisters wrote under men's names was so that their works would be taken seriously. As recently as 1997, Joanne Rowling was told that boys would not buy a series of books written by a woman so she became J.K. Rowling.

Alice Mary Norton wrote Science Fiction from 1934 until her death in 2005 as Andre Norton, Andrew North, and Allen Weston. Science Fiction was seen as a man's bailey-wick. Alice Bradley Sheldon also wrote Science Fiction in the '60s and '70s under the name of James Tiptree Jr. for the same reason.

Samuel Clemens wrote under the name of Mark Twain, why isn't clear, there are several theories. I think perhaps it sounded more adventurous than Sam Clemens.

Others like Nora Roberts, aka J.D. Robb, and Jayne Ann Krentz, aka Jayne Castle and Amanda Quick, use different names to differentiate between the genres or sub-genres they write in. (An interesting note, at one time Jayne Ann Krentz wrote under seven different names, but now she only uses the three listed here.) Some of these name changes are at the request of publishers. 

There are some book series that are produced by book packagers. The company puts together a series idea with a free lance writer or writers. The books are written under one pseudonym even though there could be multiple authors in the series.

Stephen King was too prolific. When he was first being published his publisher believed a writer should only come out with one book a year, so he convinced Signet, his publisher, to allow him another name to write under. Thus Richard Bachman was created.

Throughout the history of writing there have been authors who either wanted to remain anonymous to society or have a more marketable name. An author named Illiterate Buttwipe probably would not be your first choice for a book of poetry, limericks maybe, but poetry . . .

I know several erotica writers who publish under a nom de plume. They are not ashamed of their work, but they are teachers, business women, mothers, daughters. They use another name to shield their families and protect their jobs.

Many writers, romance writers especially, have become targets for stalkers. (Did you know that romance books are a big hit with men in prison?) Many authors adopt a pen name for safety reasons.

Does an author's name matter? After all Shakespeare wrote:

What's in a name? That which we call a rose
by any other name would smell as sweet;

While that might be true, would you buy a love story by an author named Glorious Stinkypants or a mystery by Crude Privy?

Just as boys would not be anxious to buy a new book series by an unknown author named Joanne, most women do not want to buy a romance written by a man. There are men writing and selling marvelous romances, such as Howard Lowry aka Leigh Greenwood. The gender of the writer shouldn't matter, only the quality of the writing, but unfortunately, a book is judged by its cover and a very big part of that cover is the author's name. 

Happy reading my friends.



Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Father Time

Welcome Father Time to the Spellroom.

Thank you, Liberty, for inviting me here today. 

What is your job now that the Baby New Year is here?

So many people just think of me as an old man who disappears when Baby New Year enters the picture, but there are always lingering issues and projects which must be taken care of. They're still here, and so am I. I cannot retire until the old stuff is truly wrapped up and put aside. 

I wish I could spend the winter on a tropical island. Maui is my favorite. I love to surf. Maui has wonderful surfing and I get to ogle all the bikini babes. But until everything from 2012 is wrapped up, I'm still shuffling around with my walking staff and a lantern, trying to light the way for the laggards.

What advise would you give to Baby New Year?

Baby, make sure your folks stick to their goals for the year and give them an incentive to complete their goals while you are still young enough to enjoy the surfing. If your people are still sticking to their goals and resolution when you hit your teens in the spring, there is a good chance they can make it all the way, but the tricky time is between your teens and middle age, which hits in the summer. People tend to fall off schedule when they find more interesting things to do like mow the lawn or go to the lake. You just have to help them through the middle age slump and you can start to smell the board wax. Otherwise, next December 31st all the leftovers get rolled over to Father Time and bog us down for another year. 

Do you know that there are some people that are still working on goals from the 1950s? I mean really people! Join PA (Procrastinators Anonymous) and get completion, or just drop the old goals. Baby New Year gives you a chance to move on with your life, and this Father Time really wants to wax up his board and hang ten!

Wow! That is really strong!

Not really. There are too many people wishing their lives away and not doing anything active to make it happen. 

Human's are so lucky. They can do anything they want. They can fly in the air (hot air balloons, airplanes, gliders), they can swim with the fish, they can climb the highest peaks, and yet there are so many that choose to sit on their duffs and say, "why me?".

People, you want something, make it happen, and soon. I want to ride my board and hang with the Wahine Nani (pretty girls)!

What is the saddest thing you have ever heard?

I wish I had . . .

The solution is simple. If you want to do something, find a way to do it, but make sure you find a legal way to do it. I'm not visiting you in jail, it's bad juju.

You were humming a song when you walked into the Spell Room, what was it?

It was the saddest song I know, "If I Could Turn Back Time". 

Stop living in the past and live your life to the fullest in the present. There is no reason to mope. There is so much ahead for those who live life now. Do not wait for another Baby New Year or Father Time to pass through your life. Work for what you want now!

Thanks for having me, Liberty.

Do you have to leave so soon?

Surfs up! Gotta go wiki wiki! 

>>whosh<<

Ah, thank you, Father Time. I'll hang your robe in the closet until your next visit. Nice board shorts.