Meet My Main Character: Annabeth

Nadine Lewington is who I would pick to play Annabeth. She's been my muse for the character all along.
Nadine Lewington is who I would pick to play Annabeth. She’s been my muse for the character all along.

Since I was tagged twice in this hop (by Malcolm Noble and J.F. Ridgley – have a look at their main characters, please), I’m introducing two main characters. Today, I’m please to introduce you to Annabeth, the main character of my new romantic comedy, He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not. (Don’t forget to visit my main blog to meet Guinevere, the main character of my historical fantasy trilogy.)

What is the name of your character? Is she fictional or a historic person?

Annabeth Coe. She’s a fictional character.

When and where is the story set?

Modern-day Chicago.

What should we know about Annabeth?

Annabeth is a die-hard romantic who believes in soul mates. In fact, she’s been writing letters to hers since she was a teenager.  Now in her mid-thirties, she’s still waiting for “the one.” She’s a successful copywriter at a PR firm and has many close friends, but longs to find someone to spend her life with.  She wants to fall in love, but was deeply hurt by her first love and so doesn’t trust easily.

What is the main conflict? What messes up her life?

When Annabeth meets a handsome man on her birthday but he doesn’t ask her out, she vows to do everything she can in the next year to meet her soul mate.  This leads to many awkward and hilarious dating incidents, culminating in a relationship that just might last and the unexpected reappearance of her handsome birthday boy. Right when she thinks she’s finally found the right guy, her first love comes crashing back into her life, turning her world on its head and forcing her to face all of her old insecurities – along with her unresolved feelings for him.

What is the personal goal of the character?

She wants to find love and get married. She’s ready – her career is in order, she’s fulfilled in all other ways, but the guy just hasn’t appeared yet. Since he hasn’t found her, she’s determined to find him.

When can we expect He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not to be published?

I don’t know. It’s going to my agent in a week or two. Hopefully soon! I’ll be sure to post here when I know.

Who’s next in this blog hop?

This hop started with historical fiction writers, but I’m breaking the mold and tapping all my fellow Spellbound Scribes. If they don’t have something else already planned for their next posts, maybe they’ll introduce us to their main characters!

Do you have any questions about Annabeth or her story? If so, please ask away in the comments!

Coming of Age

a5dd6-mostwonderfulstorybellegifIt’s no secret that I both read and write a lot of young adult literature spanning a variety of sub-genres. There’s no single reason that I favor this genre above others, and sometimes it can be difficult to explain to others why so many of the novels closest to my heart happen to be YA. But if I have to choose the most important reason, it is the element of growth and transformation that is the hallmark of most great YA literature.

The teenage years are a terrifying, turbulent, and often excruciating time. Childhood fades into the past as adulthood looms alarmingly close. Emotions run high, borne on the rushing tide of hormones and naively conceived expectations. First loves and newfound joys are all-consuming; disappointments and heartbreaks are earth-shattering. And amid the elation and tragedy and pride and loneliness, there is transformation. Young adult literature is overwhelmingly about this coming-of-age metamorphosis from childhood to adulthood that every person must survive.

Classically known as a bildungsroman, a coming-of-age story follows the development of a young individual as they navigate the unfamiliar world of adulthood. Evolving from folklore tales of the dunce or youngest son venturing from home to seek his fortune, the genre often features an emotional difficulty that triggers the difficult journey towards maturity and understanding necessary for the character’s self-growth.

freaksNot every young adult novel follows this formula precisely, but the basic format of the coming-of-age story is overwhelmingly present in the genre. Think of the last YA novel you read. I can almost guarantee that regardless of whether it featured vampires or werewolves, witches and wizards, or regular old angst-ridden teenagers, it mostly told the story of a young person overcoming difficulties and growing into someone stronger, wiser, and more mature than they were before.

Granted, the modern coming-of-age story is a lot different than the classic bildungsroman. Tom Jones and Pip Pirrip and Jane Eyre have been replaced by Katniss Everdeen and Harry Potter and Hazel Grace Lancaster, teens whose worlds threaten them with actual physical dangers in addition to the emotional pangs and situational difficulties of growing up. Teens who occupy dystopias and paranormal worlds and modern cities, who face monsters and villains and cancer and sex.

But in the end, are these stories so different from the classic journeys of growth and self-discovery written two hundred years ago? And are we as readers any less fascinated by the complications of young adulthood and the turbulent teenage years? I don’t think so, because really, the coming-of-age story has no expiration date. Aren’t we all coming-of-age in some way or another long after our difficult teen years are long past, seeking positive transformations in our lives, trying to grow and change with each passing year?

Coming-of-age isn’t something a person grows out of, no matter their age. And that’s why I don’t think a person ever grows out of young adult literature, either. Because the difficulties faced by the teens in YA novels are metaphors for our own difficulties as we seek to grow and change well into adulthood.

Do you enjoy the coming-of-age genre? Why do you think YA literature has experienced a boom in recent years? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

The Romance Hero, or, The Man With The Biggest Hands In The World

Like every good author, I try to read in my genre. For me that means romance, and there seems to be a unifying theme in the last few books I’ve picked up.

The Big Corn And Pea Man

The heroes are HUGE.

Just yesterday I finished Bitter Spirits by Jenn Bennet. Lovely book. Loads of fun. Would read more by the author in a second. But damn, is the hero Winter Magnussen ever a big man. He’s described as a bear, as a wall, as a bull.

And yeah, in case you were wondering, ALL of his anatomy is proportional.

In contrast, the heroine Aida is petite, delicate, fragile. She’s spunky, and saves his butt more than once, but there’s always the feeling he might break her if he moves wrong.

Along the same lines, a couple weeks ago I read Silk Is For Seduction by Loretta Chase. A 2012 RITA finalist, it’s a grand book that did a tremendous job of carrying me back to 1830s England. And our hero, the Duke of Clevedon? He’s tall, and broad, and his hands are large. In fact, there were so many descriptions of his exceptional size, with particular attention to his big hands, that by the end the visual I had was of a pale, curly-haired Shaquille O’Neal dressed in Regency garb.

Perhaps not the image the author was after…

And like Bitter Spirits, the heroine in Silk is petite and feisty. I liked her and I liked the story, but as a writer, I had to wonder about the subtext. I think it’s pretty clear that by creating characters who are at the extremes when it comes to size, authors are throwing cultural expectations into hyperdrive. For some perspective, here’s a quick quote from a highly authoritative source (eHarmony.com):

“For example, taller men may be seen as more powerful and attractive, so women who are with taller men benefit by attaining a higher social status.  In addition, if height signals physical dominance, it is likely that taller men make women feel smaller, protected, and perhaps more “feminine” as well.”

Readers identify with the POV character, and these books seem determined that for the time it takes you to finish the book, you’ll see yourself as 5’1” and 105 pounds with a big ol’ stud of a man trying to get you into his bed.

It kind of creeps me out a little. Because of the extreme emphasis on size, there’s an underlying dominance/submission thing that makes me uncomfortable. It’s one thing to feel feminine and protected, quite another to worry about getting broken.

Night Circus

Not all books roll that way. Delphine Drydens BDSM/Erotic romance The Theory Of Attraction has an overt D/s storyline, and while yeah, Ivan is taller than Camille, his dominance comes from an intellectual/emotional place rather than being a result of his physical size. (And if you haven’t read Theory, you really should. It’s one of the best examples of integrating the D/s lifestyle into a character that I’ve ever come across. You end up with the feeling that Ivan pretty much had to be a Dom, that nothing else would have worked for him.)

I also don’t generally find the same subtext in m/m romance. In Hainted, Jordan L. Hawk’s fabulous book about magic workers in Appalachia, Lief is taller than Dan. There are a few references to the height difference, mostly in terms of how comfortable it was for Dan to rest his head against Leif’s shoulder. Both characters are powerful men. They have different abilities, but if somehow things changed dramatically and they started scrapping, I’m not sure which one would come out the winner.

In fact, I tried hard to think of a romance hero who WASN’T a really big guy, and the closest character I could come up with is Micah, one of Anita Blake’s boyfriends. Though he’s not technically a romance hero, he’s handsome, hung, and just about the same height she is (~ 5’3″). Their partner Nathaniel’s only about 5’7″, which makes him the giant in the threesome. And you know what? While I get that Anita’s very attracted to both of them, they do NOTHING for me. I love Micah’s emotional maturity and I love Nathaniel’s ability to ground Anita, and I’ve sure read my share of sex scenes involving them, but meh. Can’t see myself in Anita’s shoes, and not just because she’s not wearing any and in the middle of several men at once…

So as usual in my blog posts, I make some observations but don’t really have any conclusions. What do you think? Have you read books where the hero is a giant and the heroine is tiny? Do you enjoy that kind of energy, or does your inner feminist rise up screaming? Conversely, can you think of a romantic hero who’s NOT a bug guy?

It’s food for thought, if nothing else…

Peace,
Liv

 

Five Ways to Refuel Your Tank

torch, flame, creative commons
CC Image by panther40k.

We all get a little drained sometimes.

Sometimes work or life or circumstances can take a deep toll on your psyche, your creativity, and your energy in general. Another way of putting it that’s a little less New Age-y is: stress sucks.

There’s not much we can do to completely avoid stress. Some things are out of our control, and even things that are within our purview to change can sometimes cost us energy and focus. The best we can do sometimes is to deal with it. As I’ve been going through a bit of a time of stress in the past few weeks, here are a few ways to recharge your inner battery.

1. Spend time with a friend.

Even as an introvert, sometimes the best thing I can do for myself is get out of my own head and spent time with someone who really gets me. With the internet, it’s even possible to do that long-distance, with Skype or Google Hangouts. When I doubt myself or need to remind myself of who I am, I look to the people closest to me. In fact, my long-held tradition of long-distance movie nights with fellow Scribe Kristin McFarland are one of my best secrets to dissolving stress.

Whether it’s a day out of the house or a night on the town or an afternoon in pajamas, spending time with friends can help you relax, recharge, and get back to yourself.

2. Do something for you.

Been eyeballing a spa day? Dreaming about seeing a certain band? Sick of telling yourself you’ll go to that museum? Or hell, maybe you need to go to the shooting range and blow off some steam.

Whatever activities make you happy, do one. Or several. I’m not going to judge anyone for going to the shooting range before they go to the spa and the opera.

3. Block out some quiet time.

This can be a good exercise for introverts and extroverts alike. Giving yourself a set block of time where you will leave your problems outside can be a challenge. Curl up with a book or take a bath. Escape into another world for a few hours. Give your brain the time to breathe away from the constant stimulus of stress.

4. Make something.

You don’t have to be Martha Stewart, but creating something from scratch, be it a new meal or a painting, can help you feel a sense of accomplishment. Maybe you haven’t picked up your knitting needles in a while. Or you feel like returning to the joy of macaroni art. Or you want to build a birdhouse. When the stress in your life feels nebulous and out of control, doing something creative is a task you can finish and admire. Creating something uses different parts of your brain, and when you’re done you have something tangible. Plus, if it’s food, you get to eat it.

5. Sweat.

Exercise is good for a lot of things. It releases endorphins, helps your body, and can help clear your mind. It’s also another thing that can help your sense of accomplishment and adventurousness. When life is doling out things you can’t immediately conquer, taking to the treadmill or lifting some weights is a small thing you can do to take control. You’re only competing against yourself, and if you feel like adding another layer to it, picture that stress coming out through your pores as you sweat. Each burn of the muscle burning through an obstacle in your life.

None of these ways are magic elixirs that will restore you to 100% mana and health; unfortunately those tend to be limited to video games (video games can also be great stress release!). But making sure to take care of yourself and recenter yourself in times of stress can allow you to get through a day at a time with a little more woo-sah and a little less frazzle.

How do you refuel your tanks when life gets you down? 

 

My Writing Process – Blog hop

Hello all! Today I’m joining in on the “WIP Blog Hop” as I was tagged by Nicole Evelina. You can check out her own post about this here.

Basically I’m going to tell you about my writing process and what I’m working on right now. Hopefully you find it interesting and, maybe, even a little helpful in your own process.

  1. What am I working on?

WOA (1)The simple answer: the sequel to World of Ash, my Paranormal Post-Apocalyptic NA novel. I am at that weird place of finishing my own first draft revisions before sending it off to my editor. My editor will get her paws on it this Tuesday and she’ll send it back to me, bleeding with red ink, before I send it to betas.

 

 

  1. How does my work differ from others of this genre?

In a few ways actually. First, the age category: New Adult. My main characters are all hovering around the age of 20, which fits nicely in the New Adult category (too old for Young Adult, not quite old enough for Adult). NA is still a new landscape and some books are leading the charge, but most of the more successful of these books are in the Romance genre. Frozen_itstrueloveNot all, but most. My series, while it has a strong Romance subplot in it, is not a Romance. It’s Paranormal and Post-Apocalyptic.

Secondly, it differs in the Post-Apocalyptic genre. I went a totally different way with this. You’ve seen so many zombies, government take overs, revolutions, nuclear wars, man-made catastrophes that destroy the world, I didn’t want to rehash the same story.

In my story, the end of the world comes on the back of plague bearers taken from Scandinavian folklore: Pestas. Cloaked creatures that breathe pestilence and death, stealing through the night to claim their victims and then let urban population do the rest.

DeanSamScurred

  1. Why do I write what I do?

This was a new world for me when I first sat down to write World of Ash. My bread and butter is Urban Fantasy with many people and creatures that have powers and magic. In this world, only the Pestas wield any kind of supernatural powers. It’s difficult, I have to admit, to hinder my characters by keeping them normal and just trying to figure out how to survive in this new world. But, one day, after finishing two UF manuscripts, back to back, I had a vision of my main character, Kat, staring into a broken mirror. The room around her showed signs of a fire, her eyes were bloodshot and shadowed by fear and lack of sleep, and her hair was stringy and greasy. I knew the world had ended when I saw her in my mind and I didn’t know how it happened. I wanted to know.

Sometimes a whole story will coalesce in your mind and you just have to sit down and get it out before you lose it, but sometimes a character will just walk into your mind, ready to tell you their story. Kat came to me, with her story of the end of the world, and I wanted to write it down.

4. How does my writing process work?

Oof. That’s a complicated question. It has changed so much over time.

When I first started out, I was pantser – I just sat down and wrote, without an outline or notes, just writing until I hit my goal. Back then, if I tried to write with an outline, I lost the immediacy, the urgency, of getting the story out. That’s how I wrote my first three and a half books.

Now I like outlines. Now I almost need an outline to work. When a story comes to me, whether the nugget of an idea, a character, or a whole thing, I sit down with a legal pad and a pen and take a day or two or a week, to get that outline written. Sometimes it’s detailed, sometimes it’s just a skeleton to keep me on the right road through the mountains, but it’s something to follow. Then, when I know I have enough of an outline to get me going, I take one day (just one!) to build a playlist for the book. At least an hour’s worth of songs, that capture the tone of the book. As I write, as I learn the characters’ personalities, as I learn the details of the relationships, I’ll add more and more songs.

On that same day, I’ll head to Pinterest and start an inspiration board. This is a new one, but it really helps when you have a big cast of characters or multiple series you’re working on – you can pin pics of people who look like your chars for reference later, and you can pin locations and structures that help you visualize what you’re writing about.

Once all that’s done, it’s time to write. And write. I treat writing like a job and go to work every day of the week and take the weekends off. I set a word goal for myself, usually 2,000-2,500 words and I write (usually in sprints with other writers), until I hit that goal or surpass it, if the words are flowing. I don’t make excuses to not write. I don’t’ wait for my muse. I don’t have to have the perfect conditions. I just turn on the playlist and put fingers to keys and get that damn first draft written.

Why Friends Ended Up Kicking HIMYM In the Pants

In case you’ve been living under a rock (or just don’t like sitcoms), last week saw the long-anticipated end of How I Met Your Mother’s nine-year run.

why god gif

And it sucked. It blew major chunks. It bit monkey butt. It died kind of like—

Oh, wait. If you haven’t seen it and don’t want spoilers, STOP NOW. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. HERE BE SPOILERS FOR BOTH HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER AND FRIENDS. Though if you don’t want to be spoiled on a show that ended a decade ago, um, well, just go somewhere else.

Okay.

So, HIMYM ended with the eponymous Mother dying (offscreen no less) and the show writers undoing nine years of character development for not one, not two, but THREE characters. What started out as a grand deconstruction of the sitcom ended up being a mockery of viewers’ expectations and a cliched perpetuation of the boy-meets-girl-and-traditional-moralities-win scenario.

The day after the finale, I promptly turned on Friends, which, as it turns out, is the last great sitcom. And here’s why:

friends hug

1. The overall plot and character arcs remained fluid over the course of the show. The ultimate problem with HIMYM’s was the show runners’ commitment to an ending they wrote and filmed five years before the show actually ended. At the end of season 2, Carter Bays and Craig Thomas decided that the best, most desirable ending was for future-Ted to say, “Psych! This is the story of how I met your mom, she died pitifully, and I told you I wanted to hook up with your Aunt Robin.” While viewers might have been happy to hear that at the end of season 2, when we knew and loved Robin but hadn’t even learned a single damn thing about Tracy, the mother we would come to know and adore. On the other hand, Friends developed story arcs year by year, and, with the possible exception of the Ross-Rachel ending, cultivated endings that worked both for the characters and the audience. Which leads us to…

2. The writers worked to please the audience without compromising the show’s integrity. When Rachel and Joey finally kissed, fans hated it. HATED IT. So what did the writers do? They walked it back. The characters realize that the obstacles complicating their relationship (friendship, history, and lack of chemistry) make them better friends than romantic partners. By contrast, when Monica and Chandler hooked up, fans LOVED it… because that relationship worked and made sense. Although that relationship was intended to be short-term, the show kept that plotline because of the fan response. Generally fans ship or don’t ship for a reason, and when we hate a relationship, it’s because it either doesn’t work or it just isn’t believable. If, in season 2, HIMYM fans wanted Ted and Robin to end up together, we had seven more years to advocate for Robin and Barney, and Ted and “the mother,” a character the show made us love. Things change, and so do fan opinions.

3. Character development was gradual, believable, and sustainable. It takes Chandler six years to become a man who was willing and able to date a woman like Monica. Through a succession of gradually improving relationships, he matures into a stable man who not only wants a relationship, but also works to make it as good as he can. Unlike Barney, he never undergoes a lightning-bolt moment of change—and, on the other hand, when he ends up committing to Monica, the show never undoes it. Barney wasn’t, in the end, capable of sustaining a monogamous relationship, but HIMYM didn’t prepare us for that U-turn. The end of Robin and Barney’s marriage was, perhaps, inevitable and realistic, but we had no reason to believe that in the build-up to the end. The divorce came like a slap in the face, and all to serve the writers’ desired ending.

ass

4. Rather than marginalizing “supporting” characters, the show built up and eventually equalized the treatment of the entire cast. While the network pushed for a “primary” plot line with two characters, and some viewers might argue that the Ross-Rachel story is the most important, most fans will argue (alongside the producers and the cast) that the show is a true ensemble. Late in the show’s run, the actors even entered collective negotiations on contracts to ensure that the “lesser” characters’ actors were receiving the same amount of pay and prestige as the “primary” actors. Joey and Phoebe ended up getting as much air time and as serious stories as the rest of the cast. HIMYM, however, had to rush to wrap up the secondary plots in the finale: Robin’s success in her career was marginalized by her sadness over losing Ted, and we never even see the mother of Barney’s child.

5. Characters were challenged but not undermined. Monica and Chandler can’t have children. Career-woman Rachel gets pregnant. Offbeat Phoebe realizes she wants to get married and breaks up with the man she loves who doesn’t want marriage. While, ultimately, this is a sitcom and everything ends happily, characters face realistic challenges along the road to reaching their individual happy ending. While HIMYM did a fantastic job with this at times (Robin’s infertility, Lily’s lack of fulfillment with motherhood and teaching, the death of Marshall’s father), in the end, the things the characters stood for ended up not mattering that much. Ted’s years-long battle to get over Robin? Apparently never happened. Robin’s desire to not be a mom? Doesn’t matter, if they’re not her kids. Barney’s gradual realization that monogamy is pretty okay? Goes away as soon as he and Robin get divorced. Why build up a character’s needs, wants, and desires if you’re just going to undo that growth in the season finale?

long hard day

6. Although the show does perpetuate a few more traditional stories (hetero-romances ending in marriage, babies, and a house in the suburbs), it also showed less stereotypical lifestyles: Ross’s lesbian ex-wife and her marriage, Joey’s continued single life, Rachel’s choice to be a single mom AND a career woman. Yes, all ends happily, with three of the six main characters married and two in a committed relationship. But the show never forces bachelor Joey into marriage or commitment, as HIMYM did for Barney (and then brutally undid in the finale). And while Robin is a successful journalist, we don’t even get to see her feeling happy or fulfilled by that life: all we see is her sadness over losing Ted. And while HIMYM showed Barney reverting back to his, erm, promiscuous ways after his divorce, his character immediately becomes prudish Super Dad Man after his daughter is born. It’s sweet, and NPH did a terrific job with that scene, it’s hard to swallow. HIMYM does get kudos for Ted and Tracy’s decision to have kids and live together without getting married until, well, they do. Ten points for realism there.

7. Friends had a satisfying ending. In spite of everything I’ve said above, the most important reason why Friends kicked HIMYM’s ass was the top-notch, heart-warming series finale. The show manages to refer back to earlier episodes without regressing, and it also includes new developments and characters (Paul Rudd as Mike, anyone?!). It tugs on the heartstrings, but not in a manipulative way (“And that’s how your mom died: OFFSCREEN!”). The finale gave us a chance to not only see our beloved characters reach happy endings, but also to say goodbye to them in a satisfying way. No one was jerked out of the world, no one suffered beyond the normal sadness of farewells, and no one was neglected for having already wrapped up their story.

friends ending

Ultimately, the producers and writers of Friends bent over backward to create and sustain character development that was believable, and they incorporated fan reactions to story lines without ever crumbling into fan service. So… if you want to watch a funny, satisfying sitcom? In the end, sometimes the classics stay popular for a reason.

Choose Friends.

New Release!

This, is the result of new shiny ideas and mushbrain! I’m so excited to share my new release (yeah, it’s contemporary…sorry guys, the paranormal has taken a back seat for now).
I give you…
FINDING HER DREAM

 Available now!!
Genre: Contemporary Erotic Western Romance
Add to Goodreads

It wasn’t until she watched her best friend find the man of her dreams
that RayAnne Hill realized there was a part of her missing. She knows
the empty space can only be filled by finding her own true love,
complete with kids and the white picket fence. Fear of letting someone
in stops her cold, and it’s much bigger than just finding Mr. Right.

James Shaw moved away from Kentucky and the family business to chase
his own goals, settling in the small town of Kimmswick, Missouri. His
business is succeeding, now he’s ready to complete his life with a wife
and kids. One night, one look and he’s found her. RayAnne is everything
he’s been searching for.

As hard as James has fallen for RayAnne, can he be enough to help
her overcome her worst nightmare? Or will he decide he can’t wait
forever, and walk away to find happiness?

Purchase: All Romance | Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Excerpt:

He swallowed another drink of dark amber beer. The local brew had quickly become one of his favorites. The bar, a second favorite. It was tiny, just like the town. Everyone knew everyone. Laughter from the front door pulled him from his pity party. James turned to see whose laughter sounded like wind chimes on a warm spring night. He sucked in a deep breath and pounded his chest to get his heart beating again. Blonde hair fell over her shoulders. Shorts, not a skirt, showed off her legs. Her cowboy boots were broken in, but perfect for the outfit.

By the time his heart came back on line the group had broken off into two directions, one of the women went to find a seat while the blonde headed to the bar. With a man. Just his luck. But he couldn’t keep his eyes off the way she sauntered up to the bar, her hips wiggling just enough to draw his attention. As he watched her order he noticed the man had his sights set on the other woman they’d arrived with. She had spiky black hair, piercings, and tattoos. Maybe his day wasn’t doomed after all. The dark haired one wasn’t his type. But the blonde…the cute, innocence of her face contrasted with the sexy short shorts and flannel shirt tied at her waist. She was exactly his type.

She looked up and down the patrons, stopping at him. James couldn’t pry himself away from her gaze. He winked and she grinned before offering him a finger wave. A little vixen.

“Hi.” Her cute, kissable mouth formed the word.

“Hey, sugar,” he replied, garnering the attention of the guy standing at her side. The other man glanced down the bar at him and cocked an eyebrow. Did they know each other? James didn’t think so, but he wasn’t very good at names or faces, so it was possible.

James broke their connection, turning to signal the bartender he wanted another round. As he tipped the bottle back, a warm, soft touch landed against his neck. “Save me a dance, cowboy,” the sweet words were whispered in his ear.