29 April 2011

Some Wedding Myths and Ledgends

Duke & Duchess of Cambridge leave Westmisnter Abbey
photo taken off TV screen

An estimated two billion viewers round the world tune in for the British Royal Wedding today

So I thought I’d take a look at some of the myths surrounding weddings.

The problem is that some carry both positive and negative connotations, which creates some confusion as in the traditional gift of pearls.

For some the traditional gift of pearls for a wedding can mean tears in the future for the bride. But I prefer the one that states pearls replace a bride’s tears of happiness on her wedding day.

But then, that in itself could cause problems, because some believe that bride tears during her wedding are a good omen. Guess the verdict on pearls will have to remain ‘out’.

On the way to the church:
It is considered good luck for a bride to meet a lamb, a dove, a spider, or a black cat on her way to church: but a pig or funeral are bad omens, on the wedding day.

I don’t think Kate’s going to see many pigs on her way to the Cathedral, so she should be safe on that one!

It is also considered good fortune if on the journey to the church the bride sees a policeman, clergyman, doctor or a blind man.

In that case, Kate is well protected, as she’ll see more policemen on her journey to the church than most people see in a lifetime.

The groom should give a coin to the first person he sees on his journey to the church for good luck.

Problem with that one is Royals don’t carry their own money during official functions, and nothing can be more official than William’s wedding.

If it rains on your wedding day is another of those good/bad luck omens. In the positive version, rain is said to foretell the coming of children just as rain promotes growth in the farmer's fields. In the unlucky version, rain drops represent the many tears a bride will cry throughout her marriage.
Tough call, as it’s predicted to rain on Friday 29th April. 
Happily the sun came out and everyone had a wonderful day.

The bride shouldn't make her own dress. Well, Kate’s got no problem with this one.
This wedding myth states that for every stitch of the wedding dress the bride sews herself she'll shed one tear during her marriage.
Happily Sarah Burton made Kate's beautiful gown http://windsorknot.today.com/_news/2011/04/29/6554229-finally-kates-royal-wedding-gown-revealed

It is considered to be tempting fate if the bride signs her married name before the wedding. And if anyone drops the ring before the wedding then save yourself some money and cancel the whole caboodle before you start. Some myths about dropping the wedding ring go so far as the say it means the culprit will be the first to die. Wow, that’s too scary for words.

Oh, and did you know that each day has a special significance for those who hitch the knot?

If you marry on:-
Monday for health,
Tuesday for wealth,
Wednesday's the best of all.
Thursday brings crosses,
And Friday losses,
But Saturday - no luck at all.

I bet no one found that one when they set the date for William and Kate!

Even the time of day is said to predict the outcome. Get married on the downswing of the minute hand and oh boy, but wait until it starts ascending and all will be smiles.

The thing about this royal couple is that they look good together.

picture taken off TV screen

26 April 2011

Influencial settings in Duty Calls

Choosing the setting for my current novel, Duty Calls came easily and is based on the landscape and beautiful scenery of Holkham Hall, Norfolk, in the UK.

Trudi Delaney, my heroine, has reluctantly accepted ownership of the huge English estate her late husband managed to ‘acquire’.

Not only does she want nothing to do with anything connected with her late husband, but she is plagued by misgivings that the rightful heir is still alive.

I live in the beautiful English county of Norfolk which is peppered with large estates, and Holkham Hall  is close enough to consider it an extension of our garden and we visit regularly. One of my favourite walks is through the trees and around the lake.


It is the lake and view of Holkham that I use as the setting for Duty Calls, not the interior of the house.

Holkham has twenty five tenanted farms plus several thousand hectares of what they describe as ‘in-hand’ land that is farmed on a rotation basis.

The nearby farm in Duty Calls comes from the imagination, as does the walk through the woods. But I couldn’t resist adding the fawn as you will often see several when you walk through the grounds of Holkahm Hall during the spring.

There are several wonderful walks that take you in every direction across the lands and attract thousands of visitors every year.

Holkham Hall recently featured as the interior of Buckingham Palace in the BBC TV drama 'The Lost Prince'. The park featured in the C4 docudrama 'Victoria's Men' televised in June 2008 to name just a few of the many other television and film credits.

Holkham, unlike my fictional Kinsale Hall is close to the sea and boasts one of the largest expanses of sand covered beach along the Norfolk coast.

The director of 'Shakespeare in Love' had actress Gwyneth Paltrow walking along Holkhan beach in the closing scenes.

 It is also one of the few nudist beaches in the county! And when you discover that Holkham beach is purported to be one of the Queen’s favourite beaches that is quite a surprise.

Buy Duty Calls HERE ~ HERE ~ HERE ~ HERE
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25 April 2011

Pepper talks about Drake the weretiger

In my last blog, I promised to tell you about Drake, one of my characters in Blood Fest: Chasing Destiny,
the book coming out on April 30, 2011 from Black Opal Books.

Drake’s one of my favorite characters. He a weretiger and the local pride leader in England. I created Drake from an Amur, or Siberian yellow tiger I saw at a zoo, and combined him with the leader of one of the teams my team occasionally worked with in Mexico. This guy, whom I’ll call Darrel, was something else. He was more than just gorgeous. On a scale of 1 to 10, he was easily a 12. He was tall—probably 6’5” or 6’6”—had rippling muscles, dark-blond hair that hung to his shoulders, and marvelous jade green eyes that seem to look right through you to your soul. To this day, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a more beautiful man, at least physically, than Darrel. And he radiated a kind of male sexiness that, if it isn’t legal, it damn well should be. He was just too perfect to exist, if you know what I mean. This is the photo I’ve chosen to represent Drake. Unfortunately, I can show you one of Darrel, since I promised not to. Sorry.

When I decided to make Darrel a weretiger, it seemed only fair to combine him with an Amur tiger I saw in a third world zoo. This tiger was massive and rippling with muscles, like Darrel, but he was wonderfully scruffy. His fur was disheveled. He had mud on his paw and on one side of his butt. And he didn’t seem to care. He was lazy and appeared perfectly happy to look like a rag-a-muffin. My friend and I were at the zoo in the early evening and got to see the tiger get his supper. When they dumped the meat in the cage, he yawned and stretched, got up, laid back down, got up again and wandered over to the meat. Then rolled in it! I’m not kidding. He sniffed it then laid on it and rolled. After which, of course, he looked scruffier than ever.

I don’t have any pictures of the actual tiger, but these will give you an idea of what he looked like.

I thought combining this Amur with Darrel was poetic justice since most of us can’t look as good Darrel even on our best days. And Drake turned out to be a great character. He’s not really scruffy, he just not all that concerned about his looks. As the leader of the local weretiger pride in England, the unmated weretiger pride leader, he’s been demanding his own book. So I’m curious to see who I’ll come up with for a mate for him. If any of you would like to volunteer, just send me a bio.

Visit my website: http://www.pepperoneal.com
Learn more about Blood Fest: Chasing Destiny at:
Read an excerpt of Blood Fest: Chasing Destiny at:
Check out Sherry’s Duty Calls as well as other Black Opal Books publications at:

Pepper, Best wishes with  your new book and thank you for sharing another set of fascinating characters, stories and background in your new book Blood Fest: Chasing Destiny  ~ out on April 30th from Black Opal Books 

23 April 2011

Today Pepper talks about Chase, Bumper and Cindy

Yesterday I promised to give some details on the tiger I used to create Chase, my heroine for my new book, Blood Fest: Chasing Destiny, which comes out on April 30, 2011 from Black Opal Books. 

Chase is half human and half tiger. The story of my inspiration for her is rather interesting. I created her from a white Siberian tiger, I’ll call Bumper, and her keeper, whom I’ll call Cindy. I encountered Bumper and Cindy at a private game reserve outside of the United States. At the time, I was working with a team researching the smuggling of wild animals into and out of third world countries. My team was granted limited access to the game reserve so we could view firsthand the suffering some of these animals go through. But as the owners of the reserve were involved in some legal battles with the country’s government, we weren’t allowed to take photos, videos, or tape record any conversations. We were only allowed to observe, ask questions, and take notes. We also signed a non-disclosure agreement, promising not to give out any information on the location of the reserve. I will say, however, that Bumper was not native to the country she was in when I met her. I’ve also had to improvise to come up with photos, but at least you’ll get an idea of what she looks like. 

Bumper was young, only about two years old, and was a newcomer at the reserve. She’d apparently been smuggled in to the country we were in and sold as pet to a wealthy land owner. The owner kept Bumper until she got too big and too hard for him to handle. Then she was turned loose in the wild to fend for herself, the man obviously assuming that since she was a cat, she’d be able to hunt for her food.

However, while it may or may not be true of domestic cats, big cats raised in captivity do not automatically know how to hunt. According to Cindy, when Bumper was brought to the reserve, she was a pitiful sight, little more than skin and bones. The vet at the reserve estimated she hadn’t eaten for several weeks, probably since the day she’d been abandoned by her owner. I can’t even imagine how terrified she must have been to be dumped out in the mountains, away from everyone and everything she’d ever known, unable to catch even small prey. It really makes me wonder what on earth her owner was thinking.

Despite what she’d suffered, Bumper was unfailingly cheerful and playful. I call her Bumper because when wanted something, she’d head butt you in the ass. Her way of saying, “Hey, pay attention. Or else.” When I met her, she’d been at the reserve for a month and had not fully recovered from her ordeal. She was still eager to please, delighted by the slightest attention, and had a wonderfully sweet nature. However, as Cindy was quick to point out, Bumper was a wild animal, not a pet. She should never have been kept as a pet, especially by someone who didn’t truly understand her needs. Still, we did get to pet her, and since my face was apparently too dirty to suit her, Bumper decided to give me a bath. Let me tell you, having a tiger wash your face is a very unnerving experience. Their tongues are like sandpaper. And their teeth are huge, especially up that close. Not to mention their saliva is sticky. Still, it was something I’ll never forget.

Cindy told us that Bumper had an indomitable spirit. She never gave up. Even sick and malnourished, when faced with larger, stronger animals, Bumper simply refused to back down or submit. Because of this, they’d had to move her to a separate enclosure to eliminate fights between her and the other big cats. Not that Bumper started the fights, necessarily, but if the other animals started hassling her, she’d take on all comers. Even getting the worst of the fights, most of the time, didn’t nothing to quench her fierce, warrior’s spirit. And as we studied this scrawny, undersized animal, there was a look in her eye that dared us to challenge her. I could almost hear her saying, “You want a piece of me? You think you can take me? Well, just come on and try!”

Tigers by nature are solitary creatures, only coming together to mate, after which the male abandons the female, leaving her to raise the cubs on her own. But Bumper was extremely gregarious. When they first separated her from the other big cats, she pined for company, finally making friends with a German Sheppard, I’ll call Bo, and a ram, I’ll call Tubby. Bo and Tubby (he was the fattest sheep I’ve ever seen) spent hours in the enclosure with Bumper, getting head butted in the ass if they stopped paying attention to her. However, neither dog nor sheep seemed inclined to retaliate. Which was probably just as well. I asked Cindy once why Bumper didn’t try to eat Tubby, and she told me that Bumper had always been fed raw meat, so she probably had no idea Tubby should even be considered prey. To Bumper, Tubby and Bo were just good friends.

Cindy was elfin—a tiny, delicate creature, who looked like she had no business handling wild animals. Shy around humans, she seemed fearless working with creatures that outweighed her by hundreds of pounds. She stuttered a bit while talking with the team, but I never heard her stammer around the animals. The animals loved her and accepted her unconditionally, which is probably why she was so comfortable around them. After all, unconditional love is pretty hard to beat.

So when I needed a heroine to go with Roman, Bumper was the first thing that came to mind. Combining her personality with Cindy’s gave me a shy American with an attitude—one who refuses to give up, no matter how hard the circumstances or how badly she’s treated by fate. Chase is basically a shy virgin (well, a virgin at the beginning of the book) willing to take on all comers. Pairing her cat with Roman’s wolf was fun, especially the first time Chase hisses at him.

For my next blog here at Sherry’s on April 25th, I’ll give you a preview of Drake. In Blood Fest: Chasing Destiny, he’s a Siberian, but in real life, he’s an Amur Tiger and one bad ass dude. I combined him with an overall bad boy human, to make a hot, sexy, pride leader. And wait till you see the photo I came up with for him!

Visit my website: http://www.pepperoneal.com
Learn more about Blood Fest: Chasing Destiny at:
http:www. http://pepperoneal.com/blood-fest-series/
Read an excerpt of Blood Fest: Chasing Destiny at: http://pepperoneal.com/blood-fest-series/excerpt-chasing-destiny/

Check out Sherry’s Duty Calls as well as other Black Opal Books publications at:

Don't miss Pepper's final blog on Monday 25th

22 April 2011

Please welcome back Pepper O'Neal

Please give a warm welcome back to fellow Black Opal Books author, Pepper O'Neal.

Several people have asked me where I get my ideas for the animal characters I use in my books, as I always have at least one character that’s not human. So I thought I’d use this blog to explain that.

Basically, I take the animal characters from the same place I take my human ones: from real life—from the friends and acquaintance, both human and non, I’ve met throughout my travels. Only with the animals, I don’t have to ask permission first.

I’m a sucker for animals. Always have been. As a child, growing up on a farm, I learned that animals have personalities, just like people do. Now, I’m not saying that animals—other than humans—are sentient beings, but they do all have unique personalities and seem to display many of the emotions we do. I’ve seen animals express happiness, anger, grief, depression, cleverness, shyness, and downright sneakiness. When I was younger, I assumed (you should never do that, you know) that this was only true of domestic animals. It seemed reasonable to me that if the animals lived around humans, they’d pick up some of the human mannerisms and habits, good and bad. But when I started working for a company doing educational documentaries and research in third world countries, I discovered that wild animals also had distinct personalities and gave the appearance of having those same emotions and mannerisms.

One night around our evening campfire in rural Mexico, I expounded on this theory to the team I was working with at the time. The team leader—a gorgeous hunk who was a former CIA officer I’ll call Jake—raised one eyebrow, which he was very good, at by the way. After a few minutes of thought, he stated that while he could see why I would think that, his opinion was that since animals weren’t really sentient beings, while they might experience a facsimile of human emotions, it was unlikely they could experience the same degree of emotions that humans could. This was an opinion I was quick to disagree with some three weeks later when the team was being chased out of an area by an extremely pissed-off wild burro who took exception to our invading his territory.

As we hauled ass down the trail with the burro literally nipping at our heels, I pointed out to Jake that, while I’d encountered some very angry people in my life, I’d yet to see one go ballistic quite as fast as that burro. To which Jake succinctly replied: “Shut up and run, damn it!” We can laugh about it now, but at the time it wasn’t all that funny. Especially since we had to trek back up the trail to collect all our scattered gear once the burro gave up and went away.

I saw all kinds of wild animals during my travels, but I especially loved the wolves. There’s just something so haunting about a distant wolf’s howl late on a moonlit night. Toss a few clouds around the moon and you go from haunting to chilling. Wolves are mostly extinct in all but a few places in the northern hemisphere, so most of the ones we saw were on reserves or in wild animal parks. But there was one when we were in Southern Mexico who used to sneak into our camp to steal tuna fish sandwiches. I don’t know where he came from, whether he’d been someone’s pet, or if he’d escaped from a breeding program somewhere. He was young, skinny, and hungry. He would come just so close and no farther, letting you almost touch him, but not quite. One of our team named him Wiley Wolf, because he reminded us all of Wiley Coyote on those old Roadrunner cartoons. I don’t know what happened to the pictures I took of him, so this is as close as I can get to what he looked like.
When I created the main character for Blood Fest: Chasing Destiny, the book that’s coming out on April 30, 2011, from Black Opal Books, I combined Wiley with another one of my team members whom I’ll call Ryan, to come up with a Vampire/Lycan half-breed, named Roman. Since Ryan was definitely an alpha male with—as the whole team agreed—a little too much testosterone at times, by combining Wiley’s sweet and gentle nature, with Ryan’s not so much one, I got an alpha male with a sensitive side, who has tremendous control over his animal nature but struggles with his emotions.

When I emailed Ryan a bio of the character, he responded that he’d always wanted to be a vampire, so he was cool with it. And he figured Wiley probably would be too. Though neither of us has been able to contact him to find out for sure. Since I promised my friends and associates not to use real names or photos, I’ve had to improvise. So this is a picture representing my hero, Roman, not a picture of Ryan.

My heroine in Blood Fest: Chasing Destiny is a half-human/half-tiger named Chase. Both she and the tiger she’s combined with have a story all their own. But I’ll get into that tomorrow.

Visit my website: http://www.pepperoneal.com

Learn more about Blood Fest: Chasing Destiny at: http:www. http://pepperoneal.com/blood-fest-series/

Read an excerpt of Blood Fest: Chasing Destiny at: http://pepperoneal.com/blood-fest-series/excerpt-chasing-destiny/

Check out Sherry’s Duty Calls as well as other Black Opal Books publications at:

21 April 2011

Becoming an educated writer

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Becoming an educated writer

The split between the writer and the storyteller has been absorbing a lot of my thoughts lately, as shown by a guest post I wrote for the Astraea Press blog last Writer Wednesday. While it’s true that epublishers are demonstrating their willingness to accept manuscripts that are less than grammatically or stylistically perfect, so long as the flame of a good story is present, it’s also true that we owe it to our craft to educate ourselves and become the best writers we can.

Whichever genre we love, there’s so much to learn about writing within that category. Not only the specific genre requirements—whether we put a body on the first page or have two people notice each other across a crowded club—but also the many elements that combine to create good fiction, from story structure to dialogue, pacing to characterization. These elements of the craft hold true across genre lines, and writers who learn to conquer them for one category of fiction can then learn the genre requirements and adapt the same elements for another. Being an educated writer means being a flexible one.

So how does a writer become educated? We read, both how-to manuals and novels within our genre, learning how a good story is told in theory and seeing how it’s done in fact—or seeing how it didn’t work and what to avoid. We hang out with other writers, in forums, on Facebook and Twitter, through long, silly email conversations that keep us giggling although we aren’t getting much work done. And when we’re lucky, we find a few select, knowledgeable fellow writers who understand our stories and what we’re trying to say. These writers we invite to join us on the journey, as critique partners or beta readers, as they’re called now. (Hey, does anyone know the difference? Or is that just semantics?)

We also attend conferences, where hanging out and learning both take on a whole ’nother dimension. Some of us even return to university, mortgaging the house and both cars to attain a master’s or MFA in writing. (Gotta plug my alma mater here: if you’re looking for graduate studies in fiction, there’s no better place than Seton Hill University. And even if you’re not convinced three extra years of studying for an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction is absolutely essential for your career as a writer, they offer the greatest annual retreats around.)

Most importantly, we write. Every day, we plot, outline, draft, compose, or polish, working on the kernel of a story idea until it glitters like a diamond set in a matte black sky. And we market, sending the finished manuscript around to editors and agents, and while they’re reading that polished masterpiece we return to square one and start all over again.

But there’s a danger hidden within this process of becoming an educated writer, and that’s the danger of losing the good-story flame. It’s the danger of overpolishing, grinding away until the completed manuscript no longer glitters but instead feels stilted and ponderous. Sometimes the damage is done even earlier, perhaps through a too-intricate outline or by creating stilted characters. Anyone who’s ever read a novel with beautiful writing that nevertheless left the reader flat, knows exactly what I mean here.

There’s educated writing. And then there’s too-educated writing. The first is a good story told to the best of the writer’s ability, containing good measures of both style and substance. The other is so dry, all style and no substance, it may as well be used to start the fire.

Learn everything you can about writing. And then learn when to put it all aside. Draft a good story, but don’t kill it with edits.

Okay, enough pontificating. Let’s give away some books. There are two up for grabs, so we’ll select a winner for each:

Many Genres, One Craft is the equivalent of a fiction-writing master’s degree between two covers. Because it’s composed in short essays, quickly read and easily digested, it’s especially great for busy people who only have limited time for studying. MGOC will be released April 29, and the lucky winner’s book will be snail-mailed that day.

In August 1940, German Army Major Faust is unexpectedly captured by the English and he must escape before they break him. But every time he gets away, a woman is raped and murdered, and the English are looking for someone to hang. Faust must catch the killer, even though he’s helping the enemy—even though he’s making a Deal with the Devil. This historical mystery will be released in two parts, the first on May 3 and the second in June, and they’ll be emailed to the winner upon release.

2nd Excerpt:
About an hour ago he’d struck the northern edge of a line of trees. He cut south beneath their shelter and felt his first satisfaction when the ragged line widened about him into a small sheltering forest. Soon he’d stop for the day and rest in the comfort of the trees’ cover. He’d walked all night, and driven all the previous night, and he’d earned a rest. But maybe he could manage another mile first.

And then he stumbled from cover and fell down a little slope into a pool of dawnlight which splashed across his hands as if he was the pebble tossed into the pond, and when he raised his head to look about, he found himself staring across a kitchen garden into the eyes of the most beautiful girl in the world.

He couldn’t move. He crouched on hands and knees, gasping for breath, and measured the depth of surprise in those incredible eyes. Everything around him faded into insignificance, even the pain pounding its insistent rumba rhythm. Confused thoughts stumbled through his brain, each just showing itself for a moment as if afraid to break cover, and he wondered who she could possibly be. Had Sir Thomas Wyatt seen such a look in Anne Boleyn’s fine dark eyes? Whoso list to hunt, I know where is an hind, But as for me, alas—

“Alcock?” she called. Her voice was English, of course, cultured and measured like a poetry reading. “Alcock, is that you?”

Faust shook his head. Nope, not Alcock. And with a beck ye shall me call—

She grabbed a shotgun and rose from the farmhouse stoop. “Who are you?”

Whatever answer Wyatt had received no longer mattered. Poetry vanished like a season past. Cripes, was he still drunk? Mooning away while she shot his arse off? Faust scrambled up and spun back to the little rampart.

But the farmyard, and his head, spun tighter. His feet tried to follow, then the horizon and the rest of the world joined the dance. He hit the ground full-length and cried out as pain ricocheted through his body. For a moment he could only lie still while the echoes faded like ghosts into the depths of his brain. If he could escape back into the forest while she went for help—

He scrabbled up, grabbed for a handhold on the little rampart, glanced over his shoulder. And froze.

A pair of dark brogues were planted among the rows of staked tomatoes, beyond his reach. A pair of shapely, naked legs rose above them and disappeared into the depths of a tweed skirt. Above the skirt rose a body—the most beautiful body in the world—but then he saw the bore of the shotgun aimed at him, a finger curled about the trigger, and his fingers dug into the dirt of the bank. He raised his gaze to meet hers.

Not Anne Boleyn; Campaspe. Cupid and my Campaspe played at cards for kisses; Cupid paid—

—and he’d pay if he moved. The bore of the shotgun never wavered from his center of mass. He couldn’t bring himself to look down, though, because it would mean looking away from her face, a heart-shape framed by a dark auburn bob, the short ends whipped across her mouth and jutting chin. Her fiery hazel eyes, her coral lips, the roses in her flushed face, were mesmerizing. At this range, she couldn’t miss if she was blind—

—At last he set her both his eyes; She won, and Cupid blind did rise—

—and the pellets would rip his guts out.

Maybe he wasn’t drunk. Maybe he was crazy.

“Dad!” she called. “Dad!”

She was calling for help; she wasn’t going to fire; he wasn’t going to die. He dropped his head beneath the edge of the rampart as if onto a pillow, never looking away from her face. Oh Love! has she done this to thee? What shall, alas, become of me?

A voice came from a distance. “Jennifer? What is it?”

Her name was Jennifer. It didn’t fit. It sounded too tame, too un-poetical—what the heck rhymed with Jennifer?—too backwater English village lane-ish. She was ferocious. She should have a name like—

“I’ve caught a German.” Her eyes never left his, and the warmth which seeped through him at the thought was more intoxicating than anything Erhard had served.

Me. Faust smiled. She’s caught me. She should have a name like—

A man appeared beside her. Faust barely noticed him. Like—

“Well done,” the old man said. The barrel of a second shotgun aligned beside the one she aimed at him. It didn’t seem important, either. “Run up to the Hall and fetch Sergeant Tanyon. We’ll wait here.”

He spoke like a professor. Like—

But she turned and ran before Faust could complete the thought, and her spell was broken. Cold reality flooded his soul, routing the warmth she’d provided. He’d been captured.

Sherry, thank you so much for inviting me to share your blog and your wonderful readers. Everyone, don’t forget that while I’ve been over here, Sherry has been hanging out at my blog, Mysteries and Histories. Her two posts discuss judging an ebook by its cover and, ironically enough, guest blogging. Show her some love, too, okay?

Thank you Cheryl, it's been a delight to have you guest here these last few days and for informative comments about PoV and writing. 

20 April 2011

PoV Pop Quiz

PoV Pop Quiz

We’ve discussed point of view (PoV), what it is and how it works, over the past two days. Let’s take this discussion from theory to a practical pop quiz. Below are several paragraphs written in third person deep PoV, each containing an accidental break. See if you can find all of them.

The answers are at the end, so no peeking.

Here’s the first one, “borrowed” from the rough draft of Kay Springsteen’s upcoming sweet romance, Elusive Echoes:

“Ry’s got me on babysitting duty tomorrow morning.” Sean swirled his beer, keeping his gaze on the amber liquid sloshing against the edges of the mug. Mel gripped the towel beneath her folded hands more tightly. She’d likely need it soon.

That one’s pretty simple, though, isn’t it? Let’s try something a little tougher. This is from a previous draft of my upcoming historical mystery, Deal with the Devil:

The German officer’s earlier anger had drained, leaving his brown eyes clear, and Clarke knew he wasn’t imagining the touch of derision now in their depths.

Remember, anything that’s not from the leading character’s perspective, anything he or she wouldn’t naturally think about, qualifies as a break in deep PoV.

Let’s try another. This is also from Deal and it’s pretty similar to the preceding one:

For one crazy moment, Clarke believed he had known this man at some point in their past, that he had only to sweep away his agitation to remember a more innocent age. But of course that was impossible.

Here’s one final example. This one I’m creating off the top of my head, but it’s a commonly seen error:

“You don’t want to mess with me,” Luke said, a hint of menace in his voice.

Feel free to discuss these in the comments if you like.
Or you can read the answers after the blurb and excerpt.

In August 1940, German Army Major Faust is unexpectedly captured by the English and he must escape before they break him. But every time he gets away, a woman is raped and murdered, and the English are looking for someone to hang. Faust must catch the killer, even though he’s helping the enemy—even though he’s making a Deal with the Devil.

Stoner withdrew his silver cigarette case from his breast pocket and lit up, too, leaving the case open on the desk. “Well. Let us review your situation, shall we? First, you have readily admitted you serve in the Wehrmacht, not the Luftwaffe.”

Faust paused, uncertain where Stoner was leading him. “That’s right.”

Stoner tilted his head. “I was not aware German Army officers crewed Air Force warplanes.”

He winced. Should he try to bluff something here? No, the intelligence lectures he had mostly slept through had repeatedly emphasized never lie to an interrogator, and although he couldn’t recall why, there had to be a good reason. “We don’t.”

“So we have immediately established you are not here for a legitimate military purpose, which leaves two possibilities: either you are here as the result of an accident—”

“Which is the case.”

“—or you are here for an illegitimate purpose.”

“An illegitimate purpose?” Faust dragged again, thinking through the implications of that phrase. “You mean espionage?”


He let smoke drift from his mouth. Him as a spy—now that was a novel concept. “You know, Mr. Stoner, I was starting to like you—”

“I’m touched.” The irony was light.

“—but you play rough.”

Stoner tapped ash and continued as if he hadn’t spoken. “Your German military intelligence service, the Abwehr, has experienced difficulty obtaining information regarding our defenses in these islands.”

He took a long last drag and stubbed the quarter-inch butt out in the glass ashtray on the table at his elbow. “I didn’t know that.”

“The Royal Air Force, on the other hand, has had remarkable success against Luftwaffe reconnaissance aircraft, which has denied the Abwehr aerial photographs of those defenses.”

“I didn’t know that, either.”

“As it would be criminal folly for the German high command to attempt an invasion without first fully analyzing the defenses of their intended target, the Abwehr has little option but to infiltrate agents within England.”

Faust cradled his injured arm against his side. He could see where the conversation was going now and Stoner’s relentless logic left him cold.

“Herr Major, if the Abwehr selected an agent to infiltrate the Oxford area, it would be someone with your precise qualifications.”

Even knowing it was coming, the blow was a knockout. Faust rubbed his neck and forced himself to breathe. “I don’t know what to say.”

“Then allow me to conclude.” Stoner folded his hands atop his spotless blotter. “We know there is a German intelligence network in place within Oxford.”

“You know more than I do.”

“We know that because we’ve broken it.”

“Then it wasn’t so hot, was it?”

“And they told us another agent was coming.”

Faust quit breathing again.

“Under these circumstances, Herr Major, surely you understand we must verify your position before accepting you as an honorable prisoner of war.”

Answers to Quiz 

1. The end of the paragraph shows us Mel’s thoughts, so we’re in her PoV. How could she know what Sean’s actually looking at? He might be thinking he needs his nails trimmed and not even notice the beer’s about to spill.

2. We’re in Clarke’s PoV, looking at the German officer. But Clarke wouldn’t be thinking about what he knows or doesn’t know, especially since his life is at stake in this scene. An alternative method of phrasing this might be, “The touch of derision in their depths wasn’t subtle.” Or some such.

3. Yeah, it’s the same thing: Clarke wouldn’t be thinking about what he believes or doesn’t, while he’s trying to find some means of surviving. This one could be rephrased with a question. “Had he known this man, perhaps years ago?” Or it could be rewritten as:

There was something familiar about this man, as if Clarke had known him at some point in their past and if he could sweep away his agitation, he’d remember a more innocent age. It was the sort of feeling to drive him crazy, but of course it was impossible.

4. Most of us don’t spend much time thinking about our voices and how we sound. If this imaginary Luke is fixating upon putting “a hint of menace” in his voice, then he’s pretty egocentric or at least comes across that way.

Thanks for your informative and fun quiz, Cheryl :-) 

Please come back tomorrow  and discover how to become 'An Educated Writer'

19 April 2011

Editorial do’s and don’ts with PoV

Readers have grown to expect certain things within the books they read, and wise authors know it’s best not to disappoint their readers. So here are a few points to keep in mind while crafting your next masterpiece.

Many writers love their characters so much, they want to give each of them a PoV within the book—allow each character to tell part of the story from her own unique perspective. This desire is natural and kind of fun. It’s also a great way for a writer to become better acquainted with her characters—by writing about them. Unfortunately, with modern readers, this is also a potential problem.

Readers today are savvy and sophisticated. Most won’t tolerate poor storytelling and many scoff at poor writing (the actual act of arranging one word after another, for those interested in the difference). The potential problem with multiple PoV stories is, if a character has a PoV, if part of the story is told from her perspective and we get to know that character, then the reader expects her to also have a character development arc. All PoV characters must be an integral part of the storyline, they must learn something and change in some way through the course of the novel, and they must be a slightly different person before the end.

For this reason, writers can’t just give a character a PoV. There are consequences to this decision. Each PoV allowed demands more work from the writer, developing the character, honing her voice, and deciding how her arc should progress. As well, having too many PoVs can confuse the reader. It becomes work rather than fun, keeping everyone straight, and if not done properly with a solid and believable development arc, the ending (no matter how good otherwise) can leave the reader unsatisfied.

And unwilling to buy your next book.

These days, head hopping is another big no-no. Editors don’t want to see it unless (as discussed yesterday) you’re Nora Roberts, or writing certain types of plot-driven rather than character-driven fiction, such as thrillers. And even in an action-packed thriller, the reader’s experience will be enhanced by taking the PoV deeper, which can only be done by avoiding head hopping.

Finally, when writing third person deep PoV, remember that your character can’t see her own face, meaning you can’t use dialogue “beats” such as “She smiled” or “She glanced his way.” Let her words illustrate the character’s facial expression and emotion for the reader, and let what she sees illustrate where she’s looking. This also means that some dialogue “tags” should be avoided, such as “smiled” (nobody smiles words, in any case), “complained” or “asserted” (readers can judge these for themselves by the character’s words, or should be able to).

With third person deep PoV, the only dialogue tag used is “said.” But don’t worry that it will become repetitive. Those savvy modern readers we all want to attract have become used to this, as well, and now expect it. They’ll be so engrossed in your deep Pov, they’ll gloss right over all those “saids.”

For more information visit: Cheryl's blog HERE
Deal with the Devil Pt 1: Buy Link
Giveaway details of Many Genres, One Craft HERE
Cheryl, thank you for talking about the different perspectives and pitfalls aabout 'point of view', and I look for to tomorrow's input.

18 April 2011

Cheryl Grey on What is point of view and why should I care?

Welcome to The Heart of Romance Cheryl, please will you tell us a little bit about yourself before you talk about POV (point of view).
J. Gunnar Grey has never wanted to be anything except a novelist, so of course she’s been everything else—proofreader, typesetter, editor, nonfiction writer, photographer, secretary, data entry clerk, legal assistant, Starfleet lieutenant commander, stable manager, dancer—and no, not that kind of dancer. Her long-suffering husband is just excited she’s actually using her two degrees, one from the University of Houston Downtown and the MA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. Gunnar writes novels that are mysterious, adventurous, and historical, but all sorts of other stuff can leap out of that keyboard without warning. She lives in Humble, Texas, just north of Houston, with two parakeets, the husband (who’s just as noisy as the birds), a fig tree, a vegetable garden, the lawn from the bad place, three armloads of potted plants (make sure it’s past tense), and a coffee maker that’s likely the most important item she owns.

What is point of view and why should I care?

You hear a lot about point of view these days, often abbreviated to PoV. (That’s spelled out, by the way, pee-oh-vee, not pronounced pov.) While it’s always been a part of writing fiction, dating back to Shakespeare’s days at least, it seems as if it’s becoming more important as a part of the craft. My personal opinion is, what editors want is changing, and so it’s being discussed more frequently, which makes it seem more important than it really is.

PoV is the perspective from which the story, or a part of the story, is told. Some how-to manuals advise writers to pretend there’s a camera on one character’s shoulder, recording which she sees, which is then processed by her brain and relayed to the reader.

This technique works for a more distant PoV (and we’ll talk about distance in a bit). But for a closer perspective, consider magically implanting that camera behind your character’s eyes.

Different strokes
You know the different types of PoV, right?
• First person: I wondered what she wanted.
• Second person: You wondered what she wanted.
• Third person: He wondered what she wanted.

Nothing complicated there, right? First person PoV was the big fashion in the 1990s, but it seems less popular now although you still see it. (If you’re thinking that’s a reason to avoid first person, remember Amanda Hocking uses it in her Trylle series.) Second person has been trying to make a splash, but too many readers find it artificial and artsy, even when it’s combined with present tense verbs (You wonder what she wants).

This leaves third person PoV, which remains the most commonly used of the three. But there are also three types of third person:

• Omniscient,
• Shallow, and
• Deep.

Omniscient PoV allows the camera-on-the-shoulder to shift from character to character within a section. The classical example of this technique is Nora Roberts, and it’s difficult to argue against her success. But while the omniscient PoV was popular in the 1980s, when she first started her career, it’s fallen out of fashion recently and is now disparagingly termed head hopping. If you’re not Nora Roberts, editors don’t want to see it.

Shallow PoV plants the camera on one character’s shoulder and we observe the story or section through his eyes without changing shoulders, although the camera can also back off some and give us a look at the character himself. It’s a great technique for certain types of comedy. (“Alyssa had no way of knowing that, just as she was walking into Wal-Mart via one door, Terry was walking out the other,” and so on.) But deep PoV, the one that’s becoming increasingly popular among editors, lets the reader experience the story through that character, which is another level of reading entirely.

In deep PoV, the camera and sometimes even the character fade from the reader’s attention. Instead, the reader becomes the character, thinking her thoughts and vicariously taking her actions, without paying attention to her movements or facial expressions, whether she crosses her arms or plants one hand on her hip. Unless the character is thinking about something, the reader doesn’t know it’s there, but can only imagine it.

Think of deep PoV this way. You can’t see your own face. You may be frowning and not know it (while you consider the fascinating implications of this technique) unless someone or something brings it to your attention. That’s the way it works. Unless someone asks the character, “What’s that frown for?” or unless she’s standing in front of a mirror or suddenly realizes how ugly that expression must be, she won’t even know she’s frowning.

First person is a deep PoV by definition, because the reader spends quality time with a single character, getting to know his thought processes intimately. (And that’s why it can be difficult to write well; not every character is sufficiently complex to carry first person.) Some writers learn the third person deep technique by first drafting a scene in first person and then rewriting it in third, but that seems like an awful lot of busy work to me, at least. My opinion is, if you want to learn third person deep, it’s worth the effort to train your inner editorial ear to recognize it. When it’s right, you’ll know it.

For more information visit: Cheryl's blog HERE
Deal with the Devil Pt 1: Buy Link
Giveaway details of Many Genres, One Craft HERE

17 April 2011

Matching Wits with Venus ~ An excerpt from the first chapter

“Matching Wits With Venus”.

Chapter One

In the valley below the thirty foot white block letters that spelled out HOLLYWOOD, between Ripley’s “Believe It or Not” museum and a string of psychic reading rooms, sat a glass-front shop with a rose-colored door. Above the storefront’s small bay window a pink and purple sign proclaimed “Happily Ever After by Amelia”. Inside, Amelia Coillard stretched out her hands to receive a large almond vanilla pie.
"It took me all night to make this,” a tall woman wearing an enormous pear shaped diamond on her left hand said, “But I wanted you to know how grateful I am. Really, Amelia, you’re the best. David and I want to invite you to our wedding. On June twenty-first.”
Amelia bowed slightly and smiled.
“Glad we could help Susanna. Don’t forget to tell your friends about us.”
The woman nodded, then strode past the wrought iron café table where Amelia interviewed clients, out onto the empty sidewalk.
“We’ve got another wedding, “ Amelia called out to her assistant Jennie as she stepped into the back room and placed the pie on a distressed pine sideboard, next to the boxes of chocolates, baskets of figs, bottles of champagne, potpourri sachets and bundles of beeswax candles she’d received from satisfied clients.
“Let me guess,” Jennie replied, rubbing her hands together. “The summer solstice.”
Amelia nodded.
“Flowers in bloom, longer days, baby animals at the zoo. It all means only one thing: June brides. I don’t know how people can be so hopeful.”
“Hmm, well you’d better get ready. Your first client will be in to fill out her patented personality profile in ten minutes. You know, she actually asked me if I’d mail her the profile and let her fill it out at home! As if we’d release your proprietary secrets!”
"I don’t know what I’d do without you to look after me,” Amelia chuckled.
She reached inside the little cupboard in the corner and withdrew the fitted white croceted sweater she’d gotten two years ago at the Rose Bowl Flea Market. The seller had told her the cardigan had been part of the trousseau of one of the old stars who’d lived up in the Hollywood Hills. Amelia wasn’t sure she believed the woman’s story, but the sweater’s delicate pattern reminded her of wedding lace, so she wore it every time she met with a client. And, though she never told Jennie, Amelia was convinced that the sweater from another woman’s trousseau was as close as she’d ever come to clothing herself in bridal wear.
While Amelia was pulling the sweater over her black mini-dress and adjusting her wavy auburn hair over its pearl trimmed collar she saw a photo smiling out at her from the back of the cupboard. Inside the silver frame stood an extremely thin young man, his eyes protruding below penciled on eyebrows, a blue bandana wrapped around his head. As Amelia reached out to caress the photo she heard someone rapping on the back window.
“Justin,”She called out to the young man in the red and black leather jacket, torn jeans and scruffy tennis shoes.
Justin’s long hair needed a trim and he could use a shave, as well as a bottle of sunblock. Like many of the others who bedded down on the streets around Hollywood and Vine, his face was testimony to the hard realities of living rough under the merciless California sun.
“I’ve got something for you,” she said as she opened the door.
Amelia scooped up a napkin, fork and bottle of water from the table that held her teakettle. She handed them to Justin, along with a plate bearing half of the almond vanilla pie.
“Thanks Amelia.”
“Have a good day.”
Amelia watched as Justin disappeared into the alley. She gazed up into the hills in the distance, at the faded ocher stucco mansion that stood atop the highest point. Long verandas seemed to wrap around the house, though it was impossible to know for certain if they ran across the back of the home, since the far side of the walled property was not accessible by road or foot. It sat atop a fault line; no one dared venture onto the rocky terrain for fear of disrupting the crusty earth beneath the bougainvillea bushes.
“Lia! Lia!” Jennie called out from the front room.
When she got no response, Jennie headed to the back room. She threw her shoulders back and sighed as she watched Amelia, hunched forward, her eyebrows creased.
“Don’t,” Jennie said softly as she sidled up next to Amelia.
“Don’t what?”
“Don’t go down that path, Lia. It’s not going to take you anywhere you want to be.”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“Come on, let it go.”
Amelia sighed.
“Do you have any idea how many cakes, cookies, tarts, baskets and bouquets I left on those stone steps? Do you know, I used to cimb up to that gate every year on Christmas Eve and what should’ve been my parents’ anniversary and leave her these hand-written letters I’d actually sealed with a kiss. I taped those little Hershey’s candies to the envelope when I was little and then, in high school, I slathered red lipstick on my lips and ran my mouth across the back of the envelope. I can’t believe I was so stupid!”
“We all do dumb things.”
“Yeah but come on! Believing in the existence of an ancient Roman goddess AND that she lived right in my own neighborhood? Talk about desperate.”
Jennie laughed.
“It does sound absurd when you put it that way. Plus everybody knows that house has been abandoned for decades. Why they don’t add it to the Haunted Hollywood tour is beyond me.”
Amelia nodded. As she took a final look at the mansion she thought she saw a flash of light shoot out from its left flank.

Inside the ocher palazzo Venus flicked her cream colored scarf over her slender shoulders as she peered through the ultra-powerful telescope she had trained on “Happily Ever After by Amelia”.
“You have to do something about that woman or before you know it they’ll be tearing down all those statues of me and calling HER the goddess of love.”
Venus turned away from the window and looked at her son. Cupid was sitting on the edge of a pink silk sofa, a thick clutch of papers between his muscular hands.
"If you’d just take a look at these spreadsheets, I think you’ll see I’ve discovered a way to streamline everything. I’ll be able to shoot twice the arrows in half the time if I don’t have to keep backtracking. All you have to do is make your matches in a more geo-centric manner.”
Venus held up her manicured hand.
“When I want your advice I’ll ask for it.”
“Mother, please. I’ve given a lot of though as to how we can modernize, maybe even….”
Venus stared at her son, who was looking back at her with eyes the color of Lake Cuomo. He opened his mouth again, and she saw the slight chip on his front tooth. It was the only flaw on his perfectly proportioned face.
“I don’t want to hear any more of this nonsense. Where are your arrows?”
Cupid shook his head in disgust. No doubt it would take another hundred years before his mother even admitted that there was a need to change the way they did business. He tapped his foot impatiently against the floor, whose wooden planks had been imported from Italy, and wondered whether his mother would ever see him as more than her arrow boy.
“Cupid! Where’s your quiver?”
Cupid pointed at the monogrammed leather case lying against the wall, beneath the portrait of Venus that Remus had commissioned after she’d matched up the first inhabitants of Rome. Light glistened off the tips of the golden arrows poking out of the top of the quiver.
“Now listen to me. I want you to shoot this Amelia with the most powerful arrow you’ve got.”
“Mother, I’ve got a better idea.”
Cupid began to leaf through the stack of papers.
“I said, shoot her! Do you hear me?”

You can find Therese here:
Matching Wits with Venus is available here:

Thank you, Therese, for joining us every day this week, it's been a pleasure having you here.