HABITS OF THE PRODUCTIVE WRITER

March 2, 2010 at 3:00 pm (Rebecca York) (, , )

POWERHOUSE,Harlequin Intrigue,by Rebecca York
Recently I was asked to be guest author for a book-in-a-week challenge group. Of course, that got me thinking about my own writing method. I write two to four books a year, which means I have to keep working at a steady pace.

Long ago, I used to write slowly, then spend a lot of time editing. I figured out about fifteen years ago that I could write fast, then fix any problems later–if something needed fixing. But part of my process is to start each day editing the text I wrote the day before. That gets me back into the story.

A key factor that allows me to write fast is having an outline to work from. With an outline, I know where the book is going. Without one, I might write scenes that don’t really fit into the book. I know outlining is difficult for some writers, but it’s a skill that can be learned. And I’ve found that it’s a lot easier to fix a fifteen-page outline than it is to fix the same things in a 400-page book.

Even when I have an outline, I must think about every scene as I write it. Often my outline is very vague on details. It might say, “And then they escape from the psychotic killers,” and I have to figure out what’s really happening and if it’s even going to work the way I thought it would.

Also, I don’t think a writer can justify a scene just for “character development.” It’s got to also advance the plot in some way.

Since I’m writing romantic suspense, I must make sure that each scene carries both the relationship and the suspense. For example, if the hero and heroine are going to kiss or make love, they must also be thinking about the danger stalking them. Often, I also alternate scenes with the bad guys looking for them or planning what they’re going to do to them when they catch up.

There are times when I write a scene that I know isn’t quite right. I write it anyway so I can move forward and think of it as “holding the place” for the scene that’s going to work better. If you’re trying to write really fast, you may have to go with that concept. On the other hand, sometimes I do get stalled. If a scene simply won’t flow at all, it means I don’t understand the character motivation. Or I haven’t blocked out the action well enough. If any of that’s true, I GET UP from the computer. Sometimes just walking away for a while helps me think. Other times, it may take a couple of days to figure out what’s wrong. In that case, I might pick up another project until I get unstuck.

When I develop a story, I think about character and plot at the same time. My h/h must be the right ones for the story I’m telling. And the plot must be designed for THOSE CHARACTERS. I try not to have someone do something “out of character” just because I want or need it to happen. I call that “jerking the characters around for the sake of the plot.” If I want the heroine to do something stupid, I start early in the book establishing that she WOULD do it. In LASSITER’S LAW, for example, I have her creating the crisis for the action climax by turning herself over to the bad guy. I start very early in the story building up to that moment so the reader would believe she’d done it.

In KILLING MOON, my hero, Ross Marshall, is a werewolf detective who uses his wolf senses to solve crimes. His specialty is finding missing persons, and as the story opens, he’s stalking a serial killer. But he’s also concerned about his genetic heritage. Which is why I pair him with a woman who’s a physician and a genetic specialist. They meet after the killer wounds him, and she saves his life. Yet she knows he has secrets and wonders what kind of man she’s fallen in love with. As the plot unfolds she becomes entangled in the investigation. Five years ago, Ross ripped out the throat of another serial killer after the cops failed to act. He’s sworn never to kill again. Until he has to save the heroine’s life.

As I develop the plot and characters, I also think about the location. Where will this story take place? LASSITER’S LAW is set in Western Maryland because I wanted the heroine to be hiding out in the rural environment where she grew up.

KILLING MOON is set in the Maryland/DC area because that’s where I live, and I know it well. My werewolf lives out in the country where he can roam in wolf form. But he has easy access to the DC suburbs. I also picked the location because I think people find this setting interesting.

When I have enough details to feel comfortable with my location, I get to work, although I might have to do some research as I write. For KILLING MOON, I drove to Montgomery Mall and got to know the shopping center.

For LASSITER’S LAW, I relied on trips I’d taken to Western Maryland.

I’ve been asked if I wait for inspiration or work every day. My answer is that a career novelist must make a commitment to a regular work schedule. If I’m writing a first draft, I try to produce ten pages a day. Sometimes I can do more, but if I push too hard, I’m likely to turn out less the next day.

The good news is that the more you write, the easier it becomes. I think everybody’s got a “writing muscle.” Like any other muscle, it becomes stronger with exercise.

So don’t be afraid to plunge in. Give yourself permission to write pages that are less than perfect. You can always fix them later.

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Buried Alive

February 10, 2010 at 1:44 pm (General, Rebecca York) (, )

Rebecca in February "Snowmageddon"I’m still stuck in the house days after the big February snowstorm of 2010. And ten to twenty more inches are on the way. So far, I’ve edited 140 pages of my current Intrigue, FUNHOUSE, the one set in Cumberland, Maryland. Man, I’m glad we got up there a couple of weeks ago!

I’ve been doing a lot of shoveling. Nobody came to plow this court, so we had to do it ourselves. We’ve got narrow lanes where some cars can drive. Other cars are completely buried because we had to pile snow behind them. When I was a kid, I hated “snow pants.” Now I love having the ones I bought for our polar bear chasing trip to Churchill. Also the arctic boots.

Food’s my big problem at the moment. And not because we’re running out. Unfortunately, I’m a good cook, so I keep going into kitchen and making hearty stuff. Spaghetti sauce. Beef burgundy. Ham and bean soup. Real hot chocolate. (Not the mix. You can make real chocolate with Splenda instead of sugar. Just follow the directions on the Hershey Cocoa Powder carton and substitute Splenda for sugar.) Unfortunately, I’ve also got a big bag of cheese popcorn that I opened!

Lucky for us, we never lost power. (Unlike some families in the neighboring counties.) So there’s plenty of entertainment in here. We have tons of Criminal Minds DVDs to watch. We also just finished the 2nd season of The Tudors.”

I’ve been floundering out into the deep snow to feed the birds and squirrels. I’m putting birdseed in shallow pans. Squirrels leap on it. Birds are worried that it’s some kind of trap. Today I waded through knee-deep snow to fill the back bird feeder. Better now than after we get those additional inches.

Are you part of the great whiteout of 2010? How are you surviving? Or are you lucky enough to have missed it?

Rebecca

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When I’m Not Consorting with Werewolves

October 20, 2009 at 3:00 am (Rebecca York) (, , )

Low-Carb Pumpkin Bars
What do I do when I’m not consorting with werewolves and dragon-shifters? I play around in the kitchen.
I love spice cookies. Now that fall’s here, I’ve been indulging my yen for them by testing this recipe for yummy, low-carb pumpkin bars. The bars are also relatively low-fat. And the liquid egg substitute speeds up preparation. All you have to do is shake the carton and pour.
Low-Carb Pumpkin Bars
½ cup butter, softened
½ cup canned pumpkin (not pie mix)
½ cup liquid egg substitute
1 cup Splenda
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
Pinch of salt
2 cups almond flour
½ cup unbleached white flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ cup raisins (optional)
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan, and set aside.
2. In a mixer bowl, combine butter, pumpkin and egg substitute. Beat on medium speed until well combined. Add Splenda, vanilla, ginger, cinnamon and cloves. Beat on medium speed until incorporated.
3. With mixer running, add flours and baking powder. Mix until well combined. Turn off mixer and stir in raisins, if using.
4. With the back of a large spoon, spread mixture evenly in baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 28 to 32 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Cut into squares. Cookies will keep at room temperature, in the pan covered with plastic wrap, for two or three days.
Makes 16 squares.

What do I do when I’m not consorting with werewolves and dragon-shifters? I play around in the kitchen.

I love spice cookies. Now that fall’s here, I’ve been indulging my yen for them by testing this recipe for yummy, low-carb pumpkin bars. The bars are also relatively low-fat. And the liquid egg substitute speeds up preparation. All you have to do is shake the carton and pour.

Low-Carb Pumpkin Bars

  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup canned pumpkin (not pie mix)
  • ½ cup liquid egg substitute
  • 1 cup Splenda
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 cups almond flour
  • ½ cup unbleached white flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ cup raisins (optional)

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan, and set aside.

2. In a mixer bowl, combine butter, pumpkin and egg substitute. Beat on medium speed until well combined. Add Splenda, vanilla, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Beat on medium speed until incorporated.

3. With mixer running, add flours and baking powder. Mix until well combined. Turn off mixer and stir in raisins, if using.

4. With the back of a large spoon, spread mixture evenly in baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 28 to 32 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Cut into squares. Cookies will keep at room temperature, in the pan covered with plastic wrap, for two or three days.

Makes 16 squares.

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WHAT COMES FIRST, PLOT OR CHARACTER?

October 12, 2009 at 4:00 am (Rebecca York) (, , , , , , )

MM cover.indd

WHAT COMES FIRST, PLOT OR CHARACTER.
What comes first?  Plot or character?  For me, they’ve got to develop together.  My characters must serve my plot, and my plot must work with my characters.  I could think of a great story about a guy who’s living alone in a mountain cabin and is visited by space aliens, but what’s he doing in that cabin?  Why is he alone?  How is he going to deal with lizard-like creatures knocking on his door?  And the larger question–is the reader going to believe his reactions?
One lesson I learned about my stories.  They’re not reality.  It’s a world I create.  But I’ve got to make it look, sound, feel, taste and smell real to the reader.  The way to do that is by paying attention to every detail from characters and plot to setting and  dialogue.  Yet some details are more important than others.  I’m sure you’ve had the experience of picking up a book and starting to read–then giving up after a few pages or a few chapters.  Why?  Probably because you didn’t like the plot or you couldn’t connect with the characters.
I absorbed a lot about writing techniques through my love of reading.  In my teens, one of my favorite authors was Sinclair Lewis.  He was brilliant at character sketches.  In just a sentence or two, he could get inside the personality of a small town mayor or the head of a major corporation.  But he was much less adept  with plot.  His stories moved slowly, and eventually I stopped reading him.
Contrast that with the action-packed movies being produced today.  They serve up chases, explosions and world-crushing meteors, bombarding the screen one after the other.  But mostly they don’t interest me unless they focus on compelling characters as well. And they justify the action with logic.
I’ve learned my craft from reading authors I admire, by studying movie techniques, and by figuring out what works or falls flat.  Then I go back to my own stories.   Every book I write begins with what I’d call a “cool idea.”
Take my October Berkley release, DRAGON MOON.  What if a frightening dragon-shifter monster from my parallel universe planned to invade our world?  What if he sent a spy here–and she had to figure out how to free herself from his hold on her?
I always plan to start with a gripping first scene that will plunge the reader into the action.  In DRAGON MOON, Vandar, my dragon-shifter monster, flies over his domain, lands and gathers his slaves so he can execute one of them by drinking his blood.  Then he thinks about his current project–invading our world and how he’s going to accomplish it.
He focuses on Kenna, a woman with telekinetic powers.  She’s a slave–but  I don’t want her to be too cowed.  So I decided she’s only been in captivity for the past few months.
Since I’m writing romantic suspense, Kenna will develop a relationship with a man she comes to love.  And because I’m writing a werewolf series, it’s going to be another one of my Marshall men.  Talon Marshall.   I want him in an isolated location, so I have him leading wilderness expeditions–and living at a former hunting lodge in the woods.
Kenna stumbles into our world and immediately gets into trouble when a fallen tree traps her during a thunderstorm.  Talon rescues her, and they’re quickly attracted to each other.  She wants to tell him why she’s in our world, but Vandar has made it impossible to speak of her mission.  When she tries, terrible pains in her head incapacitate her.  So I’ve trapped my characters in what looks like an impossible situation.
I always try to outline my story in advance, because I want to understand where it’s going.  If you don’t know what goal you’re working toward, how can you know how each scene will advance the plot?  But there are always details to discover along the way.  How exactly are Talon and Kenna going to defeat Vandar?  They can’t do it on their own.
They’re going to need the other Marshall werewolves and their mates.  But even with the Marshalls working together, they’re not strong enough to go up against Vandar.  They need someone with powers that equal the dragon- shifters–and he’s the surprise character I throw into the mix.
Because I write romantic suspense, the romance relationship develops as Talon and Kenna are struggling with the danger hanging over them.  Talon’s afraid he’s bonding with a woman he can’t trust.  He knows she’s hiding a secret, and he’s upset that she doesn’t trust him enough reveal it to him.
To give my stories extra punch, I often try to weave more than one threat through the plot.  In this case, as the book starts, Talon has discovered a buried trunk full of stolen money and turned it in to the police.  The bank robber, Mitch Sutton, who stole the money, knows Talon turned it in and wants to get even.  And while Talon is off leading a wilderness expedition, Sutton almost kills Kenna.
The two threats come together when Sutton follows the Marshalls into my parallel universe as they get ready to battle Vandar and his forces.
As the book progresses, plot and character continue to work together.  Kenna and Talon face an escalating series of high-stakes perils, but in every case their reactions to each other and to these threats are the most important factor in every scene.
I try to create the perfect people for my plot, but the characters don’t come fully alive for me until I start writing the book.  It takes me about three chapters to get into their heads deeply enough to know how they will react in each situation they face.  As I write, I may go back and fill in more about their character so the reader can understand them better.  Still, I try never to overload any one part of the story with too much background.  To my way of thinking, “character development” can never be the only reason for a scene.  Each scene has to move the plot forward toward an ending that will satisfy me and the reader.
How do you feel about plot and character?  Do they function together for you?  Or is one more important than the other?

What comes first?  Plot or character?  For me, they’ve got to develop together.  My characters must serve my plot, and my plot must work with my characters.  I could think of a great story about a guy who’s living alone in a mountain cabin and is visited by space aliens, but what’s he doing in that cabin?  Why is he alone?  How is he going to deal with lizard-like creatures knocking on his door?  And the larger question–is the reader going to believe his reactions?

One lesson I learned about my stories.  They’re not reality.  It’s a world I create.  But I’ve got to make it look, sound, feel, taste and smell real to the reader.  The way to do that is by paying attention to every detail from characters and plot to setting and  dialogue.  Yet some details are more important than others.  I’m sure you’ve had the experience of picking up a book and starting to read–then giving up after a few pages or a few chapters.  Why?  Probably because you didn’t like the plot or you couldn’t connect with the characters.

I absorbed a lot about writing techniques through my love of reading.  In my teens, one of my favorite authors was Sinclair Lewis.  He was brilliant at character sketches.  In just a sentence or two, he could get inside the personality of a small town mayor or the head of a major corporation.  But he was much less adept  with plot.  His stories moved slowly, and eventually I stopped reading him.

Contrast that with the action-packed movies being produced today.  They serve up chases, explosions and world-crushing meteors, bombarding the screen one after the other.  But mostly they don’t interest me unless they focus on compelling characters as well. And they justify the action with logic.

I’ve learned my craft from reading authors I admire, by studying movie techniques, and by figuring out what works or falls flat.  Then I go back to my own stories.   Every book I write begins with what I’d call a “cool idea.”

Take my October Berkley release, DRAGON MOON.  What if a frightening dragon-shifter monster from my parallel universe planned to invade our world?  What if he sent a spy here–and she had to figure out how to free herself from his hold on her?

I always plan to start with a gripping first scene that will plunge the reader into the action.  In DRAGON MOON, Vandar, my dragon-shifter monster, flies over his domain, lands and gathers his slaves so he can execute one of them by drinking his blood.  Then he thinks about his current project–invading our world and how he’s going to accomplish it.

He focuses on Kenna, a woman with telekinetic powers.  She’s a slave–but  I don’t want her to be too cowed.  So I decided she’s only been in captivity for the past few months.

Since I’m writing romantic suspense, Kenna will develop a relationship with a man she comes to love.  And because I’m writing a werewolf series, it’s going to be another one of my Marshall men.  Talon Marshall.   I want him in an isolated location, so I have him leading wilderness expeditions–and living at a former hunting lodge in the woods.

Kenna stumbles into our world and immediately gets into trouble when a fallen tree traps her during a thunderstorm.  Talon rescues her, and they’re quickly attracted to each other.  She wants to tell him why she’s in our world, but Vandar has made it impossible to speak of her mission.  When she tries, terrible pains in her head incapacitate her.  So I’ve trapped my characters in what looks like an impossible situation.

I always try to outline my story in advance, because I want to understand where it’s going.  If you don’t know what goal you’re working toward, how can you know how each scene will advance the plot?  But there are always details to discover along the way.  How exactly are Talon and Kenna going to defeat Vandar?  They can’t do it on their own.

They’re going to need the other Marshall werewolves and their mates.  But even with the Marshalls working together, they’re not strong enough to go up against Vandar.  They need someone with powers that equal the dragon- shifters–and he’s the surprise character I throw into the mix.

Because I write romantic suspense, the romance relationship develops as Talon and Kenna are struggling with the danger hanging over them.  Talon’s afraid he’s bonding with a woman he can’t trust.  He knows she’s hiding a secret, and he’s upset that she doesn’t trust him enough reveal it to him.

To give my stories extra punch, I often try to weave more than one threat through the plot.  In this case, as the book starts, Talon has discovered a buried trunk full of stolen money and turned it in to the police.  The bank robber, Mitch Sutton, who stole the money, knows Talon turned it in and wants to get even.  And while Talon is off leading a wilderness expedition, Sutton almost kills Kenna.

The two threats come together when Sutton follows the Marshalls into my parallel universe as they get ready to battle Vandar and his forces.

As the book progresses, plot and character continue to work together.  Kenna and Talon face an escalating series of high-stakes perils, but in every case their reactions to each other and to these threats are the most important factor in every scene.

I try to create the perfect people for my plot, but the characters don’t come fully alive for me until I start writing the book.  It takes me about three chapters to get into their heads deeply enough to know how they will react in each situation they face.  As I write, I may go back and fill in more about their character so the reader can understand them better.  Still, I try never to overload any one part of the story with too much background.  To my way of thinking, “character development” can never be the only reason for a scene.  Each scene has to move the plot forward toward an ending that will satisfy me and the reader.

How do you feel about plot and character?  Do they function together for you?  Or is one more important than the other?

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BELIEVE IN YOURSELF

October 2, 2009 at 4:00 am (Rebecca York) (, , , )

BELIEVE IN YOURSELF
It’s a big cliché in the writing business: “Believe in yourself.”  Yet it’s true.  If you don’t believe in yourself, who will?
I was thinking about my werewolf series today because the ninth book, DRAGON MOON, is out October 6 from Berkley.  Nine werewolf books.  Unbelievable.  How did I get here?
It all started years ago when I read DARKER THAN YOU THINK, by Jack Williamson.  I was fifteen and an avid reader of science fiction and fantasy.  That book, about a man being guided into his werewolf powers, really spoke to me.  Maybe it was that universal teenage angst.  There were aspects of my life that I hated, and I wanted to be somewhere else.  Williamson made me want to be a werewolf.  It sure beat my high school feelings of inferiority–in and out of the classroom.
Later, after I was married and my own kids were in middle school, I saw a review of THE WOLF’S HOUR, by Robert McCammon, in the Washington Post.  I chomped at the bit to read that book, so I ran out to Waldenbooks and bought it.  Another peak reading experience for me.  I LOVED McCammon’s hero.  He was so much like the heroes of the romances I was reading.  Only he was a werewolf, and it was clear that he wasn’t going to bond permanently with any woman.
At the time, few publishers were buying paranormal, but I kept thinking about a werewolf hero, and I wanted to write one.  Yet I kept thinking, “Who would buy that kind of book from me?”  For four or five years, I talked about a werewolf story.  Finally a friend said, “Either stop talking about that story or write it.”  As I always do when I’m working on a book, I came up with an outline.  I was selling steadily to Harlequin Intrigue on proposal, but I knew I could never sell a werewolf book on  proposal, so I wrote KILLING MOON while I was writing my Intrigues.  In the middle of the book, my agent retired, and I had to find a new agent.  I decided it had to be someone who would love my werewolf story.  Lucky for me, I found the right agent.
Berkley was just starting a “dark paranormal line.”  My new agent sold KILLING MOON to Berkley, who promptly closed all their “lines.”  But they made my story a launch book for their new Sensation imprint.  They wanted more werewolf books, and I found myself writing a series that I hadn’t planned.
The first books were fairly conventional, except for the werewolf element.  But lately they’ve acquired more “out there” elements, like my alternate universe that runs parallel to this one.  The heroine of DRAGON MOON is a woman named Kenna, a slave from my alternate universe.  She’s sent here to help her ruthless dragon-shifter master invade our world.  She meets werewolf Talon Marshall and desperately wants to tell him her frightening secret.  But every time she tries to reveal her plight, excruciating pains stab into her head.  Even as Kenna and Talon fall in love, he can’t trust her.  And she struggles to break through the barriers that control her mind.  It’s classic romantic suspense, with the paranormal twists I love.
I had a wonderful time writing about Kenna and Talon, but another character, Ramsey Gallagher, plays a big role in the novel.  I fell in love with him, and lucky for me, I’m writing his story right now.  He’s a dragon-shifter who’s been on earth for more than a thousand years and is trying to discover his heritage.
I want to urge you to follow your bliss–whether you’re a writer or you’re in some other field.  The Moon series has been an awesome adventure for me.  And Berkley pays me to write these books!
Have you ever wanted to write a book but were afraid it wouldn’t sell?  Or have you ever wished an author would write a certain kind of book?

MM cover.inddIt’s a big cliché in the writing business: “Believe in yourself.”  Yet it’s true.  If you don’t believe in yourself, who will?

I was thinking about my werewolf series today because the ninth book, DRAGON MOON, is out October 6 from Berkley.  Nine werewolf books.  Unbelievable.  How did I get here?

It all started years ago when I read DARKER THAN YOU THINK, by Jack Williamson.  I was fifteen and an avid reader of science fiction and fantasy.  That book, about a man being guided into his werewolf powers, really spoke to me.  Maybe it was that universal teenage angst.  There were aspects of my life that I hated, and I wanted to be somewhere else.  Williamson made me want to be a werewolf.  It sure beat my high school feelings of inferiority–in and out of the classroom.

Later, after I was married and my own kids were in middle school, I saw a review of THE WOLF’S HOUR, by Robert McCammon, in the Washington Post.  I chomped at the bit to read that book, so I ran out to Waldenbooks and bought it.  Another peak reading experience for me.  I LOVED McCammon’s hero.  He was so much like the heroes of the romances I was reading.  Only he was a werewolf, and it was clear that he wasn’t going to bond permanently with any woman.

At the time, few publishers were buying paranormal, but I kept thinking about a werewolf hero, and I wanted to write one.  Yet I kept thinking, “Who would buy that kind of book from me?”  For four or five years, I talked about a werewolf story.  Finally a friend said, “Either stop talking about that story or write it.”  As I always do when I’m working on a book, I came up with an outline.  I was selling steadily to Harlequin Intrigue on proposal, but I knew I could never sell a werewolf book on  proposal, so I wrote KILLING MOON while I was writing my Intrigues.  In the middle of the book, my agent retired, and I had to find a new agent.  I decided it had to be someone who would love my werewolf story.  Lucky for me, I found the right agent.

Berkley was just starting a “dark paranormal line.”  My new agent sold KILLING MOON to Berkley, who promptly closed all their “lines.”  But they made my story a launch book for their new Sensation imprint.  They wanted more werewolf books, and I found myself writing a series that I hadn’t planned.

The first books were fairly conventional, except for the werewolf element.  But lately they’ve acquired more “out there” elements, like my alternate universe that runs parallel to this one.  The heroine of DRAGON MOON is a woman named Kenna, a slave from my alternate universe.  She’s sent here to help her ruthless dragon-shifter master invade our world.  She meets werewolf Talon Marshall and desperately wants to tell him her frightening secret.  But every time she tries to reveal her plight, excruciating pains stab into her head.  Even as Kenna and Talon fall in love, he can’t trust her.  And she struggles to break through the barriers that control her mind.  It’s classic romantic suspense, with the paranormal twists I love.

I had a wonderful time writing about Kenna and Talon, but another character, Ramsey Gallagher, plays a big role in the novel.  I fell in love with him, and lucky for me, I’m writing his story right now.  He’s a dragon-shifter who’s been on earth for more than a thousand years and is trying to discover his heritage.

I want to urge you to follow your bliss–whether you’re a writer or you’re in some other field.  The Moon series has been an awesome adventure for me.  And Berkley pays me to write these books!

Have you ever wanted to write a book but were afraid it wouldn’t sell?  Or have you ever wished an author would write a certain kind of book?

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From Noah Fielding

August 24, 2009 at 2:00 am (General, Rebecca York) (, , , , )

MoreThanAMan-244There’s a scene in my August Harlequin Intrigue, MORE THAN A MAN, where Noah Fielding wakes up weak and confused.  He’s survived a near-death experience, but he doesn’t know where he is–or what time period he’s in.  I don’t have room in the book to go into his thoughts in depth.  But I’ve written them here, from his POV in first person present tense.

Captivity.  Again.  But where and when?

Disjointed thoughts swirl through my head, and I can capture none of them.  I hear a woman crying.  Who is she?  Does she weep for me?   I try to grab a memory, but it slips away, and I want to scream in frustration.  But I cannot speak.  Cannot move.  Cannot even open my eyes.  And my body is on fire.

I fight the agonizing pain in every cell of my body, praying for death.  But death eludes me–again.

Where am I?   Do the Franciscans have me in the cellars below the abbey, confined because they think I’m in league with the devil?  No, that can’t be true.  I escaped from the monks long ago.

Has the Doge of Venice arrested me for shipping treasures out of his city-state?  But didn’t I bribe my way out of his prison?

Am I in the clutches of the Nazis–because they think I’m spying for the Allied forces?  No, I remember escaping from their transport van in a hail of bullets.  They left me for dead by the side of the road.

I lie in the dark, trying to clear my head as  jumbled images dance like scenes from a nightmare behind my closed lids.  So many centuries.  So many lives.  And always I must hide my identity.  I was born in a small village in England.  Centuries ago.  But I am always apart, separated by my long life and the need to hide my true identity.  That was easier centuries ago.  I could pretend to die and disappear into the mist.  Today computers keep track of everything.

Computers.  Ah.  Finally I have a reference point.  This must be late in the 20th century–or the 21st.

A woman’s cries bring another stab of pain.  I have longed for love, yet over the lonely centuries each woman in my life has left me.  Some have run from me in horror when they learned my secret.  Some have tried to kill me in their anger when they learned my secret.  But the worst is when they grow old and die, while I stay the same.  Always the same.  Year after year.  I look like a man in my early thirties with a full head of hair, a vigorous body and a sharp mind.  Yet I am centuries old.

Finally, I know where I am and that Olivia, the woman I love, is with me.

My throat constricts as I think of the anguish I have brought her.  My eyes flutter open, and I try to speak.  But my throat is still too raw.

Oh Lord, Olivia.  I didn’t have the courage to tell you my secret for fear you would leave me.  You think I’ve sacrificed myself for you.  But now I’m coming back to life before your eyes.  I see the joy on your face.  The wonder.  But also the shock and the knowledge of my betrayal.  I couldn’t tell you the truth about myself, and now you’ve found out in the most horrible way imaginable.

Fear claws at me.  A monster of a man named Jarred Bainbridge holds us both captive.  Can I save you from him–or is it already too late?

Noah Fielding.

So would you like to live forever?  What are the disadvantages, do you think?

Rebecca

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I’VE GOT YOU COVERED

August 10, 2009 at 1:00 am (General, Rebecca York) (, , , , , , , , , )

I’VE GOT YOU COVERED
Sometimes just the author’s name is enough to make a reader reach for the book.  Or it can be the cover art.
I can control the content of my book–by writing the best story I can.  But contrary to what many people think, the writer has little influence over the cover.  Usually I love mine or I hate them.
Here’s my cover for WITCHING MOON, the third book in my Berkley Moon Series.  I’m always looking for suitable occupations for werewolves.  In this story, Adam Marshall has taken a job as the head ranger at a nature park on the edge of a Georgia swamp.  He finds out quickly that the nearby town harbors dark secrets.  And when botanist Sarah Weston comes to the area, powers she’s long suppressed come bubbling to the surface.  When I saw the cover proof, I loved the way Sarah’s image hovers above the swamp.  Then I noticed that one of the pine trees was sticking into her chin, making her look like the bearded lady in a circus sideshow.  When I pointed that out to my editor, the art department blocked out the tree with a green square.   At least they were willing to do it.  When I made a comment about the long dark hair in the heroine’s face in ETERNAL MOON, my editor told me it was there for the suspense element.  Although it’s not as bad as a pine tree goatee, I keep wondering why Renata didn’t reach up and swipe it away.
AMANDA’S CHILD is my story about a pregnant virgin. How did it happen, you ask?  Artificial insemination.  The cover’s actually a concept that I suggested.  And I love the way the hero looks so protective.  But why did they have to make the rocking chair into Mickey Mouse ears?
Another Harlequin Intrigue, CHAIN REACTION, is about a guy who gets caught in an explosion at a research lab and acquires paranormal abilities.  I guess the lightning is supposed to symbolize his powers. But I think the cover shot makes him appear to be walking on a tightrope high up in the air in a thunderstorm.
If the book cover of a romantic suspense novel shows the hero alone, I want that wow factor.  He should be really sexy.  Really good looking.  Really macho.  That’s what will make me reach for the book.
Which is why I think I lucked out with MORE THAN A MAN, my Intrigue out this month.  I love this guy.  (And if you’ve read my previous post about the book, you know I think he looks like my son.)  In my Intrigues, I get to explore all kinds of weird story lines.  In this one, the man who now calls himself Noah Fielding has lived for over 700 years.  Sounds like fun, right?  But his long life creates its own problem.  Like how does he have a relationship with any woman when she’s going to grow old and die–and he won’t.  And what happens when a dying millionaire is desperate to figure out his secret?
I hate to admit that I’ve sometimes bought a book because of the cover art.  How about you? What pulls you in?  And how much do the graphics influence your book purchases?
Rebecca

Sometimes just the author’s name is enough to make a reader reach for the book.  Or it can be the cover art.

I can control the content of my book–by writing the best story I can.  But contrary to what many people think, the writer has little influence over the cover.  Usually I love mine or I hate them.

Witching-125Here’s my cover for WITCHING MOON, the third book in my Berkley Moon Series.  I’m always looking for suitable occupations for werewolves.  In this story, Adam Marshall has taken a job as the head ranger at a nature park on the edge of a Georgia swamp.  He finds out quickly that the nearby town harbors dark secrets.  And when botanist Sarah Weston comes to the area, powers she’s long suppressed come bubbling to the surface.  When I saw the cover proof, I loved the way Sarah’s image hovers above the swamp.  Then I noticed that one of the pine trees was sticking into her chin, making her look like the bearded lady in a circus sideshow.  When I pointed that out to my editor, the art department blocked out the tree with a green square.   At least they were willing to do it.  When I made a comment about the long dark hair in the heroine’s face in EternalMoon-125ETERNAL MOON, my editor told me it was there for the suspense element.  Although it’s not as bad as a pine tree goatee, I keep wondering why Renata didn’t reach up and swipe it away.

amandas-child-125AMANDA’S CHILD is my story about a pregnant virgin. How did it happen, you ask?  Artificial insemination.  The cover’s actually a concept that I suggested.  And I love the way the hero looks so protective.  But why did they have to make the rocking chair into Mickey Mouse ears?

ChainReaction-125Another Harlequin Intrigue, CHAIN REACTION, is about a guy who gets caught in an explosion at a research lab and acquires paranormal abilities.  I guess the lightning is supposed to symbolize his powers. But I think the cover shot makes him appear to be walking on a tightrope high up in the air in a thunderstorm.

If the book cover of a romantic suspense novel shows the hero alone, I want that wow factor.  He should be really sexy.  Really good looking.  Really macho.  That’s what will make me reach for the book.

MoreThanAMan-125Which is why I think I lucked out with MORE THAN A MAN, my Intrigue out this month.  I love this guy.  (And if you’ve read my previous post about the book, you know I think he looks like my son.)  In my Intrigues, I get to explore all kinds of weird story lines.  In this one, the man who now calls himself Noah Fielding has lived for over 700 years.  Sounds like fun, right?  But his long life creates its own problem.  Like how does he have a relationship with any woman when she’s going to grow old and die–and he won’t.  And what happens when a dying millionaire is desperate to figure out his secret?

I hate to admit that I’ve sometimes bought a book because of the cover art.  How about you? What pulls you in?  And how much do the graphics influence your book purchases?

Rebecca

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Thanksgiving in Summer

July 30, 2009 at 8:58 am (General) (, , , )

Last week, I did something really different.  I made Thanksgiving dinner, four months early.  Lucky for me the house is air-conditioned, otherwise I would have melted in the heat with the oven on for hours.

I decided to have our holiday early because my son was home from Afghanistan for two weeks.  Thanksgiving is his favorite meal, and he’s going to spend the real deal at Kandahar Air Base.  Just by coincidence MORE THAN A MAN, my Harlequin Intrigue with the 700-year-old hero, is coming out in a few days.  And my son looks a lot like the guy on the cover.  Of course, he doesn’t think so.
MoreThanAMan-244
Turns out, the turkey was the big problem with the Thanksgiving dinner. They may be all over the grocery stores in November, but they’re almost nonexistent right now.  Other than going out in the woods and shooting them, you’ve got to buy them frozen at this time of year.  And guess what?  I’ve never cooked a frozen turkey, so I didn’t know how long it would take to defrost.  Unfortunately, we’re talking DAYS in the refrigerator.  And if you don’t have that much time, your best option is to immerse in cold water, according to all the Web sites I checked out.  But there’s one important fact they fail to mention.  You know how the wise guys need to put “cement shoes” on a body they’re trying to deep six?  Well, guess what?  A frozen turkey also floats.  So there I was in the early hours of the morning weighting down that sucker (with a heavy pot lid) so I could submerge it.  As you can see, it finally worked out.

So what’s your favorite holiday? And how do you make it special?

Rebecca York

food-200food-200-2

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ROOTS

July 9, 2009 at 3:00 am (Rebecca York) (, , , , )

MoreThanAMan-244When I was in grade school, the DC Public Library used to send a “library basket” to each classroom once a month.  The teacher would display the books on the chalk shelf below the blackboard, and we’d get to come up and choose which ones we wanted to take home.  One morning, when I was in fifth grade, she put up a book called RED PLANET, by Robert Heinlein.  On the cover was a picture of a person in space suit and a weird-looking creature.  As soon as I saw that cover, I knew I had to read that book, and I elbowed a couple of boys out of the way to grab it off the ledge.

That’s how my love affair with the weird began.  Until my early twenties, science fiction and fantasy were my chief reading material.  Just like with my first science fiction novel, I have vivid memories of reading my first shapeshifter story, DARKER THAN YOU THINK, by Jack Williamson.  I was fifteen at the time, and he made me want to BE a werewolf.  But it took years before I dared to write my first werewolf book, KILLING MOON.  Looking for a unique theme, I settled on a werewolf detective who used his wolf senses to solve crimes.  (Yeah, like Moonlight for vampires.  But I thought of it first.)

I’ve been writing shapeshifter books ever since, but I haven’t given up my love of the paranormal in general.  MORE THAN A MAN, coming out in August, is one of those books that’s hard to fit into a category.  It’s about a man named Noah Fielding who’s lived for seven hundred years.  Of course he’s left a lot of lovers behind and escaped lots of dangerous situations, but he meets his match when a dying millionaire devises a diabolical plan to discover Noah’s secret.  And he’s willing to use any means, including kidnapping the woman Noah loves.

Living forever is such an appealing concept, but it brings a whole host of problems with it, as Noah has discovered over the years.  And it’s an interesting challenge for a writer.  Kind of like the Superman problem.  If you can’t die, what puts you in jeopardy?

RT gave MORE THAN A MAN  a Top Pick 4.5.
They said,  This top-notch mystery could be the best of the 43 Light Street series! . . . York has outdone herself with first-rate characters, a roller-coaster ride of a story and a plot that will keep readers holding their breath.

Needless to say, I was thrilled.  And I was astonished to see how much the guy on the cover looks like my son.

If you’re not reading shapeshifter books, which paranormal themes do you like best?

Rebecca

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The Wolf and I

May 6, 2009 at 5:00 am (General) (, , , , , )

Were you at RT this year?  As usual, it was a blast.  One of the highlights for me this year was getting to hear Piers Anthony, who was writing fantasy long before I ever thought of getting into the field.  They gave him a Pioneer of Genre Fiction Award, which he accepted at the Awards Ceremony.  And at one of the sessions,  he spoke about his early education.  Like me, he’s dyslexic.  I thought I had it bad in elementary school since I had a horrible time learning to read, but it turns out he had to repeat the first grade three times before they passed him.  His revenge was becoming a New York Times best-selling novelist.  Now he’s in his seventies and still writing at a fantastic pace.  If you’d like some insights into the publishing business, read one of his two autobiographies.

What do you think–does having a learning disability spur creativity because you have to invent alternate ways of doing things?  Or does the faulty wiring in the brain lead to creativity?  Maybe it’s a combination of both?

ruth-wolf-2If you’ve seen me at RT, either this year or in the past few years,  you’ve seen me walking around with my wolf hand puppet.  Here’s where he lives when he’s at home, dressed in a hand-woven jacket that I got at a street market in  Guatemala and a leather and fur hat that my son sent from Afghanistan.  Right now my wolf’s called Wolfie.  But I’d love some help with a new name for him.  Something exotic and romantic and perhaps a bit dangerous.  I know the hat makes him look a little bit “silly.”  But I use it to disguise his savage nature, since he sits in my living room, and I don’t want him to scare little children who visit.

Send me suggestions–through the contest on my Web site.  If I pick the name you selected, I have a fun prize.  You get to have YOUR name used in the next shapeshifter book I write.

To enter the contest, you have to sign up for my Newsletter.  All the rules are at www.rebeccayork.com/contest.htm .

I’ve got another contest running as well–with some book giveaways.  You’ll see it in the same place.

Rebecca

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