Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Z is for Zodiac

[Cue music]
The party’s over.
It’s time to call it a day.

 Or, rather, call it a month. This A-Z April Challenge Blog Hop has been fun. I hope you’ll pop back from time to time to see what else I’m up to. And don’t forget: Look for Angelica French’s first novel, Streetwalker, out from Sizzler Editions in a very short while. On to Z!

“What’s your sign?” The classic pick up line from the 70’s has become not so much an icon as a punchline. Sleazy guys in sleazy movies think it a cool way to show the girl at the bar they are interested in her. They often follow it with a line like, “Mine is penis rising.” Har-de-har-har. What a laugh. NOT!

Like any of those sleaze bag guys have ever done any research into the character traits associated with each sign! Now, whether or not you believe in the zodiac and astrology matters not a whit. If you’re a novelist , like me, A LOT of your readers do. Otherwise, the daily paper wouldn’t print horoscopes, and you couldn’t get horoscopes delivered daily to your e-ddress.

To a reader who follows astrology even a little, you can send a message about a character in your story by identifying the zodiac sign. For example, in Mission Impastable (about to be published by Oak Tree Books), Rita is a Cancer. In-the-know readers will figure she is moody and mercurial. They expect her to be very emotional and prickly. She is a clinger who has trouble letting go. I now have a blueprint for how Rita will respond in situations I place her in. See how easy that is.

I have a file in my novels folder on the zodiac and astrological signs: what they mean, who the signs are compatible with, and who they are incompatible with. [Apologies here to Sunny Frazier who writes great zodiac mysteries published by Oak Tree Press. She’s the real deal, and I just dabble in the on-line level of knowing! Seriously, check out Fools Rush In and Where Angels Fear. ]

I refer to the sign charts to find traits for my characters to build consistency of actions and motivations. For example, Cancer is a “personal” sign, meaning she is more aware of and interested in herself than in others. She is always seeking reassurance and secretly wants to feel safe financially, emotionally, and romantically. That segues beautifully into her role and how it plays out in the book.

One question on one of the character interview forms I use with my characters is, “What’s your astrological sign?” This is a great question. How well do you know your characters?

Read the zodiacal descriptors and pick the one closest to your character, then tighten up the character by explicitly including more of those traits in the story action. Be consistent with the trait building and your characters should have interesting interactions with others.

Make your antagonist someone with an oppositional sign to create tension and conflicts arising from opposing strengths and limitations. Make the best friend/ally someone with a compatible sign that helps complete the protagonist. Each can bring different strengths to the relationship.

Another way to use the zodiac is to read the descriptors and start doing character sketches without a book in mind. Getting some great master characters developed could lead to a book problem. What happens when an emotional Cancer and a cool, collected Taurus meet? Can they fall in love? Will they complement one another’s strengths or will they tear one another apart? Are their odds so at cross-purposes they cannot work together?

It’s your book. What will happen? Can’t wait to read it!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Y is for Yin and Yang


Yin-Yang. Yin Yang. Yinyang. You’ve seen it written many ways. The symbol is one of the most recognizable in the world. But what in the heck is it about?

As an author looking to create interesting characters, I am always on the hunt for character analysis strategies. [Read tomorrow’s blog for another tool I use.]

First a superficial intro to yin-yang. Yin-yang comes to us from the Oriental religious tradition, Taoism. It was later adopted into Chinese Buddhism and Confucianism.

Yin-yang deals with the two cosmic forces, basic forces, of the Yin (female; moon, some say earth; cold; darkness; absorption; passive) and Yang (male; sun, some say heaven; hot; light; penetration; forceful). You can tell men designed this concept, can’t you?

The yin-yang symbol is the ideal, a balance of the forces. White represents enlightenment and black represents ignorance. So, one could say, in all knowledge there exists ignorance, and in all ignorance there is some knowledge. Now that makes for some interesting book characters!

The dualities exist in real people, but too often we have trouble writing multi-dimensional characters. While in common parlance, folks often equate yin with good and yang with evil, that is not part of the philosophy. Rather, and rightly so, yin-yang is who we are as indivisible entities. Yin and yang are meant as complementary, not oppositional, to one another.

As an author, I have my protagonist. I want her to be a certain way. It’s easy to find her positive aspects. I like her, of course. So her yin, to be believable, should be what is oppositional to her finer points.

Let’s say she is driven to succeed, but she has this procrastination streak when she thinks things will be uncomfortable. She also is caring and supportive, but feels taken advantage of by some family members and is about to cut them off.

Her antagonist, on the other hand, can be quite an interesting foil if his yang pushes things through, forcing her to act when she needs to delay. He could manipulate family members to push her buttons. But his precipitous nature might cause him to make mistakes.

See how one could cast oppositional traits for oppositional characters?

You can do the same thing with characters on the same side. I tried to do that very thing with Carrie and Harlan, heroine and hero in my erotic romance, Streetwalker (published this year by Sizzler Editions). Carrie and Harlan not only have their own yin-yang thing going, but when the two are together, they create an encompassing yin-yang and the harmony completes both of them. At least for a while, until their world is shaken and they need to readjust their elements.

Look at your characters. Are they multi-dimensional? If not, consider how to deepen them with yin-yang. If nothing else, it gives you another interesting topic to present in all those interviews you’ll be giving.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

X is for X-Rated: Erotica and Erotic Romance

I did a whole blog post on this earlier, but it has more import now that Streetwalker is about to be released. My family will have a member who writes smut. In their eyes. I’m okay with that. For many people, X-Rated stuff just isn’t what they enjoy reading (though they may enjoy doing!).


To me, the range of sexual experiences that partners engage in is varied and incredibly powerful. When I write about those experiences, I write erotic romance. Hey, I’m a farm girl. Sex is normal, natural, wonderful. Why not try to describe its richness?


Some call what I write smut. Some call it porn (rather harsh, I believe, for my work).


Smut is “obscene or lascivious” writing (dictionary definition). Okay, maybe I write smut--of the lascivious sort (luscious sounding word, that!), but I take exception to obscene. By whose definition? It often comes down to those connotations and denotations of word meaning.


I write erotic romance because for me the relationship and the character arcs are the most important parts of the story. The sex is hot and frequent, but it is in service (so to speak!) to the relationship/character arcs. My books have either an HEA or HFN ending.


Others write erotica. I have no problem with erotica, though I don’t read as much of it. Because erotica is more about the sexual arc of a character or characters than about the relationship between them, I don’t find it as interesting. There is relationship stuff in the story, but it is subservient to the sex. I, myself, would call the 50 Shades books erotica. You may disagree. Okay.


The dictionary also distinguishes pornography for us. Porn is material “intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings.” That sounds right.


Porn? I find it boring. How many sexual contortions can the author get characters into while displaying a panoply of parts? Ho hum! Not that I find sex boring. Nope. I just love that sexuality is part of the healthy human psyche.


We farm girls make good sex partners! X-Rated??? Pretty much anything goes! Yee haw!

Friday, April 26, 2013

W is for Window

“The eyes are the window to your soul.” (attributed to Shakespeare, Da Vinci, English proverb, and countless others!)


“Rear Window” (the Jimmy Stewart movie)


Window of opportunity.” (comes from the space program who coined “launch window”)


     Etymologically, the word window is from Old Norse vindauga, “wind eye”. (Can you hear how that morphed over the years to “window”?) Apparently, they cut holes in the roof for ventilation and light. The wind eye eventually was covered with glass, but it retained its original name.

     Now that does help interpret better the phrases this post began with.

     A window is a sign of trust. People can see in. It’s not as solid as a door or wall. It invites exploration beyond the location of the viewer.

     And is that true of your soul. Do your eyes invite people in to explore who you are, what you value, and what aspirations you have?

     In “Rear Window”, Jeff (played by Jimmy Stewart) is a wheelchair-bound photographer. He is drawn into the drama being played out in an apartment across the way as he observes the occupants. A photographer has a special eye or way of seeing, so I’m sure that choice of occupation wasn’t coincidental. The window tableaux engrossed him so that the events in others’ lives became more concrete than those in his own. His window, looking into their window, was the eye to the souls and secrets of strangers.

    On a whole other tack, the expression, “window of opportunity”, demonstrates how windows open up possibilities, options, and, well, opportunities. The window allows a vision of what could be, especially if acted upon quickly. This phrase implies an urgency of decision-making, a pressure to act.

     In the books we write, authors use metaphors and phrases (sometimes even the tired, trite ones) because they communicate much in a short burst. The eyes are often highlighted in descriptions because humans notice them so much. The urgency to act quickly and open windows to possibilities is behind much of the plotting.

     Are there phrases you see being incorporated in your stories or the stories you read?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

V is for Virgin

WARNING: This post contains controversial content that some may find offensive!

“Virginity is over-rated in American culture”, says Angelica French, renowned expert on all things love because she has been dabbling in it for decades!

In some cultures, premarital sex was ordinary practice in order to determine the fecund fitness of the virginal vessel. After all, propagation of the species ensured survival for the greatest number in the tribe. So kick the tires, take her out for a test drive. If she’s fit, impregnate her ‘til she drops.

It appears we can, in part, thank the Puritans for putting the big kibosh on sex for fun. Because, let’s face it, those tribal guys probably didn’t mind the requisite checking out the goods. (Not saying it was that much fun for the girls, however.)

Along with that came a lot of other restrictions--modesty (vastly overrated in my opinion); abstinence except for procreation (crazy, people’s urges clearly indicate a sex drive beyond procreation or we’d be like dogs with seasons to be in heat); and, just general elevation of the female body to untouchable status.

The Catholic Church didn’t help either, so let’s not put it all on the Puritans. Sexual purity also came down with the whole virgin birth thing that was formally adopted in 649 A.D. That was more than a few years after everybody involved was long dead! So much for fact-checking!

I took classical Greek in college. For fun. And it was. One of the things you learn when you study any language is that translations are tricky. Was something big, huge, gargantuan, or merely large? See how gradations of meaning can affect how you understand the message?

Well, the Greek word translated as “virgin” was parthenos. Parthenos meant unmarried, not necessarily virginal. Of course, many of the unmarried were virginal, but . . . you see where I’m going.

I never understood the big deal about why Mary had to be a virgin. So what? The accomplishments of her son were the important thing, along with the message for how to live our lives. Why the clutter around how He was conceived? I just don’t get it.

To this day, virginity is valued by societal norms, but not necessarily by people. Sexuality is a huge and important part of the human experience. If some choose to wait, that’s cool. But don’t diss others who might make a different choice, following their own natural urge to couple. (Interesting word, that.)

It is our society that has extended childhood so that what was normal in the past at puberty has now become forbidden for years past puberty.

I also wonder, with self-pleasuring and mutual-pleasuring, if the definition of virgin needs to be updated. Is vaginal penetration by a penis the ultimate desecration of the virginal state or is any orgasm by any means?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

U is for Union

Today is my anniversary of a lot of years. Decades, even. (I don’t do numbers; just words. But trust me, we were united a long time ago.) And a happy union it is.

But milestones like this cause one to reflect on what it means to have such a strong connection to another that you seek public validation of the relationship, an acknowledgement of it’s value to society.

We lived together before we made any formal commitment. Our first formal commitment was buying a house together. That legal document bound us more than a marriage certificate. It’s a bunch easier to dissolve a marriage than to get out from under a 30-year, jointly-signed mortgage!

The second commitment we made, though not legal, was adopting two dogs. The third, a decision to have a baby. Now my mother wasn’t so wild about that order. But we were happy in our choices.

Only then, when we pieced our lives together, did we realize we wanted the paper work that accompanied what had accumulated into a formal commitment. We wanted to live our lives together--forever. It was pretty easy to make that happen.

But what if you love another and the world tells you you cannot formalize that love? What if the power majority get to decide the definition of “union”?

It certainly was true with the miscegenation laws. Quotes from past decades stated that mixed-race marriage would tear at the very fabric of what marriage means and society would go down the toilet in a big flush.

Well, that didn’t happen, now did it? I read that if “society” had waited to do away with miscegenation laws until “society” agreed with mixed race marriages, it would have been in 1991 before the majority tilted to that perspective. Really?

That just shows that sometimes laws to right injustices are needed before the public perception changes.

We are in the same predicament now with same-sex marriages. Who really believes that MY marriage is threatened in any way by the marriage of any other couple? I mean, really, can you claim with a straight face that a marriage performed by an Elvis impersonator is a holy affair. That the “sanctity” of the institution is upheld. [No offense meant to those unions, by the way. I’m just trying to make a point that not everyone goes the walk-down-the-traditional-aisle route.]

The majority of Americans accept the idea of equality marriages but many legislators continue to try to block it with laws.

Having said that, believing that people who love should be allowed to formalize their relationship, let me say that I don’t believe the government should get involved in “marriage” at all--for me, for anybody else.

I cede “marriage” to the religious groups to control. Let them marry who they want. Or deny it if that is their tenet.

But UNION, ah, that the government does, can, and should control. I needed a license to “marry”. The government recognized the formality of the document. Same could happen with unions. Let the government grant “union” licenses; if couples want to layer on “marriage”, find a religious group to do so. Matters me no mind.

But the government, apparently, has to step in to make things legal. So do it, Feds!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

T is for Thoreau

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” ---Henry David Thoreau

     I have this Thoreau quote on a necklace that I wear when I am feeling discouraged or otherwise down. I also where it when I am elated with where my writing career is leading me! I have gifted many a writer friend with the same necklace because writers need to remember this.

     Dissect the quote.

    “Go confidently . . .” and just what does it take to “go confidently”? For me, confidence comes when I know what I am doing. So I take writing classes. I read books about writing. I participate in several writing critique groups. But that’s not enough, to know, to be informed. One must do something with that information--“go”. Write, create, produce.

    “. . . in the direction of your dreams.” What if one didn’t have dreams, passions, interests? It’s hard for me to imagine, but I have friends who continue to work in their careers because they cannot imagine what else they would do with their time. They still love their work, but that is not what is keeping them to their jobs. They fear the loss of identity and purpose that would accompany leaving it. They don’t know what could fill the space.

     I do not lack for dreams or passions or interests. I cannot live long enough to do all I want to do. I am sad for those who don’t have that same zest.

     “Live the life you’ve imagined.”

     I am. And it is good. That is what I wish for all of you. Live to the fullest extent the life you’ve imagined. You deserve it. In the words of my favorite Star Trek captain, “Make it so.”

Monday, April 22, 2013

S is for S . . . ???

     For whatever reason, this was the hardest blog post to pen. Maybe it’s because there are so many “S” words that important to me right now.

     I could start with my first name, but moving on from there . . . My first fiction book contract came to me for Streetwalker, from an editor Sascha Illyvich at Sizzler Editions. It’s the first book in the “Sex Sellsseries. And I had my culinary mystery series contracted, too.

     Okay. That makes sense.

     Or maybe it is that I have more friends named “Sandy” than any other single name. And each of the Sandy’s is a dear friend and has contributed to me being where I am emotionally, physically, spiritually, and professionally. I could do a whole post on the Sandy’s and what they mean to me.

     When I think where I am in life, I am satisfied but not complacent; surprised but not shocked. I’ve worked hard to get published, and to learn about marketing and business plans and all that other stuff that professional writers need to know these days.

     I could have selected story for my “s” word today. After all, that’s what I do. I scribble down the stories that batter at me. They’re everywhere, surrounding me with their situations demanding sanctuary in my tickler files.

     I have more stamina and strength, now, one year out from my stroke. I believe my current state is due to my sedulous nature leading me to snatch my life back from sickness. I am very grateful for all the support I had to do that.

     And today is Sunday!

     I think I just finished this blog post for tomorrow! Is there one letter in your life with multiple associations, a letter that saturates your world?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

R is for Relationships

     One of my dictionary sources (dictionary.com) gives four definitions for “relationship.”  The noun, in a general sense means “a connection, association, or involvement.” That’s pretty broad and it encompasses the remaining three definitions of “relationships” which are a blood/marriage, emotional, or sexual connection/association/involvement. The term came into being in the mid 1700’s.

     I began this blog, naming it “Romance Righter” for two major reasons: 1) blatant self-promotion for my romance novels (truth in advertising!) and 2) because I’ve always been told that I can see with clarity into interactions among people. Lots of folks have asked for my advice and insights. Never shy, I gladly give my opinions! This blog provides a forum for that as does Twitter where I am @RomanceRighter.

     I enjoy people, and I am a happy camper myself. I wish for others to have that stability in relationships that allow me to flourish--not just survive--not just be happy. But my life with family and friends encourages me to flourish.

     I wrote about flourish earlier this month, so you know that’s important to me.

     I see so many people settling for less in relationships than they deserve for a variety of reasons--fear of loneliness, fear of never being loved, fear that they don’t deserve happiness, fear of the other person, and any number of other negative reasons to keep someone close to them.

     Baloney! I hope through this column and @RomanceRighter to help others see they should grab for stable relationships that are mutually beneficial.

     Thus the quiz yesterday. Sure it was meant for fun. Mostly. But if you found yourself with a bunch of “yes” responses, I hope you examine your relationship in light of the patterns you saw. What areas do you need to work on? When is it time to call it quits instead of throwing good energy after bad?

     Everyone deserves healthy relationships in their lives--family, friends, lovers. It doesn’t matter. If yours aren’t healthy, divest yourself of the negative ones and search for the positive ones.

     Look for a relationship with someone who makes you better than you were, makes you feel better about yourself. And someone for whom you do the same.