Thursday, September 30, 2010

Mash-Up Blogfest

Thanks to the lovely S.E. Sinkhorn at Maybe Genius for hosting the MashUp Blogfest.

The blogfest is actually scheduled for tomorrow, October 1, but I'm posting early because I'll be out of town and won't have time to post. And...although I had big plans for this fest, life got in the way and I wasn't able to produce anything new so I'm reposting my entry from the Fairy Tale Blogfest (which was hosted by Emily White at Stepping into Fantasy)  This mashup is of science-fiction and fairy tale.  Enjoy!


Rafe Charming strove always to live up to his name, and so far he'd done well for himself. In the midst of a galactic uprising he'd found plenty of work as a hero-for-hire. But this job might have been biting off more than he could chew.

"Hey, Rafe," his partner, Doc, whispered. "You still think this job was such a great idea?"

Now three floors under the ruins of an ancient palace on a planet at the fringe of the galaxy, Rafe reconsidered. A mental inventory only ramped the adrenalin another degree: one entrance, one exit, the Crone Council, an army of androids crawling the planet surface, a senator's daughter in need of rescue. All in a day's work.

"Maybe not," he admitted. His back to the damp stone wall, he inched closer to the nearby chamber, careful not to trip on rocky debris.

Keeping the wall between him and the vastness of the chamber, he slid a mirror from his pocket and edged it into the open space where the wall came to an end. What he saw inside caused a sheen of sweat to prick his hairline, a bead sliding down his temple. He swallowed hard.

Seeing his response, Doc let his head drop against the wall behind him. "Let me guess," he whispered. "Our lovely target is being held against her will in the midst of some impossible obstacle course."

"You're half right," Rafe replied.

Doc's brows rose as he considered what could possibly make their situation more complicated. Then he smacked his hand to his forehead. "Some huge, hairy, invincible creature is guarding her."


"Shit. I don't know why I keep working with you."

"It's the charm. I'm irresistable," Rafe said, shooting Doc his most charismatic grin.

"Yeah, whatever," Doc grunted. "Let's get this over with. I'll take the hairy beast. As usual. You get the girl."

"As usual," Rafe finished. That was his favorite part.

They stepped into the empty space of the doorway, blasters blazing, and luck was on their side as they took the massive creature by surprise. It's eyes shot wide as the first bolts hit it, singing its fur. It bellowed rage while its blood flew, spattering the unconscious woman it was guarding. The force of the blaster shots compromised its balance and, arms flailing, it tipped backwards and toppled off the platform into the void below.

The following silence rang in Rafe's ears, but there was no time to waste. With nimble and practiced feet Doc negotiated the obstacle course, making short work of booby traps and obstructions. Rafe took up the rear, guarding against surprise flank attacks.

On the central platform, the woman lay unconscious on a stone dais, her hair an ebony puddle framing her alabaster face.

Rafe approached her, his heart tripping with anticipation. He watched her slow and steady breathing, in awe of her perfect beauty. Her lips were full and rosy and they stirred in him a desire to taste them. He amended his earlier thoughts. This was his favorite part of the job.

"Doc," he said in a reverent whisper. "The balm. Give me the balm."

Doc rolled his eyes and dug around in his pocket until he found the tube of lip balm, then placed it in Rafe's outstretched hand.

Rafe smeared it on his lips, feeling the familiar tingle as the magic took effect. It was almost gone. They'd have to go back to that creepy apothecary and get some more. He sighed. All part of the job, and well worth it if it meant kissing more women like this.

He leaned in until his lips met hers. Soft and cool and sweet, he applied more pressure - just to be sure - then savored the growing heat as the magic began to do its job. He sampled one last mouthful of those luscious lips before the heat of the magic was too much, then stood to find Doc glaring at him.

"What?" he asked. "It's my reward for a job well done."

"What a prince," Doc said. "And we're not out of the woods yet." He gestured at the dark hall from which they'd come. "We still have to get out of here."

The woman stirred and sat, rubbing her eyes. "Where am I?" She asked.

Rafe took her hand and pulled her to her feet. "C'mon, Princess, we've gotta go."

Just then, a spine-chilling cackle filled the room. Looked like their luck wasn't going to hold after all as the Council of Crones spilled from an entrance hidden in the opposite wall. As twisted and hideous as rumors promised, Rafe wasn't interested in sticking around to make their acquaintance. His job was done and it was time to go.

"Doc!" he called. "Take the girl and get back to the ship! I'll take care of these hags."

Doc didn't wait to see if Rafe changed his mind. He took the girl by the hand and sprinted out the door, retracing their steps while Rafe backed away from the crones, his blasters burning bright, serenaded by the sweet sound of screeching as each shot hit its mark.

"I take it back," he said to himself, hopped up again on an adrenalin high. "This is definitely the best part!"
Be sure to check out the rest of entries on October 1!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Blog Award

Just a quick note to thank the lovely Donna Hole for awarding me my first blog award! Thanks, Donna! *waves*

This "One Lovely Blog Award" requires that you acknowledge the blogger who gave it to you (done!) and pass it on to 15 bloggers you have recently met. Below is my list. Check them all out...they're really great!

Love you guys. Everybody go share the awesome now!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Banned Books Week

 September 25 - Oct 2
This week why not read a banned book? (You know you want to *wink*). Open your mind and look at the world from another point of view. Personally, I've never understood book banning. First of all, it only proves the cowardice and small-mindedness of the banner(s) and secondly banning something only makes it that much more desirable. Remember prohibition? Yeah. Like that. Alcohol was illegal? Really? Like that kept people from drinking. It only made people more determined to drink.

Hmmmm. So maybe we should ban books in a sneaky backward effort to makes people want to read them more. Anybody see what happened around the blogosphere when some dude advocated banning the book, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson? A huge wave of support and lots of publicity for the book. So, I wonder if a little reverse psychology is in order?

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Great Blogging Experiment - How to Write Compelling Characters

Thanks to Elana Johnson, Jennifer Daiker, and Alex Cavanaugh for hosting The Great Blogging Experiment. The subject for the day, which everyone who has signed up for the experiment will write about, is "How To Write Compelling Characters."

Good question!

What qualities make characters effective? Irrisistible? Compelling? Well, think about your favorite characters....what makes you cheer for them? Become invested in their lives and stories?  It's their flaws, right?

Interesting characters aren't perfect. They make mistakes. They learn from them. They're vulnerable. They're needy. Often they're brave and determined to overcome. They're human.

Even though it sounds simple, it's not always easy to do. It's tempting to write the undefeated hero, or the indestructible heroine. But that's boring. There's nothing at stake. No room for conflict.

Satisfying characters allow us a glimpse into ourselves, help us see ways we can be better. They give us ways to try on lives we would otherwise never experience. We want to see people with our own flaws and doubts succeed despite their weaknesses.

So my ...ahem...sage advice for writing compelling characters is to give them imperfections and personal challenges to overcome. Put them through the ringer and see how they react. Make them mess up and have to fix it and learn from it.

Perfection is boring. Make your characters messy!

Thursday, September 23, 2010


The lovely Angela over at Jaded Love Junkie is hosting today's Blogfeast. My entry is below. It's just part of a scene from my WIP, Faerie Fate.


Their house was small and homey. The space was loaded with a soft overstuffed couch and chairs in mismatched patterns.  In the kitchen, Willow was cooking something that smelled good enough to make Shadow’s stomach growl.  He hadn’t realized how hungry he was.   

“That smells great, Willow.”
Willow began the business of serving the meal and not too long after she’d set out plates and bread, Dusty burst through the door, skidding to a stop in the middle of the room.  Starrie and Shadow jumped when the door slammed open, but Willow seemed to take it in stride.
“Where've you been, Dusty?” she asked as she dished up another bowl for him.
Dusty leaned over, hands on his knees, catching his breath. “You’ll never believe me even if I tell you,” he said between heaving breaths.
“Try us,” Shadow said.
“Well, I was flying through the forest, saying hi to some friends, and it was just such a beautiful morning I kept on flying, you know?  I ended up in a pretty meadow where I saw a deer I know and she introduced me to her baby, and then I saw some lights through the trees so I went to check it out.”  
“So, what was it?” Shadow prompted him. 
Dusty gulped a couple of shallow breaths as he went to the kitchen and got a drink.  “Willow, you remember the house outside the forest where that nice old lady used to live?”
“Mmm hmm.”
“Well, she doesn’t live there anymore.”

Shadow heaved a sigh.  Dusty’s storytelling irritated him, mostly because it took him forever to get to the point. He struggled to maintain his patience as he watched Dusty guzzle his drink, wipe his mouth and put the cup in the sink. He wondered if there would to be any more to the tale other than an announcement that some old human woman no longer resided in the house she used to reside in.

“If she doesn’t live there, why were the lights on?” Starrie asked.

“Exactly!” Dusty exclaimed, as if the mystery were solved.

“Was there someone else there now?” Willow prompted.

“Yes there was. I got close enough to see a young woman on the porch and she had a beautiful ginger kitty on her lap. He was so furry and it’s been a really long time since I talked to a cat.  So I made sure the lady was completely asleep and I snuck up to the porch and talked to the kitty. But it turns out he wasn’t so friendly after all.”

So, that's my entry. It's not a feast, just a little breakfast among friends. Hmmm. Wonder what happened between Dusty and the cat?

Now go check out the rest of the scenes at Jaded Love Junkie!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Top 10 TV Shows Blogfest

Thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for hosting the Top 10 TV Shows Blogfest.  His Top 10 Movies was an awesome fest, and this one will likely be just as fun!

It's very difficult to choose only 10 TV shows because there are soooo many I like/have liked over the years. But these are some of my absolute faves (in no particular order):


Stargate SG 1/Stargate Atlantis/Stargate Universe (I know it's 3 shows, but I'm lumping them together)

Star Trek Voyager (Because I love Janeway)

Big Bang Theory (Brilliant genius writing)

Battlestar Galactica (the new one, not the old one)


The Closer



That 70's Show


#11 Bonus!  Warehouse 13

That's my Top 11 (which would likely change depending on what day you ask). Now go check out the rest of the entries at Alex's site!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Fest Success!

Remember when I said that Hubs and I were going to have to team-write for the 24-Hour Play Festival because the organizer's boyfriend wanted to write? (Which he did, by the way, and his play was, shall we say...not good. By any stretch of the imagination. Pee-you.) Turns out another writer didn't show, so Hubs and I got to write our own plays after all. Yay!

So, 7:30 p.m. Friday everyone shows up to the theater, introduces themselves, shows their prop and costume piece. Then at 9:00 p.m. the actors and directors go home and sleep while we writers go write. First we have to collect a jumbo supply of writing munchies including a sub sandwich, a Twix bar, grapes, gummy bears, and pop (That was my personal menu. Everyone else had their own).

At first, I really didn't have any idea what I was going to write. Then I decided it would be fun to adapt this, which I wrote for the Invasion of the Bloggy Snatchers blogfest under my "real" name.

It turned out spectacularly well. I was terrified the actors wouldn't be able to memorize all the lines in such a short period of time. Two years ago when I wrote, I drew some newbie actors who completely froze on stage, couldn't remember their lines, and the play bombed big time. Let me tell you, that was the epitome of embarrassment for a writer.

Tonight, however, I got awesome actors and they pulled the play off without a hitch. It was great!

One of the best things is that as a writer, watching the play from the audience, I was able to see the places where I could make adjustments and improve the play. It's a great opportunity.  I'm sure other writers experience this too, where everything you write sounds great when you read it in your head, but to see it performed points out the flaws very clearly. I think this play has potential in the long run, and watching it performed helped me to find the places where I can improve the timing, add jokes, delete lines, tighten dialogue.

How did Hubs' play go? Well, not so great. He pulled newbie actors who pretty much bombed his play. The script was good, but the acting stunk. So now he's had the privilege of experiencing writer embarrassment.

Overall, though, it was another really awesome 24-Hour Play Festival!

Friday, September 17, 2010

It's Play Fest Time!

Tonight is the 24-hour Play Festival. I still have no solid story ideas. This does not bode well.

Plus, another guy (the boyfriend of the organizer) wants to write tonight and since there aren't enough actors or directors to go around for an additional writer the organizer asked if Hubs and I would write as a team so now we have to work together which isn't necessarily bad but often leads to bickering and differences of opinion. There's lots of love, too, don't get me wrong, but that comes later after we're done writing and getting along again.

I'm sure we'll pound out something good...maybe even awesome...but it'll be - shall we say - stormy between now and then?!

Wish us luck! And I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Countdown to Play Fest

I was looking through my writing journal last night, trying to brainstorm ideas for the 10 minute play I have to write this weekend.

The journal is full of ideas for novels and screenplays and things I want to write. Some of them are more developed than others. And some things are just a couple of sentences...phrases I thought were cool or that popped into my head for no reason. Some I can't even remember where they came from.

For instance. I ran across this last night:

-He used a pig as a diversion.
-How clever is that?
-Evil genius clever!

I have no idea where that came from or why. But I think it's kinda funny. Sounds very Heinz Doofenshmirtz.

Hubs was having a panic attack last night because he didn't have any ideas for his play, but this morning he was giddy with them. Last night he wanted to pull out and this morning he was excited about what he wanted to write. I'm still trying to formulate a plan. No story ideas have clicked yet. But I'm sure something will!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Let The Festival Begin!

My revision deadline is quickly approaching and although I'm almost on target to meet it, I think I'll end up overshooting it by a week. Which isn't so bad, I guess. Only a couple of chapters to revise, add a couple of scenes, revisit the prologue and voila...done!

So what will I be doing this coming weekend in view of this looming deadline? I'll be spending all night on Saturday participating in the annual 24-Hour Play Festival at the university where I teach. I've taken part for four years running, so it's practically tradition. I can't possibly not participate!

How does this work, you ask? Well, on Saturday evening all writers, directors, and actors meet and greet, and present their prop and costume items. Then the actors and directors leave to go home and sleep in their cozy beds while the writers have the next 7 to 9  hours to write a (preferably coherent) 10-minute play using the actors who are assigned to them and as many of the props and costume pieces as possible. In the morning, after the plays are written, the bleary-eyed writers go home and sleep and the actors and directors show up to begin rehearsing. Then Sunday evening it all comes together for performance!

It's an amazing creative experience and I look forward to it every year. Of course I'm one of the writers, and actually Hubby is going to write this year too (he's a student at the university). So we'll be sitting down at some point between now and then to brainstorm some possible ideas so we don't go in completely cold on Saturday. I've done that a couple of years and the results are not pretty.  It pays to at least have a couple of ideas on the back burner.

So anybody have any story suggestions? Anything clever? Funny? Dramatic? Anything interesting theatrically?

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Dreaded Blockage

Here I am, my second post, and I'm already talking about writer's block. Not a very uplifting or inspirational subject, hmm? But if you're a writer, you understand. It's that moment you sit down and look at your story and an icy lump settles in the pit of your stomach and you think, "oh God, what words come next?" but there's no answer.

Unfortunately, writer's block is a real problem for some writers....okay for every writer. We all face it at one point or another, whether we're willing to admit it or not. And it sucks. It may not be a block of epic proportions where you're incapable of writing for weeks or years. *shudders*  I don't even want to think about that kind of block.

So I'll think about the kind of blockage most of us experience: the temporary, short-lived block. Of course temporary is relative. It could be minutes, it could be hours, it could be days. God forbid, weeks. Whether you're struggling with a first draft or revisions, that feeling of staring at the screen while your mind skitters around thinking about everything but the story, is horrifying.

I don't know about you, but when this happens to me this is usually how it goes:

I look at the words and they just don't make sense. It's like Cyrilic or Klingon. I panic because I've self-imposed a deadline and I'm on a tight life-schedule and I just don't have time for writer's block! Which, of course, only makes it worse. I start fidgeting and my stomach gets all knotty. My leg starts doing that bouncing up and down super fast jiggly thing.

My Muse has abandoned me! What the hell do I do now?!

I think, gee, maybe if I distract myself the Muse will show up again. I'll trick him/her into action by pretending not to care.

I wonder who's on Twitter? (I go check out Twitter and make banal comments of my own then Tweet comments to everyone else).

I check e-mails on all my accounts, which takes some time because I've got my real name acct, the family acct, my school student acct, my school instructor acct, my pen name acct, my small business acct.

I realize I need to harvest my crops on Farmville before they wither and die (Facebook, here I come!).

I go back and read (and comment on) Tweets I missed while checking e-mail and harvesting crops.

Hmmm. Bet I can find something cool on YouTube (I scurry on over and enjoy).

OMG, I can kill tons of time while I wait for my Muse to get his/her head in the game by catching up on all the blogs I haven't read today (I lurk the blogosphere, reading and commenting...getting ideas for future posts ; ).

I go back and read the Tweets I missed while watching YouTube videos and reading blogs.

Pay the bills? Sure!

Let the cat out? Why not?

Get a donut and coffee from the kitchen? Of course!

(Check Tweets again)

Play with the kids? You bet!

Mow the lawn? Maybe not.

Call mom?  Okay, definitely not. Time to actually face my writer's block

(Gotta check Tweets one more time, and a couple of the e-mail accounts)

Okay. Now I'm really going to face it. *sigh*

Now it's time to lament: Why me? Why now? It was going so well just yesterday! Words were flowing like a lyrical stream! Why is today any different? It's just cuz I'm a crappy writer, I know that's it. Just because I had a good day yesterday doesn't prove I can write. Why oh why oh why?

I'm XX years old, I've done nothing impressive, discovered nothing important, been nothing  interesting, and  nobody would ever want to read anything I have to write. (cue pathetic music, tears, wailing, and hair pulling)

Okay, so maybe it's not quite that bad but that's what it feels like.

What do I do to overcome writer's block? Usually if I plug my brain into my MP3 player, go through the Twitter/e-mail/Facebook/blogs/donuts routine, then force myself to face the screen, my Muse will at least reluctantly show up.  If I reread the last chapter or two, my Muse is usually impressed enough with him/herself that they'll grudgingly participate in today's writing. And once I get started....sometimes all it takes is one word ....I can keep going from there and forget the block ever happened.

Until the next one and I have to do it all over again.

But I'm so close to the end of revisions I can almost taste it. Two more chapters to revise, add a couple of scenes, and revisit and rework the old prologue and tack it back on the front of the MS and I'm ready to send to betas!

So how often are you blocked? And what do you do to unblock? Don't tell me you've never experienced it, because I know you have. C'mon...tell me. Tell me!  Tell Me!!!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Welcome to Mara Writes!

Welcome to my author blog! I'm glad you've joined me here!

I'm still building this blog, so bear with me as I add new features and the blog evolves.

Maybe I should start off telling you a little about myself? I'm a writer, and my current projects include a paranormal romance trilogy and a sci-fi/chick lit novel. I'm also working on a screenplay and I have a couple of short stage plays in the works.

I'd like to talk to you a little bit about pseudonyms. Mara Nash is my pseudonym. I decided I needed a pen name for several reasons: I want to keep my writing life separate from my family, and to avoid any issues with my job. Of course every writer hopes that at some point they'll make a living from writing - and I'm no different - but until then I still need a day job, and I don't want to mix the two. Also, my "real" name just isn't very writerly. It doesn't have any "wow" factor.

The subject of pen names has been explored brilliantly and in depth at various writer's blogs around the blogosphere. In fact, Rachelle Gardner has also discussed it today on her blog, so please visit her there for some great advice.

As a writer, there are several reasons you may want to use a pseudonym. Like me, you may have a job or be looking for a job and want to keep your writing and working lives separate. Imagine you work as an elementary teacher by day and write erotica or romance by night. It could be inconvenient to have your employer....or you and find out about your other life. A pen name might be in order if you just don't like your name (again, like me), or it's very common and you share it with a lot of other people, or it's the same or similar to a celebrity or another author. If you're planning on writing in several genres, it may be prudent to have a pen name to keep your writing life neatly organized.

We've been discussing the issue of pen names over at Critique This WIP and for various reasons we all decided we needed one. The fun came for all of us in selecting pseudonyms we could feel comfortable with. Tessa was already using a pen name, so the issue was a moot point for her, but the rest of us struggled to find names that "felt" right, that we could comfortably assume and not feel like we were playing at pretend.

I'm nearly finished with revisions of the first novel in my paranormal romance trilogy and will be sending it out to betas soon, then beginning the querying process, so I felt it was prudent to begin the process of assuming my pseudonym.

An interesting point Rachelle made in her blog post on pen names is that writers should start the query process from the beginning using their pseudonym. Do all of your correspondence using your pen name, and identify yourself in that way. You don't need to tell the agent it's not your real name until they offer you representation. This is good information to know, and something I had no idea about before I read her blog post. So, thanks Rachelle!

I'd be interested to know your feelings about pseudonyms. Do you use one? Why or why not?