Writing


bourbon-sunday-blend

Hope you all had a happy and relaxing Thanksgiving!

First, some tea thoughts and good news on my health front. (I know, you didn’t know I was sick. Turns out I’m not. That’s the good news.)

TheTeaTable was one of my first mail order tea services. I haven’t ordered lately because I have supply of loose teas still (see: local tea shop closing leading to tea spending spree) but the Tea Table’s Bourbon Sunday Blend is my absolute favorite of their black teas.

Alas, despite its name, it contains no bourbon. (But it would mix well with bourbon.) From the website description: a black tea blend of tippy Assam teas combined with real Bourbon vanilla pieces, giving it a wonderfully sweet aroma. Enjoy with milk and sugar for a great dessert.

It’s best when enjoyed during the weekend when the taste can be savored but I’ve been known to indulge on weekdays as well, especially on holidays. Follow the link above to TheTeaTable and you’ll find a full selection of all manner of teas at reasonable prices. Plus, they’ll toss in free samples with your order.

Fantastic Beasts suitcase

What’s in the box? Fantastic Beasts suitcase, photo by Corrina Lawson, suit case from Warner Bros.

Only one piece of fiction writing news to report: my erotic romance novella topped out at 43,000 words and was sent off to my agent for review. It was Hawk’s Family but now it’s Phoenix Inferno. Not sure what the final name will be. It’s way out of my comfort zone so there are more than the usual nerves but I needed to write it. I’m still parsing why–we writers often get the desire to write something without knowing the reasons—but I know that it relaxed and occupied me these past few months.

I needed that because, since September, it’s been uncertain whether I had breast cancer or not.

Oh, sure, the doctors tell you not to worry and I’m excellent at compartmentalization but, OF COURSE I WAS WORRIED.

The saga started with a lump under my arm that turned out to be a skin issue but that led me to set up my yearly mammogram or, as I like to call it, the squishing of the boobs. That mammogram turned into an ultrasound where they found a “spot they couldn’t explain.” Fun.

That spot led me to a biopsy and awaiting the results with an attack of nerves. Naturally, it took longer than they said to get the results. The first call I got was an all-clear. Three days later, I received a call back that “hold on, wait!” They wanted to do a breast MRI because there’s still a spot they didn’t check.

That’s when worry set in.

And it turned into a saga. The insurance denied coverage of the MRI because my biopsy was clear. Fine, fine. Several rounds of doctor calls later, another month of waiting on insurance, and the MRI was approved, then another two weeks until the MRI. Remember, I started in September. The MRI was the Friday before Thanksgiving. Yeah.

I plunged myself into other concerns–kids, writing, etc.–and waited on the results. Finally got them the Wednesday of Thanksgiving. All clear. Nothing wrong but lumpy breasts.

WHEW.

But I did develop one habit during the three months of waiting that I’m going to keep.

Each time something came up for me to do, either a new story idea or a non-fiction writing assignment, I said to myself “If I have cancer, would I spend time on this?”

Turns out that question is terrific for setting priorities.

I promptly decided to stop doing reviews of tech like headphones or iPhone cases and to write about the things that mattered to me. Combine that with the election results and the uncertainty with our country right now, and I’m more convinced than ever to spend my time writing stories or articles that I need to write.

I thought about that in regards to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, this year’s family Thanksgiving movie. It has received so-so reviews but I found the world absolutely fascinating and it was full of crunchy story possibilities and characters. It’s more layered and nuanced to me than the Harry Potter movies (not the books), which are mostly adventures stories, though good ones. Fantastic Beasts was about people at the margins of society struggling to be heard.

It has its flaws–are there no non-white people in NYC in the 1920s??–but it also has something to say about the world today.

I hope that, eventually, my fiction does that too.

full-frontal-nerdity_large

I’ve missed a couple of weeks. We’ve had a family emergency, with my younger daughter in the hospital for treatment of a chronic condition. That ground everything to a halt and, when she finally came home, it meant a huge backlog of writing. The good news is that the daughter is getting better every day.

The time spent with her in the hospital also provided a writing epiphany, especially related to my favorite children’s author, Walter Farley. More on that below.

Walter Farley

My copy of The Black Stallion & the Girl, cover copyright Random House

To cope with all this, I resorted to tea. Strong tea. Wake you up, tea. I drank a special morning blend of black orange pekoe tea. Basic black teas can be the hardest tea to get right. Too strong and they’re harsh and nasty (hello, Lipton), too weak and it’s like drinking hot water with a hint of flavor. This blend is perfect for me, provided I use one of my extra large mugs, two teaspoons of the loose tea, and steep for four minutes. Perfect.

Onto Walter Farley and one of my favorite books as a child: The Black Stallion and the Girl.

When we fall in love with books as children, we fall hard, and those stories and the people who wrote them become beloved in a way that’s everlasting.

Sometimes when revisiting our favorite stories as adults, we can be disappointed. I still see what I loved in my favorites but, as an adult, Tarzan‘s pulp adventures contain racist implications are undeniable. Robert Heinlein’s fast-paced galactic adventures reveal skewed views on women and sex.

But sometimes authors and books exceed our childhood memories and that’s the case with Farley and The Black Stallion and the Girl. Even more, sometimes behind a beloved story is another story, a true story that’s tragic and beautiful.

When my daughter was in the hospital, she wanted to read and disappear in her books. I’d brought her my favorite Black Stallion books, including this one, so I picked it off the pile while she read something else. The words quickly merged with my memories of childhood, and I was eight years old again, thrilled that a girl could do everything that the hero of the story, Alec Ramsey, could do. Pam, the girl of the title, did what she loved to do, despite everyone telling her that she couldn’t or shouldn’t do it. She knew differently and her quiet confidence and her kindness won them over.

There are debates in the book over what women should and could do and here Walter Farley is on the right side of history, allowing Alec to be on Pam’s side and allowing that women could be whatever they wanted and that Pam had just as much a right to love horses and work with them as anyone else.

This book was written in 1971, even before Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs. Farley was ahead of his time and his story back then was an inspiration to me.

However, I also remembered a later book, The Black Stallion Legend, written in 1983, where Pam dies off-screen in a car crash in Europe and that sent Alec into a dream-like tailspin. It was an odd book, full of raw grief. I wasn’t ready for it, and I put the entire series aside for other books.

What I didn’t know then was that Pam was based on Walter Farley’s own daughter, Pam, who died at the age of 20 in 1968 in a car crash in Europe.

The Black Stallion and the Girl is a love letter from Farley to his daughter.

Pam in the book is kind and warm and smart and funny and determined. She’s human, of course, and not perfect, though Walter Farley can be forgiven if perhaps she’s a bit idealized. (Alec, too, is idealized, as is the case with many lead characters in children’s books.) At the end of the story, Pam leaves to pursue her dreams, promising to stay in touch with Alec.

The book ends with this tribute:

A soft breeze swept his face, and his eyes turned to the star-lit heavens. Whenever he wasn’t with her, her fingers would be the wind and the wind her fingers, and all space would be the smile of her.

I can’t imagine what it took for Farley to write those words, only three years after his daughter’s untimely death. I’m in awe of the gift that allowed him to share his daughter with the world and reach out to me, someone he would never know, and inspire me in turn.

Stories matter. And storytellers matter. I’m glad that Pam is still out there, immortal, and that her father left the world such a gift.

full-frontal-nerdity_largeGood morning. I raise my overfull mug of red velvet tea to you this morning. It’s time, I’ve decided to have a regular report on what I’ve been doing.

The first, and most important bit of work is writing the sequel to The Curse of the Brimstone Contract, tentatively titled The Dark Mage of Lotus Hall. I’m approximately 27,000 words into it but now the writing should come faster because I have a climatic scene that came to me, of course, in the shower. No spoiling but suffice to say it involves one of these:

ballroom-2

Yes, that’s an underwater ballroom. Intrigued? Sign up for my periodic newsletter. I’ll be sending out excerpts and other exclusive information once every couple of months or so.

As for the rest, well, looking at the list below makes me better because, at the end of each week, I always feel like I haven’t accomplished anything. These links tell me otherwise.

At the Barnes & Noble Science Fiction and Fantasy blog, reports on a new collection of Batman vs. Superman stories, along with a history of their relationship, which was more friendly than not, plus the problematic history of DC’s Green Lanterns.

Over at GeekMom.com, reviews of every single DC Comic published last week, including a killer Black Canary story and a review of the final season of Downton Abbey. (For all my GeekMom posts, check out the “Author Corrina” link.)

Over at GeekDad.com, commentary on the third episode of the marvelous Marvel’s Agent Carter and a review of a Vertigo anthology with some outstanding comic book short stories.

Finally, at CriminalElement.com, a review of the finale of the Heroes Reborn miniseries which, alas, did not match the fun of the original’s first season.

Happy week, everyone and remember, tea is the geekiest drink of all. 🙂

I have an excuse for neglecting my personal blog. No, not running marathons or fighting crime or any of that.

I’ve been writing.

I’ve been writing a lot. I revised/rewrote three manuscripts this year to the point where they were new works, and wrote another entirely new book. I also have been doing weekly reviews of DC Comics at GeekMom, plus myriad blogging here, there, and elsewhere. If I have any regrets, it’s that I should do my blogging in this space more often.

But, good news first.

Galaxy Express/SFRQ believes my Phoenix Institute series should be adapted for television!

romance novella, police drama

Christmas can be murder on a relationship that’s on the rocks.

“Corrina Lawson’s Phoenix Institute series could join the ranks of SUPERGIRL, DAREDEVIL, ARROW, and THE FLASH to draw both romance and superhero fans.” That’s the fun quote but you should go read the whole article because it recommends some awesome, awesome books. (Also, yes, Hollywood, Get On This! 🙂

Philippa Lodge, reader extraordinaire, put Luminous and Ghosts of Christmas Past as part of the “Best Books I read in 2015:”

Ghosts of Christmas Past” and “Luminous“, Lawson (super hero romance. I love her novel-length books, but these two novellas really hit me just right.)”

Best part? Her list also includes Kristan Higgins and Nalani Singh. That is fine company, indeed.

Last year at this time, I said I was jumping off a cliff and writing my first urban fantasy. It took me longer than I wanted, given the distractions offered by life and the other manuscripts, but I finished a polished draft of The Crystal Tower and sent it to my agent in early December.

It’s not a romance, though there is sex in it. The general high concept is that a descendant of King Arthur, Aurelia Artos, must confront her magical legacy that includes a curse that’s warping the present day. It’s set in the fictional American city of St. Isca, there are Native American legends as part of the magic, and, naturally, some modern versions of characters in the Arthurian myth. It’s also about situations like Ferguson and Baltimore. In fact, you could say Luminous and Ghosts of Christmas Past were dry runs at the concept since the setting is similar.

I know, I may have bitten off more than I can chew but, for this book, it was either go big or go home. Boom or bust. Hopefully, when I write this New Year post in 2017, it will be to list “sold The Crystal Tower” as one of the accomplishments.

WriteHardDieFree

 

 

Phoenix Inheritance is due out in March and it’s my most personal book, due to the subject matter inspired by my family. I’m working on the first round of editors from my Samhain editor. She put in a note that she loves what the heroine is wearing in the first scene. Which is this 🙂

 

image via We Love Fine

Of course, it’s not like I ever went to the school wearing my geeky T-shirts. Oh, wait…:)

I’ve returned refreshed, revitalized and freakin’ inspired by the energy at Geek Girl Con in Seattle last weekend.

To all of you who attended my “Romance is a Feminist Genre” panel on Sunday morning that also featured Barb Ferrer, Karen Harbaugh, Kat, fandom representative extraordinaire, and moderator Suzete Chan, thank you so very much.

I had no idea we’d have such a receptive audience.

And to the person who asked about LGBT romance, thank you! We don’t have as much of it as we should, and there has been some pushback in the romance writing community about it from some quarters but thankfully, we also have people like Heidi Cullinan, who founded Rainbow Romance Writers.

After the panel, a number of people asked about where they might start in romance. I talked about a few at the panel but it seemed a good idea to have these down for posterity.

First, of course, I’d recommend Karen and Barb’s books, which are awesome, and Kat’s fan fiction is certainly a fun read. And you could amble over to my books page here and check out what I have and see if that interests you…

And then it depends on genre.

Science Fiction/Fantasy.
Linnea Sinclair. As far as I’m concerned, she’s the place to start for most geek girls who want to crossover as she’d working in the familiar galactic-style world, she writes fast-paced, layered, fascinating books with awesome characters from the leads to the supporting characters.

My favorite is Hope’s Folly. But Gabriel’s Ghost in the first book in her Dock Five series. She also has a number of unconnected stories. My favorite is Finder’s Keepers but, hey, the Kel-Patan fandom love in many quarters compels me to point out Games of Command.

Lois McMaster Bujold.
There are some writers whose books just fill your soul. Bujold’s books are like that for me. Ignore the dumb cover and the supposed similarity to David Weber’s Honor Harrington series. You want Cordelia’s Honor.

This is shelved in SF, not romance, and there’s so much going on around our leads, including galactic and civil war but it’s all the lovely characters that keep me coming back, from Cordelia to Aral to Bothari and later Miles and Mark, and Count Pierre, and Illyan and….I love these people.

Go. Read.

Contemporary: Jennifer Crusie.

Crusie was my gateway drug into romance. Hey, I like stuff blowing up and fights and murder, right, I don’t want a contemporary book but okay I’ll take a look and…what? This is FUNNY. This is interesting. I love these characters. I love their flaws, I love the way they interact, I love their ideas about how some men are muffins and some are donuts, I love the Krispy Kreme sex, and I love the Wonder Woman underoos.

Where to start? Bet Me is always a good place, and Welcome To Temptation starts with two sisters coming to their hometown to film a soft-porn movie (they’re directors, not the actors), and Don’t Look Down, written with Bob Mayer, is fast-paced action and a Wonder Woman theme.

Historicals:  Amanda Quick

Amanda Quick is the historical alter ego of contemporary writer Jayne Ann Krentz. Both her selves write books that are like crack, meaning once you start, you can’t put them down. I love the way her historicals layer in the setting, with heroines who are botanists and photographers, and fortune tellers and not just your average lord or lady. The heroes, too, aren’t necessarily heirs to great fortune, though some are, but they’re smart, resourceful and dangerous to their enemies.

These aren’t comedies of manners, like Austen or Heyer, but that’s okay because instead they’re thrill rides with mad scientist villains and obsessed magicians.

I’m not sure where to put the J.D. Robb series, which stars a homicide detective in a futuristic New York City and has elements of the police procedural, a touch of Bladerunner-style world building, and a hot romance, but start with Naked in Death. To me, this series is all about Eve Dallas, the most compassionate, bitchiest, haunted, relentless and intelligent woman in romance. I could build shrines to Eve Dallas.

And for more? Check out the Vaginal Fantasy Hangout Group on Goodreads run by Bonnie Burton and Felicia Day.

Because even if you don’t find titles, you’ll still be able to click and watch drunken Bonnie Burton and Felicia Day talk about romance books.

 

 

Jim Gordon by Ming Doyle. She went above and beyond with this commission!

The prize is a $20 Amazon gift card. 🙂  Go read. I discuss things like why my Mom is my hero and why no one should use my writing method as that way lies madness…

So I did this awesome podcast with Kate Kotler, the Comix Chix! It’s up on GeekNation and I talk about the GeekMom book and other stuff.

Check it out! 🙂

Today is the day! Phoenix Rising is out in paperback!

I received my author copies a few weeks ago and took time to sit down and fondle them a bit. New book smell! Nothing else like it!

So, contest!!

Comment below about what you’re currently reading! That way we can talk about books and recommend them to each other too.

THREE PRIZES, THREE WINNERS, chosen by random number from the comments.

1. A print copy of Phoenix Rising.

2. Ecopies of Phoenix Legacy, the sequel coming on Nov. 11th. , Phoenix Rising,  and Luminous, the short story set in the same univers.

superhero novels, superhero romance, Phoenix Rising,

3. A $10 Amazon certificate.

I will close entries in one week, at midnight on October 9th. Make sure that there is a way I can reach you if you want a prize, preferably via email. I’ve found Facebook messages tend to get lost.

As I held my book in my hands, I started to think of all the different influences on the series, especially the first book. The first, obvious, one is my love of Marvel’s X-Men, as the heroes in my books are born with their powers, as are the mutant X-Men, and the eventual goal of those running the Phoenix Institute is to provide a safe haven for mutants and teach them how to use their abilities safely.

But that was the general concept. As it took shape, it became more my own idea. For one, I restricted all the abilities to ones that could be explained by psychic powers. That means telekinesis and telepathy.

Alec Farley, the hero of Phoenix Rising, is a telekinetic but also a firestarter, as starting fires is just another level of moving things around with the brain, albeit at a molecular level. There are many variations I can use. The hero of the upcoming Phoenix Legacy has TK but it’s limited to the ability to heal himself. He can literally order his body to repair damage I’m currently working on the third full book in the series and the heroine can walk through walls, which is due to her psychic ability to control the molecules of her body.

Telepathy, on the other hand, could also take many forms. There are: simple communication/ the ability to mentally order people around; to cast illusions by making someone see what isn’t real; and to make what is real invisible. (See Luminous.)

It would be boring to write such powerful people without giving them weaknesses, so each strength has an appropriate drawback. Alec’s fire can escape his control. My self-healer can’t solve blood loss. My telepath can only control so many people for a short period of time. My ghost walker can only carry something with if it’s smaller than her own body weight.

Something else I borrowed was part of the setting. I feel in love with one of Nora Roberts’ Harlequin stories involving one of her big families. I loved the story about a young artist who lived in a lighthouse in Maine, especially the setting. I had just visited Maine and it resonated. So I took that idea, “borrowed” a real house set up on a hill over looking the harbor in Maine, and put that in the book.

And Beth…the first stirrings of the character that became Beth, the heroine of Phoenix Rising, took place back in 2004 when I was talking to Karen Harbaugh at RWA National in Dallas. She talked about how few leads of Asian descent there were in romance stories. I said maybe people write what they know. And she said that was no excuse. If people could research Regencies and historicals, they could research a character’s background too.

I sat down to write Phoenix Rising and Beth took shape as a Japanese-American. It’s not that I said “I’ll write a minority lead,” it was more “I’m writing a very unique character and this background adds to it.” I saw her as just Beth, whose background I had to get right as I had to get Alec’s background just right. But I received a few comments about people happy to see a non-white lead in a book, so that was nice.

And, last but not least, I owe a debt to the great writers of books I devoured in my childhood. Alec Farley is my own tribute to the wonderful Walter Farley, who wrote the Black Stallion series. I keep and treasure those books to this day. Alec Ramsey is the hero of the series, so I just swapped his last name for the author’s last name.

I only hope, in some small way, that I can touch reachers a tenth as well as Walter Farley’s stories touched me.

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