Monthly Archives: January 2011

In The Pursuit of Perfection

I wasn’t sure what to blog about this morning until I read Tawna¬†Fenske’s post about being a picky word diva.

We all know there’s no such thing as perfection, but that doesn’t stop us from purusing it. Especially as a writer. Some of us torment ourselves over word choice, dialogue tags, character names, titles (hello!), and every other little thing that goes into making a story. But in the end, nothing we do will reach perfection, and why should it?

I’m fighting this problem right now with the second book in my Olympus, Inc. series. I’ve been working on this book since November and I don’t like the way it’s going. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I have some brilliant (or at least I think they’re brilliant) passages and scenes that are right on the money. But the beginning is killing me. Seriously. It’s murdering me!

I’ve written and re-written the opening of this story so many times I’ve lost count. One of the first things we learn as writers, is that your opening had better be good. There are some readers (Hi, Mom), who pick up a book at the store and read the first page. If it isn’t good or eye-catching, the book goes back on the shelf. And those are the people I want to catch. I want the opening scene of my book to be either so funny, or shocking, or intense that they simply have to turn that page and hopefully bring it to the counter and buy it.

That’s what I strive for, what every writer strives for. In a way, it’s like a first date. You dress nice, fix your make-up just so, fluff up the girls, and head out because that first impression is the most important. Er, I’m not suggesting that you want your date to buy you, but you get the idea.

So when do you know your scene is “perfect”? Eh, I’m not sure to be honest. I suppose it’s a gut feeling. In Immortal Danger (formerly known as Tie Him Up), the opening scene starts in a bathroom with the heroine realizing there’s no toilet paper in her stall. Not the most delicate of openings, but it helps to display her personality and how she reacts to the most mundane problems we all face. I wrote that opening and never changed it because it worked and I knew it worked.

The same can’t be said for book 2. I’ve struggled with the opening, but each time I get a little closer to what I want. I’ve changed scenarios, atmospheric tones, and even POVs to get where I want the story to be. It’s not a science, at least it isn’t for me, but it’s vital to the rest of the book. If you start out strong, you’ll finish strong. At least we hope we will.

Writers – What’s the hardest part of the book for you to write? Have you revised portions of your book over and over again until you hit the right tone?

Readers – Do you push through a book with a slow start? Or do you drop it like a hot potato when the beginning is lackluster?

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Weekend Wrap-Up

As I mentioned on Friday, I spent this weekend working on promotional items for the release of my upcoming books. My aunt came up with the idea. You see, the problem with my stories (which I’m still kicking myself over) is that there is no central theme or symbol that appears throughout each book except for one thing: South Louisiana.

How do you summarize South Louisiana and tie in characteristics of each book? I spent weeks trying to work out the problem and finally turned it over to my mom, sister-in-law, and aunt. They each had wonderful ideas, but it was my aunt’s idea that made me go “Well, duh!”

She suggested that since Mardi Gras is such an integral part of the culture here, that we make Mardi Gras masks, but with a twist unique to each book. So that’s what we did. This weekend we sat down to work on the masks and I had my nephew take a few pictures while I put the women in the family to work.

On the left, Lynn (cousin) and on the right my mom. They were such hard workers!

This was at the start of the day. We invaded my sister’s house and set up shop. Really, it did feel a bit like a sweatshop because I wouldn’t let anyone just sit there and watch (although my sister tried). I’ve mentioned before that my mom is an artist and she did such wonderful work I was tempted to make her paint all the masks. Fortunately for her, everyone else wanted in on the fun (with the exception of my sister, but I made her work too).

Front row: Megan (nephew's girlfriend), Melody (sister), Lynn, (cousin). Back row: Me, mom

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not crafty and I’m so not. The entire time I worked on the masks, my hands were shaking. I can’t draw and my designs are so uninspired, but I did my best. The entire time, I had to encourage my sister explaining that I’ve told everyone many times already how she and I are the two non-artists in the family. She grumbled, but she finally accepted it and just went with the flow. I think she may have even had fun!

Have I mentioned I don't like feathers?

Once all the painting was done, we tore open the bags of feathers…I hate feathers. I really do. They were…horrible. Truly horrible. I suppose it’s a good thing I’m not a bird or anything because then I’d have to deal with the little beasts all the time! This was one part of the craft party that everyone was an equal. My mom was frustrated with them. My sister-in-law seemed to be okay with them (and I think I’m suspicious of that fact and don’t want to know where she got so much experience working with them). In the end, we only did a few of the masks on Saturday, but I finished them up on Sunday.

Overall, it took us about five or six hours to complete fifty masks. That seems a little excessive, I know, but I bought extra in case we had terrible mess ups. Luckily, we didn’t and in the end, we used the spare masks as lagniappe. Yup, I’ll have masks to give away that are simply pretty extras.

Here’s a peek at some of the finished work:

So that’s what I did this weekend. I can’t wait to start the guest blogs and author interviews coming up soon! I hope the people who win these masks truly enjoy them (although…I don’t think they’ll want to actually wear them).

I couldn’t have done this without my family. So, thank you Melody for the use of your house and for allowing me to force you to stretch your artistic limits. Thank you, Megan for your beautiful silver masks. They’re so elegant, I know whoever wins them will adore them. Thank you, Marsha for your beautiful marsh scenes and the tattooed masks you did. Do you have to be so good at everything you do?? Thank you, Lynn, for the tigers and others you did. They look amazing (and no, I’m not trying to make you feel better). Thanks, Adene, for the great idea and the fantastic masks you painted. Who knew you were so artistic? And thank you Mom for the gorgeous work you did. I really was tempted to make you paint all of them ūüėČ

And now all I can think is: Thank God that part’s over!! LOL

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Fantasy Man Friday

Yet another Friday and I couldn’t be happier! I sent in the first round of edits for Ruby: Uncut and on the Loose yesterday afternoon and started back to work on my second Olympus, Inc. book.

Things are going well so far with that one although I did have to change a few things I’d originally wanted to see. Instead of our hero being the son of a Sumerian god, I had to change it to an Egyptian god. But these are things we have to deal with when you’re not a plotter. I don’t really mind.

Mythology was one of my favorite topics to study and Egyptian mythology was one particularly close to my heart when I was in college. It’s been…well, many years since I studied it, so I have to research again to remind myself of what I’d forgotten.

Anyway, I’m flying high this week and this weekend promises to be even better. I’m gathering up a gaggle of crafty ladies in my family to help me work on items to give away for my upcoming blog tours. It’ll be fun and I get to eat pizza! *drool* I’ve been dieting so well this week, but I always allow myself one day to eat what I want and I’ve been dreaming about that pizza all week.

Just like I’ve been dreaming about Fantasy Man Friday. So I had to think about it. With all of the good things happening lately, I might need a certified pilot to help me fly…er, safely. Honestly, this has nothing to do with the mile-high club! But what do you think of this guy?

Do you think he looks handy in the cockpit? *cackle*

Happy Friday everyone and have a great weekend!

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Cajun Words: Dis, Dat, Dese, and Dose

I’m going to throw you several words today. Technically, they’re not Cajun French, so much as Cajun English. The difference is not everyone down here (in the younger generations) speaks Cajun French, but almost everyone speaks Cajun English. We learn from example and the generations before us were heavy Cajun French speakers. Imagine a grandfather speaking to his grandchildren in English, his French making it difficult to sound out some of the words. That gave the Cajun English accent most native south Louisianans speak today.

I remember being a teenager and taking a class from a man who was from around Abbeville (which is where most Acadians settled). He jokingly said, I speak two languages: bad French and bad English. And it always stuck with me. Most of the time, we will use the words I’ve mentioned in the title without conscious thought. This may make south Louisianans seem ignorant to the rest of the world, but there’s a very logical explanation for our accents.

The French, in place of th sounds in English, will use s or z. We’ve all heard the sexy French accents in Hollywood movies, so that’s normal for us. However, Cajun English speakers use a t or d sound when confronted by those words that use them. This results in things like: Dis is my daughter. I don’t have time for dat. Dese are for da children. Dose are for you. Translation, of course, would be: This is my daughter. I don’t have time for that. These are for the children. Those are for you.

I never really noticed the use of the d or t sound in my own speech until my mom pointed it out to me. As I’ve said before, when she was younger, someone from Texas said something to her about her accent and she worked hard to erase it. Since we learn from our parents, my accent slowly went away. Strangely enough, I revert back to Cajun English when I’m talking with people who have a strong accent and I don’t even realize it.

The rest of the country has heard the infamous Who Dat chant and I’ve read on many sports forums how ignorant Saints fans sound, but I think people would be surprised how intelligent these people actually are. I know a man who has the thickest accent I’ve ever heard, but he can converse about quantum physics, politics, religion, and anything else you’d care to talk about. I suppose people will say what they want when it comes to those who are different, but I can’t abide ignorance.

Now I’m stepping off my soapbox. I’ve heard a Cajun accent compared to a Brooklyn accent, but I won’t be able to tell for myself until I go to NYC this summer. Maybe this southern girl will find someone who’ll understand her!

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What’s Playing Wednesday

I’m sure you’re all relieved to know that I made my shake last night and didn’t lose any fingers or slice anything vital. In fact, I simply broke everything in half and shoved it in the blender. It’s safer that way.

It’s quite chilly out today and I decided to pull out my new thermal wear for the occasion. Don’t tell my brother-in-law. He thinks I bought it just to go fishing with him, but it’s sooo lovely and warm!

Which brings me to today’s song. Danica’s Magical Music Player pulled up the most appropriate song for this time of year. With nearly every state in the union experiencing snow on the ground, is it any surprise the Music Player pulled up Breaking Benjamin’s So Cold? I thought it deliciously fitting.

I saw Breaking Benjamin…last year? Or was it the year before? I can’t remember now, but I do remember how much I enjoyed their performance. I love live music and I love it even more when the bands I go to see fulfill their promise of sounding just like their albums. Oh, I don’t mind improvisation, but what I want to hear is the music played in the correct key and with the appropriate enthusiasm they give on the recording. Breaking Benjamin met my expectations and even exceeded them.

If you ever get a chance to see them live, do so. They’re that good.

The song is So Cold and it does get a little hard in places, but it’s a great song (seriously one of my favorites). I hope you enjoy!

I also got the edits for Ruby: Uncut and on the Loose yesterday, so I’ll be hard at work cleaning up the mess I left behind. It’s so exciting! LOL

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Keep Away From Sharp Objects

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this before, but I’m a bit of a klutz. Sure, I’ve improved some over the years, but I still have moments when I do something so completely graceless and goofy, I hang my head in shame.

Last year, I believe I nearly poked my eye out while putting on mascara. This year, it was something vastly different, which brings me to the title of this post.

Like most kids, I was into everything. Um, okay, so I was like 12 when I had my most stupid moment. You see, I was the adored older sister and cousin of three impressionable children. They looked up to me being six years older than them and much wiser. And like the good cousin I am, I was magnanimous enough to help them when they captured some butterflies.

I remember it so clearly, probably because of shock. Phillip, Jenny, and Laura (all born within 15 months of each other), had caught some butterflies and wanted to keep them alive. So I had the bright idea to make them a container to place their helpless pets in. I had the lid of a butter container in mind and thought, Well, the poor things are going to need air, so I’ll cut some holes in the lid. With this plan in mind, I put the lid in the palm of my hand, grabbed a steak knife and began to puncture holes in it.

You see where this is going, right? I missed my thumb and index finger because they were far apart, but when I went to puncture a hole in the lid a second time, the knife sliced into my middle finger. Now my first thought was Oh my God, I cut my finger off! I tossed the lid and looked down. No blood. How could there be no blood? I turned my hand and there it was: the cut. It had gone down to the bone and I could see it. I might’ve felt a bit faint, but for the most part, I was fascinated. Where was the blood? Seriously, where was it! Of course, the blood came eventually and I had to hear a lecture from my mom about playing Russian roulette (I didn’t even know what that was) and how crazy could I be to stab myself!

It’s been at least twenty-two years since that incident and I’ve learned not to allow myself near sharp objects unless I have to. Yes, I cook and chop and slice…food, but I’m very careful now. I thought I was finally over the accident-proneness that plagued my childhood. Then something happened last night that I’m still not sure how it happened.

I was about to cut up some bananas for my nightly meal replacement shake. I was grooving and moving and grabbed a small knife from the dish rack. I pulled it out, but somehow (I think one of those Greek gods I write about might have had something to do with this), somehow the knife flipped end over end towards me. I managed to grab it before I stabbed myself in the spleen, but I didn’t escape completely. No, I have an inch long scrape on my side. Basically, I almost shanked myself. *sigh* My nephews are going to love this story.

If the knife had gone in, how would I have explained this at the ER? Well,¬† you see, I was chopping bananas and I’m pretty sure the Greek god Hermes might’ve decided to play a prank on me by making me throw the knife at myself. What? No, seriously! I have no compulsions to hurt myself. I don’t like pain and avoid it as much as possible. What? Oh that? Um, well my brother stepped on my finger when I was 10…um, that scar was from my bed frame. Er…I swear that scar is completely innocent unless you believe a cat can be possessed by the Devil. Really! Wait, what are you putting in that syringe??

Yeah, so I’m glad the knife didn’t go in my body. Of course, now I’ll have to get someone else to chop my food for me. Sharp objects + Danica = blood and scars.

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Dreaded Monday

I mentioned on Twitter last night that I was already ready for Monday to be over. Does anyone else feel this way when Sunday evening rolls around? It’s horrible, isn’t it? We spend all week looking forward to the weekend and when it gets here, we dread seeing it end. Ah well, such is the life of the working person.

I actually had a great weekend. I didn’t go fishing like my brother-in-law wanted because I had too much to do, but that’s okay. We’ll go when his next hitch ends. Instead, I spent the weekend preparing for this coming weekend.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a crafty person and I don’t mind. Most of the time. Sure, I tried drawing when I was younger, but when you can’t draw a straight line with a ruler, you kind of give up. I have ideas, but I can’t execute them with pencil or brush. But I found myself enjoying the painting I did this weekend. I have masks I’m working on for promotional items during my blog tours. I didn’t come up with the idea, my aunt did, but I found that getting messy with paint was satisfying in a way. I liked blending colors and seeing what I came up with. I suppose the same thing can be said for writing.

I’m a words person, hello? I’m a writer! I think what I love the most is how one word change in a sentence can give it a completely different meaning. How the order of the words can convey anything from surprise, to anger, to sarcasm. It’s endlessly amusing to me. I suppose that’s why writing is my craft. Where my mom can alter her paintings to give a picture a sense of lightness and awe, I use words to convey atmosphere and tension. It’s all the same, isn’t it?

Words…they are my life’s blood. So is it any wonder I’ve invited six of the most artsy people I know to work with me this coming weekend? My mom, who is a wonderful artist, my sister-in-law, who’s a wonderful baker and used to design tattoos, my aunt and her daughter, who are ideas people and flexible in their art pursuits, my nephews’ girlfriends, who like to make things whether it’s picture collages or cupcake bouquets, and my sister, who vows not to touch a single paint brush. She’s a bit like me in the aspect of crafts, but she has a good eye and will be useful to keep us from getting too caught up in our designs.

I feel enormously lucky to have them on my side. They’re supportive and helpful and they’re doing this all without pay! Okay, so I’m buying pizza for them, but still! I see a lot of fun in store for us this coming weekend.

Ah, Monday…will you please fly by so I can get to the weekend already?

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Fantasy Man Friday

The first work week of the new year is nearly at an end. I try not to let my mind dwell on all the crazy, busy things that are about to start piling up on me, but I can’t help it. There’s so much to do!

I have promotional items to make. Yes, make. I’m not crafty, but luckily, I’m related to several women who are and next weekend we’ll be sitting around painting and gluing and eating pizza as we prep items for me to give away with my upcoming blog tour. Hopefully, I’ll have some pictures to take of us being industrious. We’ll have to see.

In preparation for next weekend, I have to spend this weekend buying supplies. It’s a damn good thing writers can file things like this on their taxes as an expense, otherwise I’d really freak out. I’m hoping to finish all of my shopping in time for the Saints’ playoff wild card game. I try not to get my hopes up for a return to the Superbowl, but I’m a Saints fan…we always dream big!

So on to today’s fantasy man. With all of these thoughts whirling around my head, I need something to relax me. Then I realized there’s nothing more relaxing than a nice, hot shower. And I remembered that out of my stable of fantasy men (yes, it is a stable filled with studs), I have one gorgeous man who’d make a relaxing shower even better! Judge for yourself:

*fans herself* Um. Really, is there anything else I can say? Er…I hope my mother doesn’t look at this! Mom, I swear, if you look at this…*shudders* The rest of you can look though, just not too, um, hard because this man is M-I-N-E!

By the way, if any of you have blogs and you’d be willing to have a sweet, innocent, romance writer guest blog or do an interview…well, that wouldn’t be me. But, if you wouldn’t mind a dirty-minded, sarcastic, paranormal romance writer to guest blog or have an interview with, let me know! I’m trying to get my ducks in a row for February through April. I have three books coming out a month apart, so I’d like to get a tours for each month.

Drop me an e-mail at danica.avet@gmail.com and we’ll work something out!

Happy Friday everyone, I hope yours is as relaxing as mine will be…once I join this lovely man in the shower ūüėČ

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Cajun Phrase: Directions

You might think that directions are easy to follow. I mean, you can’t really mess up North, South, East, and West, can¬†you? Well, leave it to Cajuns to change things.

You see, for the longest time I had no idea what was north, south, east, or west. Not because I wasn’t taught, but because we don’t use those words when we’re giving directions. No, here, things are either “up the bayou” (north) or “down the bayou” (south). There are variations, of course, like “You’re gonna come to Roland’s, turn right on the bridge and go down the bayou aways until you see the Lion’s Club.”

You see, the towns around here were built around the bayous. Communities sprouted up next to the waterways which were the easiest means of getting around the area. Bayous are everywhere. There’s the bigger bayous, then the smaller canals. In the old days, roads were apparently for wimps. My mom talks about how at one time barges used to come down the main bayou in town. Now though, the bayous are mostly unused except for fishing or dredging. Which is a shame really, they’re lovely.

Now for the real lesson. It isn’t just¬†a matter of saying down the bayou or up the bayou. You have to say it correctly. It isn’t “down the bayou” it’s “down da baya”. If you’re in Terrebonne Parish, it’s down Bayou Terrebonne and if you’re going down the bayou, you’re heading into towns like Chauvin, Montegut, and eventually, you’ll read Cocodrie. If you’re in Lafourche¬†Parish, you’re driving along Bayou Lafourche¬†and going down the bayou brings you to towns like Larose, Cut Off (birth place of the Cajun Cannon, Bobby Hebert), Golden Meadow and eventually Grand Isle.

If you’re from Terrebonne Parish talking with someone from Lafourche¬†Parish and say you’re going down the bayou, they might think you’re going down Bayou Lafourche. Funny, huh?

So what kind of strange directions do you have in your area? Is there a landmark everyone uses as a compass, like our bayous?

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What’s Playing Wednesday

It’s time for another What’s Playing Wednesday when I let Danica’s Magical Music Player decide the day’s blog post.

First let me just say that yesterday’s ho-hum, I’m feeling let down feeling has moved on. Thank goodness! Really, yesterday felt like Monday for me for some reason and I couldn’t seem to get my brain in gear. Was it the weather? Probably not. It was a warm, sunny day yesterday. Today is the day I should have been feeling like that considering it’s windy, gloomy, and we’re going to get rain, but I’m quite excited today.

You see, I had an epiphany in the shower this morning. Why do my ideas always strike when I don’t have a pen and paper in hand? Maybe I should invest in some washable markers…you know, the kind you buy your kids when you don’t want them to ruin your walls. Then I could jot down ideas as I’m shampooing my hair! Man! Why didn’t I think of this before??

Anyway, so I have an idea for book 2 of the Olympus, Inc. series and I can’t wait to get started. Book beginnings are so vital and I stress over making the right impression in those opening paragraphs. I’ve tried several times with this book, but nothing felt right. Then came the epiphany in the shower. I have an idea and I’m going with it. Wish me luck!

Now for What’s Playing Wednesday. Today’s band is one I really enjoyed in my early college years. They were funky and different. Their music is a blending of metal, rap, and reggae. They are, of course, 311. Now I’ll inform you now, the music might seem a little hard, and it is at first, but once the melody picks up, it’s…well, it’s downright groovy. Whenever I hear this particular song, I always think about sipping a cold beer and bonfires. I do adore bonfires. I suppose because it takes me back to my early 20’s when that’s all we did was set things on fire (in a contained manner, of course) and drink and talk about life and college and anything else that came to our minds.

The song is called Beautiful Disaster and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

So what do you think? Too hard? Not groovy at all? Boring? It makes me feel like just doing my tip, tuck, and tighten (as learned from Shaun T on Hip Hop Abs) so I always get a workout when I listen to it.

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