Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Moving Beyond Stereotypes: Vegan Cowboys and Character Quirks (And a recipe for Turkish Rice)

It's confession time. One of the main characters in “A Casual Weekend Thing” started life as a cowboy.

What can I say? I'm a sucker for romance novel stereotypes—and the strong, silent cowboy is definitely one of my favorites, along with the sexy fireman, and the jaded police officer. But the challenge for any writer when trying to write a romance novel is to make characters who are unique, real, vibrant people.

Unfortunately, I often find myself reading novels where the author obviously started out with stereotypes (hello, sexy fireman!), smacked a masculine name on them, and let them fill the role of the story's hero without any more development whatsoever. And it works, but it works because most contemporary romance novels don't require anything other than that the hero be 100% alpha male and that he express his desire for the story's heroine at least once every two pages. In a romance where both main characters are men, where they're not included as a foil/romantic interest for a well-developed, spunky heroine, that trick doesn't work.

I must have read a thousand suggestions and tips for making your own characters feel real, and none of them helped me get my strong, silent cowboy beyond the stereotype. I made charts of interests, hobbies, forgotten dreams, and physical tics—but he was still just a cowboy. I couldn't figure out how to make him come alive on the page until I decided to make him everything a cowboy is not, without getting rid of the stereotype base. I incorporated every polar opposite of “cowboy” into his character development that I could think of, and a real person gradually emerged on the page. He turned out to be an enrolled member of the Salish-Kootani Indian Tribe and a well-educated deputy sheriff. Instead of riding a horse, he rock climbed. Instead of wearing a cowboy hat, he opted for a suit. And because he never forgot bottle-feeding calves as a boy, he didn't eat meat. He was still a cowboy underneath it all, but he had morphed into someone whose life and self-definition evolve and change as the years go by, into a character who finally felt real.

I even went to far as to experiment with different vegan recipes to figure out what an over-worked, totally stressed vegan cowboy might make for a dinner date. I tried a dozen recipes, experimented with every meat substitute, even bought whole vegan cookbooks that called for ingredients I couldn't pronounce. In the end, this basic recipe for Turkish Rice found it's way into the book because, like my cowboy, the simple ingredients morph from basic ingredients into something unique, complex, and amazing. Try it, it's good.

Turkish Rice

1 14oz can chickpeas/garbanzo beans
1 14.5oz can diced tomatoes
1 cup vegetable broth
2 cups cooked brown rice
2 tsp cumin
½ tsp paprika
¾ tsp salt
1 tsp dried cilantro

Add everything to a large skillet and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Let simmer 8-10 minutes, or until most of the moisture has evaporated. It's THAT easy. Enjoy.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Bombarding Fictionpress with Graffiti to Celebrate the Upcoming Release of "A Casual Weekend Thing"

A Casual Weekend Thing is now available for pre-order!!!!!!!!! The release date is May 13, 2013, and the first 20 paperback copies sold through the Dreamspinner Press site will be autographed! I will also be trying to sort out a blog tour, and giving away three free paperback copies somewhere along the way. Those will also be autographed, but it won’t be on the nifty pre-bound vellum paper that those first 20 customers get, and vellum is... well, vellum.

I’m so excited about having an actual release date that I’m going to go ahead and post an extra chapter of my fantasy mess and re-post Graffiti on fictionpress!!!!!!

A note about Graffiti—for those who remember the fan fiction version, Graffiti was converted to an original story, and posted for free because it was a bit too similar to every other story out there involving a sexually deviant Seattle billionaire to be worth marketing...  Someone who was apparently a fan of the fan fiction version (though not enough of a fan to note the identical bylines...) thought I was plagiarizing one of their favorite fandom stories and proceeded to leave me threatening reviews and spam my email. 

So I’m a little nervous making the original version available again.

I’m only putting it on fictionpress, to separate it from the fan fiction community where the fandom version was posted.

Next on my agenda, starting an exclamation-point-addict recovery group and finishing my NaNoWrMo novel before November attacks.

Escaping from Dreamspinner Press’s Downward Spiral

This sucks. I hate having to post this, but it’s time. Like so many Dreamspinner Press authors, I haven’t been paid royalties owed to me ...