Favorite Character Blogfest

Hosted by Laura Josephsen. There are prizes and everything!

The blogfest runs from January 23-25. Here’s how it works:

1. Decide which of your characters you’d like to introduce everyone to, and choose a snippet about this character (preferably no more than 200 words) to share about this character. (A snippet from your manuscript would be awesome, but if you’re not comfortable with that, you can choose to do a character sketch—something to show us your character and writing.)

2. Between January 23-25, tell us who your favorite character you’ve written is and why and post your snippet.

3. Hop around to other participants to check out their favorite characters and a bit of their story.

The lovely Melanie Billings, Acquisitions Editor at Whiskey Creek Press, has graciously offered to supply critiques as prizes! Winners will be drawn from the list of active participants after midnight on the 25th and announced on my blog on the 26th.

1st Prize: critique of first 15 pages of your manuscript, an e-book copy of my book, Confessions from the Realm of the Underworld (Also Known as High School) and an ARC e-copy of my next book, Rising Book 1: Resistance (upcoming publication in February 2012)

2nd Prize: critique of first 10 pages of your manuscript and an e-book copy of Confessions from the Realm of the Underworld (Also Known as High School)

3rd Prize: critique of first 5 pages of your manuscript

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I like writing men for some reason, and my character Peter Stoller in St. Peter in Chains is probably my favorite. He’s an intelligence agent (colloquially, a spy). Oh, and he’s gay, which is not something anyone he works with knows until he’s compromised by his lover. Oops.

The thing about Peter is that he’s fine with flings but has difficulty in long-term commitments. He’s not used to being “in love.” In St. Peter in Chains, when Peter meets Charles and begins to develop a real interest in him—one outside of a one-night stand—the result makes Peter distinctly uncomfortable:

There came, for Peter, that strange feeling of one’s life and world being carefully balanced on the edge of a knife. Anything he said or did would tip it—it had to tip, it couldn’t just stay teetering on the brink—but in what direction? That depended solely on what he said or did next. It was a familiar enough feeling given his line of work, but utterly alien when applied to relationships. The fear that welled when it was a life-or-death moment paled in comparison to the sudden terror that opened in him now.
. . .
It wasn’t natural for Peter to second-guess himself; he was, as a rule, a confident and competent man. And he’d had his share of flings—some were part of the job, others merely stress relief—but there was something different here. Peter thought he could really come to like Charles, if only they could get better acquainted. He just didn’t know how to go about that bit. And he didn’t know whether Charles wanted to go through all that effort.

What I like about writing Peter is that he’s complex and conflicted; there’s something lovely about slowly cutting a character’s heart in two. Sadistic, maybe, but lovely in the art of paring a person down to his basic elements.

2011 B.O. Down from 2010

Okay, so theatrical releases made less money last year than the year before. And that leaves the industry asking, “Why?” I don’t know why they ask, “Why?” since the reasons are pretty clear:

  1. The movies they made were stupid.
  2. Even the good concepts, once worked over by entire tribes of writers, the studios, and a revolving door of directors and other creative types, became really stupid movies.
  3. Movie trailers used a super secret formula—that the entire world has decoded—to not only show us how stupid the movies really were, but also to give away entire plots, thereby invalidating the need to see any of the actual movies.
  4. Distributors and cinemas then charged way too much money (during an economic downturn, no less) to go see those stupid movies.
  5. Worse yet, they wanted to charge MORE money for stupid movies in 3D, which is basically the same thing as asking people to pay you for giving them a headache.

Oh, sure, you could say more people have really good home theater systems and would rather watch in the comfort of their homes. You could say people are sick of other people talking and texting during cinema showings. That the “movie experience” has changed from a bunch of strangers in a darkened room to a cozy homefront with friends and family. Those might also be considered valid points. But I’m going to adapt some Simon Cowell to the situation and say, if you want better box office in 2012: Find a better concept and make a better movie. (Or, at the very least, the kind of movie that drives people to need to see it right away and on the big screen, regardless of the cost and discomfort of dealing with cinemas and irritating strangers.)

Teaser Tuesday: The White Devil

Have really been enjoying this book by Justin Evans. It’s a kind of ghost story and murder mystery involving Lord Byron (even though it’s set in present day). Lots of good options for teasers . . . This one comes from page 95.

But Andrew couldn’t calm down, because it had arrived, the moment something horrible was going to happen. He had not seen it, but he had felt it coming, and the only way to get it out of him—his body knew, even if he didn’t—was to scream, scream over and over, as loud as his lungs allowed.

FAQs

I thought for the last day of the year I’d maybe address some of the questions people e-mail me via the contact link.

Q: What does the “M” stand for?

A: This is the question I most get asked. The truth is, the “M” stands for a lot of things, chief among them:

  1. Methos. A nickname I acquired in college. It refers to a character from the television series Highlander. I’m not entirely sure how I became christened with the name, but the quote, “Now we have Methos, and now we’ll have a plan” had something to do with it, I think. Methos is the oldest Immortal, if not the wisest, but I’m not the oldest of my friends, so . . . Has more to do with his/my cunning as I understand it.
  2. Morningstar. As in “Lucifer Morningstar,” which I think was taken from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics? Basically because I’m the one who gets called in when everything’s gone to hell. As a general rule, you don’t want to ever get to that point, and you don’t want to have to deal with me in Morningstar capacity.
  3. Manda. This is, in fact, my actual name. But very few people use it.

Q: Is Sherlock a Voodoo doll?

A: I’m not sure why I get asked this question so often. I suppose he does look a bit like a Voodoo doll, and the fact that I’m French Creole might lend itself to the idea that I’m doing something nefarious. But no.

For one thing, Sherlock isn’t an actual person, he’s a character. For another, I have no especial reason to want to torment either him (though, if you read his blog you must realize he would probably disagree) or the actor who portrays him. And finally, even if I did want to torment, well, the actor (since it’s impossible to torment the character outside of fiction), there would be much easier ways to go about it.

Q: When are you going to finish “The Hanged Man”?

A: I don’t know. That’s a crap answer. Sorry. Um . . . I have a lot of legitimate work piled on me at the moment, so that has to take priority. If and when I dig myself out, I do plan to finish it.

Q: Which shows/movies have you worked on?

A: I’m not terribly comfortable talking about these things (a) because of the touchy nature of some of the individuals involved, and (b) I’m not authorized to speak on behalf of any of the shows. The industry is kind of a funny place, and it doesn’t take much to upset things, so I stay out of it as much as I can and just try to do my job. That means in large part not talking out of turn. And writers at my level don’t get a turn.

Which is why on this site I focus only on my personal projects.

Q: Is M Pepper Langlinais your real name?

A: If you mean, “Is it your legal name?” then the answer is no. It’s one of a few professional names that I use. I live and travel and so forth under a different name. I sometimes write and work under other names. Though the M is right and true enough.

Q: Have you ever dated anyone famous?

A: I’ve gone out with famous people, a few of them more than once, but I wouldn’t have called any of them “relationships.”

Q: What astrological sign are you?

A: Really? Do people still ask this? I’m a Sagittarius (you can probably tell by my recent birthday posts), but my rising sign is Aquarius. Lunar Gemini, Venus in Scorpio . . . A lot of other stuff I can’t remember . . .

That covers the majority of the questions I receive, I think. If I didn’t answer something you want to know about, you can click the “Contact” button and send me a note.

Best. Birthday. Ever.

I wouldn’t normally post this kind of thing here–I’d save it for my personal blog–but there is some entertainment value to my birthday this year. After all, the first part of my birthday celebrations came when I flew to London to attend the Sherlock preem at the BFI. And yesterday, I received a box of cupcakes from Crumbs. (Okay, there’s not much entertainment value in that, but it was worth a mention.) And tonight I get some Robert Downey Jr. and some Sherlock of another kind/color/flavor . . .

The ladies at my salon asked me the other day who my “movie star boyfriend” would be. Well, I’ve worked with, er, “stars,” so it didn’t seem fair to pick one. But then, after some thought, I chose Robert Downey Jr. anyway. I’ve never had the pleasure of working with him, so the choice is academic. I like a man with a quick mind, and anecdotally, Robert is just that. Some say that makes him difficult to work with in some ways, but it’s understandable; smart people can have a hard time slowing themselves down, or rather, they assume everyone is with them when they’re five leaps ahead. At least half of a genius’ conversation is dropped (sometimes more) because he or she leaves out what s/he thinks is unnecessary to articulate. It seems obvious to him, after all. It’s also why they make lousy teachers; they can’t be bothered to break down into steps something that comes to them with so little effort.

I know all this because my father is brilliant, and we’ve had entire conversations that go like this:

Dad: Did you . . .?
Me: Well, I . . .
Dad: But then . . .
Me: Yeah, because . . .
Dad: Yes, okay.

Drives my mother crazy.

But I digress. On top of tonight’s film, tomorrow night I’m going out to a comedy club with friends. I don’t normally do that kind of thing, so I’m a little nervous, but also curious. I do like to laugh. Sometimes. If the jokes are clever and not too rude. My friends have made me promise to bring Sherlock along, and I can only imagine what he’ll have to say about the whole thing.

Teaser Tuesday: The Hypnotist

So I’m finally home and reading something new that allows me to participate in Teaser Tuesday. For those of you who haven’t seen this on my site before, it’s where you open your current read to a random page and post two teaser (but non-spoiler) sentences.

I picked up The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler at the library yesterday. It’s about, well, a hypnotist who is enlisted by the police to help solve a series of violent murders. There’s been a lot of buzz around the book (“the next Dragon Tattoo,” movie rights, etc.), so I was curious. I’m not very far in, so it’s too early to say what I think. But here’s a teaser, taken from page 211:

“Down, down!”
Simone doesn’t realize the men are talking to her until she feels a powerful blow in the stomach that forces her to her knees.

The novel was originally written in Swedish, and I can’t decide how I feel about the present tense. I’m trying to get past it, but I don’t know if I can.

Teaser Tuesday: Good Omens

We’ve all read this book, I think, but I recently picked it up to read again. It’s been, oh, ten years or so for me, and my husband has a nice little copy in which Neil Gaiman has written on the flyleaf for him to “have a nice doomsday.”

So while Teaser Tuesday is usually about teasing others into reading something new, this is more like a flashback.

There are a lot of copies of this book, so to be clear in regards to page number, I’m working with a 1990 hardbound (Workman Publishing, printed by Berryville Graphics).

I’ve opened at random to page 78:

His forehead creased for a moment, and then he slapped the steering wheel triumphantly.
“Ducks!” he shouted.

Today: The Noughties Blogfest

This is the blogfest in which you list your favorite movies, music, books and so forth for each year from 2000 to 2009. Ah, a bygone era! (Visit Dave for more info.)

2000

This seems like so long ago. It was the year matchbox twenty’s Mad Season came out, and I remember the first time I listened to it thinking, What the hell is this? Because it didn’t sound anything like their first album. But I continued to listen to it; it fact, it was on almost constant rotation as I wrote my thesis. I also got to see them play in Amherst that year.

Also the movie State and Main. To this day it’s one of my favorites.

2001

Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Right? Came out just before my birthday, and what a treat. I grew up listening to my dad tell the stories of the Hobbit and Middle Earth (I had only read The Hobbit, never the others), so this was special to me, to see it come to life in such a wonderful way.

Also: Alias. Loved that show. I want Victor Garber for an honorary uncle.

2002

Okay, I’ll go for something less obvious here. The Mothman Prophecies. That movie was seriously creepy. Oh, and the book Batavia’s Graveyard. More mainstream: The Two Towers, which is my favorite of the trilogy, and matchbox twenty’s More Than You Think You Are.

2003

Runaway Jury. I really enjoyed that movie (and not only because I was in New Orleans for some of the filming of it–more that I love John Cusack). And of course, in television, this is the year Arrested Development debuted.

Notable concert: matchbox twenty with opening acts Sugar Ray and Maroon 5.

2004

How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb by U2. The Other Boylen Girl by Philippa Gregory. Also saw Rob Thomas play a special charity concert at the China Club in NYC, along with Jewel and Darryl Hall. Saw Jimmy Buffett play at Fenway Park. And got some of my first written works published.

2005

Rob Thomas’s . . . Something to Be. I saw him live again at Avalon in Boston and also saw U2 live in concert for the first time. Jude Morgan’s Indiscretion. Robert Downey Jr’s rising star with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. And the return of Doctor Who to the television schedule, as well as the premiere of Bones.

2006

At this point I had an infant and did not have much time to watch or read or do much of anything, but I did go see V for Vendetta. And I read Stephen King’s Lisey’s Story.

2007

Hot Fuzz is a classic, is it not? And I loved Alison Weir’s book Innocent Traitor as well as Jude Morgan’s An Accomplished Woman.

2008

Cloverfield. Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Weir’s The Lady Elizabeth and Stephen King’s Duma Key.

2009

A year for books: Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde, One Day by David Nicholls, and Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby.

Also, Sherlock Holmes. And Rob Thomas’s Cradlesong (saw him in concert again). And OneRepublic’s Waking Up.

A Writing Meme

1. Tell us about your favorite writ­ing project/universe that you’ve worked with and why.

When I was an undergrad (this appears to be the day for undergraduate nostalgia), I took a course called Parageography, which is “the study of imaginary places.” It was developed and taught at the University of Texas at Austin by Dr. Douglass Parker, who structured the course as partly literary–we read things like The Wizard of Oz and Orlando and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe–and partly creative writing in that we were required to come up with our own, well, worlds. We made languages and maps and all kinds of things. My world was called AElit, and I wrote part of its holy book (the Teuchos) in actual AElitian. I came up with an extensive theology, etc. I even started writing a novel based in this world, and I hope some day to finish it. I go back and tinker with it now and then.

2. How many char­ac­ters do you have? Do you pre­fer males or females?

How many characters do I have in what exactly? Right now I’m writing a play with two characters and a third poised to make an appearance later on.

3. How do you come up with names, for char­ac­ters (and for places if you’re writ­ing about fic­tional places)?

If I’ve got a character fleshed out enough, the right name will come to me. I’ll cast around for a bit until something fits. Same for places. I couldn’t begin to tell you where I came up with AElit except maybe I had been looking at a bookshelf with an old encyclopaedia and thought I’d like to use an “ae.” Or maybe it was an archaeology text. For my deities in that particular world, though, I used Greek and Latin roots. Like the goddess of death is Telamenos which, if I’m remembering right, means “ending spirit.” I recall a different Classics professor being very excited by that for some weird reason.

4. Tell us about one of your first stories/characters!

Well, you know, I started out writing stories based on movies and television shows that I liked (which is why I went into screenwriting later), so all my early characters were borrowed. Sherlock Holmes, Indiana Jones, etc. I guess one of the first stories I wrote that was original is one I sort of came up with while playing with my best friend. We were the Hemlock sisters and we solved mysteries. I was Elizabeth and my friend was Lauren, and we lived with our Aunt Miranda (“Aunt Randi”). Later I wrote a short Hemlock sisters story for a reading class. I still have it somewhere, I think.

5. By age, who is your youngest char­ac­ter? Old­est? How about “youngest” and “old­est” in terms of when you cre­ated them?

Good God, I don’t know. Akkad and Sekhmet are probably my youngest in terms of age; they’re just shy of 13. And Tithendion would be the oldest, since he’s basically the father of the gods. But the Hemlock sisters are oldest in terms of when they were created. And these play characters (Arthur & Dilly) are youngest, I guess.

6. Where are you most com­fort­able writ­ing? At what time of day? Com­puter or good ol’ pen and paper?

Mostly it’s important that I be alone. Not just in the room, but the whole house should be empty. And I’ve found it difficult to write where I currently live for whatever reason, so I travel a lot to write. Mid-afternoon and late at night are best for me. As for computer or pen and paper, I do both. Sometimes it depends on the story, sometimes it depends on where I am and what I have access to.

7. Do you lis­ten to music while you write? What kind? Are there any songs you like to relate/apply to your char­ac­ters?

Music inspires me, so I get a lot of ideas from it. But that’s usually when I’m driving and listening to the radio. And there are songs that make me think of my characters. I do sometimes listen to music while writing, too, but most often I don’t.

8. What’s your favorite genre to write? To read?

I’m not sure what I write. Fantasy, I suppose, and sometimes mystery. I started a YA novel that I never finished. I’ve got a paranormal romance novella going at the moment. Which is funny because I’ve never read any paranormal romances. I do like to read mysteries and historical biographies and Regency romances. I used to read a lot of fantasy, too, but got bogged down by so much of it.

9. How do you get ideas for your char­ac­ters? Describe the process of cre­at­ing them.

I haven’t a clue where they come from. I usually start with a situation, I think, and populate from there.

10. What are some really weird sit­u­a­tions your char­ac­ters have been in? Every­thing from seri­ous canon scenes to meme ques­tions counts!

My fanfic characters get into way weirder situations than my original ones, but let’s assume you mean my originals. Well, Seladion and Amaurodios get kicked out of Argyros (think of angels being booted from Heaven and you have the gist), David and Andra have a past history as Greek gods, and in one of my plays two of the characters are possessed by ghosts.

11. Who is your favorite char­ac­ter to write? Least favorite?

I guess this depends on the project, but I often enjoy writing Seladion because he’s just so sly and can be so nasty. It’s fun. Akkad might be my least favorite, since he whines a bit.

12. In what story did you feel you did the best job of world­build­ing? Any side-notes on it you’d like to share?

Oh, the AElit stuff by far. I trenched in and created something very complex there. A whole other language, in fact, and snippets of their literature (plays, prayers, inscriptions).

13. What’s your favorite cul­ture to write, fic­tional or not?

It’s funny because AElit isn’t actually my favorite culture to write, which may be why I haven’t finished it yet. I’m having fun with the film set culture in “The K-Pro.” And I also like setting things in ancient times, Greece and Rome and Egypt.

14. How do you map out loca­tions, if needed? Do you have any to show us?

I have a map of AElit but there’s no digital file.

15. Mid­way ques­tion! Tell us about a writer you admire, whether pro­fes­sional or not!

I like a lot of Neil Gaiman’s work. Stephen King, too. These guys know how to tell a compelling story.

16. Do you write roman­tic rela­tion­ships? How do you do with those, and how “far” are you will­ing to go in your writ­ing? 😉

I write attraction. I write sexual tension. And sometimes there’s even some actual sex, though I’m of the pan-the-camera-away type, so my readers usually only get a taste of the foreplay and the aftermath.

17. Favorite pro­tag­o­nist and why!

Of mine? “The K-Pro” has two protagonists, and I like them both because they are very real but also just slightly unreal. Being incarnations of Greek gods does that to a person, I suppose.

18. Favorite antag­o­nist and why!

Him in “Warm Bodies” maybe. There’s something weirdly malicious about him . . . It’s a short play, but I could see taking that character and doing some more with him.

19. Favorite minor that decided to shove him­self into the spot­light and why!

Alfred in “The K-Pro.” He was just going to be a funny but annoying co-star but he’s been given a bigger role than I originally planned.

20. What are your favorite char­ac­ter inter­ac­tions to write?

Banter. I’m a dialogue person (screenwriting again, and now playwriting I suppose). And I’m good at character-driven interpersonal relationships.

21. Do any of your char­ac­ters have chil­dren? How well do you write them?

Some of my characters are children. They’re definitely more difficult to write. I have to think about what I liked and did at that age and hope I don’t sound dumb.

22. Tell us about one scene between your char­ac­ters that you’ve never writ­ten or told any­one about before! Seri­ous or not.

I can only think of fanfic scenes I scrapped. Like Sherlock’s first encounter with Charles Whitcombe–I had to know in order to write the rest of that story, but I never actually wrote the mental scene I came up with. Or there was a scene with Sherlock and John in a church, and Sherlock gives John his coat because John is cold and his jacket isn’t heavy enough.

23. How long does it usu­ally take you to com­plete an entire story—from plan­ning to writ­ing to post­ing (if you post your work)?

Depends on the story. Some come fast and some have taken years (and continue to take years).

24. How will­ing are you to kill your char­ac­ters if the plot so demands it? What’s the most inter­est­ing way you’ve killed some­one?

I don’t have a problem with killing a character off, even a major one. Writers have to be fearless in that way, and be willing to go where the story demands. That said, I’m not sure I’ve had any especially interesting deaths.

25. Do any of your char­ac­ters have pets? Tell us about them.

In my unfinished YA novel, there was a cat named Nacho.

26. Let’s talk art! Do you draw your char­ac­ters? Do oth­ers draw them? Pick one of your OCs and post your favorite pic­ture of him!

Oh no. I can’t draw. I’ve tried, and I dearly wish I could–I even took classes. My brain just doesn’t work that way, though; what I see comes out as words not pictures. So instead I cast my characters. For example, Dixon in “20 August” was a young Ewan McGregor.

27. Along sim­i­lar lines, do appear­ances play a big role in your sto­ries? Tell us about them, or if not, how you go about design­ing your char­ac­ters.

Well, I mean, I describe my characters but I try not to belabor the point. I don’t know how it is for most people, but when I start reading a book, I almost immediately formulate mental pictures of the characters on my own, often regardless to what the author has written. So unless it’s just that important that he or she look a certain way, I touch on it and move on. Though I do like eyes. I’ll often talk about someone’s eyes.

28. Have you ever writ­ten a char­ac­ter with phys­i­cal or men­tal dis­abil­i­ties? Describe them, and if there’s noth­ing major to speak of, tell us a few smaller ones.

Oh, I’ve written people who walk with canes or something. Nothing major.

29. How often do you think about writ­ing? Ever come across some­thing IRL that reminds you of your story/characters?

I think about my characters and stories a lot. While driving, when a song reminds me of them, when I see or hear or read something in the news I think I can use . . . In stores I’ll walk past clothes and think, so-and-so would wear that, or I smell cologne and think, he’d smell like that. I feel like it’s important to know these things, to know my characters intimately.