Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Currently indulging my ears with "Made for You" by a favorite:  One Republic

Forbidden fruit. We don't want it until we're told we can't have it. Soon the forbidden turns from a craving, to an obsession. What about when our characters are tempted with "forbidden fruits"....tangible wants kept out of reach? How do they react? Does their want turn to a need because they are told they can't have or do something, or do they suddenly turn introspect and listen to their conscience? Does our "world building" have an influence on how they handle the precarious elements surprising them throughout the story? Words of wisdom from someone in their current or back story helping them through the maze?

As authors, we create the character, the dilemma, and the solution, but somewhere between plotting and writing, the characters come to life. Their voices are loud in our heads, telling us that what we plotted for Chapter 7, isn't happening. They start getting their own ideas...developing their individual arcs as well as how they want to navigate the labyrinth we've established.

Those outside the writer's mind desperately wanting you to create the appropriate story (especially in Young Adult lit), suggest "just write them doing what you want them to do." Like children, our characters can be stubborn. Tell them they "can't" and they'll find a way to make it happen, jumping outside all the neat little lines we created on the plotting graph, often times, doing something inappropriate.

In world-building Designer Genes:

Marli is raised in suburbia America, but her home life is not conventional. Mom and Dad have split, her brother killed in the army, leaving her an only child. She leads a semi-normal life, attending public schools, bonding with girlfriends and swapping spit with her high school boyfriend. She's stubborn, a bit insecure, and trusts no one, outside of her father. To Marli, life is full of shades of gray.

Jordan comes from a powerful, affluent family. His mouth is shaped to the silver spoon he was born with. He's attended private schools since he shunned diapers for tweed knickers and leather loafers. But he doesn't act spoiled. Raised unconventionally as well, with two parents, but an absentee father due to his line of work, Jordan is loyal to his family. Goal oriented and driven, he's his own worst enemy. Life is black and white.

Jesse, Jordan's nemesis and twin brother, raised in the exact same environment, is a rebel rouser. To him, the world is colored brightly, and rules are made to be broken, or stretched to the ultimate limits, keeping just this side of a felony. He and Jordan are the classic "right brain-left brain" twin concept. Jordan rules his decisions with his head, while Jesse's wild heart leads his. Until they both meet Marli. I think we know what "leads" now.

A publisher interested in Designer Genes asked me if my characters had premarital sex. She said she would have a problem with that, if it were the case. ("Censorship" flashed in my brain.) The idea, the want for the "forbidden fruit" is the burning link between my characters, and the tension is the driving force of the romance. Only when the opportunity presents itself without any strings attached do my characters make their own decision. The fruit dangles within reach, the consumption undetectable. Do they "partake?"

World-building Riley's Pond was different. No futuristic elements or government control to deal with. Riley's, Jaxson's, and Taylor's world is here and now, filled with existing problems and raging hormones. Riley and Jaxson are brothers, raised in a small town. I gave them a stable home environment, with a father who is the local sheriff, making the lines between "right and wrong" clear and concise.

But Jaxson changes my story immediately by making himself the "bad boy." Riley's Pond opens with a consequence of one of Jaxson's choices, forcing Riley to decide his own life path. When Taylor arrives surrounded in mystery and waist deep in the pond, Riley lets his hormones decide and begins "the hunt," pursuing her with one goal in mind. Jump her bones. So when the forbidden fruit is handed out, does he take a bite? Share it with Taylor? Or does Jaxson steal the fruit first?

Our characters have morals and make decisions accordingly. Sometimes they're not the best choices and the consequences become a learning experience for the character and author, making a great story for the reader. One thing I've learned...there's no expiration date on "forbidden fruit," and it comes in all "flavors." It never ages, and is just as sweet or sour today as it was "in the beginning...."

Later friends...I'm off to the "orchard!"  Harley Brooks off looking for Joelene who never stands still

Today's Thought:  When travelling life's path you stumble over a rock, move it aside so someone following behind doesn't fall and get hurt.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Let's Limerick, Shall We?

Current Listen: The Immortals courtesy of Kings of Leon

Please note. Tonight's blog is to be read with a heavy imitation of an Irish accent. Brush up on your "R's" mates (okay so I'm an Irish pirate).

Tomorrow is St. Patty's Day and the wearin' of the green!
Leprechauns will play their tricks, some nice and some mean.
Catch one for luck
And you'll never be stuck
Only dreaming of fortunes to glean.

Limericks are a curious prose, originating in the dimly lit taverns of Ireland. Imagine yourself sitting steeled away in the corner, watching the drunkards banter back and forth, bumping into the poor girls carrying pitchers of dark ale to thirsty patrons. The more beverage consumed, the louder the voices become, and the subjects discussed turning raunchy in most cases. The competition to outdo each other in bragging rights to earn popularity, soon turns to ill attempts at humor.

Thus, the limerick is born. 

One over exuberant gent starts with a line, tipping his hat to his comrade across the table, whose sole purpose at the moment is to accept the challenge.

Line two is created, rhyming with the first. But then, an animated fellow eavesdropping from the bar, joins the merriment, adding a twist in line three.

His companion, leaning heavy on his shoulder to remain upright, interrupts with a short burst of words linking the mate's sentence, then graciously bows to the creator to finish.

Not to be upstaged by any means, he gulps the last of his brew, the foam coating his heavy moustache, and he blurts the final refrain, undoubtedly carried on a belch, but nicely tying the poetic disaster in rhyme.

Fast forward to the present. Are you wearing your green, or purposely seeking that "pinch." Is there a rainbow in your line of sight - one with a pot of gold glistening in the sun? Do your ears pick up the trace of a wicked giggle, or a flash of a mythical gnome darting by? Did your day start backward, the world feeling oddly off balanced? All signs of St. Patrick's Day mischief.

When my children were younger and I moved faster than the Energizer Bunny, I'd get up early and set up my "pranks." School clothes were hung from the light fixtures. Milk was colored green. Dinner was served instead of breakfast (my husband wasn't a fan of this particular trick), and hair was sprayed green. It was a day when mischief was acceptable.

Stuck between Winter and Spring, the soul desperately craves joviality. We need to be playful. Life is far too serious, especially of late. Disasters, economic woes, and political unrest plague our world. Our hearts are heavy, if not for ourselves, for our fellowman. Today, let go. Be a child again. Find the "leprechaun within" and let yourself be a little naughty. Laugh. Poke fun at yourself and be outrageous. If a party beckons, accept the invite and lose yourself for a little while. Tomorrow, you can transform back into the boring person you were March 16th. Hopefully, you'll be sober enough to remember who that person is, and where they live!

If I could only find my lucky shamrock to make my wishes come true. I'm still waiting on my "publishing fairy" and if magic truly existed and swirled around me, I'll also be ten pounds lighter tomorrow! On that merry little note, I leave you with my closing limerick:

There once was a writer of prose,
Who no longer fit in her clothes.
For when she'd create
Only chocolate she ate
And now she can't bend to her toes!

Here's your "There once was ________________." How will your limerick go?

Flashing my green.... Harley Brooks. (Joelene is still back at the tavern)

Today's thought: Don't watch others play in life. Join in the game once in awhile. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Current Listen:  Falling In courtesy of Lifehouse

I belong to several writing groups. SCBWI and Romance Writers of America (RWA) being the hub, with "spokes" Young Adult RWA, Future Fantasy & Paranormal RWA, and my local Utah RWA chapter. All help roll my stories along from the throes of creation, to the oh so scary time to expose them to the harsh, cruel world of finding an agent and publisher. The latter two will serve as the final spokes in my custom crafted wheel, pushing my tales to places where they can be shared.

Being a part of these wonderful organizations has opened up endless doors and windows for me as a new writer. One of the well traveled highways I use on my journey for knowledge, are the many blogs and websites of my fellow writers. I am fascinated by the individuality of each cyber page these creative minds have constructed, and the information they offer.  No two are alike, and I'm not just referring to the visual display. The content is unique to each individual owner. Two blogs or websites can focus on the same subject, but the perspective will be totally different.

The same holds true to stories. Ideas are not original, but the stories told are unique to each author. The game "Gossip" runs parallel to this concept. An idea is whispered into one person's ear, who in turn, whispers the idea to the next, and the next, and so on. The last person being told reveals the secret and nine times out of ten, it's completely different from the original spoken idea. Each person was given the idea, but when they shared the idea with someone else, they added their own individual spin.

The book MATCHED came out recently, and I panicked when I read the short synopsis. "...futuristic...dystopian (government controlled basis)...matched mates." Several sleepless nights ensued. I bruised my best friends' sympathetic ears with my paranoia. 

DESIGNER GENES ...futuristic...dystopian...matched mates. Someone stole my idea! And published!

So many emotions ran rampant inside me. Once I found my lost mind and dialed up my maturity level a few notches, I downloaded a sample to my Kindle. I had to know. Not just for myself, but now that something similar is out there in my genre, I have to be able to say why mine is not like MATCHED.

The story is totally different. Same concept - different spin. I've locked my jealous green monster back in its cage, bolstered the locks and taken away the daily feeding of paranoia and self doubt. Two very powerful and self destructive snacks.

I've now downloaded the entire book and am invested in the story. Do I like mine better? Silly question. Is mine better? Even in my humblest of opinions, I can't or won't answer that one. To me, every story written is good. Someone has put their heart and soul into sharing a written piece of their imagination. I've been in awe long before I took up the mighty pen (or keyboard) of those who are brave enough to write and finish a book. I bow to those who are published, in any format. You're out there!

My idea was never really mine. To this day I could not tell you where it came from, but the story created from the idea, is all mine. Its a part of my crazy imagination now immortalized in written form. Do I wish I'd got it out there sooner? Hell yes! Funny thing is, "Matched" was one of the titles I played with using.

Good luck Ally Condie! What a wonderful imagination. Visit her website: 

To those of you starting out as writers, I cannot stress the importance of joining a writing group. If I could set fireworks off the attract you to RWA, I would. It is a wonderful organization to belong to, and the branches reaching out from its base are equally invaluable to join. SCBWI is a must if you are writing anything related to children and young adults. Joining one of these powerhouse organizations is like belonging to an online university, specialized for your talent. The online classes are phenomenal, and the members blogs and websites are endless sources of information and fun. Check out my list to the left. I've added some more I've found helpful and enjoyable.

Again, thanks for stopping by! Leave me a comment. If you've read MATCHED, let me know. Just finishing HALO (love the cover!). Another's idea with a twist.  Later cyber friends!  Joelene, the sensible side of Harley Brooks

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Current Listen:  Love and Some Verses courtesy of Iron & Wine

The darkest night of the month. The stars spatter against the black velvet backdrop, finally getting a chance to shine on their own. They shimmer, some bright white, others the palest of gold, and every so often, the "rainbow star," changing from red to blue to green. Heaven's tiny strobe lights.

Some claim the new moon phase plays havoc with their moods, being a galactic tease. I believe this to be true. There must be an illogical reason why yesterday I was on top of the world -- happy, energetic with a force field of positive karma surrounding me, and this morning when I woke I felt like Superman lying on a bed of Kryptonite. I waxed melancholy most of the day, letting darts laced with self-doubt prick me. By nightfall, the list was much longer than the number of bullets I owned.

My "well of creativity" echoed when I called down for reinforcements. Even editing sucked, not doing it, but what was coming out into my story. Yesterday I left my beta reader with a cliff hanger. Today she waited for the next chapter. Finally late afternoon she emailed me. You left me hanging in the middle of a wedding between Heaven and Hell with a large rock flying somewhere inside the church. Hel-lo? The rock knocked the author out. I read what I wrote and thought "yeah right. Like that's believable." Tonight, I'm searching for my white flag. Surrender makes the most sense right now.

But as most authors know, there are many voices inside our heads. One voice yells above the others.

"Hey you! Lady moping around feeling sorry for yourself."

I look around for someone matching the description and find my reflection staring back from the black window pane. Surely the voice is wrong.

"No, I'm not wrong. It's you. What's with the attitude all of a sudden?"

"I do not have attitude. I'm having an off day, that's all. It's the new moon screwing with me," I say.

"That's a myth. An excuse. Tell yourself you can't do something and you won't. But remind yourself how awesome you are, list all the good things you do and have, then read your favorite chapter. See? You're a kick-ass writer and letting someone tell you otherwise, especially yourself is NOT tolerated. Got that?"

The "voice" is right. I'm my own worst enemy and indulging in self destructive thinking was blocking me. So what do you do when the scene looks hopeless, whether in your story or your life? You step back and look at the scene through a different point of view. Another character, or voice that sees a different angle.

The new moon hides once a month to allow the stars center stage. Yes, there's a void where the silver orb usually hangs, but you don't see it. The stars of the show are performing, hiding the black hole and letting us see the universe from a different perspective for a couple of nights. Without the moon, Heaven's tiny luminaries get a chance to prove what they can do.

So it is with us. Life happens, leaving voids or holes in our lives and hearts. But if we take a step away from the black holes and see all the little things happening around the edges, soon we no longer see the longer sense the void. Whatever was there is gone, sometimes only for a moment and sometimes forever, but when we allow the small subtleties we've ignored to take center stage, we adapt and grow to love and appreciate the little blessings we took for granted.

Relish the new moon phase. Look at it as an opportunity to see another view of the universe.

What does the new moon do to you? Inspire your imagination or transform you from beauty to beast?

Thanks for stopping by and filling a "void."  Harley Brooks - Joelene's inspiration

Today's thought:  Life is what happens when we're making other plans.