Friday, May 28, 2010

What Do You Think?

Writing on a blog is like screaming into a void. You never know who hears you. And until Myspace got really riddled with viruses and spammers, I maintained a blog there. I liked posting whatever wierd thing came into my head. And I had a loyal following of fringe dwellers who posted their own comments and usually made me laugh. I've missed that. And I miss them.

It's strange how we build our own little worlds out here in cyberspace, finding "like" souls in the cybersphere. And it makes me realize how small the world can be when I hear from readers across the planet, as if they're right next door. On the Internet, there are no international borders to guard or customs to go through when you reach out and touch someone. That part of the Internet is definitely cool, but other parts make me wonder what the future holds.

Criminals and predators have found a whole new hunting ground. And in the anonymity of cyberspace, they've found a new virtual world to commit their crimes. With people relying more and more on computers to transact business, it makes me leary of how secure our financial information is, for example. I don't mean to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but how safe are we online? Every time we post pictures of ourselves or post personal messages that give away where we live or where we'll be on a certain day, that can be an invitation to someone with a criminal deviant mind.

I hear more and more about cybercrimes happening all the time. As an author, these things intrigue me and can become future story lines. And of course, there's nothing like firsthand information to make my books seem real. For example, I had my credit card information stolen after I went to a local restaurant to have dinner. Someone hacked the system and had my credit card info posted online for purchase to the highest bidder before I got my first billing. The credit card people closed that account and I didn't have to pay for the items these criminals had charged, but did they get caught? I'm convinced the credit card companies see this kind of thing a lot. And the odds of people getting caught and prosecuted are slim to none. Whatever losses the credit card companies incur are absorbed by them, but ultimately paid by the consumer through their increasing fees.

Bottom line is--it's a scary world out there. And we all have to be more careful in the digital world. Everytime I hand over my credit card, I wonder if the person behind the counter is trustworthy. And the doctor's office clerk who asks for my social security number, can they be trusted not to sell my information to an identity thief? It makes me a little sick to realize how guarded and paranoid I've become. I hate that. And I sometimes explore these new threats in my books, trying to expose how significant this new criminal hunting ground has become.

When I was in Washington DC last year, doing research with the FBI, CIA, and the State Department, I found out that the U.S. Postal Service has investigators who may be given the authority to "police" the Internet. Usually criminal activity involves the mail service, so that's the logic behind them being in charge. Of course, with the Internet being global, they will have a hard time crossing over jurisdictions so I don't see this as an easy job.

But what do you think about someone being responsible for "policing" the Internet? Do you see it as a threat or a help? If they instituted more rules to monitor activity or charged fees and forced people to identify themselves (taking away the anonymity), would you think that's a good thing or bad? This is a HUGE topic to cover and there is no easy answer, but I'd love to hear what you think.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Inspirations Behind Brenna & White Bird

When I begin any book, I love to find character images that will inspire me. On days when I'm writing my new character, I have a print of their faces, or bodies, or clothes, etc. on my computer. Or I listen to music that reminds me of them. But when I saw Libby on, she completely inspired me to create Brenna Nash, my 16-year old main character in my YA book - In the Arms of Stone Angels (Harlequin Teen, Apr 2011). Her clothes in the photo really gave me a sense of Brenna too. And I love the vulnerable little girl behind those big sunglasses.

After I went back to modelmayhem to locate Libby, she had pulled her portfolio. This photo is all I have of her. I really miss her and wonder where she is, but my best wishes go out to her.

So here's the image that inspired Brenna. I hope when you read Stone Angels, you'll see Libby too. Let me know what you think?

And as for Isaac "White Bird" Henry, I always pictured him as the adorable actor Teddy Geiger who starred in "The Rocker." Teddy has incredible eyes and an expressive face. Don't you think? Can't you picture Brenna seeing him for the first time in the woods when the two of them are alone on the day they first meet when she's twelve? He's real dream material.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Good + Evil = Gray

In many of my books—for adults readers AND for young adults—I write about certain themes. And one constant theme seems to be my fascination with Good vs. Evil. The guys wearing the white hats or the black hats aren’t the ones I tend to focus on. I’m more interested in the characters (or real people) who don’t wear a hat—the gray people in between. I think in all of us, we have some of both, good and bad. And it’s all about keeping a balance. We all have baggage, maybe things we’re not particularly proud of, but how well do we understand what’s in that suitcase of ours?

That’s why I chose my YA website page header to flash shift between similar images, only going from the light to the dark side, color to black and white. And these images roll continuously, back and forth, both vying for control like it’s a struggle—a war waged every day.

When I create a “villain”, for example, he’s never all dark. I give him a strange sense of humor or make him do a good thing once in a while, to put “balance” into his suitcase. Even a villain is the hero to his own story. And the same goes for my good guys. Everyone has a dark side. A guy might be obsessed in doing the right thing, no matter what the cost. Does that make him right?

You see? It’s all in your perspective. For a writer, the gray is more interesting. The gray makes you think. The gray is in each of us.

Talk amongst yourselves ...