Saturday, July 31, 2010

A-ha Moments from the 30th Annual RWA

"Learned a lot" doesn't even begin to cover how I'm feeling less than an hour after the conclusion of the 30th Annual RWA Nationals.  It was wonderful putting online names together with their beautiful faces.  It was exciting meeting so many new and encouraging authors.  It was nerve-wracking in the best possible way to get to meet and speak with agents and editors.  It was thrilling to receive manuscript requests--two partials from agents and one full from an editor.  And it was beyond fulfilling to have this dedicated time to be among writers, really think about writing, and get so filled up on inspiration and enthusiasm that I feel like I could jump out of my skin.

Here are some a-ha highlights from the conference, in no particular order:

1) Identify your core story--not in a particular book, not in any given story--but the central theme that most engages you as a writer, that you want to explore no matter what the setting or even the subgenre.  And I figured mine out.  I wrapped my head around it and it so well sums up everything I've written and everything I've got in mind to write.  For me, it's about every person's, every being's (I add, since I write so much paranormal...) search for belonging, for a place where they fit, for the connection that grounds them in this world.  Lucien's desire for a second chance at a family, Caden's hope that Makenna could accept him despite his scars and piercings and tatts, Sasha's need to reconnect with her husband--despite the different genres, each of my characters wants, needs, that basic sense of belonging and connection.  Identifying this, and being able to communicate it successfully to an agent (which I did! and she totally got it!) might be the single biggest thing I got out of this conference.
2) Nora Roberts's advice to writers:  "Ride the hard" and "Eat the hard."  I want the t-shirt.
3) 50-70% of readers and 66% of booksellers read the first page of a book before buying it.  Openings, openings, openings.  This was the message of at least three workshops I attended.
4) Linda Howard's workshop on the 12 Steps of Intimacy:  I think I knew this instinctively as a writer, but she explained so well using biological, genetic, and historical studies the fundamentally important role sexual intimacy and the sex act specifically play in establishing and maintaining pair bonding in humans.  It's not about the physical, it's about the way the physical cements the emotional and the psychological.  This is phenomenally relevant to my current WIP, Fantasy Life, but also so very applicable to our real-life relationships.
5) From a workshop on setting: "The reader will focus on what you focus on"--So how much detail do you really need about the setting, about the character's backstory, etc.  And if you do need that detail, do you need it right at that moment in the story?  Great way of thinking about it.
6) Similarly, "Your reader will care in direct proportion to how much the character cares"--so make the stakes high and keep raising them
7) To heighten tension and pacing, try to include something about as many of these as possible in your sentences: 1) setting, 2) action, 3) emotion, 4) senses, 5) complication, 6) introduce something new about your character.
8) To raise the tension in the story, break things, frequently; make the characters make bad decisions with hard consequences.  And then resist the urge to fix it!  Don't make it all better too fast.  Make the reader feel that all is lost, that it couldn't possibly get better.  Maybe even makes things worse.  Delayed gratification and escalation will keep the reader turning the page.

This just scratches the surface, but hopefully gives you a flavor of what the conference offered.  If you attended, what were your a-ha moments?

Thanks for reading,

Monday, July 26, 2010

10 Goals of a RWA Nationals Newbie

In just 24 hours, I'll be flying south, heading to my first RWA Nationals.  I am beyond thrilled and a little apprehensive at the same time.  Here are my goals for the conference:
  1. Learn something new about craft and the industry and then apply those lessons when I return home
  2. Introduce myself; make friends (sounds obvious, but capital-I introvert here, nice to meetcha...); put some faces together with online names
  3. Nail my elevator pitch!  26 words, baby!  (now to remember them...)
  4. Relax, relax, relax
  5. Meet a lot of agents and editors; impress a few (particularly at my pitch appointment); get a couple requests for materials (pleasepleaseplease) (perhaps I should add: without sounding desperate or acting like an idjit)
  6. Identify/meet some new-to-me authors/books--you can never have too many books on your nightstand
  7. Listen, observe, make note!
  8. Do a good job moderating a session (Serial Vampire Bondage, Asia 2, Saturday, 7/31) (say 'hi' if you come!)
  9. Don't absolutely exhaust myself--I have to hit the ground running come the following Monday morning to finish my edit of pre-galleys on Forever Freed and to crank out more words on Fantasy Life
  10. Have mucho funno!  

I don't want much, I know.  But it's good to have goals.  I'll update once or twice from warmer climes before doing a bigger debrief on journey's end.

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Greetings from Iowa: Plot and Structure

Days Three, Four, and Five of the Iowa Summer Writers Festival

Hi folks.  Well, things have been busy here, as this consolidated post reveals!  Friends have been made.  Fun works have been workshopped.  Chocolate cake from Iowa City's wonderful Atlas Restaurant has been eaten.  Repeatedly.  The last three days of workshop have focused on Plot/Structure, Characters, and Time in Fiction.  I learned the most from the former, and thought I'd share what I learned:


A slightly different way of thinking about GMC (goal/motivation/conflict) that I found very useful is desire/decision/impediment.  Plots only move forward because a character wants something, makes either a good or a bad decision to try to get that something, and encounters some sort of impediment to success.  Their efforts to work around that impediment (a new desire), moves the plot forward as it forces them to make a new decision, which invariably leads them to a new impediment.  And on and on to the conclusion.  This repeated encountering of impediments relates to the existence, in fiction, of long plot lines (the overall desire of your character--in The Wizard of Oz, for example, Dorothy's overarching desire is to get home), but also of short plot lines.  To use the Wizard of Oz example again, there are four short plot lines that run throughout the movie.
  1. Dorothy wants to get away from home (go somewhere over the rainbow)-->that leads her to the (bad) decision to run away-->which results in her ending up in a new world with some pretty serious enemies.  Both the enemies and not knowing how to get home are impediments, that lead to a second short plot...
  2. Dorothy wants to get to Oz-->that leads her to follow the yellow brick road and make new friends-->which earns her the wrath of the witch who uses a poisoned poppy field to stop them, and though the eventually escape it, when they get to Oz, the wizard rebuffs their request for help, which leads to a third short plot...
  3. The wizard demands the witch's broom, which becomes a new want for Dorothy-->leads her to go to the witch's castle-->which leads her to get captured by the flying monkeys, though her friends rescue her and she accidentally kills the witch, successfully retrieving the broom-->but then it's revealed that the wizard isn't a wizard at all...
  4. The final short plot ties immediately into the larger plot, wanting to go home-->and this time her desire and her decision actually lead her home, and the story ends
Each one of these short plots has its own Introduction-->Complication-->Climax-->Resolution.

Another way of thinking about plot is this:  plot as a power struggle, and plot as patterns of connection and disconnection (Janet Burroway, Writing Fiction: Guide to Narrative Craft)
  • In the first, the characters struggle over domination or power, and they have to be relatively equal in power to sustain a novel
  • In the second, whenever the character connects with or achieves something new,  she has to disconnect with someone old or lose something too (i.e., achievements come with sacrifice)
    • In Wizard of Oz, Dorothy has to give up her home and family to meet the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion, and then she has to give them up to get home again--she can't have both
    • This way of thinking of plot, by the way, gives me a craft-related way to critique Stephenie Meyer's Breaking Dawn.  One of my biggest complaints about this book was that the main character, Bella Swan, got everything without any sacrifice.  She got both boys (albeit in different capacities).  She got to have a child.  She got to keep her human family and be turned into a vampire.  She got to bypass the normal newborn bloodlust.  She got to stay in Forks, instead of retreating to Alaska to eat penguins.  It's hard to convincingly move a plot forward if nothing changes when the character changes, and if the character doesn't actually have to struggle to achieve.  In this way, Meyer violated a central tenet of traditional plot development.

Intricately intertwined with plot is structure.  Depending where you place a central or critical event in the overall storyline impacts the story's emphasis and the nature of the plot.  Let me give you an example from a writing exercise we were assigned in workshop.  The prompt was: write a story that begins with a murder, and then write a story that ends with a murder.  Here were mine:

A story that begins with a murder:
     The pool of blood oozed and spread out in circles from his head.  The deep red of it mesmerized her, had her making the inane comparison to the color of her pointy-toed high heels.  Both were glossy, but the crimson of her heels was brighter, cheerier.  The blood was the color of death--red-black and darkening by the second.
     She finally snapped out of her ridiculous stupor when the red flirted with the point of her shoe.  She jumped back, heart now filling her throat.  The metal bar clanged to the gritty pavement.  The sound was a beacon in the darkness of the alley, and echoed between the dingy brick of the surrounding apartment buildings.
     She turned and fled.  Running to the end of the alley, she slowed into an awkward walk-run as she hit the street.  She turned left and her eyes stung with the panic and adrenaline she'd somehow held back before.  She wished the retracing of her earlier steps could actually undo the events of the past half hour.  She clutched her ruined blouse together and hurried past dogwalkers and late-night commuters and normal people having regular days that hadn't involved assault in an alley.  Did they see her?  Did they know?
     Despite the coolness of the October evening air, sweat glued the silk of her blouse to her achy skin.  Her feet throbbed and chafed.  These heels weren't made for running.  But, as she reached her block--the one she'd always prized for its diverse, funky, urban atmosphere--run she did.  Past the corner grocery.  Past the blue flickerings of Mrs. Rosenberg's open window.  Past the big jaunty carved pumpkin on the stoop next store.  And up the front steps and three flights of stairs to her apartment.
     Her keys fell to the floor from sweat and adrenaline shakes.  On the second try, the key went in and the door opened, and she stumbled forward and slammed the door behind her.  Her back protested when she fell against the barrier to the outside world.  Nausea brought her to her knees, and she wrenched forward and gagged on a sickly sour taste before projecting the remains of her dinner onto the scarred hardwoods.  The smell of his blood, his sweat, his breath, his body odor suddenly filled her nose and throat until she wretched a second time and kicked off her heels, wanting the red to be gone.
     Crawling across the ratty rug to the chipped and scratched coffee table, she picked up the phone and pushed three buttons.  "Help me," she whispered.  "I just killed someone."

A story that ends with a murder:
     Her favorite red heels clicked against the worn concrete sidewalk as she hurried down the street chattering on the phone.  "I know.  I know.  I had to work late though.  I'm going to string him up by the balls tomorrow if I miss even five seconds of Vampire Diaries."  She laughed as she tilted her head into the receiver.  "I should already make him pay for the fact I'm gonna have to skip my stop for Ben & Jerry's in order to make it."
      She came to an intersection and cheered internally that she caught the walk.  On the other side, she rushed unseeingly past her favorite Chinese restaurant, a colorful Oriental rug store, and a pawn shop with the grate already drawn over its appealingly cluttered front window.
     "Okay," her best friend said on the other end of the line, "hurry.  You've only got five minutes."
     "Okay.  Let me hang, then."
     "Call me when you get home."
     She laughed.  "You know I will.  Bye."  She shook her head and smiled--sitting on the phone together and watching the show was always one of the highlights of her week.
     Not paying attention, she stumbled a bit when the sidewalk dipped down at the entrance to an alley.  Her heel popped out of her shoe, and she paused to fix it.
     For a split second, the tight constriction just under her breasts stole her breath and disoriented her.  But the puffy sweaty palm that slammed over her gaping mouth and backward motion of their grunting bodies into the otherworldly darkness of the alley clarified with an incredulous white horror exactly what was happening.
     She twisted and he tightened.  She screamed and bit at the fleshy gag, and he slapped her.  She kicked with those wicked heels, and he growled and whipped her around until her spine was on the losing end of a fight with an unseen brick wall.
     The man pawed and tore.  She blocked and kneed and elbowed and head-butted.  He couldn't hold her still everywhere.  Her mind disconnected, sending her hopes and dreams and emotions and personality standing somewhere on the far side of the suffocating space until all that was left was instinct.
     Her knee connected with his disgustingly hard erection and he staggered back and caved in on himself.  Her ears were apparently over there with the rest of her, because she couldn't actually hear the threats he spewed.  She took off.  The imperative was to get away, but that sent her further into the alley.
     Footsteps pounded behind her.  Her eyes went on a search and seize mission that drew her to a pile of debris.  Grasping, her hands fell on a too-heavy board and a useless coil of cable before something cold and steely filled her palms.  She yanked it out of the trash pile so hard she stumbled back, and instinct told her to use that momentum.  She turned, swinging.  With a crunching thunk and a wet squish, the length of old copper pipe found the man's head.  His eyes stayed on her for two seconds and then drifted to the right.  His body crumpled, first at the knees, then at the waist, until he was sprawled half on his side, half on his stomach.
     Blood streamed down over his bald head and round face, obscuring his features, before dripping, dripping onto the shadowed pavement.

Same story.  Same character.  Same central critical event--the murder.  But the placement of that event creates a very different structure.  In the one with the murder at the beginning, the emphasis of the story is on the consequences, on dealing with the event.  It creates a character-driven story.  In the one with the murder at the end, where the emphasis is on the anticipation of the event, the structure creates a plot-driven story.  I found this exercise very useful in thinking about how to plot a story before writing, and it gives me a handy way of thinking about the relationship between plot and structure I hadn't had before.

If you'll indulge me one final thought, in a post with far too many as it is, I'll report that the workshopping of Fantasy Life went splendidly--the story was very well received, enthusiastically discussed and debated, deemed 'the best written and structured' and 'most professional' of the class.  Whether true or not, I cannot say, but these were still much appreciated compliments and great to hear.  Yay, Fantasy Life!

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Good News for eBook Authors!

As a soon-to-be author of book from primarily an epublisher, the news from is good.  For three months running, ebook sales have outpaced hardcover sales, and the gap in sales number increased with each passing week.  I have no idea what this means for the publishing industry, writ large, and there are people better positioned than I to so speculate, but it is heartening as an author to know that there is a market for your ebooks.

Thoughts?  Is the trend good, bad, or indifferent?  Read here to learn more.

Thanks for reading,

Monday, July 19, 2010

Greetings from Iowa: POV and Workshopping Drafts

Day Two of the Iowa Summer Writers Festival

Day two started out with an hour at the gym (yay me)!  And then I completed my writing exercise homework.  As today's class topic was Point of View (POV), the assignment was to write about a neighborhood, building, and room in that building in my work in progress from the points of view of both a native and a stranger.  My favorite, and the one I think I'll be able to use in the actual manuscript, was the native POV on the building:
  • Native POV/Building:
Warm golden light spilled out the front windows of the house as Sasha pulled into the driveway.  From the first moment she’d laid eyes on the small yellow cottage with the white porch railings and black shutters, she’d fallen in love with the quaintness of it all.  She half expected a grandmother to be baking an apple pie inside, or for the woman of the house to wear an apron.  She grabbed her purse and got out of the car, musing on how, after ten years of living there, 29 E. Maple still gave her the warm-fuzzies about family and togetherness.  The house was a member of her family.  Their aunt, maybe, the one you could always count on to celebrate the loudest with you when times were good or to drop what she was doing and come to your side when they weren’t.  Sasha pushed through the front door and called, “Honey, I’m home,” and chuckled.  Jason wouldn’t be home for another hour.
  • By contrast, the Stranger POV/Building:
The house was cute, like a dollhouse, and just as small.  Inside, bright colors and light hard woods created a sense of space, but it amazed him to think this was all a million dollars could buy in Northern Virginia.

Our class discussion about POV confirmed my view that second person is complete bunk.  (Sorry to all you second person lovers out there.)  I couldn't imagine reading anything longer than a flash fiction piece in second person point of view:  You this and you that.  Since most people reading here would already have a handle on what first ("I") and third ("he"/"she") person points of view are, I won't belabor the point.  But this thought from the instructor about point of view really struck me:  Point of view is a contract with your reader--and therefore you don't switch mid-narrative.  I like that way of thinking about POV a lot.  And that's why it's so important to understand why you're choosing the POV that you're writing in before you start writing.

We workshopped our first excerpt today--brave Janneke went first with her family-inspired tale of the contemporary impact of tragic World War II events on a Dutch family later transplanted to America.  Very interesting backstory about the internment experiences of the many Dutch people who then lived in the Dutch East India Company.  There are nine people in the seminar, so the rest of the days we'll be workshopping two excerpts per day.  I've got a fantasy and a suspense on tap to read for tomorrow.  My piece is on the chopping block, er, I mean, up to be workshopped on Wednesday.

The day ended with a tasty dinner of Thai chicken satay salad and a YA book reading at the famous Prairie Lights bookstore.  All of which cemented my affection for charming Iowa City even more.

Thanks for reading,

Author Blog Hop

  • Readers: Looking for hip new authors and fun new reads? Click on the below links to learn more about each of the authors and their writing. These authors represent a mix of romance, fantasy, young adult, and other to-be-added genres--so there's something for everyone.  And, the best part is, you'll find this same list on each of the authors' blogs, so you don't have to worry about how to navigate back or forward--just click away!  Oh, and don't forget to leave a hello message! Authors lurve to hear from you! 
  • Authors: Looking for new readers and blog traffic? Just click the enter button below, add your info, and you'll automatically appear on everyone's lsits on this author blog hop.  Grab the Linky code and insert into a post on your blog, and this will appear on your blog too!  Win-win!
  • Thanks for visiting, Laura

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Greetings from Iowa: Review of Michael Cunningham, The Hours

Day One of the Iowa Summer Writers Festival.

All this week, I'll be blogging about my experiences at an Advanced Novel Workshop. One of our two assigned pre-readings was Michael Cunningham's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Hours. Here's what I thought:

The HoursThe Hours by Michael Cunningham

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this book because it was assigned as part of a writer's workshop I'm taking. Now, it's hard to say some of what I'm about to say of a book that won the Pulitzer Prize. But, um, this book violates so many writing rules that have been drilled into my head I was initially stumped. Paragraphs that go on for pages. Telling and telling and telling, followed by some showing (2.5 pages, for example, on the squalid character of a building lobby). Constant starting of sentences with the same pronoun. Repeating of the same descriptions throughout (everyone is red-faced). Repeated use of parentheticals to explain actions or thoughts. Starting off with the death of a major character. Agent blog after agent blog, editor how-to after editor how-to, writing manual after writing manual...these are pretty much no-nos.

But then there are magnificent moments of brilliance and truth. Marvelously beautiful turns of phrases. The intrigue of how these three women's stories relate. Quirky characters, dialogue, and scenes. Even in the first half of the book, when I was still only reading because I had to, because the book was an assignment, I recognized the brilliance.

As a reader, though, I wasn't fully pulled in until the second half of the book, and I wasn't completely hooked until the last thirty pages or so. But, those pages made it worth it to me, had me in tears, had me thinking, had me acknowledging fundamental truths. I get the Pulitzer Prize, and then some.Some of you will have seen the movie--I haven't. I'm curious to do so now, though. But the book is worth reading, even if it takes you a while to want to stick with it.

View all my reviews >>

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


I am beyond excited and exceedingly fortunate to be planning two writing-related trips at this end of this month.  The first is a week-long advanced novel workshop focused on the first 50 manuscript pages at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival in Iowa City.  The second is RWA Nationals in Orlando.  Occurring back-to-back as they do, they of necessity shape my writing schedule over the next couple weeks.  I have an agent appointment at RWA on Saturday, July 31, and here's what I'm hoping to accomplish to get ready for it in the coming days (watch for updates!):

Target writing goal for week of July 12 - 16:  20,000 words (would put Fantasy Life at the 50,000-word mark):
7/12:  Target = 4,000; Actual = 3,225
7/13:  Target = 4,000; Actual = 2,000 (booooo! .500 is a good average for a baseball player but not a writer! lol)
7/14:  Target = 4,000; Actual = 3,500
7/15:  Target = 4,000; Actual = 4,000!!
7/16:  Target = 4,000; Actual = 1,100 (pbbblllttt!)
TOTAL FOR WEEK:  13,825 (approximately 53 pages)

Target writing goal for week of July 18 - 24:  5,000 (this is the week of the novel workshop, during which I'll be critiquing as many as 13 other 50-page excerpts, so even 7,500 may be unrealistic.

Target writing goal for week of July 26 - 30: 10,000 (this is the week of the RWA and I'll only have two free writing days before the conference, BUT, if I can get near these goals, I'll have a nearly finished manuscript I can feel comfortable pitching on July 31.

Wish me luck!  And hope to see some of you at Nationals--I'm a complete newbie, so please say hello!

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Falling in love all over again

So, I just finished second-round edits on Forever Freed.  The bad news is that means I've gotten no writing on Fantasy Life done so far this week.  The good news is that it gave me the chance to remember why I love this story and these characters so much.  Sigh.

That got me thinking about how writers decide what to write.  I was a good twenty pages into a manuscript about a haunting and possession when the idea for Forever Freed slammed into my brain nearly fully formed.  Lucien was there right from the start, telling me his story, reshaping my music interests (yes, literally), constantly nagging at me with plot bunnies and dialogue.  I had no choice but to write him.

But I tried to resist.  Why?  Because it is a vampire romance.  And I know some people are just done with the whole vampire craze and predicting it'll end next week and be replaced by minotaurs or some other whacked out supernatural creature.  How predictable.  How passe'.  How low brow.

But I wrote it.  Because I was totally in love with it.  It grabbed me from the first moments.  So much so that I ended up writing 50,000 words (for those playing along at home, that's about 150 pages) of Lucien's backstory that has since landed on the cutting room floor.  And I don't care how done they are, I've almost never met a vampire I didn't like.

My full formula for writing success is a subject for another time, but it seems to me two key elements are these:
  1. Write what you know
  2. Write what you love
I've read so much vampire romance that I know it.  I know the worlds, the rules, the thrill, the appeal.  I know what's been done and how to tweak it to make it more my own.  I know why these creatures have captivated me, and I use that to captivate others.  And, being such a huge fan of the fanged ones (and even their defanged, sparkly cousins *g*), I find them fun to write, fun to think about, fun to play with.  And I hope my delight and enthusiasm comes out onto the page.
So, I'm basking in the afterglow of just having returned the manuscript back to my editor, in part because I'm another big step closer to actual book in hand, but also because I fell in love with Forever Freed all over again.

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Versatile Blogger Award

Yay!  My first blog award, courtesy of romance author Leigh D'Ansey.  Thanks Leigh!  The award requires me to share seven random facts about myself, and point you in the direction of noteworthy blogs I've found especially useful.  So, here goes:

  • I worked for years as an historical archaeologist--the most famous site I worked on was the Jamestown fort site; my favorite site though was a 17th-18th century slave quarter site called Utopia
  • I've made stained glass windows
  • I type over 100 words a minute
  • I have a tattoo
  • Outside of the U.S., I have traveled to Canada, England, Italy, Germany, France, Czech Republic, Austria
  • I love potato chips (Utz...mmmmm....)
  • I have a dog named Jackson (Germany shepherd-Collie mix)
Finally, here are some blogs I enjoy that I think you might like too.  Check 'em out!
Enjoy!  And thanks for reading!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy 4th of July!

Let us tenderly and kindly cherish, therefore, the means of knowledge. Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write.
~John Adams

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Tortured Hero

I'm a sucker for a tortured hero.  I love to read 'em.  I love to write 'em.  Either way, I get to hurt for their pain, yearn alongside them for what they think they'll never have (or don't deserve), and get the HUGE emotional payoff of watching them give in to the love that will take their pain away and make them all better.  I don't care if it's formulaic.  It gets me every time.

My own tortured heroes come in a variety of packages.  There's Lucien, the man who became a vampire after watching his sire murder his wife and daughter before his eyes (Forever Freed).  He gets the extra added torture of being empathic, which means he feels his victims' terror every times he feeds.  There's Cayden, who became an EMT despite a tragic childhood car accident that killed his mother and brother (Hearts in the Dark).  There's Kael, an ancient vampire king whose been alone for centuries rather than subject another mate to the possibility of the kind of tragedy that sent his first wife into fatal premature labor (In the Service of the King).  And there's Merrick, an angel exiled from heaven for having broken angelic law, despite the fact that his infraction saved lives, and who will ultimately have to choose between human love and returning to paradise (Merrick's Chance).

I enjoy reading 'em as much as writing 'em.  J.R. Ward's Zsadist anyone?  I mean, I'm an equal opportunity Brother-lover, but no one tops Zsadist in the tortured soul department.  And, woowee, the results of all that pent-up sorrow and anger and hurt are molten.  For that same reason, I have to give a nod to Sherrilyn Kenyon's Zarek.  (Now, I haven't gotten all the way through her series to read Acheron's book yet, though I've an inkling he might knock Zarek out of first place...).

So, do tell, who are your favorite tortured soul heroes?  Who should I put on my must-read list?

Thanks for reading,