Saturday, October 27, 2007

Why I Love BONES

By guest blogger Trish Milburn!

I admit it – I’m a fan of TV. But not just any TV programming. I like good programming that not only entertains me but also offers a little fodder for my writer’s brain. In particular, good characters and dialogue draw me in. One of my favorite shows is BONES. The show is wonderful at conveying sexual tension between the main two characters, Dr. Temperance “Bones” Brennan (Emily Deschanel) and FBI Agent Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz).

On the surface, you couldn’t find two characters more dissimilar. Dr. Brennan, who is based on real-life forensic anthropologist and author, is a no-nonsense expert when it comes to bones, sees everything through an anthropological lens and is totally clueless about pop culture. She’s single, unless you count being married to her job. Booth is also dedicated to his job, but he knows how to have fun too. He isn’t married but has a young son. Initially, these two butt heads as they work together on cases where human skeletal remains are found. But gradually, they find they do have the occasional thing in common or at least can see the other person’s point of view. It’s been so fun watching them go from reluctant partners to friends to sexually aware of each other but not admitting it to anyone, not even themselves. Being the romantic that I am, I’m anxious for the day when they finally kiss and get together. But I don’t want that to happen too soon because then the sexual tension that largely drives BONES will be gone, and the show will likely not last much beyond that. I want to enjoy the ride a while longer.

Another reason I love this show is that I get to see David Boreanaz’s funny side. I loved him as the vampire with a soul in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, but his humor only came out occasionally. On BONES, you see it every week. And it’s even funnier compared with Bones because she often doesn’t get the jokes. And she drives him to distraction sometimes, which only heightens the sexual tension between them and makes you wish he would just grab her and kiss her silly.

The secondary romance on BONES, between forensic artist Angela Montenegro (Michaela Conlin) and insert and mineral expert Dr. Jack Hodgins (T.J. Thyne), gives fans the satisfaction of seeing a couple get together — not that they don’t have their own bumps in the road along the way. Again, you wouldn’t have expected these two to get together, but they did and they’re adorable! Angela is beautiful and earthy, and Jack is sexy in that nerdy, smart guy way.

Totally outside of the romances or potential romances on the show, the cases they solve each week are interesting in and of themselves. They’re good thinking material for anyone who writes romantic suspense or mysteries.

BONES airs on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. Eastern/7 p.m. Central on FOX. To learn more about the show and its characters, visit

I hope I’ve conveyed the same type of sexual tension in my manuscript, OUT OF SIGHT, which is a finalist in the American Title contest sponsored by Romantic Times BOOKreviews Magazine and Dorchester Publishing. Online voting for the first round of the competition ends tomorrow, Oct. 28, after which the two contestants with the least amount of votes will be eliminated. To view and vote on the best first line, visit

Thanks to Lee for letting me show my love for one of my favorite TV shows today. I hope I’ve convinced a few non-viewers to give the show a try.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Men in Trees

No Sara/Eric action tonight. We did see a glimpse of Plow Guy, though, which suggests that Jane will be back this season!

Psyched to see the new developments in Jack and Marin's relationship.

Loved the new Jerome, out and about and totally hitting on the new skater girl in town.

Devastated for Cash. Poor, shirtless, sigh-worthy Cash. But the show's creator Jenny Bicks has promised we'll find out what was written on the rock Cash threw off the mountain, and I'm dying to find out what that was.

Any Janet Evanovich (Morelli/Stephanie/Ranger) fans here? Does the Jack-Marin-Cash triangle make you feel as though there's no way Marin can lose?

Hey. Just asking. ;)

Catch you tomorrow.

On the Subject of Archetypes . . .

The writers over at The Office have used archetypes to create another set of characters every bit as strong as those in Men in Trees, but very different.

Men in Tree’s librarian archetypes, Marin and Jane, are joined by Angela from The Office. Remember me saying that archetypes are NOT stereotypes? I rest my case. If the librarian is efficient and serious, then Angela is the extreme. Even when she smiles, she doesn’t really. Repressed? Ha! I’ll bet she irons herself when she gets of bed in the morning. Is she a carbon copy of Marin or Jane? Not on your life!

Is there a professor archetype on The Office? No. Oh, wait. Dwight! Expert, analytical, insular, inflexible. Jack on Men in Trees is an expert wildlife biologist. Dwight is an expert on everything, or at least in his mind he is.

So, two very different shows, two very different pairs of characters. Jack and Marin. Dwight and Angela. The professor and the librarian.

These are so not stereotypes!

Till tomorrow,

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Men in Trees

In case anyone’s wondering where I’ve been, please check out my October 24th post on the Harlequin American Romance Authors’ blog.

I’ve been wanting to blog about Men in Trees, now that it’s finally back for a second season, but I also wanted to do it justice.

Of all the shows on TV right now, Men in Trees is probably the closest to a Harlequin American Romance, the line I write for. These books are about home and family and community, and people falling in love and overcoming their differences. Personally I love character-driven stories, and MiT is all about the characters. Even the setting, the fictional town of Elmo, Alaska, is as much a character in the story as it is a setting.

The show has an extensive cast of characters, each with his or her own story arc. Well, all except Jerome, the perennial stool-warmer in the local bar, but we love him anyway.

One of my favorite writing how-to books is The Complete Guide to Heroes & Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes by Tami D. Cowden, Caro LaFever and Sue Viders. This book was primarily written for romance novelists, but the archetypes themselves apply to all genres.

I’d hazard a guess that Jenny Bicks—creator of Men in Trees—hasn’t read this book, but because she’s a natural-born storyteller, creating strong archetypes comes as naturally to her as breathing. Take Jack and Marin. He’s a classic professor. His character strengths? He’s an expert at what he does, he’s analytical and he’s genuine to the point of being vulnerable. Of course, no one’s perfect, and Jack does have his flaws. He can be insular, a little inhibited, and not all that flexible. These are not my descriptions, BTW. They’re from the book.

Marin is a librarian archetype. This character “lives in her head.” She’s every bit as analytical as the professor, but in the case of Jack and Marin, they’re often analyzing different things, or approaching the same thing from a very different perspective. The librarian is efficient, she takes life seriously, and she’s dependable. There’s nothing she won’t do for friends. Also, she’s a can be a tad on the stubborn side, every bit as repressed as the professor, and if she’s going to do something, it has to be perfect.

What happens when we put the two together? Cowden et al say, “The professor and the librarian are both accustomed to others coming to them for information.” Hammer, meet nail. And “...neither takes kindly to being questioned, regardless of who is doing the questioning.”

Men in Trees is a textbook example of how to create characters, and how to make them work.

I think some writers have a difficult time distinguishing between archetypes and stereotypes, and again Jenny Bicks and her writers show us the difference.

Marin’s friend Jane is also a librarian. Each struggles to maintain order in her world, but are they cookie-cutter characters? Not at all. Cowden et at describe two types of librarians—the know-it-all and the bookworm—and anyone who watches MiT will have no trouble deciding which is which!

I can already hear some of you saying but . . . every character wants order in his or her world. Not quite. Look at Mai Washington, Buzz’s adorable mailorder bride. She’s a free spirit archetype who goes with the flow. Her world already has an order to it, and it’s out of her control. Does she fight it? No, but she’ll definitely come up with creative ways to work around it.

Men in Trees is on again tomorrow night. I’ve heard, but haven’t confirmed, that next Friday, November 2, the show is moving to a different time slot. Watch those listings, because I’m sure it’ll be a show we won’t want to miss!

Till tomorrow,

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Office: Launch Party

When I blogged about the season premiere of The Office, I said I looked forward to seeing Jim and Pam play one of their pranks on Dwight. And the writers followed through, brilliantly, as we all knew they would.

In my opinion, Jim is the indisputable champ of office pranks. My all-time favorite is the episode in which he convinced Dwight that he’d been bitten by a bat and was turning into a vampire! If you’re a fan of The Office pranks, check out this blog.

But last week’s prank—Dwight vs. the computer—is right up there among the best.

Pam, sweetheart that she is, was reluctant to take part. Andy and the annoying bear horn gave her the push she needed. “What kind of prank are you thinking?” she asks Jim.

I love it when Jim and Pam put their heads together over the reception desk, and even Dwight, who’s been burned oh-so-many times, suspected something was up. But his initial suspicion that it might be Jim talking instead of the computer was allayed by Pam’s simple reply.

What is a Jim?

There were only a handful exchanges between Dwight and the computer, but they were so effective. As if I needed to be convinced that the writing on this show is clever, sharp and very tight. It’s a brilliant writer who makes every word count.

Dwight’s jubilation over out-selling the computer was short lived, though. His motivation had been to impress Angela, and she wasn’t. Poor Dwight. Usually I don’t mind seeing him squirm, but I was glad Pam let him off the hook.

You beat me. You are the superior being.

Ordinarily a phrase like that would have had Dwight lording it over everyone in the office, but he was too broken-hearted to care. I wonder if he’ll “get” that he shouldn’t have killed Angela’s cat?

There so much more to love about this episode. Michael referring to the new website as his brain-grandchild. That truly disgusting purple shirt! Driving to NYC for a chatroom party. Oh, Michael.

There was more spark between Jim and Pam in this episode, and I loved that.

One of the best scenes, for me, was Andy’s conference call rendition of ABBA’s “Take a Chance on Me.” He didn’t see Angela’s little smile, but we did!

Till tomorrow,

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Announcing a First Sale!

This is turning into Noodler week here at The Writer Side of Life, and what fun it is to announce that Mary Fechter (w/a MJ Fredrick) has made her first sale to The Wild Rose Press.

Her working title is Where There's Smoke—if that changes, we’ll be sure to let you know! I am over-the-moon excited for her and can’t wait to read this book. The Wild Rose Press does awesome covers. Be sure to check out their website and you’ll see what I mean.

Mary is a four-time Golden Heart finalist, and she has also finalled in the Emily and the Maggies. She’s an awesome writer and this sale has been a long time in the making.

Congratulations, Mary!

Back tomorrow with more TV blogging.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Trish Milburn, finalist in RT’s American Title IV Contest!

Hi everyone,

What a thrill it is to announce that my dear friend and fellow Noodler, Trish Milburn, is a finalist in the American Title IV Contest!

For those who may not be familiar with the contest, it’s like American Idol for writers. Ten finalists have been chosen, and every month an excerpt from their manuscripts will be posted on the Romantic Times website. Three judges post their comments, and then we get to vote for our favorite. Only one vote per person, though, so each vote is very important!

Many of you know Trish in her role as Pro Liaison on the RWA board of directors. Trish is also a journalist, a voracious reader and a prolific writer. I met her in 2003 when we became Golden Heart finalists and members of the sisterhood of writers that is the Wet Noodle Posse.

This year’s contestants in the American Title Contest are paranormal, futuristic, time-travel and fantasy manuscripts, and Trish’s promises to be a great read! Here’s a mini synopsis for Out of Sight:

Imagine what you could find out if you could make yourself invisible at will. Jenna McCay finds out when she's coerced by a secret government agency to go “undercover” at the White House to identify a potential presidential assassin sending threats from within 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Along the way, she hopes to garner information about her father, a Special Forces officer who went missing when she was a teenager, and about why she has the ability to make herself disappear.

I’ll bet you already want to read more. I sure do! The opening lines of the ten finalists were posted on RT’s site today and voting for this round is now underway. It ends on October 28, and voting couldn’t be easier. In fact it’s so easy, I’ve already voted! I simply sent a blank email to with Trish’s title OUT OF SIGHT in the subject header. See what I mean? EASY!

After each round of voting, the two contestants with the lowest number of votes will be eliminated, and the winning entry will be published by Dorchester Publishing. That’s right. A publishing contract!

On November 12, be sure to can check back for results, and to vote for best hero and heroine.

Good luck, Trish!

Back tomorrow,

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Lee’s Excellent News!

I’ve had two very exciting weeks, beginning with a phone call from my editor on September 28. Yes, you guessed it. I've sold two more books to Harlequin American Romance! My first sale was the thrill of a lifetime—nothing can beat it!—but in many ways this sale feels like more of a validation. I am a writer!

And I’m so excited about these new projects. The stories are about two young career women—best friends—who live and work in the beautiful city of San Francisco.

Rory Borland is a second grade teacher in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. Jess Bennett runs a little bar in the South of Market district. They’re not just happy being single, they’re committed to it.

But then Mitch Donovan, firefighter and single dad, walks into Rory’s classroom and life takes on a whole new meaning for both of them, and for the little girl whose biggest wish is to see her dad smile again.

Winery CEO Michael Morgan literally sweeps Jess off her feet, but she’s soon wondering if he’s as interested in her as he is in her business.

No titles or publication dates yet, but I’ll keep you posted.

This week I received my author copies of my December book, With This Ring. That’s the cover in the sidebar. Gorgeous, isn’t it? But the photo really doesn’t do it justice. The colors are deeper and richer, and I am completely thrilled with it! With This Ring will be out on December 4, and then you can see for yourself.

Till tomorrow,

PS: The new season of my current favorite TV show, Men in Trees, premieres tomorrow. Anyone else out there who’s been waiting, and waiting, and waiting for their next Elmo fix?

Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Office

Several years ago I attended a full-day comedy scriptwriting workshop presented by Robert McKee, the author of Story. Early in the workshop he said the comedy writer looks for social conflict and foolishness, finds pretentiousness, and attacks it. We should be able to identify the social institution being attacked by the title of the film.

The Office is classic comedy. Every week the writers take some aspect of an office workplace and expose the foolishness. I remember McKee telling us that to write really great comedy, the writer has to be angry about something. After watching this week’s episode, Dunder Mifflin Infinity, I’d say the writers are annoyed by people who sit around texting on their Blackberrys when they really should be working, by the pointlessness of talking cars that tell you where to go, and possibly even by gift baskets filled with stuff no one really needs.

In his workshop, McKee also explained what makes great comic characters. First, they strive to restore order to their world. It becomes an obsession for them, and they are unable to stop and assess a situation. A character in a dramatic show can take a step back and look at what’s going on, but the comic character forges blindly ahead. Another important aspect of good comic characters is their lack of internal conflict. People who have a lot of internal conflict take themselves too seriously. Not something we want our comic characters to be burdened with.

The Office’s boss Michael Scott is a textbook example. He doesn’t stop to examine any situation, he never thinks things through, and he’s always quick to come up with his own convenient explanation for what’s going on. In this week’s episode, Ryan yells at Michael after everyone teased him. “Enough! This is inappropriate and it stops right now.”

Does Michael realize he’d been out of line? Does he feel chastised? No. He says to the camera, “Yeah, Ryan snapped at me, but there was this twinkle in his eye that I picked up on, which said, ‘Dude, we’re friends. I’m doing this for appearances. I am the big boss now and I have to seem like an ogre but you know me and you trust me and we like each other and we’ll always be friends and I would never take you for granted in a million years and I miss you, man, and I love you.’ His words.”

When Michael discovers it’s not “business as usual,” he sets out to restore order to his world. Dunder Mifflin doesn’t need a website to attract customers. They need gift baskets.

Meanwhile, the office is abuzz with the news that Pam and Jim are dating. Toby is jealous and Phyllis worries that Pam will pass new customers to Jim. Angela rejects Dwight’s replacement cat, and then she rejects Dwight. Andy and Kevin try to act cool, and Creed tries to look younger. Ryan dumps Kelly, then asks Pam on a date, and Jim gets to smugly point out that Ryan can’t get every girl he wants.

Never a dull moment. Always a laugh. Outstanding writing. Such a great show. I look forward to it every week, and I'm never disappointed.

Back tomorrow.


Friday, October 5, 2007

Grey’s Anatomy

Seriously . . . is the old Grey’s back or what? Last night I finally got around to watching the season premiere from last week, and then I watched last night’s episode. Snappy dialogue, humor, emotion, and plenty of snark to go around. I fell in love with the characters all over again, and I think it’s safe to say I’ve signed on for the whole season.

I’m wondering if we’ll see some of Alex’s armor stripped away this season. And will Rebecca be back? Is he telling Meredith her sister is hot just to bug her? According to him to there’s no such thing as a happy family, and yet he’s so fiercely protective of the people he cares about. I’m ready to find out more about who Alex really is, and I look forward to seeing what the writers have in store for us.

Tough-as-nails Christina, assigning numbers to her interns so she doesn't have to remember their names. Bartering her wedding gifts for surgical favors. But I’m wondering when she’ll finally have a melt down. Or at least sit down and have a good cry.

McSteamy went to Seattle to get McDreamy back. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall during the read-through when those actors first read those lines. Way to go, writers. And won’t it be fun to see what happens when those two launch themselves into the dating scene? I’m feeling more than a little uneasy about Derek and Lexie, though. He wouldn’t. Would he?

I’m still totally lukewarm about George and Izzy. I’m trying not to be, but I am. At the end of last season I didn’t think the writers needed to put them together. This season I’m still not feeling it. There’s no chemistry between the two actors, and something about the two characters together doesn’t work for me. Maybe because they’re both like a couple of deer in the headlights.

Speaking of deer . . . I don’t even care that reviving the injured deer in the hospital parking lot was beyond unbelievable. It was classic Izzy. She's the polar opposite of Christina, and that was summed up so well when she was trying to convince Christina to give her the Mix Master. And Christina said no, you have nothing I want. Did I mention the snappy dialogue? The snark? Go, Christina!

I’m not missing Burke or Addison, so I guess it was time for them to go. Haven’t watched this week’s episode of Private Practice, either. Good thing this will be a long weekend. I have a lot of catching up to do!

See you tomorrow.


Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Brothers & Sisters

I really, really like this show. I watched the season premiere on Sunday and have been wanting to say something constructively critical but the truth is, I simply like the show. Not so much because of the writing or the acting, but because of its premise, theme or whatever you want to call it. Family.

No matter what choices our parents or siblings or even aunts and uncles make, they’re family. We love them and because of that we’re there at their side, helping them work through whatever decision they made. In Brothers & Sisters, I love that Nora, their mother, is at the core of the family. Whatever happens to one of her children happens to her because she’s right there with them, sharing their joy and disappointments. It doesn't matter that they're adults because they'll always be her children.

I love that Nora assembles her family to celebrate special occasions and family dinners. It reminds of my grandmother. From the tiniest kitchen you can imagine, she could serve up a feast to three generations, and make it look easy. Although she’s no longer with us and everyone has spread themselves across the continent, I still love family dinners. In fact I’m already planning Thanksgiving dinner for this weekend. Yes, Canadians celebrate in the early fall, maybe because harvest has to happen before the snow flies! Although Thanksgiving Day is October 8, we’ll have dinner on Sunday because Monday will be a travel day for some.

Hm. Family dinner on Sunday evening. Must remember to tape the second episode of Brothers & Sisters!

I’ll be back soon!


Monday, October 1, 2007

It’s Golden Heart Month at the!

Before I was published I made extensive use of writing contests. I received some excellent feedback from judges, many of whom were busy published authors and yet generously volunteered their time to help beginners like me. The most valuable contest for me was the Golden Heart Contest, sponsored by Romance Writers of America (RWA).

I am a four-time GH finalist and although I never did win a coveted Golden Heart, that contest paved the road to publication. Being a finalist 2003 also gave me de facto membership in the Wet Noodle Posse, one of the most generous and supportive group of people I have ever been associated with. Since 2003, we’ve created the Wet Noodle Posse ezine and blog, and if you’re not familiar with these fabulous sites, I invite you check them out.

It’s an honor to be part of this group, and never more so than this month. For the month of October, Noodlers will be blogging about RWA’s Golden Heart Contest—how to prepare for it, how to make the most of being a finalist, etc. Every single member of this group has benefitted from writing contests and this month it’s our turn to give back. I hope you’ll drop by, and if you’re entering the GH this year, I wish you the very best of luck.

Till tomorrow,


PS: Premiere week has ended and I’m already behind. I think I have four hours of shows on tape to catch up on.