Saturday, May 31, 2008
It was in the hills above Los Angeles, a lovely four-story building that looked so warm and welcoming that I practically skipped as I followed the bellman to the front desk.
I was treated like royalty being told I would have the Royalty Suite on the top floor and everything I required was included in my prize.
The suite was of an elegance of a time gone by, but with the comfort not known back then. I ignored the large flat screen TV for the view from the room that showed the lights starting to twinkle in the city below. I stood on my balcony inhaling the fresh scents of the surrounding forest.
Dinner was room service, food so succulent I moaned with delight and when my chocolate orgasm cake was served, well, let’s just say the cake was well named!
When I was offered the services of a relaxing massage after dinner, I wasted no time in accepting. Talk about a wonderful way to wind down my evening. Especially since the masseuse was named Gabe and had hands like you wouldn’t believe. Not to mention a few other talents that I was only too happen to receive. This was a true fantasy weekend for me and I intended to enjoy every second of it!
My days were filled with massages from Gabe, and well … you know, an herbal facial that I’m positive turned my skin to pure silk and time in the mineral springs behind the lodge that also did wonders for my peace of mind.
I was waited on hand and foot. It seemed I only had to think of what I wanted and it was there! And so was Gabe.
I only wished my time there had been longer, but it was time to return to reality and my boring job. I knew I couldn’t normally afford even one night at the lodge, so I think I’ll start entering more contests that offer cash prizes.
All my friends were so jealous of my getaway that when the lodge sent me a DVD of my weekend I invited them over for a viewing. I didn’t think there was anything on there featuring Gabe’s and my private time. And if there was, well, the man was truly built and they’d be so jealous of me!
We sat there with our wine while I turned on the DVD player and the credits showed the lodge. Except it didn’t look the way I remembered it. It looked worn and rundown. And inside wasn’t beautiful with plants and comfortable furniture, but cobwebs, dust and cracked wood. The front desk looked as if it hadn’t been used in years.
But it was when the pictures started showing me that I went into shock.
The drop dead handsome Gabe was a skeleton wearing tattered clothing while I lay there chatting away and smiling at him. My sumptuous meals were unspeakable. The mineral springs were filled with dead animals, but you wouldn’t have known it if you’d looked at me. How could I be so blind?
As the DVD rolled to an end, the lodge front showed up again with a sign stating Closed 1871.
A friend turned off the DVD because I couldn’t stop screaming.
Even after I was released from the hospital I never entered another contest and I never took another vacation.
Friday, May 30, 2008
These past few weeks have been a flurry of activity for me, some of it wonderful—for that, see last Sunday’s blog post on Wickedly Romantic—and some of it frustrating enough to drive anyone to drink. But on Saturday, my yearly vacation begins, and when my blog on Wickedly Romantic posts, I’ll be somewhere in Tennessee on my way to Myrtle Beach. Thank goodness I can post these things in advance!
I’ve got a friend who fusses at me regularly for going back to the same place for vacation every year, but I like Myrtle Beach. I know my way around and know the things I want to see again, as well as the things I’d just as soon miss. The Medieval Times dinner theater is a family favorite—sword-wielding men on horseback and the best chicken you’ll ever eat—I mean, what’s not to like? Those knights have been the inspiration for many of my characters, and sometimes I think if I didn’t get to see them every year, I wouldn’t be able to write at all. Training constantly to deliver a believable performance, they ride horses like they were born on them, though most have told me that they’d never even been on a horse before they started working there. I know I’d be a much better rider if I could dedicate as much time to my horses as they do.
Last year, just for fun—and hopefully good luck!—I asked all of the knights to sign the cover letter for the contract for Slave, and one of them actually asked for a copy of the book. Next week, I guess I’ll find out what he thought of it—though he can’t say I didn’t warn him!
Soon I’ll be kicking back, checking out the knights and the hunks on the beach, and dreaming up some new romantic fantasies to write about. But until then, I’ll be here, emptying bedpans and giving antibiotics and wishing I was lying in the sand with the sounds of surf and laughter in my ears and a really good Margarita in my hand.
Oh, yeah! Vacation, here I come!
Thursday, May 29, 2008
But then I sat down one evening and took a gander at the conference schedule (http://www.rwanationalconference.org/Schedule/Schedule_Overview.html) and oh my goodness—there’s so much stuff going on! Workshops for authors (including one all about breaking the rules—something I know all of you love to do!), “speed dating” with agents and publishers, spotlights on authors and publishers (Sourcebooks Casablanca will be spotlighted on Saturday, August 2nd) and so much more. I hope I can fit in as much as possible and let you all know what’s going on. I’ll be finalizing what I’ll be going to over the next few weeks, so I’m sure I’ll be updating my personal schedule all the time.
So, for those of you going—what are you excited to do or see at RWA? And for those of you who aren’t (and will hopefully join us next year)—what do you want us to find out for you? I think this will be a great experience that we can come back and share with everyone else, so we can all benefit from the workshops and meetings! Not to mention a ton of pictures…
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
If a woman, in real life or in fiction, is interesting, she has an amazing best friend. You should know because you have one yourself. She’s the one who'll tell you when you’re acting stupid, threaten your boyfriend with castration if he hurts you, and call your big brother to beat up your ex after he hurts you.
A true best friend won’t give you any undeserved poor babys. She’s your sounding board with a bullshit meter, and she’s the one person who will throw your past in your face and enjoy it.
The problem with the heroine’s best friend, who by definition is interesting and fun, is that she tends to take over the book because, like all best friends, she knows all our heroine’s secrets and isn’t afraid to use them. And, like any woman, she’s not happy playing the best friend.
Gina, Rosalie’s best friend in Romeo, Romeo, is a cross between Jessica Rabbit and Tinkerbelle with a Latin twist. She has a smart mouth, a small waist, big boobs, and can put the fear of God in people twice her size. She also has men falling all over her--not that she notices. Every now and then, she sharpens her claws, picks out a man, and keeps him like a cat keeps a mouse—just to have something to play with.
Gina was the most difficult character to rein in. A writer could spend a whole page just describing her outfit. The only way I got her to behave herself was to offer her a book of her own in the near future. No, she’s not the heroine of If You Can’t Take The Heat… but my next book is hers. All I can say is I feel sorry for her future love interest Ben. The poor boy doesn’t stand a chance.
Heroes have best friends too. But for some reason, most men need two: one who is older and settled down, and one who is single and just as confused as our poor misguided hero.
In Romeo, Romeo Nick has Vinny and Mike. Vinny is Nick’s older cousin and father figure. Vinny tells Nick what he doesn’t want to hear, tells Nick what not to do, and when Nick doesn’t listen, Vinny says I-told-you-so beforehand--that way he won’t have to kick Nick when he’s down. A best friend like Vinny will get a guy drunk, put him to bed, and wake him with a phone call at the time calculated to inflict the most pain since he knows damn well our hero is hung-over. After telling our hero that there’s coffee made and food in the fridge to soak up the alcohol, the best friend will deliver a lesson on groveling, along with the phone numbers and addresses of the closest Godiva shop and florist.
Characters like Mike, Nick’s other best friend, take great pleasure in flirting with the heroine and showing our hero what he’s missing. Best friends like Mike make fun of our poor hero once he’s good and hooked and take every opportunity to tease the hero about being domesticated, all the while swearing it will never happen to him. Mike goes along his merry way--until I get him in my next book.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
I am a romantic heroine of the regency era. Because my stunningly beautiful sister and I were orphaned years ago, I have devoted all my time and energy to ensuring that she marries well. Though I am also quite beautiful but in a more quiet and introspective way, I am cursed with wit, courage, and intelligence and an almost pathological dislike of every handsome man I’ve ever met. Thus, I have reached the horrifying age of 25 without marrying and am fated to spinsterhood. I am casually resigned, because of the aforementioned pathological dislike of handsome men and my spirited desire to retain my independence. Nevertheless I am shyly curious about sex. Are there support groups for women like me?
Spirited, Independent and Frustrated
No, there are no support groups, because of a pervasive social phenomenon that is about to save your bacon. Within the next three weeks, you are going to meet the most masculine titled gentleman you have ever laid eyes on. He’ll be so fabulously masculine, wealthy and attractive that he too will have avoided marriage for years. You will embark on an affair with him in order to assuage your frustrated curiosity. He’ll agree because he is so damned masculine, and you will stir in him primal, masculine feelings of which he never realized he was capable. Amidst all the incredible sex, expect to have numerous doubts and at least one dreadful misunderstanding, but rest assured. The affair will culminate in a marriage you were never expecting. Well, I suppose you will be expecting it now. You might wish to conveniently forget about this bit of the letter. By the way, there is a 90% chance that you will have a dangerous adventure in the meantime, and it will probably involve your sister. Make sure she is wearing sensible shoes.
Compassionately, romantically and practically, Eustacia
I am a modern romantic heroine who makes her living snuffing vampires while being stunningly beautiful, spirited, and rather melancholy. I have fallen in love with a dark, brooding, conflicted, devastatingly handsome vampire. The problems we experience are numerous. Our careers are obviously a source of conflict. Our friends—well, my friends, he doesn’t have any friends—just don’t understand us. I am in danger of being expelled from my secret society because of my taboo love. He can’t come to any of my beach volleyball tournaments. Is there hope for us? Can we possibly make this work? Is there a support group for women like me?
Lovelorn Vampire Snuffer
Yes, there is a support group for women like you, but I do not recommend attending because the meetings are usually disrupted by astonishingly destructive fights over whose love is more “doomed”. Yours is a surprisingly common problem in the early 21st century. I have received letters from no fewer than 48 women this week alone, claiming to be killers, reapers, hunters or stalkers of vampires, who have all encountered some beautiful brooding male vampire and fallen hopelessly in love. I suggest that you should remember a couple of things in order to cope. First, your love is inevitable. Women always fall for vampires. They’re dead sexy, pun intended. Second, none of the conflicts that you experience in your relationship are going to matter one jot. Despite the fact that your love is “doomed” you’re going to keep at this guy regardless. So just gird your loins and cope with it, sister. It’s either him, or that mysterious guy next door who gets hairier around the full moon, right? In a pinch, you might ask your vamp to turn you into one of his kind so you can be forever joined as soulmates, but this will limit your ability to play beach volleyball.
Compassionately, romantically and practically, Eustacia
Monday, May 26, 2008
No, this isn’t a post about moral fortitude, increased spiritual awareness, or over-coming bad habits. I’m going to blog about something we fiction writers do all the time – build characters.
Story and characters are like the old chicken and egg conundrum. Hard to say which comes first, but can’t have one without the other. And just like story lines, there are probably as many ways to create fictional characters as there are writers of them.
I know some writers who do extensive character interviews. They have long lists of questions that ask everything from favorite color and mother’s maiden name, to first kiss, and they complete these for every main character before they ever write a word of story. Some use astrology or ennegrams or archetypes to zero in on characters’ personality traits (my heroine Rylie Powell is a Sagittarius, just like me). Still others “borrow” qualities from movies or real life.
Quite a few writers have told me that they find photographs of people online or in books or magazines that look the way they think their characters look. Or they find the place the characters live, the clothes they wear, the furniture and cars they own. A couple of different writers I know keep these pictures in elaborate story binders, or scrapbooks. I’ve heard of others who do collages.
Names are a topic big enough for a separate blog post, but they are also an integral part of character building. I’ve heard of every kind of methodology for naming from using the phone book (done it) to making the name reflect the personality (Uriah Heap, anyone?) to naming them after a real person (yes, I have named more than one villain after my ex). There are lots of places online where you can look up thousands of first names, find their meanings and ethnic origins. I wanted one of my heroes to be half-Croatian and needed a fairly common Croatian first name. I decided on Zvonimir, Von for short. You can even see which names were the most popular in any given decade for the past hundred years. Plus, there are genealogy sites for first and last names, and even census records. I think I may have mentioned that I used Irish census data broken down by county to come up with last names for many of my characters in The Wild Sight.
One thing that seems universal among writers is that our characters “talk” to us. Yes, we really do “hear” them inside our heads. Sometimes they talk to each other, and sometimes directly to us. Fortunately, since the advent of bluetooth, people no longer stare at me when I talk to myself in public. “Talking” and “listening” to my characters is my chief method of character building. Pictures can sometimes help as a spring-board, but mostly I have to get to know my characters by “talking” to them.
Usually they arrive with their name already in place, or at least with some very definite ideas. For example, I wanted one of my heroines to have a short, masculine sounding nickname which the hero would refuse to call her, and I chose Sam/Samantha. Before I started writing The Wild Sight, I told one of my critique partners that my next hero would be Irish and he’d be named Nathaniel. Okay, so I was half right.
That’s the thing about character building, being the writer does not make you the boss. Characters, at least mine, tend to have a “mind of their own” and the writer just gets to take dictation. Once they start “talking” I never know what they might reveal or if I’ll ever use it in the actual story line. That’s how I found out my hero of Jewels of the Madonna lost his virginity at age fifteen to his sister’s college roommate! And how I learned that my heroine Rylie’s parents first met lighting candles in a Catholic church a few days before Christmas. Neither of these interesting tidbits ever made it into the books, but they gave me valuable insights into my characters.
For you writers out there, please share some of your character building techniques. For readers and writers, what are some traits that make a character seem "real" to you?
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Saturday, May 24, 2008
The art department at Sourcebooks is ready to start work on the cover of my next book, so they emailed me the other day to get my input.
Fact is, until the last couple of years, I never paid much attention to covers.
Now that I do, I’m noticing there’s a language in what is pictured.
Like the metallic half-tones in which photographic images of a man and a woman seem to swim under the surface. That’s romantic suspense.
Two Adirondack chairs in pale watercolor washes? Mainstream with romantic elements—likely to be sad.
White on white or beige on white with tasteful gold accents—best selling writer. Could be lots of sex but if there are flowers in addition—well, it depends on the size of the flowers, and if they are embossed. Regardless, the story is about the crème de la crème. Dukes and suchlike.
Then there are the clinch covers. The woman’s bountiful bosoms, the man’s rippling torso, clutched together in a position that looks as unlikely as it looks uncomfortable. We saw them so many times they became a cliché, but there wasn’t any doubt exactly what the reader would get.
For historicals, they’re passé, but they’re still with us in slightly fuzzy photographs on the hotter lines, leaving us in no doubt that hero and heroine will be doing IT, and in explicit detail.
A woman with long swirling hair and swirling fur-lined robes? The heroine is the last of her line and the only one who can save (a) her clan (b) her country (c) the entire universe from the (a) ancient curse (b) vampires (c) aliens, and the hero is the only one who can (a) help her (b) stop her; but one thing is certain: she will only succeed if she recovers her magic powers.
Then you have the cartoon covers. The book is probably contemporary, definitely comedy.
I think I’m learning to speak “cover.” What I haven’t worked out yet is: contemporary or historical, paranormal, time travel, or comedy, why do some covers feature a picture of a woman alone, some a man, always bare-chested, and some, a man and woman? It’s a code, I know it is, but I haven’t cracked it yet.
Friday, May 23, 2008
The fun part of being a writer is that we get to write about bad guys. At first glance it would seem pretty simple. We just need a bad hat, as Madeline would say. Actually, to have a really good villain, you need to think just as much about his character, his background, his goals, and his motivations as you do about your hero and heroine.
It is very important that your villain be a worthy opponent. Even their desire is bad for other people, they should believe that they are right and be able to justify it to themselves, otherwise they become two dimensional. You know the landlord tying the beautiful girl to the railway track and laughing.
I think the scariest villains are those who outwardly seem the nicest, someone just like us except for that one little flaw that tips them over the edge.
Who are some scary villains in movies? Norman Bates. I kinda felt sorry for the guy.
What about Hannibal Lechter? He was pretty scary, but he was also clever and witty. And I hate to admit it, I was secretly glad that he escaped. — As long as I didn’t meet up with him. And of course the last movie, the making of.... well we really understood him then, didn’t we?
And Dr. Evil in Goldmember? Not scary at all, do you think? Cardboard to the extreme, and therefore very funny.
How about you? Was there one villain who all the way through the movie, you thought he was a good guy until the very end? They are the best.
Hit me with your favorite villain and why. I would love to know.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Of course this impacts on my stories, because before this, wolves were protected in some areas, so my werewolves had immunity also, as long as hunters just didn't shoot them anyway for sport. But now in some areas, during hunting season, or not, werewolves can be targeted in their wolf suits. Oregon still hasn't delisted them, though hunters have shot and killed wolves there.
When I lived in Oklahoma, hunters had exterminated the black bear. Then hunting of bear wasn't permitted. Arkansas didn't permit the hunting of bear so when their numbers increased, the bears got smart and moved to Oklahoma. We began seeing them in trees, on the highways, getting into friends' beehives, and in our own yard!
I love to research my stories, to make them as accurate as they can for an urban fantasy, so I really appreciate it when fans email me to let me know what's going on with wolves--anywhere they exist. My mother was mentioning to me the other day about a program she watched about a group of real "phantom-like" wolves, that I'd like to incorporate into a future werewolf story also. It's a sad story, so not sure how I'll handle it, but truth can certainly be stranger than fiction.
Right now I'm learning about the Canadian Arctic, the Inuit, and the Cree to write Allure of the Wolf. I only use a fraction of what I learn because I don't want to overwhelm readers with facts, but adding reality to an otherwise unreal world makes it a lot more--real.
Note: Starting June 1st, everyone here will be posting to a story called "The Bachelor Auction." I'll start it off, and can't wait to read what all the other ladies do with it...so please join us to check out our newest venture....
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Writers do live in a world of their own. It's how we create. How our characters pop up either whispering, or sometimes screaming "tell my story NOW!" Trust me, there's nothing crazier than your character telling you what to do. Over the years I keep getting asked, "where do your ideas come from?" A lot of them are "what ifs?" Some come from something that happened to a friend, reading an article or seeing something on TV. And sometimes, a character pops up and insists I tell their story. Sometimes they oblige and tell me their story outright, sometimes, they make me work for it. Not that all ideas work. It's easy to do the "what if" and sit down and draft the story, but that doesn't mean everything falls together.
Jazz, my witch in 50 Ways to Hex Your Lover and Hex Appeal is such a case. I started her out one way, but I wasn't totally happy with what I had. Loved the character, hated the storyline. Jazz: Take Two. Kept her, dropped the story and worked with something else. This time around, I kept more, lost less but still not happy.
How did I know when, as Goldilocks says, "it was just right". Easy. The words flowed, the story sang. Well, at least it did to me. :} I didn't expect Jazz to behave. That just wasn't in her, but she was kind enough to see things my way just as I was smart enough to see them her way.
Coming up with ideas can be easy. Writing them into something coherent is a whole 'nother thing. But like I said. I live in my own little world and they know me there. And hopefully they'll continue to whisper in my ear. And maybe give me the whole idea more often and not just bits and pieces that I have to sort out!
What about you writers? Does that happen to you? And readers? Do you read a book that seems to have only a partial idea and you wonder if the author listened to his/her characters?
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
I LOVE MY AUTHORS! As an acquiring editor, I never have to face a blank piece of paper, so I have enormous admiration for what authors do. You create whole worlds in your imagination and then hone your craft to bring those worlds to fruition. And THEN! After all that writing, taking critiques, rewriting, editing, polishing, and against all odds we get together to get you published, THEN you have to do everything our PR and marketing departments ask for and everything you can think of to promote and sell your books. A more dedicated, devoted and committed group of people can't be found and it is my privilege to be your editor.
The rest of this blog is going to be directed to authors who aren't "my" authors yet--how do you find me or how do I find you so that Sourcebooks Casablanca can become your publishing house? Let me tell you what I'm looking for:
First of all, I'm acquiring all the time, in all subgenres. So don't try to "time" the market. As we all know, the subgenres in the romance category cycle, and as a subgenre gets overpublished, that subgenre starts to decline. But I believe that doesn't mean the readership has gone away; it means there's too much competition and now you have to stand out in the category even more. So the "hook" is really, really important. (So is knowing/understanding your reader really well.)
The "hook" is a 2-3 sentence (basically 30 seconds or less) articulation of what the book is, that will make someone want to read it. The "hook" should distinguish the book from all the other books that are out there. It's essential at every point in the selling process. I use it at the editorial meeting where I pitch your book and recommend that we publish it, our salespeople use it when they present the book to the buyers, the booksellers use it to sell it to the reader.
Next, I have very clearly defined criteria, but keep in mind that book publishing is an art, not a science, so there's a subjective element to all of this. If I turn down a book, it may very well meet another editor's criteria, and/or your next book might be a better fit. Here are my criteria: 1) a heroine my readers can relate to (smart, whole, interesting, real) 2) a hero who's desirable (this eliminates ex-cons, murderers, thieves) 3) a world gets created (we're in the entertainment business!) 4) a strong "hook" (see above!)
Single title or single title series (not category/genre romance) of 90,000-100,000 (actual, digital) words.
Please submit synopsis and full manuscript via email to email@example.com in Word files (.doc)--queries are ok, but can take more time overall. I know someone will ask me how long it takes to get a response--at the moment it's as much as 16-20 weeks. I'm trying to beat that as much as possible, and hope it will be faster in the future.
For more detail, check out our submission guidelines at www.sourcebooks.com or email me with specific questions firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally, I want you all to know that I consider it my life's work to be a "midwife" for books (gestational periods vary!), so bring me your babies--I can't wait to fall in love with them and with you!
Monday, May 19, 2008
All of that complaining aside, I should explain where I went and why: my younger brother graduated from the Naval Academy Prep School in Newport, Rhode Island. Next year he will begin his first year at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. My parents, my grandparents and I all took time out of our busy schedules to celebrate my brother’s honor, courage and commitment to his higher education and ultimately, to his country. If you can’t already tell, I’m extremely proud!
Our homes are full of Navy Pride right now, and I’ve had some time to think about these three words that signify the Navy: honor, courage and commitment—and how they apply to my own life—a big part of which is now publicizing your books.
Honor: It’s an honor to work with a group of such dedicated and talented women. I’ve always loved books, so to work with them in any way is a dream come true. To talk about them, read them, show them to other people—this is what I want to do! But to work with the fabulous Sourcebooks Casablanca authors is not only loads of fun but inspiring!
Courage: I think it is safe to say that it has taken a lot of courage on all of our parts to get where we all are today. I know I was scared out of my mind applying for jobs in PR, but I’m happy with where my efforts have taken me. I’m sure it takes a huge leap of faith to send away your writing and hope that someone likes it! Courage comes in many forms—even some of your novels’ heroes and heroines found their sources of courage, whether within themselves or in each other.
Commitment: All of you are so committed to your books—I feel so spoiled to have such devoted authors! You’re also dedicated to one another; I think this blog showcases a community of authors that strive for a successful line of books across the board. I’m just as committed—coming up with innovative ideas for promotion, making new connections, giving you all advice on what to do once your feet are in the door, etc. Book PR is constantly changing and it takes a lot of perseverance: something I plan on doing for each of you.
Now, I’m not about to go to one of the toughest school sin the country or pledge service to the Navy like my lil bro, but I think, in my own little funny way, I (and all of you) am doing what I can to exemplify honor, courage, and commitment.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Part One. The Smooch
Read the following sentence.
Kiss A: “They French-kissed with enthusiasm, because they liked each other and it was enjoyable to do so.”
Technically this sentence is correct, yet it does not assure us of the dead serious nature of romantic-novel kissing. Romantic-novel kissing requires many more metaphors than this, and repeated confirmation that the smooch is life-altering, and possibly contractually binding.
Now observe the difference when applying carefully selected substitutions:
Kiss B: “Their mouths melded in a whirlwind of hunger, mutual desire burning between them and igniting their passions.”
This is better romantic-novel kissing, though it states basically the same premise. Kiss B employs these important traits for the romance novel smooch:
- Meteorology. Sex and related foreplay activities must be tumultuous and disorienting, like having your roof blown off, only not as hard on your insurance rates. The participants are ideally caught in a maelstrom, in a tempest, or in the aforementioned whirlwind of passion.
- Hunger. Our couple needs to be starving for each other, ravenous, insatiable. Refrain from using actual foods to describe their desire, except in the case of fruits, or honey, and the female body. She may have lips like cherries, breasts like peaches, and a mouth like a honeyed cavern. She should not, however, “look as delectable as a rack of ribs” and he should not resemble food in any way because that’s not romance, that’s comedy. ("She wanted to eat him like a foot-long hoagie." No, no! That is a different story, altogether!)
- Heat. The temperature of their exchange must be repeatedly confirmed as being a heated, burning, fiery, raging, roaring, sparking, crackling, flaming, scorching, scalding inferno. Imagine that the lovers both have caught malaria and are in the terminal throes of fever.
Kiss B(1) states at least three times that the couple is kissing, and employs various metaphors, a meteorological event, hunger, heat, and one allusion to the works of Charles Dickens. Thus the reader is convinced it is a romantic-novel kiss. Follow up sentences should support the seriousness by confirming:
Repeated confirmation: An important step! Declaring only once that an action has taken place might be insufficient to convince a reader that this is a serious smooch. Employ the thesaurus yet again to reiterate the importance of the smooch.
Kiss B(1): “Their mouths melded in a whirlwind of hunger, their mutual desire burning between them and igniting their passions. Their lips bonded, parting in a maelstrom of need and their tongues dueled in delighted fervor, her mouth a honeyed cavern for his ravenous exploration.”
- The difficulty of breathing (due to excitement, though, and not something like anaphylactic shock).
- The response of various other body parts (beating hearts, trembling hands, whirling head, weakened knees). Avoid describing disgusting body parts (intestines) and unflattering reactions (gas, nausea, palsy).
- The promise of delights to come. Use the word promise. “Their passionate kiss was a promise of the delights to come.”
Finally, when using the thesaurus to embellish the serious romantic-novel kiss, be wary of straying too far from the original idea. Read the following sentence and see if you can spot the error.
Kiss C. “Their maws bonded in a cyclone of crazed zeal, their hankering stinging between them and putting a match to their campaigning.”
Answer: One should not refer to mouths as maws, as this sounds unflattering.
The next installment of “Writing the Serious Romantic Love Scene” will deal with the importance of talking about hooters.
 The honeyed cavern and exploration are a euphemism for at least fourteen different kinds of intimacy, but one is cautioned against employing the term “spelunking” when using it.
 One should not refer to breasts as hooters, as this sounds unflattering.
Friday, May 16, 2008
One of the things my Sourcebooks sisters and I quickly learned about each other is that when it comes to our writing, we don't always "play by the rules." Sometimes we've done it unintentionally, sometimes not. But we all agree that a wee bit of rule bending is what sets our Casablanca books apart and makes them memorable reads!
When I started writing The Wild Sight, I purposefully decided to bend some "rules" just a little. One of the first decisions I made, even before I had a clue about my plot or characters was the setting. I had set my previous two romantic suspense stories in Italy, but this time I wanted to set the book in Ireland. Hmmm... I've seen and read lots of books set in Ireland, but I couldn't think of a single contemporary story set in Northern Ireland. They're all set in the Republic of Ireland. But the Ireland I am most familiar with is Northern Ireland. So I huffed and puffed and bent the rules just a wee bit, and set The Wild Sight mostly in County Armagh in Northern Ireland.
So I had my setting, and my characters quickly followed. Or course my hero would be a dark haired, blue-eyed Irish hunk. That was EASY! And my heroine would be a small and sassy American, because that would annoy my hero no end. However, I have long been fascinated by the notion of The Second Sight. I've seen clairvoyance and psychic abilities portrayed in lots of books and movies, but in most cases, it is a female character who possesses these traits. That led me to think, "What if a man had it?" And with a tiny little twist, my Irish hunk hero became the beleaguered recipient of The Sight.
Always looking for every possible way to torture my characters, and thereby make the story that much more interesting for my readers, I turned to my cute and sassy heroine. She needed a compelling reason to be in Northern Ireland and to become a thorn in my poor hero's side. It's an old joke that half the people in America think they are descended from Irish royalty. Okay, so she's in Ireland searching for her roots... Not just her roots, but her biological father, who abandoned her when she was a baby. Then in the biggest rule bend of all, I decided she would believe (with good reason) that her father was also my hero's father.
HALF-SIBLINGS? NO WAY!
I admit, I've had more than one person tell me EWWWW! But I've had others tell me, "Can't WAIT to see how you get around that roadblock!" Lucky for me, our wonderful editor was in the latter camp. She loved the idea, and the whole book, bent and twisted rules and all! I hope most readers will feel the same.
Have you ever bent some rules? Just a little? What were they? And are you glad you did?
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Much credit for the authentic feel of SEALed With A Kiss goes to John Roat, and another former SEAL he introduced me to, Martin Strong. These two men gave me hours and hours of their time—without asking for anything in return.
I checked and rechecked facts. I had nightmares that some missed factoid would trip me up, and ruin the reading experience for a reader. At one point I fretted to John that I just didn’t know enough. He replied, “Stop worrying. You already know more about SEALs than most people in the Navy do.”
Because I had so much new information to keep track of in regard to SEALs, I decided to make the heroine and the setting something I could draw on my own experience for. Hence the teacher/therapist background for the heroine, Pickett, and a coastal North Carolina setting.
I also thought, “Why not have a hurricane?” I’ve been through a number of them, and I can easily make the experience authentic.
And do you know what some readers have questioned? The hurricane part. Specifically, hurricane parties. Apparently, once again, truth proved stranger than fiction.
If I ever revise SEALed With A Kiss, here’s what I will explain. Media coverage aside, the actual experience of a Category One hurricane isn’t particularly dramatic or exciting. There’s a lot of action beforehand. People scurry around boarding up, gathering supplies. But once the storm strikes, there’s no leaving the protection of the shelter. Wherever you are, whoever you’re with, you are marooned there, until it’s passed.
Sooner or later the power will go off. No reading, no listening to music, no internet. Nothing to do but watch the wind and rain. For hours. If it’s dark, there’s nothing to do at all. It’s the part of the hurricane story you won’t see on TV. Can you imagine a news anchor reporting, “Thirty-five thousand residents and tourists died last night of boredom caused by Hurricane Elvira?”
And impressive as the wind is, the real danger, as the residents of New Orleans can attest, is flooding.
Natives take all this into account. The solution is to gather on high ground before the hurricane comes ashore storm and ride it out together. Some go to the houses of relatives or friends. And, like on New Year’s Eve, many people go to hotels, to drink and carouse through the storm, and then sleep it off.
But how can they party, you ask. Aren’t they worried?
It’s like this: on the North Carolina coast hurricanes happen. Keeping oneself safe is relatively easy. Any shelter on high ground will do. As for what will happen to their property, once they’re taken whatever precautions they can, people tend to have a che sera, sera attitude.
I think I’m going to adopt the same attitude vis-à-vis research. I'll prepare all I can, and then, che sera, sera.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Because I write historicals, mostly Regencies, I am often asked about the amount of research I have to do for my books. I have heard other writers will say that they would love to write a historical, but they are scared off by the research or worse, by the thought of getting something wrong.
I guess I have to own up to being a history geek. I mean I have even gone so far as to try to figure out if it is raining on a particular day. It is very tempting to sit surrounded by books looking for the answer to a question like, did men wear colored cravats? The answer is - yes.
The most important thing is the story. The history is merely the setting. And we all know how much we like long paragraphs of description! So while knowing your setting is important, it is their everyday world. As a writer, you have to put yourself in their heads. If walking into your kitchen do you always take note of the brand and color of your toaster? Not.
Then what would you notice when walking into a ballroom? Would you notice the ceilings and the type of wood on the floor? Not unless someone had spilled their drink on it, probably. Or would it catch your eye that your best friend just got a new dress, and that it is the latest fashion? Even there, would you describe it to yourself in detail or just the eye-catching parts, like the neckline is so low every man in the room have their gazes glued to her chest and that the fabric glistens like diamonds.
Oh woe is me, I want to tell all. But I mustn't. Readers of historicals tend to like a bit more detail, or world building, than those in contemporaries do, as do fantasy readers. But if the writer is merely showing off her knowledge, i.e. that she knows how a steam train works or what battle was happening on the other side of the country that week and stops the story cold to prove it, then the story has taken second place. And fiction is all about story.
One of the easiest things to get right are titles for the English nobility-it is also one of the things often done wrong. For each rank, e.g. marquess or earl, and their wives and children, there are different forms of address. And, because there are lots of places to get this information, readers do notice an error. I usually do a family tree to make sure I have it correct for all the characters.
I spend quite a bit of time reading history books, and belong to some history groups too, The Beaumonde for example, where I can ask a question if I am stuck. I do get ideas from reading diaries from the period, but I always write my novel first, then check my sources for the historical details I need. Otherwise I might never get around to writing the story at all! I love looking at pictures from the era, like this one. It provides an image that you can have your characters walk through, like the backdrop on stage.
If you have any specific questions about Regency history—now is your chance. Send them along and I will do my best to answer them.
Monday, May 12, 2008
The painters were supposed to be here this morning and last night, my daughter and I had to move my computer out of the dining room where I create all my great masterpieces. But, we couldn't get the Internet connection in the kitchen, or anywhere.
First thing I do every morning is check my emails. But also, if I'm blogging, which I'm scheduled for the next 3 days, I do that also. But no Internet. Can we say WITHDRAWEL? So, I'm frantically calling the painters becuase I'm having this premonition that no one is coming. And I was right. I call both the head honcho's home phone number and his mobile. No answer. Finally get a hold of him and he says he sent me an email telling me that they were coming Wed instead. Which I never got. Is that all right?
Noooo that is not all right! I've got stuff all over my kitchen from the laundry room and dining room including my computer stuff and it looks like a tornado hit, and of course we had those hit all around us but not here yesterday, so I should say I'm lucky, but jeesh...Wed? No it is not all right. No Internet until when then? Thursday? Plus I can barely make meals everything is such a wreck!!! And eating out is not an option. We live too far out! Or I'd get Pizza Hut delivery every day!So, I think I sounded like an alpha female werewolf when I told the painting contracter it was not all right and he decided it would behoove him to get the painter out here for at least my dining room so I wouldn't blow a gasket. The garage and laundry room will have to wait until Wed. But that, I can deal with.
I found the cord for connecting to the Internet but still couldn't find the right port to make it work...my daughter finally came home from taking a college final and voila! I'm in!
I try to live by the adage--be flexible. But there are some days when flexibility is not my motto. Today is one of them...
Besides, last night I had this awful thought--what if I've done all this work to get my house ready to put on the market and a tornado hits us and makes a mess of things? My mother mentioned the same thing to me this morning. Don't you love moms? :)
Okay, so the day is good. I've got a temporary Internet set up. The painter is banging away in the dining room (banging, I thought painting was very quiet work) and the contracter assured me he'd help move the furniture back tonight. So my daughter and I can put my computer back together again...I feel like we own Humpty Dumpty, and then we'll brace for the next onslaught of storms scheduled to hit Wed! And then I probably will be off the Internet because of the storms, which is understandable.
So that's my post and I'm stuck with it. Ever have one of those Mondays, any day of the week?
Heart of the Wolf, Don't Cry Wolf
Sunday, May 11, 2008
What I remember growing up was my mom encouraging me to use my imagination. On our fishing vacations, Dad and I would be out there with our poles and Mom would sit nearby with a book. She might not be in to fishing, but she was always hanging out with us oohing and ahhing over our catches.
Mom is the oldest of three girls and when World War II broke out, she enlisted in the marines, just barely squeaking by the height requirement and when the doctor told her a slightly curved spine would keep her out, she told him her father had no sons and she felt it was up to her. She got in and went to Cherry Point, NC where she worked in the motor pool. There’s my tiny red-haired mom getting all greasy and dirty and also on the bowling team. And to this day, she hears from friends she made there. She was on the bowling team and what I always considered the absolute best part, she went out with Tyrone Power’s crew chief. Mom rolls her eyes whenever I say that, but I think it’s cool. Mom’s also a charter member of the Women in Military Service America Memorial. When our Romance Writers National Conference was held in DC friends and I went to Arlington and visited the memorial and was able to print out Mom’s profile, which I brought back to her.
Mom worked most of my life and from her I learned to be independent, to speak my mind (although usually a good idea to think first about what I was going to say) and that there was no fashion crime for a redhead to wear pink or red and back then people would say not a good idea. No wonder I wore a lot of pink and red while growing up!
Mom has a strong personality and I’m sure it came from my grandmother whom I never had a chance to know and her military training. Even with her job, she was always there for me. Maybe because when I was born, her bosses set up a nursery in the supply room for me, so between hanging out in a construction office with her or in an aircraft hanger when picking my Dad up at Burbank Airport, I had a lot of opportunity to meet varied personalities. No wonder I love to write.
She’s always there for family and friends. She’s adopted all my friends as her own and I know I wouldn’t be who I am today without her.
So, Happy Mother’s Day Thelma Randall, who I just call Mom. Thanks for always being there for me.
Saturday, May 10, 2008
For those who haven't met us yet, I'm Cheryl Brooks, a new author with Sourcebooks Casablanca, and that totally hot dude to the left is Cat! My first published novel is The Cat Star Chronicles: Slave. A native of Louisville, KY, I was transplanted to Indiana nineteen years ago and live on a farm with my husband, two sons, a dog, five cats, and five horses.
I didn't start out as a writer—unless you count charting on patients or writing term papers in nursing school! I've been a critical care nurse since 1976 and an avid reader all my life, and romances have always interested me more than any other genre. I've always been a bit of a dreamer, and at the age of twelve, saw Star Trek and fell for Mr. Spock at first sight! Several years later, I went to see Star Wars and knew that the combination of romance and science fiction was something I wanted to see more of.
However, if there was such a thing as a science fiction romance in those days, I hadn't seen it, so I decided to write one. That was back in the days of typewriters (at least mine was electric!) rather than word processors, and, being the lousy typist that I am, I didn't get very far! I did have fun writing a few short stories using the people I worked with as characters, and I can say without reservation that nurses get a real kick out of reading about doctors getting the shaft!
Some years later, with the aid of a computer, I wrote two novels, one a romance between a horse breeder and a drifter who comes to work for her, the other about an office manager on holiday who gets tangled up with drug dealers and a suave, Latin lover bent on making a conquest. Only one of those had any paranormal aspects—though that chapter is the one most people recall whenever the book is mentioned! I'd never been completely happy with those two books, and it took me writing a third one in first person to make me realize that the point of view was what had been bothering me all along. I'd grown up reading Mary Stewart and Daphne Du Maurier, and had always preferred their first-person style to any others. Encouraged by friends who had read my work, I sent a query letter to Harlequin. Their polite lack of interest stopped me cold and that third novel was never finished, nor did I write anything else to speak of for the next ten years.
Then, in 2004, the writing bug bit me again, and, to be honest, publishing wasn't my purpose. My overactive brain just needed a creative outlet of some kind and my husband said, “Write!” So I wrote! This time, I not only wrote in first person, but increased the erotic content. Romance novels had always bothered me with their lack of detailed love scenes--along with their refusal to use certain terms--but giving myself a free rein, the books just poured out of me. I'd write one, print it up, put it in a box, and it would get passed around the hospital. Before long, I had people chomping at the bit for the next one.
My characters were very ordinary people; nurses, farmers, farriers, writers, carpenters, and even a guy who ran a health food store. I was still writing contemporary romance rather than paranormals, and I'd never heard that there even was such a thing as erotic romance—I thought I was writing something entirely new! I wasn't, of course, and a trip to the bookstore proved it. However, most of what I found there didn't seem to have much heart to it; it was just continuous sex with men I didn't even like and women I could have cared less about, so I kept writing.
With each new story I'd push the erotic envelope a little farther until I wrote one called The Boy at the Bar about a fifty-year-old nurse and a twenty-eight-year old home builder who had some rather unusual sexual preferences. In writing that one, I lost any inhibitions I might have had left; it's so hot that some who've read it still get all hot and bothered just thinking about it! Later on, I explored my masculine side, writing from the point of view of a big, blond ex-quarterback who fell in love with a male coworker, and then they got a girlfriend!
Again, I was encouraged to try to get a book published. My first attempts were met with disinterest by agents, but then I came into a little extra money and self-published an erotic paranormal romance called If You Could Read My Mind under the name Samantha R. Michaels with AuthorHouse. I had high hopes, but, as anyone who has gone that route can tell you, without someone to promote them, books simply don't sell! After that, I decided to go back to the science fiction that had gotten me started in the first place and wrote The Rescue, a 72,000 word futuristic erotic romance. With that story, I finally had the chance to let my imagination go beyond the confines of this world and into space, and writing it was an absolute blast!
With everyone around me egging me on, I submitted to a few more agents and the occasional publisher and then wrote one book specifically for an erotic romance line. I don't think the editor read beyond the first three pages before sending it back, telling me to rewrite it in third person—which should have been my first clue that writing in first person was a Romance genre no-no! Then I read in my trusty Romance Writers Report that Sourcebooks was a newly recognized romance publisher and that they were taking erotics and paranormals. Based on that article, I sent them The Rescue, not knowing that they were only interested in single title length manuscripts, and promptly forgot about it.
When the editor, Deb Werksman, called to say she wanted to read the rest of the book, I had worked the night before and was asleep, so my husband was the one who got that first call, and you can just imagine what fun he had telling me about it when I woke up! I emailed her the rest of the book and she liked it, but it was too short and she had some “editorial concerns,” and said that if I liked, I could call her and talk about it—which, of course, I did! The things she wanted me to change surprised me a little, (and some who've read the original are still miffed about what I had to rewrite!) but I said I'd work on it and get it back to her. Writing like a fiend, I made the requested changes and added a couple of new scenes and got it up to 92,000 words and sent it back in. Little did I know that Deb had hung up the phone thinking she'd never hear from me again! Now, you writers out there, tell me, can you imagine not altering your book just a little if it meant getting that first one published?
Well, I did, and the result is Slave, and now I'm here with a whole gang of talented authors blogging about it. Who'd have thunk it?
Friday, May 9, 2008
That morning, I had an interview for another job. I got ready, making sure I looked cute and professional. I decided to take the train because the job was downtown Chicago, so it wouldn’t be a far walk from the station. Well, I have no sense of direction and ended up walking about 6 blocks (6 city blocks = 1 mile) in the opposite direction. Like any distraught young lady, I called my dad and he told me to just catch a cab; there was no way I’d make it on time. I quickly found a cab and could feel the huge blisters forming on my feet.
Enter my strangely talkative cab driver—he was incredibly jolly and had a lovely African accent. He wasn’t giving me the normal chit-chat, but he was really interested in what I was doing downtown. He asked me why “such a little lady (’m only 5’1”) is going to such a big building (a skyscraper).” I told him I had a job interview. Then he asked where I had gone to school, and what I studied. I told him I went to Bradley University and studied English, to which he wondered, “Well, what do you do with an English degree?” I’m sure I said something smart, but indulged the rest of his questions, which began to take on a much more spiritual nature…
When we pulled up to my destination, he said to me “Because you are so nice, I will not make you pay, but I want you to have something to give you direction in your life journey,” and hands me a copy of the Qu’ran with pamphlets on why I should consider Islam as my religious path. I was caught off guard, but happy for the free cab ride!
So, I go up to my interview, and probably would have done wonderfully, but all I could think about was how embarrassed I was to have a random copy of the Qu’ran sticking out of my bag, blisters forming on my feet, and by that point of the morning, it was already sweltering in Chicago—so I was sweaty. Great first impression.
Once my horrible interview was over I quickly changed into the cheap flip flops I threw in my purse that morning and limped to do some shopping. The blistered agony took hold, and I decided to go sit in the garden at the Art Institute of Chicago. I bought a sandwich from a deli and sat down to read when I noticed the most beautiful bike messenger I had ever seen sitting across from me. He smiled my way, I smiled his, trying to look somewhat cool balancing my sandwich and my book on my knees.
Here’s where Sourcebooks comes into the picture—my phone rang and saw a number I didn’t recognize. I answered and to my delight, it was Sourcebooks; they wanted me to come in for an interview! I was beyond excited, trying to pull out my small day planner and a pen, fishing through a purse full of high heels, lip gloss and gum wrappers. The entire time I noticed the bike messenger snickering to himself at my awkward display…
Finally, I found a pen, situated my sandwich on one knee, my planner on another and pen in hand, looking to the week ahead when I was available—when all of a sudden a BIRD POOPED ON MY KNEE. Inches away from my sandwich, leaving a mess on my skirt. So here I am, on the phone with my future employer trying to stay collected when I have bird crap on my favorite skirt and a hot bike messenger watching the whole thing. And laughing. And I don’t mean chuckling, I mean full on LAUGHING.
But somehow I persevered, kept my cool on the phone and made a date for the interview. When I was off the phone, I had an audible freak out, making a few of the people near me move away for disturbing their lunch. And the bike messenger would not stop laughing or staring at me while I tried to wash away the bird mess on my skirt.
However, I read somewhere that bird poop is a sign of good luck—and it must hold some truth, because a week later I had a fabulous interview, and a week after that I had a job with Sourcebooks, and it eventually led to a lead publicist position for Sourcebooks Casablanca. I’m happy to be a part of your blog, getting to know all of you and offering what I’m discovering about romance PR!
Now if I see this strange “job interview interlude” show up in any of your books, I expect some sort of recognition! So here’s my question—a lot of you have or have had various jobs before or during your writing careers. Do you have any horror stories? On the job, on an interview, or anything? I can’t wait to hear what you all have to say.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Top Ten Reasons Why Women Love
10. Domestic gods know how to separate laundry and are man enough to buy and care for fine washables.
9. Domestic gods like more power...in their women, their cars, their vacuums, and their household cleaners.
8. Domestic gods do manly things - like lift the couch with one hand to vacuum under it.
7. Domestic gods don't question their sexuality - being a good cook and knowing how to clean doesn't make them effeminate. It makes them independent.
6. A domestic god knows the way to a woman's heart is to show he's capable of killing bugs, scrubbing toilets, washing windows, keeping her well-fed and satisfied in bed.
5. A domestic god knows there's nothing sexier than a man cleaning the bathtub for the woman in his life and then joining her in it.
4. Domestic gods don't expect their women to be a maid unless said woman is into playing dress-up. Then, they prefer the French variety - feather duster included.
3. Domestic gods can fix your car and fix you a five-course meal.
2. Domestic gods not only respect women, they care for and about them.
And the number one reason women love domestic gods is...
Domestic gods are as good in the kitchen as they are in the bedroom.
Now that I have your attention, I'll introduce myself. I'm Robin Kaye and the first book of my domestic gods series - Romeo, Romeo will be released this September.
All my heroes are domestic gods. I think there's nothing sexier than a man doing something I dread - like housework, or anything I don't want to do three times a day for the rest of my life - like cook.
Give me a man who can fix dinner in a pinch and clean up after himself, and I give you a domestic god. Granted, they are harder to find than a straight man on Fire Island, but they are worth their weight in plutonium - especially if you're a woman like me - I hate housework and here's the round-about story of why...
When I was nine years old and wanted to earn money for horseback riding lessons, I got a job selling doughnuts door to door. I made a hundred and fifty dollars a weekend, which was great until after six months of bringing in the big bucks, I was arrested for soliciting. Technically, I wasn't really arrested since the police officer didn't book me. He just gave all my doughnuts and me a ride home in a police car. The look on my mother's face when she answered the door was priceless. What can I say? I didn't know what no soliciting meant.
After that, I moved to a small town with five lakes and I wanted a sailboat. Since soliciting was definitely out of the question, I cleaned five houses a week for a year and bought myself a sailboat. I've hated cleaning ever since.
Fast-forward to when I was twenty-something. I felt I was ready for a serious relationship, but the last thing I wanted was someone else to take care of. I had a hard enough time cleaning up after myself. Why would I want to add a man to the mix? That's when I decided I only wanted a man who would take care of himself and maybe even take care of me.
What woman wouldn't want a man to take care of her? Well, maybe Martha Stewart - a domestic god would probably make her feel threatened. But for the most part, women want a man who will take care of them, and I'm not talking monetarily although I have no problem with that either.
I may have dated every bad boy, but I was smart enough to marry a boy scout. I've been married to a certifiable domestic god for the last 18 years and life has been pretty great. The only problem I have is that there's virtually nothing to complain about when my girlfriends are whining about their husbands leaving dirty underwear on the floor. My husband has been known to pick up my clothes.
On the rare occasion I have something to vent, my girlfriends tell me how lucky I am to have him - which is so not what you want to hear when you need a poor baby and a dirty martini.
Now if only my three children were little domestic gods and goddesses, life would be perfect. Unfortunately, they take after me...