Friday, July 31, 2009

Another Irish Hunk Hero

posted by Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy

One month from tomorrow, my second release The Treasures of Venice is scheduled to hit the shelves. I'll be a multi-published author! WOW! I don't think the full impact has hit me yet, and probably won't until I go into a book store and see both my books there on the shelves.

I'm still getting accustomed to the concept that people are reading my stories and loving my characters. I don't think this truly hit home with me until a couple of weeks ago. The afternoon of our Sourcebooks book signing to be exact! The other booksignings I've had thus far really didn't compare with this one. Suddenly there were all these people I didn't know lined up for me to autograph my book. WHAT A RUSH!

(Here's a photo of me at the signing.)

Many of them commented on how much they liked Irish heroes, and of course, I told them my next book had an Irish hero too. In fact, my critique partners and anyone else who has read The Treasures of Venice, say they love this hero even more than my previous one! I think it's because Keirnan Fitzgerald is a charmer, and also a bit of a rogue. Actually, my heroine is more than a little suspicious of him when they first meet.

See what you think:

Maybe she was still dreaming. Hunky strangers just did not swoop into her real life. Or if they did, she’d learned better than to trust them. They were never around for long. Probably when she looked up he wouldn’t be there at all.

“Came for Carnevale last week, did you?”

Okay, she had to peek. He was still there, movie star handsome with his mused hair and knowing azure gaze. He held open a gallery door and she stepped inside.

“No, we only arrived yesterday. From Florence, I mean. We were there for three days.”

She sounded like a flustered fourteen-year-old. Apparently her scanty knowledge of how to act with an attractive man had abandoned her along with her philandering fiancé. She could feel a blush creeping up her cheeks as they crossed the polished wooden floor.

“So, you’re not traveling alone.”

Was that an undertone of disappointment in his voice? No, she must be mistaken.

“I’m with a tour group. There are fourteen of them, fifteen counting me.”
Sam’s blush deepened as the Irish hunk’s perceptive eyes made a slow trip from the toes of her shoes to the to
p of her head. She took one of those deep, cleansing breaths she’d learned in yoga then extended her hand. “I’m Samantha Lewis. Most people call me Sam.”

“Sam?” He frowned in a playful way. “That’s no name for a pretty girl.”

Rather than shaking her hand, he placed it in the crook of his arm and escorted her to a side door. The leather of his jacket felt smooth and supple under her fingers, the muscle in his forearm solid and substantial, definitely not a dream.

“I’m Keirnan Fitzgerald from County Kildare.”

I hope you enjoy reading about my Irish hunk hero as much as I enjoyed writing about him.

So tell me some of the things you find appealing in a romance hero.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

One Editor's 2009 RWA National Highlights

posted by Deb Werksman

Nationals this year were in Washington, D.C. and it was, as always, a GREAT conference. It's amazing to spend time in an environment where the energy is so positive and supportive and everyone is out for success.

Sourcebooks was there in full force with myself, our publisher Dominique Raccah and our publicist Danielle Jackson.

Here are some of my highlights:


*Notable items from updated reader survey:
--the midwest and south have the highest concentrations of romance readers
--readers are feeling the impact of the economy
--they haven't stopped reading, but are borrowing/sharing more books and using the library more, but if they REALLY want a book, they'll buy it (the hook, the hook, the hook :-))
--about the same number of readers buy their romances from the large chain bookstores as buy them in the mass market retailers.

Lots of other good data that gives us all a lot to think about.If you didn't get a copy of the survey or weren't in DC, check the RWA website.


It was GREAT to see our authors and we had a wonderful, celebratory dinner together.

Our signing was mobbed until the books ran out (note for next year: bring more books!) and it's clear our authors are individually and collectively moving to the next level. We missed our authors who weren't at the conference, but encourage all to participate at their local chapter level.

We also had opportunities to meet with some exciting prospective authors who we hope by next year's conference will have joined our house!


I was delighted with my pitch appointments this year--people were pitching very skillfully, and I heard about numerous projects that have real promise (more than I was expecting--now it's all in the execution...). Whatever people are doing to train for pitching is terrific--keep it up!


We loved giving our spotlight and talking about what we do for authors' careers. Danielle did a great panel on web marketing with Michele Buonofiglio and Lori Foster, and it's clear that lots of good ideas were shared throughout the conference. If anyone has any questions left over after the spotlight, please let me or Danielle know!


And, here's what I'm looking for! Single title romance fiction in all subgenres, 90,000 words, email submissions (synopsis and full manuscript) with:
  • a heroine the reader can relate to
  • a hero she can fall in love with
  • a world gets created
  • a HOOK I can sell the book with in 2-3 sentences

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Joy of Soap

There's nothing quite like realizing at 12:20 AM Tuesday night that your Wednesday post hasn't been written yet, and also that you won't have the chance to write it on the morrow. Not only that, but you have no topic, no ideas, no inspiration.

Then, you take a shower and feel the creamy soap on your skin, the delicate fragrance, the hot water flowing over your tired muscles, soothing the soul and freeing the mind.

And thus it came to me. My blog topic.


That's what we write about. Feelings, desires, attitudes, and beliefs. A friend of mine who is in the process of reading The Cat Star Chronicles series told me a few days ago that she was reading Outcast and was enjoying it even more than the previous three. She wasn't sure why, exactly, but thought it might be because the story had more emotions in it.

"Ah hah!" I said. "That's because it's written in third person. You're getting the male point of view, seeing Lynx's emotions along with Bonnie's, and understanding why he is the brooding, surly fellow that he is in the beginning."

She didn't disagree with me. The more emotion contained within a story, the more the reader can feel what is happening to the characters. This is what makes one book better than another. Did I laugh, did I cry, did I feel some little tingles running up and down my spine? If so, then the writer has done their job. Do I keep turning the pages? In short, do I CARE what happens to these people, or can I toss the book aside and never wonder whether they live happily ever after or not?

In a romance novel, it's a given that there will be a happy ending; that the hero and heroine will solve their dilemmas and find love everlasting. That ending may be preordained, but it's the ride that makes the story, and the more ups and downs, the better. I attended several workshops at the RWA conference on adding suspense and keeping the reader in the story. I learned some new tricks, but most of the time I actually feel what I'm writing--the tingles and the tears--and I try to convey those feelings to my readers. I may not connect with every reader, but, apparently, sometimes the magic works.

What keeps you reading? The twists and turns of an intricate plot? The dark, but compelling hero? Or is it that you care enough about the characters to keep going? Inquiring minds want to know!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Writing Under the Influence!

What influences you to read a book? The setting? The characters? The plot? The suspense? The humor? The sexiness? The thrill? So see, as readers, we even read under the influence. :)

So what influences us to write? In Destiny of the Wolf, the heroine was in a vehicle accident. I was in that accident. I saw the air bag inflate. Felt the pain from it. Also in Destiny of the Wolf, the heroine must rappel off a mountain. I've done that. She turned upside down by accident. Who would do such a thing on purpose? :) Except when I did it, that time was off a five-story building. And it was embarrassing. So what influenced me to write scenes like this? Actually living them, except changing them a little to suit the story...different time of year, different location, werewolf vs. human. LOL :)

What influenced me to write To Tempt the Wolf was that I used to visit the Oregon coast a lot when I lived in Tigard, suburb of Portland. And I loved it. But I also had read some historical stories where a hero had been shipwrecked and I'd always loved the premise. So instead of shipwrecked, Hunter Greymere faces a werewolf pack and ends up in the Pacific Ocean, rescued by the heroine, Tessa Anderson, who soon needs his protection. We were on the coast road in the wintertime while some wild---I won't say what my dad actually called them, kids tore on past us in the icy conditions. Sure enough, we went around a bend in the narrow road and their car had left the road, only stopped from barreling deep into the gorge because sturdy fir trees had stopped them. But they were in a precarious way even so. So yep, that was in the story too. Plus I'd read about an Army Special Forces officer who had ended up in a ravine like that and with broken bones and freezing weather conditions, managed to finally crawl his way up to the road after hours of making the effort, knowing he'd never be found and die if he didn't. So stories like this help to influence me to write some of my scenes.

In my current work in progress, Seduction of the Wolf, I was totally inspired by the stories of wolf bioligists and how they try to educate the general populace about wolves. So my heroine happens to be a wolf biologist...werewolf wolf biologist. :)

In Legend of the White Wolf, I was talking to my son about silver poisoning over a fajita dinner at a Mexican restaurant, and he pulled out his phone and started researching it. LOL And that became the basis for part of my story. I also loved that the ancient Cree in some areas thought wolves were divine or magical creatures that had come down from heaven when the aurora borealis danced across the night sky, hence, the legend of the werewolves. :)

So definitely, research influences. :)
The question then is do you read or write under the influence???
(c) Terry Spear, 2009, Whimsical Muse

Monday, July 27, 2009

Summertime, and the Living is . . .

By: Marie Force

Summertime is a pain the rear. There. I said it. Now I feel better. I live in southeastern New England, which means about eight to ten weeks of really pristine weather per year. That's it. So the pressure to make the most of it is enormous. It starts right around Memorial Day with weekly cookouts, beach trips, boat outings, summer sailing camp for the kids, and generally just go, go, go. All of which makes someone who is usually a daily writer quite cranky because days go buy in the chaotic mix of summer during which absolutely nothing gets written.

Now those of you who are landlocked or sweating it out in one California valley or the other are probably singing the same song: cry me a river. I hear you. Believe me, I do. But when you live in a place with world-class beaches that people flock to from all over the world, when you live two towns away from the glorious wonder that is Newport, Rhode Island, when your father spends a mint on a boat that's too big to move unless we're on it with him, let me tell you, there's pressure to make the most of it all. I feel like I spend half my life at the grocery store stocking up for the next event. (And why is it that the MOM always has to worry about what we're bringing to whatever event we've been invited to? WHY is that? The rest of the heathens I live with would be perfectly happy to show up empty handed...) And the laundry... holy hell... the smelly towels and bathing suits and grossness that comes home from camp... Ick.

I've also mentioned before that I work full-time from home. Yes, I have a very nice arrangement, and I truly love the job. Ironically, however, they expect me to show up every day. And I do, otherwise I probably wouldn't still be employed 11 years after checking out of the office where I worked for three years. Do you know what summer vacation does to the work-at-home mom? Can you even imagine the pressure to be all things to all people? Ahh, memories of summers past... there was the one where they fought like cats and dogs for two solid months. That was special. Good times. My husband was looking into an in-patient facility for me by the time August rolled around.

Three years ago I was saved by sailing camp. Three full days a week for both kids and they love it. Because I'm spoiled during the school year with buses that pick up right at the front door, I'm not accustomed to having to hustle them out of the house early in the morning to get them to downtown Newport in time to catch the launch to the sailboats. Neither of my kids are what you'd call morning people (gee, wonder where they get that?) so it's always a challenge to get them there in time. This summer we have the added complication of our daughter starring as Charlotte in a local children's theater production of Charlotte's Web. Three practices a week, two dress rehearsals and four shows this week. Calgon . . . are you hearing me call your name?

As long as I've been a mom, I've fantasized about having a job where I can take the summer off. I envy my teacher friends who can spend the summer at the beach with their kids without anything else competing for their time and mental energy. Since my oldest just turned 14 and will be heading for college in four short years, I can't imagine quitting the day job any time soon. By the time I can afford to take summers off, my kids will be past the point where hanging out with mom has any appeal. So I do try to make the most of these precious summer days—made even more precious by the incredible, epic amount of rain we've suffered through in June and July this year (a guilty pleasure for the one who'd rather stay home and write... But don't tell anyone around here I said that lest I be run out of town on a rail!)

After 14 years on the job, I have a lot of time off so I try to take as much as I can during the summer when the kids are free because I know years from now, after they've both moved out, I'll miss our summer days together. But for right now, it's summertime and the living is not easy. I've got 10 people going on my dad's boat today. Must get to the grocery store. Oh, and did I wash the towels from the beach trip yesterday? I can't remember.... Those characters calling out for some of my attention? They'll have to wait until tonight when hopefully I've have something left to give them.

So you can see why I've decided to take August off from the blog. I hope to rejoin you again in the fall when school is back in session and my life gets back to a more normal, regular chaotic pace rather than the turbo chaotic summer pace! Is it winter yet? I'm also over at the Romance Bandits today poking fun at my lack of abilities other than writing if you'd like to come over and check out the very long list I made of things I can't do. Enjoy the rest of your summer, and pray for my sanity!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Inspiration--You never know where it'll come from

So I was at National last week, and attending the Leadership Retreat on Wednesday (I'm my chapter's president) and I get a text message from Child A.

(Mind you, this meeting I'm in has all sorts of info regarding new IRS rules governing non-profit organizations and we have to bring our chapters in line with National's stance to fulfill these rules, so I'm taking copious notes. Let me also say that the children were in the care of their grandmother because my husband had a last-minute meeting out of town that he had to attend, which had NOT been in the original plan when I decided to go to National.)

The texts went something like this:

Child A: "Mom, can I get a hamster?"

Me: "Fine, but you have to pay for it."

Child A: "Okay. Can Child B get a ferrett?"

Me: "NO ferrett!"

Child A: "Why not?"

Me: "Because they're too expensive and we have dogs."

Child B now takes the phone from Child A and starts texting me: "Why can't I? You always let Child A get everything they want!"

Let me state here for the record, Child A does not get everything they want, nor does Child B or any other Child I have. And especially not a ferret!

Me: "You can't get a ferret. Now I have to pay attention to my meeting!"

Child B: "Can I get a guinea pig?"

Me: "No guinea pig."

Child B: "Why not?"

Me: "Because we have two dogs who were bred to chase small rodents. It's not fair to them to have a guinea pig in the house."

Child B: "I'll keep my bedroom door closed."

Me: "No guinea pig. Get a hamster."

Child B: "I don't want a hamster. I want a guinea pig. Hamsters are too small. And I always do what you want me to do, unlike Child A. I treat you with respect and do all my chores. I have the money. Why can't I get a guinea pig?"

Now, I have to say, the kid put up a good argument. Knew right what to go for: respect and chores. And there was actually some truth to that test message.

So now I text my husband: "Child B wants a guinea pig. What do you think?"

But then I come to my senses, leave the meeting, and call Child B: "No guinea pig because the dogs already get on Dad's nerves - what do you think is going to happen when they're whining all the time to get into your room? It's not fair to Dad or the dogs. And it's not fair to the guinea pig when the dogs get in and kill it."

Child B sees the light through Mom's eyes. "Okay. So I can get a hamster?"

Me: "Yes. Fine."

Then Hubs texts back: "Guinea pig is fine."


Somehow I managed to copy the notes I needed, avert a rodent disaster and keep two kids happy, yet all the while feeling as if I was on that hamster's spinning wheel...

Then I get home from National and find out Child B's hamster has figured out how to get out of his tres expensive cage.


What does this have to do with writing? Two things: it shows the obstacles we "glamorous, feather-boa-wearing, chocolate-bon-bon-eating, frou-frou-slipper-and-robe-sporting" writers have to put up with, and it's going to make great fodder for a story someday.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

And so it begins....

The day before I flew off to DC for the RWA National Conference, our wonderful and adorable publicist Danielle Jackson sent me the preliminary list of websites that have agreed to host me for blogs or interviews as part of the “Loving Mr. Darcy: Journeys Beyond Pemberley” launch. The official date of release is September 1, but as we all know, the blog blitz virtual tour begins several weeks prior! I thanked Danielle, but also told her that, all things considered, I refused to more than glance at the list until after the conference and family vacations were over! Well, the time has come and I can no longer find excuses to procrastinate. Well, I could – LOL – but I shall attempt to be a responsible, good little author and start writing my blogs ASAP so I shan’t be doing what I am doing at this very second, i.e. writing my essay some six hours before it is due to post! Ha!!

I have thought a great deal on the themes for the bulk of my blogs when “Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy” was released in March and know for a fact that I want to have a different tactic this time around. You see, before I was introducing myself as an author, establishing who I was and my “credentials,” while generally being on the defensive. In interviews and blog topics I was forced to focus almost exclusively on these types of questions: Why are you writing Jane Austen fan-fiction? Why were you inspired by the movie? Should you write a sequel since you haven’t been an Austen fan for several decades and read the novel a million times and taken college classes on the subject? Why write a happily-ever-after tale? How can you say your book has a plot when nothing horrible happens, no one dies, or is kidnapped by pirates? How dare you prefer Matthew Macfadyen over his Firthiness, who everyone knows is Jane Austen’s pick as Mr. Darcy? And how, oh how in God’s holy name, can you write of S. E. X. between Darcy and Lizzy?!?!?!

Ok, snarkiness aside, you can see that it got a bit old. And all these questions I answered, in the thousands of ways they were presented to me, and can be read on my FAQ at my website. Check it out, and don’t ask me again! Instead I have decided to talk about the immense amount of historical information I unearthed and wrote about in the series, specifically in “Loving Mr. Darcy” of course. So, in order to get myself used to the idea, I will start with this blog today, even if it isn’t precisely a part of my launch schedule.

A character detail I gave Fitzwilliam Darcy early on was his passion for and expertise in the game of billiards. He is such a mysterious person in the original novel, that it is easy to create factoids to round him out. I hit on the billiards concept not only because I knew from casual reading that it was a popular game of the day, but because I have always loved to watch really good pool players. That dates back to my dad and his friends playing the game, and partially from seeing Paul Newman in “The Hustler.” There is something so cool about a pool shark hitting those balls with that narrow cue, the staccato clap as they veer off in impossible directions, and then miraculously fall into the recessed holes all while the player stands nonchalant and puffing away on a cigarette. Not that I imagined Mr. Darcy in a rolled up T-shirt and slicked back hairdo, but the image of a master player was still cool! So I envisioned a billiards tournament happening in Meryton while they visited with Lizzy’s family, with Darcy proving his skill in a thrilling, play-by-play enactment. My mind conjured all sorts of wild scenes, probably influenced by Mr. Newman and Tom Cruise, and even memories of Minnesota Fats being watched by my dad. It was really some good stuff!

Enter problem number one – and if any of you smarter people laugh at me I will hunt you down and lash you with Aunty Cindy’s whip – but did you know that billiards and pool are two completely different games? I know! I was shocked! Now, I don’t consider myself an expert on pool by any means, but I have seen the game played enough to vaguely know the rules and common terms. Clue numero ono was when I Wiki’d “billiards” and started reading about two white balls, carom, hazards, cushions, stringing, faults, snooker – What the heck? I am not entirely stupid, so it did rapidly become clear to me that something was wrong in Denmark! Problem number two was the two-fold one of trying to figure out precisely what “billiards” was, since it obviously was a very different game than pool, but also to track the history of this strange game 200 years back. Luckily I adore history and solving a puzzle, and am very stubborn. So after perusing a couple of dozen websites, including the International Billiards & Snooker Federation and Billiard Club, reading through reams of instructions on how to play the game, and watching several videos… I was completely lost! Yep, this American girl simply could not grasp onto the finer nuances of billiards enough to write that riveting play-by-play tourney that she had imagined. Bummer. I researched enough to know I was on track in the historical importance of the game and in what rules and terms were standard in early 1800’s England, but my comprehension ended there. What to do? Scrap the idea of a billiards tournament altogether? Never give up! Never surrender!

Instead I changed my approach, dealing head on with problem number 3 – writing something you just do not know from experience. Of course we often do that in our writing, so I looked at the challenge as no different than visualizing England, where I have never gone, or imagining traveling for days in a carriage, which I have never done. Only a billiards expert could tell me if I utterly flubbed it up, but I think I did a fairly good job of getting the idea across and writing a riveting chapter even without the play-by-play! When September arrives you can tell me how I did. But for now, share with us some of your hardest challenges in writing of something that you just can’t grasp onto. Or perhaps there was that fabulous idea that you had no choice but to forget due to lacking information.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Those Pesky Doubts

by Libby Malin

You've heard the stories -- Bestselling Author X sells his first book after a friend shows a partial of the manuscript to her agent, who signs the fellow and puts the book up for auction leading to a "major deal." Or Bestselling Author Y mentions his idea for a novel to an editor over lunch and she buys it sight unseen, leading to rewards, both financial and literary, for all involved.

Don't those stories just make your teeth grind?

Most writers' publication paths are bumpier, with stalls and stops along the way, and occasional breakdowns.

But the overnight success stories do tantalize, and I wouldn't be surprised if many writers (if not most) cherished the dream that their rewards would be similar to those lucky authors who make it big quickly.

When I first began taking writing seriously and committing myself to the goal of being published -- when I decided to stop dabbling and start working at it -- I cherished those dreams of overnight success, too. But, like most writers, I didn't experience the Fast Breakthrough. Instead, I traveled the road most often taken by authors -- writing manuscripts, submitting, waiting, hoping...trying again.

Those early days were filled with doubt. Sure, I thought I wrote reasonably well. My writing had been praised by teachers and employers alike. I thought I told a good story and had lots of good stories to tell.

But when the first rejections started coming in, they brought with them the Ghosts of Doubt. Maybe my writing was good. But it obviously wasn't Good Enough.

Although I've rarely had trouble getting the writing engine started, these doubts sometimes made my writing stutter and stall. I'd begin to take a story in one direction, then wonder if it was exciting enough. I'd give a character an attribute I thought essential to the story and her own personality as I'd drawn it, and I'd wonder if she was sympathetic enough.

I started wondering about everything--how many pages I had in each chapter, whether it was okay to include more than one POV in a chapter, whether a heroine who used foul language a lot was acceptable, where exactly in the story a "black moment" should occur, whether I had too much exposition or too little, whether my characters' names were okay...

Whew! You get the idea. My Inner Doubt Phantom was working overtime whispering in my ear.

Eventually, though, I captured her, dragged her to a dungeon, locked her in a cell, and threw away the key!

And once her whispers were silenced....I became a better writer with a more confident voice.

How did I manage to control that Doubt Phantom? Simple -- through experience. The more I wrote, the more confident I became. And the more confident I became, the better I was able to write. I had to stop caring about that Doubt Phantom. I had to shrug her off and tell her to get back to her cell and shut up. I had to realize that, right or wrong, I just had to write the story. If I made wrong choices, I'd find them in revision. Or when my critique partner pointed them out and her comments resonated with me. Or when several agents rejected the manuscript all pointing to one problem. I had to learn to trust and accept my own voice...unless and until it was proven false.

Once I became published, the Doubt Phantom's voice became fainter and fainter. Sure, she still manages to shout a message up from that dungeon from time to time, causing me to stare at the blank page wondering if I'm headed in the right direction with a story. But she no longer rules this author's world.

So what doubts do you wrestle with when you start writing? Do they still bedevil you? How do you fight them?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Keep on keepin' on

Before I sold my first book to Silhouette, I had amassed several full manuscripts as I toyed with themes and voice, some right for Silhouette, some not. One particular manuscript (we'll call it "Love Story" for the purposes of this blog) wasn't right for Silhouette but had finalled in many contests and was a favorite story of mine. I never gave up hope that one day "Love Story" would find a home somewhere.
Fast forward several years and several other sales. This spring, Sourcebooks acquisitions editor Deb Werksman attended the NOLA STARs Written in the Stars conference in Shreveport, Louisiana. It was a thrill for me to have another chance to chat with Deb and introduce her to some Southern foods. (She liked the catfish, but the collard greens, not so much.)
During our dinner, I pitched "Love Story" to her, and she asked me to send the full to her. So I went home after the weekend conference, pulled the book out of storage and sent it off. I had high hopes that Deb would love the book, and LS would find a home at Sourcebooks. Well, Deb did like the book and wanted to buy it. We were even talking about when it might be scheduled. the final analysis, when marketing plans and the current romantic suspense market were factored in, it was decided that "Love Story" wasn't the kind of book that was selling well now. Deb had to turn the book down.
While quite disappointed that LS didn't sell to Sourcebooks, I understand the reasoning. Romantic suspense and contemporary romance- heck, almost any romance genre, is a competitive market. Good books get passed over because publishers have to think in terms of the big picture. If readers have drifted away from one type of story and another type of story is selling well, the publisher has to give the readers what they want or sales will suffer. That's not to say that Sourcebooks doesn't do new and innovative things within the popular genres, but they also have to think in terms of competing in the current market.
If you look back at Deb's previous posts here, you'll see her list of things she looks for in a submission. The last item is about her ability to sell the book. "Love Story" is a good book, it almost sold, but the book doesn't meet the current market demands. Publishing is cyclical. Historicals went out a few years ago but now are storming back on the scene. So I'll save LS for another time when the winds of change in the ever evolving publishing world blow back around for an LS kind of story.
And I'll get another submission ready to send Deb, one that I feel is a better fit for what she's looking for. Because my mantra has always been "Never never never give up!"

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The First Page

By Robin Kaye

Beginning a book is always difficult, especially when you don’t have that beginning scene to build the book around. I think it’s because I’m slowly changing from a seat-of-the-pants writer to a plotter in the hope that if I have the entire plot, I’ll be able to see if there are holes in it before I write the entire book. This is especially helpful since I am now writing on deadline.

Back when I was a card-carrying pantser, a scene would pop into my head and like magic, I’d have a fabulous opening scene and from there the plot would flow. Now that I’m a quasi-plotter, I have the whole story line and at the very least, the hero and heroine in my mind. I know what’s going to happen in the beginning, the middle and the end. I have the conflict, the black moment and even the happy ending but where do I begin the book?

Every character has a back-story whether it’s written in the text or not. His or her entire life story is in the author’s mind. That’s how an author crafts three-dimensional characters. The author knows where the character grew up, how the character was treated by her parents and siblings, her first heartbreak, and the one thing the heroine regrets. The author knows why the heroine acts the way she does because the author is carrying around that character’s baggage.

My next book: working title, “As Good As He Gets” is a marriage-of-convenience story. My question is: does the story begin at the wedding? The proposal? During the writing of the pre-nup? What’s the most exciting? What’s going to grab the reader by the throat? Well, they can all work, or they can all fail. The thing that’s driving me crazy is that all-important first scene has yet to pop in my head and I don’t know how to make that happen.

I’ve written the first scene but it doesn’t blow my skirt up. Don’t misunderstand, there’s nothing wrong with the scene, but then, so far, there’s nothing exceptionally right with it either. Still, I can’t be rewriting the first scene over and over again. So I move on and pray that eventually genius will strike. What I want to know from writers is how do you open yourself up to genius striking? How do you begin your books?

And readers, which do you think would be better? The proposal? The wedding itself? Discussion of the pre-nup?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

There Will Be Tears

posted by Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy

Another RWA National Conference is over and yer olde Aunty is home again, exhausted but happy because it was all SO MUCH FUN!

Well, mostly... except for all those huge emotional highs and lows that happened constantly. Yup, it happens to me at every conference, and I know I'm not the only one. (Aunty raises an eyebrow at her CasaBabes/Sisters.) This year's conference in Washington DC was no exception.

Everyone who has been on this blog for more than five minutes knows that yer olde Aunty has a reputation for being a "tough cookie." I write about murder, mahem and things that go boom. Aunty does not like mornings (as several of the CasaBabes will now testify after seeing with their own eyes) and makes no secret of it. Aunty carries a whip (only a tiny little riding crop) and knows how to use it! That is why, to my everlasting chagrin, at some point in every RWA conference, I find myself tearful, and this year it happened again... several times, in fact!

It all started with Janet Evanovich and her opening remarks. Janet is one of Aunty's idols in the "tough cookie" department. Imagine my shock when Janet actually teared up while talking about the ten years it took her to sell her first book. How she had to take temporary jobs so she could afford to buy clothes and shoes for her kids. And then, when she was at one of her lowest ebbs, she came home and her husband said, "Your editor called." Janet honked into her tissue and so did Aunty!

Linda Howard did not help the situation. Her hilarious accounts of her "nutty" family had Aunty and everyone else wiping away the tears of laughter. I swear, I didn't know this before, but after hearing Linda's account of her mother's purse, we MUST be related somehow. My mother had a purse just like that! Well, maybe not with pork chops...

The next day, Eloisa James left not a dry eye in the ballroom when she talked about her daughter, born premature and weighing all of " pound and change." And when she talked about seeing her mother for the last time, I'm afraid I must admit, yer olde Aunty turned into a real water works.

Finally, the big Rita/Golden Heart Awards ceremony arrived and Aunty packed tissues in her purse in anticipation, even though I was determined not to mess up my artfully applied make-up.

became my rallying shout.


The Golden Heart winner who tearfully exclaimed that she'd just sold "on Wednesday" had Aunty's nose itching. I reached for the tissues, "just in case." The other winner who described the heroic attributes of her husband made Aunty's throat clog up. Then came the Ritas, and Aunty fought back the tears through one heartfelt acceptance after another. But when Kathleen Creighton's absentee acceptance was read aloud, Aunty's sniffling started. And I fought bravely to keep it at the sniffle level until Gwen Cready dedicated her Rita to her deceased sister and ended by saying, "today's her birthday."

That did it! Aunty couldn't hold back any longer. I BLUBBERED away right along with everyone else!

What about you? Do speeches sometimes move you to tears? Which ones? Aunty and the other CasaBabes would love to know!

Monday, July 20, 2009

RWA 2009—Truly Serendipitous

I’m probably not being very original with how the next few blog posts will follow for the next week or so, but the RWA 2009 National Conference this year was one of many firsts for me! My first national conference workshop panel, my first time speaking at the Sourcebooks Spotlight, and our first Sourcebooks sponsored signing! I apologize for my lack of photos, but I’m not sure I have the brain power to maneuver them around in the blogger set up!

My Workshop Panel

I like to think I’m an OK public speaker—I’ve never been one that hated speaking in front of others, but I’ve never really been that person to volunteer either!! But I have to say, RWA was the perfect place to start out, mainly because everyone is so nice, but I was extremely lucky to not only be on a fabulous panel, but I had many of the lovely Sourcebooks Casababes there for support. Judi took pictures (and Mama J says thanks!), and many more sat in places I could easily see—and it was nice to see smiling faces. And I was incredibly humbled to have our dear editor, Deb, and our CEO and publisher, Dominique, in attendance as well. I sat next to Lori Foster (and had an OMG moment), Jenna Peterson was incredibly funny, and Michelle Buonfiglio (the mastermind behind this workshop) was awesome. I think we all had a lot to offer about online promotion, and I hope people took something useful away from it!

I must interject (to keep things chronological) that the author dinner that took place on Friday was superb—it’s nights like that that really put things into perspective. How wonderful to have one of our very first Casa authors (Michele Ann Young) mingling with our current authors, and many of our Spring 2010 authors, too! The restaurant was lovely, drinks were had, stories were told, and, of course, we traveled in style in stretch limos!

The Sourcebooks Spotlight

I want to tell you a story—Tuesday, July 14th, I was in Dom’s office with Deb on the phone, having a final meeting about the conference, when Deb says “Dom, did you tell Danielle about the Spotlight?” Dom looks over—“No! I didn’t!” Deb: “Danielle, after Dom discusses the Author toolkit, you’re going to speak about Marketing and PR.” And I said, “Ok,” but I meant “AH the day BEFORE we leave!” But, by the time Saturday rolled around, I was still on my high of doing well on the workshop panel, and the Spotlight was a piece of cake. The room was filled, the crowd engaged after hear Dom’s enthusiastic overview, and I think I carried it over well, so Deb could talk about her editorial process and submissions guidelines. After the spotlight, Deb and I were in that room for about 15 minutes after it was over, talking to anyone who came up to the front. It was great—people were getting it: Sourcebooks Casablanca is very different, innovative, and fully established as a romance publisher on the rise.

The Sourcebooks Signing

I must must must say that I know I underestimated the amount of books to send to Nationals… I follow the rules, and the rules suggested sending a box of each book…. Well, I should have known, 2500 avid romance readers would want more books. But I am happy to say that every single book sent was signed and given to a fan—and they were eagerly given. I do have pictures from the signing, and I will send them out soon! Every time I passed by one of the authors, they weren’t just signing, they were engaging the person waiting and talking. I took pictures of fans and authors, I met some of the bloggers who have been supporters. I watched what I consider so successful in this line. It was so amazing to see all of the work we’ve been doing over the past year or so really come together in a moment—10 Casa authors were present, and I think they did so wonderfully at their first RWA signing!

This year’s conference will be special to me, because it was the one I had the most handle on. I know there were things I could have done differently (and I have a long list of ideas and thoughts to implement next year). I LOVED being able to meet my authors face to face, talk about their books and promotional plans, and really, just chat. You’ve all become friends through our emails. I enjoyed hearing about what you want to see happen with your books, but also about your families and your travels, and all that we discussed.

And finally, as a truly serendipitous moment—Saturday, my little brother (who goes to the Naval Academy, and is much much bigger than me now) came to have dinner and go to a movie (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, natch). We had to go to a later show, and around 10:00pm we headed out. Guess who got off the elevator as we got on? None other than LA NORA herself, fresh from winning the RITA for Tribute. All I could do was stare… and my brother looked at me like I was insane.

When the elevator door closed I started shrieking: “DO YOU KNOW WHO THAT WAS? NORA ROBERTS!”

Alex replied “You mean that’s the author mom’s obsessed with and has a million books by?”


“Seriously? She was hot!”

So Nora, if you’re reading, there’s a midshipman at the US Naval Academy who finds you very attractive.

Back to work on Monday, telling everyone how much of a success the conference was, and even thinking about the plans for next year in Nashville. I can’t wait to hear about everyone else’s stories!

Did anything truly serendipitous happen to you at this year’s conference? OR do you have a story from a year passed?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Reflections on my first RWA National Conference

As I write this post, it's 0652 on Saturday morning. I haven't seen the Sourcebooks Spotlight, nor have I been to the Rita Awards or the Sourcebooks booksigning, but I have certainly done plenty of other things.
First off, I made it here, on a plane, all by myself. This in itself was a first for me. I've never done much traveling alone, and rarely on a plane. But I did it.

I've only been to one conference that came anywhere near the magnitude of this one. But I did it.

I really hate going to events where I know very few of the people in attendance. But I did it.

A lot of people will tell you, "Oh, I could NEVER write a book!" But I did it. And so did many of the other conference attendees. I think that says a lot. Here are hundreds of women who didn't baulk at the challenge, and I am one of them.

Listening to the speeches given by Janet Evanovich, Linda Howard, and Eloisa James were very inspiring. Their stories were not unlike my own--they've just been at it long enough to succeed. Even though I have four books in print, I'm still a newbie, relatively speaking. I was asked by an interviewer if I felt that I had "arrived" as an author. The truth is, I don't. I'm not intimidated by these other writers, but I know that they have one thing I don't have: years of experience behind them.

In my nursing career, I have loads of experience. I have now been a critical care nurse for thirty-two years. Many of these ladies have been professional writers for that long. There is no way I, at the age of fifty-three, will ever match them in experience, unless I live to be ninety and write continuously up until my death. The fact that they are willing to share their knowledge with those of us who are lacking is quite remarkable. Not everyone is willing to coach a competitor.

Which brings me to the next interesting point: We aren't truly competitors. Each of us has our own niche in the world of romance writing. We just have to carve it out for ourselves and then live in it. Readers will find us. Some will love what we write and others will hate it, but the one thing that will always hold true is that my books will not be like your books, and vice versa. We are all individuals writing unique works of fiction. We are not competing with one another so much as we are collaborating with our sister writers.

It's a pretty nice feeling.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Reality TV: How Real Is It?

If anyone knows me well, they know I dote on Reality TV in a shameful way. I watch American Idol and Dancing with the Stars, Survivor and Amazing Race, of course, but I watch some of the less admirable (read: totally over-the-top guilty pleasure types) too. I've cringed through the hot tub scenes on the Bachelor/Bachelorette, squealed in disgust at the bug-milkshakes on I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here, and rolled my eyes until they stuck in my head with Paris Hilton, My New BFF (really, who signs up thinking they're really going to be Paris's new best friend?).

Do I think they're real, though? No way, at least, not in the sense of being real, unscripted, unedited versions of life. Reality TV adheres religiously to the constructs of fictional narrative (there, I almost made it sound respectable, didn't I?).

Fiction is built using six building blocks: Character, Dialogue, Setting, Plot, Point of View and Time Sequence (Beginning, Transitions, End) (ref: Google docs: Fictional Narrative)

How does Reality TV use this?


Character: Of course they put out casting calls for these shows and invite 'audition tapes', and a lot of the respondents are wannabe actors and actresses. But in my estimation (I don't have any inside knowledge) they are looking for a blend. They want some clearly defined 'types': the beauty, the brain, the stud, the jock, and then some quirky types, like the cranky old dude, the wild child, etc. This year on Big Brother they've gone one step further and labelled them according to recognizable high school cliques: Popular, Athletes, Brainiacs and Offbeat. But I predict (and it's already happening) that the people in those cliques will resist such rigid classification and find their own strata.

Dialogue: Most Reality TV uses a blend of two different types of 'dialogue'. There is the taping of interaction between the participants, and then there is the 'confessional'. And it's in the confessional pieces that the producers and editors get to shape the stories they want to tell, because they do indeed have storylines that they develop. On the Bachelorette this season there has been a lot of controversy about Wes, the wannabe country singer (who doesn't sing or write very well, sadly) and his scandalous treatment of Jillian. He is just using Bachelorette to get publicity for his career (Gasp! As if that isn't one of the only reasons to sign up for the show) he has a girlfriend (Gasp! As if that hasn't happened before). Of course, he is the requisite villain of the piece, the Snively Whiplash, the Darth Vader. Trouble is, I can see the heavy hands of the writers all over this piece, and Wes doesn't have enough 'menace' to carry off the villain role. Toward the end of his time on Bachelorette I started to feel a little sorry for Wes, because they so clearly were coaching him in his behavior to make him the villain, and instead he just looks hang-dog, to me. Glum, picking his teeth and appearing bored. Even his final bit, where he says he's the first guy in Bachelorette history to make it to the top four with a girlfriend, felt... written. I'm sure the producers told him that he would be a big hit and would get loads of publicity, which he has, and it might even help him if he had any discernable talent.

Setting: Ah, setting! This is where Survivor shines. They pick some beautiful, out-of-the-way spot and film it brilliantly, making the setting almost another character in the storylines.

Plot: Goes without saying. Without manufactured plots Reality TV would just be a rambling series of interactions among some - for the most part - dull people.

Point of View: Big Brother is the best at creating point of view, and using it to create 'surprising' conclusions. They will show confessionals that seem to point in one direction as to who is going to be evicted that week, or who is working together, only to turn around and have something completely different ensue.

Time Sequence: Beginning, Middle, End: All writers are told to remember that their story needs clearly defined scenes to delineate the movement of time and change. Reality TV does this too, or at least the best of them do. They create characters who have a development arc that takes them from naive to knowledgable, uncertain to self-confident, etc. They create 'showmances'... romances made for TV.

So, if all of this is true, if editors and writers and producers are manipulating the characters to create recognizable story types, what's real about Reality TV? Not a whole lot, but I'm endlessly interested in how they manage to manipulate (mostly) normal folk into 'characters' in their stories. I wonder what these people think when they see the season as we viewers see it. Do they even recognize what they were going through at the time when comparing it to what the producers and editors have made of it?

I have one final thought: Ben 'Coach' Wade from Survivor Toncantins. He has to be the most amazing created character they've ever manufactured. Do I think the real Ben Wade is quirky? Probably. Do I think he's the lunatic they created for TV? No way. But it was... interesting!

So... do you watch Reality TV? C'mon, 'fess up.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Romances with Pets???

On another group blog I'm on, one of the authors brought up the question something to the affect of: do you ever write about pets in your romances? As a reader, do you enjoy reading about a hero or heroine who own pets?

dreamstime© Serghei Starus

But as a caveat~~I'm sure for my benefit since I'm the only werewolf author on the blog [or maybe that should be the only author who writes about werewolves on the blog]~~she said that werewolves didn't count. :) LOL

Of course werewolves don't count. They're not anyone's pet! :)

But as to the author's question about romances with pets, in Book 6 of my werewolf series, title as yet to be determined, the newly turned heroine has a cat. So how will a cat and a werewolf interact? And if the heroine brings home a hunky werewolf boyfriend, how will the cat and he get along?

Such is the fun of writing about something that is a little bit out of this world. :)

I love animals and have raised Afghan hounds, silky terriers, poodles from toy to standard sizes, Labrador retrievers, cats, and even mice. :) So I've written pets into a number of my stories, although Book 6 will be the first of the werewolf series where one of the werewolf characters owns a pet. She has not been reunited with her cat since she was changed, so it will be fun to write about it. But even more fun will be the reaction of the hero and his attitude toward keeping a cat as a pet in a werewolf household. :)
This is not a picture of my Afghan hound, by the way. We have pictures of her and the silky terrier playing a game of chess...if I can ever get them converted to a digital format, I'll upload them. :)

Pets can add humor and conflict. They can bring people together, or push them apart. They can add another interesting dimension that the story wouldn't have without them. :)

I think of 101 Dalmations when I think of a story where the hero and heroine were united through the love of their pets. :)

So do you have pets in your romances? Or like to read them in your romances?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

CasaBabes Gone Wild

The room was your typical beige interior complete with table, chairs, eight women and eight handcuffs.

Wait a minute? Handcuffs?

“I can’t believe this happened,” Judi fumed, pacing the length of the room. “I have meetings! I need to get out of here right now!”

“And I have a luncheon appointment,” Kendra muttered, slinking down in her chair as she looked at her watch..

“I’m sure they’ll realize this was all a mistake and let us go,” Michele said, the voice of reason among chaos.

“What will Deb say?” Danielle wailed, trying to cover her face with her hands, but her handcuffs kept her suitably restrained.

“Ladies, ladies, ladies.” Horace ambled into the room, carrying a gargoyle sized Dunhill briefcase.

“Horace, what are you doing here?” Marie asked. “I called Linda for help. Did she send you?”

The gargoyle inspected his claws. “Um, well, it seems Linda was out and I just happened to hear your message on her voice mail. And um, it somehow got erased after I heard it. Hey!" He ducked as a hand went flying past his horns.

“Meaning you somehow learned her password.”

“She really needs to get more inventive with passwords and PINs.” He slung his briefcase onto the table. “Gotta say you babes are in serious trouble.”

“I didn’t do it!” Robin protested. “That cop didn’t even listen to me.”

“Right, Robin, you were the innocent one.” Cindy cocked an eyebrow at her. “You grabbed the man’s crotch.”

Robin puffed up. “I was pushed against him!” She aimed her accusation in Cheryl’s direction. “SHE was the one who grabbed him.”

“How did I know he was a fed,” Cheryl defended herself. “He was cute.”

Horace shook his head. “So you all ended up arrested.”

“I didn’t do anything,” Danielle chimed in. “I was nothing more than an innocent bystander.”

‘Try again, babe. I read the arrest reports,” Horace told her. “You all are so guilty and have so many charges against you that I don’t know if even I can get you off.” He snorted. “Get you off.”

“Shut up!” Marie swiped at his horns, but he ducked just in time. “You are so gross, Horace.”

“But I’m not in jail,” he reminded her.

That gave them all a moment to reflect on sins committed or just thought of. After all, the fed was cute.

“So you brought bail money?” Kendra asked him, eying the briefcase.

Horace smiled and spread his arms open. “No, I’m your lawyer. Group hug?”

When Horace was admitted to the creature ER an hour later, he was treated for cuts and abrasions.

The CasaBabes are still waiting for their trial.