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Rule Bending and Other Feats

posted by Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy

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.


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?


  1. Cindy, when a story's done well, I really enjoy watching the rules being bent. I love the sound of THE WILD SIGHT. And it will be so interesting watching the man having to deal with his psychic powers. What a great twist. It will also be great to explore a new setting. In all my years of romance reading, I don't think I've EVER read a book set in Northern Ireland. Be nice to hear about somewhere fresh.

  2. Cindy this book sounds more promising by the minute. I love the fact that it is set in Northern Ireland as well because it means I can visit there thru your description.

    Have I ever bent the rules yes I remember when I was a Guide leader and we were taking our group on a trip to the snow for the weekend and for some stupid reason the Association said we couldn't take them even though everyone was qualified to do it, so we as parents and leaders we organised a day trip to the snow so as the girls wouldn't be dissapointed the association was not happy with us when they found out that we had taken the girls but all had a fantastic day and we were very glad we did it.

    Great post
    Have Fun

  3. Cindy, I think the best books are those that bend the rules and do it with style. I love the examples you gave and can't wait for the book to come out!!

    As for breaking the rules myself? Hm. I'm afraid I'm a bit of a rule follower, in general. The heroine in my WIP is a bit of a rule-breaker, though. She's got a fascination Big taboo, of course, and something usually reserved for men. This is a family blog so I won't go into detail, but she is also a filmmaker in a genre that is usually left to men. ;-)

    I have to leave the rule-breaking to my characters. I'm not so good at doing it myself.

  4. Rule breaking? asks the woman writing Roman historicals.


    I'm with Anna that a story well written is a story well written. It's great to see a story stepping outside the box.

    I've read your excerpt Cindy and cannot WAIT for its release!

  5. Cindy~

    Your book sounds soooo good. I can't wait to read it!

    I have a love/hate relationship with psychics. My mother had a friend who was psychic and unbeknownst to me, Millie ratted me out all through my childhood and teen years. She was so accurate, I wondered if my mother had someone following me around.

    Millie and I have since become close friends and she's promised to rat my kids out too. Something I tell them more and more frequently as they get older.

    Robin :)

  6. I love your broken rules, Cindy! I can't wait to read your book. It sounds delicious, and after getting a sneak peak at the start of book 2, I'm even more intrigued by book 1. How many days until October? I know you know! :--))

    I've broken some rules, too, such as having a professional football player as my hero in Line of Scrimmage. Who knew that was a no no? Not me, thankfully. I also have an idea for a baseball player that I'd like to do one of these days! To hell with the rules! We like to read about smart, compelling, funny, interesting PEOPLE, regardless of what they do for a living or whether their lover might be their, ahem, half sister. LOL!! I love writing myself into those corners and then having to find a way out of them to get to a satisfying finish. Sounds like you do, too!!

  7. *bouncing up and down* I LOVE it when the story breaks the rules. Grins. Its always so fun to see how they get out of it and twist it around. Or I guess I should say how YOU do that, since they're your characters. Grins.

    Its always fum to delve into a new locale as well. No. Ireland is purported to be so beautiful and I'm jealous of anyone (You, JT, etc.) who's been there. Sigh. Someday...

    I can't wait for Wild Sight, AC!

  8. Great post, Cindy! It's been a wonderful experience watching the evolution of THE WILD SIGHT. I enjoy all the rules-bending because it's what's made this book stand out from the crowd.

    Because it's a ROMANCE, we always understand that Riley and Donovan are destined for each other -- no way could they be related biologically! The mystery is in finding out what the truth is.

  9. Helen, I think that's what drew Cindy's editor to the book too -- the northern Ireland setting.

    Me, it was all about the Irish lad with his blue eyes and dark hair. Yikes, he's gorgeous!

  10. I was always breaking the rules when I was English department chair at our school. It's a wonder those rule-bendings didn't come back to bite me!

    But sometimes you just have to go around the guidelines and do what makes sense. As they say, it's easier to ask for forgiveness than to get permission.

  11. Kirsten! Bite your tongue. Okay, now I'm hooked. Can you tell us a little more and still stay in the PG range? Uh, like the title or the heroine's name. Yikes, is the hero an actor in one of her films?

    My mind is racing with the possibilities! Naughty, naughty JoMama

  12. Absolutely agree with Anna and Joan, who are both superb rule-breakers (in a good way). You must read Anna's COURTING THE COURTESAN if you haven't already. It stirs up lots of controversy, so you KNOW it's a great book!

    After watching both seasons of ROME on HBO, I'm convinced the world is just waiting for Joanie's Roman history stories.

    But it's all about how well written and told the story is, isn't it. You can get away with a lot of stuff if it's done right.

    Myself, I think the world of romance is ready for a storm of new kinds of rule breaking.

  13. Robin, that's just plain scary. I think I'm better off NOT knowing all the naughty things my kids did LOL.

  14. Now, Marie, you sound like a gal who knows how to not only bend, but break the rules.

    Talking about your football hero always makes me think of that old movie with Warren Beatty HEAVEN CAN WAIT about an extraordinary quarterback who dies before his time.

    Sports heroes are always compelling IMO. Our own Bandita Anna Sudgen writes about hockey players.

  15. Jeanne, you're something of a rule-bender too, aren't you? You sound awfully gleeful about it. Isn't DARK AND DANGEROUS a little outside the box?

    I was just trying to keep the conversation going for my good friend and CP, Loucinda, but I have to pop back to Romance Bandits now and check on my own blog -- topic is JEALOUSY. Ooooh, I'm so jealous of all these great titles you Casablanca authors have out or coming out.

    Good luck to you all.

  16. Rule breaking is the best part of writing, because you get to make stuff up and the only rule you need is "Because I said so!" I am stoked for the release of the book, too, Cindy, cause I HAVE to know how you get around your roadblock!

  17. Morning Everyone and THANX A BUNCH for stopping by!

    It has been crises central around here for the past 24 hrs, but I won't bore you with the details...

    Re: Northern Ireland -- My DH has "relations" (what the Irish call relatives) there which is why I'm more familiar with it than the Republic. And Jeanne, you heard right, it is breath-taking!

    Must relate a cute story. The first time we went there we drove through the Republic first. The morning we finally got into the county DH's grandmother came from, we got out of the car to look at a view and he said, "All my life all I ever heard from my grandmother and mother was County Fermanagh. Nothing was as beautiful as County Fermanagh!" Then he paused, looked around and with tears in his eyes said, "They were right!"

    Yup, as Joanie can attest, the auld sod does that to ya.

  18. Helen, GOOD FOR YOU on not disappointing those girls! I'm glad you went ahead as planned and everyone had a wonderful time.

    Foanna, dear, if anyone knows how to bend and twist writing "rules" it is YOU! And you must be doing it correctly to get a DOUBLE RITA nod! :-)

  19. Welcome to my TK Pard Jen! So glad you popped by. LOL! I can tell what age your kidlet is by the "because I said so" remark! :-)

    Kirsten, WOW! I'd have NEVER pegged our upstanding attorney Bandita as the writer of the story you just described. MORE! I wanna know MORE! It sounds GREAT!

  20. Joan, you know I'm in TOTAL agreement with Jo-Mama and a BOAT LOAD of contest judges... the publishing world NEEDS your Roman boys out there! Bending the rules with their bare hands, and leather skirts, and togas... WOOO! HOOO! Togas! Er, um... Sorry, got a bit carried away!

    Robin, that story about your mom's friend is downright SCARY! Like Jo, I'm probably GLAD I didn't know everything my son was up to. TMI! I KNOW my own mother would have rather not known. ;-) But hey! WTG in enlisting her now to help YOU! And I'm anxious to read your book, "Romeo, Romeo" too!

  21. Marie, 137... but who's counting?!?! hahahaha! So I guess that's 107 for "Line of Scrimmage" you lil ole rule breaker you!

    BIG HUGS to Jo-Mama for holding down the fort here and over on the Bandit blog!

    I've said it before and I'll say it again, TWS would NOT be the book it is today if not for YOU! In the hierarchy of CPs you are TIP TOP!


  22. Your rule bending sounds as if it's produced a really neat book. Can't wait to read it!

  23. Ah, you're way too modest about TWS, Aunty Cindy. The words and ideas come straight out of your head almost perfect! Very little noodging needed.

    A writing teacher I had long ago used that word "noodging" instead of "nudging." Isn't it a great word?

  24. Cindy, I love that story about DH's first visit to his grandma's county.

    BTW, how do you pronounce Fermanagh?

  25. This comment has been removed by the author.

  26. Thanx Trish! So glad you could drop by!
    Everyone, I'll be blogging with Trish and her gang at the Wet Noodle Posse next Wed. (May 21st) Hope you can pop in. I'll be posting about some research I did for TWS on The Niall Marker.

  27. Noodging? Great word, Jo-Mama! And you are very VERY good at it!

    And Fermanagh is pronounced fur MAN ah. Of course it sounds MUCH NICER in an Irish brogue, but WHAT DOESN'T?!?!

  28. But of COURSE Dark and Dangerous bends a few rules. Hence the glee. I love it when they get bent, twisted and generally thrown out the window because...well... it's kinda FUN that way. I love books of all ilk, but have to confess to really loving those with a twist. Our Bandita pals are particularly good at that.

  29. You're right, Duchesse!

    My Banditas and Sourcebooks sisters have come up with some great bent, twisted, and rule breaking stories! Hmmm, I hope that came out right... LOL!

    My TBR pile is teetering toward the ceiling, but your "Dark & Dangerous " will be right on top when it is released in a couple of weeks!

  30. Cindy,
    I admit that falling for a believed sibling is the biggest rule-bending I've heard of yet, but wow! What a great challenge! Sure, we know it can't be true, but if the heroine doesn't know it yet, the tension is practically the same. Nice twist. Can't wait to read it.

  31. Well, AC, it's okay as long as your Casa sisters are not bent, twisted, and broken themselves LOL!

    Oh, yeah, Christina, thinking that was your brother would put a girl on the edge. Luckily Donnovan is the clear-thinker on that topic.

  32. Thanks, Cindy, on the pronunciation. I always want to sound that "g."

  33. Cindy,
    Looks like you got a lot of action on this one! I'm bending rules all the time, but the trouble is, I don't know I'm doing it until it's done! I just write what comes out of my head, and if it happens to be rule breaking, that's just too darn bad!
    Oh, and another thing: naked dark-haired, blue-eyed Irish hunk? Sounds absolutely, fabulously perfect to me!
    You go girl!

  34. Thanx Christina!
    I knew it was either a deal-breaker or maker. (wipes sweat from brow and GRINS)

    LOL, Jo-Mama on the Casa authors being bent and twisted! No yet so far as I can see. At least no more than most romance writers. I notice you didn't need to ask about the Banditas! :-P

  35. Hi Cheryl!
    Glad you could crawl outta the deadline cave to say hi! That's what we call it in the Bandit Lair when somebody is on deadline. They have to go hide in the depths of the Lair in the deadline caves... and the STORIES we hear about those caves...

    I think that's part of the beauty of you and Marie and a couple other Casablanca authors, you just wrote without knowing or worrying about "rules." And it totally worked for you! WTG!

  36. Cindy--

    Well, am I excited to get my hands on this one. A male psychic hero, possible half-siblings--the reveiwers will be chomping at the bit for your book.

    What's so great about Casablanca is all of the authors are taking chances with their writing, and many review sites and bloggers are expecting new and exciting material from us! Which upholds the Sourcebooks ideal of producing great literature that is new and interesting--the epitome of the independent spirit! Great post :)

  37. THANX a bunch, Danielle!

    I'm thrilled you think there will be interest in "The Wild Sight."

    This whole journey to seeing my book on the shelf has been a fantastic, enjoyable ride. HUGE HUGS to you and the rest of the Sourcebooks staff!



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