Thursday, October 20, 2016

P is for Placement

Debra's Valentine's Day story placed in a contest!

Going through my inbox on a daily basis...sometimes more than once...can sometimes be a chore. More often than not, I delete more e-mails than I wind up reading. So much spam, it drives me crazy.

Today, though, I had some good news. My novella Valentine's Day at The Corral placed fourth in the International Digital Awards (#IDAWinner2016) contest! Yay!

I've had some pretty good luck in this contest. Last year, One Great Night was the first place winner.

It is always interesting to me to find out what readers prefer. This year I also entered my Christmas story from the Holidays at The Corral series. Out of the two, I like the Christmas book better myself. I found it interesting that one didn't place. It just goes to show, reader preferences and tastes are varied. I think often times we never know what will catch their ear or tickle their fancy. I guess all we can do is keep putting our work out there and hope it resonates with someone.

It's been a long time since I 'visited' my Valentine story. It was fun to think about it again today. Here's a little snippet for you. This scene takes place after Gail runs into her new boss at a speed dating event.

Monday morning Gail found a small box wrapped in pink paper with red hearts on her chair. After hanging her coat on the tree behind her and stowing her purse in the bottom drawer, she pulled the package onto her lap.

She cast a furtive glance out over the office as a niggling suspicion about who had put the box on her chair teased her. Most of the cubicles were still empty. Most days she was the first to arrive.

The red satin bow came undone easily when she tugged one end. The wrapping paper fell away to reveal a box of conversation hearts. She smiled even though she’d never really cared for the chalky candy.

A folded piece of cardstock was taped to the box. She stifled a laugh as she read the note:
Roses are red
Violets are blue
I had a nice time
Talking to you.

Initials ST completed the message. The bold, masculine scrawl was a stark contrast to the silly rhyme.

Amusement lingered as she tucked the note beneath her keyboard, then pulled a small glass dish out of a drawer. She filled it with the candy, then set it on the high ledge in front of her desk. Familiar with the collective sweet tooth of the employees at Thompson and Sons, it wouldn’t last until noon.

Did the new president have a sweet tooth as well? Scott Thompson had only recently taken over as head of the company for his ailing uncle, and she didn’t know much about him.

Except that she agreed with the woman in the pink jumpsuit. He had a nice ass. Normally she didn’t go for men in suits and ties. She only wanted two things out of life. A pair of nice fitting jeans and the man inside them. Some girls liked shoulders or chests or abs. For her, it was all about the butt.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

P is for Predictability

Paula asks: How predictable are your novels?  

I would contend that all novels are predictable to some extent. Detectives solve their cases, criminals/murderers are brought to justice, mysteries are solved, the ‘goodies’ win and the ‘baddies’ lose. People want satisfying (and ‘happy’) endings, whether they are reading murder, mystery, western, or whatever (unless they are reading tragedies, of course)

Why then are romance novels sometimes sneeringly referred to as ‘predictable’? What’s so different between a detective solving his case i.e. happy ending, and a couple overcoming whatever conflicts/problems confront them in order to be together i.e. happy ending?

Jane Eyre came back to Mr Rochester, Elizabeth and Darcy were reunited –were those endings predictable? Yes, of course they were, but does anyone complain about that?

A romance, by its very definition, needs a happy ending.

Of course, the important thing is how we actually get to that happy ending, and this is where the unpredictability comes in. The reader should start to wonder how on earth the hero and heroine are ever going to resolve the problems or conflicts we’ve thrown at them in order to reach their happy ending.

In the case of Jane Eyre, she leaves Thornfield, certain there is no future for herself and Rochester once she learns about his wife. In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet turns down Darcy’s proposal in the most scathing manner imaginable. These are the points where the reader, like the characters themselves, is left thinking that all is lost.

Of course, it isn’t – and this is where writers must use their powers of ingenuity to find a way to bring the heroine and hero together again. It can’t be contrived or coincidental, and it can’t happen until the problems have been resolved, otherwise it will seem too easy – and therefore predictable. Every romance needs a ‘twist in the tail’, something that will surprise the reader near the end – and not a fairy godmother who waves her wand to solve everything for them! Having the reader thinking, ‘Well, I didn’t expect that”, is the way to make the ending of your novels UNpredictable. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

P Is For Pitching

Jennifer pitched at the writer’s conference this weekend...

So I’ve been in somewhat of a rut recently. You know the one, where as a writer, you look at everything you’re doing or not doing and find fault? You’re convinced that you’ll never get anywhere and no one will like your stuff. I was ready to crawl into a hole and give up.

But then the NJ chapter of the Romance Writers of America held their annual writers conference. Everyone I knew was going. My critique partners were even involved with running it (and they did an amazing job, but I’m getting ahead of myself). And I wasn’t planning on going. Because, you know, my rut.

Until a writer I admire, who is way more successful than anyone I know (think almost a Nora Roberts kind of success), and who actually calls me a friend, suggested we meet for coffee. Well, if SHE wants to see me, I should probably think about going.

So I signed up.

And then my critique partner, who was arranging the editor and agent appointments, told me she’d help me get good appointments if I wanted to pitch. I didn’t. But my nagging muse kept whispering that I should.

So I picked a few editors and agents.

And then my critique partner changed them for me and gave me some really great ones based on what I write, helped me with my pitch, and put me at the lunch table with other editors and agents. Seriously, how can I say no after that?

Well crap. I haven’t pitched at a conference in years. I don’t like putting myself out there. But I had to. Everyone was super nice, although honestly, all the volunteers who tried to keep us from being nervous by telling us not to be nervous, made me a little nervous (but their dancing and peppy attitudes were hilarious).

But I pitched to an editor and an agent, both of whom loved what I pitched and asked for more. So I’m doing one last round of edits, because you can never edit too much, and then I’m submitting. My goal is to have it done by the end of this month.

And my writer friend and I never got around to having that coffee--but we did give each other hugs.

Here’s hoping for good news soon!

Monday, October 17, 2016

P is for Personality

Ana muses crafting the personality of a secondary character.

In the initial character profile of my villain's wife, she was one-dimensional.
Early 40s, short, mousy hair, flat-chested. Family owned a jewelry store. In high school.
she pined for the villain, son of the richest man in town. She didn't think beyond wanting a
huge wedding. When the heroine's mother rebuffed the villain and married the wild artist,
the villain choose her.
It's a loveless marriage. He's a doctor and runs the State Hospital. She serves on volunteer committees, goes to lunch with friends, pretends to be happy. When her husband's new Physician
Assistant comes to town, she tries to arrange a fling with him. But he's going to fall for the heroine.

We probably knew someone like this back in high school. Not destined to change the world.

I've begun to write the story, and she's playing a bigger role. The marriage had faded to loveless.
Her doctor husband thinks of the heroine as the daughter he could have had. The wife is now a daycare inspector who is dedicated and strict. She is protecting children that could be her own.
She is jealous of the heroine's mother, even though the mother is presumed dead, and can't stop herself from redirecting her jealous onto the heroine.

She seems more human here. She copes in an imperfect way-- and has room to grow over the story.
I have no idea if she will become an ally to the heroine or how much she will allow the villain to manipulate her into helping him.

She's definitely becoming a more prominent character with a multi-dimensional personality.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

O is for (Baseball Season in) October

Debra's team is finally getting their act together.

Chicago is a sports town. Hockey season and football season tend to bring people together. (Whether it's to celebrate our terrific hockey team or to commiserate about our awful football team.) However baseball season tends to divide the city. You're either a Cubs fan or a Sox fan. Even though baseball is probably one of my least favorite sports, I consider myself a die-hard Cubs fan. It's the way I was raised. And for the past hundred years or so, it's definitely been a die-hard kind of following. Fans didn't have a whole lot to root for.

But things are starting to turn around. Last year my Cubbies made it into the play-offs. This year again, and it just might be their year. IF they make it to the World Series, I for sure will sit down and watch some baseball.

Even my husband, who is a Sox fan (We have one of those 'mixed' marriages!) said he'd sit down and watch if the Cubs make it in.

Hmn? Maybe baseball season can bring people together!

Even more fun, the Hawks open their season tonight. That I'm all in for...

In writing, sports can be a fun way to add some depth to our characters. What teams do they like? Are they die-hard fans or jump-on-the-bandwagon fans? Do they root for the team in their hometown or root for the team where they live now? Did they play a sport in high school or college? Fans of opposing teams can throw around some good-natured barbs at each other in the form of witty dialogue. When we're looking for ways to make our characters feel 'real', sports can do the trick.

Until next time,

Happy Reading! (And go Hawks and Cubbies!)


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

O is for Options

Paula thinks about the ‘options’ we give to our characters.  

‘Real life’ consists of a series of options, some very minor (e.g. what shall I wear today?) but others requiring us to make major decisions. Similarly, in my novels (and probably in yours, too), the characters have different options presented to them and have to make choices. Should Jess in ‘His Leading Lady’ leave her safe and predictable life to go down to London and impersonate her twin sister? Should Abbey in ‘Fragrance of Violets’ go to Paris to meet with Jack, knowing it will change their relationship but not sure if she wants that to happen?

The characters can agonise about which option to choose. Sometimes they make the wrong decision, albeit for what they may think are the right reasons. In ‘real life’ this could have disastrous consequences, but at least in fiction we can provide the means whereby they can sort out the problems they then face.

Sometimes a character thinks they only have one option. This was the situation facing my heroine in ‘Her Only Option’ and one of my reviewers summed it up perfectly: “After taking positive steps to follow her heart and a future with a man with whom she’s hopelessly in love, things take a life-threatening direction. It’s time to forget what her heart is telling her and listen to what her head is advising to save a life; it’s Her Only Option.”

Neve Dalton loves her job as a tour guide on a River Nile cruise ship as much as she values her independence. She isn’t ready to settle down with her Egyptian boyfriend, despite his repeated proposals and his father’s desire to see him married.
Nor is she ready to meet Ross McAllister, a compelling and fascinating archaeologist. She struggles against her growing attraction to him until she can no longer ignore what her heart is telling her.
When she starts receiving cryptic messages, and Ross’s work in the famous Valley of the Kings is threatened, Neve has to make a heart-breaking and life-changing decision which she feels is her only option.
Can they discover whose enmity is forcing them apart before it’s too late?

What ‘options’ have your characters had to face?

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

O Is For Out of Words

Jennifer talks about reading to escape...

The world is going crazy and I’ve had enough. The American election has turned into a reality show, an embarrassment to our country and to the world.

Countries that support terror are running amok, with little to any pushback from anyone. Photos are horrific and the lack of assistance is staggering.

The edges are sharp and harsh and no one is stepping in to be a role model or even to be kind.

So I read to escape from what I see all around me. And if you’re feeling the same way, may I suggest you read any of the books that we, as bloggers and authors, write? All of us write romance and the requirement for romance is a story with a happily ever after or a happily for now ending. That requirement is missing in the world right now.

If none of our books suit your interest—and that’s totally fine, reading tastes are subjective and we can’t all satisfy everyone—there are mysteries to get your blood racing, and historicals to remind you of happier times, and women’s fiction to showcase the bonds between women, and biographies. Oh yeah, biographies, of some of the better leaders this world has seen—perhaps they will fill you with hope.

Perhaps disappearing into a good book will soften the edges, lower the stress and restore our faith in the world.

So if you’re looking for me, I’ll be buried in my Kindle for the foreseeable future. And if you want to join me, let me know what you’re reading—perhaps I’ll try it too.