Monday, February 28, 2011

Influence of the Gods - the weather speaks!




As the saying goes “Show don’t Tell” so I long since took that editorial advice to heart. This snippet is taken from a previously published novel of mine: the female protagonist about to post a Dear John Letter to long-standing lover. Any mistakes bear with me - I copied it in hurry from the book. This is the opening chapter one!

It was absolutely foul weather but it had to be done. The letter had to be posted before the four o’clock afternoon collection, the post box merely a couple of hundred yards from the cottage.

Mercedes stepped under the porch and closed the door, the wind so strong she had to literally tug at the handle to secure it on its latch. Was it just her imagination or had the temperature plunged a degree or two? She shivered, turned up the collar of her raincoat, umbrella of no use due to unrelenting gale force wind. Driving rain had already penetrated the porch, the wind whipping at loose titian-coloured pre-Raphaelite curls and all very nearly turned to bedraggled dripping coils.

She loved Cornwall, loved her cliff-top cottage. But oh, how she hated rain. To Step out from the porch took courage, needles a better description to that which the gods had seen fit to throw down today of all days, the day she’d written the letter: the letter in pocket that she wanted winging its way to London ASAP.

It wouldn’t have been fair to leave a voicemail message on his cell-phone saying, sorry darling, have decided I’m cutting loose. Goodbye. In any case he would have picked up the call if not stuck in some blasted meeting, and would have promptly laughed and told her to stay put. That he’d come down to the cottage and they’d talk things through. No, she couldn’t let that happen because he’d talk her round, and then nothing would change.

She delved her hands in her pockets, fingers turning blue. No more than several paces from the cottage she sensed iced water trickling down the inside of her collar, but needs must when the devil rides. Though to be honest, it was a case of rat devil rather than devil woman in telling Guy she couldn’t go on as they were. She really didn’t want marriage for the moment, was that so wrong?

In his mind they were married as good as, his argument being; so why not slot the rings, say I do, and do the marriage bed as man and wife.  Worse, he’d suddenly become all protective and possessive. Basically, a downright pain at social gatherings and she constant aware of his arm about her waist, or that of her hand firmly clasped in his as though he owned her. It felt like he didn’t trust her in the company of other men, while to flirt with other women perfectly acceptable for him.

Oh hell, she was right, the barometer must have dived because the rain now more like iced beads hammering at her head and pinging off her shoulders. Feet soaked and freezing cold, she could just make out the scarlet red glow of the post box nestling in its ivy-clad wall. A few more paces and the deed would be done, the wind miraculously having eased a little.

Upon reaching the post box she stood staring at it, the letter brushing against her fingers in pocket. All the while iced water tumbled from her hair and over her face and trickled down her neck. It was a now or never situation. Post the letter and be done, or turn around, retreat to the cottage and fling letter and envelope on the fire.
She drew a deep breath, steeled her self and plucked the envelope from her pocket. Do it. She placed it in the gaping mouth of the red box, and lightning streaked through the gunmetal clouds as though a message from the gods: don’t do it, you’ll regret it.

Oh hell, she felt in two-minds. In one she was breaking free, in the other she would miss him terribly. A loud clap of thunder overhead shook the ground beneath her feet and startled by it she let slip the envelope. Irretrievable swallowed whole, it was done, and no going back and burning the letter and carrying on as if everything was all right. The words were written. It was in black and white: I don’t love you any more. Or at least, she’d as good as said that by wanting out of the relationship, yet still in love with him. She would surely be cut adrift within a day, once he'd read the letter. After all, what man would ignore the words and not take them as gospel? 

Icy coldness gripped her from within, the hail having ceased pummelling head and shoulders, beams of sunlight now casting across the sea and cliffs.  She glanced toward Bodmin Moor. It as always towering majestic, today menacing dark beneath the blue-black thunderous mass rolling on relentless over heath and bog much like waves over massive rocks. Which of the two weather systems heralded her fate? A light breeze picked up, the warmth from the sun stark in contrast to the freezing conditions moments beforehand. She turned about and strolled away from the post box. Appreciative of sun on her back she stripped off her raincoat and slung it over her arm, the sun bearing hot the breeze warm as she tossed her hair over one shoulder and leaned forward. She rung water from her tresses and shook it free feeling akin to wet dog though much sweeter smelling thank goodness.

At least she was hundreds of miles from London. And, Guy hated the four-hour plus drive to the cottage so probably enough to deter any thoughts of his tipping the letter on its head by turning up unannounced and declaring he hadn’t received it. Which was more than possible if he happened to be in one of those damned insufferably arrogant moods of his, when nothing and nobody could put him off something he wanted and wanted now. He hadn’t as yet rung on the house phone or via her cell phone, not since her arrival twenty-four hours earlier, and he must have returned from his business trip to Manchester by now. It was, to say the least, ominously quiet on the Guy front.

Half way back to the cottage and while negotiating a sharp bend she heard the sound of a powerful motorcar approaching from her rear. It was travelling far too fast along the single-track narrow country lane. As it careered around the bend she threw herself at steep grassy bank head plunged into the hedge and received a deluge of water from huge puddle. Car brakes squealed,  tyres skidded, and the vehicle came to an abrupt emergency halt not too far distant from where she remained trembling from the shock of it all. Why had the gods saved her, when before they’d castigated her for setting out letter in pocket? And, who’s that idiot in a brand spanking new BMW?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Weather in words

It didn’t get above zero yesterday. My husband had a fever, so I did chores, three hours of feeding and watering chickens and cows. All true. If I were a character in a novel, I’d appear loving and responsible.
But what if my hands got so cold I decided not to inspect the electric fence in the cow yard? I looked from a distance and the wire guiding the cows to the next row of hay bales looked okay, so I skipped this important step.
What if the fence wasn’t okay? Hay would get wasted. A calf could get separated from its mother. A heifer could tear open a bag of grain, overeat, and bloat. The herd could get out, wander onto the highway and cause an accident that would result in an insurance claim at best, a lawsuit at worst.
What if I skipped this step again and again, rationalizing that I don’t get paid enough or loved enough for my fingers to risk frostbite on a daily basis because I’m really, really tired of being cold. The wind howls nonstop and we’ve been snowed in for days and the baby is out of formula and winter is driving me mad.
Weather impacts setting, but it can also drive plot and impact characterization.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Welcome to Jennifer Wilck

Our Friday Friend today is Jennifer Wilck who has two releases with Whiskey Creek Press later this year.  First, Jennifer tells us a little bit about herself:

When I was a little girl and couldn’t fall asleep, my mother would tell me to make up a story. Pretty soon, my head was filled with these stories and the characters that populated them. Each character had a specific personality, a list of likes and dislikes, and sometimes, even a specific accent or dialect. Even as an adult, I think about the characters and stories at night before I fall asleep, or in the car on my way to or from one of my daughters’ numerous activities (hey, anything that will drown out their music is a good thing).

One day, I started writing them down (it was either that or checking into the local mental hospital—the computer was way less scary) and five years later, I’ve gotten two book contracts from Whiskey Creek Press. A Heart of Little Faith is coming out in June; Skin Deep is coming out in November.

In the real world, I’m the mother of two amazing daughters and wife of one of the smartest men I know. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, reading, traveling and watching TV. In between chauffeuring my daughters to after-school activities that require an Excel spreadsheet to be kept straight, I run youth group activities, train the dog we recently adopted from a local shelter, and cook dinners that fit the needs of four very different appetites. I also write freelance articles for magazines, newspapers, and edit newsletters.

When all of that gets overwhelming, I retreat to my computer, where I write stories that let me escape from reality. In my made-up world, the heroines are always smart, sassy and independent. The heroes are handsome and strong with just a touch of vulnerability. If I don’t like a character, I can delete him or her; if something doesn’t work, I can rewrite it. It’s very satisfying to be in control of at least one part of my life. My inspiration comes from watching the people around me and fantasizing about how I’d do things differently.

Organization versus Creativity? 
When my daughter was a baby, she could entertain herself for great lengths of time by lining up her toys in rows. Not actually playing with them (or even the boxes), but categorizing and adjusting them into perfectly straight lines. It’s one of the stories I tease her with now, but the truth is, she gets that from me. I can’t function without organization.

For a long time, I thought that my need to make lists couldn’t possibly co-exist with my creative writing side. I’m the student who, when the teacher required an outline, rough draft and final copy, would write the rough draft first, the final copy second and the outline third. I’d make sure the outline matched what I had written and then turn it in on the first due date. While the rest of my classmates were scrambling to write their papers, mine would be done. The eight hours I spent in one day doing all this was just a necessary evil. In fact, the one time I tried writing the outline first, I ended up with my one and only D.

That grade was enough to convince me that I am a “pantser.” My writing couldn’t flow if I worked from an outline. Somehow, I had to figure out a way to put aside the organized side of my personality, the “plotter” side, in order to create something that flowed smoothly, made sense and followed the story arc that was in my head.

And to some extent, I’ve done it. The stories I write straight from my head are much easier to get down on paper as is. When I’m inspired to write something about one of my characters or an entire scene, and I have the time and ability to do it immediately, it’s a stronger piece of writing than if I planned it out first. I still write outlines, but as a means of keeping track of what information I’ve put where—which chapter has a physical description of my hero or heroine, which chapter do I begin to hint at the conflict, which chapter contains the first mention of a secondary character who will become important later on?

Where I have found my need for organization to play an important role, is in motivation and meeting of my deadlines. If I mark on my calendar to write my blog every Monday, I get it done. If I make writing part of my daily schedule and carve out a specific time, then it happens. In fact, I feel guilty if the time I set aside to write passes while I’m busy doing something else.

The things that make me the happiest, though, are timelines. Call me crazy, but I love them. I have a book coming out in June and another in November. The need to start marketing them has been stressing me for months now, but I haven’t known where or when to start and frankly, diving into the unknown has been making me nervous (which only makes me more stressed and thus, the vicious circle continues). You can’t begin to imagine how excited I was, therefore, to come across a marketing timeline in an industry magazine that I receive. It listed, in crisp, type-A-personality black and white, exactly what I should do when. No relying on my own feelings, no worrying about forgetting something, and no putting off doing it because I was unmotivated. There’s a deadline and I have to meet it. It was perfect!

There’s no one right way of writing (try saying that 10 time fast!). What works for some, doesn’t work for me and vice versa. Believe me, I’m not trying to convince anyone to use my crazy methods. But for me, it’s been a lot easier finding a combination of ways that works for me where I don’t have to stifle either part of my personality. I wish you luck in finding yours!

Thank you for being with us today, Jennifer.  I'm sure many of us can relate to your opposing personality traits - I know I can!  We wish you every success with your new books.

Visit Jennifer at her website:  http://www.jenniferwilck.com/

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Describing the Black Moment

To do some 'research' for this post, I rifled through some of my writing files. Those well-tumbed through folders with labels like: plot, scenes, chatacters, setting, etc.

I found several notations about the black moment. Over the years I have heard it described and defined in many ways:

The conflict explodes. The hero and heroine are boxed in. The conflict appears to be unsolvable and they can't make it work.

Period of Misery.

The black moment must be logical to your plot and your story. It must grow naturally out of the actions that preceded it, which in turn must have grown naturally out of the characters' personalities. It can't depend on some outside force like a random accident. Don't rely on coincidence. It must deliver an appropriate level of emotion.

The ultimate test. The plot at this point represents an irrevocable decision.

A logical, yet unanticipated development that throws your focal character for a loss.

And one that has always stood out and I've remembered...

What your heroine feared most has happened, and the hero did it to her.

Once again, a great topic this week, ladies.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

Debra
www.debrastjohnromance.com

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Black Moment

I’m going to stick my neck out here and say that, for me, there is just ONE ‘black moment’. It refers to a final crisis, the most intense problem/conflict that the characters have to overcome before they can finally be together. The other conflicts, problems, differences (which Ana has reminded me can be called the ‘dark’ moments) can pile one on top on the other throughout the story. Some may be resolved, some not. But ‘the black moment’ is the culmination when the readers (and the characters) maybe start thinking everything might finally be resolved and then wham!  Something happens to throw everything up in the air again. It splits the couple, or pushes them even further apart.

It’s not just the readers who have to think there’s no hope for the hero and heroine to reunite. The characters themselves truly believe they’ve lost each other and involve the reader in the hell they’re going though as a result.

The black moment also has to be believable and connected to the rest of the story. Too simple a ‘crisis’, such as a misunderstanding which could easily be cleared up, can annoy the reader. An unrelated crisis e.g. the heroine is in a car crash and the hero rushes to her side and ‘all is forgiven’ is unsatisfying.  And some amazing 'coincidence' would be out of place too. 

The real (IMO) ‘black moment’ comes near the end of a novel and needs to be something the hero and heroine have to push their way through or past to earn their HEA ending. In doing so, they learn something about themselves which enables them to resolve their differences.

I could give you an example from my soon-to-be-published 'His Leading Lady' but I don't want to spoil the ending for you all! So instead I'll quote the 'black moment' from ‘The American President’:  Sydney Ellen Wade and the President, Andrew Shepherd, have faced various problems, both personal and external, in their developing relationship but the real black moment comes when the President breaks his promise to support the bill for which she’s been lobbying. Sydney feels betrayed and is furious. "I don’t want to lose you over this," Andy says. Sydney turns to him: “Mr. President, you've got bigger problems than losing me. You just lost my vote.”

Wham! How on earth are they ever going to resolve this and get together for their HEA? That, to me, is the black moment.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What Makes the Final Crisis or Black Moment









I find this rather difficult to answer. I know what the question means, in a romance/romance there is a conflict that must be resolved. It might look like the hero and heroine will never get together but sometimes with my suspense books it isn’t a conflict between the couples that is at the heart but the conflict of outside events.

However, here I go. In my novel The Substitute Bride, Elizabeth Mary has deceitfully married the man to whom her sister (Mary Elizabeth) was promised. It is an arranged marriage and so the two have never met. However, my hero is a medieval man and expects his wife to obey him but more than this he prizes honesty.

When Edward discovers the truth he is furious. He vows never to have anything to do with his wife again. That their marriage will be annulled, it is not, his having been contracted to another woman, legal anyway. Edward must learn to realize that love can conquer anything but he takes his time to learn that lesson but when he does….

“Aye you are right, but what will you do about your wife, I mean it will be troublesome for you?”
“Nay. Turn around…He did not wait for her to comply. As if he suspected she would not, he gently eased her around to face him.
“First of all I shall kiss her and then I will soothe her to sleep…”
“You will…what?”
He bent his head, slowly he covered her lips with his own, executing a kiss of such tender devotion it left her bewildered and yet oddly thrilled. “I don’t understand?”
“Of course you do, if you think on it. Who is my wife?”
“You said ‘twas Mary Elizabeth.”
“Did I?”
“You said by law…”
“The law is an ass and it is something that can be broken or changed, and when you have the ear of those on high, then anything can happen.”
“I don’t understand!”
“Valentine, I have only one wife. I wish only one wife. She is warm, she is clever, she is quite bewitching, and her name is…Elizabeth Mary.

In my novel Bitter Betrayal (published by Wings Press) my couple who were torn apart by the connivance of other people, finally resolve their conflict when they comfort one another over my heroine’s miscarriage. In Spanish Lies my hero feels he can never forgive my heroine because she did not reveal that her son was his. They finally come together through their efforts to make things easier for their son. These are conflicts that are resolved through circumstances and I am not certain if that satisfactorily answers this week’s question. Yet in all my novels, when I think on it, conflicts are resolved because outside circumstances are resolved, questions are answered and the truth is revealed.



Shadows of the Past, published by Robert Hale Limited, has a very different and rather shocking ending. There is a resolution but I am not sure if it was the one the reader or I expected.

No, I don’t think I have answered the question but I have tried to do my best!

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Black Moment = many emotions!

A black moment in a novel can lend itself to many possibilities, not least that of reader drawn to hero or heroine at onset of bad news: itself delivered in numerous ways, and with it may come anger, heartache, despair and disbelief!

Take Tara and Rick who originally parted through a misunderstanding, and now after much angst and heart searching their lives at last back on fairly even keel. Yet he's forced to leave her behind when he would rather she go with him, all because of something she feels obliged to do before she can settle to married life.  

The following snippet reveals Tara's worst fears (post telephone call asking "Where in hell is he"?) and why he's failed to ring her for six days.
----------
By eight Giorgio was the first guest to surface in the sitting room. ‘Any news?’

What could she say, I feel numb, lacking emotion. ‘I wish.’ How could there be news? No one knew for sure when Rick had disappeared.

She noted the casual way Giorgio draped his jacket over the arm of the chair, athletic swing of his hips before sinking his backside into the plush cushion seat. Liza was right. He was the epitome of elegant debonair man about town with hint of darker side yet to be revealed. His suit black, his Sicilian heritage more than evident in suntanned olive skin and dark eyes, oh yes, he was a handsome young individual and he knew it.

His eyes met hers and she saw ally not opponent as Liza had suggested might be the case. There was empathy reflected in his dark sultry Mediterranean eyes, unlike on the previous evening when he and Liza had embarked on a sparring match. His eyes then, had given the impression that if asked, he’d kill to keep Trans Europa Shipping under the Easterly flag, despite his name that of Giorgio Denaro.

‘Miss Tara,’ said Beattie, entering in haste waving a newspaper. ‘You better see this. It bad news.’

Tara leapt to her feet and took hold of the newspaper. The front-page headline said it all: Ricky Lindon Missing. The sub heading: Air Crash in South America and the article said: Yesterday morning rumors of a missing aircraft strafed the airwaves. Coastguards and air sea rescue crews were scrambled to go search for the golden boy of Hollywood, who failed to turn up on a location shoot for his latest movie. That was some six days ago, and hopes were raised late yesterday evening when a spotter plane reported a crash site on a remote beach. The crew saw no sign of life in or around the wreckage. A senior coastguard official today confirmed the wreckage to be that of Ricky Lindon’s Learjet.

She felt sick, but read on: A helicopter air rescue team located the remote crash site early this morning, and reported the largest section of the Learjet’s fuselage as partially submerged. It’s also been confirmed no survivors nor bodies in or around the crash site.

She couldn’t bear to read more. ‘Yes, but it’s a week since he left. What if someone else has rescued him? A boat perhaps . . . sailing past. Fishermen? I don’t know, someone . . . some how.  It’s possible, isn’t it?’

Oh god, she was clutching at straws, but she couldn’t give up on him. Heart pounding her stomach cramped, and bile rose in throat. The silence in the room became a deafening void and she hardly felt Giorgio ease the newspaper from her clutches. Beattie meantime wrapped arms around in a motherly way, and tears could not be held back.

As soon as Liza and Max entered they feared the worst, and Giorgio handed the paper to Liza. Max leaned over her shoulder, each absorbing the reality of what had happened, Liza the first to speak. ‘Oh Tara, Tara. I am so sorry.’

She simply couldn't respond. She needed time to think, to seek sanctuary in her own room. If she didn't she'd scream, every ounce of strength and self-restraint fast diminishing. What had happened, and why had he crashed? CNN would surely be reporting the latest on Rick’s crash. ‘Give me a minute or two, Giorgio, and then we’ll go through your proposal thoroughly.’ She turned to leave, addressed herself to Liza. ‘Can you go through those pointers I mentioned yesterday, and let Giorgio have the file to read through.'

Thankfully no one tried to dissuade her from leaving, and the room again fell silent. As soon as she stepped inside her room she cried her grief, sobbed her hurt and despaired the longing. She felt so empty and lost without him, but she had to know for sure that he wouldn't be coming back, and had to know why his plane had crashed. Was he too tired to fly that distance, after  . . .?  Oh God, why had he left in the way that he had?

She switched on the television, and there it was: Ricky's Learjet.


What have I done, what have I done? Oh God, that we should be so cruelly torn apart like this. I can't, simply can't go on without him.

--------

Of course, Tara does go on without him but events that follow take her (she thinks) to the brink of insanity, until the night of a masked ball (held in her honour) when truth becomes stranger than fiction. Suddenly feeling as though caught up in some bizarre fairytale she finds herself the heroine in a Beauty and the Beast scenario.  Oh how I love writing romance and putting heroes and heroines through emotional hell. ;)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Why I love Black Moments

I know a romance will end in a HEA, but I love the Black Moments, those pages when the heroine is certain she's lost her one true chance at happiness. I gasp and sigh, maybe even sniffle. I read faster no matter what the hour. I have to get to the happy ending. (Don't give me a happy ending and you'd better have a darn good reason why.)
I'm plotting my WIP right now. The Black Moment is high on my must-deliver list. Right before the end.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Welcome to Berengaria Brown

Berengaria is a multi-published author of erotic romance: contemporary, paranormal (ghosts, vampires and werewolves) and Regency-set historical. She loves to read all different kinds of romance so that is what she writes: one man/one woman; two women; two men; two men/one woman; three men…. Whatever the characters need for their very hot happily-ever-after, Berengaria makes sure they get it.

Here Berengaria tells us about her books, and also gives us a taste of China.

My first book was published in April 2010 and on 31 December my 20th book was released. I’ve sold eight others with 2011 release dates, including two in January. 2010 has been incredibly hectic because yes, like most other authors, I have a day job. One of the reasons for the high number of releases is because I write for several different publishing houses. The other reason is because I write short books, mostly novella length (up to approximately 22,000 words).

Several of my books mention China. My day job involves a lot of travel and I have loved my visits to China. The people are polite and helpful. They never push and shove to get to the head of the line, but wait patiently for their turn. I’m fascinated by Chinese history and the old architecture. Everything has meaning: the number of steps, the colors used, the shapes and sizes. For example: blue signifies heaven, green is for the people, and yellow is the emperor’s color. Under the emperor’s rule, people were never permitted to wear the color yellow, and even now it is not a color you see people wearing very often. Steps are usually an odd number because odd numbers are considered to be lucky, but never as many as nine because nine was the emperor’s number. The more steps there were up to a person’s house, the more important that person was.

Chinese Love Triad
Eden is a big, beautiful woman whose ex constantly ridiculed her because of her size. Now she's a free woman and headed to China for an extended vacation. While waiting for her flight she meets two handsome men, only to lose sight of them as the plane boards. Fortunately, one of them finds her while in-flight and they make plans to meet up later. Zeb and Bryce are best friends. When they meet Eden, both want her and hope she'll be amenable to dating them both. After a day of sightseeing the trio go back to the men's hotel room and Eden discovers a side of herself she's never before experienced.

Buy Link:
http://silverpublishing.info/index.php?main_page=product_book_info&cPath=0&products_id=37

Changing Cherry
Cherry gives up her life in America to live with Harry and Lee in China. Will she regret her decision or find happiness as well as great orgasms?
Cherry McNair has been invited to come and live in Beijing with Song Hao (Harry) and Li Chang (Lee), two of the one hundred million young men for whom there are no brides available in China.
The men are kind and caring, and at first Cherry is happy, learning to cook for them and settling into her new life. And the sex is fantastic, innovative, fulfilling.
But one day she realizes she has no job, no hobbies, no friends. She knows only a few words of Mandarin and the traffic frightens her. Should she return home or stay?

Excerpt:
Cherry McNair shook her shoulder-length dark brown hair off her face and pushed her luggage trolley out of the customs area and into the arrivals hall at the Beijing Capital International Airport, ready to start her new life. Well sort of ready.
I’m almost thirty years old. All my remaining possessions are in two suitcases. I’ve quit my job, left my country and my friends, and am about to start a whole new life in a new land where I don’t even speak the language, and be the “wife” of two men. Well, it’s what women have been doing for centuries after all. Although they probably didn’t have two husbands!
Lee and Harry had promised to meet her, and they’d all exchanged plenty of photographs in their emails, but she was still feeling rather dazed after the long flight and the huge size of the airport and worried about recognizing them in such a large crowd. They’re part-American, part-Chinese, but to me they look quite Chinese. Will they look like their photos? Lee’s hair sort of shaggy and a little bit longer, Harry’s skin a slightly darker brown?
Sheesh. I thought LAX was big, but having to catch a train to get to your luggage— Sheesh.
Nevertheless the crowd was very well behaved. People were talking and laughing, but they were standing in neat lines, waiting politely for others to pass. There was no pushing or shoving or screaming as there had been back at LAX. I’ve never travelled so far before, through so many time zones. It’s all so very big. But I like it. It’s friendly and welcoming and totally fascinating.
Lots of people were holding up signs with names on them.
And there they were, Lee and Harry, Lee holding a sign saying “Cherry” and Harry holding a bunch of bright yellow sunflowers.
Cherry pushed her trolley down the aisle then into the arrivals hall proper and stood to the side as Li Chang and Song Hao made their way through the crowds to meet her.
Both men bowed slightly then broke into smiles.
“Welcome to Beijing, Cherry,” said Harry.
“I hope your journey was not too tiring,” added Lee.
“The flight was smooth. I made all my connections without any worries. Everything went well. Thank you for coming to meet me,” replied Cherry rather disjointedly.
Harry handed her the flowers, bowing slightly again, as Lee took charge of her trolley.
“Come this way. I’ll go and get the car while Harry waits with you and the luggage.”
Cherry nodded, trying to pull herself out of her daze as her blue-gray eyes looked around at the spectacular building, filled with light from its high glass walls, with lots of interesting metal shapes in the structure and huge artworks dotted around the floor space. And flowers. Lots of flowers and plants in planter boxes.

Buy link: http://www.aspenmountainpress.com/new-releases/changing-cherry/prod_373.html

Berengaria’s Links
http://berengariasblog.blogspot.com/
http://berengariabrown.webs.com/
http://www.coffeetimeromance.com/board/showthread.php?p=135974#post135974

Thank you so much for being our Friday Friend today, Berengaria.  We wish you continued success with all your books!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Love Scene I Love Yous

For me, one of the best parts of any romance novel or romantic movie is the love scene. Loves scenes can be sweet, sexy, sultry, or downright carnal. What I think I like best about them is that they're the physical manifestation of the hero's and heroine's deepest feelings. In a romance, we know the hero and heroine only make love when they've already committed to one another in some way. They may not have reached the "I love you" stage yet, but we know it's coming. We know they care about one another and aren't just jumping into the sack for a quick fling. The sex means something. Even if the words haven't been spoken outloud yet, we know the "I love you" is a part of the scene.

I did some searching, and came across a site called Healinglovenotes.com. On it was a list of the top ten love love scenes.

10. Casino Royale
9. The Bodyguard
8. When Harry Met Sally
7. Ghost
6. Pirates of the Caribbean
5. Top Gun
4. Pretty Woman
3. Dirty Dancing
2. The Notebook
1. Titanic

I have to say I agree on most of them. Just remembering most of these scenes is causing my heart to go pitter-patter. What do you think? Are there any you'd take off? Any you'd add?

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

Debra
www.debrastjohnromance.com

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Show, Don't Tell

Saying the actual words ‘I love you’ can be easy. But I’m reminded of Eliza in ‘My Fair Lady’ singing ‘Words! Words! I’m so sick of words’ and then demanding that Freddy should ‘Show Me’
Don't talk of stars burning above;
If you're in love, Show me!
Tell me no dreams filled with desire.
If you're on fire, Show me!
Here we are together in the middle of the night!
Don't talk of spring! Just hold me tight!
Anyone who's ever been in love'll tell you that
This is no time for a chat!
Haven't your lips longed for my touch?
Don't say how much, Show me!


As writers, we’re often told we should ‘show, not tell’. That applies to our characters too. They also have to show each other just how much they love each other.

Small gestures can mean a lot – a bouquet of long-stemmed red roses, a tender glance that’s loaded with sensuality, reaching out to grasp the other’s hand, exchanging smiling glances when they hear again their ‘special’ song, him saying ‘I’ll do the dishes’ when she’s had a hard day at work.

There are also the larger actions. Here’s an excerpt from my recently accepted ‘Fragrance of Violets’ which I hope reveals the characters showing each other how much they love each other as well as saying it. Abbey and Jack meet again in Paris after breaking up because of Abbey’s lack of trust:

She looked round at him. “A lot has happened and I want to tell you about it but – but at the moment there’s just one thing I want to say. I love you, Jack, I love you with all my heart.” Jack’s grip on her hand tightened and she swallowed. “When we were on the cruise on the Seine, you told me you loved me, but I couldn’t say it to you. Something held me back. And now it’s probably too late but I wanted you to know.”
He leant forward to kiss her mouth gently, then gave her a small smile. “Ask me why I’m back here in Paris, Abbey.”
“Okay. Why are you here in Paris?”
“I was about to sign a contract for a year as a staff writer with the Paris city government.”
Abbey didn’t have to think about her response. “Then I’m going to stay here in Paris with you. If you still want me.”
He stared at her. “Here? For a year? But what about your career? What about the Rycroft filming?”
“If it means giving that up, then I’ll do it. You’re more important to me than any acting role. I want to be with you, more than anything else in the world.”
His hold on her hand tightened so much that it hurt, but she didn’t care.
“Think again about what I just said, Abbey. I said I was about to sign a contract. But I was at the airport when Louise called me.”
“What do you mean?”
“I was going home. Back to London, back to Rusthwaite, back to wherever you were. I sat here last night – over there, where we sat together – and knew I’d tried to live without you and maybe I could live without you, but my life wouldn’t be complete, and I didn’t want that. So this morning I refused the contract and I was on my way home. I was going to win your trust, even if it took me the rest of my life.”

If you’re in love, Show me!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Ways to say I love you

The ways to say I love you.


How do I love thee? Wrote Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “let me count the ways” and just as the poet does this, so we know there are many ways to say I love you, or should that be many ways to show how you love someone. She loves her love “freely” “purely” “I love thee with passion” “from the ends of beings.” This is a woman who is saying how she loves him in words that are as effective as “I love you”

You can show your love by making great sacrifices. “Sacrificing your happiness for the happiness of the one you love is by far, the truest type of love.” (Oscar Wilde).

This is what my heroine in Dangerous Enchantment does initially; she sacrifices everything to protect the boy entrusted to her care. This shows her love for him. She never has to say I love you” he knows that by the things she does.

When Robert Burns wrote of his love, he said she was like “a red red rose”. That’s newly sprung in June,”
How wonderful to be told that you are loved that much. What could be more perfect than a red rose dripping with dew…sigh.

And John Donne so wants to stay abed with his love that he wishes the sun gone. He is angry that the sun comes in creeping through the curtains, meaning that he will have to part from his love. “Busy old fool, unruly sun, why dost thou thus through windows and curtains call upon us…”


But perhaps the question this week is not quite as esoteric as it might seem. How do we writers show love? It can be tedious to write “I love you” and how many of us keep the reader’s waiting for the words to be spoken. How does the reader know that the hero or heroine is in love? We can describe their inner feelings, how they feel when they see their heart’s desire. The things they do, the softening of the alpha male. The kindness to the heroine that he, unexpectedly shows. And we can show it by our protagonist’s pain when one or the other seems to be attracted to someone else! Not jealousy but a pain of loss.

With Valentine’s Day having occurred this week all minds are on love, but isn’t it a bit trivialized by this commercialization? It does irritate me when peple say “love yu” and you know they can’t possibly. Why do they say that, it would be better to say “Like you!” Or is that me being terribly mean because I know I won’t get any flowers or cards this year? Perhaps. I am only human after all.

Oh but wait…yes I did receive some flowers, from an ex-student of mine so there
Doesn’t that tell you something? It might not be romantic love but it shows love of a kind and a love that is precious too.


Ways to say, “I love you”? Nothing sounds better than those three words if you are in love, and as Francine pointed out, how much sexier they sound in a foreign language.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Three extra ways to say “I Love You”.




Je t’aime  (Fr) 
Te amo (Span)
Ti amo  (It).

So I’m cheating, but the beauty of writing romance novels is that one can have a French, Spanish, Italian or other foreign hero. And what better than to slip in a little love talk and convey mood of foreign lilt in the hero’s voice. It’s incredibly easy to ensure interpretation for reader comfort, bearing in mind a reader may not be fluent in particular chosen lingo. 

Example: In a flurry of white shirt, pink dress, and scattered underwear, their bodies came together in that wonderful sensation of woman touching man. No fear enveloped, only love as she gripped his shoulders drawing him down to her. 'Max,' she whispered, trembling in the thrill of renewed intimacy. 'I love you.'
        'Te amo. Me haces muy feliz,' he murmured, his breath desert hot across her breast.
        'Oh Max, I shall have to learn Spanish if I'm to understand you in moments like this.'
        'I said I love you, and that you make me happy.'
        'Do I?'
        His tongue languidly toyed a nipple until he murmured, 'Soy el hombre de más suerte del mundo,' before his lips once again brushed hers.
        'Mmm,' she sighed, 'what did you say?'
       'I'm the luckiest man in the world.'

OK, cheat over. Love can be said in so many ways, not just in words, in actions too. Like sneaking up from behind and wrapping arms around waist hugging tight, nuzzling hair and kissing head or neck. Intimacy of touch is wonderful, yet intimacy of eyes across a crowded room can often mean more to lovers than words could ever convey.     

Nearly forgot: special Valentine's Day Eye-Candy!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Before I say 'I love you'

Before a character can say 'I love you,' he or she has to have thought about being in love. Perhaps she's overcoming inner demons, or he's knocking down external obstacles. These scence are our build-up to our HEA's. Here are three excerpts from my WIP, a paranormal time travel.


The play rehearsal scene where teacher-director Jeremy uses Angel to demonstrate what he wants from his students.

Jeremy stepped close behind her and whispered her lines while running his hands slowly up and down the sides of her body.
She breathed in his words, certain, without knowing why, that she would remember them.
What she wanted to memorize was his touch. She’d never been caressed before. Father Dominic had feared even to pat her hand, thanks to Granny Roswyn’s threats. Roswyn’s touch was invariably rough—or worse.
Feeling Jeremy’s strength against her back, she let down her guard. Her skin quivered in response to the strokes of his palms. His fingertips pressed into her thighs.
She felt like a love potion had been put in her drink, for she wanted to claim Jeremy in front of Belina and all the pretty young girls who sighed at the thought of kissing him, of being kissed by him.
She wanted to shout that he had chosen her. He’d carried her upstairs last night. Only innocent inexperience had prevented her from knowing what to do.
“Are you ready?” he murmured.
“Yes,” she sighed.
“The night is changing me,” he said loudly.
“As nights will do,” she recited. “They say no night is ever repeated.”
“And yet I yearn to repeat every night with you.” He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her back against him. “Oh, Isolde,” he moaned. “What heavenly star has condemned me to burn for the bride of my king?”
“I am sure tis not the stars, nor the glow of the moon on the sea.”
“Nor the breeze, nor the hour. Drink, Isolde. Drain the flask and drown this ardor.”
“This king of yours, this Mark. What has he that you have not? Tristan, I feel a strange heat. Nay, I am on fire. Feel my heart.” She pressed Jeremy’s hand to her heaving bosom.
“Take me, Tristan, before this flame consumes me. I would know love before I die.”
“And if my love saves you?”
“Then this mad passion will rule the rest of my days.”
“I am yours, Isolde, and you are mine. The world can sort out the rest.” He lowered his lips to hers and froze in an actor’s kiss. “We will finish this tonight, ma douce,” he whispered.
Angel’s heart pounded. The words, ‘I would know love before I die,’ were not in the script. She knew he would add them.

Angel has been transported to the past. She is with Jeremy, who in the past is the Brehon Jermande, the Brehon, who knows her as Angelique. They’ve stolen away from the castle and are searching for a way to send her back to the present. He’s just performed a marriage for the daughter of a friendly innkeeper.

Jermande shook off his robe. He wasn’t practiced in the fancy Italian court dances, with their complicated glissades and hops, but he could do an old-fashioned jig.
When the number ended, Angelique was watching him.
He returned Matisse to Yann’s (the newlyweds) embrace and, with a bow, invited Angelique to honor him for the line tap. “A dance can reveal whether a lover is sound of limb,” he said as a gleeman tuned his fiddle to join the ensemble.
“And a kiss discloses one’s attention to dental hygiene.” She sank in the opening curtsey.
“Know you this fling?” He put his hands on his waist and executed the men’s set of toe-heel steps.
“After mass on Saturday nights, the old women would get drunk and dance. I learned.” Her feet answered with a flourish and, following the women’s line, she skipped to the next partner in line.
He pushed past her new partner and waited impatiently for her to stand across from him again. “Where?” he demanded. “When?”
“At Granny Roswyn’s. When I was a child.” She turned her back and danced in step with the other women.
With a start, he realized that he was standing still. It was impossible to concentrate when she was plaguing him.
He didn’t want to dance. He wanted to chase her into the bushes and kiss her until she moaned his name. He wanted to be a man, not a priest or a judge or a teacher, just a man with a wife who filled his days with tales of other worlds, and his nights with endless love.
“Try to keep up, Jermande,” she taunted.
He whirled about and stalked away, leaving her and her games. He flung his robe around his shoulders and stormed into the shadows. He heard her run after him calling his name. He stretched his stride and slipped into the forest. He needed a few moments of peace.
She’d been a nuisance since they left the castle. Since Denvel was murdered. Since he’d called her back from the dead.
He pushed faster through the woods, ever more certain of his purpose. He didn’t need her, or anyone. He was a Brehon, one of a handful left in this time. He had sacred vows to keep and essential duties to perform.
She was a silly, timid, spoiled little noble girl. She’d not venture far from the safety of the firelight.
She screamed.



This scene occurs after Jermande has stormed away from the wedding dance. The assassin sent to retrieve Angelique has nearly killed him. He is in a non-physical state created by his magic sword, the genelankou. Angel realizes now that her past and present loves are the same man, and she finally accepts that she does want love. His love. In either time.

Jermande’s sun-kissed locks and chiseled visage reappeared. Garbed in a flowing gold-trimmed, snow-white robe, he looked hale and whole—until another wave of dissolution rolled down from the genelankou.
She couldn’t let him leave her. Frantic, she grabbed his hand and pulled him to his feet. Blue-white light flowed up her arm and bathed her in its hypnotic warmth. Impossibly, Jeremy’s image coalesced out of the light.
She blinked.
He was still there, the man who claimed that she was destined to be his, standing next Jermande like a shadowy double. He reached out and took her other hand. She looked up into her lovers’ eyes. Who was the present? What was past or future?
Her arms began to shimmer. Overhead the genelankou spit out bursts of fractured light and whined at an ear-splitting pitch. A thunderous explosion knocked her back. Everything went black.
Her memories and feelings fused with Angelique’s. She was sixteen; she was thirty. She understood calculus and curtseying. She ran on whim and reason. Time was meaningless—what she wanted was love.



Friday, February 11, 2011

Welcome to Danielle Thorne

Danielle Thorne freelanced for online and print magazines from 1998 through 2001, adding reviewing and editing to her resume. She has published poetry, short fiction and novels. Danielle is the author of sweet romantic adventure books, both historical and contemporary.

Other work has appeared with Espresso Fiction, Every Day Fiction, Arts and Prose Magazine, Mississippi Crow, The Nantahala Review, StorySouth, Bookideas, The Mid-West Review, and more. She won an Honorable Mention in Writer’s Digest’s 2006 annual writing competition and won the 2008 Awe-Struck Short Novel Contest. In 2009, Danielle won Classic Romance Revival's Work in Progress Contest, which resulted in another contract for her fiction.

Danielle currently writes from south of Atlanta, Georgia. She was the 2009-2010 Co-Chair for the New Voices Competition for young writers, is active with online author groups such as Classic Romance Revival and EPIC and moderates for The Sweetest Romance Authors at the Coffee Time Romance boards. She has four sons with her husband, Rob. Together they enjoy travel and the outdoors.

Danielle is talking to us today about heroines:

The Change
No, I’m not referring to hot flashes. I’m talking about the moment when a heroine realizes she has room to grow. Perhaps she’s misjudged the hero, or learned that she can handle a gun or roomful of snarky snobs. There comes in every story, a moment when the heroine comes to a life-changing corner in her journey. We read for it. We wait for it. We live for it. Why? Because we can identify. Even if we haven’t gone through the trauma or joy of these moments, we know we might someday.

I think Elizabeth Bennet said it best when she observed, “Until this moment, I never knew myself.” If that doesn’t put a knot in your throat, you’ve never screwed up a relationship or a major chapter of your life. Falling in love with a heroine is a journey. We love to read about women we either want to be, or would like to be friends with. Even those we don’t care for initially, we want and almost need for them to change.

A great heroine doesn’t have to be beautiful or have special powers. All we need is for her to conquer, and if that means conquering herself, then all the better. By living through a heroine we can relate to, we may just find the courage to become more than we ever knew we could.

In my novel, THE PRIVATEER, the heroine, Kate O'Connell, is convinced she can live happily forever with her doddering, permissive father. Men aren't necessary for her future, and falling in love brings pain. Not only is Kate disconcerted by a strong attraction to the enigmatic privateer, Julius Bertrand, she finds she has to face loss and hardship in the brutal West Indies and survive. This she manages to do, perhaps not with flying colors, but her determination sees her through.

Writing THE PRIVATEER gave me something to smile about, but it many ways it meant so much more. I took one more baby step forward in conquering myself. It taught me to speak up, to grow a thicker skin, and to try, try again. I couldn’t have done that without a heroine leading the way.

So here’s to your favorite heroine. And here’s to you, simply for having the courage to understand that we all have the room and the capacity to change.

~Danielle Thorne

Thank you so much for visiting us at Heroines with Hearts, Danielle!

Visit Danielle and her other books at:
Website: http://www.daniellethorne.com/
Blog: http://www.thebalancedwriter.blogspot.com/

THE PRIVATEER
Desert Breeze Publishing

The reign of piracy is over in the Caribbean, or so it’s believed, until diamonds are discovered in Brazil. Despite the cover-up, Captain Julius Bertrand begins to hear whispers. The Spanish guardacostas are dumping log books, and a new French pirate is on the prowl. Distracted by an avaricious woman he could never love and the beautiful Kate O’Connell who doesn’t need him, he tries to untangle the web of mysterious cargo someone in the New World wants kept secret. When Bertrand’s pirating past returns with the explosive force of a sweeping broadside, he finds he must sacrifice everything his respectable life has brought him, in order to save what matters most.

Amazon Link:
http://www.amazon.com/The-Privateer-ebook/dp/B004HO5I98/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=digital-text&qid=1294029129&sr=8-5

Publisher's Link:
http://stores.desertbreezepublishing.com/-strse-135/Danielle-Thorne-The-Privateer/Detail.bok

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sensory Description

Well, ladies, you've done such a great job of covering this topic all week, I'm not sure what there's left for me to say. So, I thought I'd share a few examples from my work where I've managed to work the senses into a paragraph or two. I don't think I've managed to get all five senses every time, but I think most times I've been able to get three out of the five! For me, taste is the most difficult one to include.



From THIS TIME FOR ALWAYS:
As Sharlie input the requisition list, she was distracted by Logan's presence. His spicy aftershave enveloped her in intoxicating waves. The husky drawl of his voice when he asked a question skittered over her nerves. His masculinity overwhelmed her tiny office.





From WILD WEDDING WEEKEND:
Ignoring the disgruntled expressions of the people around them, Abby rested her head against Noah's shoulder and wrapped her arms around his waist, loving the feel of his arms around her. She inhaled. The sexy scent of his aftershave brought back vivid memories of his skin against hers.




From THIS CAN'T BE LOVE:
Trees lined the banks of the river, providing a lush pathway as Jessica and Zach made their way along in the gently moving current. Birds circled overhead, calling softly to one antoher. A slight breeze ruffled her ponytail and provided a measure of relief from the warmth of the sunshine pouring down.


Until next time,

Happy Reading!

Debra
www.debrastjohnromance.com

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Sixth Sense

I’ll let you into a secret. At school, we had one English lesson each week called ‘Prose Writing’ – and I hated it! I didn’t want to write descriptions of ‘A Summer Meadow’ or ‘A Storm at Sea’ using the five senses (or using picturesque adjectives or similes or metaphors, or whatever the task was that particular week). I wanted to write about PEOPLE – what they said, what they did and, even more importantly, how they felt.

Maybe I should have tried harder in those Prose Writing lessons, because I still struggle with descriptive writing – and with using the five senses. I don’t consciously think about using all the senses when I’m writing. If they’re there, it’s instinctive, rather than planned.

For me, there’s a sixth sense which is far more important. Not a sixth sense in relation to hunches or ESP, however. My ‘sixth’ sense is emotion. The heroine’s emotion when the hero kisses her is far more important to me than what his lips taste like or the smell of his aftershave. Her inner reaction to his anger or his sweet-talk matters more than what his voice actually sounds like or what music is playing in the background.

The reader knows what the senses are. She (I say this because romance readers are usually women!) has probably held a man’s hand, smelt his aftershave, heard his laughter, seen his frown or smile, and tasted his lips. I can leave a lot of that to my readers’ imaginations, I don’t need to spell it out for them with adjectives or similes. What I want is for them to FEEL the character’s response to all these things and that’s where I concentrate my energies.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Writing with Senses in Play





Of all the senses I do enjoy “touch” I think this is so important to the romantic novel. Describing how the touch of someone’s skin feels can be truly romantic. That first tremulous touch too, has lots of potential for the romantic author.

Smell also can be very evocative. In my next novel A Sprig of Broom” it is the smell of her gaolers that make Cecily feel ill. Whereas the scent of her husband, who sometimes smells of horse, she find delightful.
I am fond of sandalwood, so often my hero will use a sandalwood scented shaving cream, if I am getting excited about it then I know it’s right.

Of course love is in the eye of the beholder, so sight is important too. The first look can be enticing but an attraction to the physical can be fraught with danger too. Infatuation can be awakened, hot and potent, but like a candle flame can easily blow out.

Sound – ah yes, I must hear my hero’s voice; it has to deep and warm. I hate to be personal but I think the one thing that stops a certain very handsome footballer, from being a real dreamboat is his “little girl voice” so off putting to me!

The sound of silence can be sensual too, whether real or imagined.

Extract from Eden’s Child published by Whiskey Creek Press

"They reached the creek and the bridge and rested for a moment. The lights of Mandorah in the distance seemed an intrusion. Then there was a sudden stillness as if the earth held its breath. The frogs and crickets were momentarily silenced. Words came to her

In such a night as this, When the sweet wind did gently kiss, And did they make no noise in such a night the trees (William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night)

The words made her mad and reckless, pulsing the blood through her veins like a river in flood. There was a demanding fluttering at her stomach, an ache throbbing at her very core. She reached out and her fingers tumbled down the soft suede of Nevis’ jacket till they found his hand. They looped through his rigid fingers until the full heat of her hand melted his own into movement. They stood, their hands fastened together linked in innocent intimacy.

He began to let his hand make love to hers, rubbing and pushing, probing her wrist, teasing her palm. She was practically breathless from the sensuality of such a touch, had to close her eyes and all the while her mind spilled out hot images of how that hand would feel if it probed and stroked her flesh.

He’ll have to kiss me…he can’t touch me like this and not want to."

Taste too can have a place – the taste of his or her skin but the taste of food
enjoyed can be interesting too. For instance my heroine in The Substitute Bride tastes an orange for the first time and finds it a wonderful experience.

The power of the senses are there for us to use, food for thought eh?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Writing with Senses in Play!

I'm cheating today because I'm down with a barking cough and can't muster the wherewithall to think up a post relating to usage of all the senses in one's writing! So I've snatched a snippet from latest historical WIP. Please bear with me as this is a first draft, but it does incorporate the three senses sight, touch and smell.   Brief: Elizabeth Mountjoy is riding away after calling at Loxton House, her beloved away on business and she a little disheartened by his absence; her mind in reflective mood.         

       But then  . . . then Captain Thomas Thornton had arrived. His duty to escort the Prince to the local garrison for a review of troops. Her affections for the prince had faded fast in mere fleeting moment of eye contact with the young captain of horse. Much to her delight, that same night Captain Thornton had returned with the prince, and their eyes had met for a second time.
       A smile crept to her face. A sensual tremble rippled down her spine, for the vision of dark smouldering brown eyes and oh so charming smile leapt instant to mind. She had not doubted the young captain had charmed every lady ever encountered, and had not cared one dab of ladies rouge if he had. Lucky for her the Prince left Bristol the next day, Captain Thornton did not, and not a tear did she shed during the prince’ departure.
       Her horse stumbled drawing her from reverie; but momentary her heart nonetheless jolted in sympathy for her mount. Within two strides her mount regained its former pace. She assumed a stone had caused the animal severe discomfort, for she knew it had a loose shoe and she in part to blame for its pained state. Had she taken more care on her journey to Loxton House and not galloped the poor animal over rough ground it would still be sound of foot.
       For the horse’ sake she must look more to the path ahead, for had she done so she might have spied a bedraggled looking wretch of a man walking beside a rangy chestnut. How had she not seen the pair?
       Horse and man were now little distant, and wary of a hooded stranger she clawed the Lady Anna’s cloak more tightly about herself. A waft of lavender reminded her of the very close alliance between the Lady Anna and Thomas, and although in her heart she knew Anna to be deeply in love with his lordship, she could not help but wonder if Thomas harboured feelings for Anna that went far beyond friendship.     
       Walking?  The poor man ahead seemed sudden bent double, faltering in step, his horse patient and tolerant in restraint as though aware of its master’s plight.
       She urged her mount forward at the trot, for the man had not so much as raised his eyes to look ahead.
       Sure in mind the man no threat, she hailed him.
       On seeing his face her heart lurched, and bile rose in throat.
       She reined in, leapt from her mount and ran to his aid.
       ‘Oh dear God, what has happened to you?’
       He gripped her shoulder, his reply barely audible. ‘Beaten, and damn well robbed.’
       ‘Oh Thomas, your face, your poor face.’ She wanted to hug him, soothe his pain, for he looked dreadful. ‘Your bruises are all black and blue, and encrusted blood on the cut above your eye implies this happened days ago.’
       He drew breath, pain evident. ‘My face will heal. I fear the damage is here,’ he said, hand to lower chest. ‘A bone or two broken, methinks.’
       ‘Who did this to you?’
      ‘Damn vagabonds had lain a trap with a bit of a girl left lying on the highway. I stopped to assist her, and they came at me before I could draw sword or pistol. They tried to make off with Saxon here, as well as the gold coin I carried. He’s a cantankerous beast at best, and unaccustomed to harsh hands he resisted and caught one of the vagabonds a good clout about the head. That’s when they made off leaving me for dead or dying, neither of which bothered them.’
      ‘And you could not regain saddle?’
      ‘I tried when senses regained enough, the pain too severe.’ A noticeable wince streaked his features in first real attempt to straighten up a little. ‘Ten miles I’ve walked, and not another soul have I seen.’      
      ‘Might you mount with help?’              
      ‘I think not, and it will take more than another mile of walking to kill this man.’
      She could not help but feel heartened by the smile that swept to his face, and the way he said, ‘A kiss will do me well and perchance aid in quickened step.’
      Pure pleasure enveloped in obliging his wish, his arm about her shoulder as it should be, as it had been in better circumstance of snatched moments of bliss. She so wanted to hug him, but his tenderised state forbade it. Just to feel him leaning against her, to hear his voice, and to look into eyes caused inner excitement no other man had achieved nor would: ever.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Love smells like ....

Caraway rye bread just out of the oven.
Sage and apple turkey stuffing topped with gravy.
Fireworks.
New car.
Just-mowed alfalfa hay.
Crystal clear raspberry honey.
Sweet pea blossoms.
Genuine applause for your child.
A newborn's smile (not promped by gas).
New evening shoes that don't pinch your little toes.
Scented candles.
English Leather aftershave.
Him.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Welcome to Lily Harlem

Lily Harlem is an award winning author who lives in the UK with a workaholic hunk and a crazy ginger cat. Several years ago she swapped working on a hospital ward for sitting at a desk overlooking farmland. Now she allows her imagination to run free and wild, revelling in using the written word as an outlet for her creativity. In her spare time she loves to paint, horse ride and take trips to the movies to immerse herself in yet more fiction. You can find Lily’s stories at Ellora’s Cave, Total-E-Bound and Xcite as well as in numerous US and UK anthologies.

Creative writing - erotic romance by Lily Harlem
Thanks so much for having me at ‘Heroines with Hearts’ it’s great to be here. I’m going to chat just for a moment about my writing and then share some thoughts and tips which I hope will be of interest and will work in any genre.

For the last few years I’ve been happily immersed in the world of writing erotic romance. People often shy away from the word erotic – and so they should if they are under 18! Pure erotica, as a simple description, is a graphic story about a person’s journey of sexual discovery. Erotic romance is your typical person-meets-person, they fall in love, have hot sex – which the reader gets to hear all about - then live happily ever, or at least happy for now. I’ve settled into writing ‘contemporary’ erotic romance, my couple, nearly always heterosexual, are in the present day, they don’t have fangs or howl at a full moon, or conjure up fantasy figures from the past to whisk them off their feet, no, I write about the first, dizzy rush of passion becoming forever in the world in which I live. I read other stuff, paranormal, historical, but contemporary is my preference for writing. Take a look at my website www.lilyharlem.weebly.com to get a feel for my books and see what I have coming soon – again only if you are over 18, whilst there’s nothing explicit on my site, some of the links will take you to erotically romantic excerpts. So, with the term erotic out of the way, lets get down to the creative part. On the very first day of my creative writing course at university, the lecturer scrawled on the board with a flamboyant flourish – “Willing suspension of disbelief.” I was hooked (excuse the pun!) not only by what this meant, but the fact that I’d been doing it every day, for years and years, without even knowing it had a name. Whenever I read a book, watched a movie, went to see a play, I was willing suspending my disbelief, allowing myself to become immersed in a story I knew was fiction, I was investing in characters who I was well aware weren’t real.

So if readers understand that the plot and the characters are all a figment of the author’s imagination does this mean that as writers we can have loose endings or feeble characters? – of course not! Readers want to be fooled but they’re not daft. They want to believe in their disbelief. Which means a writer has to be skilled in planning his/her plot and prepared to go back over it with obsessive scrutiny. He/she should know her characters so well they lift off the page. The things they say and do should flow and shouldn’t be jarring – for example, if Ted is always relaxed and easy going and suddenly starts stomping around the reader will want to know why. If the author doesn’t give a reason – say, his pet hamster just died – then a niggle will be playing in the back of their mind, they’ll be wondering what is happening to Ted. If this is never explained the book becomes an unsatisfactory read. It ‘is’ of course a great way to introduce a new part of the plot. Perhaps Ted is having an affair and his mistress is putting pressure on him to leave his wife. He’s stomping around but snaps to his wife that he ‘is okay’. Now his actions are not matching his words, a very useful tool in creative writing, it hints that there’s an undercurrent of unease, or a mystery, or sexual tension. Now your reader is reading between the lines and your character is becoming three dimensional.

When I started writing romance, and especially the sexy elements of the stories, I soon learned what sort of phrases worked and what didn’t, what situations were unbearably clichéd. I did this mainly by reading the genre but also with the use of a crit partner who told me kindly but firmly when something was not a romantic expression but a toe-curlingly embarrassing example of purple prose. Many publishers of erotica and erotic romance and romance have lists of the big NO NO words and expressions – I won’t give details of my Ellora’s Cave ones here though because they’re rude!! But whatever you write it is well worth having someone you trust take a look at it before you submit. Try and be open-minded about feedback and don’t be too precious about every single word you’ve written. Sometimes it just has to go!

Something which I learned very early on in any genre of creative writing is the importance of using all the senses. I’m sure you’ve all talked about that a lot here at ‘Heroines with Hearts’. Touch and sight are the two senses which most people gravitate to, but sound, smell and taste have an important role to play. It is well worth using them in all manner of situations and try mixing and matching. For example – “As she stepped into the silent back room of the cathedral the scent of incense laced her tongue.” Three senses are covered in one sentence, sound, smell and taste. Close your eyes and imagine yourself in the environment your character is in, work through your own senses and then just write it down, whatever you feel, smell, taste etc. But if the sense thing still doesn’t come, go back through a story and deliberately add it in. Sometimes it can be as simple as describing the scent of your heroine’s hair, pick a nice fruity shampoo if that suits her personality, or for him, choose a sexy spice for his aftershave, say cinnamon or sandalwood. These little points can really make a story come to life but like eye colour, you only need to mention it once or twice in a whole novel.

Here are some more quick tips I use when I write, maybe I’m a bit kooky but hey, it works for me -
When writing dialogue just go for it, let it flow out of your fingers as fast as you would speak. Don’t even think about speech marks and punctuation, or if he’s scratching his head and she’s licking her lips, you can add all that in afterwards – dialogue moves the story forward and if you can get it flowing naturally then you’re onto a winner.

Don’t get bogged down with adverbs, eg. he groaned ‘loudly’, she panted ‘heavily’, it’s considered much less lazy to write ‘his groans were loud in her ear’ or ‘her heavy pants filled the small space’. There’s usually a way to describe your scene better if you circle around the adverb and it will make the story meatier.

Let a story brew in your head. Have the idea, jot it down if you need to, and then sit quietly and play out the scenes like watching a film in your imagination. It will give you a clear picture of what you want to achieve in your writing and help you with the tiny details.

If the house is quiet make the most of the peace and get busy getting those words down! You can iron and dust and cook with everyone around chattering and demanding help with homework and lifts to friends and clubs. Writing, for me at least, requires silence, so silence has become a very valuable commodity in my life.

Incubate the final product. When it’s written tuck it aside, for a few days, longer if you can, then go back to it. I can guarantee you’ll spot silly mistakes, inconsistencies or simply find better word choices to slot in. There’s nothing worse than sending a manuscript off and then on a re-read seeing stupid errors. In fact now, when something has gone I refuse to look at it again unless it’s with an editor.

I hope that some of my ramblings have been of use or at the very least interesting. If you are keen to find out more about writing erotic romance then the Erotic Readers and Writers Association is a great resource for hot romance and erotica and also lists open calls for submissions and contests. www.erotica-readers.com

But most of all, above and beyond publishing and contests, enjoy writing and never, ever, give up believing and embracing your skills and talent in whatever genre you’ve settled in.
Warmly,
Lily Harlem
Winner of the 2009 Love Honey Award for Erotic Fiction

Thank you very much for being with us today, Lily - and for giving us so much food for thought! We wish you every success with your books.

Here is some information about Lily’s books:
She had a new release out on 27th Jan at Ellora’s Cave called Mirror Music - the second novella in a set of three about the London rock and roll scene, the first being Mattress Music and the third Ménage a Music (no release date on that one yet).

Mattress Music – first in series out last November –
http://www.jasminejade.com/p-8777-mattress-music.aspx
Lately, Nina’s fun weekend hook-ups have been more ho-hum than hot damn! It doesn’t help that she has three flatmates and is forced to play loud music to mask the sounds of her lovemaking. Talk about distracting! Of course, there’s another reason Nina’s less than satisfied these days…she’s just having a hard time admitting it.
It’s a good thing she’s met Ian, then. Not content to be a weekend hook-up, Ian is set on giving Nina what she’s been missing while making her admit what she needs. His talented fingers—and other body parts—are up to the task. But Ian’s not admitting a few things himself. Turns out his fingers can do more than make Nina’s body sing.
When she discovers his secret, it’s time for both of them to face the music.

Mirror Music – new release out 27 Jan 2011-
http://www.jasminejade.com/ps-9057-50-mirror-music.aspx
As Robbie Harding belts out hit song Jenny to a packed Wembley Stadium, my heart tears, my mind fudges and my insides heat to a lusty, pulsing boiling point.
Why me more than the other 90,000 screaming fans?
Because I’m Jenny—he’s singing about me.
The guy is sex on legs with a voice to match and has starred in all my hot dreams since the day boys became interesting. For three precious years, it was more than hot dreams. Turns out he wants me back in his life and his bed. How can I resist?
So with lots of naked, sweaty and downright dirty time to make up for, I wield my backstage pass, hunt him down and refuse to be star-struck by the boy next door. Seems Robbie agrees, as he insists on tuning in to my needs and rediscovering our rhythm before we even reach a bedroom.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Under the Influence

I have to say off the top of my head I can't think of a particular writer who influenced me to become a romance author. Sure, I've always dreamed of having shelves full of my titles like Sandra Brown, Jayne Ann Krentz, and Nora Roberts have of theirs, but initially it wasn't one writer who influenced me.

Rather, it was a line of books. While my friends in high school were busy keeping up with Sweet Valley High, I was devouring four new Harlequin American novels each month. A little thrill of excitement always danced through me when the box would arrive on my doorstep each month. Those silver-toned books were so beautiful to me. They didn't, of course, last the entire month. I usually raced through them within a week of their arrival, eager to read about seemingly ill-suited heroes and heroines who would overcome impossible odds to be together.

Truth be told, for a high schooler, they were quite racy. In fact, it's probably a good thing my mom didn't discover romance reading until I was an adult. She would have more than likely freaked out to know exactly what her teenaged daughter was reading.

But early on they started a spark inside of me and the urge to someday write 'one of those' books. I even attempted some writing in high school. Sad, sad attempts, but a learning process to be sure.

That spark and that urge are still there. I still want to tell stories about sexy heroes and spunky heroines who overcome emotional obstacles to be together and find a true love that lasts a lifetime. I've been fortunate over the past few years to have some of those stories published. Hopefully, there will be more in the future. Who knows, maybe a shelf full of them. And maybe someday I can influence others to become writers. Wouldn't that be fun?

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

Debra
www.debrastjohnromance.com

THIS CAN'T BE LOVE: Love Romance Cafe's Best of 2010 Contemporary Winner

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Who's influenced me?


One of my favourite books when I was a child was by Pamela Brown who, as a teenager, wrote a book called ‘The Swish of the Curtain’ about some stage-struck children who formed their own amateur theatre company. Another was Ruby Ferguson whose ‘Jill’ books (about Jill and her pony adventures) enthralled me – I desperately wanted a pony at the time! One of my early stories (actually it was novel-length), was an amalgam of theatre and ponies! I wrote it when I was about 11 or 12, called it ‘We Wanted a Theatre’ and I loved writing it.

Looking back, I’d probably say that a major influence in my life was not a writer but a young history teacher at my High School. She introduced me to ‘real’ history when I was about 13, not just boring facts written on the blackboard (yes, we still had those in my time) and to authors like Anya Seton and also Josephine Tey’s ‘Daughter of Time’ about Richard III. She also passed on her passion for drama and the theatre. History became my profession and drama/theatre, particularly musical theatre, became one of my major interests (hence my novel ‘His Leading Lady’ which is set in London’s West End theatre world)

I have devoured books all my life. I tend to get a ‘craze’ on a particular author at different times and read everything of his/hers that I can find. I don’t think, though, that any author has particularly ‘influenced’ me – except that Sharon Kay Penman’s wonderful historical novels have put me off ever writing a historical! Her research is amazing – meticulous and accurate (I can vouch for that!), and she has the ability to get inside the skin of so many characters from medieval British history. I could never hope to emulate her, so I shy away from historical novels or even historical settings, despite my love of history.

The one time I WAS influenced by a writer was when I met Harlequin best-seller Linda Lael Miller on a Civil War battlefields trip in 2008. I confess I hadn’t heard of her before that, but during the week we spent touring the battlefields in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania, I got to know her. In between visiting the sites, we started to talk about writing. At the time, I had been writing fan-fiction for about a year and getting good feed-back. Linda said, “Why not try writing a novel again? If you enjoy writing, you might as well get paid something for doing it!’ I came home, dug out a couple of old manuscripts from about 20+ years ago that I’d never finished. ‘His Leading Lady’, one of those, is due for release next June. So thank you, Linda!