Thursday, December 22, 2011

H is for Hazards

Like Paula mentioned in her post yesterday, most romance readers expect a 'happily ever after' (or at least a happy ending) to their books. But before that occurs, all sorts of things can, and usually do, happen to the characters along the way, making the reader wonder how in the world the HEA can ever occur.

The big resolve, of course, is usually the emotional conflict. In a suspense, an external conflict must be solved as well. Something that often gets in the hero and heroine's ways are the hazards they face as the story progresses.

But suppose we turn those hazards around and use them as a way to get the hero and heroine together, rather than keep them apart?

Having the hero play the...well, for lack of a better word...hero, is one way to get the heroine to begin to trust him. If she can trust him with her life...sometimes that helps lead her to realize she can trust him with her heart as well.

I've used a 'hazard' in several of my books.

In one it was as simple as the heroine witnessing another character's injury, which brought to mind bad memories for her. It was in the hero's arms where she found comfort and rest from her fears, and reminders of the past love they'd once shared, just waiting to be rediscovered.

In another my heroine's canoe tips over and it is the hero who pulls her from the water, saving her life. This allows her to see she can trust him with her body, and get beyond intimacy issues she has, which eventually leads to her trusting him with her heart.

In another, my heroine twists her ankle, and it is the hero's care and comfort that allow her to see past the 'fun-loving' persona he puts on to the kind and compassionate man beneath: a man she can fall in love with.

Hazards befall our characters all the time. Using them can be one way to establish intimacy and trust between your hero and heroine.

Until next time,

Happy Reading and Merry Christmas!

Debra
www.debrastjohnromance.com

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Ever After?


Most (all?) romance publishers insist that a romance must have a happy ending. Most romance readers read romance as a kind of escapism, knowing that all will end happily for the main characters, which sadly may not happen in ‘real’ life.

It’s interesting to note that ‘romance’ in the grand tradition, like Tristan and Isolde, Romeo & Juliet, Wuthering Heights, Gone With the Wind, Love Story, often didn’t have happy endings. It’s the tragedy in these stories which make them memorable.

However, women (and yes, it is usually women) pick up a paperback or download an e-book romance, and expect it to have a happy ending.

But is a happy ending the same as a ‘happy ever after’ ending?



Happy-ever-after conjures up an image of the hero and heroine living on Cloud Nine for the rest of their live, with a perfect marriage, a perfect house and perfect children. I don’t think romance readers necessarily want or visualise this.


Romance authors don’t write ‘fairy-tales’. They don’t wave a magic wand so that Cinderella and Prince Charming, after just one evening at a Palace Ball, are reunited and live ‘happily-ever-after’. I never did hold out much hope for that couple’s future together anyway!

Instead, readers of romance want the hero and heroine to work through their problems and conflicts and in the process learn more about themselves and about each other. They want a convincing and satisfying resolution of all those problems, because they feel the hero and heroine have worked hard to deserve it.

Maybe the romance author's job is to bring the hero and heroine to a place where the potential for happiness is restored. This is the happy ending.

They are on their way to creating a life together in which their new understanding of each other will help them resolve future problems. They’re not going to live ‘happily-ever-after’ (i.e. have perfect, easy lives from now on), but, at the ‘happy ending’ of the story, they  are better equipped to develop a lasting and mutually satisfying relationship because of the struggles they've won and the life lessons they've learned.

PS I shall be away waving to Mickey Mouse in Florida when you read this, so apologies in advance for not being able to reply to any comments.

I wish a very Merry Christmas to all who celebrate this festival, and a Happy Holiday to all who don’t. See you all again in the New Year!


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Heroes and the Writers Who Create Them


What is your idea of the perfect man? Is he the strong, silent type, like John Wayne? Is he tuned into his emotions? Is he tall, short, fat, thin? Well-built or well-intentioned? What does he do for a living? What does he do for fun? How organized is he? What does he look like? Is he an arm-chair sports enthusiast or an athlete? What music does he listen to? What are his religious and political views? What’s his relationship with his mother?

If this sounds like a questionnaire on a dating website, it’s not. But it should. Because just as it’s important for someone to know everything about the man they’re interested in, it’s equally important for the writer to know everything about her hero. And as a female writer, that knowledge is essential, because we can’t walk in their shoes.

Most romance writers are women. We can easily relate to our heroines. Sometimes we create them in our own image; other times in the image of a friend or family member. Even if we create them out of the blue, I think women are easy for women to write. Men, less so. We can create them based on our favorite movie star, or our boyfriends, husbands, fathers or sons. But we’re not them. And therefore it’s harder to make them as realistic as our heroines.

In order to make them real, we have to know everything about them. That’s why the questions at the start of this post sound like something we’d ask on a first or second date. The more information we have about our heroes, the more well-rounded they are and the better our readers can relate to them.

Those 3-D heroes also make writing our stories easier. We don’t have to wonder what they’d do next or why they behaved as they did? We don’t have to wonder what they’d think of something (although our heroine might). We know them well enough to have all the answers. So the next time your story flounders and you don’t know what to do next, interview your hero. See where his story takes you.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Ho Ho Hopelessness

This week I'm celebrating hopelessness. You know--the paragraphs in a story when the heroine loses everything she's worked for. The precise point where she believes she's a complete failure. This is the black moment, when all hope is lost.
Without this critical plot point, there can be no redemption, no summoning of strength as the main character regroups and overcomes, no happy ending. This is when the reader KNOWS the time invested in your story has been worth it.
The word count devoted to the point of hopelessness varies on the story. If the hero is clinging to a scraggly root protruding from the side of a cliff, and the bad-guy sheriff repeatedly whacks the hero's hand with a 2X4, the hero has a few seconds to prepare to die. Then the sheriff stops to savor his impending triumph. He bends down with the 2X4 extended and gloats. The hero summons his strength, yanks on the board, and pulls the sheriff over for a justice-prevails swan dive.
In a contemporary romance, the heroine has lost her job. (She's already lost her man.) She reflects as she packs her belongings into her beat-up pickup--she was a fool to think the cash-strapped city would grant a permanent home to her non-profit community garden when the mega-corporation was willing to pay millions of do-good dollars for the site. Her charity boss knows she slept with the mayor and believes she'll violate any ethics rule to get what she wants. What they don't know is how much she loves Mr. Mayor, despite the insults she hurled at the showdown city council meeting.
She did things wrong. She'll move to another big city, find another rundown neighborhood and start a new garden project. Start by picking up broken bottles and used needles. She's rebounding from defeat and is ready to try again, and her inner manifesto on how to be stronger and wiser.
She goes back into her apartment for the last box. As she drives past the verdant garden, people of all ages from the neighborhood are blocking the street brandishing homemade 'Save our Garden,' and 'We have the Vote' signs. TV news crews are everywhere. Someone recognizes her and urges her out of her truck. The mayor (who is up for re-election) is in a stand-off with the community. She's pushed to the fore.

The music can't swell in a paperback. Words have to convey abject loss so we can get to the triumph. The HEA needs hopelessness.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Welcome Deborah Riley-Magnus




Please welcome Deborah Riley-Magus! I'm impressed with the depth of her practical knowledge about marketing. Read on....

A LOVE AFFAIR WITH … PUBLICITY!

Ahhhh romance! How wonderful! There’s nothing like a beautifully written love story brought to life in words only an author can conjure. The muse sings, the characters crackle on the page and the magic is palpable. Nothing can ruin such a story, right?

Well, yes, something can … the lack of sales can destroy not only the story but the writer. If no one buys your book, what’s the point of writing another? *sigh*

Hi, I’m Deb Riley-Magnus and I’m thrilled to be here at Heroines with Hearts blog. Ana asked me to answer the standard questions – where my ideas and insights come from, what a reader will gain from my book, and where to get it. I’ll be happy to answer those questions … but I’m even more excited about passing on a few useable tips for authors looking for ways to improve their book sales.

First, I should explain that my book, Finding Author Success: Discovering and Uncovering the Marketing Power Within Your Manuscript is obviously a non-ficton, but I’m really a fiction writer. Well … a fiction writer with over twenty years of background in marketing, promotions and publicity. It was my first career (I had another one in there as a culinary chef – long, yummy story), and throughout my life and professional experiences, marketing promotions and publicity have been my most powerful tools for success.

When I began the process of writing and seeking publication, I did what all writers do, got myself a twitter and facebook account, began blogging and watched what the writing world was doing. I was shocked at how minimal a majority of the marketing strategies were among the authors chit-chattering there. What to me was second nature, seemed foreign to authors, and as I blogged, loading my entries with as much value added information as I could, I found myself becoming The Author Success Coach. Clients and random authors asked questions that led me to teaching online and live workshops and eventually writing Finding Author Success.

Marketing, promotions and publicity are very basic techniques but what really got me excited was how important it was to carefully tweak these skills to serve all the various directions an author can go with their book. The publishing industry has been changing so much and so quickly, authors needed to understand that their sales success is solidly in their own hands. Big publishing houses no longer do the major marketing and promotion for their authors, and small independents simply can’t afford it. Authors? Well, most of us are pretty poor, so what can an author do with simple marketing, promotions and publicity skills to shift the world in their favor? BE CREATIVE!

In the book I explain the simple techniques, then take things a lot further, helping an author understand that no matter how these cut backs in support from publishers might affect you, no matter how your published or self-published, no matter your genre or target audience, there is a fantastic creative way to approach the market that WILL help you and your book stand apart! We’re not talking about paying professionals to do things for you either, we’re talking about easy to implement, inventive ways to burst onto the market.

Okay, so that’s my background. I love taking super inventive approaches to everything, (maybe someday I’ll be invited to come back and talk about my fiction). Now, I’d like to talk about a powerful way to take your book from just another romance, to THAT ROMANCE everyone’s talking about. It has to do with not only reaching out and talking to additional prospective reader audiences … but connecting with them in ways other authors may not be exploring.

Publicity. Publicity is the act or device designed to attract public interest, specifically information with news value as a means of gaining public attention or support.

Well, obviously there’s little newsworthy about another romance on the shelves, but is there something newsworthy inside your book that can spark the interest of a few more book buyers you haven’t approached yet? Let’s explore …

Let’s imagine that your book is a historic romance about a woman who falls in love with a sea captain. Let’s imagine that her father is the lighthouse keeper and the lighthouse is elemental to the story – perhaps she watched for him there during the day, maybe she watches the sea at night from the rocky shores, following the lighthouse beam as it crosses the water.

Okay. How would you take a publicity direction with this book? A few suggestions include:

• Offering a portion of the proceeds from the book sales to a lighthouse organization that refurbishes the historic structures
• Organizing a lighthouse walking tour of a seaside city, reading a small excerpt at each location, all proceeds to support lighthouse maintenance in that city
• Creating a charity for some needy group (homeless shelters, military wives and children support, organizations to protect dunes or seaside wildlife) and give it a lighthouse title or logo

Alright, let’s say your romance is of the paranormal nature. Perhaps you have a handsome werewolf somewhere in there. You could:
• Offer a portion of your book sales to wolf or wildlife protection organizations
• The ASPCA
• Sponsor a contest, “submit your dog’s picture and tell us about his personality and the one that most inspires the next werewolf character for my book will win you fill in the blank”

When planning your publicity approach to the market, think it through carefully. Make sure it connects with your book, make sure you let the charity know you’re supporting them, and make sure EVERYONE knows that you’re supporting a cause. Announce it on your website, your facebook page, on twitter and if possible, make sure it’s printed on the back cover of your book! E-books? No problem, place your charity support information right up front on the first few pages. Send out press releases to your local papers, online papers and newsletters related to the charity.

Keep this simple and just dig deep into your book. Is there a cancer survivor there? Does your story address a relevant issue, like child abuse? Is your heroine a teacher? Support school program funding. Is she a dentist or dental assistant? Support dental care for homeless children. Uncover the connections and you will uncover a larger audience because trust me … if someone supports a charity and they discover that your book also supports that charity, it’s a win/win!

Oh, and by the way …
A portion of “Finding Author Success” sales is donated to the American Literacy Council. The American Literacy Council’s main purpose is to convey information on new solutions, innovative technologies, and tools for engaging more boldly in the battle for literacy.

Questions? Ideas? I’m here to share! And HEY EVERYONE … I’d like to offer a FREE 10 Tools for Author Success downloadable handbook to all blog guests! Just go to http://theauthorsuccesscoach.com/ and hit the button for your FREE downloadable PDF!

If you’d like to win a copy of Finding Author Success, just comment here at the blog, ask questions or just say you’re interested and Ana will have a drawing for the winner.


ABOUT THE BOOK
Finding Author Success: Discovering and Uncovering the Marketing Power Within Your Manuscript.

Even the odds for authors with this one-of-a-kind guide to marketing success! Deborah Riley-Magnus takes tried and true marketing, publicity and promotional strategies and tailors them for the unique needs of today’s author. Every element is outlined and explained for easy implementation. You will learn:

• How to develop a functional and strong book business plan
• The power of developing effective, targeted platforms
• The basics of publicity, marketing and promotion
• How cross marketing works and why it’s magic for an author
• How to personalize it all to your book

Finding Author Success will take away the mystery about gaining sales and increasing exposure for your book and you as a professional author.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Deborah Riley-Magnus is an author and an Author Success Coach. She has a twenty-seven year professional background in marketing, advertising and public relations as a writer for print, television and radio. She writes fiction in several genres as well as non-fiction. She’s lived on both the east and west coast of the United States and has traveled the country widely. She is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and just returned after living in Los Angeles, California for several years.

WHERE DEBORAH RILEY-MAGNUS CAN BE FOUND
I blog - http://rileymagnus.wordpress.com/
I teach - http://theauthorsuccesscoach.com/
I fiction – http://coldincalifornia.com
I write - http://deborahriley-magnus.com/
I suck - http://vampireexplored.wordpress.com/
I play - http://whispersofthemuse.org/
I tweet – http://twitter.com/rileymagnus
I facebook - http://www.facebook.com/deborah.rileymagnus
I should be sooo tired!

BOOK PURCHASE LINKS
Finding Author Success:
Discovering and Uncovering the Marketing Power Within Your Manuscript.
Amazon Kindle
http://www.amazon.com/Finding-Author-Success-Discovering-ebook/dp/B0061NW5BC/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1320173201&sr=1-3

Amazon Paper
http://www.amazon.com/Finding-Author-Success-Deborah-Riley-Magnus/dp/1926760662/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1320173201&sr=1-4

B&N Paper and ebook
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/finding-author-success-deborah-riley-magnus/1106661344?ean=9781926760667&itm=1&usri=finding%2bauthors%2bsuccess

APPLE
http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/finding-author-success/id473774819?mt=11&ign-mpt=uo%3D4

SONY
http://ebookstore.sony.com/ebook/deborah-riley-magnus/finding-author-success/_/R-400000000000000525040

G is for GMC

When I first started writing romance, (My first VERY lame attempts were in High School...I still shudder.) I had no idea there was somewhat of a formula to it. Readers expect certain things from a romance. For example, the happily ever after is absolutely required.

However, getting your hero and heroine there isn't just all sunshine, happiness, romance, and love. Your characters have to have goals. More so, they have to have goals that are in conflict with each other's. And they have to have a reasonable and not contrived motivation for those goals.

Yeesh. Who knew?

In a nutshell; Goal is what your character wants. Motivation is why he/she wants it. And the conflict is why it's going to be a problem in conjunction with the other character(s).

Most writers are probably familiar with Debra Dixon's GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict: The Building Blocks of Good Fiction . (If you're not, you should be!) It's definitely a must for any beginning writer.

Even though I'm not much of a plotter (usually), I always do a simple GMC chart for my hero and heroine before I start a book. It really helps me get some insight into them and figure out where her story, his story, and their story is heading. I tend to figure out the happily ever after part even before writing chapter one, but it's nailing down what happens in the middle where thinking in terms of GMC comes in handy.

If you Google GMC (or Goal Motivation Conflict) you'll get a plethora of worksheets to download or use to help you walk through the steps of giving your characters the goals, motivation, and conflict that will bring your story to life.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

Debra
www.debrastjohnromance.com
Now available: A Christmas to Remember

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Goals



‘They’ tell you that writers should set goals but I’ll start by saying that I don’t usually set specific goals for myself.

I’m aware that many writers decide on word-count or page-count goals - it might be 500 or it might be 5,000 words a day, or it might be a certain number of pages.

What, I wonder, happens when they don’t achieve their goal? Do they feel guilty or frustrated? Do they feel pressured to achieve that magic number of words or pages? Is their writing dictated by the goal rather than by what they’re actually writing? In other words, does the goal become more important than the story? And, maybe the most important point, are they concentrating more on quantity than on quality?

Writing 5,000 words a day means you could complete a 75,000 word novel in 15 days. Even 1,000 words a day would complete it in just over a couple of months. Nice idea! But I can’t work like that. Although I took part in NaNo and completed the ‘goal’ of 50,000 words in a month, I was very aware of how the quality of my writing deteriorated. That story will need a complete re-write.

My ‘goal’ is simply to write the best story I can. Okay, maybe that’s not a ‘measurable’ goal as such - except that I think I CAN measure it. I know when I’ve achieved what I want to achieve, whether it's an emotional experience, a build-up of suspense/tension, or simply a word picture of a scene. I know, too, when something doesn’t ring true and then I work at it until I’m satisfied with it. Sometimes I can write 1,000 words in a day; sometimes I’ll agonise over just 50 words. I once read: For a writer, ‘that’ll do’ is not an option. Maybe my goal is never to say ‘That’ll do.’

I’ll be interested to hear whether you set goals and, if so, what kind of goals?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

G is For Gender


I’m going to add to Ana’s post from yesterday, but I’m going to take it in a slightly different direction. While she focused on paring down her use of gestures—and it’s definitely something writers should do as they’re editing—I’m going to focus on body language to represent (or misrepresent) gender.

First discussed in the 60s (by my great-uncle, by the way), body language is familiar to everyone. Turn on any police drama and you can usually hear some detective talking about body language, micro-facial expressions, or some non-verbal cue that gives away an emotion. As writers, those non-verbal cues are a great way for us to show our characters emotions. It’s much more powerful to see our heroine cry than to be told that she’s sad.

But what about using gestures to show the gender of the character? The gestures we, as writers, use for our characters can emphasize their masculinity or femininity. For example, the following gestures,  are traditionally “masculine”:

·         Tense jaw
·         Clenched jaw
·         Hitting something with one’s fists
·         A bobbing Adam’s apple
·         Swagger

These gestures are traditionally “female”:

·         Pout
·         Wrinkled nose
·         Wide eyes
·         A tongue pressed between one’s lips
·         Breathiness

But what if you want to make a point or emphasize a particular character trait that is outside of the traditional gender role? Can a female character make a “masculine” gesture and still remain true to her character? For example, maybe you have a female character with a very physical job, such as working on a farm, or a soldier. In that case, I could easily see her hitting something with her fists. For a female character that is extremely feminine, there might be a psychological reason for her to react in a “masculine” way. The same goes for male characters. You might want to emphasize their vulnerability or their “beta” status by giving them a typically “female” gesture.

What do you think?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

G is for gestures

I've been ruthlessly trimming body language from my WIP. This, along with excising the word 'that,' are two good ways to trim a too-high word count.
With the best of intentions, I wrote gestures and mannerisms. My characters grinned, shrugged, grimaced, nodded, and sighed. They eyed or raised their eyebrows, or both. They shook their heads, clenched their fists, balled their fists. Their hearts palpitated before sinking into the pits of their stomachs, a physical impossibility unless they'd just been gored by a berserk rhinoceros.
I realized my body language descriptions often echoed the dialogue: She shook her head. "No."
I'm now adding a few back in. Dialogue usually takes precedence over body language, but a well described gesture can serve a valuable function.
It can serve as a pause for introducing a new train of thought.
It can heighten tension by describing viscerally how love / pain / indecision / fear / agony / waiting / suspecting feels.
It adds drama when one character reads the body language of another and seeing a lie. Or the truth.
Gestures. I'm learning to use them wisely.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

F is for Future

One of the biggest perks about writing/reading romance is the Happily Ever After ending. No matter how much angst our characters go through, we know in the end, even when it seems impossible, everything will be overcome and true love will win out. Our hero and heroine get to walk into the sunset and begin their life together.

After the book closes, however, I kind of want to know more. Oh, I don't want to know if the hero and heroine face any more trials and tribulations, I just want a peek into their lives after the HEA. I want to check in to make sure they're still happy as life goes on. I want to see into the future.

This is where a series comes in handy. In fact, this was part of my motivation for writing one. When I wrote my first book (This Time for Always), I included a secondary cast of characters to be used later on in books of their own. Zach got his story in This Can't Be Love, and I'm in the process of revising Jake's story: "This Feels Like Home".

And while it was definitely fun giving Zach and Jake their own stories, it was just as much fun to peek into my earlier characters' lives in each subsequent story. In Always, (spoilers here!) Logan and Sharlie are unable to have children, but they mention possibly adopting. In Love, I was able to show them in the future with their first adopted child. In Love, Jessica declares her love for Zach, but isn't quite ready to get married. In "Home", I included Zach and Jessica's wedding in one scene. (And we also see Logan and Sharlie with a second child.)

In real life, I don't want to know what the future holds, but for my characters, it's fun to get to peek and see where they wind up after the Happily Ever After.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

Debra
www.debrastjohnromance.com
A Christmas to Remember - available now.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Forgiveness

I had something else planned for the ‘F’ word today, but last night I received the final version of the cover of my February release from Whiskey Creek Press, 'Fragrance of Violets'. So I thought I'd let you have the first view of it.

I'm thrilled to bits with it. I think it's fantastic and fabulous!


The title comes from a quotation by Mark Twain: Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.

Fragrance of Violets’ is a story of two people who need to forgive each other and deal with other issues in their lives where forgiveness is also necessary.

Abbey Seton distrusts men, especially Jack Tremayne who destroyed their friendship when they were teenagers.  Ten years later, they meet again.  Can they put the past behind them?

Abbey has to forgive not only Jack, but also her father who deserted his family when she was young.  Jack holds himself responsible for his fiancĂ©e’s death.  He’s also hiding another secret which threatens the fragile resumption of his relationship with Abbey.

Will Abbey ever forgive him when she finds out the truth?


It occurs to me that the theme of forgiveness, in one form or other, appears frequently in romance novels. So often our characters hurt (deliberately or unwittingly), misjudge, distrust or believe badly of each other. They then have to learn how to put things right, forgive each other, and in the process learn more about themselves and their faults and foibles, so that they don’t make the same mistakes again.

I wonder just how many romances have the words ‘I’m sorry, I was wrong’ somewhere in them? And, because all romances ended happily ever after, of course, all is eventually forgiven and forgotten.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Frequency, Frequency, Frequency


Last week, for our “E” entries, Paula talked about editing. One of the things to look for in your manuscript when editing is the frequency with which you use, or overuse words. My critique partner is great at noticing when I use the same word several times in the same series of paragraphs or within the same scene. For a creative person, I really should remember to use my thesaurus more! Overusing words is boring, both for the reader and the writer. The more varied your vocabulary, the more interesting and specific is your writing, and the better able the reader is to disappear into your story.

But using a thesaurus is not the only thing you need to vary your vocabulary. Several years ago, I submitted my manuscript to an editor who was extremely helpful in her response. She rejected my manuscript, but not before providing me a long email with suggestions of how to improve my writing and examples of words to avoid, types of writing to change and resources that I might find helpful. While her opinion is subjective, her advice was so helpful, and so appreciated, that I use it as a “final check” before sending my work off to editors now.

Frequent use of the words “then,” “that,” “nearly.” “seem” and “which” makes writing sound passive. After I finish writing and editing, I do a search for those words and try to get rid of them to make the writing active. The use of adverbs or adjectives ending in “-ly” or “-ing” is also a passive way of writing. Again, I do a search and try to switch them to “-ed.”

Using the same type of phrase too often slows down the pacing of your story. I often do this in dialogue. For example:

"The kids seem to be having fun together. It’s always so awkward when the parents like each other and the kids can’t stand to be in the same room together."


Lily laughed. "Yeah, play dates can be tough. They’re almost as bad as dating. It’s embarrassing when you have to ask some strange mom if their kid wants to play with yours." She watched as Ally paused in her running to wait for Adam to catch up. "Ally loves having a little boy to take care of. She’s in love with babies and little kids."


"I noticed. Usually when Emily has a play date, I have to keep Adam entertained and out of her hair, but the three of them seem to really be having fun together." Kim looked at Lily, deciding whether or not to ask her something. Her blue eyes narrowed and taking a deep breath, she resolutely plunged ahead. "So, you mentioned dating. Are you?"


Try to vary how people speak. Although in real life we may say similar types of things, we shouldn’t do it in writing—be creative!

Ultimately, that manuscript was published, by a different publishing house. But A Heart of Little Faith and Skin Deep, and any other manuscripts that I write are, and will be, stronger due to the advice that this very nice and helpful editor provided. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

F is for Flashback

One way to reveal a character's past is through flashbacks. Flashbacks do interrupt the flow of a story, sometimes testing the patience of an editor or reader. Good writers use flashbacks wisely.
Donald Maas says to write the flashback "in dynamic form: Structure it as an action section, complete with failure." In other words, show the encounter exactly as it took place in the past.
Here's how he recommends writing flashbacks: A present-time story cue sets up the flashback. For example, the heroine sees someone who reminds her of a past encounter. She notices his eyes, or hears a voice she'd hoped never to hear again.
Maas recommends writing two 'had' sentences to take the reader into the past. Then write the flashback in simple past tense terms. Use two 'had' sentences to signal the end of the flashback sequence and pick up the present story.
"Keep flashbacks as brief as possible; trim it to its most pertinent action. If it must run on for more than a couple of pages, split it into two or more flashbacks, bringing us back to the present story in between."
Most importantly, insert the flashback in a relatively quiet moment of the story. Interrupting a dramatic or high action scene with a flashback is not advisable.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Welcome Friday Friend Kellie Kamryn

We're so thrilled to have the multi-talented Kellie Kamryn with us here today. So, without further ado...



Tell us about yourself.
Where do I even begin? I was a gymnastics instructor for 25 years, but have always written for myself. I self-published a collection of poetry a few years ago, and decided to tackle my dream of writing a romance novel. I did, but it sucked! Thankfully, I’ve gotten better since then as evidenced by my 3 releases this past fall.

Tell us about Pleasure Island.
Pleasure Island was the first new piece I wrote after I separated from my husband. It’s about a woman finding herself again after divorce. She goes on vacation and ends up not where she thought she’d be! However, she ends up finding so much more and it’s my wish for those who have lost love to have faith that they will find it again.

What got you interested in writing?
I’ve always kept journals as a kid with short stories, poetry and life observations. My mom always read to us as kids so books have always been a big part of my life. They still are! My kids have hundreds of books, we love visiting the book store and library, and of course I have my own private collection – book shelf and on my ereader!

How long have you been writing?
To be published, I’d say the last five years or so I’ve taken it very seriously. I figured it’s now or never! I don’t want to have any regrets that I didn’t try. So far, so good!

What inspired you to write your first book?
A “what if” idea. That’s where all my stories come from – just this question what if this happened and there was this person… and a story just kind of blossoms from there.

What comes first, plot or characters?
HA! I am definitely not a plotter! I’ve tried that but it frustrated me to no end because as I wrote the story, I never stuck to it. My characters would come alive and give me something totally different and usually better than what I originally came up with. I tend to develop characters and dialogue between them. I love human interaction, so that’s kind of where my stories start and then I create the scenario around that.

How do you come up with the titles for your books?
My titles on the first try are always lame! LOL But I’m kind of weird that I can’t not have a title when I start. At some point before I write “The End” something about the story makes me say, “Yeah – that’s it!” So far none of my publishers have changed any of my titles. One of my erotic pieces (a comedy actually) Monkeys, Sex and Other Birthday Surprises had a lame title. I changed it to that one, and at first the publisher suggested we change it because it was kind of long and the whole monkey thing might make people think sex with animals, LOL. I would have changed it, but a few other people thought the title was different and catchy, and that it made them laugh. That’s what I wanted. So far, readers have said that the title made them curious enough to buy it. Even better are the rave reviews I’m getting on that quirky piece.

What is the hardest part of writing?
Not really the writing itself, but find the TIME to write. I’m a busy mom to 4 kids and the promotion for books (plus having 3 released within a month) is more than I thought it would be. I have so many stories that want to come out, but finding time to write them all, plus edit, etc. is a struggle. I just try to take a breather and remember there is more to my life. When I’m meant to tell another story, I will. (Doesn’t mean I don’t have notebooks full of notes on stories I want to write!)

Do you have an interesting writing quirk?
Probably that I have to have a title to begin a story. I hate seeing “Document” at the top of my screen. Even if it’s lame, I feel like I’ve got the beginning of something. I know – I’m weird…

What have you learned from being a published author that you wish you knew before you were published?
How much you have to promote your own work! I’m not complaining, because I have the opportunity to live my dream and I’m loving that people are buying my books. But it was a bit of a shock to realize how much time it could take up. It’s a good thing I love talking to people! (As you can see from some of my long-winded answers, I never shut up, LOL)

What’s the best writing advice you ever received/read?
A few years ago, and I tell this story all the time, I picked up one of Eloisa James’ books at the library. Absolutely loved it. It was at a time when I’d written my 1st book but wasn’t getting anywhere in the industry because I didn’t know much about it. I emailed her, gushed about her books and then dared to ask her if she had any advice for newbie writers. She wrote back and told me about Romance Writers of America, how I shouldn’t give up because romance is the biggest selling genre in the world, etc. I was in awe that she’d take the time to give me that small piece of advice and encouragement. Recently, I met her again and had the opportunity to tell her this story and how much it’s helped me. Well, voila – 3 books out so far and more in the future!

Any advice for new writers?
I say this all the time – DON’T GIVE UP. KEEP LEARNING. If you want to do this bad enough, find a way.

Coming early next year are the first books in your “Love and Balance” series. I love the concept of involving gymnastics (a big part of your life) into the stories. Can you tell us a little about that?
I haven’t read any gymnastics romances and I wanted to tap into something that would be different, so I created a series around the sport I’ve been involved in for most of my life. Tom Welling of Smallville fame, came to me in a dream and whispered the story idea to me. Jensen Ackles also visited while I slept and whispered another idea to me. They both sort of star in books 1 & 3, LOL Book 2’s hero was inspired by someone I saw at a school assembly and I went, “Who is that?” And then his character was born, albeit with a different personality and profession.
Book 1 – Rebound – An award-winning choreographer must face the only man she’s ever loved then lost when they are teamed up to work together at a gymnastics camp for Olympic hopefuls.
Book 2 – The Perfect Score - The new head coach has barely gotten her beams in alignment when she’s threatened with a lawsuit by a father for refusing to train his brat of a daughter.
These books are different than my erotic novellas. I mean, there is “gymnast sex”, so if you want to know if gymnasts make better lovers, you’ll have to read them to find out! But I’d label them more contemporary romance, rather than erotic. Who knows? My editor might want me to change that!

What made you decide to write a series?
I wrote all 3 books within about six months. As I wrote the first one, the idea came to me for the second, and when I wrote the second, the idea came for the third. I have plans for a fourth, but that’ll be a while. All books are stand alone, but I took a character from the previous one and created their own unique story based on issues that could come up in a gymnastics setting.

What is one question you wish an interviewer would ask you?
I don’t know! How tall are you? LOL People hear my voice and think I’m so much taller than I am, but I’m quite tiny. I’m small but tough!

Where can we find you and your books?
www.kelliekamryn.com for latest releases and buy links. On the site are links for Twitter and Facebook!
www.romancedivine.com for GOING FOR GOLD – erotic novella involving a cheerleader coach and a gymnastics coach after a staff Christmas party.
www.secretcravingspublishing.com for MONKEYS, SEX AND OTHER BIRTHDAY SURPRISES - an erotic comedy
PLEASURE ISLAND http://www.wilderroses.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=848



Kellie, it's been so great having you here today! Thanks for answering all of our questions so we could get to know you a little bit better! (And can I say I love the title: "Monkeys, Sex and Other Birthday Surprises"? I'm so glad that one was a keeper!)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

E is for Euphemisms and Emotion

Okay...I'm cheating a little here and taking two E words at once. However, since I'm the last poster of the week, I won't be taking a word away from anyone else, and the two words are related...at least in the case of this post.

Let's start with euphemisms.

It's no secret that I'm a 'spicy' writer. I prefer to read books where the bedroom door is left wide open, so naturally I write books with the bedroom door wide open. Sometimes there's not even a door: my hero and heroine might be out by the creek, or in the back of a truck, or on a beach. I like detailed love scenes. However, I don't like my love scene to be a science anatomy lesson. This pulls me right out of the moment. Thus, the euphemism. It's amazing how many ways there are to refer to a man's "stuff" without using a technical term. I think the most technical I've ever gotten is using "erection" (Hey, another E word!), and even that I wasn't sure about, but it wound up working okay in the context of the scene. Euphemisms can be used with women, too. Sometimes it's definitely an exercise in creativity to come up with ones I haven't used before, because, believe me, the thesaurus is no use in this department!

So, all in all, I have this part of the love scene down.

What seems to be trickier for me is getting the emotional aspect. (See? I told you the words tied together.) We had 'hot night' at my RWA meeting the other night (A night specifically set aside for critiquing love scenes.) and one of the comments made about the scene I brought was there was a lot of stage direction, but the feelings needed to be deeper. I really am aware of this, but I'm not sure how to fix it.

For me, it's much easier to come up with the euphemism words and phrases than it is to come up with the emotional phrases during a love scene. Because after all, there's that whole, 'show don't tell' thing to deal with, too.

Anybody willing to share any phrases they've used to show emotion in their stories? 'Cause to be honest, I'm stumped.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

Debra
www.debrastjohnromance.com