Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Feeling the Pain

I’m a big fan of the tortured hero. I don’t just want my heroine to suffer; my hero has to suffer equally or more than my heroine for me to be drawn into the story. That’s true both for my own writing and for other books that I read. Maybe it’s because if both hero and heroine suffer, they both have a stronger connection to the relationship—they’ve both had to help each other overcome something to get to their HEA.

Emotional cues are more than just crying to show sadness and yelling to show anger. There are physical reactions that we all experience when in the throes of emotional turmoil. Accurately depicting those cues can draw the reader in and make them feel what the hero and heroine feel. In the course of my writing, I’ve found a number of sites online that have been helpful in showing emotional reactions. Unfortunately, when I switched computers, I somehow lost those sites. Luckily, my friends at RWA had some that they use. Some great resources are:

The Nonverbal Dictionary of Gestures, Signs & Body Language Cues (http://center-for-nonverbal-studies.org/6101.html). Click on one of the emotions, such as anger, and see photos and get descriptions of how different body parts react. It’s a great tool to use to avoid cliché expressions.

The Emotion Thesaurus http://thebookshelfmuse.blogspot.com/2008/01/introducing-thesaurus-thursdays.html. This is a blog that lets you click on whatever emotion you need and provides a list of physical ways to describe them. Again, a terrific tool!

Craft by Joanna Waugh http://www.joannawaugh.com/Craft.html Again, a listing of physical traits.

There are many others out there, I’m sure. What do you use?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Characters faced with emotional Hell!

I strive for emotional stress within my romantic novels. I put my characters through hell. I have had one or two almost suicidal, but if emotional impact is your want from a romance then pushing one's characters to the limits of enduring true pain of love is a must. Plus, grief of misunderstandings is a great way to stretch reader participation in the sympathy stakes! 

I'm cruel, I know, but I love it!    

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Rachet up the emotional stress

Emotional stress is manna for a romance. The HEA is sweet only if the hero and heroine have had to suffer for it.
Each character has his or her unique response to emotional stress, just like everyone we know. Some yell. Others cry.
Believable development and consistency of reaction is what I strive for.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Cover, Your First Thousand Words

Thanks so much to Heroines with Hearts for having me here today!

A picture is worth how many words? (All together now ☺)

The cover is the reader’s first impression of your book. Its purpose is to catch her attention, and promises the kind of story inside. It gives a sense of what the book is about—not the whole story, as too many elements muddle the cover.
Covers happen in different ways. Here’s my journey for Biting Me Softly, art by the incomparable Natalie Winters.

First I submitted an art request through my editor. The request is a publisher-designed form that asks things like title, genre, time period and setting. It also asks for descriptions of the hero and heroine, a short summary of the story, and any author ideas, my chance to have input. Using a stock photography site, I found a perfect picture for hero Logan and included the link. My editor reviewed my request and forwarded it with her additions and changes to Natalie.

Natalie combined elements of my story (heroine Liese is a computer geek so the 010101 wallpaper is computer binary code) and my series (the bats flying up from the bottom left suggest vampire) with a truly spectacular pose of model Sam Bond to create a draft cover called the cover comp.

I loved the cover comp the minute I saw it. Although my publisher lets me give feedback, I didn’t have any changes—the cover is a significant investment in time and money and though sometimes changes are necessary (as when another cover uses the same pose) it’s important to have as much defined upfront as possible.
After my editor and I approved the art, it went to the publisher. The publisher has to consider things like fit with other releasing titles and overall impact, and knows what reaches readers best.

In the end, it’s all about reaching the reader with your story. The cover is simply your first 1000-word step.

Biting Me Softly is in bookstores around the US, and I’m celebrating by having a giveaway! Just comment on this post to enter. For a second chance, let me know the city or bookstore where you’ve seen Softly! Through May 29, 2011. --Adults only please. Winner will receive choice of Biting Me Softly in paperback (if U.S. or Canada) or one of Bite My Fire, Biting Nixie, The Bite of Silence or Biting Me Softly in ebook.

Biting Me Softly
He’s a candy box of sex appeal wrapped with a golden bow. She’s on a diet.

Blood, sex, violence. Blood, okay, but computer geek Liese Schmetterling had enough S&V when her cheating ex fired her. Now security expert—and lip-smacking gorgeous—Logan Steel saunters into her Blood Center, setting fire to her libido. And threatening her job.

Visions of pink slips dancing in her head, Liese tries to push Logan away without touching his jutting pecs…or ridged abs. Or petting the Vesuvius in his jeans. He’s hiding something, but it doesn’t seem to matter when his smiles stun her, his kisses crank her to broiling and his bites rocket her to heaven. Fangy bites which, if she weren’t grounded in science, would make her think ampire-Vay.

Centuries old and tragedy-scarred, Logan’s mission is to fortify the Blood Center’s electronic defenses against his nemesis, the leader of a rogue vampire gang. He’s ready for battle but not for Liese, who slips under his skin, laughs at his awful puns, charges beside him into dark, scary places—and tastes like his true love.
No matter how often Logan declares his love, Liese can’t bring herself to trust him. But when his archenemy comes after her, not trusting him may cost her life…

Warning: contains explicit vampire sex involving absurdly large male equipment (hey, they’re monsters), unbelievable stamina (just how long can he stay underwater in a hot tub?), hide-your-eyes violence and horrendously bad puns. And, just when you think it can’t get any worse, a computer geekette trying to play Mata Hari.

Buy at Samhain Publishing

Check In Stock at Barnes and Noble

Hugs from Hughes! Bestselling author Mary Hughes is a computer consultant, professional musician, and writer. At various points in her life she has taught Taekwondo, worked in the insurance industry, and studied religion. She is intensely interested in the origins of the universe. She has a wonderful husband (though happily-ever-after takes a lot of hard work) and two great kids. But she thinks that with all the advances in modern medicine, childbirth should be a lot less messy.
To learn more about Mary, please visit www.maryhughesbooks.com.

Learning Opportunities

The first thing I did when I decided I really wanted to get serious about publishing a novel was to join a local chapter of RWA. I was fortunate to have joined a group known nation-wide for its critiquing expertise. Chicago-North RWA is one fabulous bunch of talented and insightful writers. Being a part of this group (going on almost fifteen years now) has been the best learning experience a writer could ever have.

Each month we do three full critiquing sessions. As a rule, I never submit anything (whether it's to a contest or a publisher) before having taken the first chapter before the group in a critique session. The best part is, not only do I get to polish up my own work after it's been critiqued, but even when I'm not the critiquee, I learn so much from other's manuscripts and the comments made about them.

Another valuable learning tool is contests. Before I was published, I always entered new manuscripts into contests. The comments and feedback from contests (well, the reputable ones) is also very valuable. I've been fortunate enough to have some contests wins under my belt, which lookes nice in a query letter or on the brag page of a published book. Nowadays it's more difficult to find a contest that will accept new work from a published author, but it's not impossible.

I've also learned to listen to my editors. My first editor at Wild Rose, the fabulous Kat O'Shea, taught me a lot about writing. I still tend to write with her 'voice' in my head, especially when I'm editing. I have a different editor now, and I'm learning new things from her as well.

The most important thing about improving your writing as an author is to be open to learning new things. Listen to those who know what they're talking about. Writing is so often thought of as a lonely, solitary journey. It doesn't have to be that way at all.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

...With A Little Help From My Friends

Improving my writing is an ever-evolving process, and one that I’ve recently learned is much easier to do with other people’s help. I’m very protective of my writing. I don’t like showing it to people; in fact, it was a long time before I even told anyone, including my husband, that I was writing a book. So for a long time, my efforts to improve my writing were solitary endeavors. I’d read books or participate in online workshops. I finally got up the courage to attend a writer’s workshop at a local bookstore, and spent the entire time praying that I would not have to show anyone what I’d written.

When I joined RWA, I attended many of their conference workshops and found them helpful. Little by little, I realized as I spoke to fellow writers there, that we were all in the same boat. Slowly, I began to show people my writing, starting with query letters or synopses and eventually graduating to opening paragraphs or chapters.

I submitted to contests, with my heart in my throat each time I received back my packet with critiques from contest judges. The contests I chose to enter were those that offered feedback. My goal was not to win, but to get unbiased opinions on my work.  I poured over their comments, trying to determine which comments made the most sense to me. I chose agents and editors to submit to, based on listening to what they had to say at conferences and hoping that they’d send me back more than a form letter. Many of them were gracious enough to comment on my writing, and I used their comments to strengthen my writing for the future.

The best thing I ever did, though, was to find a critique partner whose judgment I trust. I put out a call for critique partners on a writer’s loop I belong to and received many interested responses. Through trial and error, that list of people whittled itself down to one. She is terrific! She’s older than I am and brings a different perspective to my writing. She’s got a keen eye for punctuation and grammar, as well as noticing repetitive words or descriptions. While I may not take all of her comments (just as she doesn’t take all of mine), I am grateful to her for making my writing stronger than it was before.

Writing is a solitary pursuit, which is one of the reasons I like it, but even I can’t do it alone.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Controversial subject on improving one's writing - How so?

This post for some, might seem a tad provocative and controversial in content!

But, here's advice on improving one's writing, and straight from a top-class editor's mouth.

So you want to be a novelist?
1) Forget 'How To Books' on writing a bestseller.
2) Read, read and read again books from Chaucer to Dickens to the latest top 100 bestsellers.
3) Write from the heart. Write, write and write again.
4) Read your manuscript until your eyes bleed. Make sure there are no typos and spelling mistakes.
5) Make sure to send it to a publisher who publishes your chosen genre.

As I see it, that's the best advice ever. But then, I'm an avid reader and always have been. I can't see the point in all the "How To Books" that are out there. Yes, such books pinpoint specifics as to how the How To authors' express themselves with words/style (voice) etc, in novels, but most of these books enforce the idea that there are rules and regulations within writing, which seemingly change with the wind. What might be in vogue for a few years (1st person POV) within say YA novels, could well change a year hence and leave those who've crafted the art of writing from one character perspective utterly in limbo. The getting inside two MC heads much less easy, because suddenly the author is faced with multiple viewpoint, which to others will be second nature. 

Being a woman there are times when as an author I have to think male perspective! Yes, I can ply my hubby for his perspective on certain things, because let's face it men don't ncessarily think differently than women but they don't say things quite as openly as women do. Men are more guarded, especially the loner types, whereas group mentality can appear more open but is often tainted by peer pressure influence and therefore what is said may not reflect a character's inner thoughts. 

To understand male desires and frusrations is quite difficult for a woman to quantify, but after reading "The Magus" by John Fowles, a novel about a man's inner desires and written 1st person POV, I felt I better understood how to express male perspective on sex, desire, male frustrations and associated consequences. So, yes, I think the best way to improve one's writing is to read the broadest spectrum of novels possible. It's not all about analysis of house style, writer voice and overall format, it's a way of feeling the writer ground beneath one's feet and finding one's writer path.

So why do some romance publishers always say on submission pages  "The best way to know what it is we look for in a romance novel, is to read a selection of our books from the line you propose to write for" ?  Great marketing strategy is that, and in turn creates tunnel vision of a wouldbe novelist lured by seeming high chance of publication without an agent's guiding hand. But, there's nothing worse than reading a book where a so-called arrogant hero thinks and reveals inner self via thoughts and woman talk!!!  ;)


Saturday, May 21, 2011

getting better all the time

My account of how I try to improve my writing:

2003: The certainty I could write a better book than the one I'd just finished.
2004: A first draft, a dismal contest score.
2005: A correspondence course.
2006: Another correspondence course and a form rejection letter.
2007: Armloads of books, on-line courses.
2008: A new first draft.
2009: Another rejection, weekly self-published newsletters.
2010: Another first draft, and a second draft.
2011: Critiquing, plotting, more writing, blogging, critiques. Determination to finish my WIP and submit by the end of the year.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Friday Friend - Laura Tolomei.

Please welcome our Friday Friend: Laura Tolomei. Born in Rome, Italy, Laura has led an exciting life, has travelled extensively throughout, and lived in various countries (continents). Now Laura is back residing in Italy. Lucky lady - a truly inspiring place. 

Laura, please take the stage:

The writing of the Virtus Saga

Writing the Virtus Saga was a real challenge, particularly since I’m still not sure on how to go about creating a series. Mine, believe it or not, built itself on its own, starting with a recurring image in my mind—a horse rider lost in a place close to home who finds shelter from a thunderstorm in a beautiful woman’s run-down shack, and she looks too familiar to be a stranger, though he has no recollection of her, of who she is, not even of a name—and developing apparently on its own, details being added as I went along without any pre-conceived plot. As incredible as it sounds, it felt like I was reading it, rather than creating it. Yes, like any other reader starting with The Sex, I had no idea what the plot would turn out to be or why characters did certain things, then progressed to The Game, Book 2, and The Festival, gathering information without the chance to glimpse ahead. All I had was a concept, which I’ll gladly share with your readers for the first time ever.

The planet Sendar is controlled by a mechanical device as part of a vast social experiment. This sophisticated mechanism channels people's aggression into sex, which in turn guarantees their feudal society knows no violence.

Other than the above, I didn’t know myself where the story was going when it started, so much so I still don’t have a definite ending to it.

Interestingly enough, the characters played inside my head for quite some time before I set them down on paper. At first, I saw this handsome dark rider, a prince I thought to myself, with long hair flying wild as he braced nature’s hostile elements—a storm about to hit him just to make the situation more tragic—on his black horse, utterly lost in a land he should’ve known like the back of his hand but oddly didn’t, until he sees candlelight shimmering in a window. When he gets to it, he realizes he’s not lost at all, in fact he’s very close to home, only with the storm’s fast approach, he decides to stop there for the night if they’ll offer him hospitality. But the woman standing on the thresholds feels awfully familiar, though he hasn’t the slightest idea who she is or why she should feel like someone he’s intimate with. Now why doesn’t he remember Ylianor since he’d grown up with her? And since readers will find the answer in Book 4, The Leader, it proves how little info the characters shared about themselves while I was writing, telling me only what they wanted me to know when it was time to know it, no earlier, so from the first line to the last, which is still to be written, it was just small pieces until they composed a great picture that still amazes me for its complexity.

And Christopher Templeton is the key to the whole design, although he came to me after Duncan falling for Ylianor, overshadowing what would have been a classic romantic meeting with its predictable ending had he not been there to make it different from the start. So I gathered he had been Duncan’s only love from the beginning, no question about it, since the earliest age possible, and no woman would ever replace him in the prince’s heart, not if he has any saying in it. In time, I’ve come to love how Chris defends his territory, fiercely eliminating competition, doing his dammed best to make sure things stay the way they started out, however impossible that will be to accomplish. Yet in the end, readers realize Lord Templeton loves Duncan so much, he’ll only do what’s in the prince’s best interest, even if it means having to step aside and forego the most precious thing in his life like he does for two entire years of pain and agony away from his lover’s side. But I guess it’s what makes Christopher so fascinating and so attractive in his own diabolical way, unpredictably evil at time while capable of a love so all encompassing he’d be willing to sacrifice everything to it, his life included. And unsurprisingly, it all came together with the phase, the planet Sendar’s unique way for boys and girls to experience sex for the first time with someone of their own age and gender, which for both Duncan and Chris is a clear-cut choice given the powerful attraction to each other that will inevitably draw them closer than they ever imagined possible.

“But, Mother, Chris is Duncan’s best friend, almost like a brother, so who better than him to make your son come to his senses?”
Suddenly interested, Chris brightened. “What happened?”
Sophia Caldwell’s hesitation lasted a fraction of a second before plunging into the story. “Well…it seems my son had the bad taste of employing a woman as a stable keeper and of course, we aren’t very happy about it.”
“Mother, if Chris is to help Duncan, he must know the truth.” She turned to him, eyes alight with barely suppressed emotions. “You see, this woman is the daughter of my father’s mistress, a servant he had the misfortune of…fancying.” She frowned as if recollecting something. “I think you may have known her, too. She used to play with Duncan when they were still children.”
Ylianor Meyer! How could I forget? “Vaguely.”
“Anyway, when Father died, Mother banished this…creature from the house. Now Duncan has brought her back.”
Chris turned to Lady Caldwell. “You really banished her?”
“Of course, I did.” Sophia spat. “To have to suffer her presence after Charles died would’ve been intolerable.”
“So it happened after your mate died in…” He creased his forehead in an effort to remember dates.
“About ten years ago,” Elizabeth supplied.
“And you’ve had no contact with her in all this time?”
“None whatsoever.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Not even Duncan?”
Elizabeth shrugged. “If he had, he made no mention of it. But I really don’t think so.”
“Then how did he find her?” And more importantly, how did he manage to remember her?
“We…” Elizabeth faltered and looked at her mother. “We don’t know.”
“I’m not interested in how he found her.” Lady Caldwell scoffed. “I want him to kick her out again.”
Elizabeth shook her head sadly. “Unfortunately, he offered her the position her father once held as stable keeper.”
“Yeah, I remember her father worked here.” Using a cautious tone, he pretended memories were returning to him.
“Yes, well…” Elizabeth looked uncomfortable as if debating whether to include more information or not. Then she made up her mind. “Actually, there are gossips going around about her origins. Malicious lies, for sure, but—”
“My mate is not that creature’s father.” Sophia Caldwell almost shouted.
“Mother, calm down!” Elizabeth turned to look at Chris apologetically. “Please, forgive her. It’s still a touchy subject for her and she tends to get very upset about it.”
“Of course, I understand.”
“Naturally, we know she’s no blood relation.” Elizabeth’s tone was firm as if wanting to dispel any residual doubts. “It’s ridiculous even to think it, but people can be very cruel sometimes, especially if they can talk bad about someone.”
“That servant had the baby when pledged to John Meyer, our stable keeper,” Sophia explained in a gentler tone. “Charles never pledged to her and as you well know, Lord Templeton, that’s essential before you can have any children.”
Chris nodded in agreement.
“John Meyer is her father.” Elizabeth set the record straight once and for all. “Or rather was. He died just recently.”
Chris frowned skeptically. “And this made Duncan want to replace him with his daughter?”
“I don’t think—”
“It has nothing to do with John’s death.” Lady Caldwell was quick to end her daughter’s sentence. “That woman, just like her mother, is a witch and she used witchcraft to seduce and enslave Duncan into bringing her back here. That’s exactly how her mother worked her way into my poor mate’s heart.”
“Come now, Mother, they’re just women.” Elizabeth tried to argue persuasively. “That’s all. Can you really see Duncan fall prey to witchcraft?” She looked steadily at Chris. “Maybe you can find out why he insists on keeping her on the premises.”
He shrugged annoyed. “If I ever get to see him.”

Laura Tolomei aka Lalla Gatta

Voice: The Basics

Even when teaching children to write, one of the desired outcomes is for them to find their voice. The Six Trait (or 6 +1 Trait) Program designates voice as one of the six (or seven) traits children should use when writing. (Other traits include: ideas, organization, word choice, sentence fluency, conventions, and (presentation).)

By their definition: Voice is the writer coming through the words, the sense that a real person is speaking to us and cares about the message. It is the heart and soul of the writing, the magic, the wit, the feeling, the life and breath. When the writer is engaged personally with the topic, he/she imparts a personal tone and flavor to the piece that is unmistakably his/hers alone. And it is that individual something–different from the mark of all other writers–that we call Voice.

Scoring guidelines are also provided when using this program. On a 5 point rubric for third through twelfth graders, here is how basic scoring would play out and what the writer needs to accomplish to earn a certain score.

5 - The writer speaks directly to the reader in a way that is individual, compelling, and engaging. The writer crafts the writing with an awareness and respect for the audience and the purpose for writing.

3 - The writer seems sincere, but not fully engaged or involved. The writing has discernable purpose, but it not compelling.

1 - The writer seems indifferent to the topic and the content. The writing lacks purpose and audience engagement.

(Definition and rubric wording taken from http://educationnorthwest.org/traits)

Hmn? I think depending on the day, my mood, how productive and/or motivated I am, the weather, etc. etc., my scores would vary greatly on this scale! There are days I'm definitely a five and days I'm definitely a 1. And I figure, it never hurts to go back to the basics to polish my own writing.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My Voice is Me

My voice is me. I don’t think about it, I just write what ‘feels’ and sounds right to me. I can’t really define it. Maybe it’s simply the syntax and vocabulary I use instinctively, and my own inner sense of ‘flow’. One of my CPs called it ‘the way you string words together’.

I know immediately when I’ve written something that doesn’t feel right. Sometimes I’ll stop and re-write it there and then; other times (e.g. when I want to write a scene quickly) I’ll leave it and go back later to write it differently. I don’t need to highlight it to find it again because I know I’ll recognise it immediately as not being right.

Okay, so maybe my ‘voice’ has changed over the years – but then so have I! When I started to look at writing ‘techniques’, I balked slightly, wondering if my ‘voice’ was going to change by adopting some of these techniques. After a while, I realised I had absorbed and then adapted them to my personal style (rather than the other way round).

One of my blogging/twitter friends said this when I asked him about a writer’s voice: “just find the writing style that makes you most comfortable” (thanks, Paul!). I think he’s right. If you struggle and agonise over ‘finding’ your voice, you’re doomed to failure. Just relax and write, and the real ‘you’ will come over in your writing.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Finding My Voice

I compare finding my writing voice to knowing what to say, although I realize that they’re two different things. As a writer, voice is what makes your stories unique, whether it be word choice, type of dialogue you use or even kinds of characters you favor. As a person, knowing what to say can be the ability to speak what’s on your mind, speaking appropriately in a variety of situations, or having the perfect comeback.

In my head, I always know exactly what to say. I can play out a scenario and have the perfect conversation. However, in real life, the conversation doesn’t always occur as I rehearse it, probably because the other person has not been privy to my private, head conversation! That’s one reason why I like emailing people—I have all the time I need to work on a pithy response and that delete button is a godsend.

In my writing, there are days when my voice shines through and I can breeze through pages and pages of a manuscript. The dialogue is snappy, my descriptions are detailed and everything works. Then there are those OTHER days. Those are the days when I want to throw my computer through the window (although that would seriously inhibit my Facebook time). I can’t wrap my head around the scene, can’t hear my characters speaking, and in all that silence, I can’t find my voice.

I don’t always know how to explain my unique voice, but I definitely recognize it when I see it. And I hate it when someone tries to change it. I don’t mind a critique partner or editor suggesting changes, because I know they’re trying to make the story better. I do mind, however, when they rewrite things in such a way that it doesn’t sound like “me.” My daughter feels the same way. She doesn’t like me to correct her school writing because she’s afraid she won’t sound like herself (we have a constant battle over how “voice” is different from “grammar”—I’m determined to win this one, but oh, it’s going to be tough). I can respect her concern, and I’m proud that she’s begun to recognize her own voice this early. It took me a lot longer!

Monday, May 16, 2011

What is Writer Voice?

How do we recognise our Writer Voice?

It’s our fingerprint, it’s who we are and how we slip inside our character’s heads, how we reveal their inner thoughts and convey their emotions, their hopes and fears. We cannot escape our upbringing: things and people who’ve influenced us over the years, nor things we’ve seen and experienced whether in real life, through movies or that of reading books.

Eyes, too, are the widows to our souls and they also give soul to our writing. Hence, we are what we are, a complex mishmash of information. Whatever genre, whatever sub-genre, and whomever the characters, we as authors surrender to sense of time, sense of place and our voice/style unique to each and every one of us. People say, but I become a different person when I’m writing a novel, email, letter etc.. To some degree, that’s true, but getting to the psychology of it all, that’s why as writers we have to be careful our writer voice/style does not become author intrusion within a novel! By author intrusion I mean slipping out of character mode and our selves suddenly the narrator! In email/letter correspondence we may change tone and its content will reflect such, but our signature/writer voice is there as sure as the fingerprints on our keyboards.  

Take for instance, transition from a contemporary setting to historical backdrop. A leap through time is required, and although writer voice is our unique fingerprint, it should become slightly smudged by unfamiliar dialogue, social etiquette and customs of chosen period. Why? Because, 21st century author has now relocated to the past, and has to adapt to chosen period or, the story may well sound and read as though 21st century characters are cavorting in mere fancy dress. With a contemporary YA story, youthful character thought is required, but no matter how you put across your characters your writer voice/style will exist as was in another genre. That's why, if you've read thrillers written by a novelist you've read on a regular basis, then, that writer pens say a romance under different pseudonym, I bet you'll end up saying to yourself, "Well, If I didn't know better, I'd say this was writtin by So-and-So, it sounds like her." :)

So “Voice” is “Style”, but how do you know if you have it, and how can you see it?
Answer: You have it, and it’s unique to you unless tampered with by others. It’s how you paint pictures with words. Some writers abandon own voice and choose to try and mimic an author they admire, which usually ends in tears! Why? Because it’s a bit like trying to fit into a dress that neither fits nor suits the mind behind the pen!  ;)            

Forgive the ramble and any typos, please, it's off-the-cuff no edit, other than quick read through.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Finding my voice

Larry Brooks says "writing voice is like air: If you can smell it, something is cooking, and it may not be appetising to everyone." He says the best style is to write cleanly and crisply. And simply. "Sort of like that breath of fresh air, the hallmark of which is that it doesn't smell like anything at all. It's just, well, pleasant. It flows. It goes down easy."

He also says voice "...will come to you, first in a whisper, and finally with a proud and stubborn shout. And once it announces itself and declares who you are as a writer, allow it to take over from there."

I have my voice for my weekly CSA newsletters. I use the same first person with omniscent voice-over commentary in gardening articles.

I'm having to amend that voice for my romances, but I think I'm getting closer...

Friday, May 13, 2011

Welcome to J.L.Oiler

Please welcome our Friday Friend, J.L.Oiler. Rather later than usual in the day due to all the problems with Blogger in the last 24 hours!

J.L. grew up in the mountains of West Virginia where she still lives with her husband and children. She is a graduate of Fairmont State University in Fairmont, West Virginia, and holds a Masters degree from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. She always possessed a passion to create stories to entertain her friends and family, but life led her on a variety of paths before she found the opportunity to return to the dream of writing stories to share.

JL currently has stories with Rebel Ink Press and Silver Publishing. She enjoys the Erotic Paranormal genre, but has dabbled in other areas of romance as well. Her first release came in January of 2010, since that time she has had multiple individual releases as well as the opportunity to work on several anthologies. She can often be found chatting about upcoming events or releases on facebook.

Writing Strong Women

My mother once said that her girls “had bigger balls than any man.” This might be the reason I personally find myself writing stories with a strong heroine. Of course, I was never the type to daydream about being the distressed princess in need of rescue. Instead, I spent my youth being the one to the jump to the rescue. Riding, roping, and fighting my way through my imagination to save the day.

Let us be honest. Writing weak female characters rarely captures the reader and allows them to create a sort of personal connection. Modern women don’t have the time to await rescue and there are not too many princely heroes looking for the damsel in distress. We have been empowered by the strong women who came before us seeking equality and self-reliance.

So how do I go about making certain my women have the “write” stuff.

First thing I like to do is get a good visual impression of the character. Is she short, tall, fat, thin? Then what is her career path? I enjoy looking a bit outside the general for these characteristics. The next thing is the baggage. None of us moves through our lives without some sort of baggage. Is she a single parent? Is she living in a abusive relationship? Does she have any physical, emotional, or mental disabilities? Once all those things are in place I can begin to analyze what my heroine will need to overcome to get where my goals need her to be.

I believe that our characters all take with them a little bit of our own personalities and I have yet to meet a romance author who was not strong willed and minded

JL Oiler

Latest Release
Title: Between 3
Publisher: Rebel Ink Press
Cover Art: Carl Franklin
Purchase Link: http://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-between3-543212-140.html


When Celeste Drain attempted to make a break from an abusive relationship, she never dreamed she'd fall into an erotic ménage with two extremely hot strangers. Their one-night stand was the beginning of her new life, a life of self-reliance and inner strength. Now six months later, Celeste has a steady job at the same bar where she met her lovers, a home, and she's building a new existence.

Justin and Craig are part of the guard force known as the Keepers, men charged with protecting the human topside world from the violent monsters that live behind one of the gates to hell deep beneath Death Valley. Given little time topside to relax, Justin and Craig stumble into a one-night stand with a beautiful woman who challenges them not only physically, but also with her quick wit and intelligence. When a large breakout at the gate allows a group of vile Adze to escape to the topside world, Justin and Craig are mortified  to discover the woman they thought was just a one-night stand may be a whole lot more and worse, she's smack dab in the middle of what might just become hell on earth.

Thank you so much for being with us today, J.L. We wish you every success with your book and with your future writing career.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Eye of the Beholder

I think we’re all agreed that character and personality are more important than good looks. However, in romantic novels, the heroes do tend to be extremely handsome.

Which begs the question: what makes a man handsome in looks (as opposed to his whole personality)?

Ask ten different people and they’ll give you ten different answers. Even dictionaries have different definitions of "handsome":
  • Pleasing and dignified in form or appearance.
  • Having an attractive, well-proportioned, and imposing appearance suggestive of health and strength
  • Agreeable to the eye or to correct taste; having a pleasing appearance or expression; attractive; having symmetry and dignity; comely.
From one website, here are the "Top 5 Physical Attributes in Men which Women Want in their Men"(with my comments in italics):

A Handsome Face: The face can have the highest amount of attraction. A good jaw line with a nice smile can make a woman swoon about your looks. What defines as a handsome face? It can be mostly about keeping the right hair style and also about maintaining facial hair neat and trim.

Agree about the nice smile (especially with even white teeth). But can a handsome face really be ‘mostly’ about the hair style? Partly, maybe, but not mostly.

Sense of Style: The sense of style in a man is mostly about the way he carries himself. This is one of the major aspects of the personality in a man. The sense of style and presentation can form the most important aspect when it comes to attracting women.

As it says, this is part of his personality, rather than his looks. Presentation is too. Especially a man in a tux :)

Muscular Build: The rippling and the bulging muscles of men can certainly make a women weak in the knees. The muscular build in a man adds an immense amount of physical appeal and attraction. The biceps score high points with women as they are easily noticeable and they can also show how much pumping of iron a man is doing.

This does absolutely nothing for me. Firm muscles and biceps, yes, but rippling and bulging? Yuck!

Height: Although it is the most coveted thing, height of a man does play a role in attracting women. It is not necessary that one has to be really tall. A correct posture can help a man to look tall and erect.

Maybe true, but then I’m a sucker for long legs!

Fitness: A fit man has a higher chance of impressing the women a lot. Fitness may not be completely about the muscular build. It is mostly about the stamina and the endurance a man shows. A better fitness level in a man can increase his physical attributes for attracting women.

Agree to a certain extent – but I’d say again that this is more a result of personality and character.

More online research uncovered even more interesting answers from women replying on one forum about what makes a man handsome:
  • I do have a thing about teeth though. You must have teeth. but if you are missing some...they should be in the back. Not in the front.
  • Nicely kept body definitely. Eyes that smile indeed. Hands OMG I am a sucker for hands, well kept, nice looking hands and I am so there.
  • A shaved head, a goatee, huge arms and chest, and a killer smile.
  • These days I'm partial to large sparkly blue-green eyes, lines of character in a strong face, broad shoulders and long lean legs.
  • One thing I really can't resist is a man with long hair.
  • Personally, I don't care for a very hairy man, but some is fine.
  • I have a serious thing for geeky guys. I like them shorter, kind of compact and pasty.
  • I like tall balding men, maybe a little older, stately, with kind of a commanding air.
  • Good haircut, preferably crew cut.
  • Abundant black hair, intense blue eyes.
And here is one person’s list of the characteristics of the male "Sexy face":
Browner (tanned) skin
Narrower facial shape, less fat
Fuller and more symmetrical lips
Darker eye brows
More and darker lashes
Upper half of the face broader in relation to the lower
Higher cheek bones
Pronounced lower jaw
Well-defined chin
No wrinkles between nose and corner of the mouth

I’d agree with some of those, but not all. So, while we instinctively know what appeals to our own sense of beauty, defining what determines attractiveness isn’t always easy. Also, of course, what appeals to one person doesn’t appeal to another. There are times when I can accept someone is ‘handsome’ even though it’s not the kind of handsomeness that necessarily appeals to me.

So where does that leave us when we are describing our heroes? Is a guy with dark eyes not going to appeal to the readers who love blue eyes? Is the hero with fair silky hair going to be a complete turn-off for those who like bald or shaven-headed men?

Maybe we just have to go with what appeals to us personally. After all, we have to be able to fall in love with our own heroes. We can only hope that, whether his looks appeal to our reader or not, his personality will attract them. Which could bring us right round to the alpha v. beta hero discussion – which we’ve already done!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Eye Candy

When it comes to handsome heroes, I’ll have to agree with Ana’s and Francine’s earlier posts: handsome is as handsome does. It’s not just the look of the hero, it’s his actions, his manners, his personality and sometimes even his psychological motivation that draws me, as the writer, to him. I tend to use movie or TV characters or actors as inspiration for my heroes physical characteristics, although I might take a combination of traits from a variety of different people (say, George Clooney’s chin or Matt Damon’s eyes). But, I don’t care how good looking a person is; if their personality is antithetical to their looks, I’d never use them! I remember how I used to think Sean Connery was gorgeous; then I heard that he thinks women deserve to be beaten—you can bet I’ve changed my mind about him (same goes for Mel Gibson, although for a variety of different reasons)!

Just like as in real life, I don’t have one particular type of man that I’m attracted to, as a writer, I don’t have a singular type of hero that attracts me either. Think about your crushes—the whole point of them is to be unattainable or completely different from the type of person that usually turns you on. That’s what makes them fun. The same goes for me as a writer. While features may be exaggerated, the heroes I write about are going to be different from one another. Some might be blond or dark-haired, iron-pumped or ordinary, rugged or suave. I don’t like reading books that always have the same type of hero, the same type of heroine and the same plot, with only the names changed. Therefore, I certainly don’t want to write that way!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Defining what makes for a Handsome Hero!

Paula knows this already: I mentioned the week’s topic to my husband.
He laughed: “A Heavy Wallet”. 

I’m kind of following in Ana’s footsteps on this, simply because I’d written similar pointers re handsome before actually reading her excellent post.

So, a well-dressed, well-groomed hero with gorgeous eyes, kissable mouth etc., may well attract the eye in the first instance, and will be classed Handsome in Appearance. But, and a big but coming, he might well be the most inconsiderate and obnoxious character ever written. The latter negates the former once his true self revealed.

Going for handsome is as handsome does:

A hero in casual dress, perhaps even tad rough around the edges etc., of moderate looks in terms of facial appearance, may not get a second look. But, if he’s of considerate, kind and helpful nature, then this hero fits the category of Handsome of Manner. 

And, both of the above again raises the issue of Alpha Vs Beta hero. Not that I’m saying either cannot be the other in terms of dress and handsome in appearance.

Now ponder the saying of men-to-men (when a guy announces he’s thinking of popping the 4word question): look at a girl’s mother before asking for her hand in marriage, which in man terms is thought to be quite amusing. But, doesn’t the same principal in reverse apply to girls? Never accept the hand of marriage from a bloke until you’ve seen what his father turned into!

Take Marlon Brando: brooding looks and sexual allure, then look what happened.
Now think what gorgeous blue-eyed Brad Pitt might become in later years!

Take Cary Grant (deceased) and George Clooney: both handsome in appearance, and suave with it. I’m betting GC will keep his looks to the end, as did CG. But were/are they, behind the mask of handsome in appearance, heroes or cads at heart? Trick question this one . . . for a cad can be generous of heart in some things and absolute rogue in others. ;) 

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The cut of his toga

Oh, Cicero, your legs look so fine below your toga. Take me!

Bollywood movie stars with heavy eye make-up. The rugged Marlboro man. A courier in Louis XIV's court with a white perfumed wig and lace cuffs. An African hunter with intricate body scars made by rubbing wood ashes into knife cuts. Culture and marketing dictate prevailing standards for rating attractiveness, but shouldn't the attraction between a hero and heroine be deeper than clothes, cars, and skin? Do the best hunters, the strongest fighters, the last men standing always have flowing hair and azure eyes?

Astrologers and biologists assert subtle, yet powerful attractions--compatibility and pheromones. Our eyes might linger a second longer on a man with physical beauty, but as soon as he opens his mouth, or fails to hold open the door, we know.

Oh yes, we know.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Welcome to Tracy L. Ranson

Please welcome our Friday Friend, Tracy L. Ranson, who introduces herself:

I’ve been an avid fan of history all my life. That love started in my childhood. Instead of reading us fairy tales, my father would read to us from history books that he had, on all different subjects and levels. Intrigued by the past, I hungered to read more…

As I child, I would re-write the endings of all my books if I didn’t like the way they ended. My mother thought it was cute but she had no idea then what would happen today. It was only natural that later I would go onto writing.

I earned an engineering degree before I started writing, focusing all of my time and energy on it. After a while an opportunity to change careers came into play and I took it. My passion for writing came to the forefront.

With the love and support of my husband I am able to live the dream of being a writer. He is my inspiration for romance and what true love really is.

We live in a quite little neighborhood about two minutes from where I grew up. Our house is filled with 5 tails and 5 sets of paws. Thomas, Pavel and Victor our beloved felines. Weird names you ask? My husband is a hockey fanatic and decided to name all the pets with the names of current hockey players. Toby and Izzy are border collie/dachshund mix (don't ask because their mommy was the border collie) who are boundless bundles of energy that are always so happy to see me when I come home (so is hubby!)

My dream in life has always been to mold ideas and bring stories to life that are near and dear to everyone’s heart. I am very fortunate to be living my dream now. Continuing to hone my craft with each new book, I hope I am able to touch upon my readers and inspire them.

Which came first: The Plot or the Title?

Sounds like a boring philosophical question, right? It sure does! Actually, this struggle has been around for centuries, from the moment humans put pen to paper. All writers fight this every day, even some of the big name authors too.

Writing at best can sometimes be a double edged sword. You come up with a brilliant plot no one’s ever done before but you’re clueless as what to call it. Or the reverse can be true (this has happened to me so many times before, it’s silly). A writer may want to pull their hair out by the roots or continuously bang their heads against their desk in the vain hope that something will be beaten in (doesn’t work—I’m bald with a HUGE flat spot on my forehead….LOL…)

All kidding aside, there are a few simple tricks that I’ve used to help get me a title. Here’s a quick example:

A young destitute girl in England is taken in by a very wealthy Duke with the intention of making her his mistress. The girl resists because her interest is in his son, the handsome hero. The Duke makes her miserable because along the way, he’s discovered her true identity and threatens to expose her then send her to Revolutionary France to await her fate. The hero finds out as well and vows to protect her not only from his father but from the grisly end her parents, the King and Queen of France, suffered.

This plot obviously would need some work on it but it’s just an example. For something like this I would say:

What’s my premise? Secret princess on the run from France
What’s my concept? She has to lie about her true identity to keep from being killed.
What elements are most important? Concealment.
There’s two words that stick out in these two sentences for me. Secret and Lies.
There’s your title for the book: SECRETS AND LIES.

Okay, now for the flip side. What about no plot but a terrific title? This can be a bit trickier but not impossible.

Here’s a title: DARK BEFORE DAWN.

Now this one can go about 40 different ways but I’ll just pick one.

I start off by asking questions. Who likes the dark? Vampires, insects, night creatures….
I’ll go ahead and pick Vampires only because I LOATHE insects.
What about this Vampire?
He’s a lonely soul about a 1000 years old.
What about him? He would like a mate that’s willing but unfortunately, in his world, vampires are hunted and killed on sight without question. He can’t risk being killed because he is the leader of his band of vampire.

You see how this is going? The more questions you ask, the deeper you get into the story. Another great way to build a plot is play the What If ? game.

What if: the vampire was a woman who wants to be human again and there’s only one man who can turn her back…except he’s desperate to become a vampire.

See how that changes things? There are so many endless possibilities here.

Happy reading and hope this helps!


Tracy's latest release 'His Wicked Intentions' (an Erotic Historical Romance) is available at Desert Breeze Publishing.  Buy @ http://stores.desertbreezepublishing.com/-strse-158/Tracy-Ranson-His-Wicked/Detail.bok

India Rookwood, daughter of an English lord, flees her country home in Scotland to escape her arranged marriage. She spends the night in the safety of Craogh Falloch only to be discovered by pirates. Taken to their captain, she sizes up the well built blond pirate reminiscent of the Vikings of old. She stands up to him and his demands, discovering in short order she stood before The Falcon, notorious pirate of legend and her father’s mortal enemy. From that moment on, India questions whether she can stand the against the tide of HIS WICKED INTENTIONS.

Captain Rafe Blackthorne watched his men amble down the hill with a strange, resistant figure in front of them. It was a woman from the way her thin gown flapped in the breeze, and from her gait, she did not seem a bit happy about coming aboard his ship. Where did they find her? He growled low. No matter. He would frighten her into never coming back to this area again. The less people knew about his hiding place, the better.

He leaned against the mizzen mast with his thumbs casually jammed into the worn waistband of his threadbare breeches, idly watching her approach. Her presence could prove interesting. He hadn't had a woman aboard his ship for nearly a year, at least not since Jamaica. That particular female had been a whore who had stowed away in the hopes of heading toward a new life elsewhere. What she discovered later had been his price for her freedom. He had enjoyed himself quite thoroughly with his payment but had grown bored with her quickly so he dropped her off at the next port.

The new woman possessed hair as black as night, tumbling down her slender shoulders in soft, cascading waves. Her lithe form possessed high breasts, indicative of youth. He frowned. He would have guessed her to be much older from her stride.

She stormed up his gangplank, her fists clenched at her sides. His men halted their work and cast their gazes to this newcomer, a mixture of curiosity and lust written on their features. Grayson and the others lumbered up behind her. "Get moving, gel! Me captain is waiting!"

Rafe watched the expression on her face deepen. Her cheeks burned a deep crimson, a color he found extremely attractive. A woman normally did not sport such a hue until she left a man's bed.

"Where is this captain you speak of?"

He smirked. She possessed a fiery nature, one he could see himself enjoying.

She threw a look over her slender pale shoulder and noticed him. Her eyes narrowed. "What exactly are you looking at?"


"I wish you to refrain from looking at me. I doubt whether your captain would be pleased at this."

Rafe couldn't help but smile. He stood and towered over her, crossing his arms over his chest. "Oh, he would be." He reacted instantly beneath his breeches to the whiskey-colored depths of her eyes, a mixture of innocence with a hint of deep secrecy. A slash of black lashes, a shade darker than her hair, framed those pretty orbs.

An inky eyebrow rose. "How so?" Her plump lips, rosy and red, emanated a silent enticement to be kissed. Perhaps he would have to accept her invitation and find out what else lay beneath her perfect exterior.

"Because I'm the captain."

Her shoulders fell back and her well-formed jaw dropped. "Yo -- you're the captain? You're the Black Falcon?"

His gaze traveled down, and he noticed the way her lovely breasts rose and fell in a quick rhythm, almost as if she could not control herself around him. He liked that -- sometimes. "Why do you find that so shocking?"

"No reason." She turned her face away from his as if she couldn't bear to look at him another moment more. "Why am I here?"

He turned to his first mate. "Why have you brought her?"

Grayson scratched his grizzled chin. "Well, Cap'n, I found her in ye cave, and I thought 'tis best I brung her."

"Good." Rafe turned to his new captive. "Who are you, girl?"

She lifted her blazing amber stare to face him, the previous emotions deepening and arousing the sleeping beast of desire within. "I will tell you if you let me go."

He took a reflexive step forward and gripped her slender arms. "Not until you tell me, will I let you go." Lust nipped at Rafe's loins as he visually caressed her face. Strong cheekbones framed her face, almost seemingly created by the finest sculptor, making for a perfect setting for her pert nose.

She lifted her determined jaw. "India."

"What an unusual name. Tell me, how did you come by it?"

"My parents named me after the country I was born in."

He shifted in his position. From the angle of her jaw to the curve of her cheek, she enticed him. He looked down again. She possessed a body he could see himself buried in all night. Gentle curves graced her form, from the gentle slope of her feminine shoulders to the indent of her waist. He could only imagine the treasures between those slender thighs -- his rod lengthened beneath his breeches. He shifted uneasily. "What's your last name?"


A cold chill passed up Rafe's spine, and he stiffened. That damned name! He ground his teeth in order to keep his emotions at bay. "Since I keep my promises, I will let you go, but not before I have shown you my hospitality as well as begged your forgiveness." He cast a glance to Grayson. "Take her to my cabin where she may wash in privacy."

Grayson tipped his fingers. "Aye, Cap'n." With that, Grayson guided India Rookwood from his sight to his cabin where she could clean up a bit.

Rafe smiled. What fortunate luck his enemy's daughter had fallen right into his hands, though he had not properly laid a trap for her, at least not yet. Rookwood would probably be worried sick. From what he knew of the evil bastard, he would stop at nothing to rescue his precious pawn. Well, Rookwood's search for his daughter would be useless. By the time Rafe did as he wished with her, the only good place for the girl would be a brothel or convent. After that, his revenge would be complete, and Ophelia's honor restored.

Rafe waited for Grayson to return then signaled his first mate over. The older man limped over and tipped his short, grubby fingers. "Tell the men to gather everything on board."

Grayson's gray eyebrows shot up. "We settin' sail so soon?"

"Yes. Be ready at eight bells."

You can meet Tracy at her website :  http://www.tracylranson.com/

Thank you so much for being with us today, Tracy.  We wish you continued success with your writing.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Okay, I'm going to use my post today as a bit of a brainstorming session. This is an excerpt from A Christmas to Remember, the novella I just sold to TWRP.

The chatter combined to create a hushed cacophony. One diner caught her eye.
The man sat alone. Was he waiting for someone or was he by himself like she wastoo? His dark hair looked tousled, as if he’d recently run his fingers through it. Or had liberal use of gel cultivated the casual disarray? From across the room she couldn’t tell. He sat tall and straight in his chair. She unconsciously shifted to adjust her own slouched posture. An ivory sweater complimented his tanned features. Either he lived some place warm or he’d already been out on the slopes. She imagined his eyes to be green or hazel.
His lips quirked and he raised his beer bottle in a toast.
She jerked her gaze away. Damn. Chagrin washed through her to have been caught staring. Her face heated with a blush that had nothing to do with the red wine she sipped.

I have the description in there, but it seems to be a little flat overall, and there's not a whole lot of plot going on. My editor's comments are this: "Can you get more emotion in this? Right now it’s kind of like a play by play. What sort of person does he look like? Many times when we view someone for the first time, we notice their looks but also think about what sort of person they are…Does she imagine anything sexual about him? With Champagne stories it’s okay to go a little deeper than your average description."

I agree with her. Any suggestions for spiffing up this scene?

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Describing Characters' Physical Appearance

I was the one who asked for this topic to be included in our weekly topics because I have a hard time describing my characters’ physical appearance. It’s similar to my difficulty in describing places/surroundings.

I have to admit that, even as a writer, I am dreadfully unobservant, so I really admire Jennifer’s eye for detail which she showed us yesterday. I don’t have a good visual memory – unlike a friend of mine who, I think, can picture every hotel (and hotel bar!) we’ve ever been to in our travels together. My strength, on the other hand, is an aural memory – I can remember conversations or information (and total trivia too) and I can hear accents and different vocal tones.

So I have to make a very conscious effort to study scenes and people, but even then I can have problems. I tried a mental exercise yesterday evening when we went to a bar for a drink after seeing the latest Martin Sheen film (had to get that snippet of information in, LOL!). But I still ran into difficulties – was that girl’s hair fair, blonde, flaxen or platinum? Was that guy’s face oval or square-jawed, or a mixture of both? See what I mean?

Maybe I CAN picture some things, but most times I have great difficulty actually describing them. I have no problem with dialogue, I struggle with description.

Going back to Francine’s blog on this topic, I do tend to describe the hero through the heroine’s eyes and vice-versa. Occasionally I might bring something in through action, but not often. I’ll have to remember that in future and try to do it.

But here, for your perusal, are a couple of my (fairly inadequate!) efforts at description. Feel free to tear them apart!

He had his back to her, but the outline of his broad shoulders in a pale blue polo-shirt gave an impression of hidden strength. His slim waist and hips in well-fitting dark blue jeans only added to the impact of his tall figure. His thumbs were looped casually into his back pockets and Jess’s eyes rested momentarily on his firm hands and long slender fingers. A pianist’s hands, she thought, then let her glance travel up his tanned arms to the back of his head. His dark hair wasn’t exactly curly, more like a mass of waves that were layered casually into the nape of his neck, which somehow emphasized the ruggedness of the rest of his very masculine body.(From ‘His Leading Lady’, chapter 1)

He quickened his pace, annoyed that he’d allowed the memories to breach the emotional wall he’d built around himself. But he couldn’t stop thinking about her. Not the teenage Abbey, but the Abbey he’d just met again. She was even more stunningly attractive now than she’d been ten years earlier, with her heart-shaped face, sparkling green eyes and seductive mouth. Her long dark hair swung when she turned, her shoulders moved in a tantalising way as she walked, and her trim hips swayed sexily as she went into the shop.
(From ‘Fragrance of Violets’. chapter 2)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

How One Looks=How One Feels

In my writing, a character’s physical appearance is more than what they look like. Their physical traits often hint at their emotional wellbeing. That’s one of the reasons why I find describing physical characteristics difficult. It’s too easy to exaggerate and make the characters look too perfect or too plastic or too ordinary. It’s also easy to make them one dimensional. One of the ways I tackle this problem is to start with brief descriptions of their general characteristics and add emotional texture:
She stood motionless in front of a painting. The spotlight above illuminated her brown hair, turning it a fiery red tinged with gold, her skin a luminous peach. Her blouse, made of some gauzy material he couldn’t name, but longed to touch, draped gracefully over her shoulders and down her back. With the lights pouring down on her, he could just see the outline of her body.
In real life, I tend to notice specific parts of people’s bodies—no, I’m not talking about THOSE parts—and that carries over into my writing. Because I have a hearing problem, I do a lot of lip reading, so obviously, I notice mouths (and yes, that definitely helps when I’m describing a kiss). In the example below, not only do you learn what this character’s mouth looks like, but you also get a hint about her personality:
Bright red lipstick, that matched the red of her dress, painted beautifully proportioned lips, but the lipstick bled around the edges.
I talk a lot with my hands (it drives my husband nuts) and I also notice those as well. I love looking at people’s hands and watching how graceful or clumsy they are; how the veins and tendons play as the fingers open and close—and I’ll take an opportunity to describe those. Hands can tell a reader how a character is feeling. They can also help to build sexual tension. For example:
She recognized his hand, his left hand to be exact — long fingers, squared-off nails, and a mole at the knuckle by the pinky. She’d spent the entire movie staring at that hand as it rested ever so close to her own. That tanned hand with the light colored hairs on it — not too much hair, but just enough to ooze masculinity.
Then there are the eyes. Describing eyes involves more than just color, size or shape. Eyes also relate to emotions. A character’s blue eyes may look sky blue when he’s happy, slate blue when he’s angry or almost black when aroused.
His eyes darkened to a foreboding brown; the murky brown of an impenetrable medieval forest, barring all from entering, promising terror to all who ignored its warning.
… her moss green eyes sharpened to a finely cut emerald, its icy sharp edges glinting.
So for me, describing a character’s physical appearance is more than just what they look like. It’s also a way of illustrating a character’s emotions and providing depth.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Driving a novel forward within descriptive prose, via POV!

A tapestry in Prose!

Axebury Hall Estate: England 1642

Hero’s description:
Hair like golden wings, silk smock rippling, he hauled it over his head and cast it aside. Still he ran, and at two yards two inches tall he leapt clumps of thistles with ease, and despite dodging the spiked leaves her silk skirt snagged frequent in passing. She thought him for sure about to dive in the river wearing breeches and boots, but he sudden faltered, his knee crumpled and he fell. In her mad rush to reach him she almost tripped over his out-stretched leg, his cornflower blue eyes sparkling despite his mishap.
       No serious injury had befallen him, for he laughed and said, ‘Accursed rabbit hole,’ and let fall his head to pillowed grass. A smile crept to his face the like she had not seen in days, and she seized her chance. She fell upon him, legs straddling his torso to prevent escape. She quite expected imminent resistance but he surrendered, a tinge of irony in voice. ‘Sweet, sweet Anna, you have the advantage in a most unladylike way and I at your mercy.’


Heroine’s description:

Hands thrust to stark cold of stone, head bowed, her devastated expression and dark brown eyes bejewelled by tears absolute torture. Try as he might he could not erase the soft tickle of her lustrous raven locks against his cheek, nor the sensual softness of a breast beneath his fingers. He drew breath, his chest as though banded by steel. The sensation of her pert trembling lips captured by his and the merciless way in which he had wanted to devour every part of her: enough to drive a man insane. His rejection of her far worse, her petite figure put to flight utter agony. Damn his stupidity. A moment of rash behaviour behind him, he now had a memory of sensual intimacy albeit one to haunt the lonely path ahead. Dear heaven, how to live without her?          

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Advancing the story while describing physical attributes

From my timetravel WIP, two excerpts where my heroine is learning to use her beautiful past-life body to get what she wants:

1. Bellowing threats of tanned hides in Old French and Brezhoneg, Jermande crashed through the underbrush towards her.
Angel scrambled out of the pool and stepped into her shift. The ends of her hair tangled with the thin leather ties.
She'd disobeyed his instructions to stay in the shelter and feared his anger. Her younger self took charge.
“By the gods, Angelique. We are still in danger and you…” He came up behind her. The reproach died on his lips.
Bent over and bare to the waist, she combed her tresses. When she adjudged him calm, she straightened and fluffed her hair.
“Lord Brehon,” she said sweetly, sliding her shift slowly onto her shoulders. “Fair morn, Ninnog.”
The stable boy gaped as she bent, still unlaced, to pull on her boots.

2. Jermande half-carried, half-pushed Angelique up three narrow flights to the attic, forced her inside and slammed the door. Crazed longing coursed though his body.
She spun around and fell into his arms.
He pulled her hard against him. Their lips met in a rush of passion.
“Jere Mie,” she moaned, brazenly sliding her hands down past his waist, to his hips, to his thighs.
How could she know his nursling name, the endearment that his mother had crooned as she rocked him? Who was she?
He entwining his fingers in her silky hair, tipped back her head and rained kisses on her face and neck, determined to torment the truth out of her.
“Is it true?” Her pupils were dark with drink and desire. “Are you avowed to be celibate?”
“Oh, sweet love,” he groaned. He swept her off her feet and carried her to the bed. “Hear me. I cannot be your lover, for I am too big for a good woman, for any woman. I have known since I was called.” He raised his fists angrily toward the heavens. “It never mattered until now.”
To his astonishment, she reached out and freed the laces of his breeches. His accursed manhood fell out, thick and heavy. The room seemed to spin as he waited for her rejection.
“In my time size is considered a virtue.” She cupped his shaft in her hand.
“What?” He jerked back and covered himself.
“I think the problem is that girls are wed far too young here.” She sounded impossibly lucid.