Friday, October 30, 2015

Q is for Questions

Margaret talks about the many questions writers ask themselves

 Asking questions is how we learn. Children ask questions all the time, sometimes ones we find difficult to answer. It’s the same with writers and writing. What if, is a question I constantly ask myself. If I did this, how would it affect my story? What if I changed this part and totally altered the outcome? What if I - ?

I’m sure you get the idea.  At the very start of a book there are always questions:

How old are my hero and heroine?

Have they suffered a good or bad relationship in the past?

Are they in the market for romance?

Do they love or hate each other at first sight?

Then there are their jobs:

What do they do? Are they successful in their chosen careers? Happy? Or perhaps struggling and wishing for a complete change in their lives.

There is also a writer’s vulnerability.

Is my story really working?

Should I change this part or that?

Perhaps cut out one of my scenes altogether?

Or alter it?

So many questions all needing answers. Writing can be both a joy and a headache. Usually a mixture of both. But the questions never stop coming and it’s how these questions are answered that is the most important thing of all.



Thursday, October 29, 2015

Q is for Quaint

Debra fell in love with the quaint town she created for her series.

The Corral is the setting for my series. It's a bar based on the actual place my hubby and I met. In the first book (This Time for Always) the majority of the action takes place at the bar or at the hero's home. There are a few other small scenes, but the characters do spend the majority of their time at The Corral. In the second book (This Can't Be Love) the majority of the action takes place away from the bar itself at the heroine's grandfather's house. The hero works at The Corral, so that's our tie-in. In the third book (This Feels Like Home), some of the action takes place at The Corral, but I really started expanding the universe of it so to speak and the town around The Corral began to take shape. It's here we really get a glimpse of what Main Street looks like. We meet Kelly, the proprietress of the dry cleaners. We spend a bit of time at the park at the edge of town. We find out The Corral itself sits on the edge of a field bordering the woods. We spend a bit more time at Bubba's Diner (the other eatery in town). And we spend quite a bit of time at the rodeo ring with our bull rider hero.

When I was done with the series, I wasn't ready to leave my setting behind. So I came up with a spin-off series of holiday stories based at The Corral and in the town. Kelly will be the heroine in my Halloween story. Through Scott's eyes (the hero in the Valentine's Day story) we learn there's a town square and a clock tower. Maggie shows us what the town looks like decorated for Christmas. And in the Fourth of July story we find out how the community comes together to honor those who have served our country.

With each and every story I fall deeper in love with the small town I've created. Two of the holiday stories are contracted. Another is almost ready for submission. And I'm planning two more after that to complete the spin-off series.

But I can't help but wonder, even when those books are done, am I going to be able to let my quaint town go? There's so much more to learn about it. For instance, I'm sure there's a bookstore. (g) And maybe a crafty/house decorating kind of store. What are the teachers like at the high school? A couple of my heroines have gotten or used flowers in their, there's obviously a florist. Even though it's a small town, the possibilities for its growth are endless.

It will be interesting to see what happens when I write 'the end' for the New Year's Eve story. Will my little town be put to rest? Or will it show up again as the setting for another set of stories? Only time will tell I guess.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Q is for Quarrelling

Paula looks at how out characters quarrel.

At some point in a story, our hero and heroine will usually ‘fall out’ – quarrel, fight, argue, accuse the other character, or become involved in some kind of altercation. It’s all part of the conflict(s) we introduce to make life difficult for them.

For me, it’s often the hardest part of the story to write as I dislike confrontation in ‘real life’ and do my best to avoid it.

I’m aware that there are many pitfalls when writing a quarrel. It’s all too easy to give the impression that the heroine is a nagging harpy, or the hero an arrogant b….d! Readers of romance usually want to escape from the kind of squabbles that sometimes (often?) happen in real life!

Petty bickering is one sure way to turn the reader off your characters. Equally, I think we need to avoid belittling, humiliating, and verbal abuse. Any form of bullying or physical violence is a no-no too, as is one of characters going into a lengthy sulk afterwards!

Obviously, there may be exceptions to the above, but, generally speaking, a quarrel with any of these elements shouldn’t occur between the hero and heroine unless there is a specific reason.

So what does that leave us with? Basically, there should be a genuine reason for a quarrel or confrontation. It should be related directly to either the internal or external conflict(s), and not just because a character happens to be in a bad mood! And it should be a fair fight. A heated exchange is good for upping the tension, a slanging match isn’t!

Genuine reasons can include self-defence e,g, when a character is wrongly accused of something, or if a character feels betrayed or badly let down by someone they trusted, or they discover the other person has lied or cheated. Sometimes the characters may have a difference of opinion about something that is important to them both. Misunderstandings can also cause arguments, but these should be serious misunderstandings, and not something that can be resolved easily.

What reasons have you used for the quarrels between your characters?

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Q Is For Questions

Jennifer tries different ways to answer reader questions…

When I write my Jewish romances, I’m very aware that many of my readers are not Jewish. Therefore, while I might understand the meanings of certain Yiddish words or phrases, my readers might not. In addition, my characters might be practicing certain customs that make sense to me, but are confusing to others.

Most of my critique partners are not Jewish, so they catch what I miss, but while I’m writing, I try to make sure I’m being clear about everything. And there are three methods I typically use.

The first is what I call “the CSI method.” CSI started the forensic science trend on TV and needed to make its viewers understand what it was doing and why. So the characters would explain what experiments they were doing as they were performing them. When my characters are prepping for a holiday, for example, I will often have them discussing what they’re doing and why with another character. The risk I run is making their discussion believable, and not turning it into a lesson, which would be overly obvious and not a discussion that two of my characters would typically have. In general, my Jewish characters know why they’re doing something and wouldn’t need to explain it. So the explanation has to be subtle.

The second method I use is translation. I typically pepper these books with Yiddish words and expressions because they’re used in my own every day life. Some words are known by the general public, but many are not, so when I use them, I try to include either a synonym nearby or make it obvious from the context what my characters are saying. I don’t want to use a dictionary in the back of the book because some people find it takes them out of the story.

And when those two methods won’t work, I fall back on the kids. Most of my stories include children, and they are very useful for asking questions and getting answers so that the reader knows what’s happening.

What do you think? Are there other methods I should consider?

Monday, October 26, 2015

Q is for quarrels

Ana posts a scene from her time travel WIP. The French-born hero has pressured the heroine in to agreeing to spend Saturday with him. A runner, she chose to meet him at the track at the school where he is a teacher, and she is the interim accountant. She hoping to chase him off for good. 

     Angel bent her forehead to her knee in a slow, intense leg stretch as Jeremy approached. She ignored him until his impatience was palpable. Her plan was foolproof.
    “Bonjour, Angel.” Jeremy kissed her hand and spread his arms wide. “Such a beautiful morning. I hope you slept well. I am ready.”
     “I thought we’d start with a few laps.” She wiped her knuckles on her pants and walked onto the track.
    “Wonderful. You are seeing things in a new way.” He easily matched her stride.
    Without warning, she sprinted a quarter of the way around the track, stopped and jogged in place until he caught up.
    “Are you sure you’re up to this?” she inquired sweetly. “You may not be in shape.”
    “When did you become a woman without a heart? I am man enough for you.”
    "That’s reassuring. Now, I am not going to stop this time. Catch me if you can.” She finished a lap and came up behind him when he was barely halfway around. Ignoring his signal to stop, she kept on running, concentrating on her stride and her breathing. After three more laps she slowed for a cooldown.
    He was nowhere in sight.
    She finally found him at the top of the bleachers, stretched out like an Alpine sunbather. He opened his eyes and sat up.  
   “So I guess we’re finished,” she said, masking her triumph.
    “Pfht. I knew you would go like a crazy woman. If you are ready to be even about it, yes. Together, we will go.”
     Back on the track, she started slowly and made a calculated amount of small talk. Little by little she pushed the pace faster. And faster. They had almost completed a lap when he went down and curl into a fetal position.
    She stopped and stood over him. “Quit fooling around, Jeremy.”
     “I do not fool.” He rolled onto his back clutching his left knee to his chest. His face was pale, contorted with pain. Blood seeped from two nasty abrasions, one on the bridge of his nose and one on his cheek just under his right eye. “My knee fails me at times.”
    Guilt flooded over her. She dropped to the track and cradled his head in her lap. "Should I call an ambulance?”
    “No,” he gasped. “I will rest. It will subside.”
    He massaged his knee. After an eternity, he wiggled his foot. “It feels a bit better. If I lock my arm with the elbow bent, and you hold there, we can make me to stand. Un, deux, trois.”
    She heaved on his count of three and slipped her arm around his waist to steady him. “Can you walk?” 
    He straightened his leg cautiously and attempted to rest his weight on it.

    “Non. There are arrows of fire. Could you help me to walk? My cottage is at the bottom of that hill.”

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sunday Snippet: Miriam's Surrender by Jennifer Wilck

Jennifer shares an excerpt from Miriam's Surrender...

Having just spoken about my stories that revolve around Purim and Passover, I thought I'd share an excerpt from Miriam's Surrender, my Passover book. You know how men get the admirable, but super-annoying, desire to "fix" everything when something big goes wrong and they feel helpless? And you know how that never works? Well, at one point in the book, Miriam gets mugged. She doesn't get hurt, just shaken up. And when Josh finds out, he's terrified for her. And because he's always been an "I have to take care of everyone" kind of guy, he feels guilty that he couldn't prevent Miriam from being mugged. So he decides to take care of her and one of the ways he does this is to call her boss and tell him what happened and that Miriam won't be in to work the next day. Which would have been nice and considerate if he'd asked Miriam first. But he didn't. Here's what happens:

“Oh my God, Miriam, are you okay? Josh told me what happened. You must be a wreck!”
“Relax, Sam, I’m fine. I was pretty shaken last night, but a good night’s sleep and a warm shower have done wonders. Go help yourself to breakfast. Josh brought bagels. I have to get ready for work.”
“Uh, yeah, about work,” Josh called.
Miriam stopped halfway down the hall and turned around, one eyebrow raised. He loved the look, less though when it was directed at him.
“I called in for you and told them you wouldn’t be in today.”
“You what?”
Out of the corner of his eye, Josh noticed Samara cover her mouth. Her eyes sparkled. He didn’t have time to wonder why.
“I called and left a message for Tom explaining what happened and you wouldn’t be in today.”
He watched her. Despite how still she was, he couldn’t take his gaze from her. She reminded him of a volcano, ready to explode, minus the steam or the trembling. No, she was still. A marble statue was more mobile than she was. Not a single muscle or hair moved. Her silk robe, which usually swayed in the breeze from floating air currents, was motionless. Her eyes, under normal circumstances, a warm, amber color, darkened to brown. And not a warm, eager, puppy-dog brown. No, her eyes were dead-plant-in-winter brown. Her mouth, once supple and moist, was pressed into such a firm line, her lips were white. She’d folded her arms across her chest, and her face was pale. Too pale.
“You should sit,” he said.
She took a step toward him.
Perhaps that wasn’t the best thing for him to say to her.
She took another step toward him and he resisted the urge to take a corresponding step backward. And the inkling he’d made a mistake? Yeah, it was more than an inkling now. It was a full-blown absolute certainty. He risked taking his focus off her for a moment and met Samara’s gaze across the room.

She was smiling. In fact, she was shaking with suppressed laughter. Her curls bounced, her eyes watered and the only thing keeping her silent was her hand covering her mouth.
Miriam took another step forward. This close to him, she needed to tip her head back to meet his gaze. Oftentimes, Josh’s height gave him an advantage. It didn’t now.
“Samara?” Miriam whispered.
“Yes?” Samara’s response was strangled.
“Take a bagel and leave. I’ll call you later.”
Samara left without uttering a word. Josh had the feeling he’d witnessed the wisest move ever.
“Maybe you shouldn’t have made Samara leave. It might be nice to have some company today. She could hang out with you, keep an eye on things while you rest...”
“Shut up.”

You'll have to buy the book to find out what happens.