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- “A ship is a ship is a ship, that’s what I be sayin’!” Chance eyed Terrio, who looked skeptical at the bartender.
- “There is a difference. A pirate ship isn’t the same as a merchant ship.” Terrio sipped her rum. “A Hooha isn’t a Mighty Mast!”
- Chance grinned and lifted a rum bottle. “Jus’ be a matter a’ which rum. They all be liquor. They all do the same thing, make one merry and ease the burdens a’ life. Nothin’ be different but the name and speed a’ which ya gets blurry. Same with ships. Same with writin’…”
- Terrio shook her head. “No. Don’t agree with you. There are rules…!”
The rest of the crew looked up as Terrio and Chance shouted at each other. Hellion rushed over just as the two collapsed in laughter. The debate was just beginning…but in merry spirits.
Conferences. How do you choose which ones to attend, which ones will provide the biggest bang for your buck. For your career. There are dozens of small ones. Most of us choose those by proximity. Either to our home, to our friends or to a vacation spot that will work into a convenient holiday. The bigger ones? Aw, harder to pick. So, which is it? RT Booklovers Convention or RWA Nationals?
I been ta both, twice. I’m not going to count my first RWA though. I live ‘bout sixty miles south of San Francisco, so I only visited last year’s RWA. I did a hit and run on that one. I missed a lot a’ things that were going on.
But…I did attend DC. So, thought I’d do an item by item comparison of the two events. (Purely unscientific, Q!) This be those a’ this year.
First – Hotties or Sequins. RT has a contest they run during the convention. A cover model competition. So, they have luscious cover models moving about during the convention, competing for votes from all attendees. Mmmm. Also, Ellora’s Cave, the erotica e-publisher, brings the cavemen. Double mmm mmm. RT raises money by offering chances to be photographed with these assorted hotties. (Great souvenir!) RWA has sequins. Lots of sequins during the RITA Awards. Worn by women.
I’d say RT wins with that one! (Lessen ya prefer women in sequins. Take yer pick!)
Second – Chocolate. RT, Wednesday night, Ellora’s Cave costume ball, various themes…big draw? (Other than the Cavemen…) Chocolate fountains with marshmallows, graham crackers and assorted fruit to dip. RWA? Chocolate buffet after the RITAS…not all that much chocolate. Tarts. They had some mini tarts and a few little bits of mousses.
I’d say RT wins that one!
Thirdly – Cost. OK…RT runs about $485, RWA runs, with membership, $425. But…! RT uses cheaper hotels and well…less glamorous locations. Average hotel cost at RT? $135 a night. The Marriott in DC? $238 a night. Both do a fair amount of feeding, RT has two dinners and 11 assorted opportunities for eating, from buffets to mixers. RWA has two lunches and two continental breakfast buffets. Small chapters offer chances to gnosh if you are a member.
We’ll call this one a draw, seeing as you do have sit through skits before you get dinner at RT. RWA’s luncheons feature very good speakers instead of questionable skits. (Fun skits but still…)
Fourthly – Panels … You know, a lot of this depends on what you write. RT has a great many e-pub panels, even an e-pub expo and signing…several erotica writing panels… RWA? More general panels, great business panels, lovely craft panels. Both have plenty of writers doing the panels. RT does have bookseller panels (12) and special events just for booksellers and librarians. Also 12 reader panels open to anyone, as well as author chats.
I broke this down as best I could. (Purely unscientific, counting on me fingers, ya gots?) RWA put on over 130 panels, most being general craft, career, media tilted. RT puts on 85, mostly defined by specific genre. Surprising results? RWA had no mystery, multicultural or e-book panels compared to 14 for RT. RT had over 20 paranormal, RWA had 3. RT had 3 historical to RWA’s 6. RT had 9 assorted mystery/thriller/suspense. RWA had 8. General craft? RWA had 75, RT had 18. Media and Marketing? RWA had 30, RT had 14.
This one be a draw, dependin’ on where yer interests lie. If ya want specific, RT has specific. Ya want more encompassing general? It be RWA. (If ya wants the specific chart I put together, let me know. I can e-mail it to ya.)
Fifthly – Extras…RT has the costume balls. RT has the RITAS. (One fancy dress vs multiple themed costume balls. Like to dress up? Ya vote yer likes.)
RT has a goodie room where free books are given away. RWA has the author signings where free books are given away (9 of these). RT has a massive freebie hallway, open the entire conference. (Lots of bookmarks and assorted bits a fun, along with Hershey kisses.) RWA has a small freebie room, open select hours.
Publisher Spotlights? RWA had 14, none from e-pubs. RT had 16, several from e-pubs.
RWA attracted over 500 authors to their Wednesday night event, selling books to benefit literacy programs. RT has a Saturday book event with over 300 authors attending and a Wednesday evening e-book event.
RT is a more casual conference. RWA is more professional attire. RWA appeared more about not dressing up so much as not being too casual. You see flip flops at RT. Not at RWA.
RT has 2 two day intensive writing workshops, one for beginners, one for advanced. They happen before the conference so the attendees don’t miss any of the actual conference. They do have an extra fee. They also have early bird sightseeing tours. RWA has special sessions for PRO authors and PAN authors. PRO (not sure what this stands for) having completed books with proof of submission, PAN (Published Author Network) having actually earned some bucks from said books.
Both have agent/editor appointments. RTs are one on one. I haven’t done the RWA ones, but I know some of them are the group pitch.
Locations? Well, RT does the ‘B’ list cities. I loved Pittsburgh. Orlando was fine. Compared to New York, Washington DC and Nashville? Well…when it comes to sightseeing, RWA has the edge. (Of course, this also means more expensive cities!)
In general, what is the difference between the two conferences? RT is not a non-profit organization. It is a magazine that celebrates the multifaceted gems of romance and erotica. But it’s a business, geared for profit. RWA is a non-profit organization with a goal of enhancing the reputation of the romance writer, and works to guarantee representation. It is a more prestigious organization, certainly. They hold a general membership business meeting and chapter meetings at their conference.
There are many controversies running through the world of RWA in regards to the entire situation regarding e-publishing and e-writers. Along with the role of erotica in the world of romance writing in general. (A controversy that does raise its head at RT, but at least it is addressed instead of ignored. Personal opinion here.)
So, aside from all the comparisons…it may be a matter of preference. It may be a matter of what you write…It may be a matter of eye candy, or chocolate candy. Or costs… I’m gonna do me best to attend both.
Anyone else out there attended both and have some opinions to chime in with? Questions? I do me best to answer or drag in me friends who can help out… (Ta learn about RT, go to www.rtconvention.com/ It’s pretty basic right now, but will be adding stuff as they go along. For RWA Nationals, go to www.rwanational.org/cs/conferences_and_events Again, pretty basic, but it will grow.)
I have a confession to make.
I’ve never read a romance novel that included sex scenes with more than two partners.
I know there’s a trend of ménage etc books out there, spreading into the realm of 4 or more sexual participants. I suspect that there could be erotic romance or erotica that includes entire legions of men and women, a virtual football team cast of characters. I just haven’t picked them up
I’ve read a few love triangle stories, stories in which the heroine chooses between two very different and equally exciting men. But when the heroine is spending “quality” time with each man, she keeps them separated.
I’m not sure why I’m not really interested. Ok, scratch that, I’m interested in the trend, I just haven't been interested in reading them for pleasure. I think I'll eventually pick one up, just to see how the limbs go where and how they cram all those people into one scene. Kind of a “How DID they do that” sort of thing.
But I’m hesitant. One of the things I like most about one-on-one romance is the character arcs are fully developed. When an author can focus on only two main characters, logistically there is more room to build believable characters. I worry that when too many characters are involved, an author would have to rely heavily on stereotypes to pull the story along and I get bored with that.
Also, I usually like alpha males and I wonder how the ordinary alpha male I like would deal with the object of his infatuation being handled by someone else. They’re not usually the sharing types.
But mostly, I worry that the emotional angst that I love so much in romance would be lacking.
It’s probably not helping that right now I only buy books that I’m pretty sure I’ll love. I don’t have a lot of time to read things I don’t think I’ll like. And I don’t get a lot of time just to experiment with genres either. Sort of tried and true works for me now. Maybe in the future I’ll be able to branch out and then I'll devour a whole bookcase full of them. Who knows?
Maybe you guys can enlighten me. Am I missing something?
So, what do you guys think about this “the more, the merrier” trend? Have you written a story with multiple participant sex scenes? If you haven’t, would you? If not, why not? If so, why did it appeal to you? If you have read a ménage or more story, do you feel that anything was lacking in the emotional arena as a result of the additional characters or did you think it made it more intense?
"Indifference is the strongest force in the universe. It makes everything it touches meaningless. Love and hate don't stand a chance against it." Joan Vinge
Let me just get this out there. The only chemistry I know is what happens between two characters destined for their paths to intersect in one mind blowing moment. There is nothing scientific about this blog. No one in their right mind would say I qualify to talk about science. I barely made it out of Biology II. It might be because I was busy reading a romance novel propped inside of my biology book instead of paying attention but my only saving grace is that I know worms are hermaphrodites and therefore blew the teacher's mind when I actually answered one question in class.
Chemistry for a writer is a tricky thing to get right.
Confession number one of my chemistry lesson: Kiki and I are struggling.
Let me explain. Kiki was my first original character ever written. In the beginning, Kiki and I fought over what her real story should be. Kiki believes that I should allow her to be a con-artist. She's comfortable with the amount of indifference you need to feel when gaming a target. She comfortable with the fact that on an entirely different level of emotional deadening, she never allows herself to react to a situation with emotion only cold detachment. This allows Kiki to move about life without really ever living it. The very thought of facing down her emotions is more daunting than facing down the barrel of a gun.
My issue is as a writer is writing a character with the kind of cool detachment Kiki's has obtained makes it very difficult to write about chemistry and keep it well within her character bounds. Kiki's journey throughout the books will be a wider arc than Sadie's emotional arc. Sadie's not lacking in emotional outpouring. Sadie's been locked in a padded cell for ten years. All she had to keep her company was the safety of her emotions and even those she couldn't trust. So when it comes to writing Sadie, she has all these emotions that pour out all at once. She doesn't know how to process them or compartmentalize or even stop herself from irrational behavior.
Confession number two of my chemistry lesson: Once upon a time Sadie and Kiki were the same character and now split because of emotional differences. Sometimes I wish my emotional split was just as easy.
Sadie's emotional journey into chemistry with another character will be a journey of self exploration into her character growing up. Sadie is 26 going on 16. She never attended co-ed slumber parties and played 7 minutes in heaven. She didn't go to homecoming or prom. And this day and age, it's hard to write a modern character who is not only an emotional virgin, but save one moment in the bed of a pickup is pretty much starting from the ground up physically. She's unsure of herself. Unsure of how she feels. Unsure how to trust someone and will probably just jump off the cliff without looking over the edge first. Kiki, on the other hand, refuses to have any emotional attachment to anyone who could mean something to her. Kiki is hell bent on closing herself off from the world forever.
Realistically, Kiki is in love with this guy whom she's loved since she was seventeen. She would rather die than admit it. In fact, they had one night together that really showed her how much she loved him and how dangerous he really was to her and ever since she's kept him at arm's distance. This is the first chance I'm really having to write a male character other than Alpha and I'm enjoying it a bit. Kiki is a little too dominant to end up with another alpha. He needs to know when to take charge and when to take a step back and let her lead. The emotion between them is the hardest part to write. First person POV allows for you to only know how Kiki's feeling, and not allowing for the intimate connection between them to boil out of control. You'd never know when they are together that she feels anything more than friendship between them. Emotionally its difficult for him to take but he knows if he pushes her, she will only push him further away.
There is a plus side to all this emotional drama. Usually chemistry and emotion can be separated. And for me, showing Kiki the difference is going to make my day. I'm going to drag her into a relationship, leading her specifically with the chemistry she can't get away from, and then she's going to realize that she's in too deep with him. Slow and steady with Kiki. Catching her off guard is the hardest part. Inside, she's so in tune to any slight change on her emotional behavior towards someone. No move is miscalculated- the chess game without the chess board.
And confession number three of my chemistry lesson: It starts with a look.
Not just any look. I'm not talking about the sex eyes from across the room. Any fool can do that. There is this moment that two people can share when your eyes meet for just a brief second. It's one of those looks that passes a million conversations in a single blink. I like to think it's your heart recognizing its other half. But that's way too romantic for truly what the look represents. The look represents the chemistry founded between two able bodies. It's the look that makes your heart race uncontrollably and your lips to part. Breathing becomes difficult and a faint tint of pink hints on your cheeks. In a single second, a look can remind you of everything you want and everything you need. Reminding you of what you're missing and compelling you to go after it.
Showing that to a character makes all the world of difference and it's hard not to think about the possibilities. Chemistry is that want and need, the pure desire to feel something with another person. It's often that that chemistry you have for someone leads into something more emotional if you allow it. (And often you don't allow it and it happens anyway. Because let's face it, we can't control our emotions. We like to think we can, but it's a shallow attempt of wasted energy on the inevitable.)
So today, let's talk about feeling chemistry and writing chemistry. What is the best attempt at chemistry between two characters you've read recently (or in the past)? And what is your favorite scene of chemistry you like to write?
Occasionally I get an email out of the blue from some kind, hardworking publicist who asks me if I’d like to review a book. This is a two-fold perk. For one, this person has supplied me with a blog topic (because you have to admit, it gets a little exhausting finding new ways to talk about alpha heroes) and for two, this person has supplied me with the best of all toys (Jack Sparrow aside): a romance novel. In previous reviews, I’ve been offered books of debut authors, or authors I just don’t normally read, but this last email, I hit the motherload. An author who’s already on my auto-read pile.
I began reading Linda Lael Miller when I was 15. It was 1990; and I had bought my sister a romance novel for Christmas. Only to my delight, as soon as she read it, she gave it back to me. She wasn’t really a book collector, if you will. Clearly this was the plan all along, and I immediately devoured Lily and the Major with all the precocious-ness of my teenage self. Lily was a mere three years older than me in the novel, so it was easy to identify with this orphan West-bound heroine who falls in love with an Army major, who is dangerous, arrogant, and not overly honorable. Well, I suppose I wasn’t an orphan, and I hadn’t actually lived in the 1870s, but I could very much understand why Lily fell in love with this obstinate mule of a man.
It was because of the dresser scene. He was very alpha. And I’ve never thought of vanity dressers the same. I’d expound, but I’ve already said too much about a book I’m not even reviewing today. Maybe another day. That scene is worth a few expoundings.
Anyway, with a skill that could rival the Jesuits, Linda Lael Miller won me over at a very young age. And it wasn’t only for the alpha heroes or the hot sex. She had a good story; and her history within her historicals didn’t feel like wallpaper. More importantly, her historical characters didn’t act like they came out of 90210. Although she wrote stories set in various locals, my favorites were her cowboy books. The woman had a talent for an American West novel.
Lately I’ve gone off reading historicals—I’ve been very persnickety of late, I admit, see: pissiness about characters who act like they come out of 90210—and it was only because I was at the library that I found one of Linda’s new novels called The Rustler. I hadn’t read one of Linda’s books in a long time I’m sad to say, and suddenly I was cast back to my nostalgic 15 year old self, hankering after a good dresser scene. I took it home with hopeful, careful optimism. And I’m glad to say The Rustler delivered. It was sexy; it was character-driven; there were real problems I wasn’t sure they could overcome. And in the end, I believed they had a HEA. Best of all, I saw that The Bridegroom, which featured another of the characters, was due out later this year.
Guess what that kind, hardworking publicist emailed me and asked me to interview? The Bridegroom. Some pirates have all the luck, right? I got it right away, but put off reading because I wanted to do the review closer to release date. Lately I’d been staring at it guiltily on my bookshelf, knowing I needed to get on it, but not quite in the mood for a cowboy novel. Silly Hellion.
Saturday I picked it up. I figured it’d take me a few days to read it. I’d start it now, take it on my trip to Chicago, and by the time I came back, it’d be all done. We have that long bus ride after all.
That book wouldn’t have lasted the length of one of the bus rides. I started reading it Saturday night and finished it Sunday morning. I couldn’t put the darned book down. Everything I loved about Linda Lael Miller was in this book! The historical characters that fit the history; a cowboy novel that didn’t feel like every single cowboy novel I’d already read (it takes place in Arizona, 1915—hell, a different century! What a change of pace!); and sexual tension that could light up Vegas.
Though the hero and heroine marry early into the book, they don’t have sex until far into the game—he’s a little reluctant for the actual act—but he does some other activities that had me fanning myself. And Linda doesn’t take pages for writing it, nor does she use any technical purple prose phrases that really draw you back out of the story. Okay, maybe one purple phrase, but it fit the scene and character in question. All in all, the sexual tension and sex itself are well done but not over done. They were just hot. I read one scene twice. Okay, three times. In fact, I was tempted to dogear a few pages and…never mind, I’ve said too much.
Now the hero and heroine have very different problems—and they are problems you wonder how they can be solved and still have them end up together. Especially for him. Gideon, our hero, has been hired by a mining company to be a spy. Once he tattles, he knows he’s not going to be welcome in that town anymore—that’s if he gets out with his skin. Lydia, our heroine, is trying to protect her family: two spinster great-aunts and a housekeeper. Her option is to marry the banker in Phoenix, but he’s old, and mean, and just not attractive. She sends off a “help” letter to Gideon (whom she knew as a child) and he rides to her rescue. He can’t let her marry the jerk; and he knows she’s going to do it to save her aunts. He steps in—but in doing so, he now finds himself with a wife he had no intention of ever having. And what’s going to happen to her when he has to hightail it out of town? He can’t run with two old ladies, a housekeeper, and a fragile wife. I felt the problem as keenly as he did and kept turning the page, even when I could barely keep my eyes open.
And when the men rode off to take care of some trouble, leaving the women behind--and Lydia asked, "What do we do?" and Lark responded, "We wait, as women have to", I whooped! I swear if I ever get the golden opportunity to meet Linda Lael Miller--and I can actually form a coherent sentence--I'm going to thank her for writing historicals where the characters act like they're supposed to.
I’ve said too much. You really need to read it yourself. If you love historicals and miss the well-written cowboy historical, you can’t go wrong by picking this one up. Really. It’s good. And once you’ll read it, you’ll realize you need to read the other three books associated with it—which won’t be a bad thing because they’re just as good.
So, belly up to the bar and share with us your favorite cowboy novel AND/OR favorite sex scene in a novel that you remember even years later. I’ll even make it easy on you guys and make a direct link to Amazon so you can order those books. The Bridegroom is out today.
You are the winner of either a 2-page critique from Emily Bryan or a copy of her book, Pleasuring the Pirate. It's up to you which prize you'd like! Just let Emily know your preference and your snail mail addy through her website at www.emilybryan.com.
Thanks to everyone for making Emily's visit such a success!
Ever had one of those time when it feels like the world is somehow off track? Like you’ve woken up on the wrong side of the bed every day? Or maybe like there is no right side?
That’s how I’m feeling.
I attended my first RWA National conference last year and came back feeling both overwhelmed and exhausted. I was jet lagged and had run on very little sleep while in San Fran. I had written like crazy in the two weeks leading up to the trip, but upon returning, I still had the burden of working on my degree hanging over my head. That meant not another word on the WIP for the next year. This year’s experience was similar and yet totally different.
Again this year, I wrote like crazy in the two weeks before the conference. Those were my first two weeks after finishing school and I think I was running on the intoxicating combination of relief, accomplishment, and excitement. I didn’t run myself as ragged at this conference and there was no jet lag as I didn’t travel by jet but by train. I even slept in most mornings, rising after all of my roommates had started their days. And yet, I returned home exhausted.
This year, I didn’t come back to the burden of school. I didn’t come back to the burden of anything. I was motivated, the story kept progressing in my mind, and yet I’ve somehow run into a brick wall. The wall I worried would be there when it came time to write.
In an effort to break through, I wrote a bit last night on a short story I’d started back in the spring. It’s a bit autobiographical and so serves as good therapy. Not that I’d torture and insult and ex in a story. Nope, not me.
The words came and I felt good about getting more words down on Sunday, but Sunday didn’t turn out as I’d planned. I woke to find my parakeet not doing well. I’m not sure exactly what happened, but by late afternoon, she was gone and it wasn’t a gentle passing. Let’s just say, that took the wind out of my sails.
The irony is, I’m pretty sure she’s haunting the kitten. Somehow that makes me smile. Even if it’s also wreaking havoc in my living room.
So how do you fix an off feeling when you have no idea what is off? How do you fight an enemy that won’t show its face? If I can’t blame school or the winter blahs or any other distractions, what do I blame?
You know, not just anyone is qualified to fill the rank of Hottie Crew Member on this ship. There are several important qualities a candidate must have if he wants his own hammock on this vessel. Today’s newest recruit embodies those traits every good Hottie Pirate should have.
For one, he must have the look. You know, *that* look that tells you he can either kick your ass or spank your ass and make you like it. That look that can melt a Pirate’s bloomers or strike fear in the man who crosses him the wrong way. This look.
He also needs the body. The kind of body that can inspire us Pirates to create our slammin’, hot as hell, take you against the wall heroes. And the hard abs come in handy when doing body shots. We like to be thorough and make sure we get every drop of liquor out of that six pack. And I’m not talking about cans of beer. A body like this.
Then there’s that added quality that every Pirate Hottie must have – quick thinking. We admit there are times when a quick get-away is necessary and it helps if you can pick up all your clothes and make it out the door without being caught.
Yes, this Hottie definitely has it all. In case I haven’t said it lately, I love my job on this ship.
Chance rolls out of her bunk, rubbing her eyes, resisting the urge to sneeze and infect the entire ship with her cold. A soft murmur comes from the deck above, so after thoroughly cleaning her hands with disinfectant, she determines to see what is going on.
- “Damned germs!” she curses before climbing the steps. As her head clears the deck, she spies Lady Jane, in full Scarlett O’Hara regalia. Hoops skirt, great big hat, ruffles and bows scattered about the huge skirt. Across from her, being careful not to step on the elegant fabric, sits the guest Chance had invited aboard some weeks before.
- “Oh, blast. Knew I’d forgotten somethin’!” Chance shook her head, grateful Lady Jane had taken over the duties of the day.
With a furtive glance, Chance raises her keyboard onto the step at chest level and types, putting the blog together from the questions Jane so eloquently asks…
“She do owe me,” Chance mutters as she types. “And I’ll give ‘er credit. Maybe…”
Jane and I met Emily Bryan at the Orlando Romantic Times Convention. Well, that is where I met Emily. Jane had already wheedled her way into the author’s confidence some weeks before via Emily’s most excellent blog, www.emilybryan.com. Emily was new to me, but I dove in and read two of her books right away, VEXING THE VISCOUNT and DISTRACTING THE DUCHESS. I bought PLEASURING THE PIRATE, but held off. (I admit to a jealous nature when books with pirate themes hit the shelf…) I finally tamed my jealous nature and read PtheP. And really loved it. I enjoyed the other two, but the nautical nature of PtheP caught me right off.
Emily writes lovely “wickedly witty historical romance.” The story of a landlocked former pirate, learning how to be a gentleman is full of fun and lots of nice steamy sex. My favorite line from PLEASURING THE PIRATE?
“Aye, ‘tis easy enough to fall in with villains, bad company being so much more pleasurable than good company as a general rule.”
Totally seems to fit the theme for the ship, don’t it!?
Now, let’s continue with Lady Jane’s well thought out questions and Emily’s very educational answers!
- “Sin, ya keep that undead monkey out from under Jane’s skirts!”
- “Jack! The pleasuring be done in the book, ya want more, ya go find Hellion! Quit lookin’ down Emily’s dress!”
Now, we let Jane take over the interview…
I didn’t have a web presence prior to publishing, but I wish I had. Instead of a full-blown website, I’d recommend a blog for pre-published writers. (I like ‘pre-published’ better than ‘unpublished.’ It’s more hopeful.) It’s a great way to make professional connections and using Blogger or Wordpress, it won’t cost you a dime.One thing to keep in mind, though. Remember to be kind. My mom always says every bad thing you say about someone else is a prayer to the devil. Publishing is a very small world. The author you diss now, you may want a cover quote from later.
Now that I write full-time (Thank you, God and my DH!) I aim for 10 pages a day. It’s a good thing to try to stay ahead of schedule, because you never know when life is going to throw you a curve. When I was unexpectedly diagnosed with colon cancer before last Christmas (I’m doing great now! No chemo, no radiation, the surgery seems to have worked!) I still had 30 pages to write on my Christmas novella in A CHRISTMAS BALL (due out 09/29/09). Between pain meds and my 50day/50 blog tour to promote VEXING THE VISCOUNT, my page count fell to under 2 a day. But because I had worked ahead, I still made my deadline and my editor said it was the funniest, sexiest thing I’ve ever turned in.
My writing day starts around 9 and ends when my DH comes home from work. I sneak in a blogpost while I have my morning coffee, then I pick up where I left off writing the day before. I write linearly—I start at the beginning and write straight through, editing as I go. I check my email at lunch and walk the dogs. Then it’s back to the 19th century. If I have time after I finish my page count, I tweak my website or visit other blogs. I really should add 30 minutes on a treadmill to my schedule, too, but sweating is so overrated.
“When putting together a story do you usually have characters first? an idea? a place, how does your story sometimes unfold from a seedling?”
Romance is character-driven fiction, so I have to start with the characters. Once I figure out who they are and what they want, then I can devise fiendish ways for them NOT to get it. Until they deserve it, of course.I talk about how to choose which premise to work with at www.emilybryan.com/Which Rocks to Polish which is one of my Write Stuff pages.
I’m inspired by lots of things. Music, art, a walk along the river. I really got jazzed up when I was at RT last April and saw a picture of my hero Crispin Hawke, almost exactly as I imagined him at the Fortin and Sanders booth in Club RT. Crispin’s story STROKE OF GENIUS will be out next summer.
“Emily, you write under both Diana Groe and Emily Bryan, when writing do you find it hard to "switch hats" between the two different styles in order to keep up with your readers expectations?”
- “Splendid! Jane-o, you did great! Where did you get that dress? The fabric looks like the curtains in Hellions’ cabin… Emily, welcome aboard the ship. I be mannin’ the bar now and lettin’ the crew gather ‘bout fer questions…”
“Glittery Hooha? Anyone!? Oh, and I gots me a new drink here…Stephanie’s Double Stuffed Flaming Twinkies…jus’ give me a moment ta stuff the chocolate chips in and set it afire…it be a drink and snack in one!”
Ask away, crew and guests! Ya mights win a critique from Emily!
I read somewhere that until you publish, you write on guts alone and, after you publish, you write out of fear.
The quoted person above (and for the life of me I can't find where I heard this so I apologize to this incredibly intelligent, quotable person) says that fear motivates the second book because you have to live up to your past success. One time success could just be luck; two successes, well, that's a streak.
I personally think that all a person needs to write a book is a working knowledge of a written language (English being my choice) and time. The rest of that stuff is psychological. It's the drama we put ourselves through, not reality. In reality, we just have to sit and put words to paper, which takes some knowledge of crafting words together and the time to write them down.
I suppose this guts they reference is all the personal angst aspiring authors put themselves through. I mean, honestly, when I put words to the paper, it never just feels like they're words; they represent my thoughts, my feelings, the way I view the word. They create what I think is special and important. I know I feel very vulnerable when I let other people read what I write. What if they think my thoughts are stupid? I think a lot of stupid things, after all.
It takes guts to push through the psychological trap we make for ourselves. But worrying about how much guts we have can add to our anxiety. I know English and I've decided to dedicate the time to writing. That's all I need right now. I'll deal with the angst later.
What do you think it takes to write a book, the first or otherwise?
Music of the week: "Solitude" Evanescence- Origin
"Anxiety is love's greatest killer. It makes others feel as you might when a drowning man holds on to you. You want to save him, but you know he will strangle you with his panic." Anais Nin
Emotion is like standing at the edge of a cliff and looking down at the waves crashing into the rocks wondering if you have the courage to jump or if you should back away slowly without turning your back on it.
An alpha never has to make that choice. The thought of emotion entering into their life is unmentionable. Close the door and throw away the key- emotion is better when it's kept under constant surveillance and slowly leaks away from the surface until you can't control it anymore. That's what I love about alpha characters the most, the indifference, the ability to detach themselves from the situation and just survive.
In the beginning, alpha characters tend to show us they won't be getting lead around by the emotional noose. Life throughout that story seems to get muddled into several different directions with other's emotions to consider and the very life you want and the life you have are two entirely different things. There are times when the story is unfolding that we realize it's all you can do to pull yourself away from the situation and remain unaffected. To walk away and swear you don't have to look back. You don't need that person. You won't miss them and that you can stand on your own. The hardest is to remind that character they don't care. They can't care. The emotional output of caring for another is beyond their emotional capacity. It's beyond the ability to give the person what they want and need and that's why they walk away.
They can walk away, but they spend the rest of their life trying to forget. For the character it's impossible to know what you're missing until it's truly gone and you can't get it back and you have to live with the regret. So, you teach the character within this lesson of heartache and emotional distress that you can run and you can hide, but emotion is always laying right underneath the surface and looking for a way out to remind you at the worst possible time.
If the story is going the way that it should, the worst possible time for the character to remember will be at the exact moment they realize they are in love. It's obvious to the whole world that love is supposed to conquer all and in the end all will be well in their little world. With a nice, tight ending that makes everyone happy.
But it doesn't. The emotion conquers all. And emotion is a messy tricky thing.
That's where we learn how to write conflict. The emotional side of conflict within the story is what drives the hero/heroine together at the end of the story ARC. The conflict is somewhat complicated by the fact we have characters who aren't open emotionally and would rather drown all emotion than have any of it. And you can drown in your emotion. You can keep only keep emotion bottled up for so long before it overwhelms and suffocates you into a nonfunctioning human being. Resolving the emotional conflict between our characters just means we- as the writer- have to resort to showing our characters who is really in charge of their emotional stability and once they get to that breaking point, show them what they are really made of.
The first time I read an alpha character, a true honest to God alpha male whose ability to walk away from everything he wanted without pause, I knew I was in love. I knew that was a character I wanted to channel, wanted to unlock and deconstruct and perfect. I wanted to find out what makes an alpha tick and what would bring him to his knees. And I wanted to figure out how to perfect the perfect alpha female. The alpha female is one strong cookie emotionally, tougher than nails, unaffected by life and all its hardships. She stands alone and is capable of living her life without anyone in it.
The quest to write an alpha is a long road, filled with doubts and worries. The alpha female is one of the most complex characters to take on (IMHO) and write realistically.
Emotionally deadening an alpha female character is quite a journey of self-exploration into one's self character and how to deconstruct the layers and put them back together is emotionally overwhelming all in itself. Memories that are better left forgotten and buried deep within their character. Emotion can be construed as a weakness, something to be exploited by a villain. Emotional drowning can take the very breath from your lungs, steal your eyes of the tears waiting to be spilled, rob your heart of caring until all that's left is an empty shell of indifference. Females can play many different characters in their lifetimes, but it's all about the behind scenes that really shows you who an alpha female really truly is inside. And the first time you show the reader who your heroine truly is when she's all alone and in the safety of her own house, that's how you show the difference between the true emotional detachment from everything and everyone and emotional detachment from the surface and outside world.
And you want the emotional detachment from the surface and outside world and reserve the real emotion for the times when you truly need it. When the thought of going through another day dead inside feels like a burden you can't bear to carry to the surface, that's showing your reader your alpha is real, just not a shell. It is that breakthrough in your character that shines like a beacon at the end and makes the journey all the better.
So, we debate the whole alpha, gamma, beta thing and get into arguments over the specifics every time the topic is brought up. How about we talk about emotional journeys our characters endure to get to the HEA or the HFN? What is a specific emotional journey you remember from a book you read in the past that really rang true with you?
RWA National has an electricity attached to it. I can’t say for sure if it’s because, once a year, writers, agents and editors come together in one place. It could be that the opportunity to connect on a human level with others who share a passion for writing about true heroes, strong heroines and their happily ever after. After all, writing is a solitary journey. It’s nice to stop and get charged up about that journey with others writers.
I had a great time at National this year. As, like every year so far, I’ve met some amazing people. I can’t really pinpoint all the highlights of the conference. First and foremost was raising a tankard to Terri completing her BA!! Terri, J Perry, Kim Castillo and I went out to an amazing sushi tapas restaurant. The waitress was one of the friendliest I’ve ever met and, truth be told, the only friendly one I met while in DC. We even got Terri to try a piece of sushi – brave soul that she is!
I could talk about the amazing workshops I attended and one in particular where friends read over the top scenes like pros. I could talk about the pitching I did and partial request I received. I could talk about the literary signing where over 500 authors signed their latest romance novels. Over 500 authors and their fans (it’s open to the public) in one HUGE space. I could also talk about how amazing it was to be a part of a debut author’s launch and the fun of contributing to her buzz. 2010 will be Tessa Dare’s year!
Instead I think I’ll share two of the best experiences of the conference for me. The first one occurred when I went down to Harry’s Pub for dinner by myself on Friday. While waiting for the waiter to come by and take my order another conference attendee stopped and asked if she could join me for dinner. Here’s where the magic of conference steps in. I had the pleasure of sharing a meal with Pearl Wolf. Pearl is a debut romance author whose book ‘To Hot For A Spy’ is out now. It also turns out she recently joined the NYC chapter of RWA. Without even trying I ran into a chapter mate. We talked craft. We talked the business of publishing. We discussed our children. One of her sons is in the restaurant business which is right up my alley since my books take place in that same industry. My oldest fancies herself another Ace of Cakes. We connected on so many levels just two strangers at a conference sharing a meal.
The second experience and I can’t really call it second best is the brainstorming I did with author Diane Gaston. I have enjoyed Diane’s books from the very first one I picked up when she was writing as Diane Perkins. She is a very talented writer and a very giving writer. We chatted while enjoying a glass of wine with some of the folks over at Risky Regencies. Diane asked about my WIP and I shared with her what my story was all about. I was having a bit of problem with one of the themes of the story and Diane showed me a possible solution. I call this moment my YES moment. Now it all made sense. Now I can get it to flow naturally instead of in a stilted, cliché manner. It was as if the shades were lifted off my eyes. I was stuck and could finally move forward! This is the hallmark of the generosity that published authors share with writers like me. And it all took place in the context of an informal gathering of blogsite followers.
These two experiences are what I think this conference is all about for me. Connecting with people who are on the same wavelength that you are is so fantastic. To be with people who ‘get it’ and understand the passion you feel about your writing.
Since I enjoy dark regencies, Nicole Jordan was recommended to me a few months ago, and I promptly forgot about it, until I read an article with her in the Romance Writers Report a few months ago. In it, she talked about writing dark angsty books, and than recently she found herself writing lighter books. And she said this was a good thing, as she no longer felt like she needed to slice open a vein before she sat down to write.
Now that's commitment to writing angst.
So naturally this got me curious and this weekend, I stumbled upon one of her books at the library. I raced home, curled up on the couch, and didn't move until I'd finished. Wow, was there angst. Beautiful, gut-wrenching, hold your breath because you're heart's pounding out of your chest angst.
I haven't read one of her new books, from the series she mentioned was lighter, so I don't know if she can keep the soul-deep characterication without the angst, but I'm curious to read them. But the whole thing got me thinking: How do you write angst?
I know there's several writers on this board who, like me, adore a dark, angsty, gut-wrenching story and love to write that kind. But even if you write puppies and kittens, there still has to be a dark moment, those last chapters where you think all might be lost.
So how do you write the sad scenes? The agnst? Do you need to "slice a vien" (so to speak - not literally please!) to get yourself in the mood to write angst? Do you swtich what kind of music you listen to? Make yourself cry?
Do you like reading agnsty books? Or prefer the lighter, happier kind of book? What authors rip your heart out with agnst?
There are some great movies out this summer. Transformers the second (or Transformers Part Deux as I like to call it). Of course, Harry Potter. But one I'm really looking forward to is GI Joe: Rise of Cobra.
I used to watch this cartoon with my brother all the time as a little girl. Something about it really got me. The alpha heroes. The skin tight clothes. The boy soap opera of it.
But my newest reason to obsess over GI Joe? Channing Tatum of course.
I fell in love with him in Step Up, but I just think he gets better and better looking.
What do you think? Does Channing stay?
Stop by the boat this week and hang out with us. Emily Bryan is coming to visit on Friday. Her light-hearted, sexy historicals are sure to please. Her latest, Vexing the Viscount, is available in stores now!
Here's another one, just for fun....
The more I write, the more I discover the correlation between my day job and my writing process. When I‘m experiencing a good day I imagine a new idea for a story. On a bad day, a patient experiences a sharp pain in their flank area, and a desire for pain medication. Before I start a story, I immediately gather information by research, and brainstorming. When a patient arrives in the emergency room, the admitting doctor obtains the patient’s medical history. After brainstorming, I develop a starting point for my story. The ER physician compiles lab and x-ray data, discovers a kidney stone and consults a urologist. Based on the size of the stone, the urologist decides whether to perform surgery. The patient receives a preoperative medication to relax them before surgery. I put on my pajamas, grab a glass of Diet Coke and get comfortable in my desk chair. The patient is placed on the surgery table; I put my desk chair in the swivel- rocking position. The nurse preps the patient with an antiseptic solution; I prepare my highlighters, and adjust my keyboard. The nurse places the patient’s legs in stirrups while I visualize how I can incorporate a set of stirrups in my story. The surgeon enters the room to perform the surgery; my hero takes center stage and commands the scene with an overconfident swagger. The surgeon confidently performs an x-ray with contrast, visualizes the stone, inserts a small basket into the patient’s ureter, curses when he drops the stone the first time but removes it on the second attempt. My hero scopes out my heroine, attempts to understand her, and finds himself running into her just on general purpose. He lassoes her heart, but not before he drops the ball on an important occasion, but in the end he delivers a happily ever after.
You’re probably wondering why I’m comparing writing to the removal of a kidney stone. Even though I made a small satire out of the two comparisons, it alleviates a lot of my writer anxiety. There are many gray areas in writing. Yes, there are specific rules one can follow, but I’m a person who feels comfortable only with experience. In my early years as a surgical nurse, I sweated the small stuff. I’ve learned the most by experiencing a situation in a swim or drown fashion. I had to rely on my own instincts, and thankfully, I had enough nursing experience in another field to carry me through the process. My writing experience has followed the same path. I wrote my first story by the seat of my pants, because I had no idea what I was doing. I totally relied on the passion I felt for the characters. I continued to write because of the encouragement I received from my peers. I continue in the field of nursing because I find reward in the healing process. If I haven’t learned anything else about writing, the most important thing that pulls me out of the darkness is my belief in what I want my characters to achieve. A part of me always feels every struggle, every tear, and every triumph that I create on the page.
The hardest and darkest points in my life have been about doubt in my ability and regretting not doing more when I had the chance. The most shining moments in my life have been about believing that good follows all the strife and effort I have experienced in this world. The more I write, the more I believe that good will come.
First, I hope everyone at Nationals is having a great time. I’m not there again this year but I hope Nashville is for me next year.
There are a bunch of reasons I had skip Nationals this year. I don’t have a babysitter and it was a little cost prohibitive. I’m sad. I wanted to go, it sounds like so much fun. I loved the conference I went to last year. Just being around all that creative energy and all those people who share similar goals/difficulties. It was great. I’m planning on going to the NJ RWA Conference in Oct though. Anyone else want to join me?
Since I couldn’t get myself to DC this year, I treated myself to the shore yesterday. I took the DS down to Ocean City, NJ and I laid on the beach (covered in 45 SPF). DS played in the sand and ran around in front of him and it was heavenly. It’s only an hour or so drive, but we don’t get down there as often as I’d like.
The beach turned out to be a great place to people watch. It’s like the mall with less clothes. I checked out the lifeguards and the menagerie of people lying out. The group of girls behind me who flirted with my son mercilessly. He flirted back too, I admit. The guy in the speedo (there’s always that guy in the speedo, ya know?) The young, the old. The couples, the singles. The runners.
My family has a few other vacations and mini-vacations that I’m looking forward to this year. After yesterday, I’m looking forward not only to getting away but to the kick to the creative juices I got. When I was at the NJ conference last year, I remember coming home and just feeling like I was on a high, like having all those like-minded folks around got me revved up. But I think it might be a change in my routine too.
So are you going anywhere fun this year? Do you feel like vacations get your creativity going? Are you attending any conferences this year?
"One thing life has taught me: if you are interested, you never have to look for new interests. They come to you. When you are genuinely interested in one thing, it will always lead to something else." Eleanor Roosevelt
Honestly, my one track mind is not about sex. I promise.
Today feels a bit like open mic night. I think I might need to tap the mic and see if I'm live because I don't think many people are going to be around to see this.
Musical Influence this week: "I won't see you tonight (Part 1)" Avenged Sevenfold- Waking the Fallen
and "Requiem for a Dream" Nightwish
I've done many things in my life. And even though, one can't say I've always been on this path, it seems to suit me (Okay, some days it does and others it frustrates the hell out of me). I can say that I think of writing in many different forms: it can be the game, it can be the metaphorical life, the fantasy and a bit despairing and writing can be your everything, nothing and light at the end of a very dark tunnel. Usually, I'm pretty quick to come up with something to write about (it's in my natural to ramble); but this week, as I began to debate what to write about, I came up empty handed. So I asked someone to give me a topic and the topic at hand was turn racing into writing. I thought- what the hell. I like a challenge. So racing it is.
I know. You can't believe I'm about to go there.
Me either. I'm more of a put me in a jersey and tackle me type; but I know Terri would be so proud if she wasn't off gallivanting around at Nationals.
So, I give you my take on racing and the grand sport of writing. Because if nothing else, us writers know that writing is as much as a sport as it is a mental game. It wears us down. It tears us up and eventually we triumph after we wreck the hell out of everything standing in our way.
Writing and racing can be similiar. There's a start, there is a middle and always there is inevitably an ending, regardless how you wanted it to end or not. (Unless we make a wrong turn and wreck and have to quit midway through because we're so pissed off if we try to get back into the race something bad will happen because we'll make sure of it and self-destruct.) It might not always be pretty, it might not be clean, but at the end of the day the end result is all that really matters and once you've crossed that finish line everything can be fixed and made all shiny and pretty.
Race car drivers have to sacrifice a lot to get to the top of their sport. All the heartache and the blown engines and wrecks going into the turns and running over other drivers. Racing is a scary business. One wrong turn, a wrong calculation and you could wreck and hurt yourself and others. It's a game to be studied and analyzed and adjustments have to be made to the cars and mentally drivers have to prepare themselves for the task ahead. (Hellie, dearest, I'm feeling some Talladega Nights quotes coming on). I may not have grease under my fingernails after a long day of typing on my keyboard, but I can definitely say with all honesty that my keyboard no longer has the letters on it and are smoother than a baby's bottom as I run my fingertips over them. I stay up late and sacrifice my sanity, my sleep and my good nature to make sure I put my entire soul into every word just to maybe make one paragraph good enough. I might not entertain someone every time I open up my laptop, but my goal is to eventually entertain at least one other person than myself. Once I put myself into that spot, it's hard to get yourself away from it. It's hard to tear yourself away from the little things that keep you going- all the reviews and emails and the muses muttering to you and the self doubt and inadequacy issues. Just like with anything, there are period of absolute joy and sorrow. So when you crash and burn you just have to rebuild and start over.
So I've learned:
Drag racing would be the quick bursts of writing we have when an idea is just too good to pass up but the flame on that candle burns out quickly and we turn to something new fast. And track racing would be like being in for the long haul and writing out a full length manuscript. I guess a full racing season would be like writing a series. (I'm finding that to be a very daunting prospect.)
So today, let's have some fun. Liken writing to something you're familiar with or something you're not. Or we can just quote some Talladega Nights (brush off the quotes Hellion) and have a party for those of us that are left. I'm down with anything.