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Because you've all been such good little pirates, and because I like you so much, I thought I'd give you a little tease. PARADISE BY THE RIFLE SIGHTS is just about ready to go. So here's Cindee's and Teri's introductions in the novella. I'm not giving you too much, cuz hey! It's just a novella! Can't give the whole thing away. So here's a little taste:
“Excuse me?” A woman’s voice said.
I looked up and saw a statuesque brunette with full lips and a neat black bob. She was cute. Really cute.
“Can you help me?” She was struggling with a carry on.
I was on my feet in seconds, easing the bag into the overhead compartment. The woman stood close to me. She smelled like expensive perfume. I smiled at her and then returned to my seat.
“Thanks.” She said with a grin that implied she was interested. Or maybe I just wanted to believe that. She took the seat next to mine and extended her hand.
“My name is Cindee.” She said with a smile. She was tall and curvy in all the right places and made me think of noir black and
white films. I felt like Sam Spade, and immediately regretted not bringing my fedora.
“Paris.” I said, taking her hand in mine. “A pleasure to meet you.”
She had dimples and a voice that sounded like a tall, cool drink on a hot afternoon.
“Nice to meet you, Paris.” I wondered what to say next. Dak was the guy with the moves and great lines, not me.
“So,” I said, “heading to Los Angeles?” Okay, that might have been a bit stupid. The plane we were on was, after all, a direct flight to LAX.
Cindee had the class to ignore my faux pas. “Yes, and I’ll be there a while…I hope.”
And the next part:
A Lincoln Town Car was waiting for me outside, complete with a chauffeur holding a sign that said, PARIS BOMBAY. The driver was a woman. She was kind of hot, actually. Short, curly brown hair with light blue eyes and a sad sort of smile. I liked that, but didn’t welcome the distraction. Was my need for companionship making me look at every woman as a possible soulmate?
Once I was settled in the sleek, black sedan, the driver looked at me through the rearview mirror.
“All set, Mr. Bombay?” She asked.
I nodded. “Please, call me Paris.”
The driver smiled. “Alright, Paris, you can call me Teri.” She started the car and pulled out into traffic.
“Do you want the privacy screen up, Paris?” She asked.
“No. I hate those things.” And I did. It made me feel like I was entombed. I wanted to see what was going on ahead. An assassin should
always be prepared.
Teri nodded. “It should only be about an hour to the studios. Just sit back and relax. There’s satellite radio and the fridge is stocked with sparkling water.”
To be fair, there's a lot more to both of those scenes, but I don't want to give too much away. Hello! Novella!
Ashley March is giving away a copy of her recent release, ROMANCING THE COUNTESS, and the book goes to. . .
Please email me at allaboutthewriting at hotmail.com and I'll get your mailing info forwarded to Ashley so you can start reading this great book!
Though I never did figure out what the hell Proper Manuscript Format is.
Anyway, I ran into grammar issue after grammar issue. Like the
How about the apostrophe? I ran into the possessive form of "dress." Is it grammatically correct to say "the dress's plunge" or "the dress' plunge"? According to the 15th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style, it should be the former. According to the 16th edition, it should be the later.
Seriously. For fun, here's your Oatmeal apostrophe comic of the day.
And then there is lie and lay and laid and lain. Oh Lord. Another one I can never remember. And surprise! I used it wrong every single time.
But -- and this is the most exciting news I've posted in months -- my WIP is fully revised and turned in as my MFA Thesis Novel. If it passes, I will officially graduate!!!! Woo hoo!
We're writers. We should know the English language inside and out. But really, it's a mess, and it's much more fun to bitch about grammar rules than actually do word-by-word revisions.
So, pirates, what are your least favorite grammar rule? What are the words that you manage to use wrong every time? Any little tricks to share with the group, so we remember to use words correctly?
Ashley: Thank you! I’m thrilled to be back here, and so excited to be sharing information about RtC with you! I have to admit that the idea of the characters—a widow and widower drawn together after their cheating spouses died—just popped into my head. Not that ideas always pop into my head so easily (and I still had to rework this one quite a bit), but it sure is nice when it happens. =)
DRD: One thing I love about your books is your elegant, lyrical style of writing. It reminds me of the romances I loved when I first started reading this genre (way back in the 20th century!) Did it take you a while to discover your style and your voice? Are you inspired by any particular books or authors?
Ashley: Thanks so much. =) But I’ll have you know that I started reading romance way back in the 20th century, too. ;) It means a lot to hear my writing described in such a way. I’ve always loved words and books, but when I first tried writing romance I tried to mimic other author voices I really loved. As a result the writing wasn’t HORRIBLE, but it definitely didn’t feel like something I was supposed to write. I was never really satisfied with it; I always felt I could do better. SEDUCING THE DUCHESS, my debut that came out in October 2010, was the first book I wrote where I felt that I had finally found my voice. Authors who inspire me with their storytelling and voices in particular are: Sherry Thomas, Laura Lee Guhrke, Lisa Kleypas, and Anne Mallory.
DRD: It's hard to believe that your first book came out just a year ago. (Here's a link to Ashley's first interview with the pirates for SEDUCING THE DUCHESS.) What would you say has been the most unexpected part of being a published author? What has been the most challenging? The most fun (besides hanging out with the pirates, naturally!)
Ashley: I know! It hasn’t even been a year yet. It’s a little crazy to think about, honestly. =) The most unexpected part… I know authors always warn pre-published authors about how much work is involved, but I truly had no idea. Fortunately I enjoy pretty much all of it, but this is definitely one of those jobs where you feel like you never catch up. Or maybe that’s just me. =)
The most challenging? Trying to find the time to write. Honestly it should be a simple thing, but I’ve had to learn that all the promotion in the world means nothing if you can’t make writing time a priority. I’m still struggling with this, but I hope to continue getting more and more projects off my plate before 2013 arrives so I can become more focused on producing stories I love to write.
As far as the most fun—well, that’s easy. =) Definitely hanging out with the pirates (of course!), but also all of the other fabulous romance readers/reviewers/bloggers/aspiring writers/authors/and other industry professionals that make this such a great community to be a part of. Honestly, I love you guys. *sniffle*
DRD: *squishy hug* We love you too! You have an intriguing new project coming up. What can you tell us about that? More importantly, how long do we have to wait?
Ashley: Erhm…to which intriguing new project do you refer? Lol. Let’s go with what I currently think is the most intriguing. Right now on my website at www.ashleymarch.com/novella I’m hosting a reader-interactive online novella where each week I post a new chapter for readers to read, then vote on where they want the story to go for the next week. When this novella is finished, I will self-publish it with 25% of the proceeds going to a charity (something likely helping children).
All of this is a test-run and preface to a new project I plan on starting in 2012 called Romance with Heart, where three different authors from a romance sub-genre pitch in to write their own reader-interactive online novella, then choose a charity where 25% of their proceeds will go after it is published. I’ve always wanted to give to charities in a big way but have never had the money. This is a way I’m hoping that everyone—you, me, etc.—can help others while also reading and writing great romances.
DRD: You're definitely one of the hardest working women in the romance business--I need to know the name of the demon that gave you all those extra hours in a day so I can sign up for some too! Tell us what else—besides writing books—you've got going on, and how you get it all done.
Ashley: Demon, thy name is coffee. At least for the moment. ;) And thank you. =) However, this goes back to what I said above about feeling like I’m never caught up, and why I hope to get even more things off my plate by the beginning of 2012. I’m trying more and more to make writing the greatest priority, and I would advise every author and aspiring writer to do the same.
I was the founder of the Denver Lady Jane’s Salon, but I handed that over to the fabulous Jenn LeBlanc a couple of months ago.
Presently, this is a list of other things I’m working on besides my individual writing projects:
1) Colorado Romance Writers’ published author liaison
2) Colorado Romance Writers’ Tea Committee member
3) Coordinator for Sevens Song Press, where local Colorado writers are coming together to publish anthologies (my 11/2011 SWEET TALK ME and 1/2012 A DUKE OF MY OWN are both part of this)
4) Coordinator for a romance co-op group
5) Coordinator for another author co-op group, although we’re not very active at the moment since most members’ books come out in 2012
6) Coordinator for a Fast Draft group that was organized after RWA 2011. This is a touch-and-go thing as people need it.
7) Coordinator for the Romance Biggest Winner competition—outside of Romance with Heart, this is probably the other big project I’m most excited about in terms of bringing the romance community together (romancebiggestwinner.blogspot.com)
8) Coordinator for…oh, I can’t tell you that one yet. ;) Let’s just say it has to do with a group of self-publishing authors. Watch out for news about this mysterious group in June 2012.
9) I mentioned this above, but the Romance with Heart reader-interactive online romance charity adventure =) (starts in 2012)
10) Helping a few other romance authors coordinate their online book tours
11) Mentor for a pre-published writer through a Colorado Romance Writers’ auction. Mentorship includes (as needed) one weekly half-hour phone call, emails responded to within 24 hours, and one chapter critiqued each week
12) Critiquing of other fulls and partials of pre-published writers as donated through contests/auctions
13) Critique partner to two fabulous writers (Anna Randol and Kat Brauer) and editor of my husband’s YA
14) Regular contributing blogger to two blogs outside of my own
15) Coordinator and hostess of the Annual March Madness Blog Party
Hmm. I think that’s it. As you can see, I’m obviously a slacker. ;)
DRD: I'm exhausted just reading about all of it! Ashley, thanks again for stopping by today. Hopefully you'll have time to answer questions from the pirates today. Just ignore the guy in the front row wearing a tricorne hat and black eyeliner. . .
Ashley: I’m exhausted too, lol. Thanks again for having me, and I’ll be dropping in and out all day. You guys are the best!... and that pirate over there isn’t too bad, either (she says with a lusty pirate growl). ;)
Okay, so honestly I’d love to know what you guys think of my idea for Romance with Heart. Obviously most people probably think that giving a percentage of proceeds to a charity is an awesome thing, but what do you think specifically about getting to read a new chapter every week and vote on where the story is going to go next? Is this something that excites you as a reader? Any suggestions for ideas/improvement? (Note: Once the novella is finished online, only the first chapter will remain on the website as free.) You can see what I’ve done so far for my own novella at www.ashleymarch.com/novella.
One random commenter will be chosen to win a copy of my newest book, ROMANCING THE COUNTESS (open internationally)! Also, find out how to win the ROMANCING THE COUNTESS Book Tour Grand Prize of 50+ romance novels by visiting www.ashleymarch.com!
What I learned from watching this season, so far.
1) Knowing how to sew helps, but all the knowing in the world won’t make you a good
designer. I mean she really did know how to sew. Her outfits were put together with neat attention to details. She knew all the ‘rules’ …but. Just wasn’t inspirational. Bye, Becky!
How do you use this in writing? Well, you can know all the plot steps of your chosen genre. You can write with dedication and strict attention to the ‘supposed’ to do stuff. And still be completely uninspired. (I didn’t find Becky actually uninspired nor simple, nor plain. But I’m not a judge.)
a) Now, I’m also trying to learn to sew. Which is why I’ll be in and out today. I don’t know how to sew. I know terms and I have a basic understanding, because Mom sewed and I grew up with the elements a seamstress surrounds herself with everywhere.
2) Not knowing how to sew helps, because if you know how to design and know how to figure things out, you can figure out the sewing part. In other words, if you’re worn beautiful clothing and been interested enough so that you paid attention to how something hangs, how it is seamed, how it comes together…and you are brave, brave, brave… You will go far. (Oompa lumpa, doopity do!) Anya. I really dig this model turned designer. Who didn’t know how to sew six months ago.
Ah! I think I’m like Anya. I hope. I’ve read a bazillion things and paid attention without really hinking about all the rules or forms or standards. But I know a good story, so I just write and try not to think about everything I don’t know. (Will Anya win? Probably not with Nina Garcia judging.)
b) Well, as I said, I don’t know how to sew. But I have paid a fair amount of attention over the years to Mom. (Why can’t certain skills just travel through genetics?) I know fabric. I once managed a fabric store and I still love to wander through fabric stores, touching and admiring patterns, pile, how wonderfully soft some yardage spills through the hands. I’m hoping this knowledge will help me and not get me in trouble.
3) Being in a rut with how to you put garments together gets boring. (That sorta sounds like number one, but not quite.) I mean Bert. Bert has grown a lot in the weeks so far. Learning how to be more social, not such a snob…got along great with an off-the-street customer. But...he keeps making the same dress. It’s a lovely dress. He tried pants once, but whoa!
Well, let’s see if I can sustain this. You know how to write. You’ve written great things. And people do love what you write. The same people who are perfectly content to keep reading the same story over and over and over. It’s a niche and you fill it. But when challenged to do something different, you struggle. You might throw in a new trope, but in the end…it’s the same story.
c) Ah, well how often can one make quilt blocks? (No offense, Hellie.)
Okay, crew…we’ve all read these type of writers, and at times we’ve probably all fallen into the traps each of these three present. We are uninspired. We know stories, but technique falls short now and then. We are in a rut…
How do you manage these challenges? Are you watching Project Runway? Who are you cheering for? As the master says, "Make it work!" (Bless you, Tim!)
And yup, my sewing class meets 10-1, so I’ll be here then gone…then back! Since I’m the only leftcoaster of the crew, it may not matter a lot… But I will be back!
These are the books that we would grab first if the ship was going down, with water reaching the bottom edge of our hammocks. We'd use these books to keep us afloat in the ocean while waiting for the Coast Guard hunks to rescue us.
What is it that provides such comfort? After all, these are books we've read so many times already we practically have them memorized. But just try to remove them from the keeper vault, and you'll have a wild-eyed woman threatening to pin you to the deck with an ice pick.
There's familiarity with these stories, but the kind that breeds content, not contempt. They also represent what we value the most in characters. They reflect our goals and aspirations, as well as our hopes and dreams. They may have even inspired us to write, or consoled us when we felt like writing was beyond our reach.
I've mentioned some of my comfort reads before, so there aren't any surprises here. I just thought it might be fun to see what everyone else has, as well as the reasons for including them on their own personal "Til Death Us Do Part" list.
- Beauvallet by Georgette Heyer – He's a pirate, which of course endears him to me. But I've loved this character, and this story, for a zillion years. I've got several copies of it around, and I can re-read it at least once a year and still be surprised by something I'd forgotten. He's witty, and charming, and adores the heroine in ways that make me wish for such a devoted swain. This book makes me smile just thinking of how much enjoyment it's brought me throughout the years.
- Heaven, Texas by Susan Elizabeth Phillips – It's hard to limit myself to just one SEP, and if I had to strike a bargain with the devil, before he swept all my keepers into hellfire, I would try to persuade him that I needed her entire oeuvre to sustain me. But I always come back to this one. I love Bobby Tom. I've loved him several times, and I know there's still plenty of loving him in the future.
- Gone Too Far by Suzanne Brockmann – Again, the devil and I would have to go through some arbitration on this one, but I'm confident I could get the whole Troubleshooters series included, since my boy Sam Starrett DOES appear in every book of the series. I guess I can't help myself when it comes to Texas boys (guess those two years I grew up there left more of an impact than I realized). He loves hard, he learns his lessons (eventually), he's freakin' hot when he rescues people, and his devotion to doing the right thing even though it breaks his heart—well, I can't get enough of him or his story. I should probably laminate the pages of the book before they have a chance to fall apart. Or maybe now I'll finally have a great excuse to get an e-reader. . .
So it's your turn. What are your comfort reads? What is it about them that comforts you, and brings you to back to read and re-read and re-read? Do you find any of these themes showing up in the stories you write?
However, being we’re pirates all year long, I’ve designated today as Write Like a Pirate Day. I figure stealing TLPD and using it for my own purposes was totally keeping in the pirate’s code: who admires stealing more than a pirate?
So here’s a few things to get you started on being the best pirate writer ever.
1.) Wear your best pirate outfit. You can’t write like a pirate if you don’t feel like a pirate!
2.) Drink your best rum (or drink of choice). Being properly hydrated is necessary for keeping your energy up; and the right spirits always sends the most creative ideas. Be sure to you use your best pirate goblet—no skimping!
3.) Open your WIP with your best pirate swagger! Don’t let the writing bogies see you’re scared of them. No, you’re confident—you’re a Writing Pirate! Confidence is the key to all writing. Write as you mean to go on!
That should take care of you for about three hours. When you get stuck again, it is time to take out the secret weapon: The Captain Jack Sparrow Plot Wheel. It’s not so much a plot wheel as a cup with a bunch of suggestions written on pieces of paper. When you’re stuck, you draw one from the cup and incorporate it into the story. Examples of suggestions can include:
- Stage a kidnapping
- Kiss someone
- Drink some rum
- Steal some booty (gold or sex is up to you)
- Escape the British Navy (or bad guys, whichever)
I’m sure there are many, many more that you can think of, but these were Jack’s favorites.
Now here’s the most important part of Write Like a Pirate Day. At the end of the day, whether your writing booty be large or scanty, celebrate your victory of being the very best pirate you can be. While it is true on some ships, captains like to make the beatings continue until moral improves—we’re better than that. We know you don’t get your best work from working in fear and depressing conditions. Give the WIP the best you have—leave it all on the page; and then celebrate your effort.
In celebration of Write Like a Pirate Day, we’re going to give out prizes for the best Captain Jack Sparrow Plot Wheel suggestion, the best recipe for your favorite writing drink (alcoholic or no), and the best response to the following writing prompt: “Today was a good day to die.” I'm not sure what the prizes are exactly--but I can tell you we're "commandeering" them from Bo'sun's Bookshelves.
Three ways to win:
1.) Captain Jack Sparrow Plot Wheel suggestion
2.) Best recipe for your favorite writing drink (alcoholic or no)
3.) Best flash fiction for writing prompt: “Today was a good day to die.”
So enter one or all of them, then go back to your WIP to make this the best Write Like a Pirate Day ever!
And crewman Random Number Generator has picked the comments ta win a copy a' me book!
I'll be contacting ya fer directions on how ta send me story ta ya! Congrats!
I might want chocolate. I might need iron rich vegetables. Is happiness a balance between them? Or is happiness moving from one to another? (Don’t say chocolate covered spinach or I’ll have to ban you from the bar. Forever.)
Let’s look at a woman, say a high powered realtor who has lost everything in the financial crunch. Someone like Hannah Reed, my heroine of Something Different, being released today, btw! Isn’t it a pretty cover? Don’t you just want to lounge on that loverlee seaside bed?
Back on topic. So, what does Hannah need? Well, a safety net considering her money is gone and she has no job and at 50, her chances of finding a new profession is pretty nil. Hannah needs a second chance. She’s never taken much time for serious romance or developing a relationship. She’s busy! So, what does she need? To save what money she has left and get serious about job hunting.
What does she want? A vacation and to meet the sort of man she’s never taken the time to cultivate. A gentleman. Where does she go and what does she do? Ha! She tosses away the idea of need and goes with what she wants. Good for her!
She chooses an evening sail out of a posh resort at the Caicos, a promised dinner with a gentleman and the possibility of a one night stand. An intimate evening with the sunset shining through a sea so green, it doesn’t look real to her. And then stars that meet the water there… Hell, I’d go for this, too! Wouldn’t you?
Aarón Castillo, doesn’t want or need anything. He thinks. He lost the only think he wanted, his childhood bride, the love of his life, is gone. His children though, they know his need better than he does. The letter from his departed wife makes plain she knows his needs as well…
With the help of the mysterious Madame Evangeline, the defined line between need and want is blurred into one thing. A second chance? A night that will give birth to more?
How often is the conflict of our lives divided by these two simple words? I want… I need… How do your characters reflect the differences of these two basic desires? What was the best set up of these two ideas that you’ve read or seen?
Since today is the release date of this new title I’m gonna give three copies of Something Different away today!
I’m cruising, crew. I just topped 68K words on my WIP Monday night. Whoot!
But I’ve stopped again. Hopefully it’s just a short pause on the road to the end. I realized that my hero has a case of wanderlust and I never realized it. I had him being a responsible, take-care-of-home kind of guy. He IS like that, but his desire to take care of his family wars with his desire to get away from them. I just didn’t realize it until Monday night as I was about to write the black moment. He felt like a puppet doing the stuff I wanted him to do and then it hit me. So, now I have to go back through and put that in so I have the backstory I need to write the end.
Before everyone starts jumping from the yardarm and swinging from the masts yelling, “Just vomit it out” or “REVISE LATER” or something similar, I thought I’d share something I’ve figured out about my writing through the course of this story.
In all my stories, I stop in similar spots. I really noticed it this time because two times is a fluke; three is a habit. So, when I stopped at the 45K mark again, I thought to myself, “Wait a goshdarn minute” (I edited to keep this PG) “I stopped here the last two times.”
I started taking note of why I stop at the same places. Am I a creature of habit? (Yes.) Is this some sort of self-fulfilling prophecy? (Maybe? There is no spoon, there is no spoon.) Could I have avoided these delays? (Oh fine, maybe.)
To figure this out, I stopped focusing on the negative times (ie, “Why in the name of cheese sandwiches am I stopping again!?”) and started focusing on the positive times (ie, “A HA! I’ve figured this out. I am Queen of the World!” *Titanic music swells, fade to me on the front of the ship pretending I’m an airplane, making bad airplane sound effects*)
My conclusion: I stop when something is off with one of my characters. Almost exclusively.
I’m a plotter. I’ve already decided all the external events of the story. Whether it’s Colonel Mustard with the candlestick or Miss Scarlet with the gun. What I don’t know is how my characters react to all these external factors. So, for example, 45K is about mid-point crisis in my stories (give or take a few thousand words one way or the other). I need to think hard about how my characters are going to react. Then I have to decide if it’s authentic, if I pulled any punches. The entire story is me learning about them, getting to know them, seeing how these two people are going to grow through the circumstances I’ve set up. Sometimes it takes me a week (or month) to figure out their reactions to major events.
Therefore, it seems, I’m an external factor plotter but an internal crisis pantser. And, apparently, my brain doesn’t deal with the pantsy part well. It bulks, it downshifts. It grinds away until it makes sense of all the facts in the universe again. Then it lets me move forward.
My pause Monday? I’m about to write the black moment, as mentioned. Something wasn’t sitting right with my hero. So I paused to reevaluate him. I think it’ll be a quick fix.
My takeaway? Next time I stop, just go directly to character. Don’t even stop at that, “This story sucks, I suck, everything sucks, die-in-a-fiery-ball” place. It’s just a sludge pit that slows me down on the way to character. And that place is no fun anyway.
So what about you guys? When you stop in the middle of a WIP, why do you stop? Is it for plot, for character? To reevaluate some other aspect? What usually gets you going again?
JACK is illuminated by a white beam of light, startling him from his criticism.
JACK: Hal! Not that much light! This is an interview, not an interrogation!
JACK is sucked up into the spaceship, landing in a silver cup chair on a deck that looks like it’s from the set of Star Trek.
JACK: Oh, bugger.
ENID: *a beautiful woman in a silver outfit smiles at him* Jack! I’m so glad you could join me today.
JACK: J-J-Join you? Oh, but of course, was…er…I supposed to join you for the interview I give on my ship? I do still have a ship, don’t I?
ENID: *laughing* Don’t be hysterical, Jack. Of course you have a ship. I just thought we would be a lot more comfortable up here, in my spaceship.
JACK: Where’s my rum?
ENID: *sighing, pushes a button, beams up rum* Here’s the thing, Jack. I’m not interested in doing things how they’ve always been done. I follow my own drummer, if you will.
JACK: *uncorking rum and taking a long, long draw* Whatever you say, luv. So does this mean I won’t be asking the questions?
ENID: Of course, you will, but because I’m an equal opportunity girl, I get to ask some too.
JACK: Hellie owes me more rum. Sounds great. *clears throat* So let’s start with you, shall we? Tell us about your book, Every Savage Can Reproduce, Enid—what makes it different? Why will we love it?
ENID: In official wording: in the futuristic society on Planet Earth, Elizabeth Bennet is accused of luring Fitzwilliam Darcy to an illegal establishment, which leads to their exile deep in the center of a rebel planet. The subsequent galactic war exposes dark secrets regarding the autocratic Queen Immortal.
Will Elizabeth and Darcy discover their love for one another and find their way back to Earth in this Pride and Prejudice-inspired science fiction?
But unofficially, Every Savage Can Reproduce is ‘when Elizabeth Bennet meets Mr. Darcy’ in the 39th century, with a mad man, an evil queen, a galactic war and a revolution throw in.
Why will you love it?
If the wild adventure in the book is not enough, my Mr. Darcy is quite an excellent swordsman. A match with you, Captain, will be interesting. I bet Mr. Darcy will win because he uses a laser weapon. *hehe* (you need to update your tech, Captain!) And the Queen Immortal Catherine de Bourgh in the book, she can rival Barbossa. She has plenty of men serving under her and she likes to turn aliens into pets. No apple is mentioned though but some radioactive dates. The dates are quite useful as they created a talking baby who can protect Darcy and Elizabeth. And there are brain numbing torpedoes hidden by the evil prince. He wants to turn people in Northern Hemisphere into zombies. You’ve to dive into the book to see if the villains get their way. *clapping* Okay, now you: What kind of underwear do you wear, boxers or briefs?
JACK: *almost blushing* I go commando. Less washing required, and this close to the equator, one doesn’t require too many layers of clothes. And might I add: my weapon is just fine; it is huge and fierce…and it does not need to be updated. My turn again: Did I hear you correctly? Your story is the beloved favorite of Pride & Prejudice set in outer space? It sounds a little bit like Star Wars? Bo’sun will want to know if Mr. Darcy is anything like Hans Solo.
ENID: Hans Solo is impressive, but not handsome enough to tempt me! Mr. Darcy is much more to my taste. He is a fine, tall person with stately features and noble mien. Of course, he’s renowned for his prideful attitude and 10,000 a year. Although he’s involved with the Resistance Alliance, he’s President Mrs. Darcy’s First Bloke. The book is more about girl power. Very good, Jack. You’re a lot better at this give and take than you let on. What else are you good at that others might be surprised to know?
JACK: Scrabble. I’m trying to broaden Hellie’s vocabulary, but she’s difficult to teach. Might I add: I applaud your girl power. I am equal opportunity lover. I love all beautiful women equally. Since your book is based on Pride & Prejudice, I’m assuming your Elizabeth is every bit as clever and witty as the original—and I also bet she would be excellent at Scrabble. Tell us more about your version of Elizabeth. How is she the same and how is she different?
ENID: Lizzy in Every Savage Can Reproduce has read all the self-help books in the galaxy. She’s the one approaching Darcy to ask him to father her child. She’s the one with sunnier outlook when they were trapped in the centre of Planet Hartfield with no possible way of returning to Earth. And of course, she’s the one chosen by people on Earth to become the temporary President. My Elizabeth is definitely as clever and witty as the original but a lot more proactive. That’s not surprising as the futuristic Lizzy faces fewer restrictions in society. Now for an unusual question.
JACK: Your questions have been normal up until now?
ENID: Obviously. Okay—if you were a vegetable, what would you be?
JACK: A potato. Filling, satisfying, and invited to every table. All right, Ms. Wilson, Enid, what will we be seeing next? And when will we be seeing it?
ENID: After Every Savage Can Reproduce, I’ve returned from outer space and back to the time right after the Napoleon War. I have a smuggler in The Spinster’s Vow and my hero owns a ship too, like you, Captain. He takes his new wife across the Channel. I assume you don’t operate in the English and French waters. You won’t come and intrude on their honeymoon? But enough of them, I’m going to graciously assume you have my books on your nightstand—
JACK: That would be a safe assumption.
ENID: So my question is: what do you sleep in, Jack? Your loving fans would like to know.
JACK: *enigmatic smile* I sleep in fear, Enid.
ENID: Excuse me?
JACK: If you slept next to Hellie every night, you’d completely understand. You just never know if the cuddly version of Hellie is coming to bed, or the one with fourteen limbs and restless leg syndrome is coming. Okay, my turn: What’s your Call Story?
ENID: It’s in fact about the conception of Every Savage Can Reproduce. Originally it was a drabble challenge. A reader asked me to write a drabble with the word “hussy” in it. I wrote the short story where Lizzy propositioned to Darcy, asking to have his child, because she’s sick and she needs to have a child fast, or else she won’t able to have children later. After the short story was published, another reader sent me an email, told me she’s having problem conceiving, even with IVF and she’s really sad. I felt a deep connection and responsibility to write and continue to write happily-ever-after romance.
I turned the modern hussy drabble into a galactic sci-fi. And I’m happy to say that the reader has since conceived. She even sent me the ultrasound photo. Her boy is two years old now. Yes, it has taken me over two years to complete this novel. It’s been a bumpy ride. Now, let’s not get too sentimental. I’ve a question. Do you believe in aliens and life on other planets?
JACK: Of course. We managed to get it on this planet, didn’t we? Why wouldn’t it be on other planets? In cards, you can get a great hand twice. Okay, last question, and mine’s a little author color too: it’s a rainy day. What are you wearing, what are you reading, and what are you drinking?
ENID: It’s sunny here. We’re above the sky Sydney. The beginning of spring is lovely. But I’m in full business mode, of course, with Captain Jack Sparrow visiting, I can’t let my guard down. But I do have a picture of Gandhi and a cup of pure water besides me. I like his philosophy of a simple, compassionate and prolific life. Okay, what—
JACK: Sorry, I’m all out of answers today. Now it’s time for you to ask the crew a question.
ENID: Talking about fear and romance, what do you dread most about people’s relationships in our future society? Comment for a chance to win some awesome Aussie souvenirs and a free copy of Every Savage Can Reproduce for your eReader. Thank you Jack, it’s been a pleasure to talk to you. I will beam you back to your ship now.
To sum up (read the article for more details), no less than 30 subjects read each story, some given non-spoiler summaries and others with spoilers subtly slipped in. In the majority of cases, subjects claimed to enjoy the spoiled stories more than the unspoiled.
Based on these responses, those conducting the experiment concluded, in the words of Christenfeld, “Plots are just excuses for great writing. What the plot is is (almost) irrelevant. The pleasure is in the writing.”
Did you catch that? Read it again. That’s right. They’re saying plot doesn’t matter. I mean, seriously? Am I the only writer having an issue with this conclusion? (Consequently, I’m not, but I’ll get to that in a few paragraphs.)
First off, “enjoyment” is a subjective term. An individual’s enjoyment of anything is determined by experience, education, environment and about a million other factors. Saying no less than 30 subjects read each story doesn’t say “widely varied test group” to me.
But let’s look at this from the Romance perspective. We know every Romance novel is going to have a happy ending. We know this, and yet we devour these books with fervor, enthusiasm, and might I add, enjoyment. Does this mean knowing there will be a happy ending and a few pretty turns of phrase is all we need to enjoy a book?
I say that’s a resounding NO.
Maybe Romance is too obvious. How about Mystery readers. They know the protagonist is going to solve the mystery in the end. Miss Marple will get her man (or woman) and yet they keep reading. Are they only turning the pages to get the brilliant sentence structure or do they care about the plot holding those pages together?
Again I think the answer is clear. But don’t take my word for it. Let’s turn to a higher power, shall we?
Billy Mernit points out in his response to these same findings, “Whatever the human psychology that motivates it, there's an extra-special frisson of deep pleasure, not to be under-valued, in experiencing - unspoiled - the "how it happens" in a cleverly constructed plot twist, even when the resolution is a bygone conclusion.”
Yes! Did you get THAT? Read it again. I’ll wait. [taps toe while filing nails]
Good, isn’t it? And he’s right. It’s the HOW for which we readers read. In Romance it’s about HOW do they meet? HOW do they get together? HOW does the author keep them apart? And after the dreaded, heart-ripping black moment, HOW WILL SHE EVER FIX THIS?!
I venture to say the HOW is the plot. I have read books with beautiful prose. Lyrical writing like music to the eyes. But if the plot is full of holes or the characters dancing about with no purpose or conflict or action, I don’t care how superlative the writing is, I’m putting the book down.
I’ve read books by authors who don’t dilly dally around with a lot of description and evocative language but the plot was so good, I lose sleep to get to the end to see HOW the story unfolds.
Obviously, I’m no psychologist and don’t claim to be. I’m also not an expert writer. But by golly, more than thirty years experience makes me an expert reader (says me) and I’m waving the flag now that plot is EVERYTHING.
What do you think? Do you think plot is irrelevant? Do you believe good writing is something separate from plot or rather a well-constructed, air-tight, engrossing plot is the very definition of good writing? How do you feel about spoilers? Different for movies and books or the same for both?
And then I was watching That 70's Show with the baby (yes, I know, I'm an excellent mother....haha), and realized that I identified more with Jackie than with Donna.
Now that's strange. My hypothesis from reading Regencies was that I identified with the heroine because I had some characteristic in common with them.
But if we're looking at That 70's Show, I have much more in common with Donna than Jackie. Donna's not a snob, she's down-to-earth, she's a writer, and well . . . she's nice.
But I love Jackie. I search for episodes when she and Hyde were dating. I desperately wish they had stayed together.
So that got me thinking. Am I identifying with these heroines because I have something in common with them? Or is it really the hero? Do I identify with Jackie because she likes Hyde? Is that what we have in common? Liking the same boy? (and yes, I realize I've now devolved into high-school speak).
We all know that heroes are more important than heroines in romance novels. Most of the time, at least. Let's face it - heroes are hotter. And sexier. But now I'm curious about heroines.
What do you guys think? Do you identify with heroines you have something in common with? Or do you think you identify with the heroine because you identify with the hero? Or do you identify with heroines at all?
The seas have been rough at times. The A/C and rum working overtime. But fall is on the way, at least in our northern hemisphere.
Here’s hoping all our pirates and pirate pals enjoy their last day at the pool, a hot dog or two, and a beverage or four.
And let’s not forget all those workers who fought and on occasion died for fair treatment and a safer workplace. This holiday is more than a day off and the chance to sell half priced furniture.
Have a good one and send up a prayer that come spring we’ll be describing this impending winter as one of the mildest in years.
BRENDA: Hello, Jack, I’m so excited to meet you.
JACK: *hastening over and kissing her hand, making googly eyes* I’m excited to see you too, my sweet. Perhaps I can show you how excited I am later, in my cabin?
HELLIE: Jack! I’m right here behind the camera!
JACK: You’re invited too, luv. *whispers behind his hand to Brenda* Don’t worry. I’ll send her on an errand so we won’t be interrupted.
BRENDA: *pointing* You do know she’s still recording.
JACK: *smiling at the camera* Let’s get to the questions, shall we? Brenda, luv, please have a seat here on my interview couch where I lay all my new authors…I mean, where all my guests spill…er…maybe you should sit on my lap?
BRENDA: That might actually be a nice place to conduct an interview. *Blushing* Er…did I say that out loud? I meant…of course I would never even consider it.
JACK: *soulful look* That is a shame. If you should ever consider-- *dodges an empty rum bottle, gets hold of himself* Yes, yes, quite right, I should stick to what I’m good at. Talking to women. *draws out cards from his jacket* Please tell us about your pirate story, Of Noble Birth.
HELLIE: Jack! What have I told you about that question?
JACK: What, what? I didn’t ask a question. I said, please tell us about your pirate story. If you’ll notice that was a gentle command. *smiles smokily* And as you can imagine, Brenda, I’m skilled at giving gentle commands in other places on this ship. My cabin for instance….
BRENDA: I have imagined plenty with you, Jack (sly grin).
JACK: Really? I should like to hear about what you've imagined. *ducks, tackling Brenda as another bottle just misses him, rights himself; Brenda looks a bit breathless* All right, if you insist, we’ll talk about your books. I’m a patient man. I know how to woo. So this pirate story—which I’m devilishly thrilled about, there is a DEARTH of pirate stories to be had nowadays, it’s all dukes-dukes-dukes all the time—tell the truth: you were inspired by me, right? Tell me what do you look for in a hero like me?
BRENDA: Nathaniel is almost as sexy as you (could anyone be equal?) *Jack shakes his head "No"*, but he goes a wee bit lighter on the rum. He’s too busy waging a war of revenge against his hated fater and kidnapping the beautiful Alexandra to lose an ounce of focus. His father is a duke, you see (any good historical has to have a duke in there somewhere, right?) and a very powerful man—no one to mess with. But Nathaniel has VERY good reason….
JACK: All of us men have very good reasons. *roguish look at camera* Most of them dealing with pain of death. *silence; Jack clears throat* Every handsome, roguish hero needs a beautiful heroine. I assume you base all your heroines on you, Ms. Novak? *kisses the back of Brenda’s hand* Intelligent, witty, beautiful, and sexy?
BRENDA: Alexandra is a poor seamstress Nathaniel mistakenly believes is his half-sister. Imagine his consternation at being attracted to his charge!
JACK: Yes, I can imagine the consternation. I was attracted to Hellie's sister once and it was a nightmare when she found out. Will you be writing any more pirate books? And if not, what other books do you have available to keep up with your fans’ demands?
BRENDA: I hope to write more pirate books some day, but I have several other types coming out before then. First, I have the romantic suspense books published by MIRA. INSIDE just came out. IN SECONDS will be out August 30th and IN CLOSE will hit bookstores on October 25th. November 1st will see the publication of my next historical. It’s called THE BASTARD and is set in the late 1700’s. Sadly, there are no pirates (but plenty of the aristocracy—including the hero who is the bastard of a marquise).
JACK: And sadly, I have a close affiliation with the term "bastard" so it's just as well. *shuffles cards* This next question is the Writer’s Inspiration Corner. What’s your Call Story, and what piece of advice would you give other writers?
BRENDA: Whoa, Jack, that’s been some time now. Not to date myself, but I’ve been published since November 1999 and have written more than 40 books. So you’re going back some. THE CALL to me refers to the day I hit The New York Times. Hitting the list had been a dream of mine from the very beginning. When my agent delivered the news I just about fainted. She said, “Are you sitting down?” I said, “No.” She said, “I think you’d better sit down.” What made it shocking was that this was the second week the book had been out. Usually, if you’re going to hit it happens in the first week. So her call was completely unexpected—and all the more memorable because of it.
As far as advice...dream big and then BELIEVE. If you believe you can achieve your dreams you'll do whatever it takes.
JACK: You are a fine wine, Brenda, never fear. Our last question is a little author color—the pirates would like to know: 1) Name something on your nightstand right now; 2) Favorite place to go on a rainy day; 3) Men in Kilts or Men with Babies; 4) Favorite takeout; and 5) Last book you read that you loved.
BRENDA: Sadly, a pair of reading glasses. My vision is suddenly not what it has always been before (due to age! Yikes! I hope you like older women <G>). My favorite place to go on a rainy day? To bed with my husband to watch a movie marathon. I prefer men in kilts to men with babies any day of the week (I’d probably run away from any man with a baby, at this point—but I don’t see you toting one around.) My favorite take-out is Thai food, and the last book I read that I loved was Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ latest.
JACK: I love older women, but I don't love husbands. They're very cranky. So I won't be joining you for any movie marathons. Brenda, thank you for being a guest on our ship. It was lovely to have you. *whispers* And later….
BRENDA: She’s still recording, Jack.
JACK: Right-o, and I was just saying you are welcome back any time, any time at all. Is there anything else you’d like to say or ask the crew?
BRENDA: *Whispering* Where did you say your cabin was again? ;-)
JACK: *grinning and throwing hands wide* And that's all we have time for today, crew! I hate to leave you to entertain amongst yourselves, but I did promise Ms. Novak a private tour. In the meantime, feel free to discuss the challenges in writing in both a historical voice and a contemporary one? Would you do it, or do you do it? What authors do you think are best at both worlds? And finally, if you received a phone call telling you you just made the NYT's list, who is the first person you would tell, what would you do? Once I've shown Ms. Novak around...er...the block, I'm sure she'll be glad to field some questions. Ask away!