Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Does Length Matter?

No, not that! I'm talking about length of chapters. Short chapters make for a faster pace, but it's not unusual to have longer chapters in historicals.

In my current WIP I struggled to leave each chapter with a "hanging" ending that hopefully makes the reader want to continue reading. However, with editing and polishing, they have grown a wee bit long. So, I've decided it's time to go back through and recut my chapters. Over 60 pages in three chapters is too much.

As a reader, do you have a preference on chapter length? Does it matter with the genre or sub-genre you're reading?

Monday, November 27, 2006

Speaking of the Weather...

At the end of this week, it will be December. And in Alabama, that means we could have sunny days with temps in the 80s or brittle gray days with a wind chill of 12 -- sometimes both within the same week!

Weather has always fascinated me: I'm the one who has to go outside, with eyes peeled skyward, when our area is under a tornado warning. The Weather Channel is my favorite television station. I even watched a pro football game tonight just because it was played in a snow shower.

I've written about a river flood that strands a hero and heroine, a tornado that forces a heroine to face her fears, a blizzard that isolates a heroine in her home, and a child who disobeys her parents to save someone during a hurricane. I was cautioned by those with more experience to avoid using weather as a plot device; that it was the mark of an amateur. I tried to clean up my weather act, but it just seemed false. Don't get me wrong -- I didn't zap a villain with a lightning bolt or whip up a storm half a continent away just because I needed to delay a heroine's flight home. But come on! Life isn't all 72 degrees with a gentle breeze out of the southwest.

How do you incorporate weather into your stories without it becoming a coincidental or convenient plot device?

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Great Discoveries

Lately I've been doing a lot more reading than writing. As much as I love to revisit my old favorites and relive those wonderful characters and stories, I adore finding new authors. Well, new to me anyway. It's like I've made a great discovery and I have to tell everyone about my new find.

A few months ago, I discovered a debut historical romance author that I fell in love with. Admittedly, the cover caught my eye, the back blurb sounded intriguing and so I swallowed the hook and purchased the book. I loved it. The story starts out incredibly steamy...think an Alabama August afternoon and add ten degrees. But then it turns into this incredibly sweet love story. I've read it three times, maybe four and believe it or not, still cry when it appears their love is doomed. Even though I know it ends happily, my heart still wrenches with despair. That kind of emotional turmoil just turns me inside out. The book? Passion by Lisa Valdez. Be warned, it is erotic but also an incredibly romantic story.

The other day I discovered Ann Stuart. She's not new, but she's new to me. Based upon something Carla said, I thought I'd give her a try. Wow! The characters were very complex. Now, I've got to go back and find the first one. This one was Cold As Ice. I think the first in this series is Black Ice. I'll be honest and tell you that I'm not absolutely sure that I like the main characters. However, they are incredibly complex and different from any others I've read in years. I'll definitely be on the lookout for more of her books.

What about you? Have you made any great discoveries lately? If so, who are they and what's the name of the book?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Being Thankful For The Perfect Happy-Ever-After Ending

With each book I finish I find myself trying to make the last chapter just as exciting and emotional as the rest of the book. As many authors, I want the reader to enjoy the last pages, instead of skipping over paragraphs to see the last sentence. I feel the final chapter should tie up all the loose strings of the plot(s) and place a pretty bow on top of the hero and heroine’s relationship.

And a couple times I felt a need to write epilogues. You know, when you completed the last regular chapter, and the couple had sworn their undying devotion to each other immediately after killing or locking up the villain. When I wrap up the story with a quick BANG at the end, I feel a need to show the happy couple some days or months later.

The reason I’m blogging about this is that I read several books lately that struggled with their endings. I caught myself skipping the final love scenes -- seen that, been there -- or the long drawn out "I love you" "No, I love you more" scenes. Or they decide to rehash the last few chapters in the final scene of the last chapter. Borinnng! I was paying attention, folks!

So tell me about the endings that you loved or detest. And to keep in with the holiday, let me know what authors, published and unpublished, you’re thankful for their help, encouragement and just plain ole being there for you.

Myself...I’m thankful for Kelley St. John for helping me in so many ways that I cannot even begin to recite, Debbie Matthews for hanging in there and reading some of my worse WIPs, for Elena Pedri who listened to my rants and still likes me, for Christy Reece who gives me some of the best suggestions for my WIPs and the best VP a chapter president could have, for Susan Gail and Larry Keyser who works so hard for Southern Magic and a joy to be around, for every member of Southern Magic that volunteers to help at each of our functions -- couldn’t do it without you -- and for the published authors that support Southern Magic by participating in the Romance Readers Luncheon every year. I’m so thankful to know YOU.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Good news and bad news


Good news: I sent my latest novel to my agent this morning.

Bad news: My house looks like I've been working hard on a novel. And my in-laws are coming tomorrow.

In other words, I do not have any eye-hurting brilliance left to blog this afternoon, and I need to trade in my keyboard for a sponge and a bottle of 409. Here's hoping we can all find some balance (and some time to write) this holiday weekend!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A Bad Case of the Don't-Wannas

I'm in a terrible place for a writer---smack-dab in the middle of the Don't-Wannas. Don't wanna write. Don't wanna research. Don't wanna plot. Don't wanna do anything but play solitaire, read blogs, hang out on message boards and sleep. Maybe it's the recent change from Daylight Savings Time to regular time, or the colder weather, or the impending madness of the holidays, but whatever the reason, I'm having terrible trouble getting my mind into writing. I'm waiting to hear from my editor about line edits on the most recently purchased book and her thought on the partial of book three, and for some reason, the writing part of my brain seems to think that's permission to be a complete slug.

I can't be the only person this happens to. But if you're looking for me to come up with good advice about how to get out of it, you're out of luck. Instead, why don't y'all share some of your sure cures for the Don't-Wannas?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Memorable Male Looks

JoAnn blogged about memorable kisses, but what about looks. That way a man looks at a woman when he knows for the first time he wants her. For me, there is one memorable "look" from the movie HAREM. First, a synopsis about the movie--

From imdb.com: Jessica, a young British girl (Nancy Travis), goes off to Arabia with her father to be with her fiancée (Julian Sands) when he's called there suddenly on diplomatic duty. On a tourist journey she's kidnapped by what appears to be a Beduion tribe and sold into the harem of the Sultan (Omar Shariff). The man that took her captive (Art Malik) is not actually a Beduion but an Oxford educated revolutionary who traded Jessica for the release of his friends from the Sultan's prison. As her fiancée struggles to free her from the harem he inadvertently hires the very man who put her there to get her out. Meanwhile, Jessica is fending of the Sultan's advances and coming to know a new way of life. Romance, political intrigue, and the jealousies of the harem all threaten Jessica's narrow view of the world. If she escapes will she actually be able to return to life in Victorian England?

When Art Malik's character goes to retrieve her, he enters as an eunuch. His first sighting is as she's being carried into the sultan for the first time. The look on his face is so-- Excuse me, while I fan myself. Erotic. So much is written into his face without uttering a word. Without touching her. And no, Carla, he doesn't go through the procedure to actually be a eunuch.

Any male looks that make you go up in flames?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Kissin' Tells (or Rather, Shows)


I first saw this magazine advertisement when I was a sophomore in college and an avid reader of Glamour magazine. The illustration still takes my breath away today. I love to imagine the scene just a moment before, when the violinist makes the decision to finally act on his passion. You know it's the first time they've kissed, and more than likely, it won't be the last.

There are two first kisses from movies that I love to watch over and over when I want to be inspired. They never fail me. The "explosion of passion" version is from The Last of the Mohicans; the scene where Hawkeye and Cora search for each other among the throngs in the fort. When their eyes meet, he simply takes her hand and leads her to a secluded spot. Oh, man--I get chills every single time. Powerful!

The other (the "smoldering burn" version) is from a little-known movie called Dear Frankie. The Stranger (Gerard Butler) puts Lizzie's son to bed and then he and Lizzie walk to the door. They stand, and slowly their faces draw closer and closer. It's agony! I want to screech "Kiss her already!" But it's a delicious agony, and when he does, I just sigh and hit rewind to put myself through it again.

What are your favorite movie kisses that you love to watch over and over for inspiration?

Monday, November 13, 2006

Reading But Not Writing

I love all kinds of romances. If the basic elements of romance are there, no matter what time period, I'm a sucker for a good love story. But like everyone, I do have my preferences.

I write contemporary romances, with quite a lot of sizzle, a little bit of suspense and some humor. I feel comfortable writing contemporaries. It seems natural and right, a good fit for me and I do love to read them. But contemporaries are not my absolute favorite read. I devour historicals like chocolate ice cream. As a teen, I fell in love with Kathleen Woodwiss' The Flame and the Flower, then later on discovered Judith McNaught, Julie Garwood, Andrea Kane, Nicole Jordan and so many more I can't begin to name them all.

So, why do I write in one time period but actually love to read in another? I don't know. I've never tried writing a historical and have no real desire to try. I just know that I love reading them.

What about you. Do you write in one sub-genre but really love another one?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Linda Howard Award of Excellence contest

**PERMISSION TO FORWARD GRANTED AND APPRECIATED**

Southern Magic, the Birmingham Chapter of Romance Writers of America®, is pleased to announce its 2nd Annual Linda Howard Award of Excellence contest for unpublished writers.

Enter: Up to first twenty-five pages
Fee: $20-$25

Deadline: Postmarked on or before December 1, 2006
Eligibility: RWA Published (see rules) & Unpublished Authors
Judges: Published, PRO, all trained or experienced in judging

Top Prize: Engraved Silver-type Bookmark and winners will be announced at the Southern Magic's Romance in the Magic City conference.

Categories/final judges:

Series Contemporary: Susan Litman, Assoc. Editor, Silhouette
Single Title: Abby Zidle, Editor, HQN
Suspense: Devi Pillai, Assoc. Editor, Warner
Historical: Alicia Condon, VP, Editorial Director, Dorchester
Unique Genres: Selena James, Exec. Editor, Kensington
Romantic Sensual & Sizzling: Brenda Chin, Assoc. Editor, Harlequin

***Note that synopsis is required of finalists***

For entry form, score sheet, and rules, visit our website at http://www.southernmagic.org/, or send email to carlaswafford@charter.net

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Pick Your Vice


Every night I sit at my desk and try to make myself write. But I find ten thousand other things to do. From answering emails about our chapter contest to promoting the luncheon to playing Pop-It. Most of today, I knew I needed to write this blog, but found myself downloading pictures off my camera, chasing wasps, looking for something to eat, and contemplating cleaning my desk. It’s a mess. See. If I had widened the frame a little you would have seen a stack of books to one side. Part of my to-read-pile.

I have a love-hate relationship with writing. I love to read the finished product, but hate how slow I write, how I doubt every word I place on paper, and how my vocabulary fails me most times. When I play Spider Solitaire or Pop-It, I can forget all my worries and mindlessly click on cards or balloons in a game induced daze.

My questions are, what do you like to do to waste time (besides answering this blog)? And more important, how do you organize your desk?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Here they come

As the holidays approach, a lot of writers are probably thinking of taking a vacation from their writing. Maybe they consider their writing work and want to take a break from work, like everybody else. Or maybe they consider their writing a hobby, and they have no time for hobbies while they’re cooking for the family (a foreign concept to me, but I understand that some people do this).

I won’t be taking a vacation, for a couple of reasons. I have deadlines to meet—and deadlines make me happy! Also, I find the frenetic pace of the holidays winds up my brain and feeds my writing. While the rest of the clan lies slack in the La-Z-Boys in a tryptophan-induced slumber, you can bet you’ll find me outside in the sunshine, scribbling madly.

In January, when everyone hunkers down and gets back to work—that’s when you’ll typically find me reading a lot and sleeping late due to exhaustion and vitamin D deficiency. I’ll try not to let that happen this time around. Reading is fine, but I need to get one of those special lamps to avoid seasonal depression. I’m so much happier when I’m writing.

How about you? Does Thanksgiving signal putting on the brakes or full steam ahead for your writing?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Writing to a Soundtrack

I thought I'd bring out an oldie but goodie topic---writing to a soundtrack. Do you do it? I do. At least, I usually create a playlist for my computer and a compilation CD to play in my car when I'm working on a book. I try to pick music that captures the mood and theme of my story, or reminds me in some way of my characters. I don't always write to the music, but I like to surround myself with it to keep me in the mood for writing.

My current WIP has a couple of emotionally-wounded characters and so a lot of the songs on my playlist are melancholy. I've written other books where I went for a creepier vibe or a more romantic vibe. The playlist for my August 2007 release, FORBIDDEN TEMPTATION, featured a lot of songs about alienation, because both my heroine and my hero were alienated in some way from their family and friends.

What's on your book's soundtrack?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Voting...my way ;)

Okay, it's voting day. And while you're already in voting mode as you head to the polls, I thought you'd also like to have a little fun voting online as well.

So, here's Kelley's poll for the day...

The following photos were used for various heroes in my current and upcoming releases. Choose your favorite.


Blaine Wilson - Bill from Good Girls Don't
~ December 2005















Jude Law - Ethan from Real Women Don't Wear Size 2
~ September 2006

















Hugh Jackmann - Ryan from Kiss and Dwell
~ to be released May 2007
















Viggo Mortensen - Gage from Ghosts and Roses
~ to be released July 2007
















Jake Gyllenhaal - Dax from Shiver and Spice
~ to be released September 2007

















As I said, today is voting day :) So vote for your favorite! I'm eager to see who wins this election!

Kelley

Sunday, November 05, 2006

A Wonderful Day!

Yesterday, November 4, the Southern Magic Chapter held our 3rd Annual Readers' Luncheon at the Wynfrey Hotel in Birmingham. Teresa Medeiros was the keynote speaker. She was wonderful, of course. Carla and the other ladies did a great job. As usual, I did not win one raffle. I am the unluckiest person around. Apparently, the readers enjoy the day, because the same ones return year after year as well as attending our sister chapter's (Heart of Dixie) readers' luncheon in May.

The energy of the readers' luncheon is indescribable. Over a hundred women and men brought together by their love of books and reading.

What's your favorite part of the luncheon?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Ha! I'll Show Them!

Last week I blogged about the nicest thing anyone ever said about my writing. I don't know about you but I need to hear those things, because doggone-it, they're few and far between. They often keep me going when I think about giving up.

I'll admit that I've been pretty lucky when it comes to constructive criticism of my writing. Most people have either been incredibly kind or possibly very good liars. I don't try to analyze why they said what they said. I usually smile gratefully and move away quickly, hoping they won't change their minds.

But what about the ones who aren't so kind or even constructive? What about the ones who are just downright mean? Yep, they're out there folks and if you've not run into them yet, well...good for you.

I will admit that when I run into a not so nice critic who says something disparaging about my work or writing, it usually ticks me off so badly, I get in a, "Ha! I'll show you," mood. And what do I do? I make myself do better. Whatever the comment was, I take it apart, examine it, ask myself if there is truth in it and if there is, I do my dead level best to improve. Of course, this is after much chocolate, a few swear words and yes, sometimes a few tears.

The nice comments are wonderful to hear, but I'll admit, it's the criticism, constructive and sometimes just plain cruel that make me work harder.

The most hurtful comment anyone ever gave me? A fellow writer told me I was a good writer but not a good story teller. Ticked me off but good. Though I still think she could have told me in a much more tactful way, it forced me to take a good, hard look at my work and hopefully improve.

So what about you? What was your "Ha! I'll show them," comment?

November Release

Check out best-selling Linda Howard's newest.