Thursday, May 31, 2007

A Name with a Face

I remember back when I was in elementary school I would sit at my desk and write stories. I never finished one but I did make it to chapter 5 once. Anyway, when I would get home, I'd go through the Sears or Penney's catalogs to find the perfect pictures of my characters. I would then glue those pictures into my book. At the time I was reading those chapter books with pictures on every other page. Anyway, to this day, I have to find pictures of my characters - major and minor - but now I use the Internet instead of the catalogs.

The characters (modern day royalties) in my trilogy that I'm working on now are all hanging on my cork board over my computer where the two main characters in the first story, Nick and Julianna, are currently glaring down at me. I can just hear them now--- Julianna - "Helloooo, when can I go buy that new dress?" Nick-"Hey, when am I going to get to see Julianna take off said dress?" Me - I'm working on it!!!

OK...so I want to do something fun and will make us all happy - nothing like eye candy to get the blood pumping and the brain working! I thought I'd share my men with you - be honored - since I'm an only child, I have a hard time sharing my toys...

This is my Nick, the playboy prince - a.k.a. actor Brian Bloom.














This is his older brother Daniel (2nd book in series), the straight laced heir to the throne a.k.a actor Paul Gross (do y'all remember the show Due South? LOVED it!)




















This is Dylan (3rd book in the series), protector of Nick and Daniel's baby sister Jade a.k.a. CSI guy George Eads (man, it's getting hot in here - shezzzz)






Do you have that certain guy in your head while you write? Now it's your turn to share. ;-)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Many Thanks to All The Soldiers

Yesterday was Memorial Day. To some it just means a day off from work--a three-day weekend to enjoy summer. But it means so much more. No matter a person's view of war, we have so much and so many to be grateful to. The history of the day from http://www.usmemorialday.org/backgrnd.html.

"Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service. There are many stories as to its actual beginnings, with over two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day. There is also evidence that organized women's groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War: a hymn published in 1867, "Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping" by Nella L. Sweet carried the dedication "To The Ladies of the South who are Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead" (Source: Duke University's Historic American Sheet Music, 1850-1920). While Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966, it's difficult to prove conclusively the origins of the day. It is more likely that it had many separate beginnings; each of those towns and every planned or spontaneous gathering of people to honor the war dead in the 1860's tapped into the general human need to honor our dead, each contributed honorably to the growing movement that culminated in Gen Logan giving his official proclamation in 1868. It is not important who was the very first, what is important is that Memorial Day was established. Memorial Day is not about division. It is about reconciliation; it is about coming together to honor those who gave their all.

Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war). It is now celebrated in almost every State on the last Monday in May (passed by Congress with the National Holiday Act of 1971 (P.L. 90 - 363) to ensure a three day weekend for Federal holidays), though several southern states have an additional separate day for honoring the Confederate war dead: January 19 in Texas, April 26 in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi; May 10 in South Carolina; and June 3 (Jefferson Davis' birthday) in Louisiana and Tennessee."

So, to all the soldiers who are currently or have served in the past, you have my undying gratitude. Thanks isn't much, but it's all I have. Thank you!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Remember and Honor

I truly believe that romance writers are more aware than most folks of the reason we have a Memorial Day. We write about heroes -- and heroines -- everyday: Selfless men and women who give so that others may have.

If you have a chance today, visit www.odmp.org , the Officer Down Memorial Page. Read some of the reflections for the fallen heroes.

It makes me pretty darn grateful.

Friday, May 25, 2007

I Think I Need a New Advisor

I'm not a good brain stormer. My ideas are my own and if I'm stuck, somehow I need to figure out a way to get out on my own...that's just how my brain works. If I try bouncing stuff off people or ask for ideas, more often than not, I'm shaking my head because that's not the way I wanted to go and I get frustrated.

On occasion, I will ask my husband for advice. Most times when I talk about writing, two minutes into the conversation, his eyes are glazing over. But I have a new project he's taken an interest in, so I tread carefully, hoping I can get a little help before the glaze begins. I found this a good learning experience, valuable, enlightening. My husband would not be a good romance writer. Here's why:

Me: "Honey, my hero needs to render my heroine unconscious for a short time in a non-painful way."
Him: "Can't he just hit her over the head with a gun?"
Me: "I said, "non-painful". Don't you think that would hurt her?"
Him, shrugging and showing not an ounce of concern for my heroine: "She'll have a headache for a few days, but she'll be fine."
Me, looking somewhat warily at the man I thought I knew: "Okay, thanks."

I gave him my synopsis to read. He took it and said he needed to read it alone, so he wouldn't have any distractions. It's 3 1/2 pages and I know he's not a fast reader. His years in law school taught him to read and weigh every word. Half an hour later, I'm thinking he should be through. I walk into the bedroom, he's lying on the bed, snoring. My synopsis is on his chest. Obviously it didn't keep him awake.

Me, standing over him, shaking his shoulders: "Did you even read it?"
Him, blinking at me and then scowling: "Yes, I read it. It's good." Closes his eyes, another soft snore.
Me, getting a little ticked: "But, why didn't you come and tell me you were through? What did you think about it when my hero said this, or my heroine did that?"
Him, his scowl replaced by a look of confusion...or is that guilt? "Maybe I need to read it again."

Five minutes later, he walks into my office. I look up in anticipation.
Him: "Did you make this stuff up?"
Me: "Yes. Why?"
Him, his expression a mixture of awe and confusion: "There's a lot going on with this. I thought it was a romance."
Me: "It is a romance. The other things going on are called sub-plots."
Him, shaking his head, still obviously confused: "Do people in your stories ever sleep together and not think it's a mistake?"
Me, grabbing my hard worked pages out of his hand, muttering: "They get together in the end."
Him, knowing he's not saying what he's supposed to be saying, but having no clue what he's supposed to be saying, offers weakly: "Well, it's really good."
Me: "Go watch televsion."

So, what about you? Do you have a trusted advisor that you bounce your ideas off of, or do you swing it on your own.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

I Rate This Four Hearts and Ten Stars! Hot! Hot! Hot!

The other day I came across a website that reviewed romance books. I had actually heard about the site before and never visited. Mainly because I had also heard about the negativity of their reviews. Curiosity got me and I read several. The comments made were mixed. Some were well thought out and possibly truthful from that person’s point of view. While others were tacky voiced opinions I felt were said more for entertainment purposes. Of course, like most people, I thought, why would a person believe it’s okay to say such hateful things about a book that’s been published? The book had to have merit for an editor to publish it. Especially an editor from a major publishing house. I then reminded myself that reviews are purely subjective. Just as one editor’s choice I would agree with while another I would not.

One irritant I’ve seen in common with reviews is that most have some type of rating system. Once again, personal opinion holds sway. Personally I believe all rating systems for published books should be done away with. Give the reader a short blurb about the story and leave it at that. If you add anything, letting the reader know if the book is explicit in describing sex scenes, I guess that would be okay. For some that would be a red flag and to others a green.

While I'm speaking of reviews, I came across one review for an author I know on a bookseller’s website. The reviewer made it apparent she wrote the ugly review because the author had said something that she disagreed with on a public forum. If the reviewer was mad at the author, what are the chances that she really read the author’s book? Nah-ah! Zilch! Well, I had read that author’s book and enjoyed it throughly. So I had the pleasure of including my comments, and soon after another reader wrote about how much she loved the book. I can’t help but wonder if the disgruntled want-to-be-published-author knows that I Googled her name and found out so much about her? What will I do with the information? Nothing. But I certainly will walk a wide path around her if I ever met her. And buy a book of hers? Doubt it. That is, if she ever gets published. I don’t need that type of bad karma in my home.

I wonder how many books out there failed because of the opinion of one reviewer. I would like to think none, but I know how influential some of the reviewers can be to readers. Of course, it’s a two-way street. You can try to be nice to everyone, but someone at sometime will take offense to something you said or the way you look at them. I added the last part because lately I’ve been going without my glasses as I did when I was a teenager. I have to remember not to squint or otherwise someone will think I’m giving them the evil eye or something. LOL!

How much do reviews influence your book choice?

Monday, May 21, 2007

Let's all gather 'round to watch Jennifer faint

I've agreed to give a presentation at Southern Magic's June meeting. Public speaking is not my forte, which is one reason I stopped teaching college English. But I can do it once for Christy, on a subject I know a thing or two about: query letters!

I plan to focus on the following topics, answering questions I get asked a lot in meetings:

1. How and when to query, including etiquette

2. How to write the beginning and end of the letter

3. How to write the heart of the letter, the two-paragraph book summary that drives so many people insane

I'll have lots of examples of queries I wrote that did and didn't work. Do you have any suggestions or questions that I can work into the presentation? If there's something you've always wondered about, I can try to find an answer for you from an agent or editor between now and the end of June.

***BEST OF ALL****, I'm responsible for the June door prize, which will include a freshly printed copy of THE BOYS NEXT DOOR, due out the following Tuesday. Y'all come!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Weird Writing

The planets must be in line with each other right now. I’m actually writing again!! It’s amazing how writing block can affect you for months at a time (3 months for me) and then – snap – you’re out of it.

I was stuck on a scene where my heroine had to go shopping for that special dress for that special date. I tried everything from interviewing her to find out why she wasn’t a ‘dress person’ to actually going to the Galleria one Saturday afternoon looking at dresses. (I’m so glad I left my credit card at home…I would have been in sooo much trouble that day!!)
Thanks again to Jenn for forcing me to get that request sent off. That was a major factor in breaking through the block. I had to sit and write my – shudder – synopsis. I couldn’t get out of it. Well, my heroine bought that dress and has now moved on to fighting with her hair…it just does not want to stay curled!!

Also, last weekend I got my baby back!! Oh, how I have missed my laptop!! It’s just an old IBM ThinkPad with just games and Windows 98 but she’s still my baby and is now healthy! I have discovered that my writing process – thanks to Kim and her workshop last month – is more effective when I’m working on my laptop while I’m sitting on the couch with my feet propped up on the coffee table. I need the TV playing in the background (preferable something I’ve seen 100 times and know by heart) and at least two solid hours to write. I’m not one who can write for 10 minutes here and there although I wish I could.

OK…here’s something weird. Thursday morning I had the lovely experience of sitting in the dentist chair for two hours while getting a temporary crown. Since I was stuck there with cotton wads between my gums, some sort of metal gizmo holding my jaws open and a suction tube hanging out of my mouth, I had nothing better to do but to sit back, close my eyes and let my mind ponder. And what did I ponder about you ask??? Well, for some unknown reason the scene where my hero and heroine first do the dirty popped in my head. I have no idea why, I mean it wasn’t like my dentist was a hottie (well, he might have been say… 40 years ago). So there I sat with my eyes shut, listening to the drill going full speed and I’m watching my characters go at it. Told ya it was weird…but on the bright side, I’ve got a nice start on that chapter. ;-)

Does anyone have any weird brainstorming stories they’d like to share with the class??? I hope I’m not the only weirdo here… ;-)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

An Empty Well

Today is my day to blog and I feel topicless. With everything else that has been going on in my life, the well is dry. Even for getting back into the book I was working on. I read the latest book by my favorite author last night and that didn't inspire me.

Do you ever feel like your well has gone dry? What do you do to refill it?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Why Writing a Synopsis Is a Good Thing

Call it what you will -- synopsis, suckopsis, stinkopsis, synauseous --it's one of the alligators of this business.

For a long time I tried to pretend I wouldn't ever need one. Stop laughing. I was young and stupid and, most of all, terrified. This scaly beast is hard to get your arms around, with all that jaw-snapping and tail-whipping.

But in the last week, I've taken a deep breath and stepped into the pit and cautiously approached the reptile.

And you know what? I've discovered some amazing things. The reason my hero is so damn stubborn. Why my heroine never learned to say no. And miracle of miracles, I stumbled upon a Big Black Moment that is bigger and blacker than anything I had ever thought of. All thanks to wrestling this alligator called a synopsis.

We're not best friends yet, me and this 'gator, but I will say this: I have a lot more respect for his power. And I think we'll be able to get along.

Writing a synopsis: Tell us how you really feel!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Romancing the Mother

Happy Mother's Day to all women everywhere!

In honor of mother's day, I thought we could talk about romance stories featuring older women. Do you like them? If not, why? If you do, what's your favorite?

I have to admit that the romances I read and write have heroines between the ages of 25 - 35. Not sure why other than I just love the thrill of that first love and all the young, tender feelings that go with it. But there are one or two books I've read and enjoyed with older women. The women weren't the main characters, but they had a fully realized romance in the story and it made for a much richer story. One of my favorites is Heaven Texas, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. The hero's mother finds the second love of her life and it's a sweet, satisfying and very sexy read. Give it a try if you've not read it.

So what about you? Do you have a favorite book(s) with an older heroine, perhaps someone's mother?

Friday, May 11, 2007

Foreplay

If you’re thinking I’m about to write on what happens before sex, you’re right. All romance novels have foreplay in it. Are you saying to yourself that inspirations don’t have foreplay in it? Well, you’re wrong.

Foreplay is different for every author and reader. For me it can be the hero rubbing the heroine’s shoulders. I know when my hubby rubs my back or feet, I begin to feel rather generous. LOL!

How often have we sighed when the hero looks deep into the heroine’s eyes with that certain look? Or his hand brushes her knee? Or when his voice becomes husky and he calls her honey? Hmmm. :::eyes closed while listening to Lips Of An Angel:::::

What? Oh, the blog... :::looking around rather sheepishly::::

Of course, you’re saying now, that’s sexual tension. You’re right again. But as women, we know that to get a woman in ready mode you need more than just the five minutes of kissing to encourage her participation. Even if all our heroes are great kissers.

Some of the most sexy books I’ve read had pages and pages of foreplay/sexual tension before the real thing. The attraction between the sexes and the games they play to excite each other really makes a good romance. A good love story.

What is your favorite type of sexual tension/foreplay ploy for your hero and heroine to use to get things heated up? No. I don't want to hear anything that involves the word "French." LOL! Remember this blog is PG.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Southern Magic, a chapter of the Romance Writers of America

The other day, I sent the following email to my chapter with a few revisions below. I wonder if you're interested in a scavenger hunt at our website, www.southernmagic.org?

If you are and you're the first person to answer them all correct, I'll email you a $10 Books-a-Million gift certificate.

1) Whose book is shown on the homepage? Why?

2) How many published authors do we have in our chapter? Can you see their current books on that page? Can you go to their websites from that page?

3) How many programs are left for the year?

4) How many PROs do we have in our chapter? Can you go to their websites from that page?

5) Can I pay my membership fee through PayPal on the website? Which page can you find that?

6) What is the May program and what date?

7) Who is the keynote at the next luncheon? Who is the welcome speaker?

8) How many winners were there from last year's luncheon for the Name in a Book?

9) What page can I find directions to the library?

10) What page can I find the form to join Southern Magic?

11) Whose conference is advertised on our Conference page?

12) Where can I find the link to British Titles of Nobility or Occultopedia?

Have fun looking!

Thanks.
Carla

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Living the dream

As I said in the last Southern Magic meeting, my agent is circulating two of my manuscripts right now. Each day I hope I'll get some good news, but mostly...crickets chirping. Kinda like before I was published! I had hoped my editor would stay with the same house and keep buying my manuscripts forever. But multi-published authors had warned me about this: the waiting never ends, no matter how far up the bestseller lists you climb. As my critique partner Victoria Dahl likes to say when we get really frustrated, "We're living the dream, Jenn!"

Yes, having an agent is definitely an improvement over not having an agent (if you're looking for one). Being published is definitely better than not being published. But the strife, the toil, and the obsessive e-mail checking (or is that just me?) definitely don't end when you get The Call. You don't have it made. If I hadn't kept at it, I would be starting all over again now. I never stopped writing, so I have two manuscripts making the rounds and two shots at a book out in 2008. Let this be a lesson to so many of you out there who are on the very brink of publication. Get that Call. Celebrate, baby! But don't stop writing.

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Tudors continue to rule the airwaves

Oh, yes. What can I say. Love the costumes. The writing. The history. But oh, my, his Highness...



Swords and male-hip cleavage does it for me. Oh, my, I'm so proud to be a woman and he's...oh, my...makes me wordless...

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Oh, Those Brilliant Storytellers!

I'm giving up on Nora Roberts, Gayle Wilson, JoAnn Ross, and countless others. I'm not even going to try anymore.

Every time I start reading one of their books, I'm determined to analyze the story from start to finish. I begin with optimism, notepad and highlighters in hand. What's the theme? What's the inner conflict? Outer conflict? Who's motivated to do what and why? What's the Big Black Moment? The story arc?

It's usually when I finish the first third of the book that I realize I haven't made a single mark. Nothing.

It's because I get so caught up in the story.

I am completely captivated. If you stopped me and asked me to name the characters, I could tell you that and everything that happens in the story. If I thought about it hard enough, I could probably tell you some conflict points and a little bit about the motivation. But if you asked me to show you specific passages that support my answers, I'd be lost. These authors have the incredible talent of weaving seamless tales that leave me with only sigh-happy feelings of satisfaction.

I picked up a book a few days ago by an author I had never read before -- Jayne Ann Krentz. As I first began to read, I got excited and thought, "Maybe this one!"

I finished it last night.

Never even upcapped the highlighter.

How do you learn from brilliant storytellers? What's your process?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

When is Enough, Enough?

Oops! Just learned I missed my regular blog day. Apologies to all!

So, I thought I was through with my edits and ready to send my manuscript on, but wait, am I really? Having the luxury of emailing a manuscript is a gift to me, since it cost so much to print and mail one these days. However, I'm beginning to see the danger of it too, because I can't stop editing, fixing, reading. One more change here, one more read there, one more comma there and oh, be sure to delete the 'was' there. Sighing....When does it end?

This will be the first manuscript I've ever submitted that hasn't been read by anyone but me, so I'm even more cautious than usual. But still. When is enough, enough?

I've talked to published authors who say they never read their work once it's on the shelf because even then, they see things they'd like to change or tweak.

So what about you? When do you know that enough is enough and it's time to let go?