Friday, April 29, 2011

When Life Throws You Curve Balls

On April 27, 2011 tornadoes ripped through the south--including Alabama, killing over a 160 people (the toll has probably risen). There is no power with the probability of none for 5-10 days. Some communities don't have water. Everyone knows someone who has been hurt or killed.

I can safely say, that this is one heck-of-a curve ball.

I am still reeling from what has occurred. I find myself absent minded, easily emotional. None of us will be the same.

So what can we do? What can I do? The first thing I am going to do is thank God I am alive. Next I am going to help my neighbors. How? That depends on what is needed. Food? Water? A laugh? Maybe a tree needs to be cut down. I'll do it. (All right, I'll actually have my husband do that--me and a chain-saw just makes my skin crawl).

Sadly, not much writing will get done, but in the light of things--I'll get back to it. Right now. I'm just going to live.

How are you dealing with this curve ball if you're affected by these storms? For the rest of you, what curve balls have you dealt with?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

An Interview With Debut Author Lexi George


Today we're celebrating one of our own! 
Lexi George's debut novel Demon Hunting in Dixie is in stores now. 
A warrior, a demon, and the girl next door. . .

Looking For Trouble

Addy Corwin is a florist with an attitude. A bad attitude, or so her mama says, 'cause she's not looking for a man. Mama's wrong. Addy has looked. There's just not much to choose from in Hannah, her small Alabama hometown. Until Brand Dalvahni shows up, a supernaturally sexy, breathtakingly well-built hunk of a warrior from—well, not from around here, that's for sure. Mama thinks he might be European or maybe even a Yankee. Brand says he's from another dimension.

Addy couldn't care less where he's from. He's gorgeous. Serious muscles. Disturbing green eyes. Brand really gets her going. Too bad he's a whack job. Says he's come to rescue her from a demon. Puh-lease. But right after Brand shows up, strange things start to happen. Dogs talk and reanimated corpses stalk the quiet streets of Hannah. Her mortal enemy Meredith, otherwise known as the Death Starr, breaks out in a severe and inexplicable case of butt boils. Addy might not know what's going on, but she definitely wants a certain sexy demon hunter by her side when it all goes down. . .
Lexi's stopped by today to answer some questions about her path to publication: 
When did you start writing, and when did you first consider yourself a writer?
I started writing in the third grade—bad poetry about hydrangea bushes and Erik the Red.  I wrote poetry all the way through high school and college.  And then I decided to go to law school and the words dried up.  Law school does that to you.  Sucks you dry like a dementor.  I started writing again when my oldest child was a toddler and I haven’t stopped since.  I’ve been writing steadily for about fifteen years now.  As for when I considered myself a writer, why since that first awful poem, of course!
How many manuscripts had you completed before Demon Hunting in Dixie was accepted by Brava?
Three, including Demon Hunting in Dixie, but I worked on that first book, a fantasy, for ten years!
Can you tell us a little bit about your path to publication? Where there any points you felt like calling it quits? And, if so, what kept you going?
Like I said before, I’ve been writing more than fifteen years.  About five years ago, I started the querying rounds with my fantasy.  I got rejected.  Big time.  Something like a hundred ‘no thanks.’  Discouraged, I decided to write a paranormal romance set in a fictional small Southern town and people it with whacky characters.  It took me a year to write—I work full-time and have two daughters.  I entered it in some contests and got some positive feedback and was pretty psyched, so in January of 2010, I decided to start querying.  I got nine or ten requests for partials and fulls from agents and I was over the moon! 
Then the rejections started pouring in.  Light paranormal doesn’t sell.  Who knew?  I was beyond depressed.  Got on the Southern Magic loop in February and whined, and Carla Swafford sent me an email.  She said the Gulf Coast chapter was interviewing editor Megan Records of Kensington on the Southern Sizzle blog, and I should read Megan’s interview and query her.
I’d never queried an editor.  I was so hyper focused on getting an agent. 
The interviewer asked Megan, “What’s hot?”
She replied, “Hot: dark paranormals.  I am seeing a larger variety of creatures these days: angels, genies, etc, but werewolves and vampires still dominate. I hardly ever see funny paranormals. Shame, because I like those too!”
 Whoa, hold the phone, I thought.  I write funny! 
 So, I sent Megan an email query on a Friday.  On Sunday she emailed back and asked for the full.  On March 11th, 2010, I was on the way to the doctor when I got a call on my cell phone.  It was an out-of-state number and I almost didn’t answer it.  Figured it was one of those Nigerian bank schemes or a survey.  Luckily, I took the call, and it was Megan.  She offered me a three-book deal right then and there.  Good thing I wasn’t driving.  I would’ve wrecked the car.
After I sold the book, I got an agent, so I did it backwards.
What has been the biggest or most pleasant surprise about being published?
It has all been a surprise!  But working with Megan has been absolutely wonderful.  I was a little nervous about revisions and deadlines, but she has been a real joy to work with.  Seeing my first cover was fun.  The most pleasant, surprise, however, was the day I found the box of arcs on my front porch and got to hold my book in my hands.  I cried like a baby.  Nothing like it! 
It seems like there's been a lot of buzz lately about the importance of authors using social media and the web to help market themselves and their books.  What has your publisher expected you to take on in terms of marketing and what are some of the things you've learned so far?
I’m still learning about the marketing stuff.  I have sent my arcs off to various reviewers and I took an ad out in Romance Sells!  Oh, and RT has a nice deal.  For $100.00, you send them 400 postcards and they mail them out to romance friendly bookstores.  I am also blogging as much as I can to get the word out.
What advice would you give to unpublished writers that you think doesn't get said enough?
Write every day, but if you can’t write every day, write as much as you can.  Writing is a muscle that you have to use often or it will atrophy.  Set yourself a goal, daily, weekly, or monthly and strive for it.  You won’t always make it, but it will get your butt in the chair.  Be prepared for the struggle to get published and for the struggles on the other side of the fence, but try and keep a positive attitude.  I know it sounds hokey, but visualize your success.  Send those positive vibes out into the universe.  We are romance writers because we believe in hope and love and goodness.  Have faith in yourself and in your work, put in the time and the sweat and put yourself out there, and it will happen for you.  There’s enough goody to go around.  Nothing about this is easy, but it is so worth it. 
Also, join a writer’s group.  Feedback and constructive criticism is essential and it helps to have someone to share the madness with.  Go to conferences.  Attend writing workshops and network.  If not for my contacts in Southern Magic I wouldn’t be published!
What are you going to do to celebrate Demon Hunting in Dixie's release?
I love champagne, but I’ve never had anything but the grocery store kind.  I’m going to buy myself an expensive bottle of champagne (by expensive, I mean something that costs more than a few bucks) and drink it!  If my husband is good, I may let him have a swig.  Hee hee.
 -----
  Congratulations on your debut, and we hope you're enjoying that bottle of champagne!

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Fan Makes A Video

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Writing Origins

As I began to compose this, my first Romance Magicians Blog I realized that it will post on HOLY SATURDAY. At this season of Easter we gather with our families to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. There will be religious services and then the children will go Easter egg hunting followed by a sumptuous meal after which my belt will be in great need of loosening. Grandad or Uncle Ed or Aunt Minnie will gather everyone around with the children up front. Story telling time will begin. Grandad, Uncle Ed or Aunt Minnie will enthrall us with their adventures. Then Grandma will give us a look that says. "I don't remember that part of the story". This was and is our first encounter with our imaginations which we will develope into our futures as authors. Some of us used this treasured gift of imagination early in life and began experimenting with writing. I didn't start typing my imagination until I was 53. Now I can't stop for the life of me.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Guilty Pleasures


This last weekend, Southern Magic had an exhibitor booth at the Alabama Book Festival. The foot traffic at our table was heavier than I expected. Most of the people smiled and shared with us their favorite romance novels and asked about our chapter’s authors.

A few joyless souls wrinkled their noses, said something snotty about romance, and skulked off into their miserable existence to absorb books about death, misery, or some other boring and depressing topic.  Their reaction didn’t bother me too much. If they don’t like what we write, oh well.  

It was the third category that rubbed me the wrong way. The people who leaned forward and whispered romance novels were their guilty, secret pleasure. What the what? Guilty, secret pleasure?  Like Easy Cheese on crackers?  Reruns of Saved by the Bell? Lady Gaga? I own my guilty pleasures, thank you very much.

We like what we like. Why keep it a secret? Or feel guilt? I make no bones about the fact that I like to read urban fantasy and paranormal romance (or that I write both – for a funny story, ask me about opposing counsel’s reaction earlier this week when I explained why we couldn’t schedule depositions in late June). Believe it or not, one of my lawyer friends and I continue to exchange recommendations on paranormal romance reads. We are currently in the middle of a race/challenge to see who can finish all of Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunter series. (tee hee – what my friend doesn’t know is the fabulous SK writes much faster than we read – we’ll never be done! Muahaha!).

Do you have a guilty pleasure? Don’t keep it a secret. Tell us what it is. You may be surprised how much company you have. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Long Date*

Recent feedback from a contest judge has made me ponder the mysteries of attraction. The judge noted that my hero and heroine, while physically attracted, have no compelling reason to live happily ever after.

Setting aside the usual disclaimers (but it’s not a romance, it’s women’s fiction with romantic elements!) and defenses (sure they do! You only read about their first meeting!) I started thinking about what makes for a lasting relationship.

I only have one long date from which to draw conclusions. It began with physical approval—nearly six feet and a muscular build meets my need to feel not-like-a-hulk; thick dark hair is a personal preference.

But was there an inciting incident? Uh, sorry, not that I can recall. In my defense, it’s been a really long date, approaching twenty-nine years. So how did we make the transition from interest to commitment? We have friends in common, but they didn’t universally approve the match. We’re both ambitious—we talked about our intent to improve our lives. And we have similar values—we expect to work hard, as opposed to holding up convenience stores or bilking the elderly.

At the end of the third date, I announced my resolution never again to date anyone for longer than six months without a proposal. I figured if he spazzed under the threat of commitment, he’d disappear without a trace and I could move on before developing any emotional attachment. But he didn’t. At six months, he asked for a three month extension. I granted it.

The trait that I recognized as vitally important to my future was his optimism. While I can spot a mote of woe from twenty paces, he’s certain that I’m imagining things. Over time, my viewpoint has moved toward balance. And that’s a good thing.

What do you think? Are the real life basics that worked for me enough to carry a novel?


*circa the college years, referring to the institution of marriage

Monday, April 18, 2011

Back Cover Blurb: Another Step Forward for a Debut Author


BY: Debbie Kaufman

One of the most exciting things about being a debut author is getting to experience all the "firsts." Currently, I'm half-way between getting "THE CALL" and holding my author copies in my hands for my historical romance, THE DOCTOR'S MISSION (Nov. 2011).

Right now I'm waiting on copy edits, and, like all new authors, I'm dying to see my cover. The cover, however, is still a few months out since THE DOCTOR'S MISSION, a Love Inspired Historical, doesn't come out until November of this year.

About the time I was well launched into writing book two, another missionary romantic adventure set in the Liberian jungle, another little fun tidbit came my way from the Love Inspired Historical team. And, since the most common question I get asked is what the book is about, here's the back cover blurb!



THE DOCTOR'S MISSION

To save lives, she would risk her own

A woman doctor! Missionary William Mayweather can’t hide his disappointment. The Nynabo mission in Liberia, Africa, desperately needs help, but he’s vowed not to put another female in jeopardy. Too bad flame-haired Dr. Mary O’Hara refuses to turn back—and he cannot allow her to go into the jungle alone.

Medicine or marriage? For Mary, the choice was clear. Far away from the patriarchal medical community, she resolves to be of real service. She’ll willingly go head-to-head with the handsome, opinionated missionary, even in the face of deadly danger. Yet the greatest tests lie in trusting God’s plan—for the mission, and her future happiness in this untamed, beautiful land….



I'm really happy with my blurb. While my story is historical romance, it is also adventure, and I think they capture that it the tag line. If you want to know more about the book or missions, visit me also at my website, www.debbiekaufman.com, where I'm running a simple contest for a free e-reader.

SO, here's my question for you today. What makes a great back cover blurb - one that would make you buy the book?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Interview with Amy Plum- Author of Die For Me

Today Romance Magicians welcomes Amy Plum, the author of upcoming Die For Me.  Amy is a Birmingham native who now makes her home in the Loire Valley in France.

Die For Me weaves the mythology of a new supernatural monster--the Revenant--into the beauty of Paris and the mystery of falling in love.  After the horrific death of both of her parents, 16-year-old Kate moves to Paris to live with her grandparents.  While adjusting to her new life, she falls for Vincent, a broodingly handsome Frenchman. But Vincent is anything but the average teenager. He's a Revenant--an undead being whose fate forces him to sacrifice himself over and over again to save the lives of others

I was lucky enough to get a hold of an ARC of the novel months ago, and I really can't say enough about how much I enjoyed the book.  In a market over-saturated with angsty supernatural teen romances, Die For Me stands out. The novel is beautifully written and imaginatively conceived.  I can't imagine how this book won't be huge. And one lucky commenter will get to read it before anyone else, because I'm giving away an ARC of the novel!

Amy was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.  Enjoy!  (And make sure you go pre-order the book.)

1. I know that the success you've had so far with Die For Me has given you the chance to do what most writers dream of--quit the day job and write full time, but at what point did you make it your goal to be a writer? What did you do to stay focused and motivated on that goal?

Lisa, I’ve always wanted to write. But after a few early rejections (by my university’s literary magazine and by friends whose advice I trusted), I decided to keep my writing to myself. Besides my MA thesis and art historical articles I wrote for Sotheby’s (where I worked for a few years), my writing was limited to journals and long storytelling letters to friends and family about the foreign places I lived.

It wasn’t until I moved to the Loire Valley five years ago that I began blogging. Finally, people I didn’t know from Adam started giving me feedback on my writing. And it was overwhelmingly positive, which shocked me because I still felt that it was a passion that I had no talent for. It was because of those readers’ encouragement that I found the courage to write my first manuscript (A Year in the Vines).

So the blog was my “coming out” as a writer. I didn’t know what blogging was, so I usually wrote full essays and articles. And I did that every day for two years, and then every other day for another year, before it became necessarily (because of my book-writing) less frequent.

The thing that kept me focused and motivated during that period was pure desperation. I had gone from being a career girl in the big city (New York) to jobless and isolated in the French countryside. I had no friends. When my husband traveled I sometimes went a whole week without speaking to anyone. My husband and I weren’t doing well. Our financial situation wasn’t good. And I had this round-the-clock screaming colicky baby that I had no clue what to do with.

For me it was write or die: make my desperate situation funny and in doing so seduce a following of readers who would give me emotional support. (Unless I’m deluded, those readers didn’t know how bad things were. Who wants to read a sob story? So I made it comical. If they’re reading this now...surprise!) If I hadn’t had that creative and social outlet, I would probably have been hospitalized for severe depression. Instead, I found my calling. You could say that writing saved my life.

2. Even though your first manuscript found an agent fairly quickly, it hasn't been published yet. Was there anything that helped keep you focused on continuing to write, even as you waited for news on that first one?

Finding an agent (Stacey Glick of Dystel & Goderich) so quickly was a huge confirmation to me. And then the encouraging feedback from the publishers she submitted it to gave me the affirmation that another book was worth trying.

By this time, I had found a job teaching university English, and had done an overhaul of A YEAR IN THE VINES (changing it from part-fiction to pure memoir at the request of publishers). I didn’t like the new version as much and had a feeling it wouldn’t sell. So while I waited for the news from Stacey, I threw myself into a new project. Although I was used to writing stories from my life on the blog, I thought I’d try a different genre. And since I had just read TWILIGHT and saw how well it was working, I figured I’d give YA a try. I wrote DIE FOR ME during the university’s summer vacation.

It was really a stab in the dark. I had no expectations that the book would work. I was already geared up to write something in a different genre the next summer, which would be my last go at publication before having to quit the low-paying university job and find something full-time.

3. You've talked about using the theme of "impossible love" in Die For Me. Do you think that the theme has more resonance for a YA audience than an adult audience?

That’s a really good question! I think that impossible love holds resonance for a YA audience for one reason, and for an adult audience for another.

When you’re young you dream of Prince Charming (or Princess Charming!) because you haven’t had enough experience to know that he/she doesn’t exist. I remember watching the film West Side Story when I was a teenager. I became hysterical afterward, and cried for hours. Totally freaked my parents out. The impossible love in Tony and Maria’s case was so incomprehensible and unfair to my fifteen-year-old mind that it destroyed me. I sobbed after reading Romeo and Juliet for the same reason.

So we all fast-forward a decade (or two in my case) and several relationships later. You know the difference between reality and fiction now. But oh, how you wish the fiction were real.

4. Do you think you'll continue to write YA fiction beyond Die For Me?

I have one other YA paranormal series in mind, but only because it is about a topic that has fascinated me for years. If that doesn’t work out, I don’t think I will stick with YA paranormal. But I do enjoy YA and would be open to writing something else for that age group.

But I do hope to write adult books. That diamond project I keep seeing glittering in the distance is a dark southern novel—in the manner of Ya-Ya Sisterhood, but with a pretty high creep-factor. And I have a Rosemary’s Baby-style psychological thriller that I wrote about fifty pages of before not knowing what to do with it. I can’t wait to jump back into that project.

5. Die For Me isn't out yet, but you've had a well developed internet platform for the book for a while now.  As a newly published author, what do you think are the most important lessons you've learned about using the web or social media to market your book?

I already had a good readership from my old blog, and they all generously followed me over to my writer’s blog and to Facebook. (Even though most are not YA readers.) So thanks to them I wasn’t posting in the dark. As ARCs get out, reviewers are beginning to follow me on Facebook and Twitter, and that is definitely helping to spread the word about Die For Me. But it is still early days, and I’ll only be able to measure social media’s true value in hindsight: once the book is published and the numbers are out.

I do put quite a bit of time and effort into it. And some days I wonder if my time wouldn’t be better spent writing another book. But I do feel that this period pre-publication is important for “building a buzz” as the marketing people say. And I want to do everything I can to help that along.

6. What has been the best surprise about the whole publishing process of Die For Me?

If I can turn your question around, the whole publishing process of Die For Me has been a huge surprise.

I really knew nothing about publishing when it was bought. To the point that when someone asked me for an ARC, I had no clue what they were talking about. The editing process was less of a fun surprise—in fact it was more of a shock—but it has been extremely valuable (albeit painful at times). And then all of these crazy little things keep popping up, like helping to choose a voice for the audio book, being asked my opinion on cover art, and filming an author video (deer-in-headlights-alert!).

But I think that the most amazing, awe-inducing moment was when I got the call from my agent telling me about HarperCollins’s offer. The amount of the advance almost made me faint, it so exceeded anything I could have imagined. But WAY more important than that was the fact that a major publisher wanted something that I wrote, and they wanted it badly enough to give an amazing pre-empt bid. I felt so validated, so valued, that my feet didn’t touch the ground for about two months.
-------

Die For Me will be in stores on May 10th, but one lucky reader will get it next week.  Just post a comment telling us about YOUR favorite supernatural beings by Friday the 22nd and I'll pick someone at random to receive an ARC of the book.

Update: The winner of the ARC drawing is Lexi. Congratulations! Hope you enjoy the book.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Tips to Stay on Track & Achieve the Writing Dream

A writing career means strapping on your courage and going into a series of battles every day.

1. Writing the book/story.
2. Revising.
3. Sending your baby out into the world.

You have to have absolute faith in yourself and your work because there are no guaranteed outcomes. And that can be hard, because fear is more than willing to ride up & keep you company. So here are some tips to keep on track:

Set achievable goals --and meet them. For example, 3 pages a day is achievable for most people, but some people can write almost 2,000-plus words daily. Know yourself and set goals that fit you.

Let go of the negative and accept a positive attitude --I can do It! Believe in yourself.

Allow yourself to write a crappy first draft. You can fix it later. This gem is oft repeated by many authors and remains true.

Evaluate your critiques and rejections.Seek patterns that teach you about where you are as a writer and help you grow.

Take small steps and advance -- writing groups, contests, writing classes.

Ask yourself what you want? How can you make it happen? Then do one little thing everyday from that list.

Most important: Celebrate your achievements! And that includes rejections, because each and everyone of those is a sign that you are taking action.

Books I've found useful:

Noah Lukeman THE FIRST FIVE PAGES

Stephen King ON WRITING

Christopher Vogler THE WRITER'S JOURNEY (actually, I prefer Joseph Campbell, but many folks swear by Vogler, so I'm including it)

Donald Maass WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL, THE FIRE IN FICTION

James Frey HOW TO WRITE A DAMN GOOD NOVEL

Robert McKee STORY

Blake Snyder SAVE THE CAT!

Anne Lamott BIRD BY BIRD

Dwight Swain TECHNIQUES OF THE SELLING WRITER

James Scott Bell REVISION AND SELF-EDITING, and PLOT AND STRUCTURE

Some very useful blogs that teach you the business & the craft:

Alexandra Sokoloff's blog

Pub Rants


Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Red Shirt Editing

On our chapter's loop, a few of our members were shooting emails with dialogue from an old movie (Galaxy Quest, a spoof of Star Trek) and someone made reference to "red shirts." For those who don't know, in Star Trek, the original series, whenever a security officer who wore a red shirt left the ship with the landing party, he was certain to be a goner.

Well, lately I've been working on editing (2nd or 3rd time) one of my books and the mention of red shirts got me to thinking. We all have phrases or words we have to look for in our writing that need to be deleted. They are like the fellows with the red shirts, doomed once they land on the page. I may be pushing it with the analogy, but that's the way my mind works.

I look for excessive uses of the word WAS. Some are okay, but not herds of them. Areas I can change to action. Ways to add dialogue without dragging down the story. Unnecessary words. For example: His hand caught her hand. Changed to His hand caught hers. Or He caught her hand.

Then there are HE FELT, SHE BELIEVED, HE THOUGHT and SHE REALIZED. Those words need to be deleted and the feeling, belief, expectation and realization should be told or preferably shown.

Of course, every time I pick up one of my grammar books, I learn something new. For example that the pronouns everything, something, anyone, and everyone are singular. And it doesn't matter how many prepositional phrases that appear to make it plural are around it.

I have three grammar books I love to use. ENGLISH GRAMMAR FOR DUMMIES (my kind of people) and ENGLISH GRAMMAR IN USE and ADVANCE GRAMMAR IN USE. The last two are actually for British grammar but I don't care. They come with CDs that I can do practice tests. Hey, we Americans love to award them with Oscars all the time. (LOVE YOU, COLIN FIRTH!) There has to be a reason.

So what are some of the red-shirt words or phrases you look for to delete?  What are your favorite grammar books?


From Galazy Quest
Do you know why? Because my character isn't important enough for a last name, because I'm gonna die five minutes in.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Finish the Darned Book: What's the Deal with Conflict?

Conflict drives story. Characters drive conflict. Ever may it be so.

One of the most common reasons that editors reject submissions is the story's lack of conflict strong enough to sustain a story from beginning to end. So let's look conflict.

Conflict is what keeps a character from getting what he or she wants.

Too many writers mistake conflict for bickering between their characters. Or they think conflict is a misunderstanding between the characters that puts them at odds. Or that getting stuck in a monsoon is conflict enough to keep a story going.

But that's not conflict. Conflict is about struggling against something specific to get something specific. Dorothy gets sucked into a tornado and ends up in the land of Oz. She wants to get home, but a series of problems arise that keep her from being able to reach her goal of going home, and she and her gang of motley allies must figure their way through those obstacles to reach her goal. That's conflict.

But is that enough to sustain a story? Not really. Because there's something else we need to know about conflict.

Conflict is both internal and external.

For example, in the Wizard of Oz example (which I'll admit, I'm borrowing from the fabulous Debra Dixon's Goal, Motivation and Conflict example), Dorothy's desire to get back home is the external goal. But her internal goal is to find a way to be happy with her life. Her unhappiness, the trouble she always seems to get into in her life, motivates her to want to find a place she belongs. But there's a conflict--she doesn't know what will make her happy. So that's the conflict she has to work through to reach her goal.

So how do we bring our internal and external conflicts into play?

The best way to keep your characters' internal conflicts in the forefront is to fashion your external conflicts so that they play on the characters' worst fears. I had a character whose horrific childhood had given her a near phobia about children. She didn't like to be around them, didn't want to have to deal with them. So what kind of external conflict did I give her? She was called to investigate an assault and attempted kidnapping of a four-year-old girl. And then the little girl formed an instant crush on my heroine, which inspired her boss (and former foster father) to assign her to protective detail for the child, who was the only one who could identify the assailant. So her internal conflicts were top of mind immediately.

What about the hero? Well, his big internal conflict was that he'd married a woman who didn't want to be married when she got pregnant with his child--and it had ended about as you might expect. The woman who didn't want to be married and certainly didn't want to be a mother, leaving the hero to raise his daughter by himself. So the last thing he needs in his life is a woman with a kid-phobia who seems to break out in hives whenever his daughter is around. But at the same time, she's a cop who can help him protect his daughter, who seems to find the heroine irresistible. So it's a constant push pull between the attraction they feel for each other and the myriad reasons they shouldn't be together.

But it's also the threat to the child that allows the heroine to work through her fears and her past torment to move forward with her life and allow herself to love not only the child but also her father. And the hero's love for his daughter helps him find the patience to look past the heroine's protective walls to see the woman inside that his daughter so clearly adores. And the heroine's bravery and determination to protect his child helps him trust her enough to also share his heart.

To sum it up, your external conflict should constantly be putting pressure on the internal conflict. It should also be part of the means by which the characters resolve their internal conflicts and come together in the end.

And remember, in a romance, the internal conflict is extremely important. In many stories, it's the most important conflict. Don't give it short shrift.

So, here's the assignment for today. Think about the conflicts in your current WIP. What external conflict is keeping your hero/heroine from reaching their goals? What internal conflicts are complicating things? How do those internal and external conflicts apply pressure to each other?

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Love the one you're with?

When authors talk about themes in romances, one that often comes up is: You can't choose who you love. Much of the conflict in a novel can come from the fact that the hero or heroine (or both) doesn't want to love the other, but they can't help it.

But sometimes the opposite is true. Just as we can't stop ourselves from falling in love with someone, I don't believe we can force love or attraction that we don't feel either.

When I was sixteen, I went on a date with a guy I worked with. He was nice and interesting, a couple years older than me--always exciting--and I was flattered that he'd ask me out. I hadn't been harboring a crush or anything, but, hey, you never know, right?

He only had a motorcycle, so for this double date, he surprised me by renting a Ford Taurus--complete with CD player!--to ferry the four of us around for the night. It was fun. We ate at a fancy Italian restaurant, and my aging mind forgets if we went to a movie or what.

But at the end of the night when he dropped me off, I didn't feel any differently than I had at the beginning. I enjoyed his company, but I wasn't interested in a romantic relationship.

The next time I went to work, I heard that he was upset because he spent all of that money and didn't even get a good night kiss. Dubious logic to be sure. It's not like I was a paid escort. And I hadn't expected a big-money evening.

We could have ridden in his friend's car. Or mine.

I'm sure he was trying to impress me, but the bottom line is that I couldn't force myself to be attracted to him. No matter what he did.

Have you ever experienced an attraction you didn't want? Or not been able to summon feelings for a person you thought you should want?

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Truth In Offending

Have you ever gone somewhere selling an exceptional product only to be put off by rude and/or cavalier employees? I have. And I can say unequivocally that I will not return. I won't complain. I simply won't return. To me, customer service is a prong of professionalism.

As writers, we are selling a product. Like other branches of the entertainment industry, a writer has fans excited about their work (hopefully). Some are more zealous than others. Yet, nothing will turn off a loyal fan faster than an author who acts as though dealing with fans is beneath them.

To my way of thinking, professionalism includes a good dose of common courtesy that extends beyond agents and editors. We, as professionals, should be considerate to our readers (including book reviewers). After all, readers want to be in it for the long haul too.

Friday, April 01, 2011

The Power of Words

But words are things, and a small drop of ink,
Falling like dew, upon a thought, produces
That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think;
'Tis strange, the shortest letter which man uses
Instead of speech, may form a lasting link
Of ages; to what straits old Time reduces
Frail man, when paper - even a rag like this -
Survives himself, his tomb, and all that's his.

from Don Juan George Gordon, Lord Byron

This is one of my favorite Byron quotes. In fact it is on the opening page of my website for just that reason. I like the idea of my words living on long after I’m gone. It can be, however, a double-edged sword. Words are powerful, whether spoken or written. They can change the world or change someone’s mind. They can change how we see others or how we see ourselves.

We, as wordsmiths, spend much of our time trying to pick just the right words to draw a reader in, to create the world of our story, to introduce characters who will resonate with our readers and make them want to continue reading. Just the right words will carry a reader through your pages like a gondola on the canals of Venice or like the passenger seat in a fighter jet.

Those of us who write historical romance have a completely separate set of issues when we write. We have to insure our words don’t just tell the story, but do so in language that isn’t an anachronism to the times. I am constantly using etymonline.com to check the date a particular word came into use. I also have access to a number of dictionaries from the nineteenth century and a couple of interesting sites on the history of swearing and the evolution of terms for “the naughty bits,” as my British friends call it.

And those of you who write paranormal romance often have the task of making up words to define the colors, emotions, and objects in your paranormal worlds. I am in awe of some of the elaborate glossaries associated with certain paranormal series.

I always have a notebook handy when I read. When I come across a particularly good word, I will jot it down in said notebook and later go back to write in a definition and an etymological timeline on the word. I also collect books about, well, about words. Peter Bowler has a great series of Superior Person’s Book of Words that have some of the most amusing, confusing and esoteric words in the history of the English language.

His eructation was neither called for nor polite.
(Sounds so much better than – Dude burped and grossed me out!)

So, as a writer, do you spend hours mulling over which word to use? Do you find that once you get to know your characters there are words they use that are unique to them? Are there words you shy away from using because you feel readers won’t recognize them or worse, might be offended by them? One of my critique partners found this interesting thread on an Amazon forum. Words to Cringe By

http://www.amazon.com/tag/romance/forum/ref=cm_cd_dp_rft_tft_tp?_encoding=UTF8&cdForum=FxM42D5QN2YZ1D&cdThread=Tx2AE5N4XZUDDKR

Check it out, but be warned. Do not read through this while drinking a beverage of any kind. You will drown your keyboard!

After you read it you will never look at your love scenes the same way again!

How about it? What lengths do you go to in order to choose just the right words? And have you ever written something, read over it and thought “Hey! That’s good! I wrote that!” Share it with us! In the words of my brother “It ain’t braggin’ if you’ve done it!”