Tuesday, June 30, 2009
It always seems so far off in the future, and then suddenly it's HERE! Tomorrow is the official launch date for Love at First Flight, even though it's been in stores for a week or so already. I'm already hearing from readers, who are enjoying Michael and Juliana's story! One of them wrote to me over the weekend: "I started reading it at the book store for over 2 hours and finally decided to buy your book. I loved the story you created between Michael and Juliana. I couldn't stop reading because I wanted to know what happened. I loved how you wrote the character of Michael ... I've been looking for another new author to read and I'm happy I found you. I'm glad I went home when I did because you wrote all the emotional parts so beautifully that I couldn't help crying."
There'll be lots of opportunities to win copies of Love at First Flight and Line of Scrimmage this week! Come by the launch party tomorrow here on the Casa Blog as well as on my blog. I'll be announcing a Launch Week Contest tomorrow, so be sure to come by to get the details!
And don't forget to come to my Love at First Flight Book Club meeting on July 20 at 7 p.m. EDT. Warning, there will be spoilers, so make sure you read the book before the party! I’ll be giving away some great prizes to participants.
This book has been 10 years in the making—from idea to publication. I look forward to celebrating tomorrow with my Casa sisters and all our friends!
L@FF Blog Tour: Come By, Comment, and Win!
June 29: Romance Reader at Heart
June 30: The Book Faery
July 1: Marie’s Blog Launch Party
July 6: Chic Book Reviews
July 8: Marta’s Meanderings
July 9: Yankee Romance Reviewers
July 10: Books and Needlepoint
July 13: Night Owl Romance
July 14: Love Romance Passion
July 27: Romance Bandits
Monday, June 29, 2009
Inside my husband wrote: “I could say these flowers and this card are for no special occasion, but that would be a lie. You’re my heart’s constant thought. XXOO, Steve”
OK, say aah! Yes, he is a really wonderful guy and I know I am incredibly blessed. And yes I could brag on and on about how often he expresses his love with similar gestures. He would LOVE to hear you all praise his thoughtfulness! LOL! It is entirely true and I do not have to exaggerate in how marvelously romantic my own Mr. Darcy is. But I am not writing this to boast my good fortune or exalt my hubby or to make anyone feel sad if they haven’t found their Prince Charming. It is just that his words and these simple flowers struck me forcibly.
We writers of romance are inspired for different reasons, I am sure. We come from varied romantic backgrounds and have widely diverse beliefs in what a male/female relationship entails. And most likely we are not all married happily and have suffered serious emotional hardships along the way. But we must have one thing in common, I think, and that is the hope that “happily-ever-after” – however we may define it – does exist. Can there be a romance writer who envisions their hero and heroine NOT living together forever? Can a reader of romance be a true fan of the genre if she expects the relationship to whither and die soon after the book ends? Correct me if I am wrong, but the answer to the first question has to be NO. If asked the second question a few years ago, before I began writing, I would have shaken my head in bafflement, certain that the answer was an unequivocal NO. What would be the point in reading a romance novel if one did not desire the couple to be happy and beat the odds?
The reason these flowers and my husband’s poetic words seared my heart and compelled me to write this essay is because I know too well that the answer to the latter question isn’t a clear NO. I know full well that the real world of marriage and love isn’t always what we write or read in a novel. There are a huge number of frogs mixed in with the princes! Not everyone is so lucky in love. However, my marriage, and many many others that I know personally, proves that romance is alive and well on planet earth. But we aren’t necessarily talking about the real world here.
I am talking about ladies who pick up a romance novel.
I wrote my sequel to Pride and Prejudice because I believed with all my heart that Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy would have a good life together. That they powerfully loved each other. That Jane Austen was strongly conveying that message. That they would live happily-ever-after. How I have chosen to weave that future may not be everyone’s ideal, but why would anyone wish grief upon this literary couple? Why would a reader wish misery, tragedy, and a swift dissolution of the romance to ANY literary couple? Yet time and time again I receive comments from disgruntled readers who clearly anticipated and desired unhappiness for the Darcys and are downright angry that I gave them a content, sexually fulfilling, bonded relationship. Yep, I am still shaking my head in bafflement and am sure I will never understand the attitude. Thankfully I receive FAR more comments from satisfied readers! This gives me hope that not everyone is jaded into believing true love is impossible. Or at least that they have the outlook one would expect from a romance reader.
Then I come home on an average Sunday to discover a sweet gift from my soul mate, who is as I write this expressing his devotion by preparing a delicious dinner for his family to enjoy. And of course I love the flowers and will treasure the card and thanked him profusely - sigh After a reverent period on display, it will be added to the enormous box containing all his cards and poems written for me. I will rifle through some of them as I always do when storing away the latest, reading the sentiments spanning the 24 years we have been together, and it will rejuvenate my heart, bolster my spirit, and sustain my inspiration in writing Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth as I do. Thank you, Steve, for daily showing me what love is far better than any romance novelist, even me, can write it.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
In the meantime, I thought it would be fun to share some of my before published shorts in a free read, serialized version in a newsletter. So if anyone is interested in signing up, I’ve already sent off the first two scenes from Goddess in Training for newsletter members but can forward these to you if you want to sign up.
Why are free reads great ideas? It shows diversity. Some of our Casa Babes had never written in 1st person, so it was a fun challenge for them. Some only write historical so adding a historical touch to the contemporary story line made it fun for readers and the authors alike.
If you had a chance to read some more of our tales in progress in between releases, for free, wouldn’t you like to check it out? And what do you say, Casa Babes? Want to do another story in the fall?
Just let us know, and we’ll get started for another free Casablanca story in the future!
Saturday, June 27, 2009
By Terry Spear
Just like a seed buried in the soil for any kind of plant~ ground cover, tree, flower, blade of grass, our characters start out as kernels of possibilities. The environment the plant grows in shapes the plant. Too dry, the plant has to adapt or die. Too windy and the tree must bend or break. Just like our characters, they often don’t choose what life throws in their path. But with our characters, they have to make choices that often puts them at more risk.
Some authors make detailed sketches of their characters before they launch them into their books. They have a neat concept of what their characters are all about before they write the opening scene.
But for me, being a pantser who writes as the scenes come to me, I could no more do that, than I can plot out a book. What I envision is a character with a mission, with some big motivation as to why it is imperative that they must accomplish this task, and it has to have some time limit, or there’s no urgency. They have an occupation that further defines them. And they must have a fun way to meet the hero early on. That’s it! Then the trouble begins. And how they deal with it reveals their character. We then go from a named character who the reader knows nothing about to a real person who they can fall in love with or hate to their heart’s content. Hopefully, it’s the villain they hate and the hero and heroine they fall in love with!
I just finished teaching an online writing workshop and one of my students mentioned that in her last several books, all her heroines sounded the same. So here’s the dilemma. We want to have unique characters in all our books. If some are in more than one of our books, we want to show the same characterization from book to book so that it doesn’t seem they have multiple personality disorder, although with a caveat. People act differently in different situations around different people. So we can have a cool dude who is rough and tough around the guys, but when it comes to the girls, he’s a marshmallow. Or maybe he’s at home on the range, but put him in a ship and it’s another story. Or maybe he’s a real daytime character, but make him work the nightshift and we see another side of him entirely. Or better yet, maybe he’s playing second fiddle to the main character, and this time…he’s got a chance to get the girl.
But what about having characters that are similar from story to story? Let’s say I write spunky heroines, which I do. That’s what my readers expect from me. If I had a moody, laid back chick who waited for others to do her bidding, would readers be disappointed? Probably. Still, I can write lots of spunky heroines and make them completely different from one another. How? Their life experiences, their motivations, their goals define them. And how they deal with conflict further illustrates what kind of character they are.
When I begin the story, I don’t know all the trouble my characters are going to get into, only that they will. I don’t know how they’ll react, but I consider lots of different avenues they can take. Often I don’t even know what troubles they’ve had in the past, but as I write, it comes to me. And as they venture into the unknown, they become real people…or wolves, as the case may be.
So what do you think is the best way to go? Character sheets, or wing it???
Friday, June 26, 2009
I’m dug under with a book and a final read for my October book, Hex in High Heels.
And as always real life surprises me.
Yesterday afternoon I went out front and next thing I knew a cute little Westie was there with “hi!” and demanding attention. No way to identify him, although I’ll take him to my vet to see if there’s a chip, and I couldn’t leave him outside. Natch. He went into the back yard with no problem, loved water and kibble and while Bogie isn’t happy, new doggie seems content. I haven’t seen any Westies in the neighborhood, but I’ll do what I can while my dh is saying “I think we have a new dog”
My family knows me too well. I love all animals and I’m vain enough to say they love me.
Good thing I don’t intend to be one of those little old ladies that collect critters, but still, would you turn away a cute little dog who has all this love to give? And he could end up in a book too!
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Years ago, I was a soap opera addict.
Well, let's make that... today I'm addicted to one soap opera. And maybe not really addicted. I mean, I don't tape it or Tivo it or anything. I just watch if I happen to be home at that time.
This particular soap has had some fantastic plots over the years along with the usual fare for daytime serials. In addition to the switched-at-birth, kidnappings, amnesia, coma, now-he's-dead-now-he's not stories, this show has also featured possession by the devil and visions and other crazy things beyond the usual crazy things.
How can these unbelievable stories keep viewers? Daytime television, after all, is not jam-packed with special effects that can transport the viewer into a new world. To bring viewers into these wild plots, the acting has to be serviceable, but the characterizations have to be spot on.
The characterizations--the building of characters--is the work of the writer.
Yesterday, Beth talked about writing great secondary characters. I couldn't agree more with her viewpoint about these important supporting roles. They do need to have "depth, interest, and unique traits," as she put it. And they have to perform a function in the plot or they just become tiresome distractions.
When an author draws characters, secondary or otherwise, who come alive, the writer can do almost anything with them as long as she stays true to the portrait she's put together. So if she's constructed a hero who is cautious and intellectual, having him suddenly drop his career as a renowned physicist to become a sky-diving instructor (because she needs a sky-diving instructor to advance the plot) will lose readers fast--unless the author has set up the shift appropriately.
The author could have that meditative hero join a group of sky-diving risk-takers, for example, if they also happen to be rocket scientists who hold the key to an equation he's struggled with all his life. The author could do all sorts of wild things with that risk-averse character, as long as his actions grew organically from how he views the world. And that point of view is set up by....the author.
I have great admiration for writers who take readers on a fantastic journey, so that by the end of the book or show you're thinking: "that's completely unrealistic....but I believed every moment of it!"
In a recent blog interview, I was asked how I come up with book ideas. I said I usually start with a "what if" premise -- what if someone tries to get fired (as in Fire Me)? What sorts of things would this person do? What would that day be like?
But once I have a premise rolling around in my head, it's the characters who ultimately drive the plot. When I don't listen to the characters, and I try to make them do things they wouldn't really do, I stall as a writer. Only when I listen to what they want to say or do is creativity unleashed again.
When I was watching the soap I mentioned earlier as it featured a tale of exorcism, my kids, off during the summer, howled at the shenanigans on the screen. But I was rapt--not just because I wanted to know what would happen next, but because I was in awe of the writer for taking me to this completely unrealistic place...and yet I believed.
Memorable characters, memorable soap operas....I'd love to hear your favorites.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
What happened, you ask? I had a reader/reviewer, who got an advance copy of HEALING LUKE, email me to ask if Luke's brother, Aaron, and their father, Bart, would get stories of their own. As an author, there's not a better compliment than to have a reader ask to see more from your secondary characters. (Well, there is "I stayed up all night to finish the book!" and "I'm going to the store now to buy your whole backlist!" ...but wanting stories for the secondary characters is right up there!)
Knowing that a reader not only fell in love with your characters in THIS book, but that they enjoyed your writing enough to want more is heady stuff. I'm flattered beyond belief.
It also reinforces my belief that memorable secondary characters are almost as important to a story as having a hero and heroine the reader can love. In fact, I have a workshop that I give to writers' groups called "Secondary Characters: The Good, The Bad and The Quirky."
Good secondary characters have depth, interest, unique traits and–perhaps most important– they have a function in the story and add something to the book. For example, in the opening chapters of HEALING LUKE, Luke's father is his adversary in terms of Luke's initial goal, remaining a recluse and avoiding failure. Bart helps get the plot rolling by hiring Abby to help with Luke's physical therapy. Throughout the course of the book, as Luke's relationship with Abby grows, we also see his relationship with his father evolve. By the end of the book, Luke is looking to Bart for advice in the role of a mentor. Bart's character never changes. He's essentially the same concerned and loving- if a bit out of touch- father he was at the opening of the book, but he plays an important role in the advancement of the plot and highlighting aspects of the conflict that Luke must face. Bart is not just window dressing. He has his own flaws, backstory and ways of dealing with issues that are uniquely his. The same can be said for Luke's brother, Aaron, who plays an even bigger role in the book than Bart.
And the answer to that question the reader asked? Will Bart and Aaron get their own books? I certainly hope so. I have ideas for Aaron's book, even had most of it written a couple computers ago. (I'm afraid that file may be lost in the great beyond now...) But some day, with luck, two more awesome Morgan men will have a chance to have their story told!
What secondary characters have you always wanted to see stories written for but so far haven't?
Happy Wednesday and happy birthday to my very own hero...my hubby Paul!!
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
My hero in Too Hot to Handle is named Dr. Mike Flynn and I have to tell you, I’ve taken quite a lot of ribbing because of it. It all started because I’m terrible with names. I have a hard time remembering my own name, no less those of my secondary characters.
When I wrote Romeo, Romeo, I needed a doctor. Since I had no plans to make this doctor a central character in the book, I called him Mike after my personal doctor so that I’d remember his name. That seems harmless, doesn’t it? After all, it wasn’t as if I used his last name, too.
Well, was I ever wrong about the fictional Dr. Mike being just a walk on character. After writing the scene – a conversation between Nick, the hero in Romeo, Romeo and Dr. Mike Flynn, I fell in love and not just with my hero. I’m fickle that way. I was head over tongue depressors in love with Mike. Who knew?
At one of my appointments with Dr. Mike, he asked how my writing was going. Since I eventually had to tell him that Too Hot to Handle was the fictional Dr. Mike’s book, I figured that was as good an opening as any. I held my breath and waited for him to give me a hard time. He just laughed and asked if he could tell his wife I thought he was hero material. Everything went along swimmingly until all of the real Dr. Mike’s nurses read Romeo, Romeo. I began getting questions about whether I modeled Mike Flynn after the real Dr. Mike. I felt like asking “Have you not read Romeo, Romeo?” The answer to that is NO!!! There would be way too much of an ick factor if the similarities went beyond first name and specialty. My character and my doctor look nothing alike, they sound different, they’re different ages, and I certainly don’t want to know if my personal physician wears boxers or briefs. My hero on the other hand is a briefs man—of this I’m sure.
In the nine years I’ve been a patient, my doctor and I have become friends. Dr. Mike’s my go-to guy whenever I need medical advice—real or fictional. When I had to cure Rosalie of pneumonia, I ran it by him. Of course, we argued about the treatment. He said I had all the medicines correct but that he’d make Rosalie stay in the hospital for a few days. I told him that Rosalie refused to stay in the hospital, that she was carried, kicking and screaming into the ER in the first place. I suppose there is a reason people say that art imitates life because he shot back “Oh, so she’s like you.” The only time my wonderful doctor gets mad about it is when I forget to mention that the person in need of medical attention is a fictional character. One day I said that Annabelle had ripped tendons and ligaments in her ankle and he thought I was talking about a one of my daughters who are named Anna and Isabelle. He actually got upset. You gotta love a doctor who really cares that much about you and your family. It took him a few minuets to calm down at which time he made me promise to begin each research question with “I have a fictional character named…”
Dr. Mike is also a fabulous resource when it comes to plotting. I take him out to lunch sometimes and grill him. He was extremely helpful when I was researching an external conflict for Too Hot to Handle. He told me all about nightmare partnership scenarios a few of his friends had gone through, listened to ideas for a conflict and debated them with me and has also read through a few scenes for authenticity.
I’ve met people who have become huge assets to me and my career in the most unlikely places but like every good story, there should be a moral…maybe this one is, naming a character after a friend/doctor is probably not a good idea, but using him as a resource is.
I'm on my way to Chicago today and since I'm the one doing the driving, I probably won't be able to check in until very late tonight but I will check in eventually. I'd love to hear all about your resources.
Monday, June 22, 2009
Tomorrow evening, I'll be giving a talk at a local library as part of their "Summer Reading Program for Adults." The librarians have asked me to talk about my some of my experiences reading and writing romance, so today I thought I'd give you all a little sneak preview of some of the things I'm going to say.
I like to say that I started writing at the age of nine. Before that, I printed.
From the time I learned to read, I made up stories. As a child, if I didn’t like the way a book ended, I made up my own ending. I guess that makes me one of those people who writes because they don’t know how to “not write.”
I’ve written all kinds of things, fiction, non-fiction, even poetry. I took creative writing in high school and college because it was an ‘easy A’ for me. I was one of those people who liked essay questions on tests and loved to write term papers.
But even though I loved to write, I didn't necessarily think of myself as a writer. That was an exhaulted title reserved for those very special people whose work was published in books and magazine. Those people belonged on a pedestal because they were not mere mortals such as me!
I was a 20something first-time, stay-at-home mom who was going stir crazy with just me and an infant. Desperate to get out of the house, I signed up for a one-day-a-week class through the local adult education program. It was called something like 'Writing Fiction and Non-Fiction for Publication.' The instructor was a sweet little grandmother who wrote non-fiction travel articles and 'nurse' romance novels.
I'll never forget the first day of class. This adorable white-haired lady stood up in front of us and said, "Other people get paid to write, and you can too." It was a revelation! Writers really were mere mortals after all.
I learned a lot in that nine week course, but two of the most important things I got out of it (besides the fact that writers were ordinary people) were 1) I learned how to write a query letter, and 2) I joined my very first critique group. Once I learned how to write a query letter, I began submitting things for publication. And after I joined my first critique group--3 non-fiction writers, another fiction writer and me (all women)--I learned how very little I actually knew about writing.
I began my journey of education myself on how to write. I read copious amounts of how-to books about writing, and I attended every kind of writing workshop and writing conference I could afford. One of the most interesting workshops I attended was taught by a professor of poetry from San Francisco State University. His name was Stan Rice and he was an excellent teacher whose insights and techniques I still employ in my writing. But I went to his workshop because I'd heard that his wife had just sold her first novel for what was then the largest advance for an original mass market paperback (I think it was $650,000) and I was curious what her husband might be like.
Oh, her name was Anne Rice and the book was Interview with the Vampire.
I learned a lot about writing over the years, and had a lot of starts and stops. At one point, I quit writing for about twelve years while I pursued my civil service career. But I was never able to completely quit, because I kept journals, wrote poetry, and even finished a couple of novels. Mostly, I continued to dream of the day when my book would be in the bookstores and library shelves.
Finally, in 2003 I was burned out in my career and decided since I definitely wasn't getting any younger, I needed to actually DO THIS THING. So I took a leap of faith (or maybe insanity, I'm still not sure which), quit my day job and made a serious commitment to writing and selling a novel... as soon as I took a much needed vacation!
In the Spring of 2004 I started writing the story that would eventually become The Treasures of Venice. I finished it a year later and started writing a second book. And when I finished that book, I started a third (in between vacations, of course). In September, 2007--almost four years to the day after I quit my dreaded day job--I sold that third book!
My dream came true last October when The Wild Sight was released.
So what was the ultimate thing I learned about writing after all these years?
My long-ago writing teacher said it best: The first million words are the hardest. Back then I thought she was kidding. Now I know she was serious. And she was right.
Oh, and one last thing I'll say about learning to write is that the single most valuable tool a writer can have is a good critique partner! I've had quite a few over the years. I have some great ones right now. Another writer's perspective can make all the difference in the world! And remember that first critique group I joined way-back-when? I am still in touch with two of the members. In fact, one of them served as my First Reader Extraordinaire for both The Wild Sight and The Treasures of Venice. Some relationships are meant to last!
Okay, now it's your turn! Share with Aunty and the other CasaBabes some of the things you've learned reading and writing romance!
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Well, first of all, Happy Father’s Day! I tried to find a pic of Papa Jackson and I, but our scanner is on the fritz and I tired of toying with it. Anywhoo, enjoy this cute little Norman Rockwell line drawing.
Seeing as how I’ve ended up on two Sunday spots in a row this month, I’ll continue what I did last time and give you all another Sourcebooks announcement! A few years ago, Sourcebooks released a little book called Mr. Darcy’s Diary by Amanda Grange, which, aside from Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife by Linda Berdoll (another Sourcebooks release!), has become one of the most successful Austen sequels EVER, solidifying both Amanda Grange and Sourcebooks as the premiere author and publisher of this ever growing genre!
Now, I know many of you will read the announcement below and think, “Ohmigod didn’t we already have Austen and Zombies?” But this book is very different—for one, it’s not a parody—it’s an actual continuation. And Amanda has created an incredibly smart new twist on just why Mr. Darcy is so reserved… Get ready to re-imagine P&P in a way you never thought possible! (And holy crap—look at the cover—the design team has done it again)
Sourcebooks Landmark Announces New Major Release:
Mr. Darcy, Vampyre
NAPERVILLE, IL (June 10, 2009) — Sourcebooks Landmark, the leading publisher of Jane Austen-related fiction, is excited to announce a major release in the category: Mr. Darcy, Vampyre by international bestselling author Amanda Grange.
Amanda Grange’s style and wit bring readers back to Jane Austen’s timeless storytelling, but always from a very unique and unusual perspective, and now Grange is back with an exciting and completely new take on Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet in Mr. Darcy, Vampyre.
“Amanda Grange is our internationally bestselling author of Mr. Darcy's Diary,” says Sourcebooks acquisitions editor Deb Werksman, “and we were so excited when she came to us last year with this brilliant vision for an altered Darcy. Amanda starts where Pride and Prejudice
Sourcebooks has announced an on-sale date of August 11, 2009. ends and introduces a dark family curse so perfectly that the result is a delightfully thrilling, spine-chilling, breathtaking read. A dark, poignant and visionary continuation of Austen’s beloved story, this tale is full of danger, darkness and immortal love.”
Sourcebooks is excited to release this book before, you guessed it, an onslaught of paranormal Austen literature this Fall and Spring 2010! I’ve read it, and if you like historical fiction, have even the slightest interest in how the vampire legends started, or just want to read a new creative twist on our dear Lizzy and Darcy, then I HIGHLY recommend this book.
Hope you all had a great weekend.
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Like most things in this life, there's a trade-off. For every up, there is a down, and for every yin, a yang.
Outcast has had it's launch, and I should be getting Fugitive from the copyeditor soon, but now, I'm back to writing the next installment in the series, Hero. I'm trying to learn from the comments of readers and reviewers as I write, and also from those of editors and copyeditors. I hope I'm improving as a writer, but I sometimes worry that if I try to please everyone, I'll end up making no one happy, especially myself. I'm assuming that this is what happens to a writer when a series is reasonably successful: you stop writing them for yourself and start considering the wishes of others. The trouble is, different people like different things. Most of the reviews of Outcast have been favorable, but at least one didn't like the fact that I had switched to the third person POV because (she said) that first person viewpoint was one of the things that made The Cat Star Chronicles unique.
I do enjoy writing in third person because I can explore different points of view in widely divergent locations, but I also miss the intimacy of the heroine's thoughts. It just isn't as personal. I'm still getting the hang of it, and reading other books has helped, but I long for the freedom that I had when I wrote Slave. Jacinth would say--and think!--anything. She had very few limits, and I miss that. Now when I write a direct thought, it's in italics, or designated as a thought in some other way, rather than simply appearing as the narrative portion of the book. Plus, my other heroines aren't as freewheeling as Jacinth. She is, and probably always will be, my favorite, just as Cat will always be my hero. They were the first, and the nearest and dearest to my heart. Perhaps the best thing about the different writing style is that I can bring them back. ;-)
Friday, June 19, 2009
Tuesday was the SEALed With a Promise booksigning. I thought I'd share some pictures and the excerpt I read. Our talk lately on this blog about secondary characters we love is the reason I chose the excerpt.
Setup:Emmie, the heroine, has issues about accepting help. Unfortunately, she also has one arm in a sling due to a dislocated shoulder.
Emmie let the door to the ladies room swing shut behind her. And realized she’d made a major miscalculation.
“Oh cripes,” she squeezed her eyes shut, hoping the effort would transfer to the relevant sphincter.
“You’re not supposed to take the Lord’s name in vain.” The remark’s tone was more instructive than chiding, and came from one of the large upholstered chairs set in an alcove, out of the way of the lavatories.
“I didn’t.” Emmie looked around, seeking the owner of the voice, and saw the little girl Vicky, she’d spoken to earlier. “I said ‘cripes’ not Christ.”
“What does cripes mean?”
“I don’t know.”
“Then why did you say it?”
“I said it because I’ve got to pee so bad, and I just realized there’s no way I can pull up this dress.”
The slim column of taffeta fell straight from her hips to the floor. A kick pleat in the back made walking possible, but it wasn’t the sort of dress that could be reached under—not with one hand.
“I see what you mean.” Vicky left her chair and came over to study the problem. “I could help you. I could push it up for you. At school we had a play and Kelly was a beaver, and I had to hold her tail out of the way when she had to go.”
It was the final indignity, the final assault on any notions of independence she might have had. Today she had submitted to: help into and out of her clothes: help to disguise a subversive cake: help to climb to and from automobiles: help to bathe herself and shampoo her hair. Now she was trussed up in a dress that made her helpless even to manage bodily functions.
You’re only help-less if no help is available. Emmie could almost hear Do-Lord’s slow drawl. In spite of the fact that everyone else was sitting down to dinner, Vicky was here, and despite her youth, evidently had more experience managing this kind of problem than Emmie did. Emmie mentally through up her hands. Why not?
“Obviously you have strong qualifications,” she said, surprising herself with how unfazed—even amused by her predicament—she sounded. “How do you suggest we go about it?”
“We probably better get you as close to the toilet as we can before we start. It was pretty hard for Kelly to walk with her panties down and her tail up.”
The picture that made had them both giggling as they as they turned toward the stalls. “Oh, and we probably should use the handicapped toilet,” Vicky added.
“Yeah, that fits.” Emmie laughed.
Vicky colored a little. “I meant because it has more room, not because you’re…”
Emmie was immediately contrite. She needed to remember that despite her air of competence, Vicky was a child. She couldn’t see things from as many perspectives as Emmie could. “I wasn’t laughing because you said the wrong thing. I was thinking: if having to wear this dress when I can’t use both arms isn’t a handicap, I don’t know what is.”
Inevitably, as Pickett’s best friend, Emmie had picked up a good bit of theoretical understanding of children, but she hadn’t spent a lot of time around them—not even when she was a child herself. It was fascinating to watch Vicky’s freckled little face flit from puzzlement to comprehension, and her eyes light up when she saw the double meaning, got the joke and laughed too.
When Vicky had Emmie positioned in front of the toilet, she placed both hands just below the top curve of Emmie’s hips and pushed the stiff fabric up. “Don’t you wish you were a boy sometimes,” she asked as she eased the material over Emmie’s hips, “and you didn’t have to pull things up and push things down to use the bathroom?”
“If I were a man I wouldn’t be wearing this dress, that’s for sure.”
Vicky settled her hands to push up another section of material. “Even if you’re wearing jeans, it doesn’t help. You still have to get half-undressed, and it’s so embarrassing, if you have to go in the woods or something.” Vicky worked another section of material up. “And you have to be careful or you’ll pee on your shoes.”
Emmie stifled a bubble of laughter at the little girl’s artless prattle. “True. I guess I never thought about how lucky boys are. They can stand up, all they have to do is lower a zipper, and they can see what they’re doing.” The hem of Emmie’s dress was above her knees now, and as soon as the top of the long kick pleat passed her hips, all constriction eased. “I think I can take it from here, Vicky. I can reach, now.”
Vicky examined her handiwork. “Okay. Call me if you need me.” She backed out of the stall and even pulled the door to behind her although, of course, it couldn’t be latched. “I won’t let anybody walk in on you.”
Emmie sat on the toilet for a minute when she was done, conscious of a relief not wholly due to having eased the pressure on her bladder. And it wasn’t only that she, at last, had a few moments alone with her thoughts. It was something else, like a problem or a weight had disappeared, but she couldn’t put her finger on it.
“Now we need to reverse the process,” she told Vicky as she exited the stall, the skirt of the dress still bunched around her waist. She probably could have pushed it down herself, and almost had, until she thought that Vicky might like to see her job to completion. As soon as she said it, she knew she had guessed right. Vicky knelt in front of her, and with her golden freckled face a study in grave concentration, drew the hem back to its proper position.
Vicky smoothed reverent, gold-dotted fingers over the skirt and rose. “I don’t think we wrinkled it much.”
“Don’t mention it.”
Emmie went to the lavatory and waved a hand over the sensor to start the water flow. She caught Vicky’s eye in the mirror. Vicky had returned to the large wingback chair where she had been sitting when Emmie came in. Her head leaned against one of the wings as she watched Emmie. “Vicky, everyone else is sitting down to dinner. What were you doing in here when I came in?”
“I got tired of playing with the other kids. All they wanted to do was run back and forth between the kids’ room and the big people’s room.”
It didn’t square with Vicky’s earlier announcement that she liked to be where the action was. Emmie wondered if something had happened to make Vicky want to avoid the other children, but before she could ask, the door sighed open and Grace, her heels tapping lightly on the tile floor, entered.
Emmie had never given a great deal of thought to what made a dress look as it did. Now she was struck by how much more mature Grace’s gown looked. Not like an old-lady dress but still, vastly more sophisticated than hers. This evening she was noticing nuances of dress she had formally been blind to—no, not blind to, willfully ignorant about.
“Oh, good,” Grace said when she saw Vicky, “I’ve found both of you. Vicky, your mother is looking for you. Run on now. She was alarmed that you weren’t with the other children.”
Behind Grace’s back Vicky flicked her fingers in a secret wave, as she disappeared out the door.
Grace laid her evening bag on the counter and turned her attention to Emmie. When she whipped tiny boxes, brushes and tubes from her purse, and filled a paper cup with water, saying it wouldn’t take but a minute to fix Emmie up, Emmie didn’t put up one word of protest.
The young lady with the gold purse is a college freshman I've known since she was born. She could have been a model for Vicky. She announed SEALed With a Promise was the perfect antidote to Ayn Rand. So there. If you even meet anyone in the throes of a Rand-overdose, now you know what to give them. (But it's probably worth reading even in less dire circumstances.)
Some readers say they don't like romances with child-characters. Some say they do. What do you say?
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Yesterday a box landed with a thud on my front porch. Since I work from home and get deliveries all the time (which usually require me to DO something), I finished lunch, read the paper, and then finally wandered out to see what the UPS man had left. I let out a squeal when I realized it was my box of Love at First Flight author copies! Ten years after an eavesdropped conversation in an airport inspired the story and just over three years after I finished writing it, I held the printed copy in my hands. The cover is even more gorgeous than I expected it to be with its raised, embossed type and rich colors. On the thrill-o-meter, this moment ranked pretty darn high! Amazon is now listing it as "in stock," so those of you who pre-ordered it should be getting your copies soon!
Seconds after I opened the box and returned to earth, I got an email from our lovely publicist, Danielle, with the latest review, which said, in part,
I read this book in less than a twenty-four hour period. I can’t remember the last time a story held me as mesmerized as Love at First Flight; I couldn’t get enough and wanted more. . . . It’s a great story that knits together friendship and new-found love around bitter and sweet emotions, fear and sacrifice, and heartache and joy.
While the threats were real and seemingly around every corner, I appreciated how Ms. Force kept control of the situation, or perhaps it was just that her characters were mature, had their heads on straight. Michael and Juliana (most especially, which I was really thankful for) were always smart when it came to the threats, there were no impulsive actions, no stupid decisions. Finally, a heroine I could truly enjoy reading about.
Ms. Force pens so much more than a simple romance, her voice has that "certain something" which captivates the reader from first word to the last. She creates a story and characters the reader can embrace and cheer on whole-heartedly with a smile and a lump in the throat.
Thank you to Connie at Once Upon a Romance for that lovely review. This week I was talking to my friend April, who "loaned" me her former home in Baltimore to use as Michael's home in L@FF. (Check back here on July 1 to see pictures of the rowhouse that inspired Michael's ultra cool home.) April read and loved the advance review copy while on vacation last week. We had a great chat about something Juliana does in the book (NO, I can't tell you what!) that I know readers will either totally get or totally hate. When you reach that moment (I'm STILL not going to tell you what it is...) you will know it, and you may experience a brief but intense moment of panic. You may say HOW COULD SHE? There may be wailing, flailing and possibly even shrieking on your part as the reader. As the writer, I want you to know in advance that any of these reactions will please me. I want to make you feel good, but I want to make you sad, anxious, moved, and aroused. And if I also make you mad? Well, that's just fine, too. If I make you feel, I've done my job.
Want to let me know what you think about this moment-that-I'm-not-going-to-tell-you-about as well as many others that occur during the story? Join me on July 20 at 7 p.m. EDT on my blog for a Love at First Flight Book Club Meeting where I will get the conversation started and then we'll air it all out in the comments section. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org to RSVP and get more information about the meeting. I'll be giving away signed copies of Love at First Flight and Line of Scrimmage as well as B&N gift cards to the most vocal participants! From July 1-7 on my website, I'll post a different question about the book every day. Send me your answers to be entered into a drawing for a Love at First Flight gift basket. You can also email me if you'd like me to send you a signed book plate to affix to your copy.
The other day I was with my dad, who read Love at First Flight while he was staying with me this past winter. As I said then, it's one thing to have him reading my books when he's in Florida and I'm in Rhode Island. It was another thing altogether to have him sitting five feet from me while he was reading my sexy book. Since we're talking about reviews and endorsements, I thought you might like to know what he told a woman we were talking to: "You need asbestos gloves to even hold it." LOL! Does it get any better than that for a romance writer?
I look forward to sharing the excitement of the July 1 launch with my Casa sisters and all our friends here on the blog!
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
So we all approach our characters with careful consideration. Or we should! In my particular case – in writing The Darcy Saga – I have the advantage or disadvantage (depends on how one wishes to look at it!) of not only needing to create my own players, as all authors do, but also giving new life to characters originally written by someone else. Both characters deeply loved and those lesser known.
I am unique - I think – among my CasaSisters in that my main characters were created by Jane Austen, not me. There are many writers in the Austen-genre community who are in my boat, of course, and we know the special challenges in tackling beloved characters and making them our own. I can largely laugh about it now, but it sure isn’t easy to present my vision of Lizzy Bennet and Mr. Darcy when there are such strong opinions as to how these characters should be in every situation. It helps me to shrug off the negativism now that I know that no one P&P reader agrees on how these two, as well as the multitude of other page inhabitants, should be interpreted. It also helps that I now accept what too many critics don’t get: I am an artist and these characters are now mine!
When it comes to the lesser-known players, I am usually spared the vitriol. One of the great joys in writing my Saga has been taking Austen’s barely mentioned cast members and giving them a greater life. In Loving Mr. Darcy ~ Journeys Beyond Pemberley (available this September) I focused more on the various friends and family surrounding the Darcys. A couple examples:
I was incredibly moved by the plight of Anne de Bourgh. Maybe it is the medical professional in me, but I was obsessed with delving into Anne. I begin that journey in my second book by learning more of her relationship with Mr. Darcy, having her interact on the pages, letting her speak and tell her story, discovering what her ailment is, and giving her a love interest with the promise of a future beyond the sickly daughter of Lady Catherine.
I also really fell in love with Col. Fitzwilliam. Or rather, I took this poor guy who was not even important enough to be given a first name, and infused him with a whole history. I named him “Richard” and spun his personality as a humorous foil to his cousin Darcy’s seriousness. I gave them a deep friendship. I keep Richard Fitzwilliam front and center all through my books, sharing as he grows and learns to trust in love. I am probably most proud of Richard out of all the Austen characters who spoke to me in a personal way. Everyone loves him! I know I sure do.
None of Austen’s numerous characters are ignored in my Saga, although some are central more than others. Each presents the quandary of how to stay true to whatever information Jane gives while also moving in the creative direction that is necessary to tell the story as I wish it to be told.
So, is it easier to just fabricate my own people? Well, yeah! As long as I have a clear idea of who they are and what their motivations are, and I make sure not to contradict myself, I can do pretty much anything I want with MY character. A reader may not like them, but they can’t tell me I am “doing it wrong”!
The Cast of Characters in my Saga has grown to astounding proportions. Even my head spins at times! There are many who I originally created thinking they would become major players, only to discover that they did not capture my heart that deeply. Then there are the ones who snuck up on me. The ones who were small, bit, throwaway people who eventually loomed larger than life. I want to tell you about one, my favorite: Dr. George Darcy.
In Loving Mr. Darcy I felt it very important to give the Darcy family a back story with a heritage befitting their station. While doing so I decided it would be fun to have an uncle to Darcy breeze in for extra entertainment. I wanted him to be eccentric, odd even, sort of the crazy relative that we all have whom we are kinda embarrassed about but love anyway because they are super at parties, ya know? I did a great deal of research and decided to make him a physician – after considering an archeologist and several other world-traveling, edgy occupations of the day – who had been traveling the wilds of India for over 30 years. His life experiences meant he could be wise, but also irreverent. Not so immersed in the strict rules of the British upper class. I intended for George to wander in, hang around for some comic relief and to ruffle Darcy’s straitlaced feathers, and then meander back to India after a few chapters.
No one was more surprised than me when I fell head over heels in love with this guy! George, I say with complete humility because I consider it a miracle beyond my control, is simply fabulous. Needless to say, he sticks around for a long, long time!
So tell us some of your character-creating challenges. Anyone who burrowed into your heart and demanded to take up residence?
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
RWA Data Released!
If you haven't already seen it, check out RWA's independent survey on the romance fiction readership and marketplace--fascinating! www.rwanational.org
Fabulous non-fic book about romance fiction!
Sarah Wendell and Candy Tan's BEYOND HEAVING BOSOMS--you will laugh out loud and your bosom will heave. Smart, smart, smart of course, and really, really interesting. I learned a lot. More info at www.smartbitchestrashybooks.com
A word about advances!
When you are talking about/hearing about/negotiating about advances, be sure to ask what marketing is/was/will be provided...if any. Otherwise, you're not comparing apples to apples. Marketing budget won't be part of the contract, but the question to ask is what the publisher provides and what the author should expect to pay for out of her own pocket.
The National Conference is only a month away. Sourcebooks has a lot happening at National, including:
- Friday July 17, 11am Danielle Jackson our Casa publicist from Sourcebooks on a panel about marketing with Michelle Buonfiglio (Romance B(u)y the Book) and authors and Julie Peterson
- Saturday July 18, 11am-the Sourcebooks Spotlight! Hear all about the new and exciting things happening at Sourcebooks.
- Saturday July 18, 3pm-the Sourcebooks Author Signing-for the authors with books in stores! Come and meet your favorite Casa Authors in person.
A FEW THINGS THAT MAKE THIS EDITOR HAPPY
- email submissions (vs. heavy, heavy paper)
- subject line gives book title/subgenre. For example: "Romeo, Romeo award-winning romantic comedy submission"
- email body includes actual, real time info
--whether it's part of a series and what the subsequent books are
--word count (actual, digital, using Word "word count" function)
--author's publishing history including sales (of copies of books to readers)
- Attachments are all named THE SAME:
- Every part of the submission includes author or agent's contact information (including phone number)
WHAT I'M LOOKING FOR
- Single title romance fiction (including series', trilogies, etc),
- all subgenres,
- 90,000ish words
- Authors with a track record who'd like to go to the next level
- Debut authors with something new/fresh/exciting
- a heroine the reader can relate to
- a hero she can fall in love with
- a world gets created
- a hook that allows me to sell the book in 2-3 sentences
Monday, June 15, 2009
I veered off to the late Georgian era. My Awaiting series (Awaiting the Moon, etc.) was set in 1795 Germany, and Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark (Sourcebooks Casablanca – April 2009), the first book in a new series, is set in Yorkshire 1786. Why? At first, I didn’t know a thing about the period, except that George the III was mad (he wasn’t really… oh, he was ill, but it was physical not emotional or mental) and… well, that was pretty much it.
You think I’m exaggerating?
I wish I was. My first problem with Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark came right away, when I had to write the first scene, where Lady Anne is traveling north to Yorkshire at the desperate request of her friend, Lady John Bestwick. Seems there’s a werewolf in Yorkshire, and Anne needs to get there as quickly as possible. Royal Mail was the only way to get there swiftly. Luckily, I found out that the Royal Mail had begun accepting passengers by 1786, and had improved the route to the point that Anne could get from London to Yorkshire in one day, more or less.
That was just the beginning of the research I needed to do, I realized, when I tried to describe her dress. When, exactly, did the waist on lady’s gowns rise from Georgian lows to Regency highs? How did you light a fire or a candle in 1786 (hint… not with a match). How were Georgian gowns constructed? (I became familiar with the ‘Stomacher’, a section pinned or fastened on over a gown front). And the gowns! There was the robe à l’Anglaise, à la Française, à la Polonaise, à la Mayonnaise! Okay, so that last part I’m making up. No mayonnaise.
But why would I do such a thing as completely depart from an era I had spent years researching and learning about? It wasn’t out of necessity. The Regency is a tried and true period popular among romance readers, after all. But that was the problem. With the ‘Awaiting’ books, and again with the Lady Anne series, I wanted a kind of Gothic feel: mystery, menace, madness. The Regency felt too light and bright for me, too modern, too known.
I’ve now done the acres and acres of research on the Georgian period to credibly clothe and inform my characters, so, much of what I read now, I read out of interest not necessity. I’ve fallen in love with the art, the music, the literature. And I think I understand better now, what made me travel back a few years from that tried and true Regency era. I wanted the challenge, and I longed for the unknown. I needed to take a break from the familiar and step into the unfamiliar.
It’s worked, and I had a lot of fun doing it.
Have you ever taken a step outside the familiar to travel down an unknown road, either literally or metaphorically?
Have you ever promised to do something at work and realized you didn’t know how to do it?
Volunteered for a committee or project, and found out it entailed a lot more work than you realized?
Has a favorite writer of yours ever changed the era in which he or she set their books, and you wondered why?
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Last year, those of us at my table discussed what we were writing, and I mentioned to Deb (who was sitting next to me) that In Over Her Head was in her submission queue. During the luncheon it also count out that I had partials ready for two more Mer stories. Deb immediately asked me about those stories then asked me to send them to her, which I did that following Monday. Within a month the deal was done, so this luncheon obviously has a very special place in my heart.
But the previous years were also wonderful, too. I had the opportunity to make other personal connections with editors and agents, many of which came in handy when I was on the Great Agent Hunt. I've met editors when they were just starting out and it's been fun rising through the ranks along with them. I've made great friends with the Long Island ladies, and always enjoy seeing them again.
So this year I went again to enjoy a wonderful function, as well as take the opportunity to give back. With all those ladies have done for my career, I wanted to do something for them, so I chose a name out of a basket and paid for the winner's registration fee, then I also awarded another person a signed copy of In Over Her Head.
What was amazing to me, was that the Long Island ladies kept coming up to me to thank me. Really - I was thanking them. It's a great opportunity for everyone who goes; honestly I wish I could have given more, but there's only so much water in this well...
You know, they could keep this function a small one, for just their benefit, but they open it up to anyone (first come first serve and there are a limited number of places due to the size of the room) and they work really hard to get as many industry professionals as possible.
So I'll be going back next year, hopefully being able to give back more, and I'll be bringing many of my chaptermates with me - as I did this year. It's a long day, with "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" to get here (okay, not the plane part, but two trains, a car and a cab), but it's so worthwhile.
Here's to you, Ladies of LIRW, and thank you for giving me the chance last year to have the informal conversation around that table that resulted in Deb hearing about the rest of the series which opened the door to my book deal.