As you can see, I had a really boring time at last week's Romantic Times Conference (NOT). Really, it was my first time and I was simultaneously excited and overwhelmed. I had a fan-girl moment meeting Janelle Taylor. I even had dinner with The Laura Kinsale at a local barbeque place called Smokin' Guns. We gushed over the deep-fried mac & cheese.
RT did a fantastic job organizing every event to precision. I was in awe. This conference reminded me of how huge (did I say over 2,000 attendees?) the romance community is and how fun to spend it with old and new friends.
Readers flew in from as far as Seattle, Boston, LA, and New York to meet their favorite authors. Who knew folks would choose to spend their vacation in a conference standing in countless lines? But, then again, we did have Julie Garwood, Jude Devereaux, Angie Fox, Brenda Novak, Robyn Carr, and many many more amazing authors on site to hob nob with and dance the night away. I can only beg the Publishing Gods to grant me such amazing readers one day. You people are hard-core and the reason we write. We love you!
Hope to see you at next year's RT 2014 in Nawlin's.
Ellora's Cave Disco Ball with their cover models. No, I am not photoshopped. They might be. Bwaahhhah.
Back from hiatus folks! Sorry for being MIA. As my chosen title states, sometimes life just takes over and everything takes a back seat. But the recent terrorizing events in Boston and Texas remind us that we cannot take our loved ones for granted and we must not let our dreams languish. We should treat each day as a precious gift to cherish and share with those we love.
As promised, here's my list of the top 10 books that helped me get published.
1. Larry Brooks - Story Engineering (a bible)
2. Leigh Michaels - On Writing Romance (inspirational and relevant)
3. Michael Hauge - Writing Screenplays That Sell (crack - a must read)
4, Les Edgerton - Hooked (eye opening)
5. Stephen King - On Writing (masterful yet humble)
6. Jack Bickham - Scene and Structure (who knew I needed a sequel?)
7. Ronald Tobias - 20 Master Plots (foundational)
8. Evan Marshall - The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing (nitty gritty)
9. Jordan E. Rosenfeld - Make a SCENE (super nitty gritty - the engine of your story)
10. Christie Craig and Faye Hughes - The Everything Guide to Writing a Romance Novel (this is the book that started it all)
Special thanks to:
11. James Vogler - The Writer's Journey (need 10 cups of expresso and Redbull before reading, but brilliant)
12. Jessica Morrell - Bullies, Bastards and Bitches: How to write the bad guys of fiction (fun and empowering)
Back in 2008 when I first decided to seriously pursue my dream of writing romance for a living I picked up Leigh Michaels' On Writing Romance. Though there are thousands of books on crafting a novel - some focusing on plot, scene, characters, viewpoint, etc., Ms. Michaels' book covers all of the above but with the added complexity of having the romance be at the the center of your story. A romantic novel has two protagonists - the hero and the heroine. There are two internal arcs not to mention the external conflict and - yeah the romantic arc as well. James Patterson, Dean Koontz - ha! They have it easy I tell you. Though more than once I've felt like killing off a character or two when they refuse to bend to my will.
I loved Leigh's book so much that as soon as I learned she taught a romance workshop with NYC's Gotham Writer's Workshop, I eagerly registered. After attending both Romance I and II, I knew why I loved her book so much. Leigh is truly a gifted instructor and it showed not only in her thoughtful feedback to my stories during class, but also in the way her narrative flowed in her book. To the point and with great examples.
That was three years ago. Today, my first book is being published by Carina Press. If you're reading this, Leigh, I want to thank you. Thank you for the encouragement I received from you. Thank you for your book that helped me make sense of the crazy insane world of writing a romantic novel. Your generosity in sharing your experience writing for Harlequin (over 80+ novels) has been an inspiration. I'm excited to be writing for Harlequin's digital first press today - it seems like a natural progression for me based on the knowledge learned from a wonderful teacher.
Click on book to learn more about Leigh Michaels.
·Today begins my series posts on books that made me say "Ah Ha!" By no means will the list be exhaustive of all the spectacular books on writing available and probably sitting on my reading shelf. However, these particular books hold a special place in my heart because they helped me finish my manuscript and in the process gave me hope that I can achieve my lifelong dream. Thus, without further delay, the first book on my list is (drum roll please...)
1. Story Engineering by the fabulous Larry Brooks (pictured above speaking at the Rose City Writers Winter Intensive, April 1, 2012, Portland, Oregon).
· This book kicked my ass. It lit neurons I didn't know existed. It brought a lot of story structure theory I've read before into focus in a way that I was able to relate and therefore use in my work. Another reason I enjoyed Mr. Brooks' book is he uses recent movies as opposed to movies from the 1970's or even 1980's to exemplify his concepts. By doing so, I wasn't worried about his concepts being out of date with today's viewers and readers.
· Here's the most important nugget of gold Mr. Brooks helped me understand and for which I will always be grateful.
Let me set the stage: During our last Winter Intensive, speaking to a room full of romance writers, Mr. Brooks was puzzled when all of the questions thrown at him had to do with the non-romantic external plot. Shaking his head, he asked, "Aren't you all writing a romance novel?" Absolutely no one in the audience had an answer and I started to worry that no one in the audience got what he was talking about.
·Here it is folks: If you are writing a romance, your focus should be on the H/H and showing the reader how they fall in love. The HOW part is the 'romantic plot' so even though there should be another external plot that will move the story along its arc, this is really secondary in a romance novel. Seems simple, right? Not so much. It's actually easier to develop an external non-romantic plot with lots of twists and turns but harder to show that developing love between two people.
·Wow! Thanks Mr. Brooks for this. I will always be grateful. Want to know more about Mr. Brooks' visit to the Rose City Romance Writers? Check out his blog here. http://storyfix.com/what-i-just-learned-from-a-room-full-of-romance-writers
Unless you are a writer, saying I'm on submission may sound rather kinky. No, I am not going all 50 Shades on you, I'm on submission means I've reached the point of polishing my manuscript to a shimmering shine that I'm ready for others in the profession to rip it to shreds. Or at least that is what I imagine would happen but I wouldn't know because well, I'm waiting.......and waiting..........and waiting............
And to think some writers Fed Ex their submission package to their chosen Agent or Editor. Ha ha ha ha ha ha...hicup..ha ha ha.ha.
They might as well brand a scarlett letter F to their chest. No, it doesn't stand for that 'F'' but rather stands for Fughettaboutit.
How come with all the books I've read and all the people I've met and all the conferences I've attended (I could go on and on here) NO ONE told me how excrutiatingly painful it is to wait for a response?
I mean it's like sending your baby to the bottom of the abyss without a single, tiny bubble to let you know if it's still breathing. Sigh...
I've began the ardous task of plotting my next book (not in the same series) because I read a tweet from an agent the other day who said it's not a good idea to write the sequel to a yet unsold book because the editor may have major changes to the plot. That could mean a major rewrite to your current WIP. I'm not a big fan of rewrites unless I'm editing.
So, start something new...what about that Dystopian female ninja romance ...twinkle is back in my eye, heart is pumping...Submission you say? What submission?
I've forgotten all about it.
Not much writing getting done this week as the Olympics get under way. I love watching these phenomenal athletes and can't help but wonder what their journeys might have been like. How does a 4 year old taking her first gymnastic class at a local school triumph to become an Olympian? Really, when you think of the hundreds of thousands of kids out there playing soccer or swimming in a local meet - what drives them to reach for Olympic greatness?
I am in awe and so inspired.
I think as writers we can certainly take notice because writing, like sport, requires an internal motivational factor, an intrinsic muse, you might say, that propel us forward to reaching our goals.
But, of course, an added bonus to watching the Olympics is seeing all those perfectly conditioned world athletes. I tell you, it ain't strainin' the eyes much.
Dear Jason Statham,
With all due respect, please get the hell out of my head. Yes, you are mouth wateringly intriguing and have abs that make me want to color outside the line, but, a gorgeous, English badass whose sexy glare can dry my 60-second nail polish in 15 seconds flat isn't part of my next story.
OK - back to the real blog post:
One of the reasons why I love writing romance is that I get to fall in love over and over again with my heros. And isn't that why we read romance? Don't we want to experience that giddy, sexy and powerful thrill that comes with the process of falling in love? My sister swears my octave climbs a few notches when I'm in love. She calls it my 'Barbie' period.
When writing I always begin from my hero's perspective. Who is he? What is his issue? What does he want in life? And what kind of woman will blow his world? (I'm using the word blow in a strictly 'non erotic' way :-D ). I don't know about you, but for me, I have to be a little (or a lot) in love with my hero to soak in the passion in my story.
But, sometimes, the process goes awry. Like, when the 'oh so wrong' hero enters the scene and obliterates my good intentions.
What is a writer to do? Much help is needed here. Please, share your strategies. In the meantime, I ponder and daydream and avoid any movie with JS in it.
Just saw We Need to Talk About Kevin this weekend - a movie I was so looking forward to watching. Unfortunately, I was completely dissapointed. It wasn't that the acting was bad, it was actually excellent. The problem then? The screen writers failed on two things (IMHO):
1. Creating empathy for the characters.
I didn't know who to care for - the Mom, played by Tilda Swinton, who at times seemed like Mommy Dearest, yet at others (most, actually) was pretty normal. Do I feel bad for her that she has this nasty kid? Or, as the unreliable narrator - do I question everything she sees or says? Or, do I feel empathy for little Kevin, brilliantly acted by Ezra Miller, who had a mother who disliked him because his birth ruined her carefree life? But then I see Kevin being so manipulative, even at a young age, that I start to think he was born a sociopath.
Anyway, bottom line, I didn't care about what happened to either one. Meaning? I could have walked out halfway through the movie. (Never mind that I was home watching it on Netflix. You get what I mean.)
The movie failed to commit to a story concept: psychological thriller ala The Hand That Rocks The Cradle or Fatal Attraction or horror ala Exorcist. So, it wavered, never really going all out on either one to make it a great movie. It certainly had the potential to be the former but then it was as if the directors and producers gave in to the demands of Hollywood and 'dummified' the movie for greater appeal.
Lesson for us authors? Pick your poison. Choose a side. Commit. Fill in your chosen cliche here. Even if you choose wrong, at least the reader knows exactly what you were going after - even if, in the end, you failed at executing.
Last night I saw Ain't Nothing But The Blues, a musical retrospective of Blues, at the Gerding Theater. The moving music yanked me back to a time and place many of us choose to forget. The origin of the Blues owes its roots to the African slaves who, even through unspeakable hardships, triumphed through song, and breathed the most riveting music to life.
Throughout the show, I found my body swaying, my foot tapping, and my hands clapping and I am astounded at how others in the room can listen to the music without moving.
The lyrics of songs tell an achingly haunting story, you see,and listening to Mississippi Charles Bevel, one of the co-creators of the show, sing I Can't Stop Loving You, stilled by heart and reminded me of the power of the human soul to touch us through words.
Our stories can do the same, I hope, when we stay true to what Mississippi Charles calls our "Mississippi Hearts" and tell it like it is.
This question begs for deep thinking, and I mean subcutaneous deep, not the flaky, dermis, transient kind. You don’t believe me? What if I told you that humans shed nine pounds of dermis skin every year? I know. You have to stop reading for a moment to gag and swear you’ll change the bed sheets every week. Right.
I mean deep. Because down at the sub level, the one protected from the elements and cushioned by adipose tissue (yes, fat), that’s where the magic happens.
Okay, enough going off on a tangent. For those editors or agents reading this—no, I don’t go off on tangents in my novels. I leave indulgent tangents for my blog where I’m pretty sure no one is paying close enough attention, unless my 52 Twitter followers happen to fall upon my blog due to some quantum time warp miracle.
Back to the provocative question above. Why do we, aspiring authors, write? Especially when we have day jobs that eat up 75% of our waking hours? When we cringe yet smile and say “just about done” when asked by our friends about how the book is progressing. Has it really been six months? Or, there are those we love who simply stop asking…I know…awkward.
And finally, why do we write when we know there is a direct correlation between the thickness of our manuscript and the growing size of our posterior?
I don’t know. What I do know is even the thought of stopping makes me gasp for air like a dying woman on her last breath. Scares me to death. Scares me enough to keep my fingers on the keyboard and my posterior on the seat. Scares me enough to know that giving up on my lifelong dream is tantamount to giving up on who I am. And that’s just not going to happen. Not today.