Thursday, March 31, 2011
For those of us who are fans of your Gardella Vampire Chronicles, tell us how your new vampire series, the Regency Draculia, differs.
Both series are set during Regency-era England, with the Gardellas around 1819-1820 and the new series during the Napoleonic War—specifically in 1804.
The biggest differences are in the vampire mythology and also in the structure of the series. The Gardellas are really more of a historical urban fantasy series, following the life—and loves—of one heroine, Victoria Gardella. The books are really all about her as a sort of superhero (a vampire hunter) in a historical time period. There are no “good” vampires in the Gardellas, they aren’t ever the protagonists or heroes/heroines. The vampires are all evil, and meant to be slain.
I took a different tack with the Regency Draculia. These books are definite vampire romances, with a spotlighted hero and heroine in each book and a happy ending for them at the end of each story. There are over-arching subplots and romances—a la Suzanne Brockmann and Eloisa James—but each book does end happily for the main couple.
The mythology of my Draculia vampires is much different from that of the Gardellas as well, for in these books, there are vampires that run the gamut from being totally evil to being vampires with a conscience. The vampires in these books have basically sold their souls to Lucifer, and they are living their immortal lives with this knowledge—and with all of its benefits and repercussions.
One of the things that make my vampires different is that each of them has an Asthenia--a specific weakness.
Like the vampires of legend who recoil at the sight of silver, and who are weakened by its presence, each of my vampires have a similar “Achilles Heel”—in this case, I call it their Asthenia. And for each Dracule, it’s something different. For one, it could be sapphires. For another, it could be an oak tree. For another, it could be grass or horses or rosemary.
After writing the Gardella series, you began writing post-apocalyptic stories as Joss Ware. What brought you back to vampires?
I love to write historical novels (in fact, the Joss Ware series almost feels historical in some ways, due to the lack of infrastructure and limited technology in that world), and when it was suggested that I try my hand at a true vampire romance novel, set in the Regency, I jumped on it. I love that time period, and I’ve come to love my vampires too. ;-) After writing five books with all-evil vampires, it was a fun and interesting challenge to twist my brain a different way and to write about sexy, dark, compelling vampires.
Why do you think vampire stories continue to ride a wave of popularity?
I think there are several reasons, one of which is the aspect of escape. We—or many of us—read for escape, and what better place to escape than to a place where we know it’s not real...and where things are often much darker than they are in our own world.
Another thing, however, that I think makes vampires popular is the environment in which they live: darkness, sensuality, forbiddenness (is that a word?)...all of that makes these characters intriguing and compelling. And there’s the sexual aspect—the penetration, the need, the angst and the reality of what is it like to live forever? Those are all fascinating, titillating aspects of vampire lore, and each author approaches them in a different way.
As a reader, which authors of vampire stories do you enjoy most?
Some of my favorites are Lara Adrian and Jeaniene Frost, but I confess that I don’t read very much in the way of paranormal romances...simply because I write them.
I am a huge Buffy fan, however. ;-)
Tell us a bit about the characters in The Vampire Voss, the first in your new series.
Voss, the Viscount Dewhurst, has been a vampire for a hundred and fifty years. He agreed to sell his soul to Lucifer, and now he has everything he’s ever wanted: immortality, scads of money, imperturbable power, and all the women he can handle. If a man were to live forever with all the power and pleasure and money he ever wanted, I believe he would be just like Voss: Selfish, hedonistic, and, at some point, bored with it all.
Everything is going along just fine—if not becoming a little routine after more than a century of pure hedonism with no negative consequences—until he meets Angelica Woodmore…who is the first woman he finds himself unable to enthrall and seduce.
Angelica is one of three sisters (the eldest of whom is featured in the second book in the series, The Vampire Dimitri) who has a bit of the “Sight”, courtesy of their half-Gypsy grandmother. She becomes a pawn in a struggle between two factions of vampires (if I may....the “good” vampires versus the “bad” vampires).
Because of who he is, Voss is studiously neutral in this struggle—playing both sides—because he wants to use Angelica’s powers for his own protection. And Angelica is terrified of vampires.
So...you can see where this is going. ;-)
And then add in all of the aspects we love about Regency romance: the balls, the dance cards, the manners and repartee, the powerful, rakish viscounts and the bored, brooding earls...and you’ve got a good feel for the series.
Also, there are two more books in the series, coming in early May and early June: In The Vampire Dimitri, we meet a tortured, brooding vampire who has come to strongly regret his bargain with Lucifer and who is trying, in vain, to break that bond. Too bad the woman he falls for is fascinated by his Draculean bent. And in The Vampire Narcise, we meet a damaged female vampire who believes that love isn’t for immortals—because nothing can last forever, especially for someone whose soul is not their own.
Thanks so much for having me here! I’m going to give away a copy of the second book in the series, The Vampire Dimitri, to a commenter today.
To enter to win, either ask me a relevant question about the series or writing, etc., and/or tell me...if you were a Dracule, what would your Asthenia be?
Thanks, Colleen. Can't wait to start this new series. You know how anxious I was to get my hands on each new Gardella book.
So, get to commenting, folks. :) There's a great new book up for grabs.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Sorry it's taken so long to get the winner posted for Julie James' visit. Blame the nasty sinus infection that's laid me low *grrr*.
Anyway, without further ado, the random number generator has done its thing and selected ...
Congratulations, Donna. Please send your snail mail details to me at email@example.com and I'll ensure Julie gets A Lot Like Love out to you asap.
And another YAY to our Golden Heart finalists VA and Nancy!!!
We had a lovely prize package of several books from our Rita finalists, so Aunty fired up ye olde Random Number Generator and...
Please send your snail mail addy to our Romance Bandits email so we can pass it along and you can receive your booty/books.
Thanks again to everyone who helped us celebrate.
I'm feeling quick & sassy today so I'm going to do a list blog. Yay! I'll admit I was inspired by Suz's awesome post yesterday about secondary characters. It got me thinking about things that'll set a book apart for me, really make it stand out in my mind.
Therefore, without further ado, I give you Susan's List of Things I Like in Novels but Rarely See Anymore. Enjoy!
1) Villains who aren't.
Aren't what, you ask? Aren't actually villains. Aren't evil. I love it when the bad guy is just really smart, really rich, really well motivated and wants--no, needs--the opposite of what my hero & heroine want/need. I love it when I don't have to hate the bad guy. In fact, I kinda like to like my bad guy if that makes any sense. Alan Rickman's Sheriff of Nottingham comes to mind. (Can I get an amen? As God is my witness, he was the only reason to sit through that whole movie, unless it was to drink every time Kevin Costner's accent went wonky.)
2) Generous internal monologue and gracious pacing.
Not that I don't enjoy a rip-snorting thriller, but I'm 3/4 of the way through Mary Balogh's "First Comes...." series about the Huxtable family & I'm struck time & again by how well she paints her characters' internal lives. As writers these days we're told time & again to pick up the pace, keep the action rolling, get out of our characters' heads. But Ms. Balogh has been treating me to something else entirely. She gives us a whole lot of people thinking, reflecting, pondering and brooding, & somehow I never feel anxious to get on with it. I find myself savoring her characters' slow tumble into love. That's skill, ladies & gentlemen, & something modern publishing doesn't put out a lot of anymore. So here's my shout out to you, Ms. Balogh. Keep it coming.
3) Grownup heroines.
This is not to say that most heroines are TSTL (that's Too Stupid To Live, for the acronym challenged among us.) Just that romance novels are all about growth, & if you're going to finish up as a mature, well-rounded individual with a decent shot at a HEA (that's Happy Ever After), you have to start, well, somewhere else, right? Which means when books open, the heroine has some work to do. Which means it's sometimes difficult not to have her doing, well, immature things & making bad choices. But last year at Nationals, I found WICKED BECOMES YOU by Meredith Duran in my goodie bag, & I gobbled this book up like kids gobble Easter candy. I rarely write to authors to express my profound admiration but I dropped Ms. Duran an email to tell her how very much I cherished her smart, grown-up heroine who admitted when she was wrong, acknowledged her shortcomings & made every effort to live an authentic life, right from the very start. And in a historical, no less, where female characters can get away with a certain sheltered innocence due to gender roles. That one book made me a fan for life.
So how about you? What sets a book apart for you? What makes it really stick in your mind & in your heart so you'll remember it years from now? And just to sweeten the pot, I'm going to give one lucky commenter an autographed copy of Tamara Hogan's TASTE ME, a debut novel I just read which showcases a fantastic example of a villain-who- isn't. It's a treat, I promise!
Sunday, March 27, 2011
No secret here, but I love to tinker in the kitchen. I especially like to try my hands at soups. Why? Because my husband LOVES soup. That man will eat soup everyday until the pot is empty.
Here's one of the things I've learned about soup. You have to layer in the flavors.
You start with your butter/olive oil heating in your pot. To this you add your Mirepoix--a mixture of diced carrots, onions, celery. After sauteing this until the onions are translucent, you usually add your meat. Then your wine and finally your stock. You must season with salt and pepper as you add each component, just a touch though. Always tasting to be sure you've seasoned correctly. Bring it all to a boil then you reduce the pot to a simmer, allowing the contents to mix, mingle, grow and change. Each element has an affect on the other.
Writing has the same process.
Butter/oil: You start with your story idea. That is the movement, the beginning of your process.
Mirepoix: You add your plot. This is the spot where you have a solid base of flavors on which your story must build.
Meats: Main characters. Your hero, heroine, antagonist. Those elements that give your story its uniqueness. Their backstories will change the pot to a certain flavor.
Wine & stock: This is your goal, motivation and conflict. They soften the characters, tenderize them, strengthen their flavors.
Seasonings (salt, pepper, garlic, thyme, rosemary or bay leaf): Secondary characters. Added throughout the story to give it depth. Complexity. Some are minor walk-through characters that make subtle changes to your story/characters. Others have such a strong impact and manipulate the other ingredients to such a detree that without them the story might not be the same.
Without seasoning, your soup might have all the major ingredients, but it will be bland, flat.
Secondary characters are some of my favorites.
Pride & Prejudice: Who doesn't love Lizzie's sister Jane and Mr. Bingley? They are such an important element in the story. They affect both Lizzie and Mr. Darcy's motivation, their conflict, their goals.
Lord of The Rings: The Hobbits. Each one has a destiny to fulfill. We all know Froddo's mission, but Sam is the element that helps achieve that goal all the way to the end. Merri and Pippin have their own battles to wage, affecting the outcome of the tale while adding their perky flavor to the story.
The Dark Hunter series: While each book is a stand alone book, their are elements that flow through each that unite their flavors. Acheron and Simi, Artemis and the other greek gods/godesses. The Damons. Even New Orleans plays a character in the books, flavoring them with its own unique spice.
No Body's Baby But Mine: This is my favorite SEP novel. Cal's family becomes an igredient that changes him and his relationship with his wife Jane. His parents relationship not only grows into a secondary plot, but influences the outcome of Cal and Jane's story.
Saving Grace: My favorite Julie Garwood story. Joanna's step brother Neil plays a pivitol role in bringing his sister to Gabriel for her protection. He irritates Gabriel, mostly because he's English, but also because Gabriel suspects that Neil harbors a hidden desire for his sister. When he turns up later in the story, he once again plays a part in the ever changing plot.
So, dear readers, do you like secondary characters? Who are some of your favorites? Why?
A few nights ago in the Lair...
Rubbing sleep from his eyes, Paolo grumbled aloud as he descended a back staircase. "I hate pulling late night duty. The Banditas always seem to want snacks when it's my turn."
He traversed the short hallway into the side entrance of the kitchen and stood in slack-jawed surprise at Sven working feverishly over a tray of goodies. The unmistakable smell of Joanie's chocolate chip cookies filled the air.
Before Paolo could recover himself to speak, the big Swede tossed an oven mitt at him. "Good! Just in time to remove the first batch of cookies."
Paolo snagged the mitt in mid-air and rushed to the oven. Late night snacks were usually the venue of Sven's assistant Lars, who tended toward serving popcorn or chips and dip. However lately, the newest cabana boy Jean-Pierre had been training specifically to relieve Sven in the kitchen, but he was nowhere to be seen tonight.
"I can't believe you're preparing the snacks tonight," Paolo mused aloud as he pulled first one cookie sheet and then another, both loaded with the fragrant little bits of heaven.
"That's because tomorrow is the BIG DAY," Sven answered, deftly piling hot cookies onto an elegant silver platter. He then shoved the platter into Paolo's left hand and a carrier filled with glasses of milk into his right. "Now get these down to the Banditas slaving away in the deadline caves while the cookies are still warm."
Paolo squinted at the calendar on the wall and saw the date March 25th circled in red with multiple exclamation points after it. "I didn't know it was a holiday."
Sven huffed in aggravation but never missed a beat in plunking more cookie dough on the baking sheets. "How long have you been in the Lair? Don't you pay attention? The calls go out tomorrow for Golden Heart and Rita finalists." When Paolo continued to look confused, Sven continued. "After the calls go out, we'll be having another blow-out extravaganza here in the Lair. Since some of the Banditas and plenty of their friends will be finalists, we'll ask THEM about getting 'the call' and maybe you'll understand."
Looking unconvinced, Paolo hurried off to deliver the milk and warm cookies while Sven shoved the refilled baking sheets into the oven.
Fast forward to the wee hours of Sunday morning...
The Lair is festooned with glittery party decorations, drinks and plenty of goodies for all the Banditas, guests, and BBs. As the celebration gets into full swing, Sven drags an embarrassed Paolo around to ask the Banditas and several of their friends about how they received their 'calls.'
First up is Golden Heart Finalist, Bandita Nancy!
It's always my ambition on Call Day to forget about the whole business. This year, my guys were out of town Thursday night, so I stayed up late and slept in. Within fifteen minutes after I'd grabbed coffee, two solicitation calls came in (and never mind that we're on the Do Not Call registry). The phone rang again, with a name and number I didn't recognize in Caller ID. Figuring it was a solicitation call, I didn't answer. Now irritated and not yet caffeinated, I had no thoughts at all about the Golden Heart.
Five minutes later, another solicitation call, this one from a charity we actually do contribute to, but still. Three in under an hour?! The phone rang again, with Caller ID showing the number and name I'd ignored earlier. I answered the phone in my I Have No Patience voice.
"Nancy, it's Linda Jones with the RWA Board," said the caller, and I thought, The board? Did I botch up something for my committee? (I'm chairing Strategic Advisory this year.) Then she rolled on with "I'm calling to tell you your manuscript finaled."
And then I remembered what day it was. I think I also remembered to thank her. Then I logged onto the computer to see who else had finaled (including Anna Sugden, yay!) and found several names I was delighted to see. As well as happy emails in my inbox. And several on the bandit loop from morning people congratulating Anna and saying, "Doesn't someone ELSE have news?" And "I WISH she would get online."
They know me well, they do, including the fact that I am so not a morning person. I couldn't have a better place to celebrate than the Lair or a better bunch of people to share the fun than the Banditas and our Buddies.
On to our other Bandita finalist, Anna (VA) S!
The experience of GH/RITA day is slightly different for me because I live in the UK and am usually 6 hours ahead of CST. This year, we haven't yet 'sprung forward' so the difference was only 5 hours. Still, it means that there's a morning of hanging around and waiting for everyone on the Board to wake up and get calling.
Like many other people, I was convinced that this would be another year where I wouldn't get the call. I'd forgotten about the date until someone reminded me on Thursday night and even then it didn't click in my poor little brain because ... I'd forgotten I'd entered! I'd been dithering about whether or not to submit an entry this year and somehow as time passed, had assumed I hadn't. LOL
Anyway, as I said, I wasn't expecting a call, so I was busying myself with revising a manuscript, when an email popped up from one of my dear friends - Lindsey Brookes - that she'd finalled. That's when I realised the calls were starting to go out. After squealing happily for her, I scanned a few loops and got back to work. Then an email popped up from a friend saying she couldn't wait to happy dance with me, when I finalled. After laughing, I was in the middle of a reply explaining why I wouldn't be a finalist, when the the phone rang. I assumed it was one of my buddies telling me they'd finalled. Instead, it was the lovely Lorraine Heath to tell me Legacy of Love was a Golden Heart finalist!
Poor Lorraine had to put up with some shocked babbling from me and some celebratory singing from lovely hubby! She handled it with grace *g*. I have to say, it was so much fun to have a call from someone I know - made it all the more special. It was also special that this time, unlike my previous two finals, my hubby was here with me ... not on a plane, halfway across the Atlantic or in an important board meeting!
One of the first emails I typed was to my lovely Banditas - who better to share the fab news with?! My happiness was doubled to see that fellow Bandita Nancy was also a finalist! It was great too to have so many BB's share the fun, here on the loop and on FB and Twitter. And, of course, it was awesome to be able to celebrate on the day Susan Mallery was here!
And now we'll move on to DOUBLE Rita finalist, Virginia Kantra:
You know that scene in "He's Just Not That Into You" where Ginnifer Goodwin is staring at the phone, willing it to ring?
Next, checking in from Mexico is Ann Aguirre:
I swear, I think this is the first call I ever got. Even when I sold to NY for the first time, my agent IM'd me because it's international long distance. So this was exciting, intoxicating, crazy-with-delight-making. To set the scene, it was early, about fifteen minutes past nine in the morning here, and I was talking to Lauren Dane on IM. One of my friends, Victoria Dahl, had gotten her call, and we were all excited for her, but I wasn't expecting my phone to ring.
And then it did. I didn't say anything to Lauren, but as I ran to answer it, I was thinking, nuh UH, it can't be. But our phone never rings that early, so I had some hope even before I answered. I said, "Bueno!" which is how you answer in Mexico. The person on the other end paused, and then said, "I'm looking for Ann Aguirre." In English. Which was when I knew. Because anyone else would've addressed me in Spanish.
She went on to say, "This is Jeanne Adams from RWA. I'm calling to inform you that your book, KILLBOX, has been chosen as a RITA finalist in the Strong Romantic Elements category..." She told me some more stuff, and was very kind, but I lost my mind after that. I do recall that she said she was a big fan of mine and would be rooting for me in NY. I got some more information from her, and then we disconnected. I ran around my house screaming for a while and then I went to tell Lauren Dane, who I had left hanging in mid-conversation. I told my agent, who was properly thrilled. I twittered about it. I spent four hours surfing an incredible high. Later that night, my family took me out to dinner and to a movie to celebrate (Battle: LA, which is totally appropriate). It was crazy, brilliant, and utterly surreal. I mean, wow, I've finaled in a category that includes Nora Roberts. That pretty much says it all.
Frequent Lair guest, Patricia Rice:
I missed my call! I was doing taxes for AARP Friday morning, and the internet kept crashing, so I was really late leaving, exhausted, stressed out, and starved half to death. I had no idea that it was Call Day, so I grabbed a pear and sat down to check my email while I nuked a Lean Cuisine. The first one I opened was from one of the other Word Wenches, Cara Elliott, shouting she'd been nominated. So out of idle curiosity, I checked my voice mail--something I never do because I'm phone phobic. And sure enough, there was a message from Trish Milburn asking me to call her. Needless to say, my stress disappeared and I was grinning from ear to ear as I munched my nuked pizza! BTW, four of the eight Word Wenches have been nominated, two in historical and two in Regency. Go, us!!!
And speaking of our recent guest Cara Elliott...
The RITA call was all the more wonderful because the day had not gotten off to a great start . . . I awoke to a harried e-mails on a design project I'm working on. Glitches in the web pages needed new files sent ASAP-and I had plans to go to meet friends for lunch at the Thomas Lawrence exhibit at Yale. Swearing under my breath, I was madly working on getting the files done, my mind totally focused on finishing and getting out of the house on time, when the phone rang. Expecting it to be the web designer, I answered rather, er, brusquely.
A soft voice asked for Cara Elliott.
That's a pen name, not my real name, so my first impression was, "How in the world did a fan get my home phone number? (Clearly my head was still in a funk) So I said-again, rather brusquely-“May I ask who's calling?”
The voice replied, “Lorraine Heath.”
Lorraine Heath! Gulp. It slowly sinks in. March 25, writers, phone calls . . . RITAs!
Lorraine went on to say, “I have some good news for you . . .”
Needless to say, I started dancing madly on my chair while stammering my thanks. And then suddenly those files didn't seem quite so odious to finish. Off they went, and I got to my lunch-which was with fellow romance writers, which made it all the more fun to share the good news!
From Romantic Suspense Rita finalist Annie Solomon:
I'd just finished breakfast when the phone rang. I thought: Who the #$# is calling me so early in the am? I checked the caller ID and it was unfamiliar. I was really pissed. Almost didn't answer. But finally I yanked the phone off the hook, ready to yell at whoever was on the other end for calling so early...and this nice, polite woman said she was calling on behalf of RWA.
Gulp...heart pounding...the rest is RITA finalist history, lol!
Moving on to Historical Rita finalist, Sherry Thomas:
Usually I am not a nervous person, possibly because usually I have no idea what's going on. :-) Take the RITAs, for example, in 2009 and 2010, the calls came early in the morning, right after I'd come back home from walking the Junior Kidlet to school, before I'd even realized what date it was. This time, however, I began working before waking the kidlet up, and while using the dictionary widget on my macbook, I happened to glance at the calendar widget, and the 25 was highlighted.
Too bad, a second later, I remembered that RITA calls went out on the 25th. This set me slight on edge. I am not a hoper--is that a word?--and usually prefer to first mentally prepare myself for the worst that can happen. And when 8:30 came and went, I thought, well, that's probably it. The calls have gone out and I didn't get mine.
Then at 8:37 the phone rang. I scrambled to get it. Ack. The number of a known telemarketer. I pressed the rejection button really hard and muttered something under my breath. And then, just as I was walking away from the phone, it rang again. And this time it was Cindy Kirk from RWA. There is an old Turkish proverb that goes: When Allah wants to make a poor man happy, He takes away the man's goat and then lets him find it again. And boy, when I got the call after thinking I wouldn't, did it make me happy!
Another DOUBLE Rita finalist and recent guest, Kieran Kramer:
I was roaming the Internet to see if anyone had gotten the Call yet, LOL!!!!
But this time, it was. I'd been nominated for Best First Book. The feeling was so surreal, I felt a little disconnected. I couldn't believe it was really happening. But that wasn't the most shocking part of all to my call story! I had NO IDEA that if you finaled in more than one category, a different category coordinator would call. So there I was, my head already spinning, thinking I'd already climbed to the mountain top, when forty minutes later, I got another call from a different unknown area code.
I thought, "Oh. That's weird. Maybe this is someone from the RWA offices reminding me to look for my Rita information packet in the mail."
So when I picked up the phone and Lorraine Heath herself--a Rita winner and NYT- and USA Today best-selling author--was on the other end of the line, I had to grab a chair. What could she possibly want with me? I'd already gotten the Call! And then she proceeded to tell me that I'd finalled in Regency Historicals, too. That call really threw me--even more than the first. I think it's because I knew the first was possible. I'd entered the contest, so I might--just might!--get a call. But the second call? I was truly taken aback. It's been a long time since I was that surprised.
I was babbling into the phone even more than the first call and have no idea what I said.
Finally, Lair favorite Nicola Cornick summed it up so well:
It is a huge thrill to receive a RITA nomination for One Wicked Sin and to be a finalist alongside so many fabulous authors whose books I love and whose writing I admire. "The RITA Call" was an amazing experience! It was the first time I had taken "the call" in person and I didn't exactly receive the news in a calm and collected manner. First I was so excited I couldn't breathe then I became incoherent because I was completely overwhelmed. Certainly the dog was looking at me as though he thought I needed urgent medical attention as my squeals of excitement bounced off the kitchen walls. So much for the famous British cool formality!
Congratulations to all the finalists and thank you to the Romance Bandits for inviting me to your RITA Special!
And now a "call story" from the other side of the phone line....
Its 9 a.m. on "call day" and, as a member of the RWA Board, I have my super-secret call list in front of me, and I'm ready to call my first Rita/GH finalist. I had taken my list and organized them by time-zone, east coast to west so I wouldn't call someone in CA at some unholy hour of the morning. All set there, I was ready to dial. It is seriously one of THE BEST moments of a Board Member's time on the board to get to make these calls. SO fun!Anyway, I'm ready to rock, I've got my coffee, I'm mostly awake...dial. Got a voice mail! Arrrrgh! So, I leave a message, very similar to what I said to Ann Aguirre (yes, we DO have a script! ahahah!) "Hi, this is Jeanne...RWA Board...Trying to reach you...try back in a bit, or you can call me at..." I hang up and go on to my next call. About 20 minutes later, my phone rings and it's my friend and fellow WRW member, Gail Barrett. I had SO hoped Gail would final because MELTDOWN is fabulous, and if she did final, that she'd be on my "to call" list. She did final, of course, but she wasn't on MY list! Arrrgh! I had the person just below her on the list. Are you beginning to see what happened? *wince* So Gail calls me, "Hi Jeanne, it's Gail."
I have a very silent, and quite painful apoplectic fit, because I can't tell her ANYTHING. She's not on my list.
"Hi Gail! How are you?" I manage to brightly say, feigning total ignorance of what's going on. There's a pause.
"I'm great, but you left a message on MY machine for this Kendra person...."
OH, CRAP, CRAP, CRAP!!! What can I say, but, "Oh, so sorry!" and get off the phone. WHEW!!! Gail posted later that she was so crestfallen that, at the time, she didn't wonder why I even had her number up and ready to go, nor why I might call her by mistake early on a Friday morning... none of that thankfully, registered. Now I had to wait until I saw her name pop up on the RWA site, to be SURE my fellow Board Member had called her, so I could then call back and apologize! Hahahah! Gail took it with her usual good grace and aplomb, since thankfully she had actually finaled. Grins. And I was able to tell her how very much I had enjoyed her finaling book, MELTDOWN, and that her number, right above the one I was SUPPOSED to call, is what I'd written down instead. Probably something Freudian in there...
It really was fun to call Ann as well *waves at Ann* because I am a fan, thanks to her coming on here to the Romance Bandits blog. Grins.
Ya'll will laugh because I started out those first few West Coast calls apologizing for calling so early - hey, it WAS early for THEM! - then telling the finalist the news. I wasn't sure Ann even heard the bit about calling so early, or being a fan, but hey, I guess she did! Hahahah!
"Now do you understand the significance of 'Call Day'?" Sven asked as he led the round-eyed Paolo back to the kitchen.
Paolo nodded still struck dumb in astonishment. Sven loaded a tray with mimosas, handed it to the silent cabana boy and gave him a push toward the door. "Then don't you forget it next year! Now make sure none of our guests are thirsty."
Some of our guests have offered copies of their books as a prize for our special celebration. One lucky commenter will receive a copy of:
One Wicked Sin
When Harry Met Molly AND Dukes to the Left of Me, Princes to the Right
His at Night
So which do you prefer, chocolate chip cookies or mimosas? Do you forgive Paolo for his ignorance? And what makes a celebration special for you?
Saturday, March 26, 2011
Eilis Flynn majored in linguistical anthropology, studying the study of languages before she went to work on Wall Street, which has a language all its own. She spends her days aware that there’s a reality beyond what we can see, and tells stories about it. Published in romantic fantasy, comic books, and nonfiction, she lives in Seattle with her husband. Today she's going to talk to us about language and story.
Language is basic to our existence. Language forms us and makes us who we are, from a species to a culture all the way down to an individual. The same is true of the language in the books we read and write; it does more than describe and form the people in the stories and their worlds, and create for us an image, intended or not, of the subject, each unique. How can we tell the language of the story is right?
Language also builds story character, not unlike the personalities of the people who populate the tales. Even if you’re reading and writing stories grounded in the here and now, the language is pretty specific. Think of it this way. To describe a place, whether it’s now or later or yesterday, the reader has to be drawn into the world: If it’s a contemporary, you’ll have to describe a world in which iPods and computers are everyday items. If it’s a contemporary set in, say, the South, maybe a mention of a meal with collard greens, and if a character is a native of the South, perhaps a mention of a drawl or at the very least, a “y’all” once or twice. (Hi, Nancy!) If it’s a story taking place in the Regency, the ton probably gets mentioned at least once. Right?
But if the ton never gets mentioned, something else of the period has to be mentioned. Or not mentioned. There’s never going to be a reference to a car. Or Queen Victoria (unless you’re dealing with time travel, but that’s another matter altogether). If you like to read historicals, you know how important it is to establish that long-ago world. If that world isn’t quite right…
We’ve all read stories that don’t seem to be quite in the right time and place, and we don’t know why the book isn’t a keeper. There may be something about the language that doesn’t quite sound right, if you’ll pardon the saying.
If you like fantasy, of course, it’s a given that you’ve got a certain sensitivity to language; whether it is simply the naming of a character, an ability, a culture, or even something as basic as a food, it is all too easy to jar the reader out of your story by misnaming something. If it’s a place and time far, far away, and long, long ago, having Darth Vader sit down and munch on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is going to take you out of the alternate reality that’s been created. (If nothing else, am I the only one who wondered how he ate? And whatever it was, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a PB&J.) Every place has foods unique to it. If the writer skimps on describing food, once again, the story is missing out on a vital detail, and again, the book’s a little disappointing.
Author Lisa Hendrix gave a workshop years ago about creating an environment in your stories, and used as an example New Orleans weather—wet, humid, heavy. She pointed out that the description of weather was in itself a character, always present, with a dynamic influence. Would you describe a desert environment as a sodden, green forest? Of course not. The language of your story has to be specific.
Language creates an environment. It’s Voice, the one that’s unique to the author. It shapes characters, worlds, stories.
What have you read that specifies and delineates a story and makes it a keeper? What have you read that uses food to establish the setting?
Give me an answer in the comments, and I’ll send a download of Echoes of Passion to a random winner!
For more about Eilis and her work, check out her website. Her latest book is Echoes of Passion, available from Ellora’s Cave. Her next book is Static Shock, coming up from Crescent Moon Press.
Friday, March 25, 2011
Hey, banditas, I'm thrilled to welcome my good friend, Susan Mallery, to the Lair! Susan's next book, ALREADY HOME, is coming out in a few days and I can't wait for you all to read it! It's a step away from the romance she usually writes. ALREADY HOME is a fabulous, emotional story about a woman with two mothers. Take it away, Susan!
Does anyone else get ticked at advice columnists when they advise people to see a therapist? I mean, okay. I understand that therapy is healthy and is sometimes necessary, but I feel like that answer is a cover-your-butt protective move.
When people write to an advice columnist, they want honest-to-goodness advice. They do not want to be told to ask someone else for advice.
Plus, it deflates my voyeuristic balloon. (Yes, it’s all about me.) I want to read about the crazy things people do and think and say, and then I want the advice columnist to present a solution that I can either cheer or mock.
Here are letters from three characters from ALREADY HOME. I want you to give them advice. I promise not to mock you… unless you tell them to see a therapist.
I made a big mistake. I opened a kitchen store. What was I thinking?! I don’t know anything about running a store. I’m a chef. Or at least, I was. I seem to have lost my mojo in the kitchen, which is why I thought opening a store might be a good idea. But it was an impulse, and now I’m drowning. I have three years of lease payments to make and no clue what I’m doing. The last thing I need is another complication…
So of course that’s exactly when my birth parents show up unannounced in my store. And Banditas… they’re weird. They said the Universe told them to come. They’re from California, they would have named me Butterfly, and they don’t eat dairy. Seriously, what kind of person chooses to live without cheese?!
But they said I have two brothers and a niece on the way. And my birth mother looks a lot like me. I am a little curious about the life I didn’t have. But what if I hurt my real mom by spending time with the woman who gave me birth? What should I do?
- Torn in Texas
My daughter! My little Butterfly! For 31 years, we celebrated her birthday. Missed her. Waited for her to find us… until the Universe told me not to wait any longer. Finally, our family is reunited. Why is she fighting it? I want to share the world with her, and we’ve lost too much time already. If she doesn’t open her heart to me, how will she open herself to the man I’ve found for her? I don’t want to wait any longer. How can I convince her to stop turning me away?
My daughter’s birth mother is getting to be a pain. I don’t hate the woman; how could I? I was born to be a mother, but I couldn’t have children. Serenity made my life complete when she gave Jenna to me. I want to be open-minded about this whole thing, but Serenity is being way too pushy, and my instinct is to protect my daughter. Why is Serenity so insistent that Jenna jump whole-heartedly into a relationship with the birth family she just met? Why does everything have to happen now, now, now?
How can I help my daughter? Should I step in and tell Serenity to back off? Or should I encourage Jenna to get to know the people whose DNA she shares?
-A Real Mom
Okay, Romance Banditas, put on your Advice Columnist hats. Pick a question, or respond to all three. What advice would you give the women of ALREADY HOME?
And while you're thinking of Susan, you absolutely must rush right over and join her Members Only area at http://www.susanmallery.com/. There, you'll find extended excerpts, contests, freebies, exclusive short stories, games and videos, and more.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
In some cases, only a cursory edit is done and then the book is sent on its way. Second edits? I would hazard a guess they are rare. Are the more seasoned editors mentoring the assistant and associate editors? And what are the implications of this if the answer is no? How will the skills be kept alive? I’m sure many of us have heard a friend or peer say proudly that his or her manuscript needed no revisions. Was that truly the case, or was something else involved? And then you hear a complaint about the quality of the fiction…Did anyone EDIT this?? How can they publish this?? Of course too, there are those authors who get their manuscripts back and the rewrites are extensive. This does indeed still happen, perhaps more often than we hear about. There are also agents that still edit and polish prior to submitting a clients’ work. In the past, an agent would hone the project and the editor would dig in to the manuscript after the contract is signed. Nowadays, odds are that isn’t going to happen in quite the same way.
Do editors edit? Yes and no; sometimes/depends.
So what choices do writers have when it comes to the editorial process in an ever-changing publishing landscape?
Some are surely fortunate enough to have found a talented partner or group that helps them hone their craft. They benefit greatly from insights, support and creativity given by other writers who no doubt can share what works and doesn’t work for them. This is a tremendously valuable asset to have and many, many authors have achieved success with this as their base.
And there are those writers who are perfectly content in their office; writing on their own, communicating with few, hitting bestseller lists with their stellar product.
Another writer may have found an agent and yet together, they are unable to move the manuscript in the direction they desire.
But what if you don’t fall squarely into a category? What if you are thinking of self-publishing? This is a popular option these days as so many writers feel what is offered in some cases by a publisher is less than generous, especially for new writers in the mass marketplace. The author then has to go it alone and wear many hats as a result. She must market and publicize at a minimum, by herself. The rise in popularity of freelance editors is a by-product of this new reality. Authors are looking for options and hiring a professional can perhaps give them an edge. Being open to this kind of critical assessment may or may not be for you. But if it does appeal, one should research the editorial services being provided and in my opinion, connect with an editor who has experience editing books similar to your own.
Here is a peek through the window of how I like to approach working with authors…
I am a large canvas editor. I read with two hats on; my reader hat and my editor hat. I use my reactions on both levels to form suggestions for clients. I react as I read and clients can often find scribbles in the margins. I do not censor these comments or try to sugar-coat a reaction if it happens to be negative. I do not believe that it makes sense to wear kid gloves while working for a client. My job is to give the writer an advantage, if I can. My job is to assist the author in getting the manuscript as close to perfect as we can.
Stories need to be great. We’ve all heard this; at workshops, on tape, in critique group. The hook is key. Does it hold, lure to a satisfying ending? When I edit, I don’t follow a formula or have a checklist. I focus on the main characters; are they likeable; are they believable; are the circumstances believable. I have no problem with an old plot with a new twist. I look for pacing. I hate clichés. I hate cop-outs. I focus on tense. I focus a lot on point of view. Are there too many at one time? Is reading like watching a tennis match? Am I with one character enough to get a grasp on that character, or being moved onto someone else too quickly? Conflict is always a big issue for writers and seems to come up a lot in conversation. Does one character have something another character wants? If I am reading a love story, is there an obstacle that needs to be overcome? Does Life throw a believable curve ball at these folks?
Sometimes I do edit toward the market. Is it funny enough? Is it sexy enough? Is the police procedure creative? Is the puzzle hard to solve? Do I feel the jeopardy the character is in? Does the writer know where she/he would like this manuscript to end up? Is there an audience out there that might be the right one? Does the author peruse the shelves in the bookstore? Has the author done his/her homework in this regard?
I am not a proofreader or a copy-editor or a fact-checker. I am not a writer. I do not have books on my desk about style and rules. I have not written self-help books about writing.
A freelance job for me is not a quick thing. It takes time. I try to work at a good pace as I know there is an anxiousness to get results and move forward. But sometimes it just doesn’t work that way. I fly by the seat of my pants a lot. I listen to my immediate reactions a lot, both positive and negative. I think of myself as an author’s editor rather than a company person (so to speak). Editing for me is a truly enjoyable thing. It was always the favorite part about my job when I was in Corporate America. I think of my work as entering into short-term partnerships; helping to create something, making it great and then patting it on the head and sending it on its way.
Book publishing has changed, is changing, from years ago. Editors lugged bulky manuscripts home then; now they carry Kindles. Then we often edited at our desks; now, that probably isn’t encouraged. The Mouse clicks instead of a blue pen. Then, there were budgets for historical romances (albeit minimal!). Now? Not so much. It’s always been about moving the product, in as many quantities as possible. Now, perhaps doing more books with one author is preferred over focusing on many. The New York Times has an E-Book bestseller list; that fascinates me. And surely more changes are coming. We will adapt as we continue on to the next thing…I just hope that those of us who so enjoy working with writers can keep the art of editing (and our blue pens!) alive.
A huge thanks to Caroline for sharing her insights! KJ
Bio: I am a graduate of Skidmore College and hold a BA in English. My publishing career began after college when I went to work for the direct mail-order Book Clubs; The Literary Guild, The Rhapsody Book Club, The Book of the Month Club, etc.
I moved on to Pocket Books, a division of Simon and Schuster, one of the largest publishers of commercial fiction in New York, where I worked for 12+ years, moving up the ranks to the last position I held as their Executive Editor. A number of my authors made appearances on the New York Times, PW and USA TODAY bestseller lists. A large number of the romance writers were RITA nominees and winners and Golden Heart finalists. I acquired brand new talent and worked with authors who penned in different genres. I traveled extensively to RWA conferences, spoke often, and even had my photo in the New York Times!
I have been freelancing for ten years on all genres of popular fiction; including YA, fiction for men, mystery, cop books, literary fiction and of course, romance. I am a stay-at-home mom to two sons who are all boy, all the time and a 95 pound Rhodesian Ridgeback who also happens to be male. I enjoy running on the beach, traveling, fine dining and reading.
I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org