Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Holding Hands

I am a big fan of Beatles music. In general, I prefer the more psychedelic stuff over their earlier C major, happy music but recently I have been loving Kurt’s rendition of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” from Glee in 3-D. A song I have always viewed as shallow took on a new meaning – a longing for a physical connection. A simple touch, a shared sensation. The ramifications could mean nothing or everything, and sometimes it seems worth almost anything to find out. Touch takes knowing someone to a different level.

I just finished (devoured, really) Hearts in Darkness by Laura Kaye. Two people who had barely glimpsed each other are stuck in a pitch dark elevator. All he saw was her long red hair as she rushed for the elevator. All she remembered seeing of him was the tattoo on his hand. Complete strangers, they end up finding that elusive connection – first through honest sharing, then through touch. I really responded to the way they had the need to reach out. They could not see, but the way his stubble felt beneath her fingers, the way her fingers traced paths of heat against his skin, his scars, was both emotionally moving and sensual. It's like they were learning each other. The heightened sensation of touch along with their whispered truths felt so much more intimate, and more erotic, than the simple actions would have been in any other scenario. I highly recommend this book.

Every romance is centered around that connection.  As the world we are in becomes more and more anonymous, faceless, true connection to other people becomes precious. Maybe this is why I enjoy reading and writing romance so much - it glorifies something I find lacking in the real world. Life is too busy to stop and treasure a simple touch.

Maybe holding someone's hand should be something sing about, to long for.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Scent and Your Senses

Last year I bought a tube of different flavored lip-balms for my daughters. There were five in total, so each girl got two and I kept one. The minute I opened that orange chap stick, the scent brought me back 20 some years to fall finals during my freshman year in high school. The sensory memory was sharp. Distinct. I remembered performing a scene from Bitches with my good friend Jessica. I remembered running through the misty rain for the bus, the way my wool skirt that I'd worn as  part of my Bitches costume smelled as it dried. Every little detail, all from the scent of orange chap stick.

Scent is part of how we experience our world and it's something I try not to underplay in my writing. Not all scents deserve to be described, but fresh mowed grass or crisp air after the rain go a long way to adding depth to a spring day. Wood fire smoke, cinnamon, and apple cider helps paint a picture of a cozy autumn night. I tend to overuse the scent of leather and brandy when describing a man. When I write a garden scene, I research what plants grew in that part England 500 years ago, when they were in season, and what time of day their perfume was at its strongest.

Scents can also tell the emotional story or help with character development. Regardless of the food itself, when a meal is a positive experience for the character, the courses smell delicious,  full of sweet and savory spices that make the mouth water. When a negative experience, the sickly sweet scents can turn the stomach, the mixture of odors might assault the senses. In a love scene, the leading man might be smell musky, masculine whereas the villain would be rank, his body odor foul. Use of scent does not just flesh out the environment, it can tell the story.

Do you pay attention to scent while setting your scene?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

It's All Been Done Before

There are, what? Seven basic story archetypes? (correct me if you know for sure)

I used to note them all the time when I was primarily into fantasy. Chosen one saves the world. Select group find object of great power (to either wield or destroy). There's always the super bad guy and the unwitting hero.

Mystery - quirky detective solves crime, bad guy punished.

Romance - well, that consists of boy meets girl. No obstacles can keep them from finding their happily ever after.

It's all been done. It's the author's voice that makes it unique. If that was not true, why would the romance reading demographic read hundreds and hundreds of the same story? After all, it's all about love finding a way -- except that it's not.

It's all about the characters. They make the story real and unique. Even though some genres overuse certain character archetypes (the alpha male in romance) each one has has own fingerprint, his own strengths and weaknesses (even though they're all physically perfect*). If the gorgeous, emotionally unavailable, sexually skilled leading man was vapid, the reader would not fall in love with him and the book would not be memorable.

Author's in every genre will run into that moment when they realize their story is not a reinvention of the wheel. They just need to breath in through the nose, out through the mouth, and accept that their own version of the wheel is not a rip off, it is part of them. It's their own unique voice, their own characters, their story -- and that is okay. No one who is a fan of reading will accuse them of copying. Because it's all been done and will be done again.

Be the purple bunny.

*Mary Balogh has a hero that was injured badly in war. His face is disfigured and he is missing a limb (if I remember). Good book, btw.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Go Go Go!

The school year is off to a good start. I've been constantly on the go and haven't had time to breathe, let alone time to think. Or blog.

I've started a virtual writing club for my students. I'm using blogspot. It's only visible to authors or by invitation, so it's secure and the kids seem excited. I'm really pleased about it. That also means I need to actually take my YA project more seriously because I sure can't post stuff from my romances. :)

Speaking of Romance, Golden Heart will be here before you know it. That means it's time, really time, to get cracking on finishing Courtly Abandon. Honestly, I do work better with something hanging over my head. I set my own deadlines, but I always know that they're flexible. Getting ready for Golden Heart is not something I can just choose to change the date on.

So, that's my update. Life is GOGOGO,  but it's a good thing. I'm pleased with the direction of my writing and feel optimistic about things to come.

How's everything going for you right now?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Working to Keep the Love Alive
Relationships take work. They always start out with that initial spark of chemistry. That leads to infatuation (sometimes obsession). It is meant to be and everything is perfect. Eventually you make a commitment and things get serious. Everything is roses for a while, and you can think of nothing better than spending every breath in dedication to this love. Then things go downhill.

You notice small faults, things that just irk you for no good reason. But you'll look past them because the love is worth it. Working on that love become actual work. You start to resent it, wonder if you made the right choice. You can't help but notice the other options out there but, because of your code of honor, stay true. You made a comitment. A COMITTMENT! You weren't wrong, you just need to get past this rough patch and everything will be fine again. If only you could rediscover the spark again, remember how it exciting it used to be. But that other option is so intriguing. Perhaps it wouldn't hurt if you just flirted with the idea a little bit...

This has happened to me at the end of every work in progress. Each time I have had to force myself to stay true, to not stray from the path. In the immortal words of Pat Benetar,

Don't want to leave you really
I've invested too much time
To give you up that easy
To the doubts that complicate [my] mind.

Sigh. I will finish this book

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Sometimes Books Suck. It's True.

And yet, they got published.  They didn't just get published - they got an agent's attention who believed that book would sell and make them money.  How?

I am about 80% finished with a romance novel. Usually I would have finished it by now. I don't want to even though my ocd demands that I must. It is just that bad. Seriously.

I don't like the author's voice. There is no believability to the thoughts/actions of the heroine. She is not a sympathetic character. Plot twist after plot twist drags the story on forever, all of which would have been avoided of the two leads had had an honest conversation. All of it, dialogue, narration, and inner monologue, is written in a very archaic and formal way designed to reflect the era it is set in. Just not a good read.

It was one of those moments when I wondered how the book got published in the first place. It turns out this was the author's first historical fiction. Since then, that she actually has had multiple books published. Her reviews are stellar, yet when I read the pages available through Amazon, her writing style is just as off-putting.

I have read more books than I could count. In the past, the only times I have not finished a romance was when a rape was involved and the main character ended up liking it and loving the guy (Sorry, no means no all the time). So, unless I'm totally disgusted, I finish every book I start -- and almost every book has some entertainment value to it. I like to think I can see the good in most books in my genre. In fact, when a book is able to get through all the hurdles to publication, I assume it must have some redeeming quality. I really could not find any in this particular book, and yet it seems that many people enjoyed it. Heck, it got published!

This, of course, makes me wonder about my own writing. I am not published yet this book is. Does this mean mine is even worse? I don't think so. In fact, I recently read through Courtly Scandals and was impressed with myself. It was a well written good story. There were moments where I stopped to pat myself on the back. I wrote that! I'm awesome! And yet, I remain unpublished.


Addendum: I have since finished this book. I put it in the bathroom and made it through the last 50 or so pages a paragraph at a time. The good news is that the lead characters finally got their happily ever after. I wasn't sure they would. Then again, it is a genre requirement that the lead characters find true love. 

This is a revised re-post of an old blog. I was inspired to re-post it by Creepy Query Girl's recent post.
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