Friday, February 26, 2010

The "Perfect" Writing Date

When you think of the ideal writing conditions, what do you picture? What about the session itself? What about the experience makes it the perfect date?

Here's my list of conditions for the perfect writing date:

- A private room where I can shut out the world
- Just the right temperature--not too hot, not too cold
- A computer is a must, as is high-speed Internet
- Time--no interruptions. I can write as long as I want.
- Good lighting
- Pretty notepads and pens. No ugly notepads

Here's how I picture the session itself:

- I review what I wrote the day before and love every word, every comma, everything about it.
- I begin typing with little or no "what should I write" thoughts.
- The words dive off my fingertips and race out of me at record speeds.
- I remember to back up my work.
- A Coke and Haagen Dazs coffee ice cream materialize by my side the instant I need a break.
- When I finish, I glance at the word count and realize I wrote 5000 words!

Okay, so what does your "perfect" writing date look like?

Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Romance Your Writing

As every passionate romance matures, the rush, the anticipation, the willingness to not see any faults wanes. You still love writing, still pour yourself into it, but conflicts and imperfections have sprung.

How can we keep the passion for writing strong when countless adversities pummel our motivation? For writers actively pursuing publication, there are forces working to deny our dream. Some are outside and some are within us.

- Criticism from peers, contest judges, agents, or editors of our writing.
- Criticism from friends and family of the time we spend writing
- Self-criticism: Will I ever be good enough?
- Envy: Why does she have what I want but I don't?
- Entitlement: I deserve to be published.
- Sloth: I don't feel like writing today.
- Procrastination: I'll write later.
- Fast pace of life: I don't have time to go to Billy's recital AND write my pages.
- Too much technology: I'll just pop in on Facebook--for a second.
- Too little technology: The only computer is in the basement, it's a decade old, and I have no access to the Internet.
- Time, always time!

This list could go on for days. None of us write in ideal conditions. All of us wrestle at least one of these issues, some of us may wrestle all of them!

So how do we keep the romance with your writing alive? I don't have all the answers, but I do have a short list of things that work.

1. Remind yourself what you love about writing. Write the list down and refer to it often.

2. Make the experience as pleasant as possible. Have a favorite beverage nearby. Stock your writing area with any little item you find vital to writing. For me, I have to have little notepads and pens. I like to scribble notes.

3. Make regular dates to write. Any relationship will fizzle if we don't put effort into it. Give, give often, and give regularly to your writing relationship.

4. Dream. Don't let your hopes and dreams disappear because your current work has been criticized or you're taking twice as long to finish a first draft than you expected. Don't forget to dream of your future as a published author. I know that dream may seem very far away, maybe even impossible. But it isn't. Nothing's impossible.

Join me on Friday when we'll create our "perfect" date with writing!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Cupid's Target: You and Writing

That little imp, Cupid, sometimes strikes a person with an ambition. Anyone who writes, knows what I'm talking about!

How do you know the love bug has hit?

- Your thoughts can't seem to focus on anything but the idea for a new book jogging around your brain.
- Your palms get sweaty with anticipation as you sit at your computer.
- You burst into laughter while rolling the shopping cart at the grocery store--the laughter is because you just realized your main character is about to do something crazy.
- You keep a protective eye on your memory stick at all times.
- Ink and computer paper cost more than your monthly gas bill, but what's money when you need to print your first draft?
- When you send your latest to your critique partner, you feel worse than the day your child first headed to pre-school.
- Until you hear back from your critique partner, you boomerang between fervent hope and self-loathing.
- Sometimes, when you get in the zone writing, you forget to eat lunch. Notice I said sometimes.
- Your characters are so vivid in your mind, you still think about one from six books ago.
- Your favorite authors are your rock stars.

What's a sure sign you've been hit by the writing love bug?

Join me on Wednesday when we'll continue our romance of writing.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Awards! Yee-haw!

It's awards season. The Oscars are coming (I didn't miss them, did I?) and the Olympics are in full swing; both honor the best of the best. I figured it's also time for me to pass on the awards I've been given the last few months. I am truly sorry this has taken me so long. What can I say? I messed up. I owe everyone Cadbury Mini-Eggs! Aren't those little chocolates delightful??

Okay, I got sidetracked by tantalizing thoughts of mini-eggs. Back on track...
Tamika, over at The Write Worship, gave me this "fabulous" award! I love the design and the thought behind it. Thank you very much!

I'm passing the "Your Blog is Fabulous Award" to:

Stephanie Faris at Steph in the City for her fabulous, intriguing posts.
Maryse, aka Wifsie, at BluAmaryllis for the grace with which she explains life.
and Robyn Campbell at Putting Pen to Paper for always putting her heart out for others.

The next award comes from Cindy at Cindy R. Wilson. It's the "Happy 101 Award," and that's how Cindy makes me! Thanks, Cindy!

I'm passing the "Happy 101 Award" to three bloggers who always make me happy.

Lisa and Laura Roecker at Lisa and Laura Write. They crack me up on a daily basis!
Tess Hilmo at Tess Hilmo. Wicked sense of humor and always posts helpful tips.
Georgiana Daniels at Georgiana Daniels. Love her honest and relatable posts.

Jennifer Shirk at Me, My Muse and I gave the "Helpful Blogger Award" to me. This one has rules.

1. Post one thing no one knows about me.
2. Quote one sentence from a favorite book.
3. Pass it on to seven bloggers.

1. I don't think there is one thing NO ONE knows about me. Hmm... Well, here's a possible one. When I was about ten, I fell in love with Noel Streatfeild's "Shoe" series of books. After reading "Skating Shoes," I attempted to ice skate in our frozen corn-field. I actually did a few figure eights, but corn stalks poked up through the ice, and let's just say, I didn't attempt skating again for a long, long time!

2. Mary Wibberley's Man of Power is one of my all-time favorite books. It's a Harlequin Romance written in 1980. Here's why I love it:

"Well!" she gasped. "You take the biscuit! You're aggressive, bossy, and you have the nerve to tell me I'm prickly! There's nothing wrong with me, chum. Nothing at all!"

He began to laugh--deep, amused, his face transformed. Sara whirled away from him, incensed. "Don't laugh at me!" she yelled, and looked for something to throw at him--but he came after her, caught her, and pulled her around.

Seriously, is that not delicious dialogue? And who says "take the biscuit" or "chum"?? I love it!

3. Here are the seven helpful bloggers I'm passing the "Helpful Blogger Award" to:
Susan J. Reinhardt at Christian Writer/Reader Connection
Maria Morgan at Life Lessons
Kristen Torres-Toro at Write in the Way
Brittany Laneaux at A Penny For My Thoughts
Patti Lacy at Patti Lacy
Melinda Marie at CMOM Productions
T. Anne at White Platonic Dreams

The next award comes from the lovely and gracious Stephanie over at Steph in the City.

Here are the rules:
1. Post where you would like to be in 10 years.
2. Pass it on to 10 other special Bloggers!


1. I know exactly where I want to be in ten years: in a room with all of you fabulous bloggers. We're chatting about the amazing journey we've all taken. Of course, we're signing our books and passing them around. I'm dying to read all of your work.

Did I mention we're in Paris? Yeah, we are. And we are having the weekend of our life! It's all about us, and we're sharing the struggles we overcame to make it in the publishing business, but most of all, we are celebrating.

Here's a toast to the future and a toast to all of us!
The ten terrific blogs I'm passing the "You're Going Places Award" on are:
Paul Greci at North Writer
Jeanette Levellie at Audience of One
Jennifer J. Bennett at Jennifer J. Bennett
Jaime Wright Sundsmo at The Jaime Reports
Sherrinda at A Writer Wannabe
Tabitha Bird at Through My Eyes
Krista Phillips at Krista's ReflectionsAngie Muresan at Angie Muresan
Natalie Bahm at Natalie Bahm
Beth at This Mommy's Life

I literally could have passed awards on to thirty other blogs, but I'm sure you get tired of me talking about them! And for any of you who received an award but do not wish to accept it, that's okay. My goal is always to highlight fantastic blogs for those who might not be familiar with them yet.

Thank you all for sharing and making the blogosphere a welcoming place to be!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Romance in Art

We all appreciate art. Yes, we do. Even those who refuse to put a picture on their wall appreciate it. Isn't a blank wall a work of art? Unadorned, clean and ready for anything?

I include a photo in every blog post because I love to search and find visual representation of my words. Thankfully, there are plenty of photographers who share their gifts on Flickr, and who graciously allow others to use the photos. One thing I'm amazed at is the variety that pops up when I type in a search word. Talk about creative tags! Any number of pictures might display under "romance," including sandal-clad feet, dolphins, architecture, candles, and couples holding hands.

What about other forms of art, though? Do you every stroll through an art museum and detect the gentle curve of a dancer in a beautiful vase? Or stare at a painting and note the gleam in a Duchess's eye? It's clear she has the hots for the painter, right? Some paintings ooze romance and danger--check out this mini-site from the Louvre on Titian, Tintoretto, and Veronese. Others convey the sweet, heady desire of romance like Jack Vettriano's The Singing Butler.

Inspiration for romance lurks in landscapes, still-lifes, pottery, carvings, photographs, drawings, glasswork, you name it.

Do you have a favorite work of art? Is there anything romantic about it?

Join me on Friday for Awards, Awards, Awards!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Romance Lurks in the Arts

Romance abounds in the arts. We've been discussing it's role in fiction, but romance resides in poetry, music, dance, sculpture and any other art form imaginable.

Do you write poetry? Have you ever attempted to write a poem?

I'm not a poet, nor do I make reading poetry a habit, but I do appreciate it. It's a fascinating art form. From Haiku, to sonnets, to free-form poetry, there are countless ways to express emotions. Even the structure of a poem can be romantic, the way each line falls off the tongue.

Read the passionate, moody poem "I Cannot Live Without You" by Emily Dickinson. It doesn't convey flowery attraction; it bursts with deep need.

I came across this little beauty when I typed Poetry and Love into a search engine. "Dance Romance Enhance Depants."

Do I know exactly what it means? No. But it evokes modern day romance--not my cup of tea, thank you--but for many, dancing and de-pantsing is romance. See why we need Emily Dickinson and other love poets?

Speaking of dance, what could be more romantic than ballroom dancing? Or watching a graceful ballet? Or staying at home, cranking on the radio and forcing--ahem, requesting--your husband/boyfriend/wife/girlfriend to dance with you? Music, dance, and romance go together.

I couldn't even begin to tackle romance in music. Think of all the love songs. My goodness, I sing them every day! And no matter how many times I've heard a particular song, it still stirs me. Powerful.

Do you have a favorite poem? Favorite love song? I'm broadening my horizons, so I'd love to check them out.

Join me on Wednesday when we'll look at romance in art.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Touch of Romance

This week we discussed the differences between the romance genre and genres with romantic elements. Even if it isn't the main event, romance can be a great addition to a book.

Love's dilemmas bring another area of conflict, of emotion, and of showing off your characters' heroic and not-so-heroic qualities.

Romance is dramatic. The road to love is bumpy, rough. Who hasn't cried over love? Readers can relate to a touch of romance.

If your protagonist feels one-dimensional, try adding a love interest. The key to any romance or romance element, is to not make it easy for the characters. No one wants to read about the perfect first date, the perfect second date, the perfect declaration of love, and then the perfect engagement. They want to read about what's keeping them apart. They want to hop on the crazy emotional roller-coaster called love, so don't let them down!

On Wednesday, we looked at an example of a suspense with romantic elements. It featured Jack, a man desperate to save his sister by dismantling a bomb, who falls in love with Mary along the way. Let's take the romantic element, Mary, out of the book. It's now a suspense with Jack dismantling a bomb and saving his sister, but Jack's coming off as too...something. Let's brainstorm how adding a minor character as a love interest for Jack--let's call her Sheila--can add tension, conflict, and human traits to the story.

Here are some possibilities. Notice how each can add tremendous conflict and tension, while revealing Jack's human traits and vulnerable spots.

- Could Sheila be a dead ringer for Jack's ex-girlfriend? Conflict: he hates his ex-girlfriend because she broke his heart. She claimed he loved his family more than her. And now here's Sheila, reminding him of his past and his devotion to his sister, bringing the situation to a head.

- Could Sheila be his boss's daughter? He wants to protect her, but he also wants to keep her at a safe distance, or his job might be on the line.

- Could Sheila be his sister's nemesis? He's not sure he can trust her, but she's the only one who can help.

There's a million and one ways to add tension and conflict.

Here are a few scenarios that won't help your book.

- Sheila is everything Jack ever wanted in a woman. She matches his ideal. He feels nothing but excitement and adoration for her. He's thrilled she's working by his side to find the bomb.

Sounds good, right? Wrong. This makes for a boring read. She can be everything he wants and match his ideal. He can even feel the excitement and adoration for her. But he'd better want her as far away from danger as possible, or there's no reason to bring her in the picture.

- Sheila helps Jack find the bomb in an hour. When Jack tells her he can take it from here, and that he'll call her later, she meekly nods and trots off to wait by the phone.

Again, not adding any conflict. Sheila cannot meekly go home and wait by the phone. This is not the type of woman a guy like Jack needs. She'd better fight him, bring more danger his way, or pretend to sit meekly at home while instead working behind his back to help, or the reader is going to yawn.

What do you think? Do you add romance to your novels? Why? To add tension? To bring more conflict to your character? To show the areas your characters are vulnerable and need to grow?

Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Romance as a Sub-Genre

This week we're looking at romance in fiction. On Monday, we reviewed the romance genre. Today, we'll look at romance as a sub-genre.

You may have heard the term "with romantic elements." This term is tacked onto a genre to let an agent or editor know the book has a strong romantic theme but isn't a romance.

Many writers have a hard time determining the genre of their books. If you're struggling with this issue, here are a few questions to ask:

- Is the main plot about two people falling in love?
- Are the romantic characters the main characters? Do they share most scenes?
- Is the romance journey throughout the book or is it only in a few chapters?
- What is the main purpose of this book?

Let's look at a scenario.

Jack has to find and dismantle a bomb or his sister will die. He meets Mary, who he's attracted to, and she helps him locate the bomb. She leaves, and he spends several chapters fighting bad guys and trying to save his sister. Mary shows up again, and they realize they love each other. Jack then dismantles the bomb, thwarts the bad guys, and saves his sister.

This clearly is a suspense and could even be a romantic suspense. However, since Jack and Mary don't spend the majority of the book together, and the main plot from beginning to end is Jack saving the day, this book cannot be classified as a romantic suspense. It is a suspense with romantic elements.

For this book to be a romantic suspense, Jack and Mary would need to meet in the opening chapters, be in close contact throughout the book, and be dealing with their inconvenient attraction while solving the bomb issue. They would not declare their love for each other until the case was solved. The suspense would be secondary, but that doesn't mean it would be less suspenseful. I've read many thrilling romantic suspenses that have not skimped on the suspense for the romance's sake.

It's important to correctly name the genre you write when querying, because agents and editors will expect the main plot to be a ROMANCE if you call it a romantic suspense, but they will expect the main plot to be a SUSPENSE if you call it a suspense with romantic elements. Clearly defining your genre could mean the difference between getting a request or getting a rejection.

Join me on Friday when we'll discuss how adding romance in any amount can help your book.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Romance Genre

Romance. Romantic Suspense. Historical Romance. Inspirational Romance. Paranormal Romance. Contemporary Romance. The list goes on and on. All of these genres have one thing in common--romance.

I have no idea how many genres of fiction there are, and it seems as if new genres pop up often. However, I do know that romance novels are still wildly popular, and I predict they always will be. But maybe you're not familiar with romance. Sure, some of the books you've read have been romantic, but have they been romance novels?

When a book's genre features romance as a primary tag, you can bet on one thing: the book is about two people falling in love. Their love is the primary objective.

In a romantic suspense, two people fall in love in dangerous circumstances. In a historical romance, two people fall in love in a past time period. In an inspirational romance, two people fall in love and grow spiritually. In a paranormal romance, two people--or creatures--fall in love in a paranormal setting. In a contemporary romance, two people fall in love in modern times. The key is that the main story is about two people falling in love.

If you're at all confused about the genre of your book or a book you've read, study the plot. Romances start and end with the romantic journey. The hero and heroine meet relatively quickly in the book, and the last thread that's wrapped up is their romantic dilemma. Also, the couple will share most scenes.

If the plot begins and ends with anything other than the love journey, the book most likely is not a romance but contains romantic elements. It's important to have a good grasp on the difference between the two when querying agents and editors.

Do you read romance novels? What draws you to them? If you don't, what turns you off about them?

Join me on Wednesday when we'll look at romance as a sub-genre.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Romance is Exclusive

Today we’re talking about another vital component to romance: it’s exclusive. Romance is inclusive in that it is between two people, but it is exclusive to all others. I don’t believe romance was meant to be shared between more than two people. You may disagree, but I don’t believe it is healthy when more are in the picture.

There are many dualities in the universe. Night and day. Good and evil. Sleep and awake. Male and female. Wouldn’t it be strange if there was another option besides male and female? It would bring a whole new level to planning for a baby, that’s for sure!

With romance, no more than two people are needed. In fact, it’s often disastrous when a third is brought into the mix. How many husbands have killed another man because of an affair? They don’t call them crimes of passion for nothing.

Romance and love require trust. How can I feel unique and special if my mate views another person with the same intensity? I don’t even believe it’s possible to feel the same intensity for two separate people. You will always be drawn to one over the other even if in time it changes.

In order for a romantic act to have impact, it assumes exclusivity. It tells the recipient “hey, you’re special.” I don’t think a woman would feel special if a man sent her and her best friend a dozen roses. I know I would not feel special; I would feel enraged.

Do you ever have a love triangle in your writing? How do you resolve it? Do you stay true to human nature and give your characters consequences for not respecting the feelings of others? Or does the main character get to have her cake and eat it too?

Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Romance Requires Belief

This week we’re discussing the necessary components for romance. Today we’ll explore how believing in your worthiness is essential to romance.

Romance requires belief: belief that we are special because it is reflected in our loved one’s eyes. There is something unique about us that the other person is attracted to.

One of the great obstacles to love, and if I’m completely honest, life, is the lack of belief in our worthiness. Someone shows interest, and we scoff that it’s because he just broke up with someone, is desperate, or because we finally lost ten pounds. Or maybe we have no problem finding someone physically interested in us, but we get the impression he's smitten with the outside, not our essence.

What makes love romantic is that the person is attracted to who we are. It has little to do with our appearance or life circumstances.

Romance requires the ability and willingness to see ourselves as special through someone else’s eyes. It’s a heady feeling, a scary feeling, and a feeling we want to lock up and hold onto forever. If we decide to pursue the feelings of attraction, we have to trust the other person, and that means trusting their attraction to us.

Do your characters, whether you write romance or not, ever doubt their worthiness? There are many ways to have them overcome this. They can solve a mystery or save the world, but they can also choose to love and be loved.

Join me on Friday when we’ll delve into the exclusivity of romance.

Monday, February 1, 2010

February: Ah, Romance

February makes me swoon. Roses, hearts, and chocolates abound in the stores, and I love all three. Little holidays like Valentine’s Day do much to relieve the tedium of winter with its gray skies and frigid temps. This month we’re focusing on romance: what it is, how it can perk up a book in any genre, and the romance every writer feels with her own writing.

Flowers in Candlelight
Photo by smoorenburg

As many of you know, I write romance novels. I’ve been reading them since I bought my first Harlequin romance at a flea market when I was thirteen. Let me tell you, I was hooked! I still love Harlequins, that’s why I write category romances.

When I started brainstorming possible posts for this month, I tried to narrow down what romance consists of. The list could have become quite lengthy, but to me, three things stood out.

1. Romance equals generosity.
2. Romance requires a person to see herself as worthy of love when reflected in the other’s eyes.
3. Romance is inclusive and exclusive: it includes one other person but excludes all others.

Romantic acts are generous. Whether you’re in the first date stage or have been married for fifty years, you think about your loved one and want to do something nice for them. Generosity does not always equal spending money. Two dozen long stem roses are romantic, but so is a warm hug on a Monday night after your spouse had a bad day.

What makes the act generous is that you want to make your loved one feel good. You want them to know how much you care. You want them to know that you care for them in a way you don’t care for anyone else. Sure, you might give your niece a hug, or you might give your best friend a box of chocolates, and you’re giving it to them to make them feel cared for, but there’s an extra level of intensity to a gift you give to your romantic partner. They know it. You know it. And it’s magical.

Do your characters act generously? Are they in a romantic relationship? Do you feel a romantic gesture is a generous act? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Join me on Wednesday when we’ll explore number two on the above list.