Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Here Be Romance?

Posted by: Jane Kindred
I've never thought of myself as a romance writer (well, not since high school, when my dream was to become the next Victoria Holt...look her up, ya little whippersnappers); I consider myself a fantasy writer. But somehow my books have landed with publishers who specialize in romance. I worry I'm somehow misrepresenting myself.

It's not that there isn't any romance in my books, it's just that the romance doesn't drive the plot of the story. As for an HEA ("happily ever after," a requirement in most romance), well, it depends on your definition of "happily." My characters are generally happy with their choices, and they don't usually end up alone, but the relationships certainly wouldn't be covered by the Defense of Marriage Act. (Side note: I always hear that in my head as "Defensive Marriage Act." Makes a lot more sense that way, if you ask me.)

The funny thing is, I spent many years agonizing over the fact that there was too much romance in my fantasy. Back when I started writing fantasy (yes, it was the Stone Age; thanks for noticing), the bastard child of speculative fiction—itself the bastard child of genre fiction—looked down upon the redheaded stepchild of romance, and frequently beat it up for the heck of it and stole its lunch money. Paranormal romance and urban fantasy didn't even exist then. (I said it was the Stone Age, whippersnappers. Stop rubbing it in.)

But while I was busy trying to make my epic fantasy acceptable to the keepers of the status quo, writers like Lynn Flewelling and Jacqueline Carey came along and told the establishment to suck rocks. (I'm sure there are other, earlier examples, but these are the ones I noticed and fell head over heels for.) They wrote the stories they wanted to tell, and romance happened to be a part of it.

So now I'm working on revisions to the final installment of the first trilogy in my House of Arkhangel'sk series, and I'm having a fight with the heroine. Seems I was so successful at suppressing her romantic leanings to fit the traditional mold that a scene that should have been the romantic climax is utterly devoid of passion. I think I've stumbled upon the solution, though. I had the love interest slap her when she finally confessed her feelings. That woke her up. ;)

I know I'm pretty much asking for an "amen" from the choir here, but how do you feel about romance in your fantasy? Is it "You got your romance in my fantasy!", "You got your fantasy in my romance!", or is it an awesome tasty flavor combination you can't believe somebody didn't think of before?

Jane
www.janekindred.com

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Temple of Doom

Posted by: Eleri Stone
I love the Indiana Jones movies. Adventure. Romance. Larger than life heroes and villains. Exotic settings and outlandish plots.

Of course, Harrison Ford doesn’t hurt either.

There’s nothing subtle about the movies. They promise a wild ride and deliver every time. I think their biggest strength is that they never forget what they are—action adventure—and so they never feel watered down. Everything feeds into building this one cocky but fallible character that we fall in love with, that we’ll follow into hell and can root for all the way.

I had a lot of fun playing with my own temple of doom in my upcoming release, Redemption. In my story, the heroine, Sophie, is an archaeologist, passionate about her work and close to uncovering the secrets of a lost civilization.

Adriano is after the same artifact but plans to use it for his own personal gain. He’s a jaguar shapeshifter and technically the artifact belongs to his people, the Yaguara.

Both are smart, driven and undeniably attracted to one another. Both are hiding secret scars.

And they’re not the only ones searching for lost treasure.

Redemption is scheduled for a September 26 release. I hope you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Any Indy fans out there? Or other movies or series that have inspired you?

-Eleri Stone

Monday, August 15, 2011

When in Doubt, Act It Out

Posted by: Rayna Vause
There is nothing I love more then writing a good action scene. Those fast paced scenes keep the fingers flying over the keyboard. One of the big things I think writers need to keep track of when writing an action sequence is the positioning of the characters bodies. Let me give you an example.

I was editing a fight in one of my WIPs. In this scene, one of my heroes (I write both M/M and M/F romance) is  grappling with a crazed attacker. As I reread what I’d written, I realized that one of the moves I had my hero performing wasn’t physically possible based upon his position.  It’s kind of hard to knee someone in the groin if they're sitting on your chest. Realizing my error, I wracked my brain for an escape maneuver my hero could use to get away from his assailant. I was about to completely rewrite that part of the action when the light bulb went on. During a women's self defense class I attended they'd demonstrated a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu sweep. These are moves that are designed to uses body weight and leverage to help you reverse positions with your attacker and gain the advantage. Since I hadn't yet been taught how to perform the maneuver, I was having a bit of difficulty bringing it to life on the page. Sure, I could just call it a sweep, but unless the reader was familiar with the move it wouldn't mean anything . Plus, that does nothing to put your reader into the moment. So I turned to my writing partner, Melinda Leigh, for help. She's taken BJJ classes and teaches women's self defense and is very familiar with the move. Still, no matter how clearly she described it,  I just couldn’t visualize the motion. One of the upsides of having black belts as friends is that they will happily throw you around on the karate mat and let you do the same. That's just what we did. The next time we got together at the karate studio for class we took a few moments so that I could actually perform the sweep.

Performing the move as both attacker and victim proved to be a huge help in the writing process.  It enabled me to accurately describe how my hero's felt being pinned and gave me a clearer image of his range of motion in terms of fighting back. I also knew how he felt to successfully perform the sweep and and turn the table on his attacker. Melinda and I  tried variations of the sweep giving me other options to use when appropriate. By the time we finished our practice session I knew exactly how my hero and villain would move through this section of the scene.  I could then write a fight scene that flowed smoothly and made physical sense.

More than fights can benefit from acting out the scene.  Anything that involves a complicated series of movements, especially of more then one person, can benefit from having those steps rehearsed before they are put on paper (or computer screen).  Another type of scene that comes to mind are love scenes. (Minds out of the gutter and no laughing.) How many times have you read a love scene and couldn’t wrap your mind around the description on the page.  I can think of a few occasions where I’ve been pulled out of a story because I got sidetracked trying to figure out if it was anatomically possible to bend as the author had just described.

So when in doubt, act it out. We want our readers turning the pages of our novels not diagramming our characters movements. Has anyone else ever done this or am I the only crazy one?

~Rayna Vause





Friday, August 12, 2011

My Dark Side

Posted by: Melinda Leigh

I read all genres. I love humorous mysteries and steamy paranormals. But when I settle down to write, my imagination goes to a dark and scary place.

Why?

Honestly, I have no idea. My life is pleasant. In movies, I prefer comedies over thrillers. My favorite horror films are ridiculous creature features. I love kids and dogs. I'm normal. (Not.)

Yet, I find violent murder scenes quite natural to write. What I couldn't watch in a movie plays out in my head in full color with zero squeamishness. In my first attempt at a paranormal romance, the werewolves ate everyone.

I'm not sure what that says about me. But if I'm ever accused of a vicious crime and the FBI takes the hard drive on my computer, I'll have so explaining to do. My bookshelves are stocked with texts on forensics and police procedure. Once I took my youngest to the pediatrician, and brought my current research volume along. I couldn't figure out why the woman on the other side of the waiting room kept staring at me. Duh, I was reading a book about poisons. (instructional, not medical) I've researched bombs and weapons, ammunition and decomposition, serial killers and sociopaths.

Is this disturbing? Probably. Fun? Definitely. Boring? Never.

Is there anything disturbing or unexpected in your imagination?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Why I love writing paranormal/fantasy

Posted by: Angie
I’ve been a reader of romance novels for as long as I can remember, but there has always been one niche within the genre that hooks me every time. I love, love, love to read fantasy and paranormal stories, which is probably why all of the stories I write end up spinning off into fantastic directions.

My debut book with Carina Press is "Cry Wolf," and while it’s been labeled a contemporary romance, there’s definitely a sprinkle of paranormal thrown in there for good measure. My heroine, Andrea Lockhart, is a feisty tabloid reporter sent to a rural town in South Carolina where the residents have been reporting sightings of a werewolf — not that she believes for a second that werewolves exist. But trouble has a way of finding Andrea, and no sooner does she set foot in the small town than trouble finds her in the form of Sean Hunter, her former college crush and journalism school nemesis. Not to mention, there is the fact that people are seeing something …

“Cry Wolf” releases Oct. 31, and I think it’ll make a fun Halloween read, if I do say so myself.

The book I’m writing now is 100 percent fantasy-paranormal, and I’m having more fun than a kitten in a cream factory coming up with my own mythology for it. So far I’ve got hunky shifters, fierce angels and a heroine who doesn’t know what she is yet all battling it out for attention in my head 24/7.

That got me to thinking about other fantasy-paranormal romance authors. Does everyone have this much fun with the genre as I do, or am I just plain nutso?
So I decided to ask my writing buddy, Pamela Hearon, author of “The Timestone Key” and “His Hotness.”

The following is our e-mail Q&A about the topic.

Q: Thanks for agreeing to be my guinea pig, er, I mean fantasy author for this blog, Pam. Can you give everyone who’s not familiar with it a quick synopsis of what your book, “The Timestone Key,” is about?


A: Thanks so much for having me here, Angela—under whatever guise you choose for me. I’m always excited to talk about The Timestone Key, my romantic Arthurian fantasy. Here’s a short blurb:
“Follow your heart” was the only instruction three-year-old Halley Winsted received when she unwittingly accepted the mysterious family legacy. At thirty-three, following her heart is difficult. Love and commitment don’t come easy, even in the arms of sexy Tom Rutledge. A trip to England alone is her chance to consider their relationship from a safe distance and indulge her obsession with the other man in her life, King Arthur. Little does she realize Arthur is more than an obsession; he is an integral part of her past, her present, and her future, and she is part of his. For the legends are true. Arthur is alive in Avalon but teetering on the brink of madness, unable to fulfill his role as The Chosen. Arthur is to lead the armies of Man against Mordred’s powers of Evil in the Last Days. In his present state, the hope of Mankind is lost. Only the legacy Halley bears can heal his mind. Others have tried and failed for generations, and now its Halley’s turn. She holds the key—the Timestone Key. Can she find the way to restore Arthur’s glorious destiny? And can she trust her heart to lead her to her own?

Q: Okay, I have to ask – how much fun was it to write scenes with Merlin?

A: Would it sound too corny to say it was a magical experience? I enjoyed writing Merlin perhaps more than any other character in the book. He was vivid in my mind from the first day of writing. I could see him, I could hear him telling the stories, and I wanted to capture his voice. So often he’s portrayed as a tottery old man , which isn’t how I see him at all. I wanted him vibrant and in his prime, but I also wanted him to be flawed and vulnerable—someone we can all relate to.

Q: Do you think it’s a good idea to do a lot of research or “just go with it” when you’re writing this kind of book? How much research did you do into the Arthur legend?

A: Like my heroine, I’ve been obsessed with the King Arthur legends since I was nine, so this book comes with a lifetime of research behind it. In fact, the idea for the story came to me during a vacation in England that I actually planned around visiting Arthurian sites from the legend. But parts of the legend always bothered me because they seemed unfair. So I “went with it”—rewriting the story the way I think things should have happened and maybe could have happened. I stayed true to the underlying themes of the original story, but I added my own twists to freshen it up for today’s readers.

Q: I also have a confession to make. I’ve been in love with the King Arthur legend since the 8th grade when, for a school project, I read that the Clan Campbells are believed to be descendents of the man the legend is based on. That means you could be chatting with the great-great-great-great-great-great granddaughter (or something) of Arthur. What do you think of that?

A: When I read this question, I was so intrigued by the information that I immediately went to Google the Clan Campbell/Arthur connection. I think you may have inspired another book! Just think about it—Arthur in a kilt swinging a Claymore named Excalibur. Doesn’t get much yummier than that.

Q: You’ve written different genres. Do you ever get so totally wrapped up in a story, especially when you’re writing fantasy, that you forget to feed your cat – or am I the only one?

A: I could never forget to feed my cat because she jumps onto my lap and lies on my keyboard when she wants my attention. I have gotten so totally wrapped up in my story that I forget to cook dinner, so my husband doesn’t get fed. Does that count? When a story is coming together for me, I’m extremely distracted and withdrawn. My husband used to ask if everything was okay when I got too quiet. Now he knows my process and just lets me be.

Q: Why do you think that is?

A: I’m not one to make a lot of notes or outlines. I carry a story in my head and let it percolate until I’m ready to write it down. But that process requires a whole lot of “thinking” time to make it work. So some of my best writing gets done when I’m mowing the lawn, weeding the garden, and even taking a shower—those rather mindless activities that don’t require too much of my attention and allow my imagination to run at full force. And plot holes? They inevitably get fixed while I sleep. I go to sleep worrying about them and wake up with the solution. Dare I say my process … (wait for it) … works like a dream?

Thanks, Pam, for chatting with me! Check out Pamela Hearon's website at www.pamelahearon.com. You can also check out my website at www.angelacampbellonline.com.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Magic & the Writer

Posted by: Susan Edwards
Susan Edwards ~ Myth, Magic & Wonder

When I first started writing historical romances, there wasn’t any magic or paranormal in my stories. After all, I wrote straight historicals. Right? Wrong! In keeping with Native American elements and beliefs, my hero’s mother had the gift of sight (White Wind Nov 2011). Okay, that was part of their world, this connection to the land, animals and spirits. In looking back, my second book also had this aspect and my third.... See a theme growing here?
In each book, I was pulling in more of the Native American spiritual/mythology into a non-paranormal world. Up to this point, I still hadn’t really considered those type of traits or gifts as magical or paranormal.

But a funny thing started to happen by the time I was writing my tenth and eleventh book. I was now ACTIVELY seeking more of the mystical elements to include in my world yet what I used still fit into the historical/Native American world. I was just using more of it, going deeper with it and expanding it. My books were immersed in paranormal and yep, might as well say it, magic! I was towing a fine line between Native American and Paranormal--and loving every minute of it for it was truly a creative process.

By the time I finished book eleven, I was hooked. I loved what I was doing within my boundaries and now I wanted to really write using paranormal and magic freely. I did so with book twelve, Summer of the Eagle (April 2012) which features a race of people who could DO cool things.

What changed from my early books? Well, the internet certainly opened more doors and with it, more possibilities! Then came the world of internet and the wealth of information at my fingertips! Suddenly I wasn’t just writing about characters in a historical setting but about the magic of living with an open mind to possibilities.

And possibilities is where I believe magic truly lies. The magic in my writing spilled over into my life as I discovered the magic that surrounds each of us, each day if we only open our eyes and mind.
Don’t believe me? Go for a walk and don’t just look at your neighbor’s houses or cars. Focus in on the beauty of the neighborhood trees, the flowers, the tiny blooms we seldom pay attention too. Lift your eyes as you walk to your car from the asphalt to the sky. Maybe you’ll see the faint shape of the moon looking down at you.
Spend a few moments gazing out your kitchen window. Can you see the birds perched on a tree or bush? How about that tiny hummingbird sitting on that very thin branch? What about the fact that we wake up to a new, bright day. Everyday. And that new day is filled with possibilities: a caring word, a child’s hug and kiss, a long awaited phone call (The Call)? So much is possible yet we seldom give it thought. The freedom to just be.

And if you are a writer, how about the magic of sitting down at your computer to write, doing something that we love (even if it is work at times). We create worlds that whether or not there is magic or paranormal elements, there certainly is magic. Connecting with even one reader in a meaningful way (even to just give that reader time away from the mundane world) is magic. And in the true style of connecting back to the Native American world that I love, I bring you back full circle: to your books and mine and the magic they contain.

So even if you do not write in the paranormal or magical genre, you have the chance to write magically. And if you are not a writer, you can live magically. Smile at a stranger, offer a few kind words. Who knows, you might bring magic into the lives of others. And you know what? It just keeps going. The magic we call life.

What’s magical about your life? Your writing? If you could do anything, be anything, write anything, what would it be, why and what is magical about it to you? Inquiring minds want to know <g>.

Coming November 2011, Carina Press (no new covers yet) look for White Dawn, White Dusk, White Shadows and White Wind. Check out my website at http://susanedwards.com for updated news and excerpts along with a member only area for my readers. You can also sign up for my newsletter. Note: New covers should be available for view during August!
Original White Covers

Monday, August 1, 2011

Pewter Casting and Magic Guns

Posted by: Shona Husk
Back in 2009 I decided to do a community education night class in pewter casting. Random, I know, but it sounded interesting and I’d never done metal work before. The previous semester I’d done a class in cloth doll making and while I love sewing I really wanted to try something different.

The instructor was fascinating explaining the technique while filling the gaps with snippets of history. I learned two important things that first class:
1-carving a mould out of cuttlefish isn’t as easy as it sounds.
2-people used to personalise their guns with pewter inlays.

By the time I left after that first night I was well into the ‘what if’ land of magic guns in a western style fantasy world. Looking back I can’t remember the rest of the interesting bits from the class, and I wish I’d taken notes, but I have two pewter angels…and a novel.

In Dark Vow (November 14) the heroine, Jaines, is an apprentice gun smith and she works on Bounty Hunter’s revolver sparking more trouble than she’d ever imagined.

Why my imagination locked onto that one idea I’ll never know, but I’m glad I followed inspiration down that strange path.

Out today!
The Summons: A Goblin King Prequel
Every fairy tale has to have some basis in fact, right? That's what Eliza thought as she made a desperate plea to the legendary Goblin King. If he could grant her wish, she'd finally be safe. He would protect her. But what would he ask in return...?
Enjoy this short free prequel and a sneak peek of The Goblin King, the first of a highly imaginative new paranormal series by Shona Husk.
Amazon
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