Monday, May 30, 2011

Tag Team Writing

Posted by: Rayna Vause

Many writers have critique partners. We often try out many potential partners before finding the right fit. Sooner or later we find that person or people with complementary skill sets, who encourage us, but also let us know when we’ve gone in the wrong direction with a story. Still, at the end of the day the story we write is our own original creation.

My coming release from Carina Press, Amazon Heat, is actually a product of a partnership between Melinda Leigh and I. It started as a whim, a random brainstorming during the ride to our writing group’s monthly meeting. We had so much fun plotting out the story that we decided to put the idea to paper.  Still, neither of us had ever written with a partner. We had no idea if we could successfully blend our styles and voices so that the final product would be a seamless conglomerate of the two. I’d always wondered how writing teams did it? Do the partners trade off scenes? Does one partner write from the hero’s point of the view the other the heroines? Every team has their own unique writing process. When people learn that I write as part of a team, I'm often asked how we do it. So,  I thought I’d share a little bit of collaborative process. 

We start by creating a detailed outline jotting down all of the scenes that we think will be needed. Once we have that we dive in, writing tag team so to speak, alternating scenes as we go. We’re both fairly laid back people. Neither one of us is married to the words on the page, which is a good thing. You’re never going to get anywhere if you’re so in love with every word you write that you won’t let anyone change it. If the story starts to diverge from the path that we’ve set up, we’ll discuss it. In the end we usually come up with something even stronger.

Once we make a bit of progress, we’ll go back and make some editorial passes even as we continue to progress forward. Stylistically, Melinda and I are very different writers. However, those differences complement each other. It's very cool to reread a scene I’ve written after she’s taken a pass at it. I’m a layer writer. My first drafts are very skeletal, so I enjoy seeing what meat she’s added. Conversely, when I go through I’ll focus on punching up the paranormal or romantic elements of the story.  We’ll tweak until we both agree that it’s finished. Then out the door it goes. 

It’s been a great experience having another writer as immersed in a story as I am. We’ve learned from each other and had a lot of fun in the process.

That's just a brief glimpse into our writing world. Now tell, me have you ever tried writing with a partner? If so what was your process? If not have you ever considered it?

I hope everyone has a safe and happy Memorial Day!

~Rayna Vause

Friday, May 27, 2011

Paranormal Inspiration

Posted by: Melinda Leigh

When I sat down to write my first paranormal story, my sources of inspiration came from some very strange places. History and science, even some odd facts from those theology classes I took in college an eon ago popped back into my head. Yes, that’s right. My supernatural world has strong roots in the real one.
You see, I am a nerd. A total and complete geek with a capital “G.” I love to plunk down in front of the big screen TV with a huge bowl of popcorn to watch…
The Smithsonian Channel.
Or National Geographic or The History Channel. You get the idea. An entire hour on the Saxon invasion of Britain? I got goose bumps thinking about it. A special on the building of the pyramids? I’m setting my DVR to record as soon as I finish writing this post.
I know I’m weird because my teenagers inform me of this on a regular basis, right after they whine long enough that I gather my popcorn and retreat to my bedroom to find out how the Mayans built Chichen Itza. But those documentaries on NatGeo about the Amazon Rainforest come in darned handy when my writing partner and I are working on the Amazon Heat series. Did you know Amerindians used the toxic secretions of dart frogs to poison the tips of blow darts? I did, and you can look for that fun fact to appear in story number two. And I’ll admit it right here, my werewolves in my last WIP share some behaviors with Cesar’s pack. Obviously, I’ve watched too many episodes of The Dog Whisperer, but we all have our guilty pleasures.
Let’s not forget all the fabulous mythology that was an integral part of many ancient civilizations. A show on ancient Greece wouldn’t be complete without a good dose of Greek mythology. Paranormal stories aren’t anything new. Tales of monsters, gods, demons, and other supernatural beings date back to the very start of mankind.
I think the best fantasy uses elements of reality to make the paranormal world feel authentic and to pull the reader in. What do you think?
Melinda Leigh

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

You're Gonna Luuurve It!

Posted by: Nadia Lee
Dragon BoundRecently I've been seeing glowing reviews of Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison everywhere. Even several of my friends whose taste I trust said I should get it because I'd luuurve it.

So of course I bought a copy, and BookDepository delivered it last week.

But I haven't started reading it yet.

I'm somewhat scared that my expectations for the book may be too high, and I'll end up disappointed no matter how awesome the story is. (My BFF is calling me chicken over this right now lol)

Have you read Dragon Bound? What do you think?

Also have you ever been disappointed by a book that was hyped by everyone?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The One Word Every Writer Should Know

Posted by: Amanda

As writers I think most of us agonize over word choice.  We’re constantly looking for the best word, the most succinct phrase.  Of course we look to add our personal touches, turn our dialogue and narrative into something that lives and breathes on the page.  But at the end of the day, I think most of us work to make the delivery of our story as clean as possible.  One would think that this would carry over into everyday life, that writers would find it easy to be clean, concise and direct as we interact with the people that thread through our daily lives.  As it turns out, this is just not the case.  There is one word, one tiny syllable that every writer should both know and use.  As writers we should be able to say no.  And yet, for whatever reason this seems to be an ongoing and sometimes agonizing issue for those who write.

I’ve blogged previously about how writing is both difficult and at the end of the day rewarding.  I’ve also written about how writing, for me, is a lot like going to the gym.  I’ve said on numerous occasions that once I’m in the habit of working out my writing muscles things tend to flow more smoothly.  I can accomplish more in a shorter period.  But there is another similarity between writing and working out.  Often it feels like the entire world – including myself – is conspiring to prevent me from getting things done.  And I have to learn to stay on track, make time, and yes, I need to be better about saying no.

As writers we face a difficult set of circumstances.  The truth is people who don’t write very often don’t understand people who do.  Perhaps it is different if the writer in question has attained a significant level of success (though I imagine that has its own issues.)  I don’t know a single writer who has never heard someone say something along the lines of ‘Can’t you do it later?’  To many non-writers, writing appears to be less than work.  I’ve been told numerous times that it’s a “hobby” or “just writing.”  To be fair, I don’t believe that any of the people who’ve said these things mean them maliciously.  But the fact remains that if I say, “I’m sorry, I can’t do_________, I have to work overtime” then I get sympathy, murmurings of “you work too much” and a couple of “rain checks” or “maybe next times”.  But take the exact same situation and insert writing in place of my day job and it is the rare occasion that the responses are the same.  Usually there is pleading, negotiating, scoffing, and the occasional accusation of avoidance.

The truth is that the daily life of a writer is riddled with issues like this.  Husbands want to spend time with their wives (and vice-versa), kids need, well whatever it is kids need.  (I confess that neither of these pose issues for me, though I know many writers who have to deal with both.)  Friends want to hang out, day jobs get in the way (I know I sometimes feel guilty for not working more as there is always more work to do.)  And often, so very often, writing comes down to a choice.  I can write or I can work out.  I can write or I can go to happy hour.  I can write or I can date.  The list goes on and on and on.  And unfortunately, this choice is very often not understood or even perceived by those in our lives who don’t write.

As writers we’ve got to master the ability to say no.  No, writing isn’t a hobby.  No, I can’t watch your kids.  No, I can’t go to that movie with you today.  And most importantly, we have to learn how to say no to ourselves.  We’ve got to be better about ignoring our inner voices, the ones that try to play devil’s advocate, the ones that whisper “you can write tomorrow” or  “it’ll only be for an hour” or “I’m a bad friend/mother/husband/father/wife if I take these few hours to write.”  Because at the end of the day, it is a far easier thing to retrain ourselves, to value our careers and ambitions, than it is to educate those around us.  Writing is intensive, deeply personal, and very hard work.  And unfortunately, most non-writers simply don’t have the experience or perspective to appreciate that.  So it is left to us to learn the one word every writer should know.  No excuses.  No justifications.  Just…


About the Author:
Amanda was born and raised in Texas - and due to an unfortunate three year stint in Michigan - doesn't plan to ever live anywhere where flip-flops and sweatshirts don't constitute winter attire. Often audacious and adventurous, she tends to find herself in a slew of dangerous (and hilarious!) predicaments  (law school and fighting raccoons in dumpsters) and thankfully has many friends ready to lend aid (while they laugh.)

When not lawyering, writing, or thinking about going to the gym Amanda is often caught sampling local cupcake offerings and planning to someday co-open an evil bakery and sell dastardly desserts. She currently lives in Dallas, Texas with one regular-sized cat and one jumbo-sized cat, and can be seen writing in public places frequented by hot guys (strictly for research purposes, of course!) with her friends and fellow writers Killer-Cupcake and Pantherista (names omitted to protect the not-so-innocent).

As a part of my Month of May Giveaway!  I'm offering up a 20$ Amazon (or Barnes and Noble) gift card to someone who leaves a comment with their e-mail address on any of the blogs I visit this month.  Everyone who "likes" my facebook page will also be entered in the drawing.  I will announce where I'm blogging on Twitter and Facebook.  Contest ends at midnight May 31st CST.  The winner will be announced on June 3rd.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Visiting Scotland

Posted by: Nicole North
I'll be headed to magical, mystical Scotland this week and I wanted to share pics of some of the places I hope to visit!

Have you been to any of these places and can you name some (or all) of them?

"Simply sizzling, this is one tale that fairly burns off the pages! This book was magical both in the story and in the spicy scenes. Author Nicole North has captured the mythology of the Fae and tied them into the heart of Scotland. Throw in a whole lotta lust, and this book is sure to light a fire in the mind of any reader." Fresh Fiction
Read First Chapter


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Things that go bump in the night...on tv

Posted by: Loribelle Hunt
I have to have background noise when I work. (Maybe it's because I have 3 kids, and as much as I need school hours to get work done, I'm just used to my house being loud!) I always make a play list for my current WIP, so usually my background noise is music. Every now and then though, I go on a television series kick. (Hello, Netflix! My favorite daytime companion!) I like quirky, scary, and just plain weird, but there are a few I'll admit I watch over and over again.

1. Supernatural--Sam and Dean. Does anything else really need to be said?
2. Dark Angel--There was so much cool about this show. Set in a future depression, genetic experiments...Logan!
3. Farscape--Aliens! And John Crichton! And a cool romance arc that wasn't hurried or held back.
4. Torchwood--Ah, more aliens. I have a weakness. For eye candy too, obviously. Hello, Captain Jack!
5. X Files--Strange and sometimes creepy, with 2 cool FBI agents who play off each so well. Plus, Mulder isn't hard to look at. ;)

Ok, DA doesn't really fit the list unless I add Fringe, Eureka, and The Pretender, but I was trying to keep it short! My list would be 20 long if I kept going. What about y'all? Do you need background noise to work? What's your favorite unusual television show?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Surprises in Life and the Gift of Moms

Posted by: Shannon
Whoops I almost forgot to blog today. Kind of hard to believe since I’ve been considering what to blog about all week long. I considered several different witty options but instead settled on a Mother’s Day post in honor of my Mom.

Yep she rocks and I just have to share that fact with the world. Knowing just how awesome my mom is isn’t new to me at all. Part of me strives to be her when I grow up. (Too late I suppose but I can dream, right?)

Just to give the most recent example of life with my mom… we are now chicken farmers. It all started out innocent enough with the usual trip to the feed store for cat, dog and bird food. And of course right there chirping away are the last of the spring chicks, all marked down to a ridiculous price. So I laughingly call mom and ask if she was serious about wanting some hens. She says no. I’m thinking that’s smart but just can’t help seeing how cute the little balls of fluff are. So I tell her the ridiculous price.

She says, “get them”. And so the adventure begins. And by adventure I mean, much research about chicken rearing, more than a little reminiscing over having chickens as kids, and some intensive labor converting an unused horse barn into a chicken home. Looks like the new chickens will be living at my house leaving the “fun” all for me. Mom lives next door but I’m guessing she won’t be gathering eggs, feeding or cleaning the coop. Even if life threw a new chore into the daily grind, a I won’t regret a second of it. Mom always thinks up ways to keep our lives interesting.

Way to go Mom!

In case you were wondering some of the other considered or in some cases immediately discarded blog ideas included
1. Benefits of Chocolate on the Female Psyche.
2. The Joy of Marrying a Sexologist.
3. Mother-F**king. (suggested by said sexologist in honor of mother’s day)
4. Why Fictional Romance is Better than Marrying a Sexologist… (kidding)
5. Chickens and Paranormal Romance
6. The Dangers of Hammers vs Benefits of a Sexy Handyman

I hope May 8th is a happy day for all those special moms out there.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The writer's voice--more than just style and prose

Posted by: Evey Brett

So. . . what do you think of when you think of Voice? Prose? Style of writing? That’s what I took for granted it was, until I went out to visit my friend and fellow M/M writer, Jessica Freely, and we had several good writing discussions including one about voice. See, I was worrying about how I kept using the same themes in my books, and Jessica told me about a presentation about voice at a convention she went to, which basically boiled down to: Voice is what’s important to you and what you have to say about it.

This is also an extension of Write What You Know. It doesn’t just mean that, say, I have nine Lipizzans in my backyard and therefore I know about horses and will write stories involving horses. It’s more about the reasons the horses are there. In Demon’s Due, out August 8th, the horses are there for spiritual and physical support, not just because I wanted one of the main characters to be a rider or set the story at a ranch. What I know about horses isn’t merely the names for the tack and how its used, but what it means to be with my horse Carrma, how she makes me feel better if I’ve had a bad day or gives me that look (see picture) to guilt me into taking her for a walk or giving her a treat. I know the connection that’s deeper than any I’ve had with any other animal. The human/horse relationship is fascinating and important to me, so I write about it. Though, my perspective on it is different than my housemate's, and my riding teacher's, someone who rides once a month, someone who's ridden once but fallen off, and someone who's never ridden. This is my viewpoint on that relationship, and therefore, my voice.

It’s a deeper sort of knowing than, “I lived in San Diego, the streets go XYZ, Sea World is laid out like this…” It’s what San Diego means to me. I love San Diego. I loved my apartment there. That’s why I put it in the Demon books; I wanted to show everyone else how beautiful the landscape is and how much I loved certain locations—Torrey Pines Reserve and Cabrillo National Monument in particular. (This is me at Cabrillo.)

Me on a rock

There are also other elements I know and that are important to me, which are the recurring themes in my stories: psychologically broken characters, characters trapped and manipulated by others, older/wiser mentor figures, evil doctors/healers, and my characters are nearly always psychic or telepathic. The stories are largely the same; character overcomes traumatic past and finds his true self with the help of his new lover. I won’t give you the details on why I write those things specifically, but there are reasons which took me a long time to figure out. Sometimes we don't know why we write what we do--it just happens.

So you can probably tell from the above list my stories are dark and not for everybody. I can’t help what I write. Demon’s Due is going into the horror category and so will Demon’s Dawn, which is out in October. My voice is dark. Maybe after I find Ms. Right my voice will change to something lighter and I’ll finally be able to write romance because I'll know what romance is and it'll be important.

Until then…this is my voice, and I’m sticking to it. Now tell me about yours. What themes keep appearing in your stories? What's your voice?

Evey Brett

Demon's Dance

Demon's Due, 8/06/11

Demon's Dawn 10/17/11

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Morning After

Posted by: Keri Stevens
Most romance novels end at the beginning: The main characters commit to each other, guaranteeing a Happy Ever After (HEA). We might accept a Happy For Now (HFN) in erotic romance and erotica. This only true "rule" of romantic fiction is that the main parties involved end up happy and together.

A few writers and readers will quibble over the "together" part. Is it possible, for example, to kill off the hero in a noble sacrifice at the end of the book (especially if he's already knocked up the heroine a la COLD MOUNTAIN)? Some say yes, but most (including many of those hero-killing authors) will assert that this choice puts the book outside the boundaries of "romance."

We romance readers want to believe that after the party's over, the love continues unabated and problem-free. We read series and related novels not just because we want a new romance, but we want reassurance that all is still well among the titans of Susan Elizabeth Phillips's Heaven, Texas. We want to see babies and new homes and flourishing businesses and convivial gatherings that further reward our favorite heroes and heroines for the hardships they endured in their own books.

Duke William and Duchess Kate fed into our fantasies this week. Romance writers around the globe saved the PDF of their wedding program into our research files. We scribbled notes as we watched the parade of hats before dawn. These two living, breathing kids (I know, I know. But I'm a hella lot older than they, and I watched him grow up. No matter how much hair he loses, he'll always be a boy to me) have the weight of managing their own HEA both in real life and as fictional characters.

Yup. Wills and Kate are fictional characters. They're cultural constructs and national symbols. They're never to be constipated, never to be dishonorable, never to fail each other and, more importantly, never to fail us.

Otherwise, they'll find themselves facing the Wrath of the Romance Author. Since the 1990s, thousands of books have been written in which Camilla did NOT get her man. Diana has survived and morphed into someone stronger, wiser and able to catch a bullet in her teeth. The handsome prince has been shown to be a hollow shell, and new heroes have arisen with fangs and claws and powers that mere mortal royals simply can't compete with.

Poor Kate and William. We're rooting for you. Honestly we are. We want to see regal dignity, genuine warmth, eternal fidelity and all of the rewards we promise the characters we create.

But we write modern romances now. The obstacles of your parents' generation (and ours) can be overcome by technology, prayer, good sex, marriage counseling and drinking blood. You have no excuses for hurting each other from this day forward. If you do, writers around the globe will pull out our styluses and give you what you deserve.

And...being optimists, we'll pin our hopes yet again on the next generation.
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