Friday, April 29, 2011

What If I Don't Like Her?

We spend a lot of time, in love stories, focusing on the hero. Is he cute enough? Strong enough? Sensitive enough? Funny enough? Charming enough? Etc., etc., etc.

It makes sense, because most of us -- whether single or married, content or yearning for something more -- want to put ourselves in the shoes of the lead female character, and live vicariously through her.

But what about the heroine herself? Don't we have to like her too?

Unfortunately, there have been quite a few books that I started . . . and eventually stopped reading because the heroine got on my Last. Damn. Nerve.

The hardest part of writing a story geared toward a female audience, can be writing a female character that the majority of readers WANT to spend more time with. For me, I have to either want to be her -- or at least be her friend -- for me to stick with the gal through thick & thin.

She has to be humble, without being weak.

Elizabeth Bennett -- Pride & Prejudice

 She has to be able to take care of herself, and still retain her femininity.

Guinevere -- King Arthur

And she has to be just as willing to rescue the hero as she is to let him rescue her.
Elizabeth Swann -- Pirates of the Caribbean
(Apparently, I have a bit of Keira Knightly fetish)

Bottom line -- It's not an easy job being the heroine. Not only does she have to make the hero fall in love with her . . . she has to make us (the reader) love her too.

What about you? Anything that a heroine has to do/be in order to keep you reading?  Anything that completely turns you off and causes you to close the book, never to return?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Real Life or Romance?

I used to believe in Fairy Tales. You know - the HEA types. My Fair Lady with Audrey Hepburn was my heroine of choice. My mom used to warn me that life wasn't like the fairy tales I loved but I never believed her.
Not after my heart was broken from too many boys with winning smiles and dangerous glints in their eyes. Not after my best friend married at age 18 and then divorced a year later. Not even after I experienced rape first hand.
Nothing would shake my belief that HEA is real.
When I met my husband, he proved it to me. My white knight who drove a hard core Mustang. It was love at first sight.
My Fairy Tale come true.
But we all know life gets in the way of love. And that's why we dive into the romance novels. Not for the hard core body action, not for the sighs of delights, the handsome Scots in their kilts, the Tall Dark & Handsome stranger who rescues the damsel in distress. Nope. We read it because of the ups and downs our heroines go through, the conflicts, the stupid choices made throughout the story.
Don't get me wrong. All that other stuff is CRUCIAL to enjoying the story! We need the naked bodies, the titillating heart throbs, the love at first sight. But deep down, I think we like to read a story when someone else's life is WORSE than ours. When the choices THEY make end up making our choices look 'not so bad after all'.
We lose ourselves in these stories because they take us away from our lives. They give us our fairytale when we feel like Cinderella before the ball.
That's my thought at least. What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Why do you read romance novels?

Better yet - why do you write them?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Soul Mates?

In romance, the ultimate ending is the heroine capturing the heart, and vice versa, of the hero—her soul mate. But does that elusive individual really exist? And how do you know if you’ve found him? It’s not like he has [Insert name here]’s Soul Mate tattooed on that sexy ass of his.
What if he exists but doesn’t live anywhere near you? Maybe he’s in another country or even another continent. Is there some divine intervention that will lead you to him? I mean, can you imagine if your soul mate is out there but you don’t know where he is? That would burn big time.
Now if fate would have it that you find your soul mate, what would happen if he dies before you? Does that mean you’ll never find love and happiness again? And if you do, and you all end up in heaven together, what happens now? You see where I’m going here? (I know the erotic romance writers’ minds are spinning with possibilities.)

And what about in paranormal novels? If one of the lovers is immortal and the other one is mortal, and they’re soul mates . . . well, what does that mean for the poor immortal individual? Man, that sure would suck if there was only one soul mate for him, wouldn’t it? Or maybe if you’re immortal, you get to have several soul mates scattered throughout the centuries.  And if not, well, you’d better come up with a way to turn your soul mate into an immortal too. I’m just saying, ya know.
Of course, there’s always the possibility of reincarnation. Great, if you’re a teenage immortal. Not so great if you’re much older. Now you’ve got an even longer wait ahead of you.
So what about you? Do you believe there is only one person out there for you? And do you believe you’ve found him (or her), or are you still searching?
(Okay, this post is what happens when Stina drinks too much caffeine.) ;)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mastering the Flashback

There's something about a flashback that always draws a writer in. We love to use them. Sometimes too much. New writers will become dependant on them while seasoned writers will realize their value and use them wisely.

But how do you write a successful flashback? They're not easy. If we're not careful, the flashback can do more harm than good in a story. They offer more problems than solutions. Why? Because they are events that have already happened. They take the reader out of the story - if not written correctly.

So how does one master the flashback? There are ways to keeping your flashback from destorying your story. Keep the flashback as brief as possible. Make sure you don't slow the action, bog the pacing or lose our readers interest. If the flashback must be long (longer than a paragraph), then transition into and out of in ways that are clear to your readers. Use signifiers that will help the transition for your readers - like a phone call, someone at the door, being shuffled in a crowd, coping a feel at a party ... you get the idea.

Verb tenses are crucial in flashbacks. If your story is being told in the past tense, then write the first few verbs of the flashback in the past perfect and the rest in simple past. For example use words like she knew, if she had to remember, she had thought ect. 

It's important not to confuse your readers, so Nancy Kress suggest that to signal the start of the flashback,  puts its first five verbs in past perfect ("had done," "had dressed," "had bought," "had come," "hadn't even seen"). After that, tell the rest of the flashback in past tense ("eyes were," "they passed," etc.). The reason for this is that an entire flashback in past perfect would be cumbersome, especially if it's very long.

Here the most important piece to remember: when you're ready to end the flashback, revert to past perfect for the last few verbs. Then use past tense to resume story time.

Have you mastered flashbacks in your novel? Did they cause problems for you? Do you find it easier to master your flashback during the revisions? Do you even think about them?

P.S. if you are wondering why Richard Armitage is in this post - its cause I can't stop staring into his eyes ;)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

It's The Little Things That Count

Yes, when it comes to romance we tend to appreciate the big sweeping gestures. We're not fully satisfied until we've gotten the happily ever after where the hero was willing to risk it all for the sake of the heroine.

Those grand gestures are all fine and good, but it's the little things that make us (and our heroines) fall in love with the hero.

To prove my point, I've borrowed examples from a couple movies I'm sure most of us have seen before:

Josie realizes how special Sam (Mr. Coulson) truly is when he volunteers himself to ride the Ferris Wheel, despite his fear of heights, simply because she had no one else to ride with. And then he tops it off by telling her he feels like he can really talk to her. *sigh*

Jane and Kevin can barely stand each other, until one little song plays on the jukebox in a dive bar out in the middle of nowhere. Next thing you know, they're dancing on the bar and getting hot & steamy in the backseat of his car. Who knew "Benny & The Jets" karaoke could provide the spark for true love?

How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days
Andie and Ben were both secretly using each other in an attempt to further their careers. Neither expected to actually fall in love, but for Andie things changed quickly after an afternoon spent playing "Bullshit" with Ben and his family. Watching him interact with his family shot an arrow straight to her heart, where all his smooth loverboy lines had missed the mark.

Bottom line, it's all the little unique pieces of a man that make us fall in love with him. Don't forget to add those things into your stories. We tend to fall in love in fragments, our characters should too.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Call for Submissions

I love Twitter for so many reasons.

I've met some amazing authors, writers and readers. I get up-to-the-minute news in life and in writing. For instance ... yesterday the editors at Carina Press posted a call for submission.

Did you see it?

Rhonda Stapleton is looking for epic world building and any romance open to steaminess.
Mallory Braus wants fun & quirky heros and a good zombie hunter romance.
Allisa Davis is hungry for a good foodie. And BDSM.
Melissa Johnson wants a prehistoric romance. She explains what she wants. Think Jean M. Aurel.
Gina Bernal has a first love - with historical romance ;)
Lynne Anderson - romance. Any kind and length.
Deborah Nemeth is looking for characters on the margins. British, M15, steampunk ...

These are just tastes of what they are looking for. Each editor goes into length in what they are looking for.

If you have a story you've polished and know its ready for Carina Press, then be sure to check out their guidelines and how to submit.

Are you going to send one of these fabulous darlin's a story? Good luck and let me know how it goes! I'll be here rooting for you!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Twelve steps to Steamy

Whether you write YA novels or any other genre were romance occurs, there’s no emotional satisfaction if your characters meet one second and are making out (or having sex) the next. You need to build up to the moment. Tease your characters and readers. Take things slowly. And take them through the 12 steps to intimacy as originally described by author Linda Howard:
1.      Eye to body
2.      Eye to eye
3.      Voice to voice
4.      Hand to hand (or arm)
5.      Arm to shoulder
6.      Arm to waist or back
7.      Kissing  (mouth to mouth)
8.      Hand to head
9.      Hand to body
10.  Mouth to breast
11.  Hand to private parts
12.  Private parts to private part (okay, you know what I mean).
Your characters don’t have to go through all the steps in the first meeting (though they can), and the steps don’t have to be done in this order (though don’t try #12 without hitting the majority of the others first).
I personally think it’s sexier when the guy’s lips travel over the female’s temple, jaw, throat, or shoulder before finding her lips. And don’t forget the kiss can range from the brushing of his lips against hers to the deepening of their kisses. Maybe the guy leans in to kiss her (maybe he even gets as far as brushing his lips against hers) and the kiss is interrupted by someone or something else. Always a favorite trick of mine.  Also, by introducing just a few steps at a time, you can build the suspense, leaving your reader wondering whether the first kiss (or the more intimate, deepening kiss) is going to happen and when.  
But please, don’t make your reader wait too long. Nothing drives me crazier than having to wait ¾ of the book before the main character and her love interest finally kiss (as in the YA paranormal novel I recently read). What I do love, though, is not knowing if they’re going to go all the way. Obviously that doesn’t work for all subgenres of romance. If you’re reading an erotic romance, you’re expecting some action to happen pretty quickly. Heck, you’re expecting action. Period. This is why it’s important to be well read in the type of books you want to write.
Questions: do you like waiting for the first kiss to happen or get frustrated if it takes too long? Do you prefer things to get steamy pretty quickly (depending on the genre, this could be a steamy make out scene or a mind numbing rump between sheets)? And what is your favorite type of first kiss?

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Secret About Corsets

What's the first word that pops in your head when you read the title? Sexy? Appealing? Victoria? RWA? BDSM?

For me - SEXY. 100% The lovely, sexy, intelligent and totally awesome Camryn Rhys took me corset shopping this past weekend. The shop we went to was iffy to say the least from the outside but omg women - it rocked inside. Why we didn't buy any shoes I have no idea. (Camyrn - why girl? Why?)

I might not be attending RWA this year but I didn't want to be left out of the whole 'corset' revolution. I've read about these torture devices in my historical romances, seen them squeeze the life out of women on the screen but NEVER had any idea why they held the appeal they did. Until now. I want one. I feel greedy. But damn it all - I had curves for those few moments and I felt SEXY. Rip clothes sexy. Granted - my breasts were almost touching my throat (my girlies are large and proud) but I had an hour glass figure and I miss it. Damn it.

For those like me whose girlies can't handle a corset, go for a cincher. They still emphasize your curves without the whole 'tea cup resting on chest' look. Sure, I couldn't breathe for a moment or two. But the look? OMG. Okay, and yes, my shoulders felt like they were raised to my ears .. but that was only with the corset and not the cincher. One day ... one day ... Have you ever tried a corset? Tell me you didn't feel sexy as all get out! Anya