A collection of musings, articles and news about romance fiction.

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Writing 101: CONFLICT LOCK

When creating character and story goals and conflict, there are generally two ways to go about it:

Protagonist and Antagonist  wants the same thing (hero/heroine vs villain).

Variation: Protagonists want the same thing (hero vs heroine).

Protagonist and Antagonist want different things, but by one accomplishing his/her goal, the other does not (ie: in direct conflict and at risk).

Variation: Protagonists want different things (hero vs heroine).

Conflict Lock

I wish I could claim this tool, but I’m not that clever. I first heard this from Fiona Lowe, who had been inspired by Jennifer Crusie, and I’ve also seen Bob Mayer explain it, so I will pass this fantastic nugget on to you, and urge you to visit the sites of those authors for more information on the craft of writing. Again, there are so many different ways a writer can reach their goals, I’m merely recommending what I’ve found has worked for me in the past…

The Conflict Lock is a diagram that can help you create sustainable conflict for your characters, and draft out your plotline. Or, if you’re struggling halfway through the book, it’s a good way to find out whether you have enough conflict for a novel – or a short story. Or if your conflict is weak, it is a way to help figure out how to bolster it.

Simply put, a conflict lock shows you whether one character’s goal BLOCKS another’s.

BASIC Conflict Lock

So, how do we create the conflict lock?

Step one: Draw four squares

Step two: Label one row for Protagonist (Hero and/or Heroine), and one row Antagonist (Hero or Villain)

Step three: Label first column ‘Goal’ and second column ‘Conflict’.

Step four: Write in your characters’ objective in the GOAL column, and what is preventing your character from achieving that goal in the CONFLICT column.

If your protagonist’s conflict is born from your antagonist’s pursuit of his/her goal, and vice versa, then you have a CONFLICT LOCK.

Here is an example from my first romantic suspense novel, VIPER’S KISS:

VK Conflict Lock

My heroine, Maggie Kincaid, is mistakenly identified as the lethal ‘Viper’, and finds herself on the run, determined to clear her name. My hero, Luke Fletcher, believes – along with everyone else – that she is the Viper, and is in pursuit.VipersKiss

For Maggie to remain free, Luke doesn’t achieve his goal. If Luke apprehends Maggie, she doesn’t achieve her goal.

If you draw a line from my heroine’s goal to my hero’s conflict, you will see that what she is doing is the source of his conflict. If you draw a line from my hero’s goal to my heroine’s conflict, you will see that what he is doing is the source her conflict.

CONFLICT LOCK.

In essence – one cannot achieve his/her goal because of the direct actions of the other.

Good luck and get writing!

 

 

 

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Writing A Book Is Like Soccer

I do not play soccer. In my family, that’s not just unusual, it’s almost a crime, and spawns many a long conversation on the supposed merits of the game at family gatherings.

There is something about the thrill of the game, the smell of the fresh air, the warmth of the sun on my head that I’m just not really enamoured with. Maybe because it’s a winter sport and I’m freezing my tush off watching kids run around a muddy pitch – then have to wash muddy clothes. Or maybe because ‘they’ schedule games close enough to sparrow’s fart on a Saturday morning when most folks would prefer to be reading the paper over a leisurely breakfast. Maybe.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not opposed to the game, or any sport. I think team sports are important, fitness is important, developing coordination skills is important. I enjoy watching my kids’ efforts, I enjoy cheering them on, regardless of who scores, and I love that they develop resilience. I occasionally kick a ball around, an activity that is both enjoyable and satisfyingly destructive if the wrong window gets in the way. But perhaps because I attend so many games and watch them with an enquiring eye, I’ve learned something.

Soccer is not so different from writing a book.

Why do people play any game? It comes down to the thrill of the competition, of pitting oneself against the odds to triumph, and the satisfaction of knowing you rule the soccer pitch, if only for one Saturday morning. There are the obvious benefits – fitness, hand-eye coordination, and the in-your-face fist pump when you score that goal (we’ll call this external motivation).

Then there are the less obvious benefits, the communication one learns and shares with playing in a team, working together, learning to offer assistance and accept aid, as well as the confidence and satisfaction one gets from being active. There is the joy of winning and the crushing disappointment of losing. We’ll call this internal motivation.

There may be other factors at play, also – your opposing team member may be the bully or ‘ace’ student at school and you finally have a chance to show them what’s what… Or maybe you do this because your father is a massive Bend It Like Beckham fan and you don’t want to disappoint him, or your friend does it, and it’s a way to get out of the house and hang with your mates, thus avoiding chores… either way, this motivation contributes to backstory, and having a compelling and relevant backstory makes any book interesting to read. Just like soccer, though, when information emerges over the course of a season, so too must backstory be threaded through the course of a novel, and not in one info dump (otherwise you’re that kid – or parent – on the sideline that everyone avoids talking to).

In a game of soccer, you have two opposing forces (teams). In writing a book, you generally have at least two opposing forces (a protagonist and an antagonist, or for a romance, your hero and heroine may be your opposing forces).

Either way, that’s conflict.

Each side has a clear objective. In soccer, the objective is to score a goal, and hopefully prevent the other team from scoring a goal. In writing, your character/s must have a clear goal, and in a good, compelling story, those goals will also be counter-productive.

When you have counter-productive goals that work directly against each other, that’s GOOD, STRONG conflict.

In reaching your clearly stated objective in soccer, you may run into another player (literally). In writing, your character must run into obstacles. For a number of reasons:

• Nobody wants to watch a boring, one-sided game, and nobody wants to read a boring, obvious book.

• When you really have to struggle to achieve that goal, victory so much sweeter and exhilarating.

• The more your character struggles, the more your sideline supporters (readers) cheer on that character.

• The more your character blocks or is blocked by an opponent, the more tense the game becomes.

In a soccer game, the ball is kicked back and forth, changing direction with a calculated strike or a careless bump. Just like the soccer ball, your plot bounces from one direction to another, based on the actions of your characters. Without this constant movement, or plot direction, the game is over, and spectators go home.

This constant movement of the ball creates tension in the spectator as well as the player – will they score this time? Will it get near the goal posts? Will that kid with the bleeding nose stop the ball with his face again?  In writing, the to-ing and fro-ing creates tension in the reader, as well as the character. And just like in a story, when one goal is scored, either by one team or the other, it raises the stakes – will the other team come back and equal the score, or possibly win? What is going to happen next? How will this game end?

And as with any book, in soccer there are peaks and lulls. Tension ramps up before a goal – and regardless of the resulting mini-climax, there is always the decline in tension, only to be ramped up again at the next goal opportunity, and then the next. Also, tension ramps up with any clash or conflict, until the ball is kicked out of that tussle and the immediate conflict is over – until the next time.

The entire team are your supporting characters, each acting independently, with consequences for each action. Each character has virtues and flaws, and these traits can contribute to conflict between characters on the same team – he’s a ball hog and won’t pass, or she doesn’t want to get hurt and won’t fully commit to a hustle. If you’re lucky, they’ll eventually get their act together and work cohesively in accomplishing that goal. And if you’re not lucky – well, I guess you’re not writing a Happy Ever After.

Your Goalie can be your hero – and your villain, depending on your perspective. If s/he is on your team, and they block a goal – Hero! If you’re on the other team – villain, and vice versa when the roles are reversed. Each team/character has an entrenched view that is constantly under challenge, and with each practice, each opportunity to develop that skill, there is character growth. Each team member has an opponent – this creates balance on the field, and good, strong competition. Just as your hero must have that opponent that challenges him/her.

And like soccer, it isn’t over until that whistle blows – there is always the chance that things can get better – or worse.

And when the game is over, hopefully those supporters will happily come back for your next book.


Archetypal Characters of Fairy Tales

What is it that we love about a fairy tale?

Disney PrincessesIs it the universal elements in the story structure – good vs evil, hero saving heroine (or vice versa)? Is it the archetypal characters that draw us in? Is it the heroic actions of ordinary people – like Beauty sacrificing her freedom with the Beast? Is it the ideal that one person can make a stand against stronger forces, and win – like Snow White versus the Evil Stepmother Queen? Or is it the pure romanticism of personal risk to save others – like the Prince from Rapunzel?

Or is it the gowns and shoes? Cinderella, we love you!

EnamouredWhen I told my close friends and writing partners that my next release, Enamoured, was a romantic suspense with fairy tale elements, I attracted a lot of questions.

Where you on drugs when you wrote it? What did you use to blackmail/bribe the publisher? Did you seriously think it through? The answers: No, nothing and not even a little bit.

I think there is something so iconic about a fairy tale that it transcends genre boundaries. (Yes, that’s me justifying my juvenile dream of writing a fairy tale with sexual tension and murder, but it sounds better the first way). Then there is the fashion.

My daughters use the term ‘girly-girl’ – and depending on the tone used this can be a positive, neutral or negative term. I, personally, would not consider myself a girly-girl. I like wearing shorts, jeans and sneakers. I’m likely to run away from a bottle of nail polish rather than use it, and I preferred to rumble and tackle than to dress up dolls (but that’s because I never had a Barbie. Deprived, I know)  – until we start talking about fairy tales. When that happens, I turn into a pile of pink fairy-floss mush. With sparkles, thank you. I even giggle.

Maybe it’s because Prince Charming is so unbelievably, out-of-this-world handsome, or because Cinderella can really rock her frock – and (gasp) those SHOES!!! The Frog Prince’s princess doesn’t just play with a tattered tennis ball, no, her ball is GOLD, and nobody does great hair like Rapunzel.

The Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes and HeroinesOkay, I know this makes me sound very superficial, but it’s more than that (otherwise I’d be just plain old superficial). These characters play clearly defined roles. One book, The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes and Heroines, by Tami D. Cowden, Caro LaFever and Sue Viders, outlines them beautifully (as a writer, you need this book on your resource shelf – do yourself a favour and buy it).

Prince Charming is (I guess rather obviously) The Charmer; charismatic, appealing, fascinating, although would rather not talk about touchy-feely stuff, likes to get by on his personality and wit.

Cinderella, on the other hand, is The Waif. She’s ethereal, adaptive and doesn’t complain, but endures a situation until she’s saved.

The princess from the Frog Prince would be The Free Spirit. She’s a handful, but charmingly so. Zany, high-spirited, and more than a little impulsive, she finds herself stuck in many a tricky situation.

Rapunzel would also be The Waif, waiting for her knight to rescue her from the tower.

Enamoured

All of these characters are so well-known to us that each time we read them, in whatever guise, unconsciously we accept them, like familiar friends. Despite the fairy-tale endings, though, these characters do face tests. They must overcome trials, resolve deep personal flaws, and change and develop into better, stronger, faster (oh, oops, that’s the Six-Million Dollar Man – totally another blogpost!) people by the end of their story. Not unlike a romantic suspense – or…any other story, for that matter. Because archetypes are the recurring personalities that people our stories from the Dawn of Storytelling.

Tell me: who is your favourite fairy-tale heroine? Leave a comment to go into the draw to win a copy of my new romantic suspense novella with fairy tale elements, Enamoured.


New Year Resolutions – Using GMC for Sucess

Okay, put your hand up if you’ve ever made a New Year’s resolution, and then promptly forgotten it, only to realise in a blind panic in November that you’ve done nothing you’d planned to do in January…

Yeah, I see you.

List Person

I’m a list person. Ask anyone who knows me, and they’ll agree. They may even use the ‘anal-retentive’ or ‘obsessed’ phrases in conjunction with this statement. I’ll just leave it ‘list person’. I like making lists for a very good reason – if I don’t, I’ll forget something. Okay, I’ll forget a lot of things, for example; the milk, or paying bills, the release date of my new book, a guest blog post, or ordering the swag of author goodies… the list could go on (pun completely intended). I mean, even Santa has a list. Two, actually.

I also set my goals – writing, lifestyle – no portion of my life is safe from this exercise.  The pleasure I get from crossing an achieved goal off my list makes me wonder if I might have a problem, but I’m not ready for therapy, yet. But I know at this time of year, we all do some sort of life-affirming nod toward organising a better life for ourselves over the next year, and while listing what we want to do may seem easy, delivering on that promise to ourselves is something we sometimes struggle with. (I’m using the royal ‘we’, here, folks.)

Here’s a trivial factoid: People who make resolutions are 10 times more likely to achieve their goals than people who don’t.

So, instead of blabbing on about my customary S.M.A.R.T. Goal-Setting session, I’ve decided I’m going to try a different angle, by using a writing tool – G.M.C., and using it for Life Strategies.

Must Buy!

Must Buy!

Goal, Motivation and Conflict is an insightful book written by Debra Dixon – a very, very smart lady with a knack for explaining the basic building blocks for creating great characters and great fiction. If possible, I now have an even deeper appreciation for Han Solo. If you’re interested in writing, regardless of the genre, then this is a book you must have.

In essence: Goal – what does your character want? Motivation – why does your character want it? Conflict – why doesn’t your character have/get it?

Or, as I call it, the What, Why and Why Not?

Again, I can’t stress what an awesome resource this book is, and I’ll go more in-depth about it another day, but for now, how can we use the GMC writer’s tool for life strategies?

Well…

Goal: What is it that you want? To lose weight? To spend more time with friends and family? To quit smoking? To get out of debt? Identify your own specific goal, and make it specific. For more tips on setting goals, read my article on S.M.A.R.T. goal-setting.

Motivation: Why do you want what you want? This is possibly one of the most important aspects of writing – why does the character want that job/artefact/guy/gal/treasure/evidence? How has their experience and core values interlinked to set up a desire? Motivation is a reflexion of the complex moral fibre, so identifying your motivation is a good way of ensuring your goal is in keeping with your own moral values – if it’s not, or if it contradicts your own core value system, then you will naturally resist accomplishing it. For example: Do you want to lose weight to look good? Or to be fit and keep up with the kids? Or for your own self-assurance? Identifying why this goal is important to you will help it ‘click’, or resonate, and will strengthen your resolve, particularly when you reach a hurdle. This is what will drive you through the tough times, knowing why it is so important to achieve that goal.

Conflict: Why not? What is standing in your way to achieving your goal? For example, if losing weight is your goal, but your partner keeps stocking the cupboard with naughty munchies, this creates conflict for you. If you want to stop smoking, but always find yourself surrounded by those seductive cigarettes in other people’s hands, that’s going to create conflict. So is shopping if you’re trying to get out of debt. Identifying the conflicts, those ‘hiccups’ that naturally oppose and prevent you from attaining your goal, will give you some insight into your own character – will help you identify potential weaknesses, or areas that require just a little focus, or a little tweaking, to resolve that conflict. Figuring out why you can’t get/do what you want is part of the way to reaching your goal. Knowing what you’re facing, and planning a way around it, past it or through it is in itself a success.

And yes, here comes that old chestnut: Failing to plan = planning to fail. Get some insight into what makes you tick with your personal goals, and get strategizing to insure success.

penSo, get out your notebooks, and jot down your own G.M.C. for 2013 – and good luck!


Tuesday Tidbits with Janni Nell!

Hi Shannon

It’s great to be here for a Q & A session, which had me digging deep at times. Thanks for the interesting questions.

How did you get started writing?

Okay, now I have to ‘fess up to being an obnoxious teen. Back in the day, I loved to read (still do, of course).  Anyway I read this book (nope, not going to mention the title), which I absolutely loved. Except for its ending.  I figured I could write better. (Well, I was an obnoxious teen.)  I gave it a go and soon realised that–duh!—I couldn’t do better. In fact, what I wrote sucked so badly, it didn’t even score a place in my bottom drawer. Only one option: immediate and total destruction. It was a year before I summoned the courage to try writing again. This time accompanied by some much needed humility.

What was your journey to publication?

Well, it was full of speed bumps. Lots of flitting from hot genre to hot genre (not recommended if you want to find your own voice). Many rejections later, I took a chance and wrote a story in a quirky first person voice that felt kinda natural. To my utter amazement, publishers were interested. That little story became the first book in the Allegra Fairweather series.

What is your “call” story, when your first work was accepted for publication?

When I got the call, which was actually an email, I didn’t react the way I’d expected. Instead of screaming and happy dancing, I went numb. I couldn’t believe I was actually going to get published at last. I kept thinking the email must have been meant for someone else. Until my husband pointed out it was unlikely anyone else had written a story called Allegra Fairweather: Paranormal Investigator. Then he took me out for a celebratory lunch. After that it kind of sunk in, and I did some happy dancing. Line dancing that is.

What have you learned about readers since getting published?

Readers are wonderful! Without readers there would be no one to hear our stories, no hearts to touch, no funny bones to tickle. I love readers. In fact, I am one. It’s hard to be a writer without first being a reader.

What have you learned about writing since getting published?

I’ve learned to juggle. Let me explain.

Last year I was working full steam ahead on the latest Allegra Fairweather story—let’s call it AF5—when I was offered the chance to write a novella for the anthology Carina Press Presents: Editor’s Choice Vol II. To be included, I first had to submit a synopsis for approval. That meant temporarily abandoning AF5 to write the synopsis. When it was approved, I got to work on the novella. Once again it was full steam ahead until I received extensive edits for Island of Secrets. You still with me? Great. So, I stopped work on the novella, and spent four weeks completing the edits. Then it was back to the novella. Around this time I was also brainstorming new titles for both works in progress. Fast forward three months and I’m working on edits—developmental and copy—for both Island of Secrets and the novella, which was published as Dance of Flames.

So I can now claim to be an experienced, if not expert, juggler.

What are you working on next?

AF5—remember the one I was working on all those months ago—well it’s been accepted by Carina Press. All I have to do now is…finish the darn book!

Tell us about your most recent release.

Island of Secrets is the third novel in the Allegra Fairweather series. (The novella, Dance of Flames is kind of a 3.5). By the way, if you’re wondering who designs the gorgeous covers for the series, it’s Frauke Spanuth of CrocoDesigns.

I’m a paranormal investigator without a home of my own. So when a wealthy client offers me a lucrative job on a private South Pacific island, I jump at the opportunity.

It’s not all fun in the sun, though. A dead merman—no, really—with an arrow in his chest has washed up on shore. My investigation reveals a century-old war between the mers and a goblin tribe, who believe the mers stole their treasure. But the real thief was a pirate! He buried the treasure and died before digging it up again.                        

Casper, my guardian angel and sort-of-but-not-really boyfriend, usually helps me out but he’s acting all weird and busy. The only person left who can help me find the treasure is the pirate’s former girlfriend, who happens to be a forgetful, alcoholic ghost.

Oh, and I’m not the only one searching for this treasure. Someone else wants it badly and they’re prepared to commit murder to prevent anyone else from getting it…

Island of Secrets is set on an island (no, really) near Tahiti. Tell us your favourite vacation spot, and you could win an e-copy of Island of Secrets.

 


Where’s the Plot? Tuesday Tidbits with Kay Keppler

I have a terrible time figuring out a plot.

I know what plot is. It’s action, and especially, it’s conflict. Conflict drives stories. But conflict is hard. I hate making my heroine suffer. She’s so nice. Why can’t everybody just get along? But of course, there’s no story if everybody’s happy. Without action, without conflict, there’s no plot, and then there’s no story.

Not all actions are created equal. To be plot, actions have to have consequences. In one of my favorite series, Charlaine Harris’s character, Sookie Stackhouse, likes to take showers. Early in Dead Reckoning, Sookie takes a shower after a tough night waiting tables at the bar. She relaxes in the hot water, letting her concerns wash away.

Then she goes to bed.

Is that plot? Of course not. It’s description, and it’s foreshadowing, but Sookie’s shower doesn’t have any consequences. There’s no real action in the action.

It’s different, though, when Sookie takes a shower with Eric. As anyone who reads the series knows, that shower had a lot of consequences, and not just the immediate, ah, steamy ones.

And then compare those showers to the shower scene in Psycho. In it, Robert Bloch’s character Marion Crane is bathing to wash away her guilt about embezzling from her employer. (Conflict there, much? She feels guilty—internal conflict—and she’s being pursued as a suspect—external conflict. Conflict galore!)

We all know what happened in that shower scene in Psycho—Marion Crane is stabbed to death, and what washes down the drain in that scene is a lot more than just her daily worries. But her disappearance triggers an investigation, which leads to more mayhem. That’s consequence. That’s plot.

When I read books (sometimes many books) where the world is threatened, or the universe is threatened, or all the universes in all the galaxies in all of space are threatened, I sometimes think that’s a bit of overkill. I like a nice, juicy scare as much as the next person, but in real life, my biggest scare is usually along the lines of whether I’ll finish the milk before it goes sour.

But in writing Zero Gravity Outcasts, I went for the Big Scare myself, in the form of an interplanetary civil war. It’s because the consequences of actions have to be important. If they’re not, who cares? Not the readers, and not even the characters. The heroine might as well stay home and defrost the fridge.

Which I sort of like in a heroine, but I get that readers don’t—except maybe unless the secret capacitor compartment was punctured, and the freon escapes, and the world is threatened by expanding, poisonous gases… and the heroine doesn’t want to call Gas Busters because she’d planned to settle in with a movie and some popcorn, but the handsome agent rings the bell, and…like that. In any event, the concept of struggle—of conflict—is key.

The thing I have to keep asking myself when I write is, what’s at stake? If my protagonist fights the Deadly Hammer for 300 pages, killing angels and fairies and puppies along the way as collateral damage, suffers grievous wounds and the loss of family and friends, she better get more out of it than a trip to the store for a fresh quart of milk.

But that’s a whole other story. One that, I hope, I’ll be able to plot better next time.

Kay Keppler likes happy endings, whether they’re in the fiction she writes, the fiction she edits, or the fiction she reads. After all, an unhappy outcome is what the newspaper is for! Her characters are resourceful to a fault, hard-working to the extreme, and loyal to the end—but she’s still working on a decent plot. You can find her at kaykeppler.com, kaykeppler@yahoo.com, or @KayKeppler.

Zero Gravity Outcasts can be found at:

Carina Press

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Sony

Kobo

And all good e-retailer stores!


What Binds Us, from Larry Benjamin

What made you want to write THIS story?

I wanted to write an m/m love story but I didn’t want it to be full of angst—I often joke that the book is Brokeback Mountain without the angst and poverty.  Seriously, it was important that the characters in What Binds Us be open and accept themselves from the beginning and learn to surround themselves with those who support them.  I wanted to tell a happy story but because the characters are so young, I thought it was important to capture the insecurity, the hesitation, the self doubt (he couldn’t possibly love me) that comes with youth, and show them growing up to overcome the obstacles they placed in the way of their own happiness. And finally I knew from the beginning I wanted to touch on the AIDS crisis but I didn’t want it to be the main focus of the story.  Also I wanted it to come unexpectedly like it did to so many people at the very beginning.  As Thomas-Edward says in the epilogue: “this is the story that had to be told: the story of the sun, the earth and the moon.”

Tell us about Thomas-Edward – why is he so special?

Thomas-Edward is special because he doesn’t realize how special he is. Early on he describes himself, with some bitterness, as “ordinary as dirt.”  Yet he is the one who holds the family together, he is the one with the courage to return to Dondi’s mother not because he wants to but because he thinks Dondi needs her.  And his capacity for love is enormous, even when their relationship ends he manages to hold on to and love Dondi despite how badly he was hurt.  And let’s not forget he falls in love with two brothers and manages to keep them both in his life.  How amazing is that?

And Donovan Whyte, your second hero; why is he so well-suited to your Thomas – or not?

I loved the Dondi character.  He was so fabulous and so much fun to create.  But he really was “too much” for Thomas to handle.  Dondi is kind of the Suzanne Sugarbaker of young gay men.  His appearance in Thomas-Edward’s life was pivotal and he introduced him into that “looking glass world where everything was familiar yet larger, more exquisite, more precious than anything he’d ever known,” but he wasn’t quite right, he wasn’t THE ONE.  But he values Thomas-Edward above all others and even at age 19 he knows Thomas will always be in his life.  And he prepares Thomas-Edward for the love of his life, introduces them in fact.

Same goes for his brother Matthew –how does he fit into this complex relationship?

Matthew is the absolute opposite of Dondi; if Dondi is the sun, he is the moon.  “A mystery like a dark corner, or the far side of the moon,” it isn’t easy to tell what he’s thinking or how he feels about Thomas’ sudden appearance in hi s life. Quieter, less sure of himself than Dondi, he’s desperately in love with Thomas but unsure of Thomas’ relationship with Dondi, unsure Thomas even thinks of him that way he doesn’t confess his feelings.  It’s this very reticence, this mystery, that captivates Thomas who is equally enamored of his former lover’s brother.  Matthew is calm, loyal, a one man man, just the sort of man Thomas needs.  To Thomas’s surprise he replaces Dondi in his heart.

What draws you to write in m/m romance genre?

All the How-to-write books advise you to “write what you know.” (laughter).  As a gay man, it was important for me to get a positive story of two men in love and committed out there and for me that meant a story that wasn’t just about sex or romantic love but about friendship and family.  I think we all have romantic dreams (God knows I do) but few of us actually live them.  I wanted to show a romantic couple also faced with reality.  They are perfectly happy when it is just the two of them yet when Dondi falls ill they take him in without a second thought.  At one point when Dondi is sickest, Thomas mentions he and Matt no longer have the energy for sex, yet their love for each other never wavers.

What challenges have you faced in getting your stories out there?

Well you know this manuscript sat in a drawer for nearly 20 years.  It was originally typed on a word processor.  Publishers would tell me there was no market for the story.  Agents would tell me the same thing, would advise me to read the best sellers list and write what others were writing.  I never stopped believing that eventually this story would be told.

Recently a publisher rejected a collection of my short stories saying they liked the stories and thought I had a unique voice but my writing was “too literary” for their audience.  I understand that books need to sell –publishers are running a business after all but I do think they need to broaden what’s available.  There’s got to be readers interesting in reading fiction that’s a bit out of the ordinary that maybe challenges them a bit.

What books/heroes did you like growing up, and how have they inspired you in writing this story?

I read everything when I was a kid— F. Scott Fitzgerald, Charles Dickens, Jacqueline Susann, Kyle Onstott.  Kyle Onstott wrote Mandingo, Falconhurst Fancy, Drum, among others, becoming a scandal and a sensation at the time.  He inspired me most because his books were racy and they were totally different to anything widely available at the time.  Later I discovered some amazing gay writers: James Baldwin, Felice Picano, Christopher Isherwood.  I think outside of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Kyle Onstott, the gay writers were my biggest inspiration.

What are you working on next?

I just finished a collection of short stories, tentatively titled: Damaged Angels. In it I attempt to give literary voice to the usually invisible: hustlers and drug addicts, the mentally ill, people of color.  Then on to my next novel; I have two ideas and am just trying to decide which to pursue next.  I really want to do a prose poem with wonderful illustrations along the lines of Lewis Carroll’s nonsense poem, The Hunting of the Snark.  So, we’ll see.

You can find Larry Benjamin online here at his website, or visit his blog, or at Goodreads, Amazon, Facebook and Twitter.

You can find Larry’s new release, What Binds Us, at these good sites:

Carina Press

Amazon

Barnes & Noble


What Gentlemen Prefer… with Joan Kilby

Gentlemen Prefer Nerds, By Joan Kilby

Self-professed nerd Maddie Maloney is an expert on jewels. Jewel thieves are another matter entirely! So when a mysterious Englishman warns her that a thief known as The Chameleon is after the rare pink diamond on display in her aunt’s shop, she tells herself it’s just a joke. Even if she can’t get Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome out of her mind…

But Fabian Montgomery doesn’t give up easily. He’s everywhere she goes, convinced the thief will strike. And when the diamond does go missing—and Maddie is suspected of stealing it—he whisks her away from the police and together they pursue The Chameleon. Fabian plunges her into a glamorous world far from her humble workshop and transforms geeky Maddie into a sophisticated siren capable of espionage. Her mission: to seduce The Chameleon and steal back the diamond.

But Fabian isn’t telling her everything—like who he works for, and why he’s so interested in The Chameleon…

Thanks so much for joining us, Joan! Tell us about yourself…

Hi Shannon, Thanks for having me on your blog! I live on the outskirts of Melbourne with my husband and three grown children. I love to cook (and eat!), read, go to the gym and travel. I’ve published over twenty books with Harlequin, mostly Superromance. Gentlemen Prefer Nerds is my first single title.

Okay, first question – where did this title come from, it’s great!

Author Nancy Warren came up with the title. We were rooming together at the RWA conference in Dallas in 2007. I was about to pitch my book to an agent but I didn’t have a title. Nancy came up with Gentlemen Prefer Nerds off the top of her head. It fits the story perfectly. Thank you Nancy!

What made you want to write THIS story?

I wanted to write a bigger book. I wanted it to be a fun story and a bit of a fantasy, as in romance fantasy. My original plot evolved but the premise remained, an ordinary woman is plucked out of her ordinary life by an extraordinary man and taken on a wild adventure. In the process she becomes the smartest, bravest, sexiest version of herself she can possibly be.

Tell us about Fabian Montgomery – why is he so special?

Fabian is James Bond with a heart. He’s aristocratic, autocratic, intelligent, good-looking and sexy as hell. He’s a pretty sharp dresser, too.

And Maddie Maloney, your heroine; why is she so well-suited to your hero – or not?

Maddie is the perfect foil for Fabian. They come from completely different worlds. He’s from an aristocratic English family; she’s Australian and her father and brothers walk on the shady side of the law. Maddie’s nerdy, gawky and timid but she does have a strong sense of herself. She’s also really smart and like Fabian, family means everything to her.

You have a string of successful novels already in print… what attracted you to digital publishing?

I couldn’t find a home for Gentlemen Prefer Nerds in traditional publishing. Agents and editors I queried all said they loved the premise, the characters and the writing but there was no market for this kind of story. I submitted to Carina Press and was accepted very quickly. Digital publishing can take chances that print publishing can’t or won’t. My experience with Carina and my editor Deborah Nemeth has been wonderful. I’m hoping readers will prove those agents and print publishers wrong.

What draws you to writing in the contemporary romance genre?

I love to read contemporary romance. I like a level of realism with a touch of larger-than-life stories I can conceivably imagine myself starring in. Vampires and shape-shifters just aren’t my cup of tea. I enjoy reading historicals but the research involved seems like too much work!

With such an impressive backlist, and after writing so many books, how do you keep coming up with fresh material?

I wonder that every time I start a new book! Unique characters are the key to keeping it fresh. When I dig into my characters backstories and flesh out their goals and motivations they gradually become individuals to me and the story comes alive. I consciously try not to repeat myself in theme or plot.

What books/heroes did you like to read, growing up, and how have they inspired you in writing this story?

Growing up, I devoured everything from Narnia Chronicles to horse stories to Enid Blyton’s Famous Five to Harriet The Spy. As I got older I loved comic novels such as Nancy Mitford’s Love In A Cold Climate and also PG Wodehouse. One of my favourite books is I Capture The Castle, a coming of age novel set in England. There’s something about a transformation story that appeals to me.

What are you working on next?

I’m working on a Superromance which will be an October 2012 release, TO BE A FAMILY. I also have another single title on the go although I haven’t had time to work on it for many months. And one of these days I want to write the sequel to Gentlemen Prefer Nerds. It’s intended to be the first of a three or four book series.

I’m giving away a copy of Gentlemen Prefer Nerds to one lucky commenter. Just tell me, are you more of a nerd or a glamazon? If you’re a nerd, is there an inner glamazon just dying to come out?

You can find Joan’s book, Gentlemen Prefer Nerds, at these recommended sites:

Carina Press

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

If you’d like to contact Joan directly, she can be found lurking here:

Website

Facebook

GoodReads


Tuesday Tidbits with Danger Zone, by Dee J. Adams

Thanks so much for joining us, Dee J! Tell us about yourself… 

Thanks for letting me come play Shannon! I’m happy to be here. Today is the week and a day anniversary of my second release, Danger Zone, and I’m still just as excited as I was on the actual release day.

A little about myself… I moved from Texas to Los Angeles after high school and have worked in show business for over twenty years. I discovered writing about eleven years ago and never looked back. (Now instead of working on one part as I did as an actor, I get to decide what everyone in the book does. It’s very God like and I enjoy it immensely. LOL.)

What made you want to write THIS story?

After writing Dangerous Race, I actually wrote two other books before I thought about Danger Zone. The idea of Mac’s little brother Quinn kind of knocked around in my head, but I knew I needed someone strong to throw Quinn off his game. Ellie was just the girl. Since I work in show business the idea of making a movie really appealed to me too. Ellie’s very close to my heart for several reasons, but the most important is a learning disability we both share.

Tell us about your hero – why is he so special?

Quinn is the ultimate playboy. He’s gorgeous, smart and rich, but it takes a near death experience for him see that life is more than just hopping from one woman to the next looking for the next best thing. He has a heart of gold, but no one was able to tap into it before Ellie.

And your heroine; why is she so well-suited to your hero – or not?

Ellie is perfect for Quinn because she doesn’t care about his wealth. She knows money doesn’t make the person and it’s not what impresses her about him. She is the real deal and once Quinn realizes this, he’s in for the long haul.

What draws you to writing romantic suspense?

That’s simple… I love reading it. I love the adrenaline rush, the need to turn the page and see what’s next. I love when my palms sweat because of what’s happening when I’m reading a great romantic suspense. I love when my heart races just like the hero and heroine. If I can bring any one of those elements to a reader, then my job is done.

What books/characters did you like to read, growing up, and how have they inspired you in writing this story?

I remember reading every Kathleen Woodiwiss and Judith McNaught book I could get my hands on. And then rereading them at every opportunity. Those two women wrote some of the greatest love stories ever written and if I am able to tell a story a fraction as well, then I’m still doing okay.

What are you working on next?

Currently, I’m about half way through a potential fourth book in the Adrenaline Highs series. I don’t want to give too much away in case I decide to toss it. LOL.

Thank you!

If you’d like to contact Dee J. Adams, you can visit her here:

Website: http://www.deejadams.com/index.html

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Dee-J-Adams-author/202188539815974

Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/DeeJAdams

To purchase her book, try here:

Carina Press: http://ebooks.carinapress.com/FC7A1245-A013-4920-B197-DA10457A5AF7/10/134/en/ContentDetails.htm?ID=4B558BAE-B6B6-4071-AAE2-EF7EB146C014

 Thanks for visiting, Dee J, and good luck with DANGER ZONE!


Seeing Red

Did you know: Valentine’s Day was originally a Christian feast day for martyred St Valentine?

As a romantic suspense writer, celebrating love on the feast of the killing of a saint piques my interest.

So how, in all that is cut-out hearts and candy, did we come to observe this day the world over as a day of celebrating love and romance?

Blame Chaucer.

Geoffrey Chaucer wrote a poem “Parlement of Foules” to honour the first anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II to Anne of Bohemia. Very loosely translated, (though it was written in English, we’re talking really Old English), he states…”on this Saint Valentine’s Day, when every bird chooses his mate.”

Sidebar: King Richard II’s parents were first cousins, he is believed to have suffered from personality disorder/s, and when his wife passed away, their marriage was childless. Fascinating stuff.

Poets of the time also adopted Chaucer’s romanticizing of Saint Valentine’s Day, and – considering there was no Twitter, Facebook, email or internet in the 1400’s – the concept took off. Poetry and love letters, signs of affection, or “symbols of my deepest, abiding regard” were delivered to chosen mates.

So, how do we celebrate Valentine’s Day today?

Very expensively.

  • Can you believe it’s estimated that over $14 billion dollars is spent per year for Valentine’s Day?
  • The first box of chocolates specifically targeted to Valentine’s Day was created by some guy called Richard Cadbury, in 1868 – yes! That Cadbury!
  • Men are the largest purchasers of flowers (73%) – which kind of makes sense, as most men I know would prefer to receive a bouquet of international beer versus a lovely bunch of red roses…
  • Valentine’s Day is the second busiest card-exchanging day of the year, and women are the biggest sector of buyers (85%).
  • The Valentine’s Day industry is a serious business, and there can be serious repercussions. On average, 11,000 children are conceived on Valentine’s Day (I can attest to this!), and 53% of women would end their relationship if they don’t receive anything on Valentine’s Day (Really? REALLY?)

We celebrate Valentine’s Day in a very low key fashion in my home. There are no commercial gifts, but we do make it special. A special meal – either home-cooked or ordered in, candles, the good set of cutlery and crockery… and three children who argue over who is going to blow out the candles AS SOON AS THIS IS OVER! Totally romantic, but we all have fun.

My ultimate date would involve a) no kids, b) an intimate time with my partner. Maybe in front of a roaring log fire with a fine bottle of red wine. Maybe lounging on a deck watching waves roll in with a chilled bottle of white wine. Maybe dinner in a restaurant that actually believes mood lighting shouldn’t come in flouro.  Or a casual couple of hours in a pub with good live music in the background. But no matter the scenery or the activity, the one constant is sharing time and conversation with my partner.

What is your ultimate Valentine’s Day date?

Leave a comment and you can go into the draw to win a pair of sterling silver and amethyst cubic zirconia earrings! Winner will be announced on 17th February.