Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Guest Blogger Teresa Noelle Roberts - Foxes Den


The heroes of my new Samhain release, Foxes’ Den, are atypical for the paranormal romance subgenre. First off, they begin the book happily married to each other, which is hardly the norm, even in a menage story but was the only possible way to tell the story I wanted to tell.

What I had the most fun with, though, is that neither Paul nor Tag is a classic alpha male. Paul Donovan, a witch, has the power and protectiveness associated with the alpha, but he’s more the gentleman-and-scholar type, at least to outward appearances. He speaks softly, he’s always polite and his magic is largely defensive. He is, however, far from weak, and the heroine, Akane, with her ancient perspective, sees this:

Naked, he was as elegant as he was clothed, his body lean and ivory white and almost hairless except for his groin, and that was neatly trimmed. Still, like the Japanese men she’d known in an era where strength and elegance were not seen as contradictory, he was unmistakably masculine, and almost unspeakably delicious. He looked more poet than warrior, except she’d seen his aura. He wouldn’t need a sword, a gun, or anything messy like that if he had to defend himself. His enemies would have a hard time even getting close.

But the serious Paul needed a companion who helps him loosen up—and Akane, an immortal kitsune who starts out the story trapped in a mortal body, needs a hero who can keep up with a mischievous, shapeshifting avatar of a trickster deity. Paul has the magic to do so, but she needs someone as mercurial of personality as she is. Enter fox shapeshifter Taggart Ross-Donovan, who introduces himself, in a sweet Tennessee accent, as “the witch’s chauffeur, muscle, designated rogue, and husband.”

“A fox shapeshifter?”, you might say. “That doesn’t sound very tough.” And on the surface, you’d be right. A fox dual’s animal form doesn’t grant him a great fighting advantage. What it does do is add a fox’s animal cunning to Tag’s considerable human intellect. And like a fox, Tag is small, but lithe, graceful and much stronger in a pinch than you’d think. And he fights dirty! He and Akane both like to play pranks, like to shake up the orderly world around them.

At the same time, he’s an old-school Southern gentleman—and face it, those guys have a strong dose of rogue. When Paul is reluctant to use sex magic to help Akane because, according to his family’s tradition, it would violate his marriage vows with Tag, Tag uses a combination of chivalry and roguishness to persuade him:

Paul did his best to ignore the tempting hardness. “I couldn’t live with myself if we do this and it screws things up between us.”

“I respect you for worryin’ about that, but it won’t.” Tag pulled away, leaving Paul half relieved, half frustrated. Then he moved in front of Paul. Shorter than his husband, Tag could still loom when he needed to. “And I don’t think either of us can live with ourselves if we don’t help out someone who needs us like Akane does. That goes against everything we were both taught, things a lot more basic than your rules for married people. When someone’s in trouble, you help—and that girl’s in trouble.”

Okay, score one for his husband. Neither a Donovan nor a Southern gentleman, even a roguish one, could say no to rescuing a damsel in distress. Paul couldn’t help smiling, though, at the way Tag phrased it. “That ‘girl’ is older than English, Tag, and more powerful than any four Donovans in her natural form. Just because she’s petite and sexy and adorable…”

“Ha! You said it first!”

“You probably thought it first.”

Tag’s chuckle in response was very close to a chuff. “I’d bet we thought it about the same time. She’s thirty-one flavors of hot. But we’d still need to help her if she had a face like roadkill and a body to match. The fact it might be fun in her case as well as the right thing to do”—he scratched where his fox ears lived under the skin—“probably makes you feel guilty, don’t it?”

And then, of course, he takes Paul to bed and finishes his…artful persuasions.

I created these non-standard heroes for several reasons. One is they seemed like a perfect foil for Akane, who, in her natural form, is a divine avatar. She doesn’t need muscle. She needs someone who can keep up with her wit and her centuries of knowledge.

But the main reason is they were just plain fun to write. Both Paul and Tag are articulate and smart. They’re not the strong silent type; they’re the strong, talkative type who know that discussing emotions doesn’t make them weak. They’re snarky when it’s time for words to wound and incredible at sweet talk when it’s time for romance. They use words as their first weapons and as their first tool in a seduction. And oooh, this just pressed all my buttons! I love a man who spins a good yarn, tells a good joke, and creates an erotic mood with well chosen words. These heroes are experts at verbal seduction—although once they’re actually in bed, Paul’s verbal facility has to take over, since duals like Tag tend to lose track of human language in the grip of good sex.

He talked too. After centuries where her rare encounters had been with duals who might growl or roar, but couldn’t manage anything much more articulate during sex than, “Oh yeah, baby!” or “Please”, she’d almost forgotten the power of words spoken at the right time.

Paul had that power. “Lord and Lady, Tag, you’re so hot and tight around me. Your ass…I feel like the most powerful witch in the world because I’m lucky enough to be able to fuck your ass. Or get fucked by you. I hope he’s being good to you, Akane, because I know how talented my Tag is with his cock and his hands and his mouth.”

She shuddered, both at the dark, low stream of sexy words and at Tag’s tongue swirling over a just-bitten, delightfully tender nipple. Shuddered and clenched a little around Tag’s cock, remembering just in time that she needed to hold off her orgasm as long as possible and let her arousal build to power the magic.

Dirty talk is so hot, isn’t it? Who needs huge muscles when you’ve got amazing verbal dexterity? I could go on and on about why these are perfect foils for their heroine—but what is really comes down to brains are the biggest sex organ of all.

Everyone who comments today will be entered in a drawing for a copy of Foxes' Den.

Teresa Noelle Roberts writes erotic paranormal romances for Samhain and Phaze. Foxes’ Den is the second book in the Duals and Donovans: The Different series. The first, Lions’ Pride, features shape-shifting feline alpha hunks and the Ph.D. witch who loves them both. Next up: Threshing the Grain, due from Phaze this fall, in which a tough warrior hero and his healer wife have to make some most unusual sacrifices to defeat a demon. Visit her on the Web at http://teresanoelleroberts.blogspot.com or friend her on Facebook.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Romance, rock and roll and lemon cake


How do you feel about things being predictable?

Personally, I kind of like it.

For instance, I love the fact that when I play Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run on the radio, both my kids will start dancing and singing. I love that every fall, as the high school football season starts, my husband starts grinning like a little kid. I love that if I order the Lemon Supreme Cake from Coffee Works I will take the first bite, actually close my eyes and say out loud, “this is awesome”.

Yeah, I kind of like predictability. If I put the song on and they just sat there it would be a major let down. If I ordered the cake and it sucked I'd be bummed.

Just like if I pick up a romance novel and its... not a romance novel. At least according to my definition.

Which is why I'm okay with some predictability in my writing. Now I don't mean that I want to write the same book over and over. But I know something about every book before I put even the first word on the page--I know where the story is going to go. Not to the extent that I will plot every twist and turn of a book (heaven forbid! ;)) but I certainly know where it’s going to end up. And where my stories end will always be the same—no matter the characters, no matter their back story, no matter the ups and downs I put them through—my stories will always be happily ever afters.

Which is why I love romances and look for very specific elements in the books I read. I realize that there is some debate over what the definition of a romance should be. But I know what it is for me. And I know how it feels if the book or author doesn’t deliver that for me. I’ve had authors I love fail to deliver. I’ve had books marketed as romances that don’t meet my definition. I’ve chosen books based on the blurb and the excerpt only to want to yell “false advertising!”. Those are really disappointing moments. Right up there with sucky lemon cake.

I love the happily ever after between the two (or three :)) lead characters.

I love knowing that the sexual tension is eventually going to lead to a hot love scene. Or two. Or three.

I love knowing that the hero will—eventually— do anything to make the heroine happy.

I love knowing that the heroine will–eventually—overcome her flaws and be a better person in the end.

I love when true love is proven to exist. Yet again.

My husband makes fun of me. Even my teenage daughter. “So this is the part where the hero realizes that the heroine didn’t really mean it and they kiss and make up…” Yeah, so what? I like it.

Recently a reader posted a comment about one of my books that got me thinking about this. Without going into detail, she basically wanted a different resolution. Well, the thing is, the resolution she suggested could have certainly worked. Her words were "more poignant". Yep, it would have been that.

But that resolution wasn't me. That’s not the kind of book I write. And I’m okay with readers learning that, knowing that, even counting on that.

So how do you feel about your books (writers or readers)? Do you love being surprised? Or do you count on your favorite author to deliver a book that you know will make you laugh, or lift you up, or teach you something or… whatever it is for you?

Friday, August 27, 2010

My Latest Release

Primal Pleasure, my third Pendragon Gargoyles book, released this week and I'm still riding that post-release high. :) It was one of those books that was just plain fun to write start to finish. Books that just pour out onto the page make it a lot easier to get through the ones that are more challenging. *coughWhateverItTakescough*

For those unfamiliar with the series, my shape-shifting world is populated with sexy and dangerous immortals with ties to Avalon, King Arthur and the search for six mystical daggers that will lead to Excalibur. The third book in the series picks up with Cian Callaghan, the brother who has spent the last hundred years in stone. Needless to stay, when the curse trapping him in his stone gargoyle state is broken, he has only revenge on his mind...or does he? :)

So today I thought I'd share some of my favorite lines from the book. In no particular order...

~ It was official—she was going to die shackled to a damn gargoyle.

~ "Clearly spending a century as a rock left you a few pebbles short."

~ "You are not my female."
An unreadable emotion blinked across her face, then she smiled sweetly. "Thank the gods for that."

~ "If you’re under the impression that sex will make me cooperative—"
"Oh, it’s not an impression."

~ Cian motioned for another card. "Hit me." He leaned forward, his attention on Emma. "Oh wait, you already did that."

~ He wasn’t going to make it out of the car alive.

~ "And if there was ever a stallion in need of mounting, it’s him."

~ "A sorceress with a guilty conscience and uncomfortable with nudity."
"Not all nudity. Just yours."

You can find the blurb, excerpt and chapter one sneak peek over on my Website.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Thursday 13--Grammar

I'll admit it--I'm a member of Grammar Correctors Anonymous. Seeing printed material that violates sacred rules of grammar just impels me to pull out my imaginary sharpie (a la James Spader in Secretary) and go to town.

So below, I have thirteen egregious grammatical errors. Now, as writers, we have the artistic license to bend and break certain rules FOR EFFECT--things like fragment sentences. Comma splices (run-on sentences), maybe. But violating the list below isn't artistic--it's an oversight. Thank God for good editors! Even I miss some of these in my final drafts!

1. Your/you're: YOUR is a possessive pronoun (Is that your copy of Sidney Somers' Primal Pleasure? Why yes, that is mine!). You're is a contraction for you are (You're waiting for the September 14th release of Erin Nicholas' Just My Type, too?)
2. Misplaced modifier: When you have an adjective phrase, the nearest noun is the word it's modifying.
Example: Aroused beyond control, her lips captured his in a fiery kiss.
In this sentence, her lips are aroused, not her whole body.
Correction: Aroused beyond control, she captured his lips in a fiery kiss.

3. Their/there/they're: THEIR is a possessive pronoun (At the book signing at RT 2010, I want to get books signed by all the Nine Naughty Novelists. Their blog is awesome!). THERE is a location (I'm going there, too. Luckily, RT is in Los Angeles, which is a super-cool city because Skylar Kade lives there!). THEY'RE is a contraction for they are (I hear it's possible they're going to give a workshop at RT!).
4. Its/It's/itself: ITS shows possession (Have you read Kelly Jamieson's 2 Hot 2 Handle? Its cover is SMOKIN!). IT'S is a contraction for IT IS (You really should pick up PG Forte's Edge of Heaven. It's a super-sexy genre-blending read. ITSELF is a reflexive pronoun and it is ONE WORD (By itself, Meg Benjamin's Be My Baby is a great read, but it's better if you start from Venus in Blue Jeans and read the Konigsburg series in order.)
5. Parallel structure: This is a tricky one because it is so often broken in everyday speech. When you have a series in a sentence (words, phrases, dependent clauses) they must be in the same form.
Example: I like hiking, reading Juniper Bell's books (especially My Three Lords), and long walks on the beach.
Here, we have two gerunds (verbs in -ing form that act as nouns) and then a noun phrase.
Correction: I like hiking, reading Juniper Bell's books (especially My Three Lords), and taking long walks on the beach.

6. Comma splice: A comma splice is better known as a run-on sentence. While these can be judiciously used to mimic panicked or excited speech, they're often the product of an error and not artistic license.
Example: I need to get Kate Davies' The Devil Inside, it has lots of hot, sweaty, down-and-dirty lovin'.
There are two complete sentences (subject, verb, complete thought) joined with a comma. There are a few ways to fix this.
Correction 1: I need to get Kate Davies' The Devil Inside because it has lots of hot, sweaty, down-and-dirty lovin'. (We've subordinated the second independent clause with the word "because")
Correction 2: I need to get Kate Davies' The Devil Inside. It has lots of hot, sweaty, down-and-dirty lovin'. (Two complete sentences separated by a period.)
Correction 3: I need to get Kate Davies' The Devil Inside; it has lots of hot, sweaty, down-and-dirty lovin'. (Complete sentences separated by a semicolon shows the sentence ideas are related)

7. Among and between: Among is used when there are three or more entities involved; between is used for two.
Example: Between you and me, Kinsey Holley's next book after Kiss and Kin is going to be awesome!
Example: Among the Nine Naughty Novelists, we have our own (very strong) opinions about packaging, but we all agree: Wine is good.

8. Coordination of Actions: When two actions are happening at the same time, you can use a participial phrase (-ing acting as an adjective) to modify the main clause (the complete sentence and where the action takes place).
Example: Opening the ring box, the Hero proposed to the Heroine .
These two actions (opening and proposing) are happening at the same time. When you have subsequent actions, they need to be separated with AND
Example: The Hero opened the ring box and proposed to the Heroine.
This is largely a matter of style, but sometimes two actions cannot occur simultaneously (Tearing off her shirt, he flung it to the ground) in which case, coordinate the actions with AND.

9. Anyway and Anyways (Toward and Towards): While many dictionaries won't catch this, Anyways and Towards are not actually words.
Example: Anyway, even if you bribed us, we wouldn't reveal the Super Sekrit Project. Toward the end of September, you'll know what we've been planning.

10. Farther and further: Farther deals with DISTANCE, further deals with EXTENT.
Example: Skylar is farther away from Canada than PG is.
Example: We are further along in the Super Sekrit Project than we'd anticipated.

11. Fewer and less: Fewer is applied to countable objects. Less is used for ambiguous amounts.
Example: There are fewer than 20 stages of the Super Sekrit Project. There is less than a month before it will be revealed!

12. To, too, two: TO is a preposition (shows relationship between two objects). TOO means also or in addition to. TWO is the number.
Example: I want to go to Amazon.com and buy two new books. Too bad, so sad, I need to wait for my new Kindle 3 to arrive to read them. Are you waiting for yours, too, or did you buy a Nook?

13. Plural vs. possessive: This is the one error most commonly made, so far as I've seen. An APOSTROPHE IS ONLY USED FOR POSSESSION. They are not attached to the "s" you stick onto the end of a plural noun.
Example: The Nine Naughty Novelist's are an amazing group of writer's that you should follow! Their Super Sekrit Project is going to entertain their blog reader's for week's!
Correction: The Nine Naughty Novelists are an amazing group of writers that you should follow! Their Super Sekrit Project is going to entertain their blog readers for weeks!
You get a cookie for reading all the way to the end! Well, not really, but you CAN leave a comment--what is your grammar pet peeve?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Art of Ingeniously Bribing

I love to write. It is my escape from the world, my corner of fairyland where anything can happen.

But sometimes, I just don't wanna. Whether the words are flowing like frozen molasses or I stayed up too late the night before, some mornings getting my butt in my writing chair seems an insurmountable task.

Let's start at the beginning: Last year, I was lucky enough to get into Samhain's Binding Ties anthology. It was an AMAZING experience, and the novella "Maison Domine" came out last September. Since then, aside from a few short stories, I've not written...anything. Life was getting in the way. This summer, I said enough. I demanded time from myself to write, and I started with the "Book in a Month" (BIAM) program.

And it actually worked! My goal was a 20k novella, and in four weeks, I reached 25k. I'm almost done--last two scenes--and then onto another project. Falling into a routine was so much easier than I'd thought. Writing is like any other muscle: the more you use it, the stronger it gets. So the longer I've been writing daily with my 1k goal, the easier it's been to hit that number. Most days I even go over!

Still, some days I'm lucky to get 300 words, so I've developed the Art of Ingeniously Bribing (thanks, Jane Collier, for the title inspiration). The BIAM system has you set out a reward at the beginning: mine is buying a nice pen from Levenger.

Despite the end goal, I found myself in need of micro-goals on certain difficult days. I've compiled my bribery list below.
- Having a piece of Vosges chocolate (courtesy of PG Forte)
- Buying another Nine Naughty Novelists book (Currently "Rigger" by Kelly Jamieson; next, "No Matter What" by Erin Nicholas, then "Iron" by PG Forte. I'm working my way through all eight of my co-bloggers)
- Putting awesomely cute cat stickers on my calendar for days I reach 1k+
- Buying new candles (each project has its own candle/scent)
- Buying new pens (I outline and prewrite by hand)
- Buying new journals (see above)
- Downloading new music (each Act has a certain soundtrack to capture the mood)
- Buying a new book on writing or editing
- Cashing in on a promised back/foot rub from Phin

It's bribery galore here--but most of them are dependent upon my finishing a project (hello, upcoming short stories!). So how do you manipulate yourself into working when you just don't feel like it? Or do you write better when you can step away from the project for a day or two and wait for the words to come to you?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Guest Blogger Tina Donahue - That First Kiss. . .


In every romance, erotic or otherwise, the couple’s first kiss should be memorable. It can be greedy, impassioned, tender, or exploring. . .but it must move a reader. It must make an audience clamor for more.

In my upcoming erotic romance, In His Arms, I wanted Summer and RJ’s first kiss to be more than arousing, it had to be a kiss she craved. Even though she’s a sexual slave and she’s been given to him by her owner, I wanted her to willingly encourage the intimacy, to feel cherished, protected, respected within his arms.

I won’t lie – the scene (and those preceding it) was extremely difficult to write, but Summer’s emotional connection with RJ blossomed and made their first kiss quite moving.

Here’s a blurb and an excerpt to show you what I mean.

BLURB:

Owned by one man, loved by another. . .

Abducted and delivered into sexual slavery, Lori has surrendered her will in order to survive. For more than a decade, she’s been known as Summer, a lovely submissive, her owner’s possession until he gives her to his newest lieutenant, a mysterious man called RJ. Commanding and virile, RJ dominates without cruelty and possesses without threat, engendering a mixture of safety and passion. In his strong arms, Summer enjoys carnal pleasure she’s never known and tenderness she’s craved. In his heated gaze, she experiences a sense of recognition she doesn’t immediately understand until it proves dangerous in a way she could never have imagined. Bound by desire and their growing love, RJ traverses the shadowy world of human trafficking, risking all for Summer’s freedom only to learn she harbors a fateful secret that threatens to tear her from him, leading to an irrevocable event that risks both their lives.

EXCERPT:

Their bellies and thighs touched—hers soft and yielding, his unresisting, solid. Summer’s pulse jumped, shaken by their closeness. Her mind kept repeating his words.

Whatever happens from this moment on is your choice. Tonight’s about whatever you want.

Given the option, the first she’d known in too long, her decision had been easier than she might have imagined. She liked his gentle manner, his playful teasing. He’d made her smile.

He made her want again. She craved his large body and protection.

But she couldn’t go with him. Tonight would be all they had. Intending to enjoy it, she leaned into him.

The edge of his hair skimmed her cheek, delivering his shampoo’s faint citrusy fragrance. Summer inhaled deeply, capturing more of it. Beneath the manufactured scent was his own, unmistakably a man’s musk. Her belly fluttered.

Whatever you want.

She placed her free hand on his chest and splayed her fingers to touch as much of his right pec as she could. Beneath his cashmere sweater and her caress, his firm muscles danced. In her fantasies, when she’d needed comfort, she had imagined a man like RJ.

You set the pace.

Her cheek glided over his as she sought his mouth, just as she would if they’d been on a date. Willingly, she eased her head back to encourage his kiss.

In no hurry, he allowed her to experience the contradiction of his beard-roughened face and the pillowy softness of his lips, the hint of cherry tobacco on his breath. Hers caught as the tip of his tongue—hot and wet—probed the seam of her mouth. Back arched, breasts nuzzled against him, Summer took as much as he could give her.

He filled her well.

She curled her fingers in his sweater. Encouraged by her response, his hand went to her hair. Working his fingers through it, he cupped the back of her head in his large palm.

Her lips parted even more, her tongue sliding over his. She tasted a trace of peppermint toothpaste meant to mask what he’d smoked, and something beyond it, an indescribable flavor belonging to him alone.

A soft grunt escaped RJ. His flat belly bumped hers, his cock brushing her mound.

She imagined his hardened shaft inside of her, stretching, possessing, arousing, fulfilling her female need to have a strong man take her and deliver pleasure they both wanted. Her scalp tingled. She tightened her hold on his sweater to draw him closer. Eager, not compliant, Summer suckled his tongue, then forced it from her mouth so she could enter him.

Clearly liking the way she took charge, he drew her tongue deeply inside, his lips pursed around its base, not letting go. It fueled something buried in her and affected him as well. Their kiss turned surprisingly greedy, savage, their harsh breathing punctuated by her mewling and his satisfied grunts.

Minutes passed. Their lewd sounds grew quiet, the kiss evolving from wild to tender like a gentle dream that shielded her from the harsh realities of waking. From tomorrow.

Summer didn’t want the moment to ever end, but RJ pulled his mouth free and heaved in a full breath. Unsettled by the loss of his touch—her body weakened with desire—she looked up at him.

Stark wonder registered in his gaze, telling her their kiss had affected him as much as it had her, going beyond satisfaction.

It seemed to have moved him in a way he hadn’t anticipated.

That one kiss begins their remarkable journey that leads to danger and love. . .

In His Arms will be available September 3

Buy Link: http://www.jasminejade.com/ps-8593-50-in-his-arms.aspx


Tina Donahue is a multi–published novelist in contemporary, historical and erotic romance. Booklist, Publisher’s Weekly, Romantic Times and numerous online sites have praised her work; she has reached finals and /or placed in numerous RWA–sponsored contests. She was the editor of an award–winning Midwestern newspaper, worked in Story Direction for a Hollywood production company, and is currently the Managing Editor for a global business document concern.

Email: tina@tinadonahue.com

Website/blog: www.tinadonahue.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/tinadonahue

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000458023097

To celebrate the upcoming release of In His Arms, I’m offering a contest today. One lucky commenter will have her choice of one of my following books**

1. Lush Velvet Nights – ebook

2. Adored – ebook

3. Deep, Dark, Delicious – ebook

4. Close to Perfect – mass market paperback

5. Bad Boys with Red Roses – trade paperback

6. Take My Breath Away – trade paperback

** Winner chosen at random. Winner in continental US has her choice of one of the six. Winner outside continental US has her choice of one of the ebooks

Monday, August 23, 2010

Epilogues: when enough is not enough

Okay, so if you haven’t yet read excellent Meg’s post about prologues you should go do that at once. Go ahead. Scroll down the page a little. I’ll wait….

Fabulous isn’t it? And, if you read the comments, you’ll see I really love prologues too…didn’t read that far? Well, too late now. You’ll just have to take my word for it. Let’s continue.

The reason I mentioned Meg’s post first thing like this is because it inspired today’s post, which is all about epilogues. Unlike prologues, which I'm almost universally in favor of, my relationship with epilogues is definitely more of a love/hate thing—both as a writer and a reader.

Sure it’s neat, at times, to get a final glimpse of characters you’ve come to know and love over the course of a book or a series. It’s tempting for everyone to tie off those annoying loose ends. It’s satisfying to know that everything eventually ends up just the way you knew (or hoped) it would.

But what if it doesn’t? What if reader and writer are not in sync and the epilogue doesn’t take the reader where he or she wanted to go? A bad epilogue can absolutely ruin an otherwise good book. So isn’t it better to leave the possibilities open? Memorable characters, the kind we all want to write and we all love to read about, bring out proprietary feelings in everyone who gets to know them. Messing with that is a dangerous thing. Or it spawns fanfic—which could be a good thing.

Personally, I find fanfiction to be both liberating and empowering. In fact, my daughter lives for the day there’s an Oberon fanfic forum. She plans on appointing herself Keeper of the Canon, since she basically grew up with the series while it was being written and is one of the world's leading experts  on the subject. I’ve yet to break it to her how highly unlikely I think the possibility is that there will ever be an Oberon fanfic forum, so...shhh. Let's keep that to ourselves.

But there are other reasons to write an epilogue as well. Sometimes, the end of a story leaves unanswered questions about minor characters. Sometimes, if the book is one of a series, it’s necessary to provide hints about events that will take place in upcoming books but which have little to do with the current story. That was the case when I wrote the epilogue for Visions Before Midnight (Oberon: book 7). I had no plans to write an epilogue. I liked the ending I’d crafted for the h/h and I’d purposely squared away most of the supporting characters ahead of time so I could end things the way they were “supposed” to end.

The first draft was done and already in the hands of my CPs when I remembered that, in a last minute change to the story, the villain had unexpectedly returned to the scene and abducted one of my favorite minor characters. When the book ends, readers are left with no idea what has become of her.

An epilogue was therefore required. I couldn’t slip in the grim reality before the originally scheduled ending without seriously diminishing the HEA. And, in any case, her story had very little to do with the h/h.

I’m still mixed about it—even though I’m unexpectedly fond of that very last line. I’ve posted it on my blog, if you’d like to read it, and see what you think. It can be found at:  


I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.

So what are your feelings on epilogues? Do you like things tied up with a pretty bow? Or left to your own imagination?

Friday, August 20, 2010

What's Past Is Prologue


Okay, I’m going on record here—I actually like prologues. I know I’m not supposed to. All the writing workshops tell you not to use them. Donald Maass claims, in his Writing the Breakout Novel, that his agency automatically rejects any book that has one (authors take note). The idea is that anything that goes into a prologue should probably go into Chapter 1, and if you can’t work it in, then the prologue is probably unnecessary. I get it—I really do. I still like prologues, though.

Let’s look at the things a prologue can be used for. First of all, it can provide a pivotal episode in the past that will indirectly affect all that follows. Nora Roberts does this with her Three Sisters Island books. The actions of the original three sisters have consequences that extend into the present, and seeing them act sets up the situation Roberts wants to carry forward. Yes, the characters do refer to the earlier sisters, but they don’t have to sit down and explain everything that happened, thanks to the prologue.

Then you’ve got the “key to the mystery” prologue where the author gives some cryptic clues about what’s going to happen here and who’s involved. Linda Howard does that in Mr. Perfect, where the brief prologue not only gives you a hint about who the nasty killer is but also gives you an idea of the twist in the plot. These types of prologues are often very tricky indeed since the reader may not be able to connect them to the story until much later in the plot, and by then the prologue may have been forgotten. That doesn’t make them unnecessary, just really, really clever and tough to do.

There are even “scene setting” prologues, where the prologue sets up the feeling the book is going to have while, perhaps, presenting a few interesting details about the plot. This kind of prologue shows up a lot in historicals, but Elizabeth Lowell uses it too in her suspense novels like Die In Plain Sight and The Wrong Hostage.

Now you may have noticed a couple of things here. First, all of these authors are very successful and very well known. And I could have added others to this list: Julia Quinn, for example, and Eloisa James and Mary Balogh. The idea that no good writer uses a prologue is just, well, silly. But the other thing you may have noticed, if you’ve read my Konigsburg books, is that I’ve never written a prologue myself.

Well, that’s not exactly true. I have, in fact, written prologues. I have also trashed those prologues. I’ll admit it—the current anti-prologue bias has me spooked. So I’ll go on being prologueless, at least for the time being.

Still, I have to come back to my original point. I like prologues for a simple reason: the prologue lets the reader feel like an insider. Think about it—the prologue usually gives you information at least some of the characters in the novel don’t have. You know what happened in the past to cause this situation. You know something about the murderer (although not enough to give the identity away too soon). You have a piece of the puzzle that the others won’t understand until later. If the writer is really good, that puzzle piece will let you begin to see the ultimate shape of the plot more quickly than some of the characters do. And that’s fun.

Far from being superfluous, a good prologue pulls the reader in and makes her a collaborator with the author in creating the scene. Or anyway, that’s how I see it.

So what do you think? Will you tolerate prologues, or do prologues make you want to throw the book against the nearest wall (always providing, of course, that it’s not an ebook because throwing a Kindle or a Nook could have serious consequences)?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

When Romance Gets Too Real


Recently Meg got a negative review from the SmartBitches (Sarah, specifically). It was a strange review - Sarah gave Long Time Gone a DNF - Did Not Finish. Now, DNF usually indicates something very, very wrong with a book - something hugely offensive or shockingly stupid. In this case, though, the problem was tuna fish. The hero caught a whiff of tuna fish when he kissed the heroine, and Sarah squicked.

[I'm not gonna talk about negative reviews today, but a lot of readers told Sarah how much they love the Konigsberg series. Sarah's now reading Venus in Blue Jeans, based on commenters' urging, and I think Long Time Gone will post a spike in sales simply based on the exposure.]

Sarah couldn't handle tuna breath. (One commenter said she couldn't stand it when a character in a romance book eats something she (the commenter) hates. I wonder how many books she has to put down?) But in real life, everybody's breath smells like something. In real life, people have morning breath, while romance characters wake up, roll over, and make sweet sweet lurve. In real life, people have bed head, but romance heroines wake up adorably mussed and heroes are sexy and tousled. In real life, peoples' deodorants sometimes stop working before they do, but romance heroes smell manly and heroines smell floral, or citrusy, or herbal, no matter what they've just been doing. In real life, guys decide to settle down when they get tired of holding in their farts, but romance heroes never let one rip, not even after they get married. (More on farts in a second. Seriously.)

So the question today is - how real is too real for you?

I guess we all have our squick triggers.© For some it's food, for others it's body parts or processes.

I read erotica and erotic romance, including, occasionally, BDSM.
The genre gets a little too physically real for me sometimes. Confession: I can't stand butts -- well, butts are okay, I just don't like buttholes. I don't like butt secks and I don't like reading anything about peoples' posterior orifices. A lot of BDSM novels get very clinical. Seeing the word "anus" doesn't ruin a book for me, but I'll just glide over the rest of the paragraph and catch up with the post-butt action.

I used to have a friend who couldn't stand watching, hearing about or reading about people vomiting (yeah, having small children sucked for her). Sarah mentioned a romance novel where the heroine puked, and a bit later the hero kissed her, and there was no change of scene or anything to indicate that the heroine brushed her teeth first. This is an instance where the romance novel is ickier, instead of prettier, than real life. I don't think puking girls get kissed before they brush their teeth -- at least not after college.

Okay, I said we'd get back to farts. I'm going to assume that no romance hero has ever farted. But there's at least one heroine who has.

Princess Daisy, published in 1980, was a huge bestseller and earned Judith Krantz a five million dollar advance. [Discussion topic for later: what happened to the big glitzy cheeseball contemporaries like Scruples, Princess Daisy, Lace, etc.?] Near the end of the story, Princess Daisy, a Brit, and the American hero whose name I don't remember meet at an English country house party. She surprises him in his room late at night and they make sweet sweet lurve. As they're cuddling and afterglowing, she lets out three tiny little pops. It's been almost thirty years, but I'll never forget the scene. I was like, "she farted?" Daisy is mortified, of course, and tries to flee. But the laid back hero just laughs it off and makes a joke about the "Queen's salute."

Daisy's the only farting romance heroine I know of -- if you're aware of any others, please share. The scene is so memorable that the eminent literary critic Clive James wrote an essay about it. (It's here and it's awesome. Don't read it if you hate mean reviews.)

I can't think, offhand, of any other romances I've read where I went "Whoa. That's a little too real life for me." What about you? Bad breath, digestive difficulties, aromatic armpits - what's too real for you?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Guest Blogger Dita Parker - Motherhood, Or Executive Leadership Training Guerrilla Style


Anybody else ready for school to start already? Counting the days, I must confess. My babies aren't babies anymore but neither are they self-sufficient yet, and with Hubby working the oddest of hours, my summers are part fun and part when-oh-when-will-life-resume-normal-programming.


I'm grateful for my cubs. They're healthy, smart and funny. When they're not being cheeky, quarrelsome and unruly. I adore them, when I'm not counting to ten and contemplating selling them to the highest bidder. Not in a million years or for a gazillion dollars, but if you're a terrible twos survivor, you know what I mean. Besides, those moments are just unattended needs and conflicting interests and timetables talking, or trying to, while I hold my tongue, count to ten and wait for the tantrum to pass, theirs, mine... It's best not to keep score.


I try to remember that what I strive to teach my children pales in comparison to what they've taught me over the years. I've learned how to be more organized, how to better prioritize, motivate, support and encourage. I've had plenty of opportunities to develop my problem solving and conflict resolution skills, to say nothing of self-control and stress management. Their very distinct personalities and temperaments have made me more sensitive and given me a chance to improve my communication skills.


Patience, commitment, self-awareness, being proactive and empathetic... I could go on and on. Of course you don't have to have children to gain these skills, or set your sights on managerial positions to make use of them, but everything my kids have taught me have not only made me a better parent, they've made me a better writer.


Now, if I could only conjure some more hours to my day or learn to function without sleep, and get over the feeling I'm way too often present yet absent, my mind on a WIP even when there's not a notebook, keyboard or moment's peace in sight... No skills required to make those wishes come true, only magic.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Editing the erotic romance

All authors go through the editing process. I truly value my editors’ input. They’ve made suggestions that have made my books so much better, they find stupid mistakes (like he was wearing a T-shirt when he left home but a button-down shirt when he got home), overrused words, factual mistakes, and misused words. But I have to say I never anticipated the kind of comments I would get from my editors on erotic romances. I’ve had some “conversations” back and forth about some pretty intimate subjects! Here are some comments from some of my editors that have gone into my "most embarrassing editor comments file". (Warning: X rated comments!)


This all sounds like Abby toyed with Abby’s nipples

Gotta watch the “her” and “she’s” when writing sex scenes with two women.

Didn’t Melina get a Brazilian for him?

Your womb is your uterus…I’m thinking it’s her vagina that is?

If she’s kissing his nipples, she wouldn’t really be lying on his chest, but leaning over him.

Is he wearing a condom?

If she’s on her tummy, how can any arousal be trailing to her anus? Wouldn’t that be going against gravity?

Just checking… deliberately no condom this time, or did he just forget?

The way this is phrased, it’s not clear whether it’s her mouth or his cock that’s “hot and velvet, hard and pulsing”

Dangler – reads as though she is hot, hard and throbbing

If she’s on the bottom, why would she need to lift her head?

This reads as if her neck is sitting beside her on his couch.

Um…no lube? She’s an anal virgin and he knows it.

Since you just used “womb” about what about “pussy” or “cunt”?

What about cross contamination. As a doc, he’d know not to put his mouth on her again after it has been on/in her anus.

Did it (his cock) soften from beforehand?

Is this anal or vaginal?


Friday, August 13, 2010

Playing In Someone Else's Universe



So my kids are currently hooked on the TV show Danny Phantom. My oldest, particularly, is a big fan, and has complained at length about it being cancelled.

A week or so ago, though, they discovered something new and amazing. "Mom," FutureStar said breathlessly, pointing at the computer screen. "Did you know there's something called fanfic?"

Uh-oh.

In between making sure the site was okay, and giving strict instructions about which ratings they are allowed to read and which ratings are off-limits (WAAAAAY too young for slash, thank you very much), I had to laugh. Because the very first romance story I ever wrote was a fanfic piece.

And yes, I know this is a minefield. I thought long and hard about posting this, because I know there are many, many authors out there who hate fanfic with a passion. But for me, that story was a chance to rectify what I saw as a massive failure on the part of the network toward a show I really enjoyed.

See, the TV show ended the season on a cliffhanger, clearly preparing to come back the next year with the answer to the "will she or won't she" question they posted at the end of the episode. And then the network pulled the show from its schedule, leaving fans frustrated and irritated. Who does the main character end up with? The fiance at the altar, or the ex who showed up in time to stop the wedding? We'd never know, because the show was over and done.

So after stewing about it for a while, I sat down and pounded out my own ending, what I would have liked to see if the show had continued. It gave me a sense of conclusion, a way to reach that HEA I felt the programming directors had denied me.

It also gave me my writing career. Because after writing that story, I started really thinking about WHY that HEA was so important to me. Why I needed closure, why I cared about the characters finding love. If it was something that compelled me in fandom, why not when writing in my own playground? And thus a romance writer was born.

And when my kid pulled out a notebook and started plotting a Danny Phantom story, I knew that it held the same temptation for FutureStar that it did for me, all those years ago - a chance to explore the "what if?" left behind when a favorite show ended too soon.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Thursday 13 ~ New Genre-blenders I'd Like to Try

It's no secret I like to mix things up, or that when it comes to cross combining sub-genres my usual philosophy is, more is more.

But you can blame this post on Kelly, Meg and Juniper who just had to play, what if...
They got me thinking, you know? And that's always a little bit dangerous.

So here, in no particular order, is a list of thirteen new cross-genre romances I'd maybe like to try:

# 1.   Amish Shapeshifter How will the peaceful Amish react to the werewolf in their midst?  Or is the shifter one of the sheep?


# 2.  Amish Shapeshifter Ménage Similar to the above, only with several sheep shifters. 
 


# 3.  Western Vampire Inspirational  In which Tex, the preacher’s son turned vampire lawman, finds salvation when he falls for Maggie Mae, the poor-but-virtuous widow woman-slash-school marm.

# 4.  Steampunk BDSM Romance Oh, c'mon, who hasn’t looked at some of that Steampunk gadgetry and thought, “Gee, what I could do with that in the bedroom.”

# 5.  Erotic Steampunk Zombie Romance Okay, I’ll admit it, zombie romances might be a tad hard to stomach. But if anyone could get them to hold things together long enough to get the job done, it’s the Steampunk science geeks. 

   

# 6. Post-apocalyptic Cowboy Time-travel Romance A classic tale wherein “Cowboy” replaces “Connecticut Yankee” and “Mad Max” replaces “King Arthur”

 # 7.  Voluptuous Angels & Demons BDSM Romance Who doesn’t love fluffy angels? Who doesn’t occasionally want to see them get tied up?

# 8.  Historic Paranormal Erotic Romance Oh, wait. I already did something like that, didn’t I?

# 9.  Historic Sci-fi Rom-com Suspense Jane Austin does MacGyver

#10.  Sweet Post-apocalyptic Holiday Fantasy Romance What? It’s nothing more than your basic sci-fi version of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”




#11.  Erotic Fairytale Fetish The real reason everyone in Oz was after Dorothy's slippers. 
#12.  Amish Chick-lit Romantic Suspense Think "Sex in the City" meets "The Witness".


#13.  LGBT Military Ménage When one man in uniform is simply not enough.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Let the Games Begin

BREAKING NEWS! The winners of the Welcome Juniper party have been selected, thanks to the genius of Random.org. They are:

Courtesy of Kinsey Holley, a copy of Training the Receptionist goes to Willa.

Courtesy of Erin Nicholas, elaing8 is the winner of a copy of My Three Lords.

Courtesy of PG Forte, a copy of The Extremist goes to *yadkny*.

Courtesy of Kelly Jamieson, hotcha12 wins a copy of Doll.

And since they've given away all my books, I'm awarding some Vosges exotic truffles to ... Tamara Lynn!

Congratulations everyone and thanks for playing.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming. Since this is my first official post as one of the Nine Naughty Novelists, I really want to impress everyone. Maybe I should talk about my books … nah. I write books, you already know that. Or my upcoming wedding … uh oh. Haven’t started planning yet.

Well, I’ve heard that some people are fascinated by Alaska – perhaps I can impress everyone by talking about our lesser-known favorite sports. No, not the Iditarod. I’m talking about the OUTHOUSE RACES.

Yep, every winter, people bring their homemade outhouses – decorated for the occasion – to the race. One person has to be on the throne, the others have to be pushing, carrying, or otherwise manhandling the outhouse across the finish line.

Yes, it’s a long winter -- we have to amuse ourselves somehow.

For instance, the NENANA ICE CLASSIC. In this action-packed event, a tripod is placed on the frozen Tanana River at the beginning of winter. People place bets on the precise moment – to the minute -- “break-up” will cause the tripod to fall into the river. Sure, it’s silly – until you hear the size of the jackpot. Last year, if you guessed right, you could have won $279,030.

Ready to move here yet?

If you lived here, you too could participate in the SEWARD POLAR BEAR JUMP. All you have to do is jump into the ocean … in JANUARY!







But what about the summer, you ask?

Yes, there is a summer. Kind of. You can always take part in the MOUNT MARATHON RACE.

That’s the one where you run a mile and a half straight up a mountain, complete with cliffs and waterfalls and rockslides, then back down, trying like hell to stay on your feet.



Maybe you’d like something more relaxing. Here’s a competition in which all you have to do is grow facial hair. (Sorry, I’m out.) THE WORLD BEARD AND MOUSTACHE COMPETITION happens every two years. Categories include the “musketeer,” “the Imperial,” and freestyle. Although this event travels the world, I’m including it because the reigning freestyle champ is Anchorage’s own David Trainor.


Not only that – Beard Team USA dominated the 2009 event. (Sorry, Canada, better luck next time.)








Unique to Alaska – and this one I truly love and attend whenever I can – is the WORLD ESKIMO-INDIAN OLYMPICS, which features events based on native Alaskan skills and games.
The Ear Pull, the Fish Cutting Competition, the Greased Log Walk, the Blanket Toss – they celebrate and honor ancient survival skills. At WEIO, competitors dress in street clothes, sincerely cheer each other on, and turn the stadium into a big party.

Have I convinced you to move here yet, or at least visit? I like to affectionately tease my adopted state, but Alaska truly is a fascinating – if weird -- place to live. If there’s anything you’d like to ask about Alaska, and what it’s like to live here, now’s your chance. Ask me anything! If I don't know the answer, I'll make it up. Couldn't be stranger than the truth!

Juniper

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Guest Blogger Amber Skyze - Real Life?


I’m often asked if I use any real life events in my writing. The answer: sometimes.
I’ve been writing for almost twenty years and of course something from life has to creep into my writing. Back when I started writing, everything from my life or the lives of family and friends went into stories. I wrote for Modern Romance and True Confessions; they wanted real life. Now don’t get me wrong: I know not everything is “real”. After ten years of writing for them, I’d ran out of true stories and began making them up.
Once I wrote a story about a woman who was in love with a drug addict. She wanted out of the relationship, but he was so controlling he’d rather kill her than let her leave. He handcuffed her to a radiator and started a chair on fire. My editors loved this story. Sadly, it was a true story that happened to a very good friend of mine. With her permission I wrote and published the story.
Not all true events will pass. Years ago I read a “too crazy to be true” article about a woman who grew tired of her husband’s nagging and shot him. The bullet lodged in his false teeth and he lived. I wrote a short story about it and my editor said, “This isn’t believable.” LOL Really?
When I published my first erotica book, Mistletoe Studs, I made the mistake of giving my heroine’s best friend the same name as my best friend. It really wasn’t supposed to stay Lisa. It was more of a place holder, but somehow I went through edits and forgot to change it. What a mistake that was.
After Lisa read the story she whined and asked why her character didn’t get to have sex.
Hmmm, it wasn’t about her!
This taught me a valuable lesson – leave out friends’ names and stop using real life events. Besides, when you escape into a book you want a fantasy, right?
Now when I write my erotic stories I stick with my fantasy what-ifs. If something from my life does happen to make it into a story I will cover it with so much fiction, no one will recognize it as being real.
From a very young age, Amber began making up stories--the only child syndrome. She grew up reading sick and twisted murder mysteries. Romance was for little kids and their fairy tales. One day her grandmother died and she inherited a boat load of romances and she found a new genre to love. Then she discovered erotic romance and found her calling. When not creating sexy, seductive stories Amber can be found at the ocean or floating around in her pool, with music blasting in the background. Her love of music inspires many of her stories.