Break the Rules

Aspiring writers are given rules and tips and formulas and charts and character sheets and plotting methods from day one. Especially Romance writers. Because there is a certain expectation that readers have for reading a romance novel. Sure, you can label it a formula, but there are millions of ways to apply that formula. Still, is it a romance if you don’t provide certain expected points? Continue reading “Break the Rules”

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You Might be a Heroine IF!

Stealing shamelessly from Jeff Foxworthy, I sat reading a Regency novel recently, and noted a behavior in the heroine. Then I read a hockey romance (yeah, my newest addiction) and saw the same behavior. Thinking back, there are lots of things that apply to the heroines in romance novels. At least 85 %, to be honest. Here’s the ones that popped into my brain.

You Might Be A Heroine IF – you enjoy doing things that most women in your position would not think of doing. Such as galloping in Hyde Park during the peak of the social hour. Or taking long walks in the country without a chaperone. Even reading serious books about politics and philosophy. (Side note, a critiquer once complained about heroines always loving to read, to the point that it seems a cliché. Well, we all love to read. And we have television, movies, computers, and so on to choose from. In Regency England, reading was one of very few entertainments allowed to young women. If you had half a brain, you would love to read.)
You Might Be A Heroine IF – whenever the hero’s unfashionably long hair falls into his eyes, you can hardly resist brushing it back for him. Dude, buy a comb!

You Might Be A Heroine IF – you are extremely poor but have a kind heart and pure soul. And you are still fascinating to the men in your life.

You Might Be A Heroine IF – you have brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles, aunts, even nieces and nephews who might have their own romance story to tell. It’s awesome because then you and your true love will get to make guest appearances in those future stories.

You Might Be A Heroine IF – you are willing to sacrifice your love and you chance at a happy ever after in order to do something noble for the man you love. You may cry afterward.

You Might Be A Heroine IF – rather than buy yourself a new dress or shoes, you spend all your income on seeing to the old family retainers who have been more like family to you than your actual family.

You Might Be A Heroine IF – there is something unusual about you. You had a foreign parent, or are dark when the fashion is for blonds, are thin when the fashion is for plump armfuls, or are witty when women should be vacuous and should not speak up.

You Might Be A Heroine IF – there’s a spark in your heart to write a story about an unusual woman who makes a difference in the lives of those who read about her.

Best wishes for your own Happy Ever After. I’ll be back on Sunday.

How Does Alpha Happen?

For my NaNoWriMo project, I am writing an Alpha male who feels a bond to the heroine but she has her own agenda. When he tries to treat her like a “girl,” he damages the relationship that is barely starting between them. Of course he will have to change and let her fight her own battles to some extent. But how did he get to be that way?

I have trouble writing Alphas, I think. I like nice guys, and I don’t think they finish last. Okay, I started to write an innuendo here, and changed my mind, so just pretend I did. But back to how I am going to make Ash Leander a tough guy when he’s really a pussy cat. See what I did there? He’s a jaguar shape shifter. I crack myself up!

Here’s a list of the 25 traits of an Alpha Male: http://www.traitsofthealphamale.com/77/25-traits-of-an-alpha-male/ Ash scores high in 1 and 2, comfortable with himself, and passionate about life. Also 6, high morale code. Finding out his life mate married someone else is devastating to him, but he still won’t leave her side. Even if there’s no way he can be, you know, with her. Sigh.

I don’t think 9 or 10 really apply to Ash. He dresses well, but in the business of covert ops, he usually ends up in ripped shirts and shorts. Ahem. Give me a minute. Here’s the male model whose gorgeous body is my muse for Ash: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/514606694895309266/ Not much to go on, sartorially. And growth is something he leaves up to The Family. They run the business, he just does his job.

But the rest are very much spot on. This list narrows it down to five traits: http://www.sharpergame.com/inner-game/the-5-alpha-male-traits-women-simply-cant-resist/ These are the ones that make an Alpha irresistible to women. Confidence, composed, not afraid to take a risk, not given to bragging or worrying what other people thing, and not lacking in leadership skills. Okay. That’s good.

Now that we know what an Alpha is all about, HOW did he get that way? Or did he? Is Alpha vs. Beta personality a myth? http://www.artofmanliness.com/2014/07/07/the-myth-of-the-alpha-male/ So maybe in real life they do not exist, but in Romance Novels, to quote my Amazon parrot, “Heck, yeah!”

I found this list of Alpha males, and found an interesting fact about each of them. http://www.askmen.com/money/successful_150/178_success.html Each of these examples started out with a lack of things going for them. Either from poor backgrounds, or considered a freak, or pretty much not worth noticing. Fighting back and making it to the top is the resonating life goal for Alphas.

And that’s pretty much where Ash got his Alpha traits. He was orphaned about the time his jaguar started shifting. Chances are the people in his village would have killed him if he had not been found by the Fidel family. With the help of his foster parents, he learned to take care of himself, to rely on his own skills, and to assist the people around him to make the best of their own skills. He wants everyone to come through their various missions as winners.

I should figure out why Romela isn’t very interested in his skills. Maybe, as this last link quotes at the end of the article, “Alpha Males are jerks. I can’t stand how attracted I am to them.” I’ll be back on Sunday.

Music Soothes the Savage Author

Have you heard about BookTrack.com? I just saw a side bar ad for it on Facebook (how does FB know I’m a writer, that’s what I want to know?). Here’s their site: http://www.booktrack.com/ and here’s what Uncle Wiki has to say about them: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Booktrack

I had this idea! Just within the last year, I was having lunch with a friend and my husband, and the friend thought it would be easy to add a sound track to an ebook. We also talked about interactive maps and such, which I understand is also a current possibility. But not being a programer and not having money, someone beat me to this idea. Oh, well.

My Scribophile friends and I often discuss music to write by and to accompany some of their writings. One author could hardly believe how much this song by Loreena McKennit described his main characters and their relationship. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7LS4fiLHnMw Another thought of her character who was in rehab while listening to John Mayer’s In Repair. http://youtu.be/HKDPaf40LCw

Another listened repeatedly to The Eagles There’s a Hole in the World Tonight. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=haNpuHZam40

One of my favorite up and coming writers on Scribophile has a couple who got together for one of those wonderful, no strings, nothing but sex arrangements, and fell deeply in love. She picked 30 Seconds to Mars’ version of Stay. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IqPATbDhrb4

And there are pages and pages more of songs that either inspired the writer or reflect exactly the feeling they wanted in the story. As a writer of Regency Romances, I find things a little less easy, because I want any music I listen to to be period, and because I don’t really have time to listen to lots of songs to find the right ones. It’s not like I am going to hear a perfect tune on the radio, not even classics on NPR.

A little time on Google, however, does present a few great selections. Take, for example, my “friend” Roxana Haley’s Regency Erotic Romance, Appetizer: Pure Seduction. The opening of the story could be accompanied by this sprightly tune, Backhofen Rondo. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9rNU6GuK70 Once the main characters meet each other, the Gavota de Cortesana is a good choice. The video is very amateurish, but the music is what I want to share. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jWdlPcPBKWY

And not to give too much away, when the events come to a head and all is revealed, just about any jig or reel will do! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3xeTpgLP5o

I’ll admit it, until I started to write this blog post, I simply moaned about the difficulties of finding the right Regency music for my stories. Now that I’ve dug in and got a start, I find it’s not that hard at all. Rather a lot like writing!

I finally dug in and listened to Pandora while working away today. They have a British Folk Music station. Who knew? I liked The Maid That Sold Her Barley https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZHo44M-J4PI, The Raggle Taggle Gypsy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2WhifjRViZc and I especially like Red is the Rose https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_KPfB_PRYlY.

Problem solved, life is good, and I have writing to do! Hope you might purchase my “friend”’s ebook and write a review! Thanks, I’ll be back on Thursday.

Life Choices

I’m reading a great High Fantasy romance right now by someone I actually know! Is that too cool? Okay, I hang around with Romance Writers of America and on Scribophile, so I do know rather a lot of published authors. But Tameri Etherton is one of the best people I know and made me feel very welcome at RWA meetings. So when she announced the publication of her ebook, The Stones of Kaldaar, first book in her Song of the Swords series, I picked it up right away.

I haven’t put it down yet. I am really enjoying the book, and if you are interested in it, here’s a link. The cover art is just like Tameri herself, full of joy and drama. The good kind of drama. http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-stones-of-kaldaar-tameri-etherton/1120323231?ean=2940046141870

As I read the beginning of the novel, I thought, what would I do if (assuming I am a young woman) life suddenly revealed itself to me as something totally different than anything I expected? And what would I rather have the choice of being? Could I be revealed as the unknown heir to a title and fortune? Or a Messiah on another planet or in another dimension? What if I am a vampire or a werewolf? A sorcerer with untold, untapped powers? So many possibilities.

Let’s look at the pluses and minuses. Today I wake up, open my closet, and instead of the usual selection of fat clothes and skinny clothes, there’s a door! I, of course, open it, and step into a new world. Someone is waiting for me, and tells me I am the new ruler of Slumberistan. I now posses more magic power than I can imagine. But in two weeks, I will fight one on one with the evil Lord Damitall, who is trying to take over my rightful throne. For two weeks, I have maids who will wait on me hand and foot, scrub my back, choose my gowns, make sure I get to meals on time, and bring me books from the library. I have daily exercise in learning to fight with a big, heavy slice of sharp metal, and learning to use this magic I am supposed to have. Those are the pluses. The down side is that in two weeks, I’ll be killed because I can’t learn enough in that short of a time.

Next scenario, please! I’m driving to work, not really paying attention because I know where every little bump in the road lies, and when the traffic will slow down. But I look up, and everything is wrong. I don’t know this road, I don’t remember how I got here. There’s one lane and lots of trees and it’s dark like evening, not morning. The car starts to stall, so I pull over to the side. I get out, and a truly god-like man (a Chris Hemsworth close) approaches me. He tells me I have been sent to this dimension to lead the faithful away from the path of sin, and to convert those sinners who have left the fold. I tell him, “Buddy, you have got the wrong woman! Where’s the party?’ Yeah, not many pluses, especially if there’s celibacy involved.

Moving right along, I finally get to go to Eastern Europe and stay in a castle! I fall asleep in a huge, dusty bed (but I don’t mind the dust, because CASTLE!) only to be woke up by people in my room, arguing. A pair of delicious, half naked men are arguing over which one of them I belong to. I think, I wish my husband was here! I have to choose between a vampire and werewolf. Awesome, but again, not so many plus sides here. Dead or cursed, sucking blood or killing innocents. NEXT!

Same castle, but instead of waking up to arguing beefcakes, I see flashes of very white light under my door. I open it up to find a pair of sorcerers battling with lightning bolts and fire balls and staffs. I think, “I better check out of this place!” and step into the hallway, just as each sorcerer throws their most powerful spell. Hmmm, probably just going to be a pile of ash, now that I think of it. Not even Cinderella.
I guess I’m happiest being someone who thinks up these things, instead of someone who has to live through them. Have a good week, and I’ll be back on Sunday.

Formula Stories for the Win

Tropes and formulas are a part of the Romance world. Searching Google will give you lots of plots and arcs and Very Important Elements for any romance novel. Using these formulas might just earn you some criticism about tropes and writing the same story over and over.

You can blithely ignore those critics. At the Romance Writers of America (RWA) meeting I attended yesterday, those of us who were not lucky enough to go to the National convention in San Antonio just last month were treated so some Publisher Spotlight notes that not only made us more jealous of those who went, but gave us lots of important information. And I am going to share some of it with you today.

Harlequin single title lines are not easy to break into, but the Harlequin series, under the Spotlight title, is a little more understanding of both authors and readers. And they insist on the formula. Not the same story over and over, but the same elements. Think of it like a foot race. All the entrants have to hit the same marks to meet the race requirements, but they can do it at their own time, in their own way.

The readers drive the desire for these same elements. A tortured hero, a flawed heroine, a reason for them to work together, a reason they shouldn’t fall in love, and a way to overcome all of that for the Happy Ever After (HEA). Here is Harlequin’s “format” for the perfect story: http://www.harlequin.com/articlepage.html?articleId=1425&chapter=0

Larry Brooks, the Storyfixer, wrote a great blog a couple years back on discovering that Romance writers are as competent and motivated as any other writers, and maybe more dedicated than most.
http://storyfix.com/what-i-just-learned-from-a-room-full-of-romance-writers And I am going to buy a copy of his book, Warm Hugs for Writers, to give to all my Scribophile friends when they doubt themselves.

Shoshanna Evers posted this Secret Formula in 2009, and now is a published author. Wait, can it be a secret if you post it on the Internet? http://www.thewriterschallenge.com/2009/09/secret-formula-of-most-romance-novels.html

At the RWA meeting, we discussed a lot of what is hot and what is fading from view in subgenres. Personally, I am just going to keep writing what I want to write, and I will find my readers through good stories. But the next wave is Historical Romance, particularly medieval. And paranormal is on the way out, apparently. I am sure there are more readers like me who just realized the wealth of books out there about Alpha Male Wolf heros that make me a little melty. And even a lion shapeshifter has caught my attention, in Dark Age Dawning #3, Daybreak by Ellen Connor (who turns out to be two talented women!).

About Dark Age Dawning, I picked up a copy of the third book, and started reading it without the slightest intent of looking for the first two novels. Not only has that changed a few chapters in, I am going to find everything they ever wrote and read it. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8397035-daybreak

Dystopia worlds have been a big deal for a while, where magic makes everything dangerous and beautiful. The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones are big reasons for this trend. But the genre has been around for a long time. Animal Farm being one of the earliest, and The Handmaid’s Tale one of the best. Here is Julia Gandrud’s 8 Point Dystopian Plot Formula. http://writingreadingandlife.com/2013/11/29/guest-post-8-point-dystopian-plot-formula-julia-gandrud/

Think you need a little more help getting this formula under your belt? Look for your local RWA chapter and find out which workshops are available. You can take some of the on-line workshops from any chapter, if it suits your needs. There are also many other sources of learning, from community college creative writing to Scribophile forums, but some of those are not exactly Romance friendly. But here’s a great plot mapping idea from Tracey Montana and Adrienne Giordano at the Romance University (whose motto is R U Ready? Love it). http://romanceuniversity.org/2009/10/19/do-all-roads-lead-to-plot-mapping/

Like Adrienne says at the end of the blog, I’d love to hear how you use the formula, and how you map your plot! Maybe you’d like to write a guest post for me on the subject! Maybe we can trade posts! I know if I followed through on half the ideas I come up with, I’d be rich and have all the time in the world to write. See you on Thursday.

Interview with Lila Auclair

Some weeks ago, I posted three photos of models who were in the running for the basis of my heroine in a Regency naval-based Romance. I had long ago picked my hero, thinking he would be a pirate, but he’s turned into Captain Christopher “Kit” Dash. Here’s his Pinterest image: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/514606694893848864/

In the story, Kit is a tall man with broad shoulders and long legs who has some issues living on a ship that uses very little space for any one thing. So I felt that the woman who wins his heart will be a sturdy woman, beautiful and curved, but also taller than the norm, who feels solid in his arms and in his bed. This is Lila Auclair: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/514606694894666796/

I’m getting to know Lila, even though actually writing this story isn’t in the forecast, so I decided to get what I know about her written out and saved for the time to come.

Novel Approach: Miss Auclair, welcome. Would you tell us a little about your childhood?

Lila Auclair: My younger days passed tediously, I wouldn’t dwell on them. Suffice to say that my father is a French fisherman, my mother was Scottish, from Stonehaven. They met when his fleet blew in during a storm. He stayed a while, as some of the boats were damaged. Then he went back to France. Mama didn’t speak French, but she thought he meant to come back. Well, in the course of things, I entered the world. We lived with her parents on a small farm, and she died when I turned twelve.

NA: That’s very touching. How did you end up in France? Boulogne-sur-mer, was it?

LA: Yes, I went to find my father, and found instead his family. Mostly fishermen, but some farmers too. I stayed with an aunt and helped my cousins run the farm. I have learned to make the very best goat cheese in the whole world. Would you like to try it?

NA: Oh, maybe later. Thank you. I read somewhere that Boulogne-sur-mer hosted a fleet of smugglers. Are you sure your father fished for a living?

LA: Having never met the man, I can only tell you the stories my mother told me. I have been reassured by my aunt that he did indeed fish at some time in his life. He has gone to fight Napoleon, so we do not know if he will return to the farm.

NA: Your father still does not know of your existence? How does that make you feel?

LA: How should it make me feel? I have no claims on him, and want only to live in France with the Auclair family. My aunt wrote a letter to him, to tell him about me, but I do not know if he received it. There has been no reply.

NA: What was your mother’s family name?

LA: MacFarlane. Hannah MacFarlane, daughter and only child of Edward and Mary Gordon MacFarlane.

NA: How did you happen to meet Captain Dash?

LA: My cousin Pierre took fresh vegetables, flour, and chickens to the British ships that patrol the channel. The captain asked him to bring more, everything we could spare. So we took two boats out, with goats and wine and honey, and much more. Just as we had off-loaded our boats, and Pierre started back in his, a French ship appeared, and the captain ordered his crew to attack. I could not get to my boat safely, so he sent me below. To his cabin.

NA: Well, that’s all the time we have today! Thanks for your candid answers, Miss Auclair. And thanks to everyone for reading. I’ll be back on Thursday with more about ladies’ clothing.

LA: Oh, I’d like to read that one.

NA: I don’t think the ship has WiFi.