Elizabeth: Story Improv

writing_sessionMy To-Be-Read pile of books is eclipsed only by my To-Be-Listened-To collection of podcasts. In an attempt to make some headway, I’ve been listening to a podcast instead of my usual playlist during my gym workouts (bonus: it makes the time go by faster). Right now I’m working my way through the StoryWonk Sunday writing podcasts by Lani Diane Rich and Alastair Stephens.  The podcasts ran from 2012 through 2014, but discussions about story and narrative don’t go out of style and there have been some really thought-provoking discussions.

Anyway, in one of the episodes I listened to last week they did an improv segment Continue reading

Justine: When It’s Time to Leave Your Critique Group

red flagI’ve been involved in an informal critique group for just about 3 years now – the Eight Ladies – and another regular group (meaning we meet weekly) for just over a year. A few months ago, I joined a third critique group, but I just notified the members that I must withdraw from it.

There are many reasons to join a critique group, and also many reasons to leave one, but there are a few things that should be red flags. If any of the things listed below are happening in your critique group, perhaps it’s time to set sail and find another. Continue reading

Nancy: Putting the Bromance in Romance

bromanceOne of the themes that emerges in my writing, regardless of genre, is the importance of friendship in getting to the ‘stable world’ at the end of the story. Friendships among my female characters tend to arise naturally. So when I built the arc for my Victorian Romance series around five old friends/schoolmates from Harrow, the heroes of the stories, I thought I had a handle on these male friendships and how they’d grown, changed, and in some cases disintegrated over the years. Only when I got to revisions in book one did I realize that two of these friends who’d had a significant falling out needed to repair their friendship to move not only the plot of the first book, but also the arc of the series.

I’m going to dispense with the formalities of titles for purposes of this blog post, so the friends in question are Daniel (book 1 hero) and Edward (book 2 hero). These two are destined to cross paths and proverbial swords because our heroine, Emmeline, is both Daniel’s love interest and Edward’s sister. While each man loves Emmeline dearly in his own way, each believes he knows what’s best for her future (not-so-spoilery spoiler: their ideas of ‘best for Emmeline’ are different, and Emmeline doesn’t give a toss about their opinions of her life anyway).

In the first draft, I had Daniel and Edward sniping and verbally sparring, and eventually begrudgingly joining forces to do the right thing. That was all very nice and fine and good, but there wasn’t a lot of juice in their storyline. And what fun is it to read (or write!) about characters when there’s no juice? So I set out to make these former friends angrier, more intractable, and more diametrically opposed. Of course, you can’t have an immovable object meet an irresistible force without ensuing fireworks. And those fireworks? It turns out they’re the juice in the Daniel/Edward subplot.  Continue reading

Jilly: Keeping The Mystery Alive

Keeping The Mystery AliveSome books, like mysteries and police procedurals, are all about solving the puzzle. The reader expects to play detective, and it’s the author’s job to play fair and feed the reader enough information for them to work out the answer, though ideally not too soon.

How about romances, though? When you read a love story, do you expect to be an active participant, or do you think the author should do all the heavy lifting?

I like it when a romance author raises lots of questions in the first act of a book. A hint of a connection here, a whiff of back-story there, and I’m mentally making note of information I believe will be important later. So the Duke believes he’ll never marry? The movie star is in disguise, working in a supermarket under an assumed name? Please don’t tell me why, or at least, not yet. As long as I’m confident the dots will be joined before the story ends, I’m super-happy when an author piques my curiosity. I start speculating, which makes me engage with the story, and as the author adds in pieces of the puzzle, I pick up clues and adjust my guesses.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, thanks to Continue reading

Michaeline: Chills and Thrills for August

Japanese ghost next to a stone well.

Okiku was just a normal girl, a serving maid, who foiled her lecherous master’s plans — so he threw her down a well. Ever after, her voice could be heard coming from the cold, dank depths of the well . . . . (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

It’s hot this August. Not so much in degrees of Fahrenheit but the humidity presses down like a wet blanket. It’s not supposed to be like this in Hokkaido, but there you are. Blame it on global weirding. Nobody this year has said to me, “My, what a typical summer we’re having!” Nobody has the willpower to do much of anything except moan, “Hoooooot,” followed up by an occasional “Huuuuumid.” People can’t even bear the thought of an exclamation point.

On the main island of Japan, though, this kind of weather is a normal year – maybe even a little chilly. They beat the heat in various ways down there – pretty little fans, cotton robes, watermelon and shaved ice, but the tradition that concerns me today is the tradition of ghost stories.

That shiver down your spine? Japanese associate it with cooling pleasure, and it’s amazing how a scary story under the stars can give you the goosebumps.

The kind of story that really gets me is the kind where everything is normal . . . until suddenly it’s not. Continue reading

Kat: New York Story

New York City

New York City

Like the other 8 Ladies I’m still decompressing from my trip to NYC. My writing has definitely benefited from a shot of conference adrenaline, and my imagination is still buzzing with the sights and sounds I experienced on my first trip to NY.

While I didn’t come to NY early like some of the ladies, I still found time to experience the insanity (and sheer humanity) of Time’s Square, the camaraderie of an old-fashioned family style Italian restaurant, and the highlights of the city while on a walking tour with a wonderful young photographer (and daughter of 8 Lady, Michille) named Joanna Caples.

Continue reading

Michille: Why Professors Love to Study Romance

17237619.6780095One of the sessions I attended at RWA was ‘Why Professors Love to Study Romance: Ten-Year Anniversary of RWA’s Academic Grant.’ Most of my favorite romance scholars were there. Among them were Joanna Gregson (my daughter’s name is Joanna, too) and Jen Lois (both of whom I met in Orlando and have seen at every conference since – love those Romance Sociology ladies), Jayashree Kamble, and Sarah Frantz Lyons. Sadly, Pam Regis, my project adviser and romance scholar extraordinaire, was not there, but her book is listed on the Resources for Romance Writers that was handed out. Consuela Francis, Stacy Holden, Madeline Hunter, and Catherine Roach were also there, and although I was unfamiliar with them at the start, I will definitely be reading their articles because they fall into the same category as the ones I am familiar with. They are uber-smart women who happen to like a story that is strong on character arc, plot, motivation, and back story, that also happens to have an emotionally satisfying happy ending (gasp!). Continue reading