Michille: First Lines

Duke of DesireI have blogged about first lines before – best, worst, would you keep reading, etc. One time, it resulted from my daughter (another voracious reader) bringing home a bag of random books and we sat around the dining table after dinner and read the first lines/paragraphs of several of the books. The motivation for this post came from a book I just started, which has a fabulous first line:

Elizabeth Hoyt, Duke of Desire: Considering how extremely dull her life had been up until this point, Iris Daniels, Lady Jordan had discovered a quite colorful way to die.

Love it! (I do have a problem with the cover, though. The cover model is, of course, gorgeous, but the Duke in the story has significant facial scarring. This book is 11th in a series, and although it’s the first I’ve read, I went back through some of the others in the series to see if she just has a way with first lines. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Notes from a Public Typewritter©

I was perusing the local bookstore the other day (which sounds better than desperately trying to come up with a blog-post idea), and Michael Gustafson’s book Notes from a Public Typewriter caught my interest.

I’m never quite sure what causes a book to jump out and catch my interest (that’s probably a post for another day), but for this book, it was a combination of the cover and the promise the title suggested.  The book was featured in an NPR Books article this past April (which I vaguely remember reading) and you can read the details here.

Basically, Michael set up the typewriter in his bookstore in Ann Arbor and let customers type away.  He initially thought maybe one customer would start a story and others would add to it over time when they passed by.  Instead what he wound up with thousands of pages of:

“Love letters, poems, quotes, sprawling meditations on life. Notes written over the top of others, single words, perfectly spaced paragraphs”

“It’s just been a wonderful sort of diary of a town,” says Michael, “happening in a bookstore.”

It’s always fascinating when something like this grows organically into something totally unexpected.  Last year I talked about  a similar type of unexpected project – the Big Ball of Paint – which was intended to be a 1000-coats-of-paint project  to see what the paint-layer cross sections would look like that evolved into a still-growing 14-foot (circumference) 2.5 ton ball of more than 25,000 layers of paint that is part tourist attraction, part collaborative project.

The ball of paint didn’t turn into a book like the typewriter notes did, but it was equally collaborative and creative.

Going back to the notes on the typewriter, although the experiment didn’t turn into the single long-story that Michael envisioned at the onset, it instead turned into a book full of stories, all told just a few words at a time.

I can’t wait to read them all.

Also, I feel a strange need to go unearth that old typewriter from the garage.  Who knows, maybe there are stories lurking there too.

Jeanne: The True Heart of the Golden Heart®

dragonfly-3469873_640Elizabeth’s post last week on the future of the Golden Heart® got me to thinking about my own experiences with this RWA tradition.

As you may know, I was a finalist in 2015 for The Demon Always Wins, my debut paranormal which will be released on September 1st on Amazon. It was a thrill to final, and an even bigger thrill in July, when the book went on to win its category. But the greatest win I received from the contest wasn’t delivered until the next February.

In January, 2016, after a routine mammogram, I was diagnosed with invasive ductile breast cancer. I was very fortunate because the mammogram and follow up ultrasound caught it very early–I think my tumor was 4 millimeters–about the size of the tip of your pinky finger. In March I had a lumpectomy and did a course of radiation and I’m happy to report that I’ve seen no recurrence.

But in between that January diagnosis and my March surgery, something pretty amazing happened. One Saturday morning in February, I did a quick check of my email before heading out to go hiking at a nearby nature preserve, as I usually do on Saturdays. To my surprise, in my inbox was a $5 Amazon gift card from on one of the Dragonflies, as my Golden Heart® class had chosen to name themselves. I was a little befuddled, but I had to meet a friend at the preserve, so I decided I’d figure out what was going on when I got home.

When I returned, around 10 a.m., there were two more gift cards in my inbox, also from Dragonflies. All day long, my inbox pinged with new arrivals as my Dragonfly sisters used their wings to carry me aloft. When I reached out to thank them and ask what they were doing, they said they wanted me to feel like I was getting little hugs all day long.

I truly did.

By the end of the day, I had amassed around 40 gift cards in varying amounts, totaling almost $300. In my mind, that money is earmarked for buying, at a minimum, every Dragonfly debut novel, so that I can read it and leave a review and, in some small measure, pay them back for their support during what could have been a lonely and frightening time.

So, RWA® Board if you’re listening, that’s what the Golden Heart® is really about. To my mind, we shouldn’t be looking for ways to dismantle it. We should be looking for ways to spread this kind of sisterhood and camaraderie throughout the organization.

Nancy: Help a Pitcher Out

Over the past several months, you’ve been hearing a lot about my Victorian Romance series. On occasion, you’ve also heard about my Women’s Fiction story (or Commercial Mainstream Fiction, if you don’t like the WF label). Today, I’d like to focus the spotlight on that WF story, because at the end of the week, I’ll be pitching it to a panel of agents.

It’s always tough to send a manuscript out into the world. Scary. Nerve-wracking. Heart-wrenching. It’s even more difficult when you have to pare it down to a brief, bare-essence presentation as I’ll be doing this week. I’m participating in the Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA) annual pitch session, and the rules are very strict. The only information you can include is book title, length, WF subgenre if applicable, then a 50-word pitch followed by the first 250 words of the story.

In manuscript terms, that 250 words is less than a page. Yep, the goal is to sell the agents on the main character, premise, and voice of a 300+-page book in less than one measly page. And as if that weren’t mission impossible enough, by 50-word pitch, they mean 50-word summary of the whole. damn. book.

And the gods wept.

But I will not be thwarted! This past week, I pitched my pitch and one-page submission to my book coach, and made a few tweaks based on her feedback. Now I need some fresh eyes on this sucker, because mine are bloodshot and bleary. Want to help me out? If so, post your thoughts, comments, take-aways, or recommendations in the comments. Most important is that the pitch give you a sense of what the book is, and the first page intrigue you enough to request more pages.

TITLE: Take the Money and Run

LENGTH: 95k words

SUBGENRE(S): WF with Romantic Elements; Commercial WF

PITCH: Continue reading

Jilly: Public Proposals–Swoon or Cringe?

Where do you stand on public marriage proposals?

I’m a sports fan, and I had the England v India cricket match playing in the background as I sat down to write today’s post. Normally I find cricket commentary provides the perfect background for writing, but today there was a break in the action, the cameras focused on a tense-looking young man in the crowd, and the TV presenter said “That’ll be Martin*. He’s here today with Suzanne*, and I believe he has something to say to her…” Martin went down on one knee and fished out a ring box. The giant TV screens said DECISION PENDING. Suzanne cried and kissed him. The screens switched to SHE SAID YES! The crowd went bonkers.

The whole episode made me cringe so much I turned the coverage off. Then I started wondering if I’m a grouchy curmudgeon who’s incapable of appreciating a heartfelt romantic gesture.

What do you think?

I’m not talking about a spontaneous proposal that occurs in front of other people because Circumstances. I love those, in life and literature. My problem is with a carefully orchestrated piece of showmanship set up with the intent to share a serious, potentially life-changing decision with as many strangers as possible, without the decision-maker’s knowledge or consent.

Why might you do that? The best answers I could come up with were:

  • The young man, his beloved, or both, are narcissistic exhibitionists;
  • The young man sees the public proposal as a grand gesture, a demonstration of the strength of his love;
  • The young man is afraid the object of his affections might refuse him, and he is relying on public pressure to tip the scales in his favour;
  • The young man is so thrilled and giddy at the prospect of marrying his beloved that he wants to share the moment with the whole world.

Which brings me to my next question. Generalizing here, but do you think a public proposal of marriage is something the twenty-first century bride dreams of? Continue reading

Michaeline: You Can Rent a Man in Japan

A handsome samurai leaning on his sword in a Japanese ukiyoe wood cut print

Help wanted? Have sword; will travel! (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

まじ!You can rent a Japanese middle-aged man in Japan for about 1000 yen (approx. $9 as of this writing) an hour. Now, if that isn’t a seed idea for a romantic story, I don’t know what is.

Tofugu talks about their experiences in renting two older gentlemen here, and Kaeru Parcels gets down to the nitty gritty of how to rent a guy in Japan.

There are ground rules. No sex stuff. You often pay for transportation and any expenses (food, drink, entry fees to museums, etc.) for your gentleman. No touching. And no trying to sell your gentleman anything. If you violate the rules three times, you go on a blacklist.

What do people do with their older gentlemen? Well, one lady didn’t have friends who enjoyed spicy foods, so she rented a guy to go to restaurants with her. Some people just wanted someone to talk to. And others did the sit-com thing, where they hired an old guy to play a role. For example, one guy was a sarcastic guest at a party.

In another case, one woman hired an old guy to play her ex- to make her current boyfriend jealous and propose. It’s a little hard to parse the Tofugu article, but the way I read it, she and the old guy found a spark, and are now happy together. (But it could be read as a happy ending for the girl and her boyfriend after a confession – either way, good story material.)

Rent-a-guy is a pretty common trope in romance fiction, and I think it’s a fun one. It can be very transactional, where Our Heroine rents an actor to play the boyfriend, or Our Hero needs to rent an actress. Or, it can be a matter of Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Story Time and Sprints

Oops – I was so busy trying to finish the latest murder mystery I was reading that I almost forgot it was Friday.  On the plus side, I figured out who the murderer was before I reached the end of the book, so it was time well spent.

Now that I’ve finished my book and have no immediate plans to start another, it’s time for me to spend equal time doing some writing.  I have a full day at work to get through first, but then it will be all about getting words on the page.

I think I’ll start off with today’s writing prompt and see what happens from there.

Care to join me? Continue reading