Jeanne: That’s Swag!

The Demon Always Wins

In July, thanks to my Golden Heart® final, I’ll be attending the 2018 RWA® National Conference in Denver. The conference will attract a couple of thousand romance writers, who are also romance readers. Because I’m planning to release my first books this fall, it’s time to think about swag for the Goody Room.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the term, swag are small, inexpensive items authors give away to publicize their work. (Also, apparently, it’s a new slang term for what used to be cool. The things you discover when you’re googling something else.)

Examples include: Continue reading

Jeanne: Romance vs. Love Story

Matrix Analysis of Romance vs. Love Story

When I got The Demon Always Wins, the the first book in my Touched by a Demon series back from my editor, Karen Harris, she said my story didn’t know whether it was a romance or a love story.

I was mystified. A romance is a love story and vice versa, right?

Wrong.

Karen explained that romances always have happy endings, while love stories don’t.

As part of the general background she provided on how she analyzes story, she also explained that the issues keeping the couple apart in a romance might be internal to the characters, or their external circumstances. The same polarity exists in love stories.

Eight Lady Jilly and I spent the next couple of weeks puzzling over this and sending each other dozens of emails with examples, and where we thought those examples fell along the two continuums.

Then, of course, given my background in working alongside computer geeks and statisticians, it occurred to me that this conundrum really lends itself to a matrix analysis. If you make the vertical axis internal vs. external circumstances and the happy/unhappy ending the horizontal axis, you come up with a matrix like you see above.

Once I had the matrix set up, I plotted in a few well-known stories along the axes.

On the Happy Endings end of the scale, I plotted romances. At the top, where the issues keeping the lovers apart are primarily internal, I put a couple of books by Susan Elizabeth Phillips (It Had to be You and Nobody’s Baby But Mine) and Jenny Crusie (Bet Me).

As you move down the chart, external circumstances start to play a larger role. In Twilight, I treat Edward’s vampirism as an external circumstance–it was forced onto him from an outside agency. However, his controlling behavior and insistence that Bella can’t become a vampire, too, is an internal, character-based issue, and that plays a large role in why they can’t be together.

Most romantic suspense novels–think early Suzanne Brockman–fall into that bottom left quadrant–whatever creates the suspense serves to keep the couple apart, but generally, so do their own character flaws. At the very bottom of that axis, I put Princess Bride–Wesley and Buttercup would be perfectly happy to be together but circumstances force them apart.

Since happy endings are binary–they either are or they aren’t, there’s nothing in the middle of the diagram.

Over on the right, though, we have all the stories with unhappy endings. The issues keeping Rhett and Scarlet apart are internal (except when she’s married, and that never lasts long).

In Wuthering Heights, class-ism keeps Heathcliff and Cathy apart, but so does their wildness.

Still further down the axis, we find Brokeback Mountain. Ennis and Jack are held apart by the danger of being openly homosexual in a profoundly homophobic world, but also by Ennis’ commitment to his family.

At the bottom of the axis lies Romeo and Juliet,  another pair of teenagers kept apart by the world.

Do you agree or disagree with my analysis? If you write romance/love stories, where does you work fall on this matrix?

Jeanne: Interview with Lark Brennan

Lark was one of the first writers to volunteer to be interviewed when I sent out my call, and I’m so glad she did! Since I always buy at least one of my interviewees’ books and read it before going on to research the author and put together what I hope will be interesting questions, this interview introduced me to a new favorite author.Dangerously Yours HR

Question 1: I truly loved Dangerously Yours. Your world-building was seamless, the characters of Lex and Bodie were engaging and the plot escalated smoothly along a trajectory linked to Bodie’s character arc. That’s pretty much the trifecta. Given that Dangerously Yours is your first novel, where did you learn to write so seamlessly?

Thank you, Jeanne! It’s always a thrill when someone loves one of my books. 

Dangerously Yours was my first published book, but not the first one I wrote. That was a 400 page, single-spaced mess which will never see the light of day again, but it taught me I could finish a book.

Then I discovered RWA and ate up every craft workshop at our three local chapters and the national convention. I kept writing and connected with a fabulous critique partner—Sarah Andre who you interviewed here in December. She, too, was serious about publishing and is still the first person who reads my polished “final” draft. Continue reading

Jeanne: March Progress Report

A funny thing happened on my way to accomplishing my March goals: I was notified that the second book in my Touched by a Demon series, The Demon’s in the Details, is a finalist for RWGH Finalist MedallionA’s® 2018 Golden Heart® award.

So, yippee!

I know that I can’t really claim that an event that didn’t occur until 3/4 of the way through the month constitutes a valid excuse for making so little progress on my goals, but it really was a complete distraction from March 21st onward.

Three years ago, when The Demon Always Wins was a finalist (under the title Demon’s Don’t), I got a request to see the entire manuscript from one of the final round judges. The book was far from ready for prime-time, and the anonymous editor or agent that requested the manuscript never followed up. Continue reading

Jeanne: A Series of Unfortunate Events

Apple and forkOne of the things that’s different about writing in a series, versus writing a standalone book, is that the world-building requires a lot more planning. It’s kind of like playing chess. They say that chess masters, for each potential move, project out the next five possible moves before choosing one. That’s probably why I don’t play chess.

To be perfectly honest, my brain is not the least bit strategic. Back in my days of working as an IT manager at a Fortune 1000 corporation, they used to hold these planning sessions where people would sit around for days, blue-skying about all the things the company might want to do, and jawing on and on about all the potential outcomes for each scenario.

Those sessions made me want to stick a fork in my eye. Continue reading

Jeanne: Getting to Know You

StilettosRecently here at Eight Ladies Writing, we talked about our cold start processes–how each of the Ladies gets herself going again on an existing project when she hasn’t written in a while. Michaeline wrote about what I’d call a “fresh start” process–how she gets started on a new project.

In mid-February I started work on the third book in my Touched by a Demon trilogy, The Demon Wore Stilettos. I’ve been looking forward to this one, because the she-demon Lilith, who has been a minor character in the previous two books, finally gets to take center stage.

I’ve had this book in the back of my mind for a while, so I knew the general premise: Megan Kincaid, a recent MFA graduate, sells her soul to Satan in exchange for making the New York Times bestseller list. Continue reading

Jeanne: Interview with Stacy McKitrick

Stacy was the treasurer of my local RWA chapter, Central Ohio Fiction Writers, for the past two years before handing the account books over to me. We carpool for the seventy-Ghostly Interlude, FINAL, updated 4x6odd miles to our monthly chapter meeting, so I’ve gotten to know her a bit. She is, without question, one of the most joyful writers I’ve ever known. Her characters live and breathe for her–and she adores every breath they take, even when they’re not behaving well.

Question 1: A love of the Twilight series led you to write your first novel. What was it about those books that fired your imagination, and how is that reflected in your work?

Yes, I absolutely loved Twilight, and it introduced me to paranormal romance. As a fan of Stephen King and Dean Koontz, I never even thought vampires could be good. But what really fired my imagination was wondering what Edward was thinking the whole time! I wanted his POV soooooo badly. So I think that’s what got me to writing my first book. And it’s why I always have at least two POVs (the heroine AND hero). I don’t want to frustrate MY readers. Continue reading