Jeanne: Why We Love Casablanca

casablanca-3328692_640Recently, I read an analysis of the romance in the movie Casablanca  “The Wrong Man Gave her the Right Feelings,” by Nancy Graham Holm. The thesis of her article is that, even though Rick and Ilsa’s love is considered to be one of the greatest onscreen romances in history, they don’t really love each other because they don’t really know each other.

As Holm points out, when Rick and Ilsa first meet in Paris, there’s no reason for her not to tell Rick about Victor. She believes her husband to be dead and herself a woman free to form a new commitment. So why wouldn’t she tell Rick that? Victor’s dead, so spilling the beans won’t harm him. She’s not traveling under an alias, so it’s not like she’s trying to keep herself, Victor’s widow, hidden. The real reason, of course, is to give the romance plot a jumping-off point.

(Note #1: This is far from Casablanca’s biggest plot hole. The entire movie is based on the search for missing “letters of transit,” signed by Charles de Gaulle, which would allow the bearer to pass through Nazi territory without being arrested. Charles de Gaulle was the leader of the French resistance and absolutely not a person whose signature would in any way impress a Nazi officer.)

(Note #2: There is no way my editor, Karen Dale Harris, would have ever allowed either of these plot holes to slip by.)

(Note #3: Not that she would have gotten a chance (even if she’d been alive when it was filmed, which she wasn’t) because the second half of the script for Casablanca was written while the first half was being filmed–and the entire filming took place between May 25 and August 3, 1942.)

Holm goes on to say that one of the reasons we don’t notice these flaws in the film is because it’s in black and white. Black and white films are low definition, requiring our brains to work harder and leaving us with less critical capacity.

Despite all these flaws, it’s still a great movie and a moving love story.

What’s your favorite love story?

Jeanne: How to Test Your Website Like a Professional Software Developer

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Image by Shahid Abdullah from Pixabay

A few weeks ago, Eight Lady Jilly debuted her new website. Because my previous life was in software development, before it went live I offered to create a test plan and test the site for her. Being British, she’s very polite, so she accepted.

It’s a beautiful site and was delivered in very good working order. Even so, there was some value in creating a test plan that laid out all the things she wanted the site to do and how each of those things gets triggered.

My own site, in contrast, was a little buggy when I got it, so my (very similar) test plan was very useful both in nailing down how I wanted the site to work and in communicating the problems with my developer. The plan allowed me to tell my developer both how I expected the site to work and how it was actually working, and it let me keep track of what had been fixed.  All of this cut down on the time required to get the site cleaned up and ready to go live.

Since some of our readers may have reason to want to build a website, I thought I’d share a bit of the the plan so you can see how to put one together. Continue reading

Jeanne: Anatomy of a Newsletter

On Friday I sent out my seventh newsletter.

When I started sending out newsletters last summer, just before releasing The Demon Always Wins, I planned on once a quarter. Current marketing wisdom says weekly, but who has something to say that often? Even book-factory authors who spit out books like they’re running an assembly line take six weeks or so to write and release a book. Also, I personally loathe getting author newsletters that frequently. And anything more often than once a week I consider spam and quickly unsubscribe.

Still, over the last few months, I’ve fallen into a monthly pattern because I have had news to share—contest finals, new covers, good stuff.! And now that I have a few newsletters under my belt, I feel like I have some useful ideas on what works.

  1. A header/template that reflects your brand. Here’s mine:

Header

2. News. This goes back to what I was grumbling about earlier. It’s only a newsletter if it contains news. In this case, it was the news that The Demon Always Wins won Best Paranormal Romance and Best First Book in the Detroit RWA Booksellers’ Best contest. It included a picture of my (very hard to photograph) awards: Continue reading

Jeanne: How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Jeanne Oates Estridge, author

Photoshopped Taken by Vernice Dollar-Kappell/Studio 16

Well, technically it wasn’t a summer vacation, it was the RWA National Conference in NYC, but it’s as close to a summer vacation as I’m likely to get this year.

Here are the highlights:

  • Scored a double win in the Booksellers’ Best Awards with The Demon Always Wins, for Best Paranormal Romance and the Patti Shenberger award for Best First Book. (Woo-hoo!)
  • Received offers of help with promotion from several people. (Yay!)
  • Had someone tell me The Demon Always Wins is “the best f*cking book I’ve read in five years.” (I’m still swooning.)
  • Got to see the first African-American romance novelists ever win RITA awards. (And about damn time.)
  • Did a book signing and gave away all the paper copies I had with me and had some folks sign up to receive free ebooks.
  • Got to see a couple of plays–Drunk Shakespeare, an off-Broadway presentation of Macbeth with one slightly hammered cast member. and Ain’t Too Proud, the story of the Temptations, complete with great music and Tony-award-winning choreography.
  • Checked out the Guggenheim Museum.
  • Got slightly lost in Central Park with Jilly, accumulating 21,000 steps on my Gear before we got back to the hotel.
  • Attended some great workshops:
    • How to turn a premise into a plot.
    • How to do a successful book release with Skye Warren (Best quote: “You’re either everywhere or you’re nowhere.”)
    • How to create audio books. (The other Ladies were interested in that topic, too, so expect to hear a lot about audio books in the coming months.)
    • Instagram for Authors aka Bookstagram
      • Pick 3 topics and post on them regularly
        • One should be pictures of your book(s), hanging out with flowers or coffee or pastries or whatever.
        • Two other topics related to your brand.
        • One of mine will be flowers, not sure about the other.
    • How to get your books into libraries:
      • IMG_0003

        Not photoshopped Taken by Vernice Dollar-Kappell/Studio 16

        Paper books

      • eBooks
    • Facebook for the Marketing-Minded Author
      • Too
      • Much
      • Information
    • Implicit Bias training
    • We’ll talk more about the workshops in the coming weeks.
    • Got a new headshot taken..
      • Proceeds went to ProLiteracy, a charity RWA supports that helps women achieve literacy.
      • They gave me several different poses.The two in this post are the best. The tech guy erased all my wrinkles from the first one–and didn’t give me a copy of the undoctored version. I actually happen to be okay with my wrinkles. I earned them honestly and they’re mine.
      • Which do you prefer?

 

Jeanne: Memorable Beginnings

15390647 - monarch butterfly, milkweed mania, baby born in the natureLast week, I wrote a post about the need for motion/activity in the first scene of a book. Almost to a woman, the other Ladies disagreed. I’m pretty stubborn and opinionated, but consensus disagreement from so many people whose opinions I respect is enough to make even me stop and reconsider. So, I decided to pull last year’s most top 10 most popular romances on Goodreads and analyze them for the level of activity in the first scene.

The Kiss Quotient—Helen Hoang   Three people sitting at a table, talking. At the end of the conversation, the daughter kisses the dad and hugs the mom.

All Your Perfects—Colleen Hoover    Girl rides up an elevator to surprise her fiance, but when she gets to his floor, there’s an angry guy pacing outside his apartment door because, apparently, the fiance is inside boinking the guy’s girlfriend. At first she doesn’t believe him, but then they overhear the couple inside. Girl slides down the wall to the floor as reality hits her. Angry guy sits beside her. Another guy shows up with Chinese food. Girl refuses to allow hims to deliver the food and instead eats it sitting outside the apartment with the angry guy. Continue reading

Jeanne: A Body in Motion

I just finished reading a first chapter for a friend who’d been wanting me to critique for her. (Note: I’m pretty sure this falls under the heading of “Be Careful What You Wish For”).

Her writing is solid—clear, grammatical, easy to follow—and the character she introduced was sympathetic and likable. Great start.

The problem I had with the scene was that nothing much happened. And not only did nothing much happen, but the character in question didn’t even move around very much. He got out of his car, climbed the steps to someone’s front porch, dodged a bee, and knocked on the door.

That’s not a lot of activity for eight pages.

After I fired off my response email, suggesting she incorporate more action and present conflict, I hopped on Instagram, where I came across a meme on “8 Reasons Your First Scene Isn’t Working.” They were all good points, but the list didn’t include lack of action.

One of the things we learned at McDaniel was that readers judge characters, not by what they say, or even think, but by what they do.

All of that made me think about the motion/energy/activity level in my own new first scene. My scene has conflict, but there’s still a strong aura of “talking heads” about it—just two characters standing around yapping at each other.

Which, now that I’m aware of it, I can fix.

What are your thoughts on this? Is it okay with you if the first scene in a book is just people talking or thinking? Or do you want to see some bodies in motion?

Jeanne: Looking for Mr. One-Click

As regular readers my know, my first book continues to win prizes but it’s not not selling like I’d hoped.demon_wins_1500--POD

Feedback from experts suggested that my original cover wasn’t working for me.

A local bookseller had an issue with the snake. “People are afraid of snakes,” she said. “They won’t pick up something with a snake on it.”

Hmm.

A couple of author friends who sell a lot of books had a more basic criticism. “Your cover doesn’t say romance.”

And I never did like the fact that it was so hard to read the title.

When I had that first cover made, a marketing friend who had read an early draft suggested going with an “object cover”—that is, a cover with an object rather than a person—with the intention of trying for cross-genre sales. Continue reading