Jeanne: My First DNF (Did Not Finish)

censorship-3308001_640So I got a note from an old friend and former co-worker the other day, saying they couldn’t finish The Demon Always Wins because it was too scary. Pressed, she admitted that she never actually started it–just the idea of demons freaked her out.

I was sorry she couldn’t enjoy the book, but I didn’t really take it to heart. It didn’t feel like a rejection of my work so much as a rejection of the genre. Since I have no expectation that I’m going to convert anyone who doesn’t like paranormal over to reading it, I wasn’t upset.

What felt a little more personal was the lady at the gym who declined to read it because of the cursing in the first chapter. I pointed out that only the bad guys curse, but she wasn’t swayed. Cursing makes her uncomfortable. Continue reading

Justine: Prepping for a Research Trip

49665157 - travel holiday vacation traveling laptop technology conceptIn a couple weeks, I’ll be headed across the pond for 10 days of research in London for my next couple Regency romances. It’ll be my third time in the lovely country of England and I have some very targeted sites I want to see. For the most part, I’ll be in London (renting a flat via Airbnb this time that puts me right in the heart of Mayfair, near Grosvenor Square and Hyde Park).

If you’ve never taken a research trip before, here are my tips for things to bring (or do) when you head out one one. Continue reading

Michille: Google Romance Novels

I googled ‘romance novels’.

Google Romance Novels Top of the page, a scroll bar with Fifty Shades of Grey first (ack – hated it, stalker steals car and doesn’t stop at no – I know others loved it, but not my cuppa). Love Story – hello, she dies. No HEA. Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre were there so at least some classics were represented but there was a lot of crap there which is one of the things that, IMO, give romance novels a bad name. For example, the first article link: 20 of the Best Erotic Romance Novels of All Time, According to Readers. It’s not about the sex, folks. It’s about the relationship, the character arcs, the HEA. Although this is changing, for the most part, romance novels are by, for, and about women. But the new sub-genres that are on the LGBTQ, MFM, MMFM, FMF, etc, focus on parity with the partner. But I did find some good stuff. Continue reading

Michille: A New Approach

HeronI am contemplating taking a new approach to my writing. I have a four-book series that I’ve been working on. I go to conferences and workshops and take online courses and I get excited about the revisions that are needed. And then I sit down to do them, start working through the list of what needs done and I get so overwhelmed that I just quit. In order to do A, I have to stop and hit D, L, Q, and P, and then come back to A. Repeat, repeat, repeat. And I stop.

In order to get my writing mojo back, my new approach is going to be starting a whole new story. The picture is a Great Blue Heron that I see when I hike at a park near my house. It’s my spirit animal so I’m keeping it close for motivation. Part of my motivation for this new approach is that I believe I am a good writer. I read. A lot. And most of what I read is crap, has crappy elements, or has my pet peeves sprinkled throughout. I’m going to write a book that I would like to read. My starting point is a list of what the story will have and a list of what it won’t. Continue reading

Elizabeth: By Age 35 . . .

After all of the accountability and progress reporting earlier this week, I thought I’d lighten things up a little today.  A few weeks ago, MarketWatch posted this relatively innocuous tweet:

What was intended as simple financial advice exploded into a Twitter-storm and eventually turned into a meme, as readers weighed in with their increasingly amusing opinions.    If you haven’t seen them, there was an entertaining summary of the whole thing in the Washington Post entitled:  By age 35, you should have saved up enough despair to understand this meme.

The replies referenced everything from “Avocado Toast” to collecting “Chaos Emeralds”.  My favorite (probably because it struck close to home) was:

I first saw a literary twist on this meme on a post by a librarian friend of mine, which included such entries as:

By age 35 you should have thrown away your copy of War and Peace.  You know you’re never going to read it.

By age 35, if you don’t know who Elizabeth Bennet, Miss Havisham, George Knightley, or Colonel Brandon are, you never will.

So, what would your “By age 35″ entry be?

The Weird World of ISBN’s

ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is the identifier you see on the backs of books. It ISBNallows each edition of a book to be uniquely identified.

If you’re traditionally published, the publisher takes care of this for you, but if you choose to self-publish, you have to handle it yourself.

Since I plan to start releasing books this summer, it’s time for me to acquire the necessary ISBN’s. In the U.S., there’s only one place that sells ISBN’s, an organization called Bowker.

So that makes it easy, right?

Not so fast. Here is the pricing structure for ISBNs:

Quantity:   1      Price: $   125.00

Quantity: 10      Price: $   295.00

Quantity 100:    Price: $   575.00

Quantity 1000:  Price: $ 1000.00

I know what you’re thinking, because it’s exactly what I thought: huh? 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?