Jeanne: Telling Parallel Stories

Like Jilly, I have been spending time judging contest entries lately. Unlike Jilly, some of rails-3309912_640mine have been pretty good. One, in particular, interested me because the story paralleled the romances of three different couples, which is what I’m trying to do with my third demon book, The Demon Wore Stilettos.

I was especially interested because every time I tell other authors what I’m working on, they say, “That’s way too complicated. You need to get rid of some of that.”

And it may come to that, but I really want to keep all three stories, so I was happy to see someone else had tried the same thing with, I thought, some success. Her stories were all set in the same small town and used the marriage-of-convenience trope for all three.

Mine are all set in Minneapolis-St. Paul and all revolve around the second-chance-at-love trope.

Where I thought the contest entry could have been stronger was in cohesion. The stories run along side-by-side like train tracks, never crossing, never even approaching each other. In mine, the three couples are, respectively, demons, humans and angels. All three couples have had past romantic encounters and all are now, for various reasons, no longer in those relationships. Continue reading

Nancy: In Praise of Rest

Last week at this time, I was on day five of a virus from hell. A little less than three weeks ago, I was in a doctor’s office learning that, according to some X-rays of my hip, I have an issue that requires a change to my workout regimen for the foreseeable future. And a few weeks before that, I’d had a stiff neck/pinch nerved – possibly related to having my alignment thrown off by the bum hip – that made it difficult to climb out of bed. What all of these ailments have in common, other than making me feel like I’m approximately one hundred years old, is they were, to some extent, preventable.

Given these circumstances, a normal person might think, “What am I doing that’s making me so physically vulnerable?” I, on the other hand, thought, “When will all this be over so I can get back to my normal, totally unrealistic, and probably unsustainable schedule?” At some point, maybe it was around day three of the virus, I knew it was time to abandon my mind-over-matter mindset and listen to what my body, my orthopedist, and the universe were trying to tell me. Assuming you’re less obtuse than I, you can probably see where this is going.

It’s time to slow down a bit. Not forever. But for a while. And probably time to come up with a more sustainable long-term approach that builds downtime into my plans.

So today I present myself as a cautionary tale. Behold what happens when you set up unmanageable expectations. I’ve spent the past nine months riding hellbound for leather to reach a multitude of goals in 2018. And I’ve met most of them, so yay! But follow my lead at your own peril, because you could break something. Quite literally. Continue reading

Jeanne: When Art Imitates Art

So this is the cover of my book that was released in September:

snake winding its way around a practical female hand holding an apple

The Demon Always Wins (image via Amazon)

And this is a statue on display at the Illinois State Capitol, courtesy of the Satanic Temple-Chicago Chapter.

Satanic-statue-exlarge-169

In case you can’t make it out, it’s a sculpture of a woman’s arm, wrapped in a snake, leading up to her hand, which is holding an apple. The inscription on the base reads, “Knowledge is the Greatest Gift.”

Not sure exactly what to make of that…

 

Jilly: Remembrance

Today is Remembrance Sunday in the UK, and Veterans’ Day in the US.

It’s also the centenary of Armistice Day. 100 years ago today, on the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918, the armistice was signed between the Allied Forces and Germany at Compiègne in France, formalizing the cessation of hostilities of World War I.

On a personal note, I’ll be taking time to think about William Dalby of Shirebrook in Derbyshire, a man I’d never heard of this time last year. As you can see from the copy of his service record card at the top of this post, he enlisted in the Sherwood Foresters Regiment on January 7, 1915, aged 27 years and 220 days, and was first posted as part of the Expeditionary Force on 23 October 2015.

William went to war and left behind Annie, his common-law-wife, and six children: Eliza, 13; Minnie, 12; Ruth, 10; Albert, 9; Arthur, 5; and Ada, 2. By my reckoning, he first became a father at the age of 13. His oldest child grew up to become my grandmother.

I remember my grandma as plain-speaking, practical, competent, a tough cookie. Maybe even hard, though she was crazy in love with my granddad. She never talked about her family—I never even knew she had siblings—but I believe she was indentured into domestic service as a maid at a very young age. Looking at the six kids Annie Dalby was left to support, I suppose I can guess what happened.

Grandma made it plain she thought my brother and I were soft and spoiled, and with the benefit of hindsight it’s hard to argue. I generally think of myself as a pretty ordinary person, lucky in life but not especially wealthy or privileged. Today I’m feeling very grateful to be standing on the shoulders of people like William and Annie.

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