Jilly: Georgette Heyer’s Bath

We spent last weekend visiting the beautiful city of Bath. We stayed in a hotel that was once owned by the Duke of Wellington and walked into town to hear a friend’s choir sing in the stunning fifteenth-century Abbey. It seemed as though everywhere I went, I followed in the footsteps of a much-loved Regency romance. Sometimes it was Jane Austen; more often it was Georgette Heyer.

Most of the time it was Black Sheep. It isn’t my all-time favorite Heyer, but I think it has one of the best settings.

By the time of the Regency, Brighton had become the fashionable place to spend the summer and Bath, which had once been the ton’s favorite resort, had become a kind of posh backwater inhabited by invalids and those who couldn’t afford the expense of living in London. Which makes it the perfect choice for Black Sheep. Continue reading

Jilly: Strong Women and Alpha Heroines

Alpha HeroinesHow strong do you like your heroines? Do you think there’s a difference between a strong heroine and an Alpha? If so, do you have a preference?

Last Sunday I wrote about my theory that Alpha Male heroes work best in sub-genres like paranormal romance, historicals, or romantic suspense, the idea being that extreme manifestations of dominant behavior are fun to read about in worlds where such behavior is not only expected, but necessary. In a setting that’s closer to real life, like contemporary romance, the reader’s tolerance for macho chest-beating is much, much lower.

In last week’s discussion, regular 8 Ladies visitor Rachel Beecroft said “the other BIG reason I love Alpha men is because it generally takes an Alpha woman to tame them (at least in the stories I like – I can’t be bothered with Alpha man being tamed by ‘little me’ heroine). Yes! Exactly what Rachel said, and we agreed we’d follow up today Continue reading

Jilly: Alpha Males and Guilty Pleasures

Alpha Males & Guilty PleasuresHow alpha do you like your heroes? If your favorites are uber-dominant types, do they inhabit a sub-genre that expects or requires that behavior?

In my reading life I greatly enjoy alpha male asshattery. There are provisos: obviously the asshat in question must be a good guy deep down, he must have brains and a sense of humor, and he must be enlightened enough to respect and enjoy being challenged by a heroine who’s his equal and maybe even stronger.

Even with those provisos met, though, most of my favorite heroes indulge in the kind of high-handed, obnoxious behavior that I would find totally unacceptable in real life. It’s been on my mind this week, because I’m in the first draft of a new story and I’m gradually filling in all sorts of details about my hero. As I’m writing contemporary romance, it’s closer to home, and I’m finding it tricky to get the balance right. I found it a struggle with the previous book, too: after reading my opening scene from an early draft (a McDaniel College romance writing assignment), Jenny Crusie said she’d keep reading, but only in the hope that my hero, Ian, would get hit by a bus. Continue reading

Jilly: Can A Villain Ever Make A Great Hero?

Hero and Villain?

Hero and Villain?

Have you ever read or written a book with the bad guy (or girl) from a previous book as the hero or heroine? Did it work?

This week, I’ve been reading the historical Captive Hearts trilogy by new-to-me romance author Grace Burrowes. I really like her voice, and I’ll definitely read more of her books, but I’ve been thinking a lot about The Traitor, the second book in the series. The hero, Sebastian, is not just a bad guy, but was the torturer of Christian, the hero of The Captive, the first book. Given that The Captive is about the terrible physical and psychological damage done to Christian during his captivity and his battle to resume a normal life, making a hero of Sebastian is an ambitious undertaking.

Do I think Ms. Burrowes succeeded? Continue reading

Jilly: Working the Crowd

Working the CrowdWhat do you think is the key to a great group scene? Not an escalating exchange between two people with lots of others looking on and chiming in, but a genuine multi-character interaction?

My week has been a total write-off (pun intended). I’ve been wrestling with a key scene – not a turning point, but an important moment in my hero’s character arc – and I still haven’t nailed it. I whined to Justine about it on Thursday via email, and she suggested I should put up a big piece of paper, map everything out and brainstorm until it fell into place. Did that, which helped, but the scene is still in the resuscitation room. I tried reading around other writing blogs to see if I could find any good advice, but the posts I found were all about making sure the scene was clearly set so the reader could picture it, and taking care with dialogue attribution. Useful, but not what I was looking for.

I’m going to give it one more shot, and if I fluff that, I’ll move on and come back to it later. Before my last hurrah Continue reading

Jilly: Comfort Reading

Comfort ReadingBooks should be available on prescription. They’re inexpensive, calorie-free, mood-enhancing, and the positive effects are long-lasting (check out this post on the subject from Kay). On the downside, they’re addictive, but they’re not even in the same depraved league as coffee, chocolate or wine. Reading must be the most benign addiction known to man.

This hasn’t been the best of weeks. I developed some kind of horrible lurgy that required a full-frontal antibiotic offensive, and while the tablets seem to be doing the job, they’re also wiping me out (maybe the disclaimer ‘may interfere with your ability to drive machinery’ should have clued me in). This post is the first thing I’ve written since Wednesday (woe); I’m not allowed wine until next Sunday (double woe); but at least I can read, which makes everything (nearly) all right with my world. Continue reading

Jilly: Who’s Next?

Who's NextHow do you feel about series? Do you like it when a secondary character from one book becomes the hero or heroine of the next?

For me, it totally depends. Sequel bait is high on my list of no-nos, right up there with plot moppets and TSTL heroines, but when a character I’m already invested in gets their own story in a world I already know, I love it with a passion.

What really makes me snarl is when a new character suddenly pops up towards the end of a book. We’re at a critical stage in the plot or sometimes even in an epilogue and suddenly (WTF?) the heroine’s sister or the hero’s cousin arrives on some slender pretext and gets shoe-horned into the story Continue reading

Jilly: Surprisingly Predictable

Surprisingly PredictableI had great fun a couple of weeks ago talking about Okay, You Got Me – the moment when a story sinks its hooks into a reader and won’t let go. Ideally it’s a scene early in a story when the reader commits to the heroine/protagonist because the character does something that makes the reader care about them and want to know what happens next. In Devil’s Cub, my favorite Georgette Heyer, it’s the moment when Mary, the heroine, defends her virtue by shooting Vidal, the very badly-behaved hero.

Okay, You Got Me, or Save The Cat! is an important and wonderful scene, because at that moment the whole tantalising promise of the book stretches out ahead of the reader. If the scene has done its work well, the reader should be speculating like crazy based on the information they have been given. The writer’s mission for the rest of the book Continue reading

Jilly: Okay, You Got Me

Okay, You Got MeExactly as I predicted last month when I was battling the winter blues, suddenly I’m feeling GREAT, just as though somebody turned a switch. It’s the most beautiful sunny day here in London and I’m feeling chock-full of energy and ideas. Not the concrete and specific kind I need to Finish The Damn Book, more an enthusiasm overload that makes me want to wonder and challenge, question and push, so that the DB really does become as good as I can make it.

The change of season helps, but I think it’s more than that. I took a few days off over the holidays and caught up on some reading. I lost the habit last year, not deliberately, but because I was so busy with McD,  trying to get my own WIP edited, and dealing with a couple of family emergencies, that I couldn’t justify four hours’ worth of self-indulgence. So last month was the first time in ages that I read totally for fun. Didn’t matter if they were new authors or best-sellers; the only rule I set was that they had to be writers I hadn’t read before. I had a great time, thought a lot about story, and got really inspired.

I wanted to experiment but I was short of time, so I started to use the ‘Look Inside’ feature on Amazon. I’m probably the last person in the world to discover how fantastic it is. I also gave myself permission to DNF if a book that had passed the Look Inside test didn’t work when I tried it for real. Like Kat’s revelation following her clash with a real life antagonist, the penny dropped for me regarding something I already knew intellectually: a reader only needs a very small taste to figure out if she thinks a book is worth bothering with.

I’ve been having fun trying to identify the moment I said to myself okay, you got me, Continue reading

Jilly: Show And Tell

Show And Tell

Typical feminine pacifying behavior

We’ve been all about the physical this week at 8LW.  Michaeline posted yesterday about writers’ wellbeing, and Kat, Elizabeth and Justine have been discussing the key ingredients of a great sex scene: there’s a lot more to it than describing docking body parts. Conversely, depicting physical interaction is a challenge that extends way beyond the bedroom or back seat, and that’s my subject today: the majority of human communication is non-verbal, and capturing these exchanges well is a key aspect of building credible characters. Continue reading