Jilly: Dunbar’s Number for Writers and Readers

How many authors are on your mental auto-buy checklist? How many are on your keeper shelf? And how long have those authors been at the heart of your reading universe?

I’ve been noodling around with these questions for some time—a couple of years, probably—ever since I first read about Dunbar’s Number. If you’re not familiar with the concept, Wikipedia describes it as a suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. Or, to put it crudely: there’s a limit to the number of people your brain has space for.

Dunbar’s Number has been around since the 1990s, but I came across it when I started writing fiction with an eye to publication and realized that meant I’d have to get to grips with social media. If you’d like to know more about the idea in the context of online relationships, click here for a Youtube link to anthropologist Robin Dunbar’s 15-minute Tedx talk: Can The Internet Buy You More Friends?

If you’d prefer the short version, it goes something like this: we humans maintain social relationships at various levels of intimacy, and the number of people we have the capacity to manage at each level is more or less predictable.

  • We have a very inner core of intimate friends and relations, people we would turn to in times of deep emotional stress. Typically there are about five of them.
  • We have a group of best friends, people we know well, confide in, trust, spend time with. That group would likely be about fifteen people, including the inner five.
  • The next closest layer, good friends, would be about fifty people (including the first fifteen);

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Jilly: Writing Flawed Sex and No Sex

The birds are singing, the sap is rising, and we’ve been talking a lot here on the blog about writing great sex scenes.

Kay started the party by sharing her battle to reward her long-suffering hero and heroine with a gold-plated, caviar-coated, champagne-drenched, Lamborghini-driving, high-quality, meaningful one-on-one. Last Saturday Michaeline shared her thoughts on the sex scenes in Charmed and Dangerous, an anthology of short gay fantasy stories, and yesterday she told us about a pair of happy couplings she decided not to write. In between, Nancy gave us five points to ponder about writing sex in the romance genre.

I’d like to drop another suggestion into the mix.

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Jilly: Cold Comfort Reading Recommendations

cold-comfortDo you have a favorite book or author you always read when you’re feeling under the weather?

I’ve been out of sorts for a day or two, but during Friday night I hatched out the mother of all colds. I’m not properly ill, just the usual—head full of cotton wool, sandpaper throat, sneezing the house down—and feeling very sorry for myself.

I had a couple of possible posts in mind for today.

My first topic was the preponderance of gratuitous sex scenes in the mainstream romantic fiction I’ve been reading lately. I love a well-written sex scene, but I expect it to follow the same rules as any other scene–it should be particular to the characters and it has to move the story. Two people repeatedly having a good time together, however inventive they may be, does not of itself move the story forward. It takes up pages of real estate that could better have been used to make the relationship and eventual HEA between the H&H unique and unforgettable.

The alternative was to discuss a romance I just started. It’s standard paranormal romance, not erotica. I’ve only read a chapter or two, but it’s a continuation of a series so I’m already familiar with the characters. I’m reading on, because I like the author, but I’m filled with trepidation because there’s a huge gap in age, experience and status between the H&H. He’s mid-forties, a good guy in a dominant leadership position. He’s freaked out to find himself head over heels in lust with a nineteen year-old girl Continue reading

Jilly: Filling the Well

filling-the-wellWhat have you done to recharge your batteries/top up your creative well this week? I’ve spent most of the last three days with my nose in a book (well, pressed against a Kindle.) It’s been wonderful.

I had great plans to read and recharge over the holidays. That didn’t happen, because I used all my spare time to work on my Golden Heart entry. I wrote a new opening scene—it took multiple attempts before I finally found one I liked. I figured out an opening sentence that made promises about the story instead of just plunging into the action. I filled in plot holes. I checked the etymology of every significant word to make sure it was appropriate to my world. I tailored my metaphors. I wrote a new synopsis that reflected Alexis and Kierce’s relationship arc instead of wandering off into the mystery sub-plot. And then—yay!—this week, I uploaded the lot to the RWA website.

I have a lot of work left to do on this story, but I needed a breather so I decided to treat myself to the book binge I didn’t get in December.

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Jilly: What Would Your Library Be Like?

library-girlHow’s your weekend going? I seem to be feeling the urge to hibernate. Last Friday my husband went into town to catch up with a friend. I stayed home and dined on steamed chocolate pudding and custard accompanied by a large mug of hot chocolate. Don’t judge 😉 .

I had a shortlist of interesting, stimulating posts to offer today. I’m going to save them and go with the cozy self-indulgence theme instead. Do you have your own library? Not a Kindle, or a bunch of bookcases in the guest bedroom, but a private, personal temple dedicated to reading?

If you’ve ever read a historical romance or watched a period drama, chances are you’ve come across a library scene. It is, after all, a truth universally acknowledged that every hot hero should have a fabulous library in his mansion.

If you’ve ever visited an English stately home, chances are you’ll have realized that said libraries weren’t designed for comfort reading, but as a statement of the wealth, culture and education of their owners.

You might not be aware that this notion of a library is alive and thriving in the twenty-first century. If you are very, very wealthy Continue reading

Jilly: Craft Book Squee – Story Genius

story-geniusHave you had enough politics yet? If the answer is no, please check out yesterday’s excellent post by Michaeline, The Election and the Future of the US Writing Market. Plenty of insightful, positive, actionable food for thought there.

If you’re ready for a break from world affairs, let’s discuss creating quality stories to sustain us through the challenging times ahead 😉 .

Last Sunday in Storyteller v Smooth Writer I talked about judging contest entries and understanding the difference between polished writing and addictive storytelling. I said I’d decided not to take any more classes or buy any more writing books until I’d figured out how to make the storyline of my WIP as powerful as it can be.

Yeah, but no. A couple of days after I put up that post I bought a writing book and I’ve been glued to it ever since. I have not been this excited about a craft book, ever.

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Jilly: Haunting Love Stories

books-that-go-bump-in-the-nightDo you enjoy ghost stories?

I don’t like sad or scary fiction, and since ghosts are a consequence of death and are usually associated with violence, unhappiness, revenge, terrible secrets and unfinished business, they’re not a natural choice for me.

Despite the caveat above, every October I get caught up in the atmosphere of approaching darkness, and ubiquitous Halloween/All Souls/Samhain imagery.

Yesterday I was looking for something seasonal but not too scary to read, and thinking that unlike vampires, demons or shifters, ghosts don’t really lend themselves to romantic fiction. A furred, fanged or soulless hero is one thing, but an incorporeal one?

I asked Mr. Google, and to my surprise, I discovered that Goodreads has a 95-book list called Ghostly Romance.

I spent a happy hour or so investigating. Continue reading