Jilly: Birthday bon-bons

Happy Birthday to us, and cheers! to all our friends here on the blog: Eight Ladies Writing celebrated its fourth birthday yesterday, 2 September. Where did the time go?

I thought about selecting my favorite posts of the last four years, but it was just too hard to choose. If you have the time, and you are so inclined, check out our archive. We have a bank of almost 1,400 posts for you to browse and enjoy.

Instead, I decided to hold a traditional birthday celebration today, with champagne, cake, candles, ice cream, and gifts. That is, I picked my favorite fictional moments featuring each of those things 😉 .

If you’d like to join the party by suggesting other festive scenes or books, I’d love that!

Here are my choices:

Champagne
Without question, my favorite champagne-related story is Lord Lovedon’s Duel, a funny, feel-good short story by Loretta Chase. The trouble starts at the heroine’s sister’s wedding, where an excess of champagne leads the eponymous hero to amuse his drunken friends by making cruel and untrue suggestions about the royal groom’s reasons for marrying a wealthy commoner. Unfortunately he is overheard by the bride and her sister, Chloe, the heroine. Chloe is incensed on her sister’s behalf. She’s also more than a little tipsy, so she confronts Lord Lovedon in front of his idiot friends, slaps his face with her glove, dashes a glass of champagne in his face, and challenges him to a duel. Lovedon’s response is as kind and funny as his original remarks were hurtful. There’s a glorious epistolary exchange, culminating in pistols at dusk in Battersea. This story is a clever, perfectly formed hit of happy. I wish I could write something half as good. I love everything about it.

Cake
There’s a spectacular cake-fest Continue reading

Jilly: Characters Reborn and Reinvented

Characters reborn and reinventedHappy Easter to all who are celebrating today!

For hundreds, maybe thousands of years the Spring equinox has been a time to salute the coming of light and new life (here’s a link to a Wikipedia article about the goddess Eostre and all kinds of Paschal traditions). Makes sense to me. I’ve always found this time of year to be my most positive, productive and creative. There’s something about the light that makes me feel energized and inspired. I get the feeling everything is new, change is in the air and anything is possible.

I was daydreaming yesterday about how much I’d like that feeling to saturate my current WIP when it struck me that almost all romance writing is about rebirth and reinvention. Maybe that’s why I find it such an effective pick-me-up in the depths of winter or when I’m feeling under the weather.

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Jilly: Hitting the Go Switch

Boom!So far, so good. I’m still engrossed in the discovery stage of my fantasy WIP: growing the world, developing the community, digging away at the characters of my hero and heroine, adding images to my collection and tracks to my playlist – thank you so much for the great suggestions last week – and generally trying to knit together the jumble of impressions, ideas and loose ends into something vaguely coherent. Getting there. I think.

I’ve also been investigating lots of diverse subjects I know nothing about, including how to field dress a broken arm, much ado about horses, how to maintain a shaved head, leather armor, underwear through the ages, the history of soap, and lots more stuff about fighting.

I was talking to a knowledgeable friend about fighting, sketching out the essentials of the story, and I got to a turning point that makes the heroine commit to the hero’s cause. “Ah,” my friend said, nodding his head. “That hit her Go Switch.”

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Michaeline: A Meeting of Minds and Hearts

a couple embrace passionately on the streets

A meeting of mind and hearts is more than first attraction and admiration of one’s beloved. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

So, tomorrow is the big day! St. Valentine’s Day, when we can indulge in all sorts of sentiment about love and loving: soppy poetry, vinegary commentary, a wistful look at what was or could have been, and a belly-laugh about what silly old things we humans can be when under the domination of love.

I met up with a friend this week for tea, and she pointed me to “The Ideal Marriage According to Novels” by Adelle Waldman in The New Yorker which talks about the different ways men and women write about romance. Basically, Waldman says that women like Jane Austen or Elena Ferrante have an ideal partner in mind who is the woman’s match in intellect and feeling towards the world. And men tend to describe romance as a mysterious thing, and the ideal partner provokes feelings in the male breast. She’s pretty, and her intelligence is a crowning glory (but what she says isn’t really the point; it’s her fitness to be his partner that is the important thing). Continue reading

Jilly: Picking Your Brains on Sports Romances

Sports romance hero?Where do you stand on sports romances?

I love sports of all kinds. They’re such a great test of character. I love to see how superb athletes react when they’re pushed to their limit and beyond. We learned in class at McDaniel that character is choice under pressure, and sport offers those fascinating, insightful moments on a regular basis.

I like to write with the cricket commentary as background noise. I always know what’s happening on the tennis tour. And if I’m not at Wembley for the NFL UK games, I’m usually to be found on the sofa on Sunday nights, glued to the transatlantic action until way past my bedtime. So it’s surprising that I’ve never thought about writing a sports romance. Until now.

A sports star hero comes with certain built-in advantages for the romance writer and reader. He’s likely to be young, he’ll undoubtedly be in great physical shape, and he’ll almost certainly be rich. Chances are he’ll be high-profile.

His character offers a wealth of possibilities. He should be mentally strong – driven, competitive, goal-oriented, focused and decisive. The flip side of that is 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

Elizabeth: C is for Character

© 2014 Scholastic Inc

© 2014 Scholastic Inc

This year’s RWA conference included a workshop on writing great characters by Susan Elizabeth Phillips.  I attended her workshop at last year’s conference and really enjoyed it, especially the hands-on exercises.  This year’s workshop featured two exercises that were aimed at helping us delineate character with description, rather than just telling the reader about the character. They were fun so I thought I’d share them here. Continue reading