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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Happily Ever Afters


  I love reading paranormal romances, in fact I read little else.  I love everything about them; the cool preternatural abilities, the immortality of many characters, the vamps and shape-shifters (Go Team Jacob-lol!), the physical beauty of the characters, and the ability to miraculously get out of a really sticky situation.  I love the escapism offered by the genre, the ability to lose yourself completely in another world.  For me, it’s a mini-vacation from the stress of the real world where duties, deadlines, and physical limitations hang over our heads like the swinging blade of a pendulum.  However, I do admit that sometimes I become annoyed with reading repetitive pronouncements regarding the heroine’s stupefying beauty.  Sometimes I just want to yell out loud, “Okay we get it-she’s gorgeous!  Can we move on now?  Sheesh!”  Doesn’t leave much love left for either the ugly or mediocre-looking chick now does it?
  Do you tweet?  I do.  (How’s that for a segue folks? Lol!)  Not long ago I became aware of a group of folks on Twitter who call them selves “Spoonies”.  The Urban Dictionary delivers an excellent explanation of what a Spoonie is:
   “A person living with chronic illness, that identifies with Christine Miserandino's Spoon Theory.  Spoonies are people that live with chronic illness; theoretically measuring personal daily abilities much as one would measure the proper amount of spoons needed for an event or occasion... sometimes having an abundance, other times coming up short.”


  Christine suffers from an autoimmune illness called Lupus.  It’s a chronic inflammatory disorder where your own body attacks itself because it can’t tell the difference between “you” protein and “foreign” protein.  It’s your immunity become amnesiac, and begins attacking itself.  Many organs become involved and the disorder causes a high amount of fatigue.  There are many other autoimmune disorders that have similar patterns.  In my case, my body produces antibodies against my own moisture-producing glands such as salivary and tear glands. I have constant dry mouth, chronic dental issues, and eye problems.  There is also a large arthritic component involved to boot.  Because of this disorder, I now am 40% more likely to develop lymphoma than Jane Q. Public.  My disorder is called Sjogren’s Syndrome and as a sufferer I am all too familiar with the daily “spoon shortage”. 
  I have developed a tight online relationship with my spoonie brethren on Twitter.  We all support one another, sharing in our sorrows, challenges and successes.  They make me laugh and encourage me, and I try to do the same for them.  
  
  Lately I have been thinking a lot about happily ever afters.  Shortly after I became ensconced in the spoonie world, I began to wonder, where are the HEA’s for my spoonie friends and everyone else who has to deal with constant challenges?  Does that mean HEAs have to be perfect - as the devastatingly beautiful physical perfection of heroines always seem to be?  Yes, in fact I DO think too much!  
  Five years ago I lost both of my parents two weeks apart from mutually exclusive causes.  It was devastating - the most vivid experience of hell I had ever encountered.  I got through it because I had my husband at my side, in addition to loving and supportive family and friends.  My husband was and still is, my happily ever after.  It wasn’t a perfect scenario by any stretch, but if I had to endure that degree of trauma, I would not have chosen anyone but him to be at my side.  Because of that, I have decided that for me happily ever after does not equal “problem-free”, it means, “we can get through it together”.  I once heard that real love isn’t merely looking into each other’s eyes, but looking in the same direction together.  I really like that. 
My folks, Dominic and Mary Ann Nicoletto on my wedding day.
  So, I’m interested in hearing your opinion of what constitutes a perfect HEA for you.  Does life have to be perfect in every way in your scenario?  Enquiring minds want to know!
  Please take the time to read Christine Miserandino’s personal story and analogy of what it is like to live with sickness or disability:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Things that make you go Hmmmm....

What a Day! This morning I sat for hours in the emergency room with my thirteen year old daughter...hence why my blog post is tardy!

She, like most teenagers, finds cleaning her room an alien thought. Well, hopefully after today's little fiasco, she just might rethink the idea. Besides being an utter slob, she's a wonderful kid, if sometimes a little clutzy. Last night she tripped over a cracked, hard plastic lid to a storage box (hiding stealthily, of course, beneath the mess on her floor) and ripped the heck out of the bottom of her foot.

I took care of it and her, as all mother's do, but this morning her foot was still bleeding...so off to the ER we went. My mouth in her ears about how this wouldn't have happened if she just picked up after herself. She's missing school, I'm missing work, etc...

After a long wait, we finally made it into an examination room. While the doctor was gluing her skin back together, (yes, glue...something about infection and the statute of limitations on when you can sew up a wound) she aksed if my daughter had ever read the Illiad and the Odyssey. My daughter politely replied, "No, I'm only in the eighth grade, but we're being beseiged at the moment by Harper Lee."

"To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorites!" The doctor answered. "As a parent I can certainly appreciate it more now than when I first read it in school. My favorite scene is when Atticus Finch tells his brother not to scold Scout for cussing, that there are worse things in life that he should be concerned about...like talking to her about rape."

I have to say, I didn't know what to make of her comment. Should I have been upset that she took it upon herself to open a topic of discussion with my daughter that perhaps I wasn't prepared to discuss with her? Was it a sweeping commentary on the trivial worries of most parents, and a warning that we should be tackling the bigger issues with our kids? Or was it just a passing remark...purely a literary opinion?

Considering the ER was a raging, chaotic mess, I didn't have the time (nor the inclination) to ask the good doctor what she meant. But it got me thinking. Maybe it was all of the above, and perhaps my daughter isn't the only one with something new to rethink.

Thanks Doc....prescription for a new perspective filled.

Marianne Morea

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star . . .

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star . . .

As I sat back and read everyone’s blogs, there is a persistent theme: every contributor is a published author . . . except me. This wasn’t from lack of trying. I did . . . to a point. It’s just my callings in life are many instead of one, not saying all the other Marianne’s, Mary Anne, and so on do not have several callings, only that they put their writing first, while I use it as tool for enjoyment and release.

So . . . what do I do with my time? Well, you know the saying, curiosity killed the cat? That’s me. I used to hate that statement as a child. Who was Curiosity and how dare he kill a cat! My Mother would smile and say: “Don’t worry, Marianne. Satisfaction brought him back.”

Okay. That made me feel better but who was Satisfaction? I didn’t understand until I was older what those statements meant. Which brings me back to why my writing has been put on the back burner and I’ve devoted more time to my “other” interests: Astrology, Numerology, and The Tarot. Curiosity killed me about these subjects, but Satisfaction brought me back.

***************************************************************

I am sitting at my desk at home, the computer on, Microsoft Word pulled up to my most recent novel when the phone rings.

Ennie meanie chilli beanie,” echoes my husband’s voice in the background as I absently picked it up.

I send him a dirty look but he’s right: someone has called asking for a reading, or a natal birth chart, or a Numerological chart. It doesn’t matter which. They all take time . . . time away from my writing – but it gives time to those who need help, which to me is more important.

I want to clarify, before I go any deeper, exactly what I do with these subjects, or as I call them: Knowledge. So much has been distorted that it’s hard to tell good from bad, people who are sincere and people who abuse and use. I also research those of us who are in these professions in order to tell my clients those who are good and those to avoid. Bad names are a dime a dozen but good ones impart wisdom . . . which is what I have sworn to serve.

I am spiritual about it too, asking God to guide me to His truth and not man’s. I have an innate distrust of man, checking for myself the answers and taking nothing for granted. I ask the same of anyone who reads this today. Don’t take my word but check the answers for yourself because what’s right for me may not be right for you. We are all born for a different reason. What we do with that reason is up to our “free will” – but there is a reason. You can take that to the bank!

Newspaper Astrology is a bunch a bull . . . the entire world bunched into one sun sign when the truth is we are many signs instead of one. Your sun sign is what you wish to accomplish this time around, a spit in the bucket so to say. A true natal birth chart is a psychological profile of yourself and includes ALL the planets, signs, and houses.

I take into account precession – the tilt and rotation of the earth’s orbit on its axis as it travels around the Sun. It was comical when CNN said we had to add another sign due to precession. “Idiots,” I thought. Simply subtract the hours, minutes, and seconds from the planets in order to place them where they were when one was born. No other sign is needed . . . just a little mathematical calculations and whola! Problem solved. Leave it to man to make things difficult.

I have written six novels, all of them romances but not the “normal” kind, seeing as I’m not normal. Then again . . . define normal? LOL. How did I pick the character of the heroes and heroines, the villains and the friends, hell! Everyone who graced the pages in these stories? I developed a psychological profile using what I know: Astrology and Numerology.

We truly are as differentiated and as vast as the Universe itself! On that thought I will leave you until next month where I will continue.

Marianne Gibson

Friday, January 21, 2011

What do you do when...

... you don't know what to write about?

I totally forgot until five minutes ago that it was my day to post here. Since we started doing this blog, I have tried to plan ahead for my day and at least get something in rough draft, so I am not caught up short on the 21st of the month.


That didn't happen this month because I am busy finishing a book and editing another for a client. Hardly leaves times to breathe. But I didn't want to  leave this space blank today, so I will share an excerpt from my humorous memoir, A Dead Tomato Plant and a Paycheck. 

This is from the chapter: Yes, I Really am Doing Something Important. Enjoy...

Years ago when I first started writing professionally – getting paid for what I did -- my children were all young and the formidable task of writing around them was daunting.

 I remember one time in particular when one of the twins, Danielle, lovingly known then  as Chicky, had just settled down beside me to help or hinder my writing.  She was two at the time and contributed a few words of dialogue to my effort, consisting mainly of a few well-placed “Mommys,” spiced with a few unintelligible words or praise or criticism.

When she left the room, I breathed a sigh of relief and raced to get a few thoughts on paper before she came back. But alas, she’d gone into the kitchen to get the box of cereal I left on the counter and was off sharing it with her brother.

Should I have been delighted she was sharing for a change? Or angry because she snitched the cereal and hid in the laundry room? If I hadn’t beaten our dog with my child-psychology book years before that, I could have looked for the answer. (A note to all the dog-lovers who are about to call the Humane Society. This was Ruffy, and he was much larger and harder bound than the book. Plus, he loved the extra attention.)

That’s the way my writing life went for years. The moment I thought I had the most subtle, cynically amusing thought, matching the excellence of an Erma Bombeck or a Dave Barry mapped out in my head, I was interrupted.

I remember thinking that if it weren’t for my kids, I would’ve been famous years ago. I could’ve sat beside Johnny Carson when he was still doing the Tonight Show and chatted amicably about my latest thought-provoking novel or my charming little anecdotes on life, If it wasn’t for the endless “MOMMYS”.

“Mommy, Mommy, Mommy…”
“Mom, what is…?”
“Mom, can I have a snack?”
“Mom, would you tie my shoe?”
“Mother, if you don’t keep those twins out of my room…”
“Mom, why is it raining outside?”
 “Mom, where is my homework…my lunch…my shoes…my coat?”
 “Mom, if you’re not doing anything important, will you…”

And, believe it or not, I was a lot more prolific back then.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Talking Dirty: Straight Up or Sugar Coated?

DISCLAIMER: (Yes, Virginia, I really am a lawyer) - In discussing sexual metaphors and writing about sex, this piece will include explicit terms and may refer to perverse or perverted concepts or descriptions. If you take it as proof that the author is perverse or perverted, you may well be right. However, if you are easily offended, you might want to skip this piece altogether. If you continue reading, perhaps you're as perverse and perverted as the author.


A couple of months ago Britain's Literary Review gave out its annual prize, "The Bad Sex In Fiction Award." Every year I look forward to reading about the award, especially because it excites a flurry of articles that describe the prose from a number of the nominees. I think that I particularly enjoy reading proof that the universe contains others as twisted - and possibly even more twisted - than yours truly. I blogged about this year's award over at my spot, Quacking Alone, in a piece entitled: Bad Sex 2010: Dead Bugs, Pencils & Giant She Creatures.


Yes, this year's nominees included some danged interesting descriptions of sex and sexual pieces and parts. But that's not what I'm writing about here. What caught my attention for this piece is that most of the articles included advice on how not to have your writing nominated for the prize. Most of the how-not-to advice agreed that to stay off the list, an author should not use euphemisms or metaphors. Britain's Independent included a piece on the prize that quoted author Geoff Dyer as follows:
It seems to me if you do write it, it has to be absolutely explicit – no metaphors, no hyperbole. After writing Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi, I said to my editor, "I will bet you any sum of money I won't be listed for the Bad Sex awards". Descriptions of throbbing orbs lends themselves to the awards, not [a sentence like] "he stuck his tongue in her arse".
The piece notes that the assistant editor of The Literary Review agrees with Dyer that "less ostentatious" descriptions of sex are better and "what's not good is the over-florid writing that imbues sex with transcendental meaning." The general agreement appears to be that descriptions of sex and anatomy should be precise and clinical. Author Colm Tobibin says "It's a question of writing. If you give in to any simile, any metaphor, any set of feelings, any flowery language, the modern reader's irony will come to the fore. It's almost how you would describe driving – very, very specific and exact."


So all of this got me to pondering whether it's better to describe body parts by their names - it's a penis, stupid - and the sex act with a play-by-play description like "He put his penis in her vagina." How do writers want to write sex and sexual descriptions; how do readers want to read them and is it the same? Do readers like their sex straight up or does a little sugar sweeten the flavor? In considering these questions, I realized that I've enjoyed the work of authors who take both approaches, but that only the "clinical" descriptions have ever made me uncomfortable or pulled me out of the book. Sometimes euphemisms have made me smile in what the author might consider an inappropriate place, but prompting a smile almost always makes me happier about the book and perhaps my funny bone is in a different place than the authors'. I think smiling is all good but discomfort or being jerked back into reality is never good.

I adore a good euphemism. I like to have fun with my sugar-coating. I've described a penis in a whole bunch of ways. In Brotherly Love I described it as "the beast in his trousers" in one place and "the former monster turned puppy dog" in another. In A Faerie Fated Forever I described it as "Maclee's gear," "trouser traitor," "violently aroused tarse," "a python about to strike" and a "gluttonous monster." In A Sixth Sense of Forever I called it "a tool," "Boz's big," and "a peppermint candy stick." I haven't been as successful with finding fun ways to describe a woman's vaginal area. In A Faerie Fated Forever I called it a "cleft" and "a silk-coated feminine mound" and discussed the heroine's "feminine fur." In Sixth Sense I called it the heroine's "feminine glory," her "moist cleft" and "her feminine lips." I'm sure there are a bunch of deeply sound psychological reasons why I haven't had more success with describing a woman's private part. I keep the explanation simple - I just have more fun with a man's "staff." (I wonder if that's different in lesbian fiction. I've never read any. Does anyone know?)


I also have a lot of fun with sex scenes. I won't go into detail, but I had a lot of fun with sex on the dance floor in A Faerie Fated Forever, and A Golden Forever. In A Sixth Sense of Forever I had fun with a bubble bath and S&M bondage type gear. In my tribute to "Grey's Anatomy" - Griffin's Law - supply closets and stairways became my elevators. In A Faerie Fated Forever there's a sex scene while the hero is wearing a dress. And in Brotherly Love I had the best time writing a sex scene between the hero and heroine who made love through a wall. Yes, wall sex. Go figure.


Maybe my over-the-top writing style just lends itself more to sugar coating than clinical description. I occasionally read authors who do sex and anatomy straight up, and I've enjoyed some of their work. In particular, I've adored a lot of Susan Johnson's stuff like Pure Sin, Sinful, Blaze and Forbidden. Susan calls it what it is and mostly I'm fine with that. But some words for the female private parts (and I'm not talking about Susan's use of them, but rather - authors generally) make me feel uncomfortable - or feisty might be a better term. I can read about a vagina all day long but don't call it a "cunt" and I mostly don't want to hear it called a "pussy" either. I used the latter term in Sixth Sense to describe a man sort of making fun of himself about being "pussy whipped" by a virgin. I can't say I've never used them to describe anatomy, but I don't recall doing that. (Feel free to correct me if you know that I'm wrong because you've read my work. I'm wrong so often that it's not even close to unusual.)


Why do the terms "cunt" and "pussy" bother me? Maybe it's that they are so often used as insults that are meant to hurt. They make my inner self ball up like a porcupine. While I'm balled up and prickly I'm not enjoying anything I'm reading and most of all, I want my books to be fun. Whether I'm reading them or writing them, I want books to be out and out entertaining. I'm a lawyer. I have to go porcupine at my day job - I don't want to do it in my "me" time.
I don't think it's that authors use euphemisms or metaphors to describe anatomy or sex that gets them nominated for the Bad Sex Award. At least, it wouldn't get them nominated for my Bad Sex Award. I adore hyperbole, flowery language and transcendental meaning. To me, whether the description is straight up or sugar coated, I think it's bad if the sex is described without emotion, without describing how the characters feel about their body parts or what they're doing with them. The words can be clinical if that's the author's voice, but the attitude can never be clinical. I think that's a big reason that Susan Johnson's straight-up writing style carries a story so well. She never forgets that forever-after sex in a romance novel is more emotional than physical.

As for the Bad Sex award, it might be almost an honor to win. If some of the so-called "experts" thought I was getting it that wrong, I'd take it as a sure sign that I was getting something right.


NOW IT'S YOUR TURN. Do you like your body parts and sex scenes straight up, sugar coated - or both? What authors have written sex scenes that you particularly enjoyed? And for the jackpot question - What description(s) would you nominate for the award and why?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Love and Laughter: A Natural Combination

I read a blog the other day in which the author was lamenting the current state of romantic comedies of the film variety. The heroines were vapid and predictable—too perky, too scatterbrained, too blind to what was going on around them. The heroes were cardboard, the plots trite. The dialogue was too pedestrian, too normal, too boring.

Then she got to the heart of the matter: The stories, she insisted, were focused on the moment the hero and heroine made it into bed—not on the evolution of the relationship, not on what got them there in the first place. And by way of comparison, she harkened back to the heyday of the genre, the romantic comedies of the ‘30s, ‘40s, ‘50s, and even the early ‘60s. Back then, keeping the two leads out of bed was an underlying point of the movies and throwing every sort of temptation and mishap in the couple’s way was part of what drove the story forward. Sometimes clever and sometimes silly, the story lines in the old movies were fun and sexy and romantic. They focused on the boinging (of the heartstrings), instead of the boinking.

I couldn’t really argue with her on her early points; I hadn’t seen any of the movies she’d given as examples. But I could empathize. I’ve watched some in the last few months that have left me underwhelmed and mostly unamused. But her last point, about the stories? She got that one right.

The blogger’s words reminded me that one of the things I love most about writing romantic comedy is that, as an author, I have the luxury of time to build those relationships from the ground up. Glance by glance, sigh by sigh, butted head by butted head, I’m allowed to lead my heroes and heroines in that slow, age-old dance of the libido. Sure I can make them do the two-backed tango moments after they meet, but I don’t have to make them do it at all. I can make my heroes and heroines fence verbally, and misunderstand or be misunderstood, and then let the reader inside to agonize with them inside their heads and hearts. I get to tell the reader why my characters do what they do and say what they say and think how they think—so do the movies—but authors alone get to tell the reader what the characters are thinking. We get to show and tell our readers all about that inner turmoil, the doubt, the lust and….all the little stuff that makes a romance so sparkly and wonderful and breath-catchingly fun in the early stages. And we don’t have to do it in dialogue or right away.

Sure, movies generally do a great job of showing us what’s going on, but only in one dimension. If we miss the look on the actor’s face, if we miss the wink, the smile, the pratfall, we’ve missed something important. But when you read a book….well, when I read a book, I find myself slowly falling in love with the hero, identifying with the heroine, feeling their pain and their happiness. I want them to overcome their difficulties…slowly. But the best thing about reading a romance is that I get to reread those sentences or scenes that give me that warm burst of ‘aww, ain’t love grand?’ , or the ones that make me laugh out loud.

And I don’t have to hit pause or wait for it to come out on DVD to do it.

I’ll admit that I am a complete sucker for an old romantic comedy films. I have a pretty extensive library of them. I don’t just watch them for entertainment, though. I use them for inspiration, and as refresher courses in pacing and dialogue…and good, old-fashioned, toe-curling, sigh-inducing romance. But they’d never work on a desert island, which is why they’ll never replace my keeper shelf.

Happy Reading!
Marianna Jameson

PS. If I had to start listing my favorite romance novels, the list would take hours to write. My list of favorite old movies is slightly shorter. Here are a few of my old favorites:

The Philadelphia Story (Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant –I love the dialogue and the passion that just simmers on the surface, even though you know it’s at a full boil underneath!)

My Favorite Wife (Irene Dunne and Cary Grant—A great example of how witty dialogue and physical humor can enhance each other.)

The Awful Truth (Irene Dunne and Cary Grant—Can you see a trend here? The wit in this one has a gentle bite, but one that you feel nonetheless. And some of the scenes still make me laugh out loud.)

Guys and Dolls (Marlon Brando and Jean Simmons—There’s something about the way he holds her when he kisses her that makes me melt. It’s like he just wants to inhale her or absorb her. Good shivers all around.)

Pillow Talk (Doris Day and Rock Hudson—Clever, funny, and just silly enough—and I’d kill for her wardrobe.)

Okay, your turn! Do you have any old favorites? What is it about them that makes you watch them over and over?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Writing Something Different - Nonfiction

In 1999, I published my first book...a nonfiction book about the life of a women's shelter speaker. I'd done tons of research and it had been a 2-3 year labor of love, knocking on agent and publisher doors. I finally published it through Online Originals, and felt pretty secure in venturing into unknown territory of ebook publishing.

At that time, OO was run as I'd hoped, and my book went through edits. I didn't have to pay for anything. Frederick Forsyth, well-known author, had some short stories published with OO so I felt as if I were in good company. Another author had been nominated for the "Booker Prize", a top literary award in the British Commonwealth and Ireland.

My disappointment came slowly, as I began to see a pattern of "buyouts" as OO changed hands many times. Even though I'd ask questions, I was always assured business would run smoothly as I'd anticipated.

Except for one thing: I never got paid. Finally, when the original owner bought back the company after two years, I was informed that he had no records from previous owners and could not validate any sales. I had all rights to my book returned to me.

Years later, I found a very flattering review from Publishers Weekly. Some day I hope to revise that book and place it with another publisher.

It made me wonder about two things: my decision to go with an epublisher and write nonfiction. I now realize that 1999 wasn't the "time" for epubs to be successful. And, writing nonfiction can be harder than writing fiction.

I began writing romance books, and struggled to "get it right". I hit all the ups and downs on my journey to publication. But, I finally figured out the right voice, style, and found a publisher. This time, I signed a contract with another ebook publisher, Ellora's Cave (Cerridwen-now Blush imprint). I carefully researched their credentials and decided I'd found the right spot for my books.

Writing romance books satisfied my need to validate my endeavors. I ignored the naysayers who "thumbed their noses" at ebooks. I looked toward the future and where technology was heading. My first romance ebook was published in 2007...and I have no regrets.

The urge to try something different again was satisfied when a friend introduced me to Tamerla Kendall, a woman who wanted to tell her story. After listening to her tales of living in Sarajevo during the 1992-1995 Bosnian War, I decided to write another nonfiction book. This, too, became a 2-year endeavor (due to illnesses this time), but a very satisfying one.

While I enjoy writing romance, creating a hero and heroine and telling their journey to love, I found the challenge of creating a book based on Tamerla's real life experiences to be challenging and rewarding. Her story is full of facts and actual events, whereas fictional romance stories can be anything I want. Sticking to real-life parts of her struggle to survive living in a war zone gave me lots of insight into the woman Tamerla is.


BLURB:
Tamerla Kendall is the woman you see rooting for her son at sporting practice. You might meet her in a grocery story. Perhaps you’ll see her planting a garden behind her home. Or, talk to her at school or work. She’s a student, worker, wife and mother.

Surviving a dark past is hidden by her fa├žade of an everyday, average life. Reading her memoirs will reveal her true struggle to survive in a war zone, and is a testament to her courage.

As a Bosnian Croat, Tamerla lived through the carnage and chaos in Sarajevo during the Bosnian War (1992-1995). Hers is a story of courage, fear, ingenuity, and survival. Difficult choices she made then still disturb her peace of mind and life today.

She made a few trips out of Sarajevo, only to return to keep the family restaurant business operating. One carefully planned, secretive trip was made to remove her daughter from the dangers of fighting, but this created a heartbreaking rift in their relationship. For her second trip, Tamerla masqueraded as a United Nations Protection Forces soldier and rode in a tank. A uniform and travel assistance came from a Ukrainian general.

Her hopes for a return to normalcy at war’s end diminished as corruption and religious zealots took control. She married an American, and this marked her as an outcast by some she’d trusted. When her life was threatened at gunpoint, she faced a critical decision concerning her family’s safety in her beloved country.

"Guilty Survivor - Memoirs of Tamerla Kendall" will be available on 1/26 at: http://secretcravingspublishing.com/MarianneStephens.html under their Living and Learning imprint.

Please visit my website for more information: http://www.mariannestephens.net


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

It’s All About Emotion – or – Why Should I Care?

Over the years, I’ve worked with many writers, helping critique and edit their work. Some were newbies, some previously published. And many times, despite an interesting storyline and decent writing, I found myself either frustrated or bored. Why?

Simple. When it comes to romance stories, it’s all about the emotion. Let me hear an, “Amen, Sister!” or at least a “Duh!”.

As I’ve looked through these stories I’ve been asked to assist with, my most frequent comment has to be this: “But, how does it make her feel?”

Too often writers get caught up in explaining what’s going on, and forget that we’re supposed to be deeply inside someone’s body and mind. You have very different feelings from the same action.

For instance, when someone the heroine is attracted to brushes an errant lock of her hair away, and his fingers brush her cheek—she’s going to feel something. Does it make her shiver? Does it make her blush? Does her heart leap into her throat? Does she stutter over what she was saying?

On the other hand, perhaps the villain has her imprisoned, and does the same thing. When his fingers brush her cheek, again—she’s going to feel something. Does she flinch away in fear? Do tears spring to her eyes. Does she gag?

How does it make her feel?

Recently, I was reading through a love scene and the author very skillfully led us through the action. I knew exactly what was happening, but I was completely disinterested in what should have been an integral and defining moment. It read something like this:

He pulled her down onto the bed. She tugged at his T-shirt until he lifted his arms and she could slide it off. He leaned down and pressed his lips to hers in a moist, hot kiss. She threaded her fingers through his hair and pulled his head even closer to hers.

And, on and on it went. Do you even know who’s POV we’re in? Do you care? I didn’t. I want to know how she feels (and, yes, we were in the heroine’s POV). How much opportunity was lost by this author to reel the reader in, to involve them in this moment? I don’t need to know where each various body part or article of clothing was. I know how it works. What I do want and need to know is whether his breath against her cheek made her quiver, or if the feel of his skin against her hands took her breath away. Did her lips linger over his for a moment in a kiss like none other she’d known?

How does it make her feel?

When her mother dies, or her dog is run over, or her sister tells her that she needs a kidney… don’t tell me what happens. Note the difference in this writing (mine, written on the spur of the moment right now, in case you wondered):

“Rover, no!” Jessie grasped for the leash a moment too late and watched as her nine year-old terrier dashed into the busy street. She looked both ways before following, one hand up to warn the drivers she was crossing in front of them. Horns honked and tires squealed, but she was focused only on the little body darting to and fro before her.

Are you drawn into this story? Do you care what happens to the dog or the heroine? Would you put this book down at this point, and not worry about when you picked it up again? I would.

Now, try this on for size:

“Rover, no!” Jessie tamped down her panic as she failed at a desperate attempt to hang on to the slippery leash when her nine year-old terrier dashed into the busy city street.

Without only a fleeting thought to her own safety, Jessie looked both ways before leaping into the traffic herself, holding up one hand to warn the drivers she was crossing in front of them. Horns honked and tires squealed, but she didn’t care.

Visions danced before her eyes—Rover as a three week-old puppy, rejected by her mother; Rover snuggling in the crook of Jessie’s neck every night for warmth and comfort; Rover licking the tears from Jessie’s face when David had walked out on them.

Nothing was more important in this moment than Rover’s safety. She was everything, the only thing, that kept Jessie sane. If Rover died, Jessie didn’t want to live.

Better? Do you care whether Rover lives or dies? Does this at least give you an idea WHY Jessie leaped into traffic after her dog? Do you know how she feels?

If I could give any one recommendation to romance writers (aside from proper grammar, which should be—but is often not—a given), it would be to take every advantage to show emotion. If your readers don’t care about your characters, if they don’t understand motivation, why will they bother to finish the book? Or worse, why will they ever pick up another one?

What about you? What helps you identify with the characters? What pulls you into a story and holds you? Why do you keep reading one book, but put down another?

Visit Marianne Arkins at her website or blog.

Friday, January 7, 2011

A kiss is NOT just a kiss.

As I work on a new book, I am reminded how the simple kiss can be extremely erotic. Kissing someone with whom you share chemistry can truly be an amazing experience.

Remember the moments leading up to a first kiss? The bit of anxiety and nervousness pumping through your veins as you lean closer. That anticipation making you breath a bit faster. Then it happens... That first touch of lips capturing your breath and stilling your heart for a split second only to start racing faster as you lean closer together. That first stroke of tongues along one another making you hold onto each other tighter...

Ahhh...love it. Of course the kiss is only special when you truly feel a connection (and a heap of sexual tension). I've kissed a few men in my time, but only a select few have ever made me feel so...amazing. A kiss is not just a kiss. With the right person, it is oh so much more.



Visit Marianne LaCroix at www.mariannelacroix.com