Today we’re welcoming Firebird Jamie Wesley, 2012 Golden Heart finalist in Contemporary Series Romance. Jamie’s been reading romance since she was about 12, when her mother left a romance novel given to her by a coworker on her nightstand. When no one was looking, Jamie snatched it off the nightstand, and the rest is history.
She started her first manuscript after graduating from Northwestern University in 2002 and couldn’t find a job. Since she was a voracious romance reader and considered herself a good writer, she thought, “If they can do it, I can do it.” Aww, the arrogance of youth.
Life got in the way as it often does (she actually got a job!), and she didn’t finish the story. But she never forgot about it. In 2009, she finally got serious about completing it and has been happily writing since then.
Besides reading romance, especially the contemporary kind, she loves, loves sports, Walt Disney World, shopping and pop culture. Want to know if your favorite TV show is going to be canceled or what the newest Disney attraction is? Ask Jamie. She’ll probably know the answer.
Her Golden Heart finaling manuscript, Tell Me Something Good, centers on a love advice radio talk show host and a sports radio talk show host who are positive they can’t stand each other – until they’re forced to do a show together.
This year’s RWA Conference was my third overall and my first as a Golden Heart Finalist. By far the best part was getting to know my fellow finalists, the Firebirds. But what makes conferences great are the unexpected/crazy/funny moments, so I thought I’d share some of mine.
5. I’m a Golden Heart Finalist? Wait. What?
On the conference’s first day, I went to a workshop and took a seat. Another attendee leaned over and said congratulations. I stared at her, totally confused, for a few seconds. Why was she congratulating me? Had I won a door prize I knew nothing about? Then it dawned on me. Oh! Right! I said thank you, but I’m sure she thought I was a nutter.
4. Pleased to meet you
I’ve tweeted a few times with Liz Talley (@amyliztalley), so I stopped by her table at the Harlequin signing to actually meet her. She said, “You’re so little. You talk so big on Twitter.” Pretty sure that was a nice way of saying I’m a loudmouth. I have lots of opinions, especially about my favorite sports teams, and I express them A LOT on Twitter. Oops. I’m still laughing about it.
3. Who me, nervous?
People kept asking me if I was nervous about the GH, and for the most part, I wasn’t. I was too busy running around to workshops, making sure I didn’t throw up at my pitch appointments, getting to know the other finalists, and making sure Mickey Mouse understood how much I loved him to think about the RITA/GH ceremony.
Yep, I was fine – until I stepped into the ballroom Saturday afternoon for the rehearsal. The stage was all set up and the lights were dimmed low. Then they made us practice walking across the stage and saying our names into the microphone. That’s when the enormity of the situation hit me and my heart started going crazy.
2. When in LA…
My friend, Dawn Alexander (@dawn_alexander) and I left Disneyland Thursday night to head back to the hotel. She got turned around as we exited. My response: Follow the crowd.
I was an expert, you see. I’d visited Disneyland twice in three days. I knew what I was doing. So we followed the crowd.
Right into Downtown Disney with nary a bus stop in sight. *clears throat*
But hey, since we were there, we decided to look at souvenirs at the World of Disney. As I was wandering around the store, I noticed a guy standing in the checkout line. He looked familiar and I immediately started racking my brain trying to remember which TV show he was on. Then, it hit me. Bones! I’ve only watched the show a few times, but it was the guy married to Angela, Bones’ best friend. I thought anyway. So I hightailed it over to Dawn so she could verify that I wasn’t crazy. But, of course, she’s not crazy like me and doesn’t watch countless hours of television and has never seen an episode of Bones! What the frickety frack?! You were no use to me, Dawn.
Oh, and I forgot to take a picture, so y’all will just have to trust me that it was him, okay? And I’m perfectly sane, so of course you’ll believe me. Right?
1. I’m a bad stalker. Yes, it’s true.
Fellow GH nominee Colette Auclair (@coletteauclair) wrote a great post about stalking Susan Elizabeth Phillips.
SEP happens to be my favorite author, as well, but I give myself strict instructions to keep it low key when I see her and my other favorite authors because there are two kinds of stalkers – cute, charming ones like Colette and crazy, why-won’t-she-stop-talking stalkers like me. (In the picture, you can see me totally keeping my distance from SEP, with Colette Auclair, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Susan M. Boyer, and Lorenda Christensen.)
I’m pretty sure Shannon McKenna is still cowering in a corner somewhere after I gushed ALL OVER her last year in New York.
And it worked when I talked to SEP after the workshop she gave with Jayne Ann Krentz. But then…
I rode the Super Shuttle at the butt crack of dawn the morning after the conference ended. I shared the van with Kate Douglas (@wolftales), who’s published 30 books since 2005 after taking 20 years to get published. Talk about inspirational. I asked her how she kept going, and she said she had to keep telling the stories in her head, that she couldn’t stop.
Another author, Sheri Cobb South, introduced herself. Her name kind of tickled my brain, but I wasn’t sure why, so I didn’t say anything. And then she mentioned she used to write books for Sweet Dreams, a line of teen romances from the eighties and nineties. Y’all don’t even know. I read dozens upon dozens of those books when I was a kid. I asked her which ones she wrote. As soon as Wrong-Way Romance came out of her mouth, the mental squeeing began. You see, although I read a million Sweet Dreams, that book was my favorite in the line and one of the few that I remember. I’ve even looked on Amazon about buying a used copy. I couldn’t help myself and the exuberant gushing commenced. I’m sure she thought I was exaggerating about how happy that book made me, but I wasn’t. So yeah, I stunned her into silence and scared her.
Sigh. That’s why it’s best for me to keep my distance.
So basically, RWA was awesome as always. I’m already counting down the days till Atlanta.
If you attended RWA this year (or any other conference ever), what are some of your funniest/craziest/unexpected moments?
As this site’s name attests, there’s lots of fabulous Sisterhood in the romance-writing world.
But when 2012 Golden Heart finalists Eileen Emerson and Elisa Beatty say they’re sisters, they mean it literally: they shared a room as little kids, cut the hair off each other’s Barbie dolls, and (a few years further down the road) were Maids of Honor at each other’s weddings and loving aunts to each others’ kids. RWA’s Carol Ritter thinks they’re the only biological sisters ever to final together in the Golden Heart.
If that weren’t enough closeness, they’re also CPs—and each other’s #1 cheerleaders on the road to publication.
That’s not to say they’re either interchangeable or totally simpatico. Elisa has a thing for dark-haired heroes with hulking frames. Eileen is more drawn to Englishmen of the slim, pale variety. Elisa relishes writing love scenes, Eileen would rather stick needles in her eyes than write something racy that their father might someday read. (Elisa makes her drink a glass of wine and do it anyway.)
Even their approaches to writing are different: Eileen’s a spreadsheet-addicted plotter tending towards OCD, Elisa’s a pantser with ADD…and chances are good she’s off playing Plants Versus Zombies right now.
But both sisters appreciate intelligent, deeply emotional writing that can make readers laugh, cry or get that tell-tale clenching feeling behind their breastbones when the protagonists’ world is falling apart.
And somehow they’ve found a working relationship that makes them both stronger writers, and will hopefully land them on your bookshelves (or Kindles) soon. Today they’ll be talking a few aspects of what makes that relationship tick.
On the difference between our approaches to writing:
I tried writing by the seat of my pants and found that it scared me too much. I have to know at least the major beats of the story—the Call To Action, the Crisis, and the Climax, plus the large Turning Points that keep the conflict popping.
This gives me just enough structure that I don’t usually have to tear apart the book once I’m done the shitty first draft. And with that flexibility, the characters still surprise me with the odd little things they reveal as I’m writing in that mad, frantic get-it-on-paper stage.
I wish I weren’t a pantser, but when I even think the word “spreadsheets” I get a terrible throbbing pain all through my head. I’m messy. I’m terrible at planning. The night before I leave for Nationals, I’ll probably poke my head into my closet and say, “Hmm, what have I got in here to throw in my suitcase?” Don’t be surprised if I’m wearing sneakers to the Awards Ceremony. And in the hotel, Eileen will have all her things hung up within five minutes of entering the room, and I’ll have my stuff strewn all across the bathroom counter. She’s Martha Stewart, I’m Oscar Madison. There will be a lot of quiet tut-tutting going on.
There’s a huge plus side for me to having a Highly Organized Sister: I’d never have finished my first book without Eileen setting a deadline for me. And she’s great for bouncing ideas off of (actually she MAKES me articulate my ideas, when I really, really just want to wallow around in the messiness of my own thoughts). Then she’ll say things like, “Do you realize you have four villains here? Could you maybe compress a couple of them together?” Or she’ll tell me, “Go back and figure out what the stakes are for the heroine in this chapter, because you’ve gone on for eighteen pages and I’m getting lost.” Or just (in a note on the third page of a chapter) “Your chapter starts here.”
On our biggest weaknesses as writers:
My biggest problem is that I write very “spare” prose. This means, when Elisa sees my WIP for the first time, she inevitably suggests adding in beats and bits of reaction to flesh out the emotional depth of scenes. I also tend towards very traditional POVs. One of the biggest things Elisa’s done for me is to suggest writing a scene from a different character’s POV than I used in the draft—and it’s always resulted in radically beefing up the conflict, while still tightening the action.
Aside from my plotting issues, my biggest problem (surprise, surprise) is that I write too many words. I strew them as freely as I strew my toiletries. When I edit Eileen, I add lines. When she edits me, she cuts. And cuts. And cuts. But it really makes the work SOOO much better. My current Golden Heart book had bloated up to about 102,000 words, and Eileen got out her very hard-nosed red pen and helped me get rid of 10,000 of them. Without deleting a single scene.
On the advantages of being sister CPs:
Unlike newly attached CPs, we don’t have to walk on egg shells with each other. If something brutal needs to be said, we can say it without fear of crushing the other’s spirit. But it also means we have a certain working shorthand. A simple “mwraaaarr” in the margins tells us that we’ve nailed a particularly yummy bit of description or masculine derring do.…
Damn, I was about to say the same thing. Which is a pretty common occurrence for us. (Sometimes our emails cross in the ether and turn out to be virtually word-for-word the same. It’s a little freaky sometimes.)
The biggest plus-side is that we really get each other’s books and characters, and while we can be absolutely, glaringly blunt (saying things like “You cannot have your hero do that—it makes him look like a fluffy bunny rabbit wussy mama’s boy” without worrying that the other will refuse to speak to us at Christmas dinner), we also write a joyous “WOOOOOT!!!” in the margins many, many, many times. Along with all the “mwraaaarr”s. And we whoop and scream with delight when we read polished scenes to each other over the phone. (Plus—when we’re not working like demons on our WIPs—we can find inspiration in our ridiculously giggly conversations about our mutual crush on Benedict Cumberbatch. One word for you, Eileen: “Beamboy.”)
One word back for you, Elisa: “Mwraaaarr!”
And now for something completely terrifying (for us):
We’re going to show you pdfs of a couple pages of our manuscripts with each other’s comments.
We use Track Changes, and sometimes those little comment balloons along the side fill up the entire right-hand margin–though for some reason last week, when we were in the Outer Banks together working on this post and looking for good examples, neither of us had the files on our laptops that show Elisa really going to town. Really, she’s not usually this mellow.
(Note: The ones from Elisa say the comments are coming from Jeff Peterson…ignore that. Our Mac is just set that way.)
Anyhow, this will give you a basic sense of what our working relationship is actually like on the page.
Here’s our question for you: If you have a CP, how does your writing relationship work? In what ways do you complement (and compliment) each other? How do you handle the blunt and brutal conversations?
Today, we’re welcoming Firebird Priscilla Kissinger, 2012 Golden Heart Finalist in Contemporary Series Romance.
Priscilla grew up in a Latino family that thrived on time together—laughing, eating, dancing, and occasionally fighting. They survived family dramas and family reunions, births and deaths, divorces and marriages. Through it all, they knew they had each other’s back.
Her life experiences provide perfect fodder for her novels, and are the reason why she writes stories featuring strong family ties and her Latino culture.
A three time Golden Heart finalist, Priscilla is a proud member of the Wet Noodle Posse, the Pixies and the Firebirds. All three groups are comprised of strong, supportive women who go after their dreams, and help each other along the way.
It’s in part due to the support of family and friends that Priscilla has continued striving to reach her writing goals. Thanks to hard work, perseverance and little bit of luck, she’s thrilled that her latest novel, HIS PERFECT PARTNER, is a 2012 Golden Heart finalist. To find out more, check out her website at www.prisakiss.com
As a military brat growing up, and later a military wife, I’ve lived from the Far East, across the US and in the Caribbean. As a mom of three daughters, I’ve experienced great joy and seen my “worry gene” stretched to the limit. As a romance writer, I’ve won contests and received letters of rejection.
Over the years I’ve learned a lot about the craft of writing, and a ton about life in general. Today, I’d like to share several lessons I think apply to both.
If it doesn’t move it, lose it—I first heard this mantra years ago from one of my writing mentors, Ms. Nina Bruhns. Basically, no matter how beautifully written a scene may be, if it does absolutely nothing to move my plot forward, or increase the conflict in any way, then the scene has to go. I have to cut it, or LOSE IT.
I think the same goes in life. If I’m doing something, or allowing someone, to sabotage my goal attainment—publication—then it needs to stop. Whether it’s wasting time watching too much TV, or a person who doesn’t understand when I say I can’t join in the fun because I have pages to write. There comes a time when you have to ask yourself, am I doing what I can to move my career forward—even if it’s at a snail’s pace because I have other obligations?
Show, don’t tell— Or, as my mom used to say, “Actions speak louder than words.” As writers, we’re told over and over that you need to show your characters’ emotions through their actions and reactions. Doing so will help your readers better identify with your characters. It also keeps your writing active or action oriented, and your readers entertained.
Now that I’m a parent, I can confidently say my mom was right. My actions do speak louder than my words. I’ve been known to morph into my mom and share this same piece of advice with my girls. And it’s true. The best teacher leads by example.
It’s very simple. Show, don’t tell my girls what it means to be a good person. Show, don’t tell in my writing and I’ll create a book my readers can’t put down.
Reading between the lines increases emotion—Or, subtext—For those who may not be familiar with this concept, subtexting occurs when dialogue has an underlying meaning that characters and readers pick up on. Subtext adds a rich layer to your dialogue. This layer ultimately pulls the reader in and increases the emotional impact because the reader understands what the characters are really trying to say or hide.
Subtext in real life can be tricky. How many times have we asked someone to stop “reading into” what we were saying? This can be a terrible problem when it comes to email or texts because readers infer the writer’s tone in a message. Sometimes we’re subtexting without even realizing it—we’re annoyed so we cross our arms; we’re frustrated so we blow out a breath; we’re nervous so we tap our fingers on a desktop.
As a writer, subtexting is a great tool to utilize to up a reader’s or a character’s emotional involvement. In real life, reading between the lines can create more drama than we’d actually like. But if that happens, it might help to think of it as another experience to write about later. J
These are just three of the many pieces of advice I’ve gleaned as I strive to improve my writing.
How about you? Are there any other “writing rules” or pearls of wisdom you’ve heard or you follow that would be of benefit to people in general? Please share one or two, and let’s see what kind of list we come up with by the end of the day!
Thanks for coming out to play with me! Hasta luego (until later)!
Today we welcome AJ Stewart, 2012 Golden Heart Finalist in Novel With Strong Romantic Elements. I happen to know her Urban Fantasy THE DEVIL SHE KNOWS is fantastic because (*looks skyward and starts whistling in innocent way*) I might just possibly have had reason to read it in the preliminary round of a certain major writing contest (*more innocent whistling*).
Here’s a quick blurb: “To save her sister, supernatural treasure hunter Ketra O’Connell must join forces with ex-husband Dominic Santori, the man who cut her throat and left her for dead on their last hunt.” (Talk about awesome conflict!!! And A.J. really makes it work!!!)
When she’s not writing paranormal and urban fantasy, Anna (as she’s known to her friends) works a day job running New York times Bestselling Author Brenda Novak’s Online Auction for Diabetes Research—which you know the Rubies love!! A three-time past president of her local RWA chapter, she remains hopeful “the call” (from agent and/or editor alike) is just around the corner. I’m sure that call is on its way!!
You can visit her at www.ajstewart.net to read about her books, her other hobbies, and her upcoming monthly blog, “The Writer’s Box”, which will focus on how TV and movies can aid and inspire your writing. You can also find her on Twitter @AJStewartWriter
Take it away, AJ!!
Getting Out of My Own Way–With a Little Help from my Friends
I’ve dreamed of being a published author for over half my life. Ever since I started writing mini-romances back in high-school, I knew this was what I was meant to do. Creating worlds, characters and storylines for people to fall in love with–there’s nothing like that rush.
Over the years, however, I’ve struggled with something some writers don’t believe exists: the fear of success. Dreaming about being a published author is a lot different (and a lot easier) than actually working for it. I’ve written stories without an end. I’ve outlined ideas, have piles of notebooks on characters, plot scenarios, entered contests, submitted to agents and editors. Let’s face it, as writers, the ideas can come easy. The execution…that’s a whole other story (so to speak).
The idea of success? Now that’s petrifying.
How, you may ask, is that even possible? How can the idea of seeing my book on a store shelf stall me to the point of being unable to write? Because I’ve seen the before and after. I’ve watched many of my friends disappear behind that impenetrable veil that is deadline. Every free moment they have they’re glued to their computer. I began to wonder, how can this be fun? I could not bring myself to risk losing the joy and experiencing the fun of creating stories under the weight of obligation of contracts. So for a (long) while, I chose to play, write okay stories and had what I called fun.
And accomplished nothing.
A few years ago, just after I had started a new book, my local chapter held our bi-annual retreat. At one point we were led in a meditation exercise where the instructor told us to close our eyes and imagine one scenario. Picture yourself in five years. You’re not published. Ten years. Still not published. How does that make you feel?
How would I feel? Pull the knife out of my heart! I’d feel as if I hadn’t fulfilled my potential, like I squandered my talent. As if…I’d failed. That realization followed me home and settled in my brain like a parasite. It took another few months, and a few conversations with that same instructor and another author for me to get to the crux of my fears and admit what I’d been afraid to. I didn’t want the writing to stop being fun.
You know what their answer was? Find a way to keep it fun.
So easy. So simple. And so dead-on right. The only thing, the only person stopping me from getting everything I wanted–including keeping fun as a factor–was me!
Changes ensued, beginning with my critique group (I have been so fortunate to have these women in my corner) who began holding me accountable for my writing. No more excuses. No more playing around. If I want that book contract, if I want to make my living writing books, then I need to stick my butt in that chair (apply butt glue if necessary), and write my heart out. Together, we’ve set goals. They hold me to my deadlines, hold my hand, read my pages over and over (and over), and push me (sometimes) to the point of tears and want my success as much as I do. And it goes both ways. Without them, the last 2 years would have been wasted.
Oh, and that book I started just before my epiphany? You guessed it–it’s my Golden Heart nominated THE DEVIL SHE KNOWS. And you know what? I’m having more fun than I dreamed possible. Thanks to a little help from my friends.
How do you stay motivated with your writing? Who’s your support system when times get tough?
Colette hails from Glenshaw, Pennsylvania, an unassuming suburb of Pittsburgh. She went to college and grad school outside Chicago, then spent fourteen of her formative single years in Manhattan, where she wrote ads for Warner Books (rechristened Grand Central). “So if you need help with marketing,” she says, “I’m your man. So to speak.” She’s lived in the Denver area for the past dozen years and is a copywriter at Jeppesen, an aviation and marine navigation company. (“If you fly, you know.”)
Her Golden Heart book THROWN isa contemporary single title about a horse trainer with Olympic dreams. She sees her best friend die in a riding accident and is so traumatized, she’s temporarily unable to compete in jumping competitions. Broke, she takes a summer job as a private riding instructor at a movie star’s Aspen estate. The actor disapproves of how she teaches his spoiled daughters, so the heroine hunkers down to gut it out with the rich and unreasonable until Labor Day. However, as the summer heats up, so does their mutual attraction. Until sparks—and horses—fly.
First off, giant, giddy thanks to the Rubies for this opportunity! I am humbled and awed by the Golden Heart community. And I am thrilled and constantly amazed to be counted as part of this group.
But first, a confession. Before writing Thrown, I had read exactly two romance novels in my life. TWO. I felt embarrassed when I talked to writers who read their first romance novel to pass the time in the hospital as newborns. I felt like I had cheated somehow.
As I wrote my novel, which was supposed to be a romantic comedy movie script, I asked my romance-novel-reading friend Kathryn if “funny” romances existed. In my limited experience, romance novels either: had heroines dying of some disease that, oddly enough, enhanced their beauty (all that frailty and paleness); or were thrillers starring feisty heroines, psycho killers and taciturn alpha heroes determined to protect them (the heroines, not the psycho killers).
Those aren’t the stories that naturally populate my storytelling lobe. In fact, armed alpha heroes kind of scare me.
Kathryn pointed me toward Susan Elizabeth Phillips. No killers (usually)! And her books were funny. Maybe there was a market for my style of writing. Maybe I could get published. Maybe, just maybe, someone would read one of my books and say, “She writes just like Susan Elizabeth Phillips, only there are horses.”
I kept reading SEP as they call her, and kept writing. That spring I traveled to Italy and had my picture taken holding her Breathing Room in front of a Florence café that’s in the book. I emailed it to her. She emailed back and put the picture on her website. Happy, happy me.
Then I went to my first Nationals in Orlando in 2010. I met Susan Elizabeth Phillips at the literacy autographing, got a picture, and then, and then, as though predestined by the gods, I rode up with her on the escalator. I scrabbled to think of something to say. Something brilliant that would indicate I was interested in her books and admired her talent. Something wildly insightful or hilarious that she would reference in her workshops forever.
Instead I told her I once took riding lessons in her Chicago suburb. Not exactly brilliant.
However, at that moment, a stalker was born.
During her workshop with Jayne Anne Krentz (a hoot, btw—I highly recommend it), she handed me her very own personal camera that she brought from suburban Chicago and asked me to take pictures. Well. This was progress. I felt certain she would ask me to dinner. But you know how those conferences are; I bet some pushy editor insisted she go to some boring publishing dinner instead.
Months later, I emailed with a writing question. She replied in a month. Clearly, we were becoming friends. It was uncanny.
At Nationals in New York last summer, I brought her two Teuscher champagne truffles (my favorite chocolates in the entire world) and got another picture with her. She kind of sort of recognized me. Or she was just being polite. She’s very nice that way. But I figured I was slowly, steadily inching my way toward us spending holidays together.
Come December, I was hoping for a card from the Phillips family, but no dice. No matter. I kept up with Susan (I call her Susan) and her Facebook posts, commenting here and there, not wearing out my welcome, but keeping my hand in the game. On the last Monday in March, when I got The Call, guess who I emailed… Yep. And guess who emailed me back the very next day? Yep. I was so in.
So as you see, I’m almost her BFF. Don’t be surprised if, when you see me in Anaheim, SEP is chatting me up most of the time. We’ll likely be making family vacation plans. Perhaps we’ll invite Nora.
Of course, I should add that I’ve started to stalk Kristan Higgins as well. No witty author is safe. You all have been warned.
Do you have an author you’ve stalked or would like to stalk? What’s your favorite stalking technique? Who’s on your list for Anaheim?
Today, we’re welcoming another Firebird, Terri Bolyard, 2012 Golden Heart Finalist in the Novel with Strong Romantic Elements category.
Terri wrote her first book when she was 8 years old and has never looked back. Most of her childhood was spent reading every Nancy Drew book she could get her hands on and daydreaming about being a writer. Her life took a detour when she got to college, majoring in accounting and then going on to law school. Today, she is an international tax attorney but to keep the other side of her brain out of trouble, she has written six novels. She is represented by Christine Witthohn of Book Cents Literary Agency.
When not traipsing around the world conquering evil tax codes, Terri enjoys boating, gardening, walking on the beach, reading and spoiling her Cocker Spaniel “children”, Oreo, Tater Tot and Jelly Bean with massive amounts of love, belly rubs and Dingo treats.
You can learn more at her website, www.terribolyard.com (currently getting a facelift), on Facebook: Terri Bolyard, and Twitter: @TerriBolyard
I am so honored to be invited to blog on the Ruby Slipper Sisterhood blog. Believe it or not, this is my first time ever blogging. Yep, I’m a virgin blogger so please, take it easy on me. J
I was thrilled, yet shocked to receive the Golden Heart Call back in March. I think all I said for about 30 seconds was “Oh my God!”. The kind lady who called me probably had her other phone queued up to call 911 as I’m sure I sounded like I needed some serious meds. I thank the RWA for sponsoring this contest and appreciate all of the time it takes to administer it.
As you can tell by my bio, I’ve always had a love of writing but the truth be told, I’ve been rather schizophrenic about it. I’m one of those writers who can’t decide what genre they want to write in when they grow up. I have two romantic suspense manuscripts, two women’s fiction and two paranormals. But no matter what genre I’m writing in, they are all based on something that has actually happened to me in real life. Okay, I embellish the paranormal ones somewhat (I really don’t see dead people J) but you get my drift. The kernel for every story is usually something I’ve seen, heard or experienced and then developed the plot by constantly asking myself “what if”. Then my crazy mind takes over and I’m off on my adventure, having no idea where the story will wind up.
Yes, I’m a panster.
My CP gasps in horror when she gets stuck in a scene and I tell her to skip forward and write another one. Of course, I gasp in horror at her gasp in horror because I couldn’t write linearly if my life depended on it.
Taking Wall Street By Disguise is the story of Christy Young, a fiercely driven finance guru who is struggling to make it to the top of Wall Street in spite of her impoverished upbringing. She graduated at the top of her MBA class at Wharton and has repeatedly exceeded corporate expectations. But there is one small thing she hasn’t been able to overcome: the lack of a penis.
Frustrated by losing promotions to men, she confronts her boss, who promptly fires her. If she doesn’t find another job, her father will lose the family home he’s mortgaged to send her to school. Desperate for another position on Wall Street, she goes undercover as a man. With the help of her roommate, Tess Herrington, a makeup artist on Broadway, Christy lands a position at the most prestigious of the Wall Street firms, Procter & Wells. There she encounters Ken Eriksson, her devilishly handsome arch rival for the next promotion. Despite her lust for him, she goes toe-to-toe with him on the racquetball court, the football field, and the Board room and learns more about herself as a woman than she ever did when she actually was one.
Now, if that “woman” could just keep from falling for Ken.
So, my question for you is two-fold. What is it that inspires your stories and once the inspiration hits, how do you get from the beginning to the end? What is your “method of madness” and how did you come to realize that it worked for you?
What’s the story with these writers who go where no romance author has gone before? Who seek out new worlds and new civilizations as settings for far out romances that span the stars? Two co-bloggers, critique partners and 2012 Golden Heart® finalists discuss what inspired their foray into this brave new romance sub-subgenre.
The romance genre has always been about discovery, exploring the human condition, and “What if…” But when you’re a Science Fiction Romance writer, you take that to a whole new dimension. (Sometimes literally.) You become a wrangler not only of GMC, but of an intangible called “sensawonder.” Your lovers discover and explore each other as they encounter the moons of Jupiter, orbit a distant binary star system, flee a world-swallowing black hole, or look down in trepidation at the aftermath of post-WWIII Earth.
But what first inspired us to write SFR?
The stars have always ignited our imaginations. Looking up at the immense night sky as kids, we often pondered—What’s out there? What mysteries? What amazing things? What adventures?
What’s waiting for us…out there?
The heady days of the Mercury space program, when humankind was just beginning to stick its collective big toe into the great unknown, first fueled the public’s fascination with space and all things SF. Back in May 1961—when computers were still just one generation removed from the abacus—we strapped Alan Shepard inside a tin can and lit the candle, let him roar off at the tip of a controlled explosion into the wild black yonder. He went, not knowing if he would live, or die, or mutate into something no longer human at all. But no amount of danger could stop him from reaching for the distant stars. (*sigh* Our heroes have always been astronauts.)
Our early space program spawned a flurry of imagination in the public’s collective consciousness, and for many future SFR novelists the glimmer of inspiration began with one of those space age by-products, the 1966 debut of Star Trek and the excitement of someday “galloping about the universe” with Captain James T. Kirk.
But wait…something was lacking. We craved a deeper bond for our favorite captain than a casual dalliance with a visiting scientist or green-skinned alien. We wanted him to have a relationship that would burn as bright as the nearest supernova and end in an HEA rather than a “See ya ‘round the universe.” We ransacked the bookstore shelves for any trace of these ‘star romances’ only to find they didn’t exist.
It seemed that if we wanted to read Science Fiction Romance, we needed to create our own. And so it began…
Laurie, growing up in the isolated forests of northern Michigan, spent much of her time penning stories from her imagination. “Creative Writing was always my favorite class in school. As I worked on my assignments, threads of ideas from Star Trek and other SF of the day like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Lost in Space, Twilight Zone and First Men in the Moon began to bubble in my head like a sort of primordial SFR stew.
“Although I was a ravenous reader of classic SF (Clarke, Asimov, Bradbury, Herbert, etc.) and relished the tidbits of romance I found in their work, my epiphany came when I read Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series, which first published in 1968. Telepathic human/dragon teams? On another planet? Battling alien thread? And falling in love? I was so there! McCaffrey’s books were my greatest inspiration.”
Laurie’s first attempt at writing SFR was a story that in today’s market would be considered YA. “It was a coming-of-age tale about a young prince on an isolationist planet and how his bond with a fugitive female off-worlder brought about change for his civilization. Although that novel will never see the light of the sun, it started me on the long road of self-education to learn the craft of writing novels.”
Donna chose a different course in her quest. “Shortly after Star Trek came along, James T. Kirk joined Robin Hood and Aragorn in my short list of all-time favorite heroes. So much so that when I started writing fiction after a long career as a journalist, I began by writing Trek fan fiction.
“The wonderful thing about fanfic is that you can learn a lot about story structure, character development, pacing, goals, motivation and conflict, and all that writerly stuff while working in a universe someone else has built for you. It’s like learning to play the piano. You don’t start out composing your own songs—you practice playing someone else’s for a while until you learn the notes. Then you use those skills to write your own.”
It’s amazing how many well-known romance or SF writers started out as Trek fanfic writers (we won’t embarrass them by calling names) and how many romance writers start out writing Science Fiction Romance. We can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard, “Oh, I wrote an SFR novel once! I loved doing that!”
Why do they stop?
Maybe because we’ve long been told there’s no market for SFR. But could that be changing? Science fiction with a romantic twist has become a staple in the motion picture industry, beginning with the prickly romance between Han and Leia in Star Wars and coming into its own with the more recent success of the interspecies-entangled Avatar.
In fact, there’s always been a solid core market for books that combine a love story with a plot that taps into our sense of scientific wonder. From the pioneers like Lois McMaster Bujold, Anne McCaffrey and Ursula K. Le Guin, to the award-winning and best-selling Linnea Sinclair, Susan Grant, Nalini Singh, Gena Showalter, Alexis Morgan, Deidre Knight, Angela Knight (and the scores of newer authors who have found a ready audience in digital publishing), there are great writers out there connecting with readers who enjoy not only space opera, but science fantasy, alternate universe thrillers, near-future Earth-based SFR and SF suspense.
One of the biggest names in paranormal romance, Sherrilyn Kenyon, has had tremendous success by returning to what she admits is her first love. Her SFR League series starting with Born of Ice is a runaway success. StarTrek fan Suzanne Brockmann has just leaped into the near-future, too, with her SFR series, Fighting Destiny, with the first book in the series, Born to Darkness, headed up the bestseller lists as readers follow a beloved writer in a new direction.
And, of course we have to mention the Rubies’ own Sharon Lynn Fisher will debut a much-anticipated Tor SFR in October, Ghost Planet.
For the last two years, three of the eight Paranormal category finalists for the RWA® Golden Heart Awards® have been SFR manuscripts. Almost half the category! Is it a sign of shifting interests for readers? We certainly hope so.
As the reign of traditional Paranormal Romance shows signs that its epoch is beginning to wane, mainstream publishers may just be seeking something new to send readers off on a different romance trajectory.
SFR is standing by, ready to launch. All systems are go for the future.
Thanks so much to the Rubies for hosting us today.
Now it’s your turn. Tell us about your favorite SF/R book, television show or movie, or if you’ve ever been inspired to pen a Science Fiction Romance.
Donna S. Frelick’s two companion Earth-based SFR novels, Unchained Memory and Trouble in Mind, are both 2012 RWA® Golden Heart®finalists. In UNCHAINED MEMORY, a woman with terrifying memories of an alien world and a psychiatrist willing to risk everything to protect her find themselves on the run from black ops kidnappers with a sinister interest in UFOs. In TROUBLE IN MIND, an FBI agent must forge a bond with a half-alien tracker to find a boy who is the key to an interstellar power play. Only love can ensure that these unlikely partners beat rival off-world hunters to a vulnerable prey.
When Donna’s not working on the third novel in the series, she teaches tai chi and karate in the Fredericksburg, Virginia, area and dreams of moving operations to her 44-acre spread in the North Carolina mountains. She serves as semi-retired family maintenance engineer to a husband, two daughters, one grandson, one new shelter rescue puppy and a talkative cat. She blogs, with Laurie, Sharon Lynn Fisher and Pippa Jay, at Spacefreighters Lounge (http://spacefreighter.blogspot.com). Find her on her website at http://donnasfrelick.com.
Laurie A. Green is a three-time RWA® Golden Heart® finalist, including a final for DRAXIS in 2012. A woman from Iowa is swept through a space-time vortex to discover not only is her abductor the man who has ruled her dreams for two decades–but that he’s king of a lost colony kept secret from Earth for twelve thousands years.
In 2010, Laurie founded the SFR Brigade [ http://www.sfrcontests.blogspot.com ] community of writers, which now totals over 300 members. Her extended family includes her husband, David, three cats, four dogs and two horses, all who reside on a ranch in beautiful New Mexico. When she’s not writing, networking, or searching out the perfect cup of Starbucks, she’s usually busy exercising her left brain as a military budget director. In addition to her joint blog mentioned above, her website can be found here: http://www.laurie-green.webs.com
Today we’re welcoming Marni Folsom, 2012 Golden Heart Finalist in Paranormal Romance.
Marni writes in a tiny corner of the Pacific Northwest, strategically located at the base of her laundry pile and in the fine company of a baby boy, a toddler girl, three black dogs and a burly, artistic husband. Her Golden Heart manuscript, FLANNIGAN’S GRACE, is the first in a series about the magic-wielding descendants of pre-Celtic demigods. She blogs joyfully yet irregularly at marnifolsom.com.
Hello, Rubies, and thank you for developing this blog! I confess that I’ve silently garnered writerly tips and Golden Heart inspiration from you all for the last couple years. It’s a thrill to be invited to post.
The ruby-slippered theme hits home today; I’ve been thinking about resourceful literary heroines, and Baum’s Dorothy Gale definitely falls into that category. Maya Angelou said we must honor our heroes and our “she-roes”. She likely meant historical figures that helped shape our culture, but I’ve always found comfort and inspiration in literature, so my favorite she-roes are of the fictional persuasion.
My first literary she-roe was Encyclopedia Brown’s friend, Sally, because she stood up to the class bully on Encyclopedia’s behalf (Save the Cat, anyone?). Lucy Maude Montgomery’s Anne Shirley proved another popular heroine in my early reading life. Anne defined “resilient” for me at a time when my hormone-laden blush preceded me into every room, and other than her idiotic tendency to overlook the wonderfulness of Gilbert Blythe, I thought Anne-with-an-E hung the moon.
My literary she-roe list goes on: Jo March; Lizzie Bennett; Nancy Drew; Adah Price in Barbara Kinsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible; Bridget Jones; young Arya Stark in George RR Martin’s Ice and Fire series; Hermione Granger; Lily Owens in The Secret Life of Bees; Janie Crawford in Their Eyes Were Watching God; and many, many more….
In the romance genre, Joanna Bourne blew me away with Annique Villiers’ cunning in The Spymaster’s Lady, and she did it again with young Jess Whitbey’s determination and loyalty in My Lord and Spymaster. I loved Meljean Brooks’ Yasmeen in Heart of Steel (nothing like a fierce airship captain who dumps the hero into a zombie-teeming swamp because he challenges her command!) and Kitala Bell in Marjorie M. Liu’s Soul Song.
Then there’s Deanna Raybourn’s stalwart Lady Julia Grey and Julia Quinn’s Miranda Cheever. Right now, I’m enjoying tough-girl Rowan Tripp in Nora Roberts’ Chasing Fire and whip-smart Nora Towe in Meredith Duran’s At Your Pleasure. So many captivating heroines populate our genre!
Some of these she-roes overcome incredible odds in order to kick bad-guy ass, or to solve a big mystery, or to save the world. That’s all fine and good, but sometimes the most compelling heroines simply aim to bridge the gap between who they are and who they want to be. Me, too, girls. Me, too….
Each of these heroines is very different from the next, but they all inspire me with their ability to bounce back from adversity and internalize difficult lessons for future growth. Such is the way of women, and a message I’ve needed to hear lately.
A few weeks ago, I felt a bit defeated by some hardship in my world, and I rattled off a Yahoo post to my fellow GH finalists about the general rotten-ness of life as I knew it. Immediately afterward, I was embarrassed. I, a card-carrying Do It Yourselfer to Ridiculous Degree, had aired the dirty laundry in a public forum. I had, in essence, asked for help. *gasp*
But you know what? I’m now very glad I did! The responses to my post were filled with empathy, encouragement, and poignant personal stories from others who’ve traversed the murky waters I’m currently swimming. And those stories, like our GH-finalist manuscripts, brimmed with love and loss and the quiet-yet-indomitable strength of women.
These fabulous people who make up the list of 2012 GH finalists shared their collective experience and spurred me to open myself to greater possibility. Their stories reminded me of the power inherent in building something strong and good, even if it occurs via inch-high accomplishments. Ultimately, they reminded me that we are all she-roes in our own right.
I’d love to hear who your literary she-roes are. Do you have a favorite author who motivates you or character that inspires your writing? What traits denoting strength do you like to build into your romantic heroines?
Today we’re welcoming the wonderful Jean Willett to the blog. Jean’s done great work for all our sakes as President of The Golden Network, an organization she talks about below, so we all owe her a big debt of thanks!
Also, Jean’s post contains some big news about the 2012 finalists: we finally have our group name!!! We’re thrilled to have a symbol to rally around at last.
2012 actually marks Jean Willett’s third Golden Heart nomination, which makes her eligible for the Golden Network’s Hall of Gold status.
A multi-award winning author, Jean loves escaping into a story, whether it’s mystery, romance or women’s fiction. A former chemist, she now prefers the chemistry on the page. Her years as a Navy brat traveling just about everywhere provide a rich tapestry of material for her stories. Her mystery with romantic elements, RESCUING REMBRANDT, is a 2012 Golden Heart Romantic Suspense finalist.
I’m sending a boatload of thanks to the Ruby Slippered Sisters for inviting all the Golden Heart Finalists to their Blog for a fun time. I’ve enjoyed reading the heartfelt words of my fellow 2012 GH nominees, the new FIREBIRDS – Forged in fire and flying higher!I am looking forward to cheering for everyone in Anaheim. The connection fostered through our common bond- the Golden Heart – creates wonderful friendships. That said, it’s kind of hard to follow the humor of Romily and the historical savvy of Oberon, but I can offer up tidbits and facts on breaking-and-entering, potential poisons for nefarious purposes and ways to kill someone only on the pages of mystery fiction, of course. Better yet, how about we keep it safe and chat about friendship…
Our GH bond creates a friendship that continues when we go on to join The Golden Network, a chapter established to support all Golden Heart finalists. It was established as the internet was sinking into a writer’s life and used as a way to connect everyone. Each year, the chapter celebrates the new finalists, hosts a retreat and/or cocktail party and provides a networking opportunity for its members.
The individual GH Loops started several years after the chapter as a way to instantly connect all the current GH Finalists. It’s fun, exciting and entertaining. As Past-President of TGN, I’d love to see that same enthusiasm continue on the chapter loop. The Rubies are a shining example of what TGN hoped to become and I think we can get back to those roots. There is a wealth of talented writers within TGN, published and unpublished. If we tap the well, we’ll all benefit.
Last year in NYC, TGN hosted two panels of industry editors and agents. We had a great spirited discussion between the professionals and if you were there, you’ll remember the moment we thought we’d have to open a few water bottles and douse the fire. I could just hear our group gaining the reputation for creating war…ah…passionate debate. The passionate expressions from the industry members were heartfelt and wonderful to see. It means they love their work and we provide the content to keep them happy.
This year in Anaheim, TGN has a panel of industry professionals ready to answer your questions. What would you ask them? What do you want to know? And has the GH helped you find a few new friends? I know I’m mining gold and I can’t wait to meet all of you.
This year in Anaheim, TGN has a panel of industry professionals ready to answer your questions. What would you ask them? What do you want to know? And has the GH helped you find a few new friends? I know I’m mining gold and I can’t wait to meet all of you.
It is my great pleasure to introduce Alison Delaine, Golden Heart® finalist in Historical Romance for her novel NOTORIOUS.
Sometime this fall it will be 20 years since Alison brought home that first ream of typing paper and sat down to write a romance. It’s been a long journey—hills of commitment followed by valleys of inaction—but giving up has never been an option. Alison is a teacher-turned-attorney and a two-time Golden Heart finalist who knows a few things about perseverance and hanging on to the dream. You can find out more about Alison at www.AlisonDelaine.com.
As a writer, I think I’ve counted about a hundred ways I’ve given my power away over the years. (Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration. It’s really more like 95 ways.) When I say I’ve “given my power away,” I am using that phrase in its full, airy-fairy, therapist’s-couch meaning: placing responsibility for my feelings (or more accurately, my writing) on someone or something else.
Here’s a sampling of people to whom I have served my power on a silver platter:
The industry insider whose help I thought I could never make it without.
The freelance editor whose feedback I decided I needed to have before I could work on anything new—even though there were many weeks between each draft.
The agent who requested my material and whose response I awaited for months without working on my next project.
The editor whose comment about my pacing left me doubting my entire ability to craft a novel instead of educating myself about pacing.
The first agent I worked with, who I assumed would do everything for me so I took no steps of my own toward publication.
One common denominator marks all of these episodes: I stopped doing what I could do and instead put my hope in what someone else might be able to do for me. Ever been there? Published or unpublished, I’m betting most of us have. In fact, I bet you can think of someone right now who has your hopes pinned all over them. Is it an agent? An editor? Readers? Publicist?
Now, sometimes we do need other people. Books don’t publish themselves. (Disclaimer: This post is not about self-publishing.) Many publishing houses don’t accept unagented manuscripts. A busy author may not have time to keep up with promotions, correspondence, and social media. But if you catch yourself feeling helpless, as if everything is out of your control, ask yourself: “Am I giving my power away? To whom?”
It might not even be a person. A few non-human recipients of my power have included
The day job that left me resentful and angry because it took time away from my writing.
The beliefs that made me absolutely sure I could only write at certain times of day and under certain conditions.
The market, that summer at National when I was sure I could never get published if I didn’t write about shapeshifters.
If any of this sounds familiar, it’s time to take your power back. Here are three ways to do it:
1) Write. I’ve noticed a pattern: When I write, I feel powerful. When I write, I feel like I am moving forward. When I write, I feel like my destiny is in my hands. The act of writing improves your craft, gets the ideas flowing, and gives you some mud to fling against the wall. You have control over when, if, and how much you write. No agent, editor, or one-star critic on earth can stop you.
2) Ask the Tough Questions. Are there things you could be doing to be a better writer that you’re not doing? Yes, there are. What are they? Ask the hard questions: “If I’m totally honest, what part of my craft do I know I need to work on?” Work on that thing. “If I’m totally honest, what do I know this story needs but I haven’t wanted to tackle?” Tackle it and change the story. I’ve found that being honest with myself about areas for improvement and taking responsibility for becoming a better writer helps me feel like I’m back in the driver’s seat.
3) Take an Action—Any Action. As a writer, there is always something to do. Make a list of agents to query. Actually send the queries. Enter a contest. Study a book about craft. Put a new technique into practice. Jot down a new story idea. Set a goal for this week, this month, this year—or even just for today. Make a small change to your writing schedule. Try a new motivational technique and see if it works. Committing to an action and following through always gives me a sense of forward momentum—probably because when I take action, I am moving forward.
What about you? Have you ever given your power away as a writer, and if so, what steps made you feel back in control? Any big epiphanies?