Saturday, January 29, 2011

Falling in Love Like a Romance Writer

Recently, a book came out called Fall in Love Like a Romance Writer by Amelia Grey ( with stories from 67 romance writers on how they fell in love with their partners/husbands. This got me to thinking about my own story and the quirks that led to my own bliss.

 I was in Colorado working for Corporate America (and hating it) when I decided I needed to continue my education, no matter the cost, and get the hell out of my creepy job. Early in the year, I started the process of applying to graduate schools: University of Montana, University of New Mexico, Northern Arizona University and University of Arizona. I hoped one of them would pay me to come to their school.

I was accepted to two schools, one that paid me and one that didn't, and soon after, I had a dream about attending a school with brick hallways. I walked down the hallway and around the corner comes this guy, his arms full of those big honkin' text books and papers. He had dark, curly short hair, dark eyes, and stood a little taller than me. We collided at the corner and books and papers went flying. I apologized and helped him clean up, then woke up. In my heart, I knew this dream meant I was going to meet my future husband in graduate school.

I thought it would take at least a semester or two to meet this guy, and when I arrived at graduate school and met the men there, I was certain it might take even longer than that. EEEEEK! They weren't men; they were boys with adult bodies (some of them so potbellied, it appeared they spent most of their time in front of a TV watching either sports or porn).

When I look back on it now, however, it took less than two weeks. But I digress.

This one guy came sauntering down the wooden floored hallway toward me one day wearing a baseball cap, a red fleece vest, a white teeshirt, jeans, and sneakers. He was a little taller than me, had long dark wavy hair, dark brown eyes,and a neatly trimmed dark brown goatee. He wasn't carrying books. I took one look at him and said to myself, "I will never, ever, go out with that guy."

He was rude, had the social grace of a potato, and worse, he was from New Jersey. Gasp! I didn't see him much the first semester, but in the second semester, we shared a class together. A friend of mine remarked one day that he played on the weekends, but he seemed to be doing well in class, so being a direct person, I asked him about it . . . every Monday.

I'd ask, "What did you do this weekend?"
He said, "Watched a couple of movies, played racquetball, and went rollerblading."

I love movies and I watched them when I got a chance. How did he do it? Graduate school was tough for me and I couldn't imagine spending that much time watching movies and still get my studying done. I had to know how he did it. So I asked . . . every Monday. From his perspective, he thought I was just a gossiping busybody and therefore, it was none of my business how he did it. I just wanted to know his secret!

This went on for months and he never told me to F@$& off (I think he liked the attention of this "busybody" - read: pretty girl - asking him what he did each weekend). At the final exam, we sat down at our usual places and he got out his notebook to study one last time before the exam. I took one look at his notes and stopped. They were all neatly typed and drawn out.

"You type your notes?" I asked, dumbfounded.
"You type your notes."
"You typed your notes."
"When did you have time to type your notes?"
"I don't have to actually watch the movies, do I?"

His secret to his success at graduate school and movies was he listened to them while he worked. Sigh. That wouldn't work for me, but we'd become friends throughout the time I'd bugged him. We became even closer at the end of that summer when his cousin died and I listened to his grief. At the end of the next summer, he got up the courage to ask me out (and he still claims to this day that he doesn't know who it was that spoke with his voice). Our conversation went something like this:

"Siobhan, will you go out with me?"
"I don't mean to lunch or dinner. I mean go out out with me."
"I know."
"So you'll go out with me?"

Then on our first date (with other couples so he didn't feel so nervous), he avoided me and tried to get away from me. That confused the heck outta me and by the end of the night, I was left wondering if he'd been kidding. He'd invited me to dinner the next night (a few days earlier) and I was honor-bound to come, but I was determined to find out what the heck was going on. I cornered him at dinner and said, "Do you really want to do this or are you just playing?"

He said he really wanted to go out with me and bless his heart, he faced the firing squad of all my questions on whether or not he really wanted to go out with me, 'cause I wasn't playing. He stuck with me, though, and a little over a year later, we moved in together when I was pretty certain he was the man I wanted to marry. He'd helped me with the dog I'd inherited; he'd helped me with choosing a new thesis project when my original thesis fell apart; he was smart, handsome, generous, and sexy and I couldn't imagine letting him go.

The night I proposed to him, he accepted and then told me I'd beat him by two weeks. We married 18 months later. It wasn't until after I married him that I realized he was the dark haired, dark eyed guy I'd dreamt about before I got to grad school and it had only taken me two weeks to meet him. It just took years to realize he was the one I loved with all my heart.

We've now been friends for 11 years, lovers for 9, and married for 7. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. :)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Writing endings

I hate writing endings. I'm not very good at it and I always think they're weak or just plain lame. I always wonder what happens to my characters after that. Joan Wilder (from The Jewel of the Nile) said it best:
Editor: "You write about people that sail off into the sunset."
Joan Wilder: "But what about the next day when the sun comes up?"

Endings are hard and I find my focus drifting the closer I get to one. I suddenly have an idea for another story that I just have to write right now! Or I stall on the ending of the story I writing. Or worse, I go do laundry or scrub the bathtub or wash dishes just to avoid writing the damn ending!

Heck, even now, I'm writing a blog post instead of writing an ending to my latest werewolf tale.

Remarkably, writing a story isn't that hard, but ending it, after spending so much time with your characters, loving them, working through their issues with them, and helping them find the loves of their lives, is difficult. You want to know what happens to them the next day, or what happens to their friends. This is how you end up writing series; but each story must have some sort of ending.

So, I'd best get back to it. Time to bury the body, swear eternal love for each other, and "sail off into the sunset". I just hope it doesn't turn out lame. Thank God for editors. :)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Addictions and Writing

Are you addicted to anything? I'm addicted to books - any books. E-books, paperbacks, library books, any form of reading I can get my hands on. I have to keep myself from visiting or or I will spend away the money meant for other things. I even go to the library and get books when I have plenty on my Kindle and in my paperback collection that I haven't even read. Yeah, I'm addicted.

My husband looks at me and says, "And what about the books you're writing? Why are you reading more stories when you need to finish the ones you're writing?" Well, I'm doing research! I gotta know the genre I'm writing intimately! I can't just go in cold turkey!

Yeah, okay, so I probably read more than I need to learn how to write what I'm writing. But it's my drug of choice and it's a hell of a lot cheaper than alcohol or drugs, and I can put it down any time (cause it's there to pick up again anytime I want! lol).

To be honest, you do need to read many, many stories in the genre you want to write to know what kinds of things sell. Writing is a business as much as it is a passion. You have to know what kinds of stories get noticed and some of the styles of those stories out there. My two favorite genres are paranormal romance (non-human) and science fiction (completely human but with cool oddities), and I've read a lot of books in both. My library overfloweth.

I've recently read some fun ones that had me giggling and intrigued. Check out One Night In Scotland by Karen Hawkins, Planet Mail by Kate Pearce (talk about hot!), Penelope and Prince Charming by Jennifer Ashley, If He's Wild by Hannah Howell, and The Hawk by Monica McCarty for romance, and Rhapsody by Elizabeth Hayden, Song In The Silence by Elizabeth Kerner, Storm Front by Jim Butcher, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, and The Faded Sun Trilogy by C.J. Cherryh for science fiction. If He's Wild and The Hawk are in the middle of the series, but they were the ones that caught my attention the most. And One Night In Scotland is the first one I read by Karen Hawkins, but she made me howl with laughter.

Who are your favorite authors, of any genre? What made them your favorite(s)?

Books, books, books. And my Kindle isn't even pictured, nor is my Sci-Fi library!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What makes a good fairytale

So I sat down yesterday to write my blog and I must have been in a snarky mood because my husband read it and remarked that it sounded like a rant. Reading over it later with that in mind, I realized it WAS a rant and I needed to tone it down a little. Or write about something else. He's a Libra so he's very aware of balance and I was significantly 'unbalanced' when I wrote it. So I deleted it and now I'm going (hopefully) to write something on a little more even keel.

As a romance writer, I'm primarily a romance reader and I love to read, watch, or listen to love stories. They're uplifting and comforting and allow me to escape from the difficult things going on in my life for a short time. Despite this need for escape, I also need just enough realism in my fairytales to allow for my suspension of disbelief.

Take Cinderella, for example. I like the story, the whole rags to riches thing, and of the main character getting rescued from a truly detestable situation. However, I'm incensed that Cindy doesn't get off her butt to change her situation and decides the only way to get out of it is by a man saving her with marriage. The feminist in me sneers wildy. Even worse, Cindy meets Prince Charming in a disguise, so she's not being honest with him, and falls madly in love with him just from spending one short evening with him. Uh, well, maybe. Love at first sight might work, but mostly for dating, not marriage for the rest of your life. Love on the heels of a crystal shoe. Nice.

The versions of the Cinderella story that I do like are: Cinder Edna by Ellen Jackson (introduced to me by my friend E. K. Yenawine) and the movie Ever After, starring Drew Berrymore, Dougray Scott, and Anjelica Houston. In both these versions, Edna and Danielle (Cinderella) do something about their situations and only look on marrying the Prince (or anyone) as just tasty garnish on the casserole. They aren't looking for handouts or playing the victim. This appeals to my own sense of self-worth and independence. Also, these two women get to know the men they fall in love with. No one night stands for them.

Speaking of E.K. Yenawine, she and I wrote a Cinderella story of our own after watching just a little bit of a terrible musical Cinderella at the video store (back before DVD's - gasp! I know; I'm showing my age). Our story had the wicked stepmother and stepsisters, the missing father (he was drunk with grief from the loss of his first wife), the handsome, rich prince (lead singer in a rock band) and the step family making the heroine's life unbearable. However, like Cinder Edna and Ever After, our story gave the heroine backbone and time; time to interact with the hero and get to know him so when she does fall in love with him, there's a basis for her feelings. She's not looking for handouts or for a rescue, but she certainly will take help from the man she loves. Toward the end, when the "prince" asks her to go with him, she takes a vacation from her responsibilities to get to know him better and finds out all sorts of things about him, some of which she doesn't like. Stay tuned for that!

This kind of story grabs me because the characters are likable, or easy to relate to (I know; bad English!), and I can put myself into their positions, either the male or the female. I believe they would act the way they do and it makes the fairytale even more enjoyable. I also believe they would get together in the end because they were given enough time to like each other, despite their faults (and oh yes, they have them).

So what makes a good romance story, then? My opinion is: likeable characters that have some redeeming qualities other than being young, handsome (pretty), and rich; a conflict that is tough to get through, but workable enough for the characters to grow; and interaction between the characters that's plausible enough to allow for a suspension of disbelief.

The best way to do this is put yourself in the position of the characters and think about what you'd do in the same situation. How would you react? What would you say? What would you feel, especially if you didn't know what the other character was thinking or feeling? How would you react to his/her reactions? In this case, don't ask, "What would Jesus do?" ask, "What would I do?" Make the interaction real enough that you believe it and that will make your story great.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Stepping out into the world

What do I say in my first-ever blog? It should be something witty and pithy and funny, but with serious elements that describe what kind of writer I am. And it should be smart enough, without too many spelling errots, uh, erros, uh, ERRORS, to make folks want to read more.

Yep, I'm sunk already.

So, I guess I should write about where I am now, what I'm doing, and what I'm working on.

At the moment, I have three manuscripts finished and three more half-way finished, and one more (under Meg Palevich) completed but in need of severe editing. I submitted one of the finished manuscripts to the Hot Prospects writing contest in September (got it back to edit some more, and rightly so) and another to the Golden Heart Writing Contest. Wish me luck on that one (it was better than the first one I finished); I should find out whether I made it into the final selection by March 2011.

An agent is reviewing one of the finished manuscripts and I hope to hear very soon that she's interested in pursuing more of my work (fingers crossed!)

All of my stories are set in worlds not quite our own or even different worlds entirely (I live in this one, why the heck would I write about it?) with creatures both fantastic and mundane (can a dragon be mundane?). All of them have some element of love, whether I describe it in vivid detail or just let folks know there's lovin' goin' on!

The stories could be considered fantasy (hey, I fantasize about them all the time!), but the new label out there is 'paranormal', where dragons aren't dragons, but shapeshifters who shift into winged, horned, lizards that blow fire (you know, dragons), and werewolves and vampires prowl. I have a couple of those. I also have Guardians (angels), giants, Faeries, selkies, ice demons, goblins, dryads, and one poor, unfortunate Hollywood actress who stepped into an alternate dimension that nearly got her killed.

Oh, and I nearly forgot about my Hungarian Barbarians! They are a lot like those Scottish romances except that they aren't Celtic, they speak a really difficult language to master, and they're descended from the Huns; most specifically Attila. Good times had by all.

So that's what's going on with me, the rookie to the blogging world. I hope you enjoy my few simple words here and the longer stories coming (hopefully soon) out for public consumption.