Sunday, March 18, 2007

Cinematic Inspiration: The Phantom of the Opera

The music, the costumes, the tortured Phantom, the love triangle- what's not to love about this lavish romantic production? All serve as a rich source of inspiration for the romance writer.

So, who would you choose: The dashing and heroic Raoul or the magnetic and compelling Phantom?

New Release from Antonia Pearce!

Congratulations to my fellow Romance Diva, Antonia Pearce, on her latest publication!
What would you do with twenty-four more hours with the lost love of your life? Merryn Porter finds out when a freak accident kills her as she saves her best friends on their wedding day. Unaware she’s dead, she’s also forgotten the bride’s brother died ten years earlier. She does remember he broke her heart.Luke Hanson has been waiting in limbo to atone for rejecting his beloved Merryn and Fate cuts him a deal: twenty-four hours to make up for her suffering. If he succeeds, she gets another shot at life. A miracle really, but everything has a price…

Regency Dress of the Month: March

Morning Dress, Ackermann's
Morning dress were generally plain and allowed for ease of movement. Generally, they were worn with a cap, as seen in the image above, and the arms and chest were covered. Morning dresses were appropriate both for remaining at home or for early (before noon) walks or carriage rides in the park. The lady above is no doubt working on her morning correspondence, perhaps responding to an invitation or communicating with friends back at home if it is during the London season.

From Regency Etiquette: The Mirror of Graces (1811)
"There are a race of women, who, priding themselves on their superior rank, or wealth, or talents, affect to despise what they deem the adventitious aids of dress. When this folly is seen in female authors, or, what is much the same thing, ladies professing a particularly literary taste, we can at once traces its motive. Wishing to be thought superior to founding any regard on external ornament, they forget external decency; and by slatternness and affectation, render, what is called a learned woman, a kind of scare-crow of her own sex, and a laughing-stock to the other. This error is not so common now with bookish ladies, as it was in the beginning of the last century. Then our sex did, indeed, show that 'a little learning is a dangerous thing.'"

Revising and Editing

1. Revision: Congratulations! You've finally finished your manuscript! But wait- before you send it off to the eager acquiring editor of your dream publisher, you'll need to do a little revising and editing. Having another pair of eyes check your manuscript is crucial for the revision step. After all, your story is perfect in your head, and as an author, it's easy to overlook small but important breaks in consistency. For instance, when I was submitting the first three chapters of my novel to a contest, I had my sister look over the manuscript, and within the first five minutes, she said, "You have two different ages for your hero. How old is he anyway?" Oops- a big error and one that any editor worth her title would pounce on and mark. Revision also means looking at the big picture. Remember your theme? How does it come through in the final version? And take another look at characterization. Although characters can certainly change during the course of a novel, they should still be recognizable by the time the reader closes up the book.

2. Editing- My absolute best advice, and I guarantee it will work: Read your manuscript aloud. As a composition teacher, I've seen many grammatical errors over the years, which could be easily remedied if the author would go line by line through the manuscript, reading aloud and checking the sentence structure. Yes, you have written a novel, and yes, it's long, but it's yours. Do you really want it showing up at an editor's desk looking anything less than polished and perfect? If you need some brushing up on grammatical concepts, the OWL website is comprehensive and filled with exercises, examples, and techniques relating to grammar and mechanics.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Wild Rose Press: New Release

Now available from The Wild Rose Press.
Congratulations to my fellow Romance Diva, Jennifer, on her new release!

Desert of Desire by Dara Edmundson

New York reporter Eve Mason is perfectly content in her comfortable world shunning romance for fear of the inevitable heartbreak. When she's sent to interview reclusive author Red Calloway in Sedona, Arizona, she discovers the passion she's been missing her whole life in his desert paradise.

Second Chance Rose by Terry Odell

Rose has had her one true love. After her husband's death, she moves across the country and discovers the special garden her mother told her about in childhood bedtime stories. When she meets Richard, friendship blooms. But can there be second chances for true love?

Garden of Sin by Jennifer Leeland

Shy but brilliant and unsure around women, Forrest Sterling asks Mira Serrano for help. Despite her misgivings, she agrees and a favor turns into something neither can forget. Eight years later, Forrest is back to claim the woman he never forgot. Now, he's giving the lessons to convince Mira that they belong together and he'll use any method to do it.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Reading at Risk Report

Once again, I'm interrupting the series on writing, but I was very concerned when I read about the latest statistics from the Reading at Risk report. The headline ran "fewer than half of American adults now read literature." What's most worrisome is the steep decline among young readers. According to the NEA, which funds the report, "The rate of decline for the youngest adults, those aged 18 to 24, was 55 percent greater than that of the total adult population." Is anyone else concerned about these statistics? After reading this report, I've resolved to shift some of the money I donate each year to literacy programs; my hope is that as people learn to read, they will acquire a respect for literature and perhaps pass that on to the younger generation. Maybe the number of literary readers will never reach the 90th percentile, but at least we can work to stem this worrisome decline.

Sunday, March 11, 2007


You never know when inspiration will strike. I was hard at work researching various locales of England for my novel when I came across an interesting article by Beatrice Sant called "Wandering Down the Wye" (Realm Magazine, October 2006). Within the article, she briefly mentioned that Hay-on-Wye's castle was turned into a bookshop. Being an unrepentant bibliophile, I found that fact fascinating and instantly went into further research mode. Apparently, the entire town is devoted to books, literally millions of them, and has over 40 bookstores. My imagination went into overdrive, and I thought how I would love to work in a castle-bookshop. Hence, "The Earl's Enchantment" was born.

To the left, you can see a photo of the exterior of the castle, which Richard Booth revitalized when he purchased it. I think creating an original and vivid setting is essential, and with inspiration like Hay Castle, it makes my job as a writer that much easier.

Writing Tips: Drafting

Okay, so you have the idea, you've brainstormed it for awhile, and now it's time to get down to business. Still, the idea of composing a full draft is daunting, especially when you're working on a novel. What's worse is there's no special secret except staying rooted to your computer for a set time each day. What has helped me is to set up a calendar (actually, two calendars). The first calendar is in an inexpensive daybook, where I jot down the number of words written each day. Then, as a small reward, I give myself a sticker. It's elementary but still a nice treat. Buy the prettiest stickers you can find, and by the end of the month, you'll have a colorful display of the amount of work you've done.

The second calendar is on my computer, where I have a chart set up in Word where I document the number of words written each day. In the last two rows of the chart, I log in how many words written that week and then log the number written thus far this year. I actually received this idea from the website Rose's Colored Glasses, which has an excellent (free) newsletter for writers.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Writing Tips: Brainstorming

It's exciting to have a new idea for a story, but before you rush to the computer to jump into your draft, take some time brainstorming the plot and characters. These are examples of what have worked for me, and I'd be interested in hearing from other authors about their own writing methods. I have a different notebook devoted to each project, and I keep all my exercises in there. Before I begin any exercise, I like to start off with a little freewriting, where I write for 5-10 minutes and shake out any distracting ideas.

1. Characterization: First, work on the basic features of your characters. One useful tool is to develop a character chart that lists things such as appearance, birthdate, family members, etc. If you don't want to develop your own chart, The Ecletic Writer website has a "Fiction Writer's Character Chart" that you can use. I like to give each character her/his own page and leave some white space so I can add details in later. So, before you start the story, you'll have at least have a basic idea of who your characters are and what their motivation is.

2. Plotting: Next, develop an outline for the story. Some people have very detailed charts and graphs. When I first started, I tried listing all the chapters and then writing down plot elements for each one. Pretty soon, I was confused and discouraged, so I scrapped that method and now only use a basic synopsis. I figured I would have to write one eventually anyway, and it helped me to develop a basic organization for the plot.

3. Theme: What's the overall idea you want to convey in your work? "Love conquers all" or "dreams can come true" are good ones for a romance novel, but there are countless others you can use. Again, this is not set in stone, but knowing the main impression you want the reader to take away can help you during the drafting process.

Once my initial brainstorming is done, I'll type up the results of all my planning. I keep my character sheets and synopsis close at hand when I begin the drafting process, and it helps me to stay organized.

Next: The Drafting Process.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Writing Tips: Back to Basics

Let's go back to Composition 101 and 102. As a Composition instructor at a Florida university for four years, I use 4 basic tools to teach and motivate students to write. Yes, they're elementary, and yes, they're common knowledge; then why does it seem so few writers use them? I cannot guarantee these tips will pave the road to publication. All I know is that I used them for writing my very first romance story, and I sold that story to the first publisher I submitted it to. So, that said, let's get started. I'll list the 4 tips below and then develop each one in a separate blog.
1. Brainstorm
2. Draft
3. Revise
4. Edit

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Cover for "The Earl's Enchantment"

Much excitement over here- I just received the cover for "The Earl's Enchantment," which is coming soon from The Wild Rose Press.

Here is the blurb:

Now, what's a sweet American girl like Caitlin doing in England, working in a castle/bookstore and communicating with a grumpy ghost? When the story opens, Adrian's still figuring that out himself. In 1806, he very unwillingly found himself transformed into a ghost by an angry ex-lover who also happened to be a very powerful witch. He's been trapped in Holworth Castle for the past two centuries, observing with horror the evolving fashions, hair styles, and conduct of the modern man (and woman).
Then Caitlin walks into the bookshop, and Adrian's world changes. Caitlin, too, feels an intense connection, and she and Adrian are willing to risk anything to bring their worlds together. By the end of this journey, Caitlin and Adrian will have traveled through time, battled a dark and dangerous force, and found themselves well and truly enchanted by each other.


If you haven't heard about BookCrossing, it's a fascinating venture I recently discovered on the Internet. Basically, you "release your used books into the wild," after logging onto the website and announce the publication information and where the books can be found. It could be a useful promotional tool (release your own book into the wild), but what I hope it will do is help somehow with the falling literacy rate in the U.S. (now below 50%). Last time I checked, books were being released in India, the U.S., the U.K., and all across the globe.

Read and Release at

Monday, March 5, 2007

Essential Reading for the Romance Writer

A few notes on some writers and their very helpful advice, especially for the writing novice.

Deb Stover has posted online a wonderful excerpt from her book How to Write a Romance for the New Markets. It's called "The Purple Prose Eater" and manages to be both funny, relevant, and informative about the use of language in romance novels. If you're suffering from a rejection notice, her "rejection protocol for writers" is humorous and comforting.

Maggie Toussaint's web site also has some words of advice and encouragement for the new writer. I especially enjoyed her article "Banishing Your Wolf of Self-Doubt" and wish I had seen that article months ago. After completing my first romance story, I hesitated to submit it because of doubts over whether it was any good. As I've learned, it's better to submit and then move on with your next work than to stew over one story.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Authors' Websites

If you're an aspiring author and are wondering about websites and promotion, check out the article "What Every Author's Website Should Contain." On the sidebar, you'll see numerous comments by published authors, including Nora Roberts.

Once I had completed my first romantic short story and was halfway through my novel, I began considering the issue of the website. Should I have a website? Should I hire a designer? Who would be the potential audience for the site? I think it's important to consider these types of questions before making the investment of time and money because as I've found, a lot more goes into building and maintaining a website than I had anticipated. At first, I did contemplate hiring a web design finally decided to hold off until I have a book under contract. So, in the end, it took about a week of training with much trial and error to get my site up and running.

I recently revised my website, and I've found the best way to make my website as professional and attractive as possible is to gather ideas by visiting as many author websites as possible (read: hundreds). Since I already knew who else was writing in my genre, it was easy to visit the RWA and the Beau Monde websites to find links. One tip that I've found especially useful is to join webrings that share similar interests. Once I started browsing through websites, I discovered several webrings in my genre and promptly applied for membership.

More later on the Internet presence and the author . . .
Happy writing!

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