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Showing posts from February, 2014

How Pinterest Helped Me Land a Book Deal

Between 2008 and 2012, two separate publishers invited me to submit non-fiction book proposals about gardening, the topic of my blog, .   Neither proposal resulted in a signed contract. For the second proposal, the concept was rejected at the last minute for fear it would be overshadowed by Michelle Obama’s book on The White House garden, then due from the publishing house’s competitor. Let me tell you, nothing takes the sting out of rejection quite like being told that the First Lady of the United States is your competition. Over time and as is commonplace with long-time bloggers, my blog topics spread out from my original focus (victory gardening history) to include personal areas interest: elder-care, recipes, early mid-life revelations (a.k.a. navel-gazing), and homeschooling my peanut-allergic child. I began to tinker further with other social media platforms, too. Then, in 2011, a friend invited to me to Pinterest. I ignored the invite f

Sex in Literature: A Man's View

When I was asked to provide a male perspective on sex in literature, I had to pause and think.  I’ve never written a sex or love scene. It’s not because I don’t want to or because I don’t write about sex, it’s just that the opportunity has never come up. In my mind, men and women think of sex in different ways. From real world dating, lingerie, and pornography, sex is different between the sexes. I have always thought that from a woman’s view, sex is romance and feeling, while sex for men is almost purely visual. When we describe it, it is always about what the woman looked like, what she had on, how big/small her features are, what she did… it is almost exclusively physical, with no emotions, and that’s what I have found when reading men’s points of view of sex. As a writer, I think sex should be used intelligently. What I mean by that is this: when there is a sex scene, there should be a purpose for it, as if it is the logical next step in the story. For example, if there is a

The Many Forms of Love

February is the month of “Love” and we’ve been discussing this theme in our writing all month. Love is an emotion. I have found that emotion is the KEY to rounded character development. If you write Sean loved Mary with all his heart , do you “feel” that love? Do you identify with him? Empathize? No? How can you “show” emotion without “telling” your reader what to feel? Here’s an exercise to put yourself “in the mood,” so to speak: • Close your eyes and think of the word Love and remember a time when you felt that emotion. • How is your body reacting? What are some of your physical reactions? • What are you thinking? • What do you see? Any specific colors? What color is love? • Is there a certain smell that goes with the feeling? (lilacs, Old-Spice aftershave, Neco Wafers?) • A taste? What does love taste like? (cinnamon, licorice, scotch?) • A sound. What does love sound like? Write for ten minutes based on your feelings without using the word “love”. Here’s an exce

Strange Love

Love is Strange: Outdoor park sculpture in concrete and rebar by artist Seth Goddard (2005), Willow Park, Iowa City, IA. Photo by Heather Paul via Flickr  Last Friday was Valentine’s Day.  The occasion set me mulling on the subject of “romance” from a slightly unorthodox, but hopefully interesting perspective. Fairy tales like Cinderella and Snow White exemplify the “traditional” narrative pattern of a romance.  We all know how it goes: hero and heroine meet and fall in love, only to have their love frustrated by some hostile external agency (an unscrupulous guardian, a jealous rival; a stroke of ill fortune, etc.).  There follows a period of adversity during which both lovers are put to the test. Eventually, however, they are reunited and live “happily ever after.” This pattern has been the norm in romantic fiction for a very long time, (Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre utilizes the pattern to perfection.)  But with the emergence of Science Fiction and Fantasy as popular

The 12 Steps to Intimacy, Part 1

To continue February’s romance/sex theme here at The Blood Red Pencil, I was asked to discuss the 12 Steps to Intimacy. Although in romance circles, Linda Howard is known for her presentation on the topic, in fact, she gives appropriate credit to Desmond Morris for presenting them in Intimate Behaviour: A Zoologist's Classic Study of Human Intimacy by Desmond Morris (originally published in 1971). Bottom line: human beings are hard-wired to establish relationships, because without them, child-rearing probably wouldn’t happen. Unlike most other animals that can fend for themselves early on, human infants require a lot of time, effort, and teaching before they can survive on their own. There had to be a strong mechanism in place to bond a man and a woman so that they’d stick around to raise their offspring. For those of you who'd like to know more about how the survival of our species revolves around sex, you can find more in a post I wrote for my own blog . Studies have sh

Writing on Wednesday

I hereby commit to writing ten pages today. What about you? Make a commitment in the comments and then stop by at the end of the day and let us know how many pages you managed to write. Dani Greer is founding member of this blog, plays daily in her character gene pool moving body parts around in a steamy romance, while listening to smoky blues and sipping Laphroig. Okay, green tea. 

Love Scenes vs. Sex Scenes

This sentence came up in a discussion about our February theme: Sex in novels is just scenery; it rarely moves the story forward. Of course, I took up the rebuttal since all my books have love scenes. Notice I said “love scenes.” How can a reader feel the emotional content if there is none? How does a writer define sex between her two protagonists? How does a reader respond? Let me elaborate by explaining an eye-opening experience. I entered one of my romantic suspense books in a contest a while back. One requirement committed everyone entering to judge another genre. I chose Erotica because I’ve written erotica under a pen name. I was not then, nor have I been since, a steady reader of the genre, and wow, was I surprised by the material I judged. I could see why I was not a breakout sensation among erotica writers. I write basically the same type of character-driven/plot-driven (yes, a book can be both) stories in my erotica novels as I write in my romantic suspens

Telling the Truth

When I am helping someone write their memoir, I am often asked questions like, “How much of the truth should I tell? Should I leave some parts out? What if I hurt people’s feelings?” These are good questions. No one can tell all the truth. If we did, our stories would be ten thousand pages long and bore others stiff. No one cares how many times you brush your teeth each day, after all – unless of course your memoir is about how you kept your own teeth perfect and never had a cavity. Otherwise, your teeth, important as they are, have little place in your memoir. Then there’s the fact that there is no such thing as definitive truth. Others will view the events in your story differently than you do. Once I had twin sisters in one of my writing memoir classes. During the writing period of the class, they both chose to write about going to their first school dance. That they both chose to write about the dance was a confirmation of how twins may think alike, but the stories they

Scintillating Sex or Subtle Suggestion

It has been said that love makes the world go ’round, and many of us still believe that. Back in 1955 (for those who are old enough to remember), a romantic Frank Sinatra ballad compared love and marriage to a horse and carriage, stating in both cases that they were inseparable. Is that true? The world has changed a lot since 1955. Books, too, have changed since 1955—or maybe not so much. A trip back in time reveals that explicit sexual content in poetry dates from ancient Greek and Roman works. Seventeenth century England produced its share of erotica; it seems the English were not quite as stuffy as we’ve been led to believe, at least not behind closed doors. Fast-forwarding to the twentieth century, we find Henry Miller’s candidly sexual Tropic of Cancer , first published in Paris in 1934 and banned in the U.S. Its ultimate publication in the States in 1961 resulted in an obscenity trial and a 1964 Supreme Court decision that it was not obscene. Harold Robbins’ first novel, publ

Go for the Gold

It’s Olympics time! Skiing, ice skating. Okay, I’m not talking about the Olympics. I’m talking about writing. About your books or the book you’re currently working on. Your book is one in a world of Olympian books. Don’t be afraid of going for gold.  If you’re like me, you spend most of your free time writing or looking for ways to promote your books. In addition to all that you’re already doing, spend a little time researching book awards. You know your book’s genre, so find out if there are contests for your genre. Then research what it costs to enter your book. Find out what you’ll need to do in order to enter. Keep a file on your computer where you can store information folders on each contest. Of course you have to decide if you can afford entering. Do you believe your book could win? Do you know the genre of your book, in case the contest separates books by genre? Once you enter your book, forget about it. It won’t do any good to check the webpage every day. If you w

To Romance or Not

The earlier posts this month focusing on romance have been quite interesting, and one thing that I have been getting from them, and the comments, is that there is room for any kind of romance novel you want to write, or read, from sweet to sexy. Many moons ago when I had a top NY agent, Denise Marcil, I had just completed my first mystery, Doubletake, which I wrote with a coauthor, Margaret Sutton. Denise worked hard to market the book, but this was the late 70s when romance was trumping all other genres and mysteries were a hard sell. So Denise suggested I try my hand at writing a romance. She suggested some titles to read in a new contemporary line that Harlequin was launching that featured modern women who were strong and spunky and had interesting jobs. The editors were also looking for smart, sassy dialogue and lots of humor. I could do that. What I couldn't do was meet the guidelines that called for intimacy by a certain page and a requisite number of sex scenes. No

Cover Art Confusion

In my first post for Blood-Red Pencil, I mentioned that I have been writing Regency romance for 35 years. In that time I've seen some interesting, and head-scratching, decisions by various art departments, particularly on the foreign translations of my books. It seems certain concepts just don't translate very well. Left is the original paperback cover for Mayhem and Miranda , a Regency about a penniless companion to an eccentric lady, and below right is the original ebook cover. Totally misleading is the cover to the Hebrew translation ( below center ). Unless they drastically altered the text in translating it, the image has nothing whatever to do with the story. Anyone buying the book expecting a bodice-ripper would be sorely disappointed. What's more, they spelled my name--I'm told--"Carol Deen". The apparently bodice-ripping Hebrew translation of Mayhem and Miranda The cover for His Lordship's Reward is cute: the three-year-old, black-

Let's Talk about Sex (in Writing) with Author Samara King

With BRP’s focus on romance (and all that ties into that) and writing this month, I thought it would be a great idea to talk with one of my favorite romance authors, Samara King. I don’t call Samara a favorite because she’s my best friend. No, I call her that because her stories have wonderful blends of intriguing characters, humor, fierce attraction between heroine and hero, great sex, great stories (so that the sex isn’t just a prop), and a fast pace that makes you want to race to the end of the story. I wanted to get her take on how she as an author comes to the page to write her sexy love scenes, how she considers the story she works on when developing sex scenes, and what advice she would offer to writers looking to develop sizzling sex scenes. Let’s see what she had to say! Samara King is the author of eighteen multi-genre works within romance fiction in novel and novella lengths as well as poetry. Writing romance has been a part of Samara’s world since her days of sneaking

What's on Your Self-Editing List?

While Kathryn continues her Art of Falling blog tour elsewhere, we'd like to welcome special guest Janice Gable Bashman—published nonfiction author, soon-to-be published fiction author, and editor—to the Blood-Red Pencil. Fiction and non-fiction are two different beasts when it comes to editing. I’m the Bram Stoker nominated author of Wanted Undead or Alive, and I’ve published articles in Writer’s Digest, Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market, The Writer, and many other publications. I’m also managing editor of the International Thriller Writer’s The Big Thrill , so I edit a lot. But when it comes to editing fiction, I have to wear a different hat. In editing my own short stories (published in various anthologies), my young adult science thriller Predator (coming October 2014; Month9Books), and the middle grade novel I’m wrapping up now, I’ve had to look beyond copy editing, fact-checking, sentence structure, etc. and check other items. I’m not talking about big develop

Bad Guys in Romance

Loves stories are primarily about two characters who meet, are attracted, face a set of challenges, and overcome those challenges to live happily ever after. They have friends who are thrilled for them and foes who are not so thrilled. Do you really need an antagonist? Yes, if you want the tension to be truly heightened. Do you really need an evil lord or a psychotic killer to keep them apart?  No, there are alternatives. If someone in your lovers’ story world is dead set on keeping them apart and actively working against them, the potential for breakup conflict is higher. Your job as a romance writer is to instill doubt in the reader that your love interests will end up together. Here are a few types of antagonists to consider: 1) Disapproving parent/s or family members. 2) Disapproving best friend who rejects the new partner’s “otherness”, or resents the fact that his/her friend is now too busy to spend time with him/her, or the lover is changing to pleas