Honorary Heartlette – Eileen Rendahl

April 6, 2008 at 8:28 am | Posted in Eileen Rendahl, Honorary Heartlette, romance, writing | 7 Comments

Riding the Romance Rollercoaster

 

I’ve had the opportunity twice in the past few months to stand in front of a group of people and talk about my life as a romance writer. Both talks ended up being a little tour of the highs and lows of life as an author. After giving them, the thing that really struck me was how high the highs seemed and how low the lows felt and the dizzying ride in between. It’s been a veritable rollercoaster ride.

 

Unfortunately, I hate rollercoasters.

 

I’ve never liked that terrifying feeling that I’m going to fall off the edge of the tracks. I detest the way my stomach drops as the train rushes down and I loathe having the G forces pull my cheeks back. It doesn’t thrill me. It makes me dizzy and frankly, a little nauseous.

 

Looking over my writing career gives me the same results.

 

I remember the day my agent called to tell me I had a two-book deal from Pocket Books with their new Downtown Press line with the same amount of detail that I remember the birth of my first child (have no fear, I won’t recount that to you right now although you should know it involves a car battery on a motorcycle trickle charger, a taxi cab doing about 90 miles per hour down the Eisenhower Expressway at one in the morning and has moments of great hilarity). It was a dizzying climb up an unimaginable peak with nothing but the sky before me. It was thrilling. It was exhilarating. It made me glad that I’d done those Kegel exercises because it was so scary I was afraid I was going to wet my pants.

 

Unfortunately, I can also describe to you what it’s like to find out that my most recent release has a print run so low that my career might be over. I can describe how the blood rushed from my head and my stomach dropped two stories. Honestly, it’s not like there were a lot of years between those two events and in between there were a lot of hairpin curves and surprises.

 

This business is like that. Sub-genres (and sub sub sub sub-genres) come and go. Trends peak and crash.  It’s unpredictable. It’s maddening. It’ll give you whiplash if you’re not careful.

 

So, I had to ask myself, why am I still doing it?

 

I found the answer, as we authors so often do, in the writing. Loving writing was what got me into this business in the first place. To extend the metaphor a little further, it had been my ticket to get on the ride in the first place. I decided to try something new, something different. I decided to push myself to learn something new and dare myself to put it out there. I started writing a dark, gritty romantic suspense. If you’ve read my light, flirty, funny chick lit, you can understand why this was such a big change.

 

It was a little scary, but it was so much fun! I was writing it for the pure pleasure of writing. I was writing it for me. I didn’t even tell my agent about it until I had three chapters and a synopsis.

 

She was a little surprised when I told her about it, but – bless her heart – didn’t let me know if she was dubious about it. She read it and she told me to write more.

 

I didn’t think my editor would like it, but we sent it to her first as a courtesy and I ended up with a new book contract with an editor that I love at a well-respected publishing house.

 

So here I am, chugging back up the big hill of the rollercoaster ride. My romantic suspense, UNTHINKABLE, will come out in March of 2009. Will it be my breakout book? Will I keep climbing higher and higher up the track? Or will it tank? Will I take a precipitous drop around the next corner?

 

I don’t know. It scares the bejeesus out of me, but I’m still doing it. I get sick to my stomach and I shake. Here’s the thing though, I could totally get off this rollercoaster. Trust me, I am well aware that there are people waiting in line dying for my spot on the ride, but I’m not going anywhere. I like the ticket too much. They’re going to have to wait a little bit longer.

Eileen 

 

Golden Heart – I didn’t final, but I won.

March 26, 2008 at 10:17 am | Posted in Bria, contests, Honorary Heartlette, Kristan Higgins, motivation, romance, writing | 6 Comments

I’ll admit, I didn’t think I’d be ready for the Golden Heart deadline and, being the superstitious Boston Irish that I am, I feared I’d final.But I didn’t. No surprise there.

The happy surprise is that, while not moving on to the final round for the national award, I’m pretty sure I won.

When the first deadline came about in December, I had been writing for about six months. I loved my story. I loved my characters. I liked my writing. But I had a lot to learn, and in the last several months I’ve submerged myself in it.

Craft books, workshops on CD, self-editing guides, reading for more than just enjoyment, working with amazing women on the Diva board (the entry never would have been in the mail without Mamad, Kaige, Lanie, Neith and a lot of help from those as I did chat drive-by’s) and partnering with the Lovely Ann as my CP.

The experience has been hair-raising. My Murphy’s Law fear pushed me to be as close to complete and polished as possible. My availability pushed back. And the friction that caused – well, it bettered my writing by an unimaginable amount.

Sentence structure, word choice, tight prose all became more consistent.

And now for the big “author confession” – I’m dyslexic. I can’t see those mistakes that are obvious to everyone. And I thank God every day since January when we started for my CP Ann. She corrects errors and points out potential errors. She also asks the hard questions and tells me straight forward when something doesn’t work or she just plain doesn’t like it.

So, my advice for those aiming for the December’s deadline:
o Get a Critique Partner. Don’t know how to set that partnership up? Read these guidelines
o Don’t fluff the deadline – strive for it as if it were publication, not a contest
o Plan ahead – start NOW
o But most of all, do it for the joy.

I’d like to take this moment to give a very special shout out to KRISTAN HIGGANS – our very first Honorary Heartlette. Kristan finalled in the published author’s equivalent of the Golden Heart – the RITA.

So, pick a goal and run at it, but mostly, Go Write.
-bria

Honorary Heartlette – Myretta Robens

August 26, 2007 at 3:07 pm | Posted in Honorary Heartlette, Myretta Robens, romance, writing | Leave a comment

Regency writer, Myretta Robens, guest blogs on September 2!

Are you a Jane Austen fan? Check out Myretta’s home away from home, The Republic of Pemberley. You can learn more about our upcoming guest by clicking on the Honorary Heartlettes link above.

We hope you will join us and welcome her to the Purple Hearts!

Stay tuned . . .

Go to the dictionary…

August 24, 2007 at 8:39 am | Posted in career, Meg, romance, storytelling | 2 Comments

When I started looking into ‘professionalizing’ my writing (joining writer’s groups, submitting to agents/editors, etc.), I realized how little I knew about the jargon associated with writing romance. I sat at my first RWA chapter meeting with a deer in the headlights look as people described their writing genre- single title, contemporary, regency- huh?

Confused as well? As we all heard as children, when you don’t know a word, go to the dictionary. Or for the twenty-first century, go to Wikipedia.com for all your romance subgenre needs.

So within this realm, what can’t or won’t I write? Is it lazy to say ‘ditto’ on what Jessica said? Yes? Damn.

Well, to sum up, I don’t know my Elizabethan age from my Marie Antoinette world (or even if I have them in the same ballpark) so you most likely won’t find my name in the historical section. And don’t look for me in the erotica part of your bookstore. At least not until my kids have grown. I have no problem with love scenes, but it’s hard to get into a highly sensual scene with little voices around me begging to play Star Wars. Lastly, within romance, I don’t think inspirational is my genre for many reasons, least of all being that my current heroine swears on the first page of the book. Oops.

Then, outside of romance, I can’t do thrillers. At least not the suspenseful plotlines I come up with in my head. We’ll talk about writing superstitions in a future blogweek, but here’s one of mine: if I ever wrote and published a thriller, I fear having someone copy it in real life. Some of the serial killers in my head are sick bastards (see I can’t even write an inspirational blog!). I don’t think the world needs them out there.

So I haven’t mentioned paranormal, have I? A few months ago, this would’ve been on the list, but a new series involving teens and witchcraft has invaded my psyche. I’ve enjoyed researching spells (Scott Cunningham has numerous titles) and Wiccan beliefs and hope to incorporate all this into my next project.

The important lesson to know is you might not want to limit yourself to specific genres forever. While I won’t or can’t write the above categories right now, who knows what the future will bring.

-Meg

Can’t . . . or Won’t?

August 20, 2007 at 11:04 am | Posted in Jessica, romance, storytelling, writing | 1 Comment

In thinking and talking amongst ourselves about our writing careers, we wound up, one day, issuing a challenge to one another – what is it that you can’t – or won’t – write? And then one of us (not me!) took the challenge one step further and tossed the truth-or-dare out there as a suggestion for one of our weekly blog topics.

Gulp.

Honestly, I am still trying to figure out what I write . . . just what the best venue is for my voice and my ability. So, I really hadn’t a clue how to approach this week’s blog session. But it turned out to be a much better exercise for me than I anticipated because the more I thought about it, the more I started to narrow, mold, and shape the contours of my comfort zone.

For example, I know I can’t write what I don’t read. Forgive me for those of you gifted with a passionate pen – I know that erotica, romantica, and erotic romance are all wildly popular and successful aspects of the romance genre. I have friends who write in one or more of those categories and they love it. Thrive in it. And I am so glad that the market has exploded with possibilty for these very talented writers.

When reading, I like a sometimes hot and steamy scene that enhances an overall story, but a book where the majority of the work concentrates on sex isn’t why I read. So for me to try to write such a thing wouldn’t work all that well. Nor would it be riveting or authentic enough to sell.

So erotic romance, can’t write it.

It hasn’t been until recently, when we at the Purple Hearts went on a major J.R. Ward binge, that I read my first paranormal romance. This woman is an amazing world builder. And while I may not have understood the whole vampire fascination early on, I 100% completely and totally and emphatically get it now. Just when I thought I had found my favorite Brother, I fall in love with a new hero in each book. (Book 5, Lover Unbound, hits shelves September 25!)

Whenever I come to the end of one of her books, I am overwhelmed by how good they are. And when I read the work of someone who is as good at world building as JR Ward is, it humbles me as a writer. I am not saying that I won’t ever write a paranormal romance, but at this stage of my writing skill I am not sure that I can.

So for now, I’ll scratch paranormal romance off my list of possibilities, too.

There is another kind of book that would be difficult for me to write, and that is the Regency or historical romance. I do enjoy reading a good historical. I love the manners and the chivalry and the true love in a historical love story. But I am horrible with the details. I like reading about the clothing and the accessories and the customs, but I do not have a good enough command of any of them – or the actual, historical facts – to write a believable historical. And fans of Regency and historical romances know their stuff, and a fraud would be exposed before the ink dried on the paper.

So, I’m afraid, at least at this moment, I couldn’t do a Regency or historical much justice either.

So where does that leave me in terms of what I can or will do? Well, it’s somewhere in the contemporary realm, perhaps with a little murder or a little mayhem, a bit of banter thrown in and hopefully some serendipitous love along the way. All I can say for sure, whether it be to myself or other writers, is be true to yourself. If you don’t love or know or believe in what you are writing, chances are your readers won’t get on board with it either.

As an aside, I marvel at authors’ abilities to reinvent themselves. In this industry, it has almost become an imperative to be willing and able to try new things. In this post, I can only speak to my current skill level. In time, I hope to be able to morph like the pro’s!

This week, may you discover what you can and will do, and make both work for you!

-Jessica

(In this post, I linked to some of the specialty chapters in RWA, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the screenwriting chapter – Scriptscene – especially since I’ve blogged about screenwriting a time or two. I hope you will check out the chapter’s dazzling new web site!)

Jane Austen and the Borrowed Query

July 25, 2007 at 12:01 pm | Posted in books, Bria, Queries, romance, writing | 1 Comment

Let’s play a game, shall we? Opening lines – hooks – grab points. . .whatever you choose to call them. . .they’re often what a book is known by. 

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. . .” (yes, that isn’t the end of the sentence!)

“Call me Ishmael.” (and what about the prologue people?) 

Anyway, one of the things that popped up on our Con-treat this weekend was whether or not Jane Austen would be published now. We talked about the speed life moves out, the amount of time a person has in one sitting to read, attention span, instant gratification, etc.

It wasn’t looking good for our dear friend Jane.  I must admit, this made us all a bit sad.  No matter what era of my life I’ve been in, Jane Austen has consistently been in my top 5 author’s list. 

David Lassman, the director of the Jane Austen Festival in Bath, decided to find the answer to that very question and queried several well-known publishers. See the eye-opening article here: http://books.guardian.co.uk/news/articles/0,,2129738,00.html 

What does this say about our culture?  Asking around, I found a few answers:

  • People don’t seem to have the patience to ‘read through’ a sentence. They want it to be easy to read and not have to dig for a gem
  • While everyone said they love Mr. Darcy (ok, 3 women said they never ‘got’ the Darcy thing and I promptly ended our friendship) those who loved him didn’t understand why he was in so little of the book
  • The misconception that older literature was dry and serious confused people about humorous portions.  Is that supposed to be funny – was often asked.
  • We are more familiar with literature than educated by it.

That last one made me particularly sad.  Literature, to me, is a brilliant love affair, not a passing romance. 

So, getting on to our game, below are first lines of some great books.  How many can you get right?  Page down for the answers. 

1  Mr. Phileas Fogg lived, in 1872, at No. 7, Saville Row, Burlington Gardens, the house in which Sheridan died in 1814.” 

2 “My father’s family name being Pirrip, and my christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip.” 

3  “I am an old man now, but then I was already past my prime when Arthur was crowned King.” 

4 “’Tom!’” 

5  The boy with fair hair lowered himself down the last few feet of rock and began to pick his way towards the lagoon.” 

6  Ba-room, ba-room, ba-room, baripity, baripity, baripity, baripity — Good.” 

7 “When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.” 

8  “Matchmaking mamas are united in their glee — Colin Bridgerton has returned from Greece.” 

*

*

*

*

*

1        Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne

2        Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

3        The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart

4        The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

5        Lord of the Flies by William Golding

6        Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

7        To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

8        Romancing Mr. Bridgerton by Julia Quinn – had to be done! 

How many did you get right? How many would you want to read just from the first line? I must admit, my two favorites are quite typical: 

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” 

And 

“I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.” 

What’s your favorite first line?  Let me know, and then Go Write!

-bria  

The Grand Gesture

July 18, 2007 at 9:52 am | Posted in Bria, hero, life, procrastination, romance, writing | 4 Comments

It could be the fact that I’ve been editing and writing until ungodly hours for the last week and a half, it could be knowing I’ll be unemployed in 9 days, it could be the darn PMS. But I really think it was the story.

So I’ve been procrastinating.

Last night I wrote/edited nothing (per Meg Heartlette who told me I obviously needed a 24 hour reprieve). Instead I chatted with (distracted) a fellow Romance Diva for a good hour keeping her from her writing (but she’s just so fun to chat with!)

This morning, ignoring the fact that I needed to write about heroes, I started browsing blogs, looking to see what people back from RWA Nationals had to say.

Elizabeth Boyle is so under-rated. I’ve seen some reviews of her work that I feel are just off. If she writes a book, I read it. Enough said. So, when I was stalling and saw a link to her blog – of course I had to head over. And there it was. Right there on the left-hand side bar of her website: “My Favorite Hero.”

Wasn’t I supposed to be writing about heroes this week? ‘Click’

<>Often, romance readers get swept up and don’t believe love and romance happen in the real world. I don’t expect the grand gesture in my life – they don’t happen, men don’t understand the concept. Right? Wrong – and Miss Boyle’s husband had me swooning. That started me thinking about what real-life grand gestures look like and the first one I saw. I grew up in small town America where the cows outnumbered the people, one main road ran through the center and stoplights and street lights didn’t exist. The big event of the week was the parent’s softball game where the kids were given free run of the town green.

This particular summer I was ten-years-old, when ten was still considered young, 15 pounds underweight and all freckles and elbows. It was my turn to watch the pastor’s two-year-old daughter and she cuddled in my lap as I watched the other kids run around in circles as if they were getting somewhere.

As they all disappeared to the other side of the bandstand, ‘The Boy’ came over to sit with me and told me how boring it was being my week to baby-sit. Even then his blue eyes were to die for. Across Rt. 58, where the woods drifted down a hill to the bogs, were the most beautiful crab-apple blossoms peeping through the rushing cars.

“You can smell them when the wind turns.” It was an off handed comment to fill the silence.

The next thing I knew, The Boy was dodging cut-thru traffic to the far side of the road. On his way back, the blaring horns made the baby reach up to cover her ears as he waved a fist full of blossoms at the cars as they screeched to a halt.

Climbing back up the green’s hill with a loopy smile on his face, he threw himself down beside us. Handing the girl almost all the flowers, he announced he’d rescued them from the tree for the little princess.

And then, taking the last blossom and pushing it behind my ear, he whispered there, “But I saved the prettiest one for her babysitter.”

Years later that Boy must be deadly.

I’d loved to hear about your grand gesture – and I’d love for you to read Miss Boyles, it made my heart skip: http://www.elizabethboyle.com/meet.htm

And after you’ve done that, Go Write!

-bria

Sexy is as Sexy Does

July 13, 2007 at 9:06 pm | Posted in Bria, character, creativity, hero, life, relationships, romance, writing | 2 Comments

Hot – Fine – Good Looking – Cute – Handsome – Attractive – Luscious  

Justin Timberlake has been trying to do it all year – he’s trying to bring sexy back.  But can someone answer me this: What does that mean? 

As a writer, I take a stab at creating heroes women find attractive (don’t we all) – but there’s a fundamental problem with that.  Everyone finds different things attractive. 

I often joke around (I know you’re shocked) by saying things like “Every girl deserves at least one hot, dumb jock.”  I’ve had mine, and you know what? You can keep him. 

He was completely gorgeous.  Women would slip him their phone number while he was holding my hand. Agents (real ones, we checked) would approach him about modeling. Eyes followed him wherever he went. He had that something that went beyond the absurd good looks. 

When I met him, it didn’t cross my mind to be interested. He was just too good looking. Maybe that was it, maybe I was the challenge. Flowers in my car, candy in my coat pocket, cd’s in my player.  He pulled out every get-the-girl trick known to man. He was thoughtful and wanted to be around me all the time. He liked to show me off to his friends à look how funny/smart she is. 

He was also was needy, manipulative, self-absorbed, shallow and secretly insecure. 

Not to mention my last Hot Guy.   

Now, older and wiser, I find myself attracted to a different type of man. OK, the OC was a horrible show and lasted longer than it should have, but it’s perfect here: think Seth instead of Ryan. But could you make him stronger and add a dash of danger. Oh! Brood a little. Maybe have some deep dark secret that only I can heal for him. . .  

Ok, so maybe it isn’t all that cut and dry. So how do we transfer all of this into a hero that will speak to different woman? 

There are things all women are attracted to: Strength of mind, character, spirit, body. He must have the nugget of goodness in him somewhere . Devoted to the heroine. 

All About Romance did a poll in 2006 of the top 10 Heroes (as well as Heroines and Couples) and the one thing that came clear to me is that women like a strong man who stands by his principles (whatever they might be) and is devoted to the heroine. 

So, I’m dying to know – WHAT ARE YOU ATTRACTED TO? 

-bria heartlette    

A Lid For Every Pot

July 13, 2007 at 11:19 am | Posted in Jessica, movies, relationships, romance, writing | Leave a comment

Meg is offline this week so Bria and I are taking on the task of filling in for the Friday blog spot.

Thinking of Meg has me thinking about summer vacations.  Remembering some of my own vacation opportunities over the past few years, one of the best vacations I have had in recent memory was a trip I took a few years ago to visit friends in California.  It was the first trip I had ever taken where I traveled alone on my own itinerary.  And I loved it.  It helped that I had loved ones that I could call upon while in town, but I absolutely loved having the freedom to do what I wanted to do and see what or whom I wanted to see, and all on my own timetable.  I also did the tourist thing and ended up watching a lot of people on that trip, and for the first time I really took notice of the variety of couples that occupy our world . . . and I remember thinking to myself that, by outward appearances, so many of them seemed mis-matched.

And that was the most fun and optimistic revelation that I took from the trip.  For the first time I witnessed it all around me: the relationship ultimate that there was a lid for every pot.

Now, if I could only have interviewed each and every one of them to ask how they met.  Because I hear from so many people just how hard it is to meet anyone new with the way society is today – whether it be relationship potentials, other new friends with somewhat similar interests, different professional contacts, etc.  And with so many people claiming the same hardship and wanting that new social contact, you’d think that it would be easier to meet lots of different people, not harder.

One of the blogs I regularly visit is Billy Mernit’s, Living the Romantic Comedy.  (Love it!)  A recent post has me thinking more and more about this alleged rift in in-person, meaningful social networking, and how that translates – even if it should – into the kinds of romance novels that we write.  If you’ll allow me the hypothetical question – Does a ‘modern audience’ still want to read about boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-gets-girl-back, and they live happily-ever-after?

In Mernit’s post, Till Year Four Do Us Part, he references, “The Shelf Life of Bliss,” a NY Times article by Sam Roberts (July 1, 2007) that looks at modern marriage and attitudes. In it, Roberts states the average span for a marriage made in 2000 is 3-7 years, unlike the lifelong unions of the past.  So to play devil’s advocate here, I wonder how that notion plays into our audience? 

With romance novels, I would argue that consumers read them for that love ideal and that satisfying ending.  But the most buzzed-about and successful ‘romance’ movies of the past two years (with a much different and more varied audience, admittedly) look at the concept of the love story in a way that seems more . . . authentically contemporary.  The movies referenced in the Mernit post are The 40-Year Old Virgin ($109.2M) and Knocked Up ($132.0M, so far), and I want to throw in Wedding Crashers ($209.2M), too, simply because it hit such box office gold.

Personally, I’m not saying that I do not want a tried-and-true love story and a happy ending because, quite frankly, I live enough real life that I would rather not read about it for my entertainment or escape.  But I also admit to being somewhat of a dinosaur in other areas, so, with the wild success of the stories as told in the movies mentioned above, I wonder – am I a bit too much of an Old Soul for modern social networking or storytelling?

Time will tell! 

As an aside, I still hold onto the hope that there are enough well-fitting lids out there. Some where.

-Jessica

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