Saturday, February 28, 2009

Awards PFandHT have received!!!

Petit Fours and Hot Tamales has recently been awarded two different blogging awards.

The first is the Premio Dardas Award and this one came from two of our blog friends. One is from Hooked on Romance http://hookedonromance.blogspot.com/ and the other is from Nikki Duncan at http://nikkiduncan.com/blog/.

This award acknowledges the values that every blogger shows in his/her effort to transmit cultural, ethical, literary and personal values every day.

The rules to follow are:

1) Accept the award, then post it on your blog together with the name of the person that has granted the award and his or her blog link.

2) Pass the award to another 15 blogs that are worthy of this acknowledgment. Remember to contact each of them to let them know they have been chosen for this award.


With that in mind, we are tagging the following blogs;

Murderati http://murderati.typepad.com/

Barbara Vey at Beyond Her Books http://www.publishersweekly.com/blog/880000288.html

Berta Platas http://www.bertaplatas.blogspot.com/

Fierce Romance http://fierceromance.blogspot.com/

Stephanie Bond http://www.stephaniebond.com/open_book.htm

Dusty Takle http://dustytakle.com/

One Six Photography http://www.onesixphotography.com/blog/

Five Scribes http://www.fivescribes.blogspot.com/

Anna DeStefano http://annadestefano.blogspot.com/

Cindy Miles http://cindymiles.blogspot.com/

Pink Fuzzy Slipper Writers http://www.pinkfuzzyslipperwriters.blogspot.com/

The HEA Café http://www.rwaonlinechapter.org/pubbedauthors/

Southern Sunshine http://www.lilcinny.com/Blog/

Wet Noodle Posse http://wetnoodleposse.blogspot.com/

Trish Milburn http://www.trishmilburn.com/blog/

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The second award we received is the Lemonade Award from Emma Lai at http://emmalaiwrites.blogspot.com/.


This is for sites that show great attitude and/or gratitude!Rules for the award:1. Put the logo on your blog or post.2. Nominate at least 10 blogs which show great Attitude and/or Gratitude!3. Be sure to link to your nominees within your post.4. Let them know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog.So we decided this award would definitely fit the following blogs;


Paperback Writer http://pbackwriter.blogspot.com/

Smart Bitches Trashy Books http://www.smartbitchestrashybooks.com/index.php

Stephanie Tyler http://www.stephanietyler.com/blog/

Lynn Raye Harris http://lynnrayeharris.blogspot.com/

Elisabeth Naughton http://elisabethnaughton.blogspot.com/

Amie Stuart http://www.amiestuart.com/blog/

Craftie Ladies of Suspense http://ladiesofsuspense.blogspot.com/

Murder She Writes http://www.murdershewrites.com/

Devon Gray http://authordevongray.blogspot.com/

Walt Mussell http://atlantaparent2.blogspot.com/

~~~~~~~~~~~

We send out a huge thank you to our friends who nominated us.

I have to admit it was very hard to choose this limited number blogs. We had so many different friends we could have nominated. If yours was not chosen, that does NOT mean we don’t love it. It just means we tried to pick a few different favorites amongst our authors.

I will be contacting all the nominated blogs as soon as I can. In the meantime, definitely check them out and let them know what you think.

Have a great week.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Petit Fours and Hot Tamales Welcomes the Fabulous and Prolific Barbara Vey, Editor and Blogger Extraordinaire for Publishers Weekly!


Time really got by me this month. I did a lot of traveling, hosted a library event and announced a huge Anniversary Party for my Publishers Weekly blog, Beyond Her Book. So when Debbie emailed me Thursday to remind me of my promise to write a blog for your terrific group, I went into panic mode.

After I calmed myself down with a Subway sub and lots of diet Coke, I thought that this would be a perfect theme for the blog. What to blog about when there's nothing to say. I hear this complaint a lot from authors.

Now I write my BHB blog 6 days a week, but after nearly 2 years, I've finally got some kind of a system.

Monday: This, That and the Other Thing - I rely on information from authors, publishers, editors, publicists and readers to let me know any new and interesting things going on. I'm happy to report on any charities an author is involved with, special events like conferences or retreats, and any kudos or awards anyone may receive. Or even something unusual or fun (just had a baby? daughter will be on Survivor? son won a Pulitzer? you made it on The Price is Right?).

Tuesday and Thursday: Random thoughts I have and feel the need to share.

Wednesday: WW Ladies Book Club Blurbs - regular readers read the books and write blurbs about them and how they felt about the stories.


Friday: Your Turn Friday - I tell what I've read lately and invite you to share your latest book recommendations. Lots of people make lists from your comments.

Saturday: Occasional special WW Ladies Book Club Blurbs and hope to move on to feature Young Adult readers. (But usually my day off unless I'm at a conference)

Sunday: Sunday Matinee - I post book videos that have been sent to me. They aren't labeled, just like when you go to the movie theater and never know what the next coming attraction will be shown. Enjoy them and maybe get some great book ideas.


When I attend conferences, the system is put on hold until I return home. It's been working pretty well for me.
One question I get a lot is "How do you come up with things to blog about because I only blog every other week and I can never think of anything to say?"

The answer actually is not that hard.

1. Talk to people (and really listen to what they have to say) Lots of times they have things they've been wondering about and you can blog about their questions, your answer and request answers from those reading your blog.


2. Join Twitter. Twitter is a social network (Twitter.com) where you follow what people are doing and write in one sentence what you're up to. People link to interesting sites and I get a lot of ideas from there.


3. Hang out at the library. I walk up and down the aisles and ask people what they're looking for and what they're interested in. Sometimes I suggest authors they may be interested in and once they start talking to you, you may get an idea from what they've said. Or I stand at the checkout and make comments on what they're reading. People love it when you're interested.


4. While at the airport. This is an amazing place because people are usually waiting a long time in one spot and love the opportunity to talk about whatever they're reading (and I always approach readers). Because they're travelers, they have stories about who they've met and experiences they've had.


5. Read Yahoo News. I gravitate to the Odd News section because the stuff there is unbelievable, but makes for good blogging. (It doesn't always have to be about books. Last week I wrote about Barbie's 50th Birthday.)


6. Check out other blogs. While you don't want to copy what they've said, something in it may give you an idea for a blog.

7. Browse your own bookshelf. Seeing a book that brings back memories can stir your mind to a "remember when" blog.

8. Think of a question and then where ever you go that day, ask someone to answer it for you. When I started my blog, I was told it was about Women's Fiction. I started asking people their definition and the answers were all over the place (I asked both sexes and all ages).

9. Brainstorm with friends. Anything goes, so be open to new ideas.

10. Try something new and write about it. I blogged my experiences joining MySpace, Facebook and Twitter.

I hope that gave you a starting point and you now feel more comfortable about the blogging process. And remember, you can always email me when you need a brainstorming buddy.
Barbara Vey at February
Georgia Romance Writers
Thanks to Barbara for today's post. Please check out her wonderful blog at
http://www.publishersweekly.com/blog/880000288.html

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Stepping into the Light

Think back to the first time you stood naked in full light in front of the man you were going to make love to. At the risk of being indelicate, I wanted you to have a clear understanding of how writers, at least this one, feel when they have to share their work with the world. The emotions run the course from vulnerable, to nervous, to concern, to fear of not measuring up, to worry of being found lacking.
Some writers have little trouble sharing their work but ALL experience the feelings above in some form. Despite their fears writers still have to give their words up to the world because it is a part of who they are. If they don't, then just like not taking the chance on giving themselves completely to someone they love they miss the joy and fulfillment that comes with sharing their work.
Below is me being undressed in front of you.

Not always known for his tact, Evan lowered his voice, hoping for a calming tone. "Mallory, sit down and I'll explain." He waited. She perched on the edge of the couch, looking as if she would spring like a pogo stick at any wrong word. "My grandfather's health has been failing over the last few months."
Her soft gasp and look of concern assured him that she would at least listen to what he had to say.
"He asked me to come here and evaluate your progress and decide what needs to be done. I understand that you've invested a great amount of time into this job. I'm just not sure that additional time and money is warranted. You've done wonders with the place, but to be frank, not enough people will spend what it costs to stay here to justify the maintenance costs." He leaned back in his chair. "I tried to make my grandfather understand that years ago."
"That's right, you're that Evan Townsend. Of Townsend Inns." She spoke as if one of his inns would be the last place she would stay.
"Have you ever stayed at one of my hotels?"
"Yes. Once."
He took her tone to mean that once had been enough. "You didn't enjoy your stay?"
"I found it a little sterile for my taste."
"How's that?" Shifting forward, he put his elbows on his desk.
"Same bed in every room, in every town, in every country. Spending the night away should be better or at least equal to your bedroom at home. When people come to stay at Ashley Court it will be an experience to remember, not a feeling of being part of a production line."
"Some people like knowing what to expect in a hotel," Evan said.
"You're right, but others want a relaxing experience. Your grandfather understands that. All of his hotels are that way. I've made it a point to stay in one whenever I travel."

Thoughts on me without my clothes on?



Check out my Reading Challenge a http://www.susancmay.com/ Join me in encouraging others to read.

Hunks in the House

Some of the hunkiest hunks live in my house (and in yours, too). I’m starting to think that’s why people say oh and get that glazed look when I tell them I write romantic fantasy. I’ve tried the evasive tack, saying I’m just a writer, but they get excited and ask what I write. Romantic fantasy. Oh. Do you get that?


I’ve decided to stand proud, say what I do right off the bat, and get straight to the glazing. People look at me like I’ve asked if I may send their chihuahua into orbit. “I passed differential equations, so he’ll be fine. See, I reinforced the cracker tin with duct tape.”


Part of it might be my sub-genre. People either get or don’t get fantasy. I’ll never convert anyone who complains about characters whose names aren’t Jack and Jill. Psst. I’ll let you in on a super secret. All fantasy writers pilfer their character names from a hush-hush list of Kyrgyz surnames. We vow to use as few vowels as possible.


Seriously, I think people glaze because finding out someone writes romance is almost a “too much information” revelation. They can understand a passion for history leading to a book about John Adams. Or that getting buff by vacuuming qualifies one to write a self-help called Vac-U-Fit. What passions and qualifications lead a writer to romance? To a mind inhabited by heartfelt hunks and heroines? Hum.


So, if friends and acquaintances aren’t sure what to make of your romance writing, what about those nearest and dearest? A recent Georgia Romance Writers meeting got me thinking about that question. One author said her husband never reads her work. Another said her man is her biggest cheerleader.


I asked my nearest and dearest why he thinks I write. We were alone in my car. He hem-hawed, but I was insistent.


“It’s probably because you think your life sucks so much that you use it as an escape.”


If I wasn’t a kind, perceptive person who understood where that answer came from, I would have used my bare hands to send him to Jesus to account for the cruelty of those words. A part of him worries that he isn’t everything for me; I have to conjure romance to fill the void. In defense mode, I ranted about how I write romance because I believe in how love redeems us.


That sort of helped. He dusted himself off and took consolation in the fact that my hunks could be construed to look like him. He often gets asked if he’s a musician/actor/model, so it isn’t really a stretch. Well, fine. If you feel better thinking that it’s all about you….


The next morning he brought me a cup of coffee and a handwritten letter. He’s sorry he made the remark. My calling to write is genuine and good. “I feel good that you write about the most important subject we can discuss--love, love between each other, and love of God.”


Would you share your story?


Footnote 1: I write a weird blend of fantasy and non-traditional inspirational romance and yes, he’s read it.

Footnote 2: Good thing I didn’t kill him with my bare hands the day before.

Footnote 3: I wanted to use a picture of Fabio, but I freaked about copyright laws. I hope the gentleman in the photo doesn’t sue me for unauthorized use.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tuesday - Contest Craft: Submitting to Them and Judging Them

By Sandra Elzie

Have you ever submitted a sample of your writing as an entry to a contest, knowing that you were opening up your work for some faceless, unknown person to judge? You might reason that they don’t know your characters the way you do You know what? You’re right! They spend a short time with your characters where you’ve spent hours, days, months or maybe even years getting to know them.

Personally, I’ve entered several contests and when I got the submission back, I was surprised at how much red writing there was on my formerly nice, clean, white pages. After the initial frown, I sat down and read the suggestions and comments and went on to use most, if not all, of their suggestions. My manuscript was better for it. I feel that even if I don’t win the prize (darn it!), at least I’m getting great input from someone who is looking at my work with a fresh eye and with more writing experience than I have.

I used to wonder if the judges really read the entire entry, or just scanned it quickly and wrote a comment or two just to get through with the assignment. Well, at least from my experience, I can reassure you that they do actually read the synopsis that you send along with your selection, and they do actually try to understand the story and your characters.

Recently I got an e-mail from a friend of mine asking if I’d ever considered judging a writing contest. Well, I never had, but it sounded like it might be something different to do and it might also be educational. It might give me some insight toward what the judges were told to evaluate, and that would help me on the next contest that I enter.

So I shot off an e-mail to the organization indicating my willingness to work with them. By-the-way, it was not Georgia Romance Writers, but I won’t mention the contest by name since I would hate for one of the hopefuls to read my blog and wonder if I was the nasty judge who put all the red comments on her work of art.

Here’s what I learned about contests from this one experience. Hopefully it will give you an idea what the judges are looking for when they read your work.

First and foremost, don’t make spelling errors. There’s no excuse for them since the computer underlines them in red and they are so easy to correct with the the help of spellcheck.

The next biggest mistake I found was sticking to one POV. New writers have a tendency to “head-hop” back and forth too often. If you make this mistake, it immediately labels you as a newer writer. (Ugh!) Another mistake I saw that had the neon signs flashing “NEW WRITER!” was the use of adjective after adjective to describe the scenery, the hero and heroine and their emotions. The worst part is that some of these words were too big for the script or scene. There was slang some of the general public would never have heard, requiring them to grab their handy dandy Webster’s Dictionary in order to know what you were trying to say. Keep it simple. Tell the story and leave most of the flowery adjectives out.

Compare the next two sentences: Her eyes were immediately drawn to the shiny belt buckle hovering just below his waist. She blinked, quickly dragging her eyes up across his bare chest to lock with his deep-set gray eyes. Versus, Her eyes sparkled like a deep, dark blue pool of passion as they gazed longingly at his jeans where the huge, jewel-studded belt buckle refracted the light from the brilliant sun that shown through the wall of glass that overlooked the lake. She allowed her blue orbs to make a slow, sensual trip up his tight-muscled stomach, upward to his buffed pecs and… do I have to go on? Hopefully you have the picture.

Anyway, the other thing I saw in the entries was that love scenes were almost always written in the male POV, which I found interesting. I wonder if these writers, whomever they are, chose this POV because of the Alpha-male syndrome? Do women want their males to dominate them in bed?

Then I realized how easy it is to guess, rightly or wrongly, how young the writer is. I mean, when a love scene includes the two people doing things that are anatomically impossible, it makes a judge wonder. Also, if you’re writing “love” scenes, the male needs to show some concern and consideration for his beloved female. He should show some respect for her, not use her for his own pleasure and then walk away. Slam, Bang, Thank you ma’am doesn’t go over well with the majority of today’s female readers. And if the male dares to treat her that way, she will probably toss him out on his…backside.

Okay, so what contests should you enter? Some are free and some charge fees. So if you are considering a contest that charges a fee, determine if that money will be worth what you have a chance to gain. Maybe it’s a monetary prize. That’s always good, but what if the prize is a critique from an agent or editor in New York? What if the prize is a contract? Maybe just being a finalist would get your manuscript in front of an editor who works for a publisher that you are interested in. Only you can weight the cost and determine if it’s worth it. I will say, however, count the value of a published author or maybe an editor critiquing your work.

In summary, watch your spelling, punctuation and grammar. Tell the story in an interesting way without trying to impress your reader (or the judge) with all the flowery adjectives, and make your story or scene believable. And, when you're thinking about entering contests, don't forget that the prestigious Georgia Romance Writer's Maggie Contest is coming up!
http://www.georgiaromancewriters.org/Maggies/2009/unpubinfo.php

Have any of you had any experiences with contests that you’d be willing to share? How about judging? Have any of you judged contests and would you be willing to share with us some of the pitfalls that we should avoid?

Lastly, for all you avid romance readers, do you want your Alpha male to dominate your heroine in bed? I’d love to hear your comments!

Monday, February 23, 2009

MEDIA MONDAY: RACHEL VINCENT'S SHIFTERS SERIES

By: Debbie Kaufman


I confess. I am an obsessive compulsive reader. I don’t know if that is actually an official diagnosis is the psychiatric community, but it probably should be – at least in my case! Because I read so obsessively and eclectically, I have consumed a lot of good books lately and it’s hard to choose just one to share with you. However, I decided that any book that kept me up half the night because I had to finish it deserved a nod.

Author Rachel Vincent, who describes herself as an urban fantasy and young adult author, has a real hit with her SHIFTERS series, the third installment of which, PRIDE, just hit the shelves in February of this year. I started reading with the first in the series, STRAY, a June 2007 release and waited impatiently until her second, ROGUE, followed in April of 2008. It was the cover of her first book, STRAY, which got my attention. And, as it turns out, sometimes you can judge a book by its cover.
The main character in this series is Faythe Sanders, a werecat whose non-conformist attitudes and impulsive behaviors keep her on the edge of trouble. The SHIFTERS series follows Faythe, one of the few existing tabbies in the world, as she struggles with finding her place in the pride, a place that is at odds with the patriarchal attitudes of her species. These same struggles impact her on-again-off-again relationship with Marc, a stray with acceptance issues of his own. And, since our theme this month is "Hunky Heroes," Readers, I would have to say that Marc qualifies, and then some.

PRIDE opens rather dramatically with the line, “Miss Sanders, tell us why you killed your boyfriend.” This opening is like the starting bell of a fast-paced story that drives the reader on to the finish line. Not too many books have me experiencing the emotions with the character, but this was one of them. I cheered for Faythe, worried for the outcome of her trial, and even wanted to get right in there and slap one of the antagonists for his self-righteous, smug attitudes.

I don’t want to be a book spoiler, so I am just going to include the blurb for PRIDE:

I'm on trial for my life. Falsely accused of infecting my human ex-boyfriend—and killing him to cover up the crime. Infecting a human is one of three capital offenses recognized by the Pride—along with murder and disclosure of our existence to a human.

I'm two for three. A goner.

Now we've discovered a rogue stray terrorizing the mountainside, hunting a wild teenage tabbycat. It's up to us to find and stop him before a human discovers us. With my lover Marc's help, I think I can protect the vulnerable girl from both the ambitious rogue and the scheming of the territorial council.
If I survive my own trial…

When I try to boil down what it is I like the best about this series, I would have to say it comes down to characters. Yes, I like the werecat angle and the well-developed plots, but most of all, I find that Ms. Vincent has created characters that I can relate to and enjoy their journey of growth. That’s usually the thing that brings me back to any series, no matter what the premise.

I am now waiting impatiently for the fourth book, PREY, which is due out in August of 2009. So, what is it that gets you impatiently waiting for the next installment of a series? Care to share your favorite series with us?

Friday, February 20, 2009

We've Got Company! PETIT FOURS & HOT TAMALES welcomes guest chef, CAROL BURNSIDE.


Carol Burnside is our blog sister from a tiny town in Maryland. Contemporary, historical and paranormal romance are highest among her writing interests in both short stories and series-length novels. The desire to be a writer did not burn a hole in her soul from birth, but she’s had characters living in her imagination ever since she can remember. Walking, talking, emotional characters who felt like old friends from their inception. Simply put, she says writing and creative endeavors keep her sane.

PFHT: Though you are a part of the PF&HT blogging family, this is your first feature on the blog, isn’t it?
CB: Yes, and thank you for shining the spotlight on me. I haven’t been as active on the blog as I’d like because of my recent move from Georgia. We bought a newly constructed home and I’m still neck-deep in home décor. It’s fun but exhausting too.

PFHT: Wow. In addition to all that going on, you have a new story out in the premiere issue of The New Love Stories magazine. We’ve looked all over, but can’t find this magazine in stores. What gives?
CB: According to the website, the magazine is only available by subscription until March. However, the price is very reasonable at a reduced cost of $19.97. Lots of great reading sent directly to your mailbox!

PFHT: The cover is gorgeous! Tell us about your story.
CB: Gamble on Love is a contemporary piece, a friends-to-lovers story told from the heroine’s perspective. Because her love for him has changed and deepened, she takes a gamble, risking their friendship for the hope of something more. In the process, she shakes his world up quite a bit, which is always fun.

PFHT: Sounds like my kind of story. Do you find it easier or more difficult to write a short story than say, a novel?
CB: I don’t know if I’d call it easier. It’s never a simple thing to tell an entire story in 5,000 words or less. For me, I think there’s a kind of relief in knowing I don’t have to labor over it for several months. A short story is a quick, satisfying feeling of accomplishment. Writing them between novels is like giving myself a little treat. And if they sell, all the better. :)

PFHT: Where do you get your ideas and how do they come to you?
CB: Life. Seriously. Ideas are all around us, if we stay alert to them. My best ideas seem to come to me in vivid, just-before-waking dreams. Sometimes it’s an entire scene which may or may not end up in the story, but tells me what I need to know about that character’s motivations. For instance, I woke up at about 2 a.m. one morning, my heart racing, the horrific visions of a teen girl's rape in a Halloween fun house still running through my mind. I wrote it down immediately. That scene turned out to be backstory for a paranormal erotic romance novella (Phantoms & Fantasies) that I wrote as Annie Rayburn. It sold in e-published form and received great reviews, though it is no longer available for purchase.

PFHT: What do we have to look forward to from you?
CB: I believe the first short story I ever sold is still available for purchase on Amazon. It’s called “Homecoming” and is in The Rocking Chair Reader Family Gatherings: Stories of Celebration and Reunion. I’ve sold several stories and feature pieces to True Romance and True Confessions magazines, but those back issues would be harder to find. Red Sage has an Annie Rayburn novella under consideration, and I intend to submit a few more to other houses as soon as my work load lightens up at home.

PFHT: Carol, good luck on getting your new home squared away. We hope to hear about many more of your sales in the future.
CB: Thank you. I hope so too. :)

PFHT: Several of our frequent visitors are also writers. Before you leave, would you be willing to answer a few questions from our audience about writing short stories?
CB: Absolutely. I’ll check the comments section throughout the day, so fire away!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Why We Love To Hate A Villain


Without a hero or heroine, most romances just wouldn’t work. We need to see our fictional couple meet, overcome conflict, fall in love, quarrel, have earth shattering makeup sex and then live happily ever after. We root for them, sigh for them, cry for them…some of us even want to be like them. Don’t deny it. You know you want to.
But what about the other part of the classic romance equation?
What about the villain?
Remember the queen from Disney’s Snow White? Would that story be the same without her? I think not. Who would have ordered the huntsman to cut out sweet little Snow White's heart? Who would have fed her the poison apple? Who would have turned into a warty old hag and scared the bejeesus out of me as a child?
And how about the Dark Lord Sauron from Lord of the Rings? Without that guy, would there even have been a ring? A plot? A blockbuster movie series? Again, no.
We need villains to balance the scale. To keep the hero and heroine on their tippy, tippy toes. To keep our stories from falling flat.
A villain adds conflict, drama, danger and sometimes, if your name happens to be Lestat de Lioncourt, Anakin Skywalker or Valmont, to name a few, a measure of devastating sex appeal as well.
So if you haven’t already done so, try adding a bad guy…or girl to your romance. Because everyone loves to hate a villain.

Since Thursday is snippets day, I dug through my numerous works and decided to share this scene. Warrick DeVille is the first villain I ever wrote and to this day he is still my favorite. I hope you enjoy reading him as much as I enjoyed writing him.

Beatrice smoothed the pleats of her gown and stiffened her spine. She lifted her chin in defiance, ready to face the inevitable and set her gaze on the French doors that led to the small hidden garden beyond the parlor. Her last vision revealed this would be where the intruders would enter. She sat quietly, waiting.
After a moment, she squeezed her sweating palms together, hoping to steady her nerves, but jumped as something smashed through the leaded panes. The missile skid across the polished floor just as the clock reached its twelfth stroke.
Shards of glass accompanied Cupid, his chubby stone arms missing, his cherubic face cracked in several places, as the garden statue slid to a stop at Beatrice’s silk clad toes. She shifted her feet to the left and glanced at the shattered doorway.
A huge man entered, laying thick hands against the double door’s splintered center beam. He shoved hard, grunting with effort. The wood creaked then gave way and slammed into the frame, clearing an opening large enough for a team of horses to pass through. The giant scraped his goliath booted foot across the floor, clearing debris as he went along.
And then, there he was.
The man she had seen in her visions. Dressed exactly as he had been in the recess of her mind, he was resplendent in embroidered velvet. His amethyst great coat billowed on the evening breeze like the outstretched wings of some forbidding bird of prey. Striding with maddening arrogance through the ruined doorway, he entered her home like a desired and welcomed guest.
His man-servant breathed heavily through thick blubbery lips, standing at the foot of the splintered door, smirking in triumph at his feat of strength. Lord Warrick DeVille flicked a wood chip from his impeccably cut coat and turned toward the giant.
“My thanks, Toby.”
The giant grinned, inflating his enormous barrel chest with pride.
“I do, however, have one question.” DeVille stated amiably, gazing up at the colossus.
“My lord?” his gruff voice echoed in the room like the grinding of stones.
“Might you ever enter a dwelling by simply turning a latch?” DeVille bellowed. “You have destroyed more architecture over the years than I can possibly count!”

The giant’s self satisfied grin dissolved. He lowered his head like a scolded child as the Duke turned away.
DeVille studied the room. A frown ebbed low on his pretty, powdered face. “Good God it is as dark as a tomb in here,” he announced. With a wave of his hand every dormant candelabra and sconce within the large space sparked to life. An explosion of light and flame burst within the fire place, roaring at first with intensity, then dying to a more acceptable crackle. The flames did an eerie dance in the breeze, casting grotesque shadows against the damask walls.
“Much Better.” He nodded and smoothed the waves of blonde hair that fell past his shoulders.
DeVille stood before Lady Beatrice, and smiled, exposing perfect white teeth. “As always, I find you a sight more lovely than words, Lady Portland,” his voice smooth as honey and just as sweet.
“Go to hell, Warrick,” Beatrice spat, intentionally omitting the title he so coveted.

His laughter echoed throughout the room and he stepped closer. He leaned down. His finely chiseled lips caressing the flesh of her unflinching ear.
With deadly malice he whispered two words.
“Ladies, first!”



Now, dearest Petit Fours and Hot Tamale followers, let's hear who your favorite movie, TV or literary villains are and why you love them.

Happy Writing!
Tamara DeStefano

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Philosophical Moment



What is it that compels us to write and read romance? Many of us are already married to our charming prince, so why do we revisit the process of falling in love over and over again? I found a possible answer to these philosophical questions at an unexpected place: my kitchen table.

A few weeks ago I was sitting at the table with my seven year old son and my two year old daughter. We were eating lunch, or, I should say, they were eating lunch which involved sending me back and forth into the kitchen like the indentured servant that I am. When my daughter started fussing because I wasn’t moving fast enough for her royal tastes, I handed her the first toys I saw: figurines of Mickey and Minnie. When I returned with her plate, she was holding one in each hand and saying:

“I love you, Mickey.” “I love you, Minnie.”

Then she had Mickey plant a huge wet one on Minnie complete with sound effects. Now, granted, when presented with a grilled cheese and broccoli, she threw both characters and the idea away without a thought, but the moment gave me pause.

I thought about my son at the same age. He was obsessed with blasters and pistols and those wooden rifles they sell at Civil War museums. I didn’t want him to play with them, and I couldn’t figure out where he even had the notion to want guns and toy soldiers. I certainly wasn’t letting him watch those sorts of things on TV. Flash forward five years later, and I’m asking myself what attracts my daughter to love stories. Sure, she’s watched some of the Disney princesses, but on the whole she watches Playhouse Disney, which is not exactly known for its romantic plotlines.

No, I think there may be some part of women that yearns for stories of romance just as men may be attracted to guns and playing war. It could be that my women’s studies professor was right all along. She said that history is skewed to a male’s perspective because men were the only ones allowed to write it for so long. She added the proof in the pudding was that the average history course focused on wars and rulers, not the everyday life of people. It could be that literature has the same bias—is that why so many literary masterpieces have tragic endings?

I say all of that to say this: the next time someone belittles what you do for writing romance, inform them that you are actually staying true to yourself as a woman. You are also staking a claim in the literary world even if it is probably going to be ridiculed by the “literary establishment.” We can’t all be Jane Austen or Emily Bronte and elbow our way through the flocks of men to make our love story stand out. We can, however, put our noses to the grindstone and craft stories of love and inspiration, simultaneously feeding our need to tell stories about love while satisfying the needs of women everywhere to read stories of love. And, really, what can be more important than that?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Scent of a Pencils and Pine


by Nicki Salcedo

How Do You Describe a Hero?
Without saying he's a tall, sexy, time-traveling warrior, can you describe your hero with your other senses? What does he feel, smell, taste, and sound like?

There are mornings when I wake up next to a man I do not recognize. On my finger, I see his ring, plain white gold that is slightly dented instead of inscribed. This band is the only indication that I am his and he is mine.


I close my eyes and inhale. Then my eyes open slowly, and I realize that I do know him. I know his scent.


He sleeps the way men do, deeply generating heat that has a gravitational pull. He is in another world. I…I sleep like a cat, with one eye open. If he ever thought to wake and gaze at me, I would know instantly. But he sleeps soundly, journeys to distant dimensions, and I can watch him at my leisure before he wakes.


I close my eyes again and inhale. When I was young and foolish I told him that he smelled like sand and tasted like the ocean. How else do you compliment a boy from California? Things like the ocean and eucalyptus were foreign to me then. I grew up with Georgia. My oceans were forests—deep, lush, and green even in the cold of winter. Even now, I'm so familiar with the scent of pine I don’t notice it.


When I first met him it was like seeing the ocean. He was both wild and calming. When he first met me he said I smelled like freshly-sharpened pencils. I didn't know then what he meant, but I do now. He knows me not because I smell like pencils, but because I smell like pine.


I don’t compliment him on his scent anymore. We are not in that kind of love anymore, but I still think he is delicious. He smells better than peach cobbler or pot roast, but I don’t tell him. These are not things he should know.


Each morning he enfolds me in his arms. We have to be brief in our touches. Each moment is a precursor to the cat purring and staring at us upside-down, or a child crying and wanting to join our snuggles.


All day we are absent from each other. How many things come between us? The distance, welcome or dreaded, is unavoidable. The world is filled with scents I dislike. Exhaust, tar, burnt popcorn. Sometimes I smell good things. Paper warm from the printer or the last fresh scent flowers give before the bouquet dies.


At the end of the day, we are reunited. I find my offspring - the other halves of him - and they are syrupy with their stickiness and unnatural heat. When he arrives there is an unexplainable buzz of erratic running and then we fall into hugs. We are a family of wild cubs. What else should we do other than sniff each other and laugh?


He leaves us to make dinner, and he roasts green chilies on a cast iron pan. The fire is hot. We feel it from across the kitchen. He pulls back the transparent pepper skin to create food the way he learned from his female ancestors. His mother three times zones away would be proud. Because his grandmother is no longer alive, she can be nearer. Her ghostly hands, wrinkled though softened with lard and maza, guide him. The way he touches food is hypnotic. It reminds me of how he touches me.


The chilies under his care are not diminished. Their aroma lingers. It reminds us that it came from the earth.


We don’t wash dishes. We don’t have time. We’d rather spend our time sitting next to the tub getting splashed or turning our noses into necks. But the truth of the world is never this ideal. Nothing is perfection.


His feet stink. His big toe has a monster nail that scratches me in the night. He snores and sleeps with his mouth open. I dodge his wayward elbows in the night. I am not perfect either. Sometimes I make mean faces, and I want to be alone. Sometimes I am too tired to bathe. Sometimes I want to smell like the real me. The me of pine and pencils.


His scent varies. Today it is foreign, and I don’t recognize him. Diaper ointment. Laundry detergent. He will do blasphemous things like use soap and add deodorant and cologne. He will put on suits and ties and discard his holey shorts and flip flops. Gone will be the stranger and my clean, well-dressed husband will arrive. He carries a briefcase, but he still listens to his music too loud.


When I am unsure of who he is or who I am, I let him embrace me. I smell him. His sweat is sweet. When he laughs I laugh with him. I inhale and he inhales back. He can tell when I am wanting, when I am pregnant, when I am sad. I can tell him from any other creature. Sometimes he purrs. Sometimes he too cries out for my attention. Deep in the pine forest where we live, I know him. His scent still reminds me of sand. He still tastes like the ocean.

  • Challenge to writers. What does your hero smell like? What actions show that he is caring or in love?
  • Challenge to readers. Who is your favorite hero from a non romance novel?
  • Challenge to men. What is something your partner likes about you that surprises you? (I’ll give serious thanks to any man who comments)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Hunky Alpha Heroes

Monday's Media Bits
By Tammy Schubert


Men, men, men. Love them. I am especially drawn to alpha males who are heroes in service professions like the military, law enforcement, fire fighter, etc. I can't resist sharing what I found doing a google search: www.strangecosmos.com/content/item/100075.html

Did you know that there are several different alpha types? The two I think of the most are the warrior and commander from the Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes and Heroines, Sixteen Master Archetypes. Of course, the professor could be an alpha, too. Then I found another resource. If you work with an alpha male or create these types of characters, there is a business book that provides more insight. The book is called Alpha Male Syndrome by Kate Ludeman and Eddie Erlandson. It is a great companion book to the one I mentioned earlier. The authors break alpha males into the following categories: commander, visionary, strategist, and executor. The book describes alpha male teams as well as the care and feeding of alpha males. I have gained terrific insight to the inner workings of alphas, their strengths, weaknesses, risks to organizations, which all can be used for your characters.

Some of the greatest alpha male characters are written by Suzanne Brockman. I love her Troubleshooter series. I can't figure out which man is my favorite. They are all very dreamy. Check out her books:
www.suzannebrockmann.com/Troubleshooters%20Series.htm

What kind of hunky heroes are you drawn to?
What are your thoughts on alpha males? What about betas?
Who else writes great alpha males?

By the way, don't forget to vote for a hunky male. See the poll to the right. You might have to scroll down a bit.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Winners of Those Invaluable Lecture Packets by Margie Lawson!

Hello Everyone! Thanks for taking the time to share your fun posts yesterday! I enjoyed connecting -- and look forward to seeing you all again.

We have TWO WINNERS!

1. ARKANSAS CYNDI

2. TAMI BROTHERS


Congratulations to Cyndi and Tami!Please e-mail me and let me know which Lecture Packet you would like. Margie@MargieLawson.com.

If you'd like to have a chance to win a Lecture Packet or a How-to book, check out my high energy Ask A How-to Author Interview Series. It's the last Wednesday of every month -- at www.fivescribes.blogspot.com. Don't miss this learning opportunity!

If anyone has questions about my courses or Lecture Packets -- or if you think your group might be interested in having me present a full day Master Class, please contact me.

Thanks again to all the HOT, HOT, HOT TAMALES!

All smiles..........Margie

www.MargieLawson.com


Friday, February 13, 2009

Petit Fours and Hot Tamales Welcomes the Always Informative Margie Lawson


What’s Your Body Language IQ?
By Margie Lawson

Margie Lawson—psychologist, presenter, and writer—is an expert on body language. A former college professor, she taught psychology and communication courses at the post-graduate level. Margie teaches on-line courses and presents full-day master classes across the U.S., in Canada, and in Australia and New Zealand.

Want to WIN a Lecture Packet?

For every 25 people who post a comment today, I'll draw a name for a Lecture Packet giveaway, a $20 value. Winners may choose a Lecture Packet from one of my on-line courses:

1. Empowering Characters' Emotion, March 2 - 30

2. Deep Editing: The EDITS System, Rhetorical Devices, and More, May 1 - 30
4. Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues Like a Psychologist, May 31 - June 13
5. Powering Up Body Language in Real Life: Projecting a Professional Persona When Pitching and Presenting, June 14 – June 27

6. Part 1: Digging Deep into the EDITS System, October 4 – 17

7. Part 2: Digging Deep into the EDITS System, October 18 - 31
8. Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors, January, 2010

THANK YOU to Debbie Kaufman and all the SWEET & HOT Petit Fours and Hot Tamales for inviting me to join you all today. Ready to dive in?

What’s Your Body Language IQ?
By Margie Lawson

Writers need to become experts on body language. I developed Empowering Characters’ Emotions several years ago to teach writers how to write the full range of body language and write it fresh. In my new course, Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues Like a Psychologist, we’ll go deeper.

Let’s start with a True/False quiz that I created. How well do you read body language?

1. Ninety-three percent of communication is nonverbal. T F
2. If people say the right words, it doesn’t matter how they say them. T F
3. Some people wait a few seconds before showing their nonverbal response. T F
4. Body language can only be interpreted one way. T F
5. People unconsciously mirror nonverbal behavior of others. T F
6. If the words and body language contradict each other, the listener believes the body language. T F
7. Facial expressions convey 85% of the nonverbal message. T F
8. People can cover up their emotions by keeping their face blank. T F
9. Lips carry more nonverbal messages than eyes. T F
10. When anxious, people touch their face more often. T F

STOP!

Did you take the quiz?

If not – TAKE THE QUIZ NOW!

Ready for the answers?

1. Ninety-three percent of communication is nonverbal. T F

TRUE – It’s a monstrous percentage -- which is why people should monitor their nonverbals. Let’s look at the number one phobia in the U.S. – public speaking.

If you’re nervous you may display a cluster of anxiety flags, e.g., rolling in lips, tightening mouth, evasive eye contact, halting gait, soft voice, modulated voice tones. If your anxiety escalates, your nonverbals become more pronounced: e.g., collapsed chest, shoulders forward, respiration rapid and shallow, pupils dilated, voice pitched high, face tight.

Project more confident body language, and you’ll feel more confident. You’ll teach yourself to extinguish some of these anxiety flags. People will react positively to the new, confident you. Pavlov’s conditioning is a powerful reinforcing agent. Over time, you won’t have to pretend to be confident . You will be confident.

2. If people say the right words, it doesn’t matter how they say them. T F

FALSE -- An easy one. Vocal cues carry qualifying messages that support, tweak, or discount the words. Americans are pros at sarcasm. Watch your voice inflection, rate of speech, volume, and tone. Be sure your vocal cues support your message – unless you’re telling a joke.

3. Some people wait a few seconds before showing their nonverbal response. T F

FALSE -- Nonverbal communication is continuous. It’s on-going. It never stops.

4. Body language can only be interpreted one way. T F

FALSE -- An easy answer, with complex levels of application. Cognitively, people know there are multiple interpretations. Yet, people interpret nonverbals one way at an unconscious level and act on those feelings.

Let’s imagine a wife asks her husband to accompany her to visit her mother, and in the next half-second his gaze shifts away and back, he sighs, and his mouth tightens.

The wife reads his nonverbals, assumes her husband doesn’t want to go, and reacts before he can say anything. She says, “Forget it. I’ll go without you.” Her tone is sharp enough to cut a diamond. Vocal cue and hyperbole!

Her nonverbals -- posture stiffening, eyes flashing, harsh vocal cues -- surprise her husband. He stares at her, his mouth open (confused) or closed tight (agitated).

She turns, grabs the keys, and leaves, punctuating her anger by slamming the door.

The husband stands there wondering what the heck happened. Her question, asking him to go with her, triggered a thought. He recalled the car had a vibration the last time he drove it and he wondered if the tires needed to be balanced. His split-second nonverbal responses – shifting gaze, a sigh, and his mouth tightening – reflected his body responding to his thoughts about the tires.

WHOOPS!

The wife thought his nonverbals communicated that he didn’t want to go
with her to visit her mother. She reacted with anger.

He has no idea why she got angry and left. He probably thinks she’s PMS’y. ;-)))

Situations like that play out too frequently with couples, friends, and coworkers.

People misinterpret nuances of body language and take action. Misreading the
escalating stimulus/response patterns of body language, builds conflict.

Pausing, realizing that body language can be interpreted in a gazillion ways, and getting clarification, can result in fewer slammed doors and more smiles.

5. People unconsciously mirror nonverbal behavior of others. T F

TRUE – and so fun! When you’re in a restaurant, watch couples and friends who like each other. They both lean forward seemingly at the same time. One leads by a nanosecond. They may reach for their beverages and drink at the same time. They mirror posture, gestures, facial expressions, voice patterns. Their body language looks choreographed.

6. If the words and body language contradict each other, the listener believes the body language. T F

TRUE -- When the words are incongruent with the body language and/or how the dialogue is delivered – people always believe the nonverbals. :-)))

7. Facial expressions convey 85% of the nonverbal message. T F

FALSE – Facial expressions are key, but vocal cues, posture, movements, spatial relationships, all contribute to the nonverbal message. Depending on the research, faces carry 30 to 50% of the nonverbal message.

8. People can cover up their emotions by keeping their face blank. T F

FALSE -- Faces are never blank. Lips twitch. Nostrils flare. Eyes narrow or widen almost imperceptibly. Mouths barely open or barely tighten. Pupils dilate. Tips of tongues show when people moisten lips. To a kinesics specialist, these are all diagnostic indicators. To a writer, these are cues to write what I call flicker-face emotions.

9. Lips carry more nonverbal messages than eyes. T F

TRUE – The lips do more. Watch people’s mouths. You’ll have more insight into their reactions.

10. When anxious, people touch their face more often. T F

TRUE – Self-Touch behaviors increase when people are anxious. They touch their face (cheek, eyebrow, lips, nose, ear), or near their face (throat, jaw, back of neck, behind ear, hair), or hands and arms.

Self-touch behaviors accelerate when anxiety is high. They are body language polygraphs. When people are in a job interview, when suspects are interrogated, when a guy proposes to his gal, self-touch behaviors significantly increase. The person who’s anxious may touch their face, throat, hand, or arm every 10 to 20 seconds, sometimes every couple of seconds, unaware of their self-touch behavior.

HOW DID YOU SCORE? Did you make a 100? 90? 80?

Chime in about anything related to body language – in your real world, or in your writing world.

I’ll respond throughout the day and this evening. Check back, I’ll be here.

Body language is fascinating. For those of you who are writers, you get to monitor and moderate your body language when you’re pitching to agents and editors, interacting with booksellers, introducing a speaker, being on a panel, presenting a workshop, and doing a book signing.

PLUS – When you’re capturing nonverbal communication on the page, you get to explore the full range of body language, and challenge yourself to write it fresh. Look at the power you have with body language. You can use body language to complicate scenes and drive plot points. :-)))

Post a comment: YOU COULD WIN A LECTURE PACKET!

Lectures from each of my on-line courses are offered as Lecture Packets through Paypal from my web site. For more information on my courses, lecture packets, master classes, and Immersion Master Class, visit my web site: http://www.margielawson.com/ .

The WINNERS will be drawn at 9PM tonight – and I’ll post the winners on the blog.

Thank you for joining us today!

All smiles…………….Margie

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Conjuring up hunky heroes

By CiCi Barnes

Where do your hunky heroes come from and how do you describe them? Are they born in your head, displayed in a magazine, big as life on the big screen, or sizzling on the small screen in your den? Is he blond, brunette? Usually, we add ‘or redhead’ when speaking of the female lead, but I haven’t read any books, as I recall, with a carrot-topped hero. Blue, brown, or green eyes? I’ve even read of some smoky, gray eyes. Do all your heroes tend to have similar physical characteristics, or do you mix it up? What do you lean toward in real life?

I lean toward the old clichéd tall, dark and handsome. Brunettes seem to tingle my spine more than blondes. One eye color over another hasn’t spun me out of control, but the look in them needs to smolder. I like a few muscles, but not over-the-top pecs. A warm nice smile completes the pitter-patter-of-my-heart ideal.

My first-ever written hunky hero fires up my glands when I think about him still. He was hard to get out of my head when I had to reach for my next Adonis. It took some doing to transfer my passion.

But even as I scavenge around for the perfect specimen, I have to say my real-life hunky hero is the best. And, no, ladies, I’m not describing him or putting him in a book. He’s all mine. You’ll just have to survive with my fantasies, your fantasies, or your own, real-life go-to guy.

My first hunky hero will always be special, and my first heroine, Cassie, thinks so too. Here’s how she sees him:

Her dream lover, the one she’d conjured up thirteen years ago at the early age of fifteen, drifted back into her thoughts. Her brain wouldn’t obey when she tried to push his image away.
Broad shoulders, tall frame, intoxicating crooked smile, and those eyes. Oh, the times she’d tried to describe those crystal blue pools to Andrea. The proper analogy didn’t exist. Relaxing, Cassie lowered her eyelids, gave in to her private dream world and drank in his likeness standing at the water’s edge.
“Cassie.”
She frowned when the air whispered her name.
“Cassie. Come to me.”
Opening her eyes, she clutched the wooden rail again. The words weren’t a figment of her imagination. He stood, just as he had in her mind, in the tide’s foaming bubbles with his arms outstretched.
She sank down on the lounge chair, holding on with a white-knuckled grip and refused to take a second look toward the water. Her hands shook as beads of sweat formed on her upper lip. Her desire for him battled her common sense that hearing him, seeing him while awake, just wasn’t normal. In an effort to relax, she stretched out and laid back.
“Sit here and clear your mind,” she chastised.
Cassie closed her eyes, and his image returned in the blackness, his outstretched arms ready to embrace her. In response to his tender touch, her muscles eased and she melted into his embrace. She buried her face in his chest, savoring the warmth percolating inside her as his cheek came to rest on her head.
Her hands glided from his wrists to his shoulders. His solid chest and perfectly muscled biceps combined with rugged forearms and powerful hands excited her. Yet, his gentle, loving manner comforted her.
With her arms around his waist, she breathed in his masculine scent mixed with the salty ocean breeze. His presence lifted the weight of the world off her shoulders and brought peace to her soul. Knowing he would take care of her, her lips eased into a smile.
“At last, you are mine,” he whispered.
His lips on hers, so tender, so gentle. They trailed to her neck, branding her with heat along the way. Deft fingertips joined the adventure, exploring her body, melting her skin. She moaned, tilted her head as his lips drifted downward.
A fire smoldered in her veins, the heat snaking its way through her torso, arms, legs, clear to her toes. Ashes. Soon, the fire would reduce her body to ashes.
“Cassidy Danielle Harrington! You’re doing it again.”
Cassie’s eyes popped open at the stern reprimand. The image of her lover disappeared with a ‘poof’, but not the sense of warm brandy traveling through her body. She widened her eyes and sat up. Emptiness settled into the folds of her heart.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My Head Is Getting Crowded

I’m a method writer. I discovered this just last week while pouring over a fascinating article on how to perform a blood sacrifice in voodoo. The author of the article did go on to offer to perform the sacrifice for you using only the finest black ram or white ewe (depends on what kind of help you need, you see) – for a fee which read somewhat like the price list at a sea food restaurant –Market Price Only! – which I took to have something to do with what kind of help you were hoping for. Love is cheap, revenge will cost you. I’m reading along, really intrigued, when I realized that I’m like Christian Bale. The only reason he had that major fit was because he was still in character!

Once I begin to work on a character and a story I inhabit that story so fully that it borders on compulsion. In my last manuscript my heroine was a neo-burlesque dancer and after inhabiting her world I am perfectly comfortable discussing the four methods of pastie adherence and removal and have done so with my neighbor the transvestite more than once. Right now I’m writing about a florist who casts spells on her creations to help people. I took my kids to the park to play and had a really embarrassing moment when one of the dads standing around watching the toddlers bash each other with the swings walked up and presented me with a page that had fallen out of the book I was reading. He held it up and then read it out loud at the volume only a man can achieve “Witchcraft in Yorkshire. Hmmm. Is this yours?”

I think method actors must make their families nuts. You just never know who is coming home for dinner. Will it be Christian Bale or Batman? Similarly, I must drive my family nuts. I get so deep into my characters that at times I forget they are not actually people I know. My daughter asked me just the other day if she would ever get to meet ShaSha – my neo-burlesque heroine. “Um, honey, no. Mommy just made her up. She’s like an invisible friend!” My husband actually came home one day to find me crying because I’d burned down a historic theatre. I’m sobbing away, “but where will ShaSha put on her show?” My husband’s rote answer to these things is to pour me a glass of wine.

Is all this deep work healthy? I don’t know. I like to think it gives my characters a very vivid ring that makes them seem real. One of my dear friends always reads my first drafts. When she got done with one of them she actually found herself staring up at the buildings on a particular block of Peachtree Street wondering which one was the hero’s office building.

If I come out of my current story able to make elaborate floral arrangements and change people’s lives for the better I’ll let you know. I’m going to draw the line at practicing voodoo. Unless I come across a spell for selling a book. Then all bets are off!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

How Much Is Too Much?

And no, I’m not talking about sex.

I recently read a blog post by Connie Brockway talking about her new release, So Enchanting, over at Romance Novel TV. The hero and heroine of her story go at each other in such a way as to really make the chemistry smoke. It’s a fantastic book, their battles so much fun to read, you can’t put it down till you turn the last page. So I was officially on a Brockway high, just having finished it, until she threw out this pearl of wisdom in the comments section:

Alpha male and alpha females spend a lot of time snarling at each other—the trick is to make the reader see the attraction beneath the snarling and make sure nothing they say sounds too petty or mean-spirited at the same time as it’s direct and incisive.

My heart fell as I read this. You see, I’m hip deep in the middle of my own alpha male/female story. My characters are pit against each other to compete for his inheritance and tend to thunder away in most conversations. He loathes the fact that she’s doing everything she can to bring him to his knees; she’s infuriated every time she looks at his wispy golden locks (the cobbled muscles of his stomach)—because he once humiliated her. So they fight at every turn, but how much is too much?

My story is an historical romance. Historicals, by nature, require a little restraint, but so too am I writing for a modern audience. I doubt very much (and you may debate me on this later) modern audiences would buy a Jane Austen-esque romance were it to debut in 2009. Not if it was marketed as a romance novel. We read her as a classic, a classic romance, yes, but as straight romance? Nuh uh. There are too many “affables”, “rathers”, and “upon my words” in every single sentence to mow through her in one afternoon. As modern readers, we tend to be an impatient lot, I think. If this weren’t true, then why do I keep hearing editors say, “I give a manuscript 1-3 pages to hook me.”

1-3 pages? Oy.

I pick up Austen and since I know it’s Austen I give it, well, the whole book to hook me. But it’s Austen. Who of us doesn’t adore Austen (and please don’t say if you don’t love her as I doubt I could stomach such blasphemy this early in the morning)?

I, however, am not Austen. But it does take a dose of restraint to make the verbal skirmishes between a strong hero and heroine work in today’s historical romance. A hint of moderation, if you will. A little subtlety. Brockway achieves this in spades with her latest, her characters’ snarling wildly entertaining while never crossing over into the annoying. As for me, I’m worried. I’m not Connie Brockway (wish I were). I don’t ever wear subtlety. Moderation is not in my vocabulary and I never inherited restraint as it doesn’t exist in any of the branches of my family tree.

So what do I do? Brockway says be sure nothing sounds too petty and mean-spirited, but what does a writer, who is rather bulldozerish in spirit, do when she may not be able to detect the difference between mean-spirited jousting and just, say, passionate sparring? Is there a difference? What is it?

Help me.

(And can someone please pass me my tranquillizers now?)

Monday, February 9, 2009

27 Dresses, 1 Wedding, and 85 Brides

Monday's Media Bits
By: Debbie Kaufman

For the past week, I have had several close encounters of the bridal kind. The week started innocuously enough when I finally got around to watching the romantic comedy, 27 Dresses, with Katherine Heigel and James Marsden. Katherine Heigel did a great job and James Marsden was easy on the eyes! For those of you who haven't seen it yet, I promise, no spoilers in this post.

My personal movie hero and I spent an enjoyable evening together snuggled on the sofa where we laughed out loud and, in the end, were left with that promised "feel good" ending. 27 Dresses is definitely one to add to my Favorite Movies list.

The movie centers around the main character, Jane, who moons over her boss by day and serves as the superwoman of bridesmaids at night. One of my favorite lines occurs repeatedly at the various weddings Jane attends. While we see a succession of rather hideous bridesmaids' outfits, the expressed sentiment is still the same, "...and you can always cut it off and wear it again."

Okay, how many of you have either said that line to your own bridesmaids or had it quoted to you as you looked dubiously at what your dear friend, the Bride, chose for you to wear? Exactly, that's what makes it so funny!

I guess I didn't realize I had that line on my mind when we strolled into a beautiful neighborhood sanctuary Friday night to attend a lovely evening wedding. As my arm was taken by a groomsman for seating, I saw twelve young women, yes twelve, in elegant matching black dresses. Immediately, I said, "Oh, and you can always cut them off and wear them again." Really, it just slipped right out of my mouth. Fortunately, the reference was lost on the twenty-something young man who seated me on the bride's side.

The next day, I rose early, and went with my daughter, a photographer, to help at a bridal show where she had a booth. We figured out later that we had personally talked to about 85 or more brides in about three hours. That's a lot of brides folks! At the end of the event, they have the runway show to display this season's lovely gowns, tuxes, and, you guessed it, bridesmaids' dresses. The music accompanying the show was loud enough that no one actually heard me this time!

Now, there was a lot more to 27 Dresses than the comedy of the bridesmaids' gowns. And there were a lot of lines that were much funnier than the one that resonated with me. But for me, that will always be the line I remember when I think of the movie, "...and you can always cut it off and wear it again." After a week filled with brides, I'm sure that I'll never attend another wedding without hearing that line in my head.
What about you? Is there some line from a movie or a book that you always associate with it immediately? You know, one of those "Luke, I am your Father," lines that are irrevocably stuck in your mind. I'd love to hear your favorites or just the ones you can't get out of your head!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

And We Have A Winner!

First, I'd like to thank CJ for taking time out from such a busy schedule to grace us with a guest blog! Oh wait, you're only checking here to see who the winner is? Okay. The winner of CJ Lyon's LIFELINES is:
CiCi Barnes

Friday, February 6, 2009

PLEASE WELCOME SPECIAL GUEST BLOGGER, CJ LYONS

About CJ: As a pediatric ER doctor, CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about. In addition to being an award-winning medical suspense author, CJ is a nationally known presenter and keynote speaker. Her first novel, LIFELINES (Berkley, March 2008), received praise as a "breathtakingly fast-paced medical thriller" from Publishers Weekly, was reviewed favorably by the Baltimore Sun and Newsday, named a Top Pick by Romantic Times Book Review Magazine, and became a National Bestseller. Her second novel, WARNING SIGNS, will be published by Berkley in January, 2009. To learn more about CJ and her work, go to http://www.cjlyons.net/.
CJ, thanks for taking time out from your heavy promotion and presentation schedule to be with us today. Now I’m sure you get asked this a lot, but our readers are curious about how a pediatrician goes from the ER to the published page.

>>>Well, first of all, I've always been a dreamer. If I hadn't been, I would never have made it to college, much less been able to put myself through medical school. And second of all, I'm half Irish and half Italian, which makes me all stubborn.

But leaving medicine after seventeen years of practicing it did take courage. Talk about your leap of faith--even though I wasn't making a lot of money as a pediatrician (kids don't vote, so pediatricians are at the bottom of the pay scale) it was plenty for me. And to leave that to live a life of uncertainty, no secure paycheck, no plan B--well, let's just say that several of my partners suggested a psych eval would make more sense than my following my dream of writing.

All I can say is that I knew what I wanted, was confident in my abilities, and yes, I did prepare a financial emergency fund--just in case. Those first few months were scary--first time I'd been unemployed since I was 15! But luckily since then I've been making a living with my writing, paying the bills, and having a heck of a lot of fun doing it!

Was Lifelines, the first book in your Angels of Mercy series, your first manuscript?

>>>No, it was I think my fifth completed manuscript.

Did you have many rejections before Lifelines was accepted? If you did, what made you keep going?

>>>Oh yeah, of course! But the thing about LIFELINES is that I actually sold it based on a phone conversation with my editor at Berkley. We talked about creating a new series that revealed the behind the scenes life of an urban trauma center and in effect, with LIFELINES, we created a new genre: medical suspense with thriller pacing, told from the point of view of women, with "ripped from the headlines" medical cases, and strong romantic elements.

So after I brainstormed and created this new world, I had to go write the book—only now I was under contract and therefore, under a deadline! Good thing I love a challenge—but it ended up being a lot of fun!

Tell us about the Angels of Mercy series.

>>> LIFELINES is definitely more of a thriller. It's the classic stranger comes to town story (I love old westerns) and the pacing is rapid-fire, the stakes raised until the entire city is at risk.

WARNING SIGNS, however, is more of a mystery, focusing on the whodunnit and howdunnit of a mysterious illness. It's a coming of age story for a medical student who isn't sure if she's really sick or just has a bad case of medical studentitis--a form of hypochondriasis that every doctor suffers at some point in their career. It's still fast paced, but more about the medical student coming to her own as a healer.

Can you give us a picture of what your writing day looks like?

>>>Totally unpredictable—just like life in the ER! After 17 years of practicing medicine and being on a structured schedule, it's great to have the freedom to finally write when I want without being tied to a clock—or a beeper!

Do you have any writing rituals that help you?

>>>Music. I love listening to music—depending on the character's whose pov I'm in, the music changes. It could be head-banging rock n roll (my own favorite), zydeco, celtic, classical, or even country-western.

It's a way to immerse myself in the character—I don't listen to country-western on my own, but one of my characters does, so go figure, lol! The right music also sets the mood—slow for a quiet scene, up tempo for an action scene, etc.


Is there a favorite junk food that you munch when you write?

>>>Nope, I'm a disgustingly healthy eater, lol! Probably the closest thing to junk food I keep around the house are pistachios. I love dark chocolate—but I save that for either celebrations or pick-me-ups if something goes wrong. So far, I've pretty much only used it for celebrations, I've been lucky to have uniformly great reviews and knock on wood they'll continue.

Who reads your work-in-progress besides your editor?

>>>I'm selfish about my first drafts. Usually no one sees them except me—since I'm a seats of the pants writer, they're my chance to tell the story my way, for my own enjoyment and not worry about pesky little annoyances like logic or continuity.

My second draft is for the reader. I try to divorce my ego from the work and focus on what will create the most enjoyable read for my audience. How can I communicate my vision to them most effectively?

This draft I'll share with a few close friends, published and unpublished,
and they're ruthless with it—thank goodness!!! It's always good to have friends who can not only see your blindspots but who will also give you a swift kick in the pants to get you back on track!

CJ, what do you think makes up a hero?

>>>To me a hero is anyone willing to face their greatest fears and be willing to risk change in order to make things better in the world around them. This applies to real-world heroes who are willing to stand up and make a difference as well as my fictional ones.

What are important hero characteristics you apply as you create heroes for your books?

>>>First thing I do is find their default action or attitude. This is the one thing ingrained in them since they were children and that so far in their life (at the start of the book) has been successful for them. It's their greatest strength but as they progress through the book, it will become their greatest weakness, forcing them to face their fears and change--hopefully for the better.

My badguys travel the same path and I try to give them chances to redeem themselves, but they choose not to change and that plays a part in their defeat by the hero.

Does you use body models or some other type of inspiration for the creation of hunky heroes or striking heroines?

>>>Appearance really doesn't play much of a role for me. Once I figure out what makes a character tick, the physical characteristics simply fill in the blanks.

For instance, Lydia, the fiercely independent heroine of LIFELINES, is a loner. She's an ER doc and her default attitude is "Trust no one, assume nothing." So physically, she's athletic, a runner, dresses in practical clothing that would always allow her to take off running if the need arises, her hair is short and spiky because she doesn't take time for sitting in a salon often, she doesn't wear makeup, and she travels light, always ready for trouble, basically always ready for anything....

The hero and her future love interest, Trey, is a paramedic and a middle child whose default action is to play the role of peacemaker. He's in good shape because of his job, but despite his size and muscles, he's soft-spoken, a calming influence. Competent and good at his job because he'll hold back for a beat, waiting, observing, getting the big picture--opposite of Lydia's rush into action. He teaches ballroom dancing on the side, so he's graceful and well-balanced physically and mentally, a good grounding force for Lydia's high-intensity.

Tell us about your current tour for Warning Signs.

>>>I'm launching WARNING SIGNS at the Love is Murder conference in Chicago. I'm doing a special presentation with one of the screenwriters for House and we'll discuss the character of House versus Sherlock Holmes. And then I'll be doing a workshop on using medicine in fiction, followed by a panel with Jeffrey Deaver and other great authors. After that I'll be at the South Carolina Book Festival, teaching a few special Master classes for RWA chapters, presenting at PennWriters, appearing on both the thriller and mystery panels at Romantic Times, and I'll be at ThrillerFest.

What’s the funniest thing that ever happened to you on tour?

>>>Last year at Romantic Times in Pittsburgh I'd been commuting back and forth from the convention to my old stomping grounds at Presby hospital, visiting my aunt who was in the ICU there (she's fine now, yeah!) Since the convention was in Pittsburgh, where my books are set, I'd been planning to use my free time for research but fate intervened and of course family comes first. So, it's the last afternoon before I leave, and I run into Hank Phillippi Ryan—a friend and wonderful writer. She wants to go for a walk but isn't familiar with Pittsburgh, so I take her through Downtown and over the Clemente bridge to the Riverwalk. And lo and behold, there are the River Rescue guys out on their boat—on a Sunday afternoon! Exactly the guys I needed for my research! Hank, who's a reporter and charming, talks our way onto the dock, onto the boat, and even gets the guys to give us a tour! It was great fun and would have never happened if I hadn't been t been taking time away from work to visit my aunt. And if Hank hadn't wanted to stretch her legs! Talk about kismet.

What kinds of workshops do you teach? Do you have any coming up in the next couple of months? Anything in the South?

>>>I just gave my Character Driven Plotting workshop to the Lowcountry RWA in Charleston. That workshop goes more in depth about how I build characters (as I mentioned above with the example of Lydia and Trey) and how I use the characters to propel the plot, with techniques both plotters and pantzers can use.

I'll be teaching at PennWriters in Pittsburgh, the Kiss of Death retreat, Central NY RWA, Toronto RWA, and Kiss of Death online, and Writers' University online.

For more information on CJ's upcoming appearances or workshops go to: http://www.cjlyons.net and look under Events.

Okay readers, now for our contest. CJ has graciously agreed to give away a personalized copy of LIFELINES to one lucky commenter. So let's hear it folks. Please leave us a comment on something in this post that you relate to, find interesting, find funny, etc. A winner will be randomly drawn from all comments left up until midnight tonight. Winner to be posted Saturday.