Monday, July 30, 2012

Lifting the Load

I remember listening to a fellow writer years and years ago and she was telling me that one time a neighbor of hers was in the hospital with her dying husband. She knew she wanted to do something to help her friend, but she just wasn't sure what she could do. Should she bring cookies? Flowers? What?  Well, being a writer she decided she'd run down to the local bookstore.  She grabbed a few books on CD (this was before Kindle) and took them to her friend.  She hugged this woman, told her she loved her and then gave her the gifts and left.  Later, after the funeral, her friend came to her and told her that listening to those stories on CD had saved her sanity.  For a few moments she could escape into a story and get a little peace. They helped her survive the hardest moments of her life.

 That story has always stayed with me because I think it's powerful.  Books can inspire, they can teach, they can help and sometimes when we need it, they can help us escape a bad situation for just a little while until we can gird up our loins so to speak and go back to the war.  There have been many times in my life when I have turned to books for help.  During my divorce, my choice was number one, the scriptures.  I read them 3-4 times a day and I was able to have peace in the middle of a horrifying and tragic storm.  But every now and then I'd pick up a light hearted romance to brighten my day.  They were little rays of sunshine when I was feeling cold and drenched. 

So as a writer, I like to keep in mind the people who read my stories.  What can I do to lighten someone else's burden?  How can bring laughter to someone's day?  Because I know how grateful I am for writers who have done that for me. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

More on Clean Romance - yes those 2 words do go together!

I just had to re-post this article by Studio 5 on Clean romances.  Love it!

Clean Romance Reads
July 26, 2012

Who doesn't enjoy the sigh-worthy romance of a well-crafted love story? Studio 5 Contributor Teri Harman shares her favorite 10 clean romance books.

Unlike movies and television shows there is no content rating system for books. The pages may contain sex, violence and foul language or be perfectly clean; it's a gamble. If you are content conscious, it is especially risky to pick up a book about romance or love.
But who doesn't enjoy the smolder, intrigue and sigh-worthy romance of a well-crafted love story? So if you want all the good stuff of a romantic read without worrying about content, look no further than this list of favorite clean romances. All of these books are free of graphic/descriptive sex scenes (in a few of the books sex occurs, but is only mildly described or happens "off- stage") and contain no or only small amounts of foul language and violence.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Hazel is terminal. She's known it since she was diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at age 13. Now at age 16, thanks to a miracle drug, she's been given some time to live a quiet life, but knows there are still fewer days ahead. The last thing she expects is to fall deeply in love, but when seriously handsome, intelligent, bold Augustus Waters appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's simple life takes a whole new direction.
This book is simply amazing. The story is so real and achieves that elusive goal of speaking about life, death and love in a way that is meaningful instead of pretentious. Bold, slightly irreverent and genius.
The Hourglass Door by Lisa Mangum

Abby, a senior in high school, has a normal, predictable life: good friends, reliable boyfriend and college applications in the works. But all her normalcy is interrupted when mysterious, gorgeous and Italian, Dante Alexander shows up. He's unlike anyone she has ever met and Abby soon discovers that she cannot resist Dante's allure. But as Abby is swept up in his love she is also pulled into his world of danger and time travel, filled with secrets that reach all the way back into the sixteenth century.
Pick up this beautifully written young adult novel, the first in The Hourglass Door Trilogy by local Utah author Lisa Mangum, and forget everything else for a day or two. The love story is loaded with swoon-worthy moments and the time travel adventure feels fresh and new.
After Hello by Lisa Mangum

After you finish The Hourglass Door Trilogy, get your hands on Lisa Mangum's next young adult book, After Hello, which hits shelves in September 2012. With inviting writing, a quick pace and a wonderful first- love story, this book is a pure delight to read. Mangum has a gift for subtle, but smoldering romance.
It's Sara's first trip to New York City. With her camera in hand, she is ready to capture every moment of the experience. As she stands on the busy streets of the city she watches a handsome guy step out from a bookstore and she impulsively takes his picture. From that one picture a whole day of adventure is born. Sam and Sara partner together to find an elusive piece of art work and along the way discover the unexpected: love and themselves.
To join in a special promotion for the book visit
Here Burns My Candle by Liz Curtis Higgs

The Kerr family is a family of secrets. Lady Elizabeth Kerr hides her devotion to the auld ways. Her husband, Lord Donald, hides his shameful behavior from the household. And the dowager Lady Marjory hides gold under her floor boards and harbors regrets of the past. As the city of Edinburgh is turned-over in the wake of a rebellion, so, too, are the Kerr's secrets left bare for all to see.
Everything about this book is intoxicating: the romance, the writing, the emotions, and the vivid eighteenth-century Scottish history. It's nearly impossible to put down and, thank goodness, when it ends there are two more books to finish the story (a trilogy).
Thorn in My Heart by Liz Curtis Higgs

Ah, the fated love triangle. In the autumn of 1788, on the mysterious Scottish Lowlands, Jamie and Evan McKie fight to inherit their father's lands and flocks and two sisters, Leana and Rose, vie for the attention of one handsome man. Only one brother can inherit and only one sister can be the bride.
Liz Curtis Higgs, master of historical fiction, pulls the reader in from the first word and takes them on a journey of passion, drama, deceit, betrayal, jealousy and secrets. This is also the first book in a trilogy.
Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson

From a harrowing attack by a highway man to the unexpected attention of a handsome gentleman, Marianne's visit to the fabulous English country estate Edenbrooke is nothing she expects. Local author Julianne Donaldson's new Regency (think Jane Austen) love story is a pure delight. The first in a new brand of novels called "Proper Romances" from local publisher Shadow Mountain, this book has all the smoldering romance without any of "that other stuff." Watch for more "Proper Romance" titles coming out yearly.
The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

Can a hummingbird cake bring back lost love? Is there a ghost dancing in the woods? In the small Southern town of Mullaby, North Carolina, these kinds of questions are not a rarity, but the norm. When Emily Benedict comes to town to stay with the grandfather she's never met, in hopes of learning more about her mother, she is surprised to find that strange is around every corner. From the wallpaper that changes to fit her mood to the strange light flitting around the yard late at night, Emily finds nothing she expects, but everything she needs.
Sarah Addison Allen's writing is magical. This endearing story of every-day magic and loveable misfits will enchant readers from the very beginning.
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson

Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired), of the small English village of Edgecombe St. Mary, is everything a proper English man should be: loyal, wry, courtly and an expert on a properly brewed cup of tea. After his brother's death the Major finds himself in an unexpected friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper from the village. As they share a love of literature and bond over the shared grief of the loss of their spouses, the two soon find their friendship blossoming into something more. But the village society is not entirely comfortable with their relationship. Can they push past culture and tradition to find happiness?
A perfectly charming and thoroughly enjoyable book. As funny as it is sophisticated, Major Pettigrew's love story between two older people will leave the reader with a smile and a warm heart.
A Time to Love by Barbara Cameron

Television over-seas correspondent Jenny Knight faced the unthinkable while in a war zone and almost lost her life. Now, as part of her recovery, she's staying with her grandma at her home in an Amish community. As her body heals from the devastating injuries sustained in a car bomb attack, Jenny finds a teenage crush for her grandma's neighbor, Matthew, sparking to life again. But can she look past her scars and their different lives to find love?
This book is filled with hope, redemption and sweet romance. Not only is the story romantic, but also intriguing as life in the Amish world is revealed. A quick, satisfying and memorable read. This is the first book in the Quilts of Lancaster County series.
A Proper Pursuit by Lynn Austin

Violet Hayes is a proper young lady of wealthy society, but she longs to experience mystery and romance, the kind she secretly reads about in novels. After discovering a shocking truth about her mother, Violet manipulates her way into visiting Chicago, intent on tracking down the woman she thought she'd never see again. Her grandmother and three quirky sisters open their home to Violet and each decides it's their duty to help her find a purpose and a husband. From the thrills of the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 to the city's depressing slums, Violet's journey will be everything she hoped for and many things she never dreamed of.
This light, fun read is rich with interesting history and keep-you-guessing romance.
The Shoemaker's Wife by Adrianna Trigiani

Enza and Ciro first meet as teenagers in the majestic beauty of the Italian Alps. But after one night of heart-felt conversation and a first kiss, circumstances beyond their control pull them apart. They meet again, unexpectedly, far from their native home in the hustle of turn-of-the- century America, but still fate seems to want to keep them apart. Fate, however, is not strong enough to keep these star-crossed lovers apart forever. From the beauty of Italy, the drudgery of garment factories, the trenches of The Great War and the glamour of the Metropolitan Opera, this epic and beautifully written story of love and family is one that everyone will be talking about.
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

One of the bestselling novels of all time, Rebecca deserves every accolade it gets. "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again." With this haunting first sentence, the second Mrs. Maxium de Winter begins her tragic story of romance and mystery. Married young to a husband she barely knows, the new bride is forced to live in the shadow of the life of the first Mrs. De Winter, the beautiful Rebecca.
This mysterious, suspenseful romance should be on every love-story-lover's list. The writing is so atmospheric and the emotions of the poor second Mrs. De Winter heart-wrenching. A must-read!
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Jane Eyre's quiet patience, endless perseverance and sharp mind catch the eye of her handsome and arrogant master, Mr. Rochester, after she is employed as governess to his ward. Despite the fact that Rochester is far above her station, Jane falls irrevocably in love with him and soon discovers that he may share her passion. But tragedy and old secrets arise to stand in the way of Jane's happiness.
Deep sigh. Few love stories are as affecting or as tragically romantic as "Jane Eyre." First published in 1847, Bronte's quiet but stalwart heroine broke the mold of standard class conceptions and is one of the most endearing female characters of all time.
Book Rating Websites
Also, check out these on-line resources that are helping readers take the gamble out of picking up a book.
Rated Reads ( - Book content rating website, all genres
The Literate Mother ( - Content ratings for youth and young adult books
Compass Book Ratings ( - Book content rating website, all genres

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Creative people need rules? Seriously? . . . no really, seriously?

I'm re-posting this from O Magazine. Read it Writers!!
Why the Best Way to Get Creative Is to Make Some Rules
By Aimee Bender | From the July 2012 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine

writing in closet
Years ago I lived in a two-bedroom apartment with my boyfriend at the time, and initially we shared the office, back-to-back, each working away at our computers.

But he was a newshound, and he'd read Internet news extensively while I was writing, making thoughtful grunts at each article. Months went by like this, and other times he'd give up on the news and I'd hear him typing away behind me. Tap, tap, tap. Tap, tap, tap. I couldn't ask him not to type; it was his office, too. But the distraction was overwhelming.

And the office space felt too big to me, anyway. When we had looked for a place to live, I'd been intrigued by the idea of writing in a hall closet, creating a little writing chamber all my own. Some of the apartment buildings in Hollywood were endowed with beautiful, substantial closets, with tiny windows and sometimes even a built-in shelf, perfect for the printer! Ours turned out to be windowless and fairly small, so I gave up and hung my clothes in it. A year later, unable to bear the drumming of fingers on keys, I drove myself to Target, bought a standing hanging rod, took the clothes out, cleaned up, placed a card table at one end, and, with some geometric maneuvering, shoved a desk chair into the other. By angling myself into the chair, there was just enough room to sit. We strung extension cords along the floor and ceiling, and hooked the computer up to a plug in the living room.

The first morning I stepped inside, I was dizzy with a strange new panic; the closet seemed too small, too dusty—and what was this ominous gray electrical box to my left? I kept the door half open. I told myself I'd give it two weeks, and then decide.

I don't remember when the two weeks passed. I wrote in that closet for more than two years.

I'd always assumed that when Virginia Woolf referred to a room of one's own, she meant a light-filled studio by a lake. But the truth is, there can be something very useful about a small, dark space. Large meadows are lovely for picnics and romping, but they are for the lighter feelings. Meadows do not make me want to write.

Writing can be a frightening, distressing business, and whatever kind of structure or buffer is available can help a lot. For almost 17 years now, I've been faithful to a two-hours-a-day routine, every morning, five or six days a week. I get up, sit down, check e-mail briefly, turn off my e-mail and Internet, look at the time on the computer, write the two-hour marker on a little pad of paper on my desk, and begin. Inspired by the highly regular routines of writers like Stephen King, Flannery O'Connor, Trollope, and many more, I tried to tailor mine to my own idiosyncrasies. In my rule book, I don't have to do anything except sit at the computer, but I'm not allowed to do anything else, and I usually get so bored I start to work. I generally stop to the minute, because I'm so ready to stop, and because I don't want to mess with the rules. The rigid time structure, much like the idea of the cramped closet, is freeing, and for me, the more I can externalize the ritual, the easier it is to submit to it. It's all a declaration against the regular dread I used to feel all the time when I wasn't writing. Once the structure was formalized, the dread diminished dramatically.

A number of years ago, I cosigned a contract with a friend, Sarah Shute, a very good writer who wanted to work on her stories more regularly but found it difficult to prioritize the time. Writing every day can be a powerful action, a gesture of belief in one's own imagination, and she knew it. "I just wish someone would order me to write every day," she said. "Because otherwise I just don't do it." We were painting yellow stripes in my office at the university where I teach. She paused, brush in hand. "Would you ever do something like that?" she asked.

Next: Creating a writer's contract
She went home and drew up an official document, using contract language she'd picked up at her day job where she was writing contracts all the time, only this one, instead of enacting some corporate agenda, was for her alone.

A few days later, we met at Philippe's famous French dip sandwich shop in downtown L.A., and she showed me the rules she'd chosen.

She would write five days a week for an hour. As a firm reminder, every day, when she finished her hour, she would e-mail me one word: Done, and at some point during the day, I would e-mail back Check. No other words were necessary. All that was being acknowledged was that she'd sat at her computer for an hour with the intention to write, whether or not she did.

The contract would run for three months. She was allowed five vacation days, which she would mark by e-mailing me Vacation (1), Vacation (2), etc. If she was actually out of town and couldn't e-mail, we'd work it out. No Internet allowed. No phone. We bit into our drippy sandwiches and marked up the page, and both of us got a bizarre amount of glee, looking at that piece of paper. The more details the better. She must e-mail me by 5:30 P.M. She could write in a journal but never e-mail. She could revise, but only fiction. If she fulfilled the contract, she would give herself a reward. Many people might find this kind of rule-creating revoltingly constraining, but for both of us, happily adding details as we drank wine and ate coleslaw, it was joyous. We signed and dated it, and laughed and made fun of ourselves, but beneath it all was something solemn and powerful. The next day, when I received the first Done, I felt a little thrill. Check! I wrote. I added an exclamation point, which I later amended. No exclamation points. No commentary except acknowledgment. I found I started to wait for her e-mails in the back of my mind, around 5 P.M., as it underlined my own commitment to my work when she sent me that one word.

Once she'd been on the contract for a couple of weeks, she told me her whole concept of weekends had shifted. "I can actually enjoy the weekend now," she said. "Because I am not allowed to write on the weekend."

I understand completely. If left to my own devices, a blank page and a free day and that meadow, little will get done and I'll feel awful about it. But put me in a box for two set hours and say go? It is one of the most steadying elements of my life.

Many psychologists have devoted time and writing to the concept of the therapy "frame," that set box of 50 minutes in a room where a person comes in, sits, talks, emotes, and leaves. It has been made fun of often: "Your time is up!" says the therapist, checking the clock, just as things get good. But aren't they related? Don't things get good sometimes when a person knows the time is almost up? Isn't it easier, right at the 45-minute mark, to say something of import, knowing you're soon allowed to go?

In my experience, this seems to be true for writing as well. At readings, audience members sometimes ask if I keep writing past the two hours if I'm on a roll, but I don't. I figure that if I'm on a roll, it's partially because I know I'm about to stop. I believe Hemingway's great advice, about leaving the work when the going's good so that there's excitement when the writer sits down the next day. Plus, if I start modifying the rules, the whole system begins to erode, and with erosion comes the fast return of dread and guilt. The integrity of the system itself is actually more important to me than the daily content, because content will return, and it mostly needs a reliable container in which to put itself. Our preoccupations do not go away, much as we might like them to.

In an essay called "The Analytic Frame, Abstinence, and Acting Out," Robert M. Young, a psychotherapist, takes it even a step further. Yes, he says, you need a set and specific time and space to explore, but why that's important goes very deep. "The analytic frame," he writes, "is the place where the madness is held so that the therapist and patient can have a space to think and feel about matters felt with a degree of intensity which is painful but still bearable."

Although psychotherapy and writing are distinct in many ways, they are two fields whose great resource is the vast plains of the unconscious mind and how this landscape gets translated into words. As a writer, you are often asking your mind to dream while awake, and if remembering dreams is difficult in general, then it seems to follow that it would be sometimes grueling to conjure up the murky depths on call, eyes open. Young calls it madness, which is a strong word, but it's not a bad one in exaggeration, because he's talking about creating a safe and bound space in which to explore all sorts of darknesses that collect in the recesses of the mind. He's talking about what we do not understand, or know about, or have control over. And the unconscious, if treated well, is the writer's very good friend. Allowing it room is crucial. Allowing it structure can be the safest way to access it without feeling overwhelmed.

Next: What the contract taught me
I moved out of the closet after a couple years, and by then it was a huge relief; the closet, it turned out, was good as a novelty but hard to maintain. It was dusty in there, and I felt a little trapped. People laughed when I told them, said I was coming out of the closet and all that. It did feel liberating to get out, but my hope had been that the closet was actually a way to get closer to the scarier feelings: to combat repression, not to court it. And in fact, I did write two of my darkest stories in there. Monster in the closet? Found a couple of those. Lynda Barry has a comic strip called Holy Terror, where her character Marlys provides excellent instructions on how to tolerate horror movies. "I learned a great way to watch scary movies...," she says. "Pretend you are the frustrated monster."

By going inside the closet to write, I was trying, in some very literal way, to follow her advice. But ultimately, the closet was a little too symbolic, too neat—it was too fun to show people, to show off, which had nothing to do with the actual two hours of work.

The idea of the contract, by the way, caught on. People wanted to do it. I haven't looked at one in a while, but at that time I kept forwarding Sarah's template* along, and several other writers took up the task, individualizing it to their needs (two pages a day, four hours a week, no nonfiction allowed, only nonfiction allowed); they, in turn, started up contracts with others they knew. The two steps are fairly direct: Make or modify the contract in a way that is suitable, and realistic, and then find someone to take on the e-mail/notification role, someone who will acknowledge what you are doing, and know that it is hard, and that it is important. Someone who will call you on it if you stop.

It's an externalized discipline, but it's a formal step on the way to making the contract with the self.

Another budding writer I knew was curious. We were at lunch, and she was intrigued by the contract idea, but halfway through the conversation, she leaned forward over her place setting and whispered, conspiratorially: "This contract is only for good writers, right?" The question caught me completely by surprise. Um, I said, after a minute, no. The contract is for all writers. It's completely separate from what is good and bad. It is entirely about investment in process. It's not about publication; it's not about workshops, or prizes, or critics, or book jacket photos. But in the prioritizing of voice, things shift. They improve. As far as I'm concerned, if a person desires to write, it's worth trying to find a way to do it, even five minutes a day, and what happens to the writing afterward is a separate issue. The act of doing it has enormous value on its own.

With all its wonderful bureaucratic stick-in-the-mud specificity, the contract is then also a fighting gesture against the ever-present idea that writers walk around with alchemy boiling in their fingertips. That we are dreamy wanderers carrying a snifter of brandy, with elegant sentences available on call. It's such a load of crap. Sure, there are writers who work this way, who embrace their writerliness and are still able to get work done, but most I know have found their voice through routine, through ordinariness, through some kind of method of working. Guilt and dread, after all, are creativity killers. And isn't the greater mystery here supposed to be about the work itself, as opposed to the person and his dreamy wanderings? Routines are not mysterious. That's why they're fun to talk about—because we can. And if the fantasy of writerhood is punctured, the focus, then, can shift to where the most interesting and magical mysteries arise: on the page itself, in the paragraph or sentence or scene that comes from a place unrecognizable in the mind.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Romance without sex?

A fellow author posted this article on Facebook and I jumped on it.  After having 50 shades of grey thrown in our faces everywhere we turn, it's the nicest, most refreshing feeling to see an article about how well Romance novels without sex are doing.  Yay! It's a new trend and it's catching on.  In the article the publishers themselves are surprised at how well these books are doing.  There is hope for the future. 

Romance Novels Without The Sex?    
written by Ariel Smythe for the Huffington Post
Shadow Mountain Publishing debuted its new spin on the Romance novel recently -- the brand "Proper Romance," a line of "No-Sex" Romances, and its enchanting debut title Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson [$15.99].

While "No-Sex" and "Romance" might seem incongruent, especially given those bodice-ripper covers we've come to know so well, Edenbrooke has proven itself to be a winner right out of the gate. Released this spring in trade paperback, the book has already received a coveted starred review from Publisher's Weekly and has been designated "delightful and completely engrossing."

Whether we've thought, "oooh," "yuck," or "ho hum" about Romance, this genre, translated into 90 languages, is a publishing economic force to be reckoned with. Romance Writers of America reports sales volume of $1.4 billion last year (yes, that's the "b" word), and the consumer group for this product, women aged 30-54, is becoming more financially powerful by the minute. Add to this the fact that this genre has been morphing over the years to adapt to readers' changes in taste with an amazing flexibility (from Jane Austen's work to Regency period books with men in breeches that inspired Edenbrooke to Stephanie Meyer's Twilight), and one can easily appreciate the staying power and growth potential of the genre.

"There are two new trends we're seeing," Heather Moore of Sourcebooks says. "The first is small town/Main Street romance and the other is 'steampunk.' Steampunk Romances are set in Victorian era Britain or in the Wild West era of the U.S. when steam power was widely used. These incorporate elements of science fiction or fantasy." And yet again the genre is expanding.

As for the "love" aspect of Romance, C.S. Lewis wrote that there are four kinds: storge/"affection," philia/"friendship," eros/"romance," and agape/"unconditional." Lewis throws the "sex part" in as an afterthought, calling it simply "Venus." At one end of the spectrum is the "No-Sex" Romance, and at the other are books like the recent surprise bestselling erotica trilogy Fifty Shades of Grey.

As for the lust side of Romance, Rabbi Schmuley Boteach, host of Shalom at Home and author of the marital guide The Kosher Sutra: 8 Sacred Secrets for Reigniting Desire and Restoring Passion, took a look at this topic recently when prompted to address the sales phenomenon of Grey.

"Lust is the most powerful force in the universe," Rabbi Schmuley says. "It is where you are made to feel intensely desirable. It's where a man can't stop thinking about you, obsessing over you, can't keep his hands off you." In his Sutra, the Rabbi describes how post-marital lust is a necessary component to great relationship. He also says "modesty is erotic," so a little less "saturation," if you will, might go a long way.

"I think the pendulum has swung as far as it can in the erotica direction," Edenbrooke author Donaldson says. "What was once exciting for readers is getting a little old, and a lot of readers are ready for something different." Affection and fidelity are utmost in the Regency reads, and a kiss on the cheek, a touch on the hand, are enough to inform characters- and readers.

"In the case of Edenbrooke," Donaldson says, "it's the romance of restraint, and the passion of unfulfilled longing... I am not saying every romance should be like mine, but I am saying that there should be room for a variety, and before now, that was very difficult to find outside of the inspirational category."

It's worth noting that, while there might be a religious component to some of the Romance books, more and more purchasers of general Young Adult titles, both retailers and librarians, are seeking "No-Sex" Romances. Again, as with Romance, numbers here are impressive: The Association of American Publishers reports that the Young Adult category saw a 61.9% increase in sales from 2010 to 2011, and in 2012, eBooks in the combined Children's/YA category saw a 475% increase.

"I am always looking for 'No-Sex' romances," Kristie Revicki, Teen Librarian at the Suffern Free Library, says. "And we get a lot of adult readers looking for YA Romance, too, especially paranormal and dystopian- you know, those stories where the collapse of society is only slightly more important than the romance." Revicki reports that her reading population also includes the Hasidic community, another reading group interested in the "No-Sex" stories.

"A lot of preparation went into the creation of the 'Proper Romance' brand," Heidi Taylor, Publishing Manager and Acquisitions Editor at Shadow Mountain Publishing says. "We worked in partnership with (Donaldson's) agent who is very familiar with the Romance genre and was able to give us a feel for how big this 'niche' audience really is." The publisher did brainstorming sessions, tested stories with readers, and were then ready to launch their "Proper Romance" umbrella. The end result was what Taylor calls a brand of "clean, smart, engaging, romantic stories that will never embarrass the reader."

"Edenbrooke has already exceeded our sales expectations," Taylor says. "We are well into our second printing, and we've received multiple offers on the film rights."




Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Writers and Rituals

I'm gearing  up to start a book. I've talked to a couple authors and they have these rituals they go through before they'll start.  One guy I know has to have a Mountain Dew and just the right music playing and possibly a toy Samurai sitting on his desk.  Hmmm.  Another woman I know has to be in a cabin, far away from anyone and any distractions.  Okay.  I guess I'm kind of boring.  I just need a lap top and a few hours of quiet.  But since I do write romance, maybe I should get a Ken and Barbie to sit on my desk? But since I actually despise Ken and Barbie, this might have a negative impact. But I admit It, I'm a little jealous of the Samurai toy.  I've also sworn off Dr. Pepper forever, so it'll be me and a bottle of water.  I'm feeling very insecure about my writing rituals now. And sooo many authors I talk to have very specific playlists that they listen to when they write.  That would drive me insane.  How would I get any writing done if I'm singing along with Cee lo?  What do you guys do? Anything inspiring? Anything fun?  Or should I just ignore the rituals and get down to business?  

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Ever Heard of a guy named Elmore Leonard?

     I love reading good advice from famous authors.  I don't care who you are or how many books you've written. There's always, always room for improvement.  I think we're all here to learn.  I've written 10 books but I know that writing can become stagnant if you don't continually try to improve. I think this applies to all aspects of our lives, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. But as far as writing, check out Elmore Leonard's advice on writing.  I think it's brilliant.

1 Never open a book with weather. If it's only to create atmosphere, and not a charac­ter's reaction to the weather, you don't want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead look­ing for people. There are exceptions. If you happen to be Barry Lopez, who has more ways than an Eskimo to describe ice and snow in his book Arctic Dreams, you can do all the weather reporting you want.
2 Avoid prologues: they can be ­annoying, especially a prologue ­following an introduction that comes after a foreword. But these are ordinarily found in non-fiction. A prologue in a novel is back story, and you can drop it in anywhere you want. There is a prologue in John Steinbeck's Sweet Thursday, but it's OK because a character in the book makes the point of what my rules are all about. He says: "I like a lot of talk in a book and I don't like to have nobody tell me what the guy that's talking looks like. I want to figure out what he looks like from the way he talks."
3 Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue. The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But "said" is far less intrusive than "grumbled", "gasped", "cautioned", "lied". I once noticed Mary McCarthy ending a line of dialogue with "she asseverated" and had to stop reading and go to the dictionary.
4 Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said" ... he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange. I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances "full of rape and adverbs".
5 Keep your exclamation points ­under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful.
6 Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose". This rule doesn't require an explanation. I have noticed that writers who use "suddenly" tend to exercise less control in the application of exclamation points.
7 Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly. Once you start spelling words in dialogue phonetically and loading the page with apos­trophes, you won't be able to stop. Notice the way Annie Proulx captures the flavour of Wyoming voices in her book of short stories Close Range.
8 Avoid detailed descriptions of characters, which Steinbeck covered. In Ernest Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants", what do the "Ameri­can and the girl with him" look like? "She had taken off her hat and put it on the table." That's the only reference to a physical description in the story.
9 Don't go into great detail describing places and things, unless you're ­Margaret Atwood and can paint scenes with language. You don't want descriptions that bring the action, the flow of the story, to a standstill.
10 Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Books and dating - who knew?

This spoof was done up at BYU Idaho. Check out this hilarous clip. Hope it brightens your Wednesday :)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Favorite Quotes anyone?

   I had a cute lady email me because she loved something I had written in Makeover.  Her favorite line out of the whole book was:  Sophie had to admit the classic bob was the perfect choice for her aunt.  It showed off her anorexic cheek bones to perfection. No one would ever know her aunt was pushing forty-five.  She didn't look a day over fifty. I had to laugh about that one. Probably the snarkiest line I've ever written. But I still giggle about it too.    
   So my question is, do any of you guys have a favorite line from one of my books?  I'd love to know.  I have favorite scenes out of each of my books, but I'm curious about what your favorites are.  One of my all-time favorite scenes is Maggie's from Taking Chances when she takes on all of Luke's sisters because she thinks they're all out to steal her man.  You just can't get more embarrassing than that. But what about love scenes?  Any favorite love scenes? Or characters?  I would love to know which character you liked the best.  You don't know Iris yet, so she's not in the running, but between say, Sophie, Maggie and Allison, who did you like the best?  I'm absolutely curious. 
     Let me know what you guys think!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Excerpt Weekend is Dead

     I swear I've given you all I can from Do Over. The thought of being shot by my publisher actually keeps me up at night. (Not really) Because if I gave you even one more peek, they'd kill me, either physically or legally. I'd be dead either way.  Sooooo, I'm not sure what to give you an excerpt from.  Have you all read The Broken Road?? Taking Chances?? Makeover anyone??  If you've read all of these and you're impatiently waiting for Do Over which is coming out just in time for Valentine's Day, you can check out my older books like: Soul Searching, A Trusting Heart or my YA book, Forever Friends.  You can find them at anytime.  Sorry for killing Excerpt weekend. It was a good idea for a few weeks. But alas, self-preservation comes first.  Enjoy your weekend and grab a good book.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

On Writing - Stephen King

I haven't been shy about my admiration for Stephen King.  Do I enjoy all his books? No. Do I enjoy reading horror? No.  So why my admiration?  Simple: He's an amazing writer.  Yes, he's chosen to write about things that will keep you up at night, although lately he's been going in a different direction, but this man knows how to draw a reader in and give them what they want.  A good story.  Check out this short video where he talks about writing.  Listen, watch and learn.

Monday, July 2, 2012

50 Shades of Crap

I know, I know. I've mentioned this before.  But I am so ticked by this book.  No I have not read it.  But I've read the articles about it, I've seen the news segments about it.  This book has been hyped more than Harry Potter. Aagh! My 17 year old son even saw a comedy sketch on the book on SNL and every time I leave to go the library or the store, he'll laugh and say, 'Hey mom, don't forget to pick me up a copy of 50 Shades.'  (Please don't watch the SNL skit. It's probably just as bad as the book). This is getting crazy when even my teenage son knows about women's erotica.  I used to have daily deals by Amazon on my blog, but it was, you guessed it, nothing but 50 Shades.  It's gone.  But here's the worst.  Right in Lehi at my local Costco they have the whole series right there in the book section!  Sitting right next to LDS authors and everybody else.  So movies have ratings.  Video games and even music have warnings and ratings.  Maybe if anyone can grab a book and put it in their cart with their eggs and milk, there should at least be a sign that says, This book is Rated X.  Am I being a total prude or do you agree with me?