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Okay, so I’m the last person in America to see this movie. But I’m so glad I finally did – and NOT because I look anything like Amy Adams, as Sara Lindsey seems to think (although perhaps I share her character’s goofiness), but because it was the cinematic equivalent of what I’m trying to do when I write romance.

My books are silly. They’re filled with cliche’d phrases and plot elements, and (in)conveniently timed interruptions. It’s a self-conscious silliness. As a genre, romance asks the reader to accept a lot of improbable situations. It makes me think of the White Queen telling Alice that she too could believe six impossible things before breakfast, if only she practiced. Some writers are able to sketch such vivid pictures of their world and characters, that I can believe those six impossible things. With other books, I simply skim past my disbelief and try to enjoy the story for what it is: a modern fairy tale.

I’m not such an accomplished historian or student of human nature that I could fall into the first category. So my goal is never to ask the reader to suspend disbelief. You’re encouraged to disbelieve the absurdity of the situations in my books – my characters can hardly believe it themselves. Laugh with my books, laugh at my books – I don’t really care. But while you’re laughing, I’m going to sneak some real emotion in there.

This is why Enchanted makes even the most jaded hearts melt … Read More »

You know that feeling you get when you’re **thiisss** close to winning at chess, or to untangling a very large, very uncooperative knot? Sort of itchy and excited and tense all at once – you can see the nine or ten moves it will take to get there, but in order to complete them you’ve got to concentrate and shush those around you and frown really hard, or else you’ll lose the sequence and that way lies much weeping and gnashing of teeth?

This is pretty much where I’m at with Surrender of a Siren. **Thiiisss** close to finishing the draft and terrified to break my concentration. What little of it I can gather, at any rate.

To that end, I’m going to be a bad blogger and commenter over the next few weeks. Uh, just like I have been for the past few weeks. Sorry!

Goals for the new year?
*Maintain tenuous hold on sanity.
*Walk more to prevent brain atrophy (I read this in an in-flight magazine). And my brain is atrophying at an alarming rate. I shake my head and things rattle in there.
*Go to England.

That’s all I can muster the concentration for right now.… Read More »

The Dare family is off for our Christmas holiday in sunny Florida, by way of a Caribbean cruise. Wheee! Now there’s just the matter of that frantic last-second packing…

This blog will be on vacay until New Year-ish. Hope you all have fun with your loved ones, dishing TMI the old fashioned way… over eggnog and Yahtzee.… Read More »

First, winners!
Congrats, Sara Lindsey! Randomizer chose you – and boy, did you ever work for that prize. So many great suggestions.
Everyone made great suggestions, and it was really hard to choose. But for the meantime (and it’s always subject to change again), I think I’m going to go with Lindsey’s suggestion of “Stubb(s)” (I’m thus far ambivalent about that S at the end) – mostly for the simple reason that it rhymes with his old name. And because Stubb is a name crying out for a peg-leg, and that would be cool. So congratulations, Lindsey! Email me with your favorite dot-com book outlet, and I’ll set you up.

On to TMI…
Okay, so a long, long time ago (so long ago I’m not even up for searching the archives – but yes, I’m basically recycling that post), I blogged about how I wanted to write books where the reader fell in love with not just the hero, but the couple.

My example went something like this. There are some books where I am so in love with the hero, I would like to go through the book, page by page, and cross out the heroine’s name and write “Tessa” instead. If I could borrow the Jasper-Ffordemobile and travel into that fictional world… that man is mine.

By contrast, when I’m in love with the couple, I couldn’t imagine ever doing such a thing. Never ever in a million years would I part Darcy from Lizzy, … Read More »

My brilliant CP, Ms. Courtney Milan, has won first place in the Golden Pen with her manuscript, Abducting Oliver! Congratulations, CM! I’m so proud.

Not that this comes as any surprise.

Add your “I knew it” or “Of course she did” or “I told you so” here.

And by all means, keep adding to the contest entries in the post below!… Read More »

And left a check, from Random House. Just in time for Christmas. I’m a paid author now. Wow.

So, I’m in the mood to celebrate. And speaking of grizzled, bearded old guys, I’m also in the mood to rename one of my characters. So, contest time!

I have a character in Goats on a Boat Surrender of a Siren (as it says in my shiny new contract) in dire need of a new name. He’s the steward of the ship, which means he’s the captain’s manservant. His working name has been “Grub” – because I wanted something one-syllable with an evocative sound, like “Smee” from Peter Pan. I chose “Grub” after picking out random syllables from Lewis Carroll’s The Jabberwocky. For some reason, I kept gravitating toward G – “gyre”, “gimble” (that was his name at one point), “grabe”. But alas, I already have two other characters whose names start with “G” – not least of all, the hero, Gray. So I need a name with a different evocative sound. His primary characteristics are a flair for theatrics and a lot of hair:

Surely there was a man in there somewhere, Sophia thought. Somewhere under all that hair.

The hunched, ancient steward shuffled down the narrow staircase, whistling a jaunty tune as he went. She followed, treading gingerly on the bowed boards. As her eyes adjusted to the dim lighting, she took in the greasy, gray tangle of hair that hung midway down the man’s back, the grizzled

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Well, my contest career is officially over. All my scoresheets and rankings and whatnot have at long last returned, almost eight months after I sent my first entry off. In total I entered five contests. In two I did not final, in three I did. I placed everywhere from (the bottom of) the bottom third to first place.

So, what lessons did I glean from this short foray into the craziness of romance contests?

I would say I learned something about hooks. The two contests I won were the two I entered with my first 50 pages. The two contests in which I did not final were ones that asked for 25-30 pages. (the fifth contest, for those doing math, was for sexy scenes) In my manuscript, 50 pages ended with the heroine nearly drowning, then calling the hero a cold, heartless man who hadn’t the courage to love. By contrast, 25-30 pages got me somewhere into the middle of breakfast.

Lesson 1: Breakfast is not a good hook. Not even a breakfast with chocolate.

Some judges adored my heroine. Others called her TSTL. Some judges thought my hero was “perfect”. Others said he was boring and blank. Some judges thought my sense of period was smooth and believable; others found errors in every garment, furnishing, and plant I described. And in every contest, one judge – the same judge? – would complain that I did not include enough smells.

Lesson 2: I’m never, ever going to please everyone. And
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You know, I just had this fairly salacious topic all ready to go today… and then I decided to save it for next week. I’m just not in the mood.

And then I thought – that could be a topic all on its own. Is anyone in romance ever allowed to be simply “not in the mood”? I’m rifling through my mental library and coming up empty. I can think of scenes where some “headache” or “female troubles” complaint is issued, but it’s always insincere. The complainer usually secretly longs to be ravished anyhow. And often enough, she gets her wish. And the men – I don’t think most romance heroes even have a switch that turns them off.

Anyone out there read or written a true “not in the mood” scene? Or is that just too real-life for a romantic fantasy?

I’m coming up on a scene in my WIP where the hero turns down the offer of more, because what he wants at that moment is just a kiss. But he’s still in the mood. Hm.… Read More »

For the writers among us… as you’re writing a book, what scenes do you look forward to? What is it that keeps you motivated and progressing? Is it the promise of bringing your h/h together, or the sick thrill of tearing them apart?

Be honest, now.
I always thought my answer was the former, but today I’m not so sure.

Readers… uh, same question. Only with “reading” instead of “writing”.
:o)… Read More »

After writing that title, I realize “quickies” could make for a really interesting topic some Tuesday.

But not this Tuesday.

I’m going to be out and about most of the day, so I thought we’d try another fill-in-the-blank, since it was so much fun last time.

So complete the following: (and if you don’t celebrate Christmas… uh… edit the prompt as you wish)

I couldn’t bring myself to write it down in a letter. I certainly couldn’t ask for it in the middle of a crowded mall, surrounded by strangers. But if I could whisper one wish in Santa’s ear and know it would come true — this year, I’d ask for __________.

(And please, no one spoil the fun by saying “world peace” or “an end to hunger” and making the rest of us look like self-absorbed, uncaring fools. Sure, we all want those things, too. Assume they’re the unspoken wishes #1 and #2, and this is #3. A purely selfish bonus to reward yourself, after you’ve saved the world.)

I’m still thinking about mine…… Read More »