The 2018 Paranormal Romance Reviewer’s Choice Awards

What? Two posts in as many days?

Not to worry–I’m not going to be slamming you with posts. But I did want to share with you my news! Ghost of a Chance and the Redclaw Security series have both been nominated for awards in the 2018 PRG Reviewer’s Choice Awards! Voting began Jan 19th and will run through Jan 29th. Winners will be announced by Jan 31.

If you’d like to vote, go here. You can only vote once. If you’d like to vote for Ghost of a Chance, I’d greatly appreciate it! (I doubt anyone knows I exist!)

If you’re not familiar with the Paranormal Romance Guild, you should check them out! Every paranormal romance author should consider joining the Guild–they have so much to offer! They review books, schedule book tours, offer connections between those seeking beta readers and critique services, and have all kinds of workshops and forums. Don’t write paranormal romance? They’ll review romance novels from any genre! (I know, I questioned that myself, but I asked and they are happy to do so!) You can join as a free (reader) membership or as a paid member. They also have a Facebook group–Sundays are promo days—and Facebook page.

I love their year-end awards list because it is a great place to find new-to-me reads. So I was tickled to death when I got the email notifying me of the nomination! It’s definitely an honor to be among such great authors and terrific stories. Even if you’re not inclined to vote, you should check out the list of nominees. You’ll find some great reads there!

One of a Kind Christmas by Lexie Post: Book Tour and Giveaway!

One of a Kind Christmas
A Christmas Carol Book #4
By Lexi Post

Lexi has a $25 Gift Card to giveaway during the tour. Please use the Rafflecopter below to enter. Remember you may enter every day for your chance to win. You may find the tour locations here https://goo.gl/sPP5CV.

About One of a Kind Christmas:

For her to love him, he must face a spirit, an archangel…and himself.

The spirit of Cameron Douglas has totally screwed-up…again. Now, he has to fix his mess in one night with the help of his best friend and somehow encourage his widow to move on.
Holly Douglas is anguished that this is the last Christmas she’ll be visited by her late husband, Cameron. For three years he’s sent her the spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, and they‘ve helped her cope with her loss. But now all that ends, and she doesn’t understand why he must push her away.

Ethan Stewart has been in love with Holly since Cameron’s death, but she isolated herself from everyone, including him. Then something changed, and he was welcomed back as her friend. But he wants more— to love her openly, and most of all to make her happy again. Though he loved his best friend like a brother and will do anything for Holly, as he’s pulled into the spirit world, he discovers the price they must pay for their chance at forever…and it just might be too high.

Releases Day December 5, 2018

Buy Links for One of a Kind Christmas:

Excerpt:

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath before opening them. “I miss Cam. It was as if we were two parts of the same soul. I lived vicariously through him even while I worried constantly about him. It was one of the reasons I was constantly warning him to be careful. I was afraid to lose him.”
Ethan looked away and rubbed the back of his neck. “And then I did.”
She felt as if her heart were breaking all over again, not for her but for Ethan. He was so good to her. He even loved her. And she… “Ethan, I understand.”
His gaze returned to hers. Though she couldn’t see his face clearly, the limited light reflected off the sheen in his eyes.
She placed her hand on his cheek and rising on her toes brushed her lips across his in a feather-light kiss. She only meant to give comfort, but a spark of something else hit her heart.
She remained there, her lips close to his but not touching, wanting more but afraid to ask.
Ethan remained absolutely still, his breath mixing with her own.
He loved her but would never push her. It wasn’t his nature. She could walk away right now, but to what?
Nothing.
She stared at his mouth in the dim light. She wanted to live again. She wanted to feel again. Tilting her head, she pressed her lips more firmly against his, moving her hand down his stubbled jaw and behind his neck to pull him closer.
Ethan’s lips opened, and she slipped her tongue between them.
As his arms came around her, it was like waking from a dream. A slow burn flowed through her veins as he took control of the kiss and explored her mouth with his tongue. It was an unhurried exploration and heat built in her belly. When he pulled back to lick the underside of her top lip, she took her first deep breath. As she exhaled, tingles spread throughout her body.
He kissed the corners of her mouth before leaning his forehead against her own. “Ye catch my blood on fire, lass.”

Other Books in the Series:

A Christmas Carol Book 1, Pleasures of Christmas Past is on sale for only $.99!

Pleasures of Christmas Past (A Christmas Carol Book 1) by [Post, Lexi]

Jessica is assigned a hot, Scottish mentor who confuses her heart. But will he protect her soul?

Buy Links for Pleasures of Christmas Past:

Desires of Christmas Present (A Christmas Carol Book 2)

Desires of Christmas Present (A Christmas Carol Book 2) by [Post, Lexi]

Sometimes not knowing is better…for everyone.

Temptations of Christmas Future (A Christmas Carol Book 3)

Temptations of Christmas Future (A Christmas Carol Book 3) by [Post, Lexi]

He set out to prove the future was far worse than she imagined. Now he wished it wasn’t.

About the Author:

Lexi Post is a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of romance inspired by the classics. She spent years in higher education taking and teaching courses about the classical literature she loved. From Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Masque of the Red Death” to Tolstoy’s War and Peace, she’s read, studied, and taught wonderful classics.
But Lexi’s first love is romance novels so she married her two first loves, romance and the classics. From hot paranormals to sizzling cowboys to hunks from out of this world, Lexi provides a sensuous experience with a “whole lotta story.”
Lexi is living her own happily ever after with her husband and her cat in Florida. She makes her own ice cream every weekend, loves bright colors, and you will never see her without a hat.


Lexi’s Social Links:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Christmas Ballet by Constance Bretes: Book Tour and Giveaway!

The Christmas Ballet
By Constance Bretes

Constance has 2 $10 gift certificates to Paparazzi Accessories to giveaway during the tour. Please use the Rafflecopter below to enter. Remember you may enter every day for your chance to win one of the prize packages. You may find the tour locations here https://goo.gl/taJJDH.

About The Christmas Ballet:

Laura Hemmingway cut herself off from men and her family when the man she loved married her sister. She moved across the country and was doing just fine until she received a devastating call to return to New York. She had to face the death of her sister, her sister’s little girl, Maria, and Maria’s father, Stefan—the man she had once loved. She figured she would pay her respects and leave as soon as possible. She never anticipated on the beautiful little girl stealing her heart. And she never expected that seeing Stefan again after twelve years would stir up old feelings.

Stefan’s life was complete. He had a successful career as an attorney, a beautiful wife and an adorable six-year-old daughter. Although he and his wife had been married in name only for the past several years, he cared for her deeply. Then her unexpected death brought him face-to-face with his former lover, and the guilt he’d carried for years.
Stefan is still in love with Laura and wants to give her everything she deserves. He and Maria are racing against time to convince Laura to stay with them in New York.

Can a little girl’s love, and the true magic of Christmas, help Stefan convince Laura to stay and give their relationship another chance?

Content Warning: contains some sexual content
Genre – Contemporary Romance
Heat Level – Hot

Excerpt from The Christmas Ballet:

He smiled as he thought about the look on her face when he’d stroked her. Maybe she was more interested in him than she either believed or cared to be.
Then he thought of something. “One more thing, Laura,” he called out to her, and she stopped at the door and turned around.
“On the nineteenth, the law firm is hosting the annual Christmas party. It’s quite grand and lasts all evening long.”
“You want me to be sure to be available to babysit Maria,” Laura said.
“No. I want you to plan to come with me.”
“What?”
“Remember that beautiful, green, velvet dress we saw at Macy’s? I want you to get that dress, and the accessories to go with it, and attend the party with me.”
“Stefan, really. You know I don’t go to those types of events, and I don’t wear those kinds of clothes. I’m not comfortable with either of those things.”
“You need to get comfortable.” He smiled.
“This is not a part of a job for the nanny and teacher. It’s out of the range of the job description. You need to get Ginger to go with you. I’m not going.” She gave him a defiant look.
“Laura, I want to take you to this event. I’m not taking no for an answer. I will arrange for Rhonda to take you shopping to help you get what you need. You will charge all the purchases to a credit card I will give you that’s for your use only. This is the first of many social parties you will be attending.”
He watched her as she clenched her hands into fists and released them.
“Who do you think you will get to care for Maria on these…occasions?”
“Usually Lillian is available.”
“Stefan, it’s my job to care for Maria, not be your date to your parties. I don’t like being told what I will or won’t do. I don’t like social parties, and I don’t like wearing expensive clothes. It’s not me, and you’re not going to change me.”
“I don’t want to change you. I want you to attend an event by my side. It won’t hurt you to have some beautiful clothing to show your feminine side. I want the world to see the beauty I see. Be glad I want to show you off. Some men might decide they don’t want others to see what they see.”
“Flattery doesn’t work with me. You can tell me what to do as far as Maria is concerned, but my personal life is off limits to you.”
“That’s good to know. At least I know you won’t get carried away and escape my grasp by someone making flattering remarks to you. Your personal life interests me.”
“Stefan, you just don’t get it. I am not going to this party,” she said, enunciating each word slowly and carefully. “Besides, your mother would be horrified to see me walk in with you.” Her face hardened as she stared at him.
“Look at it this way—you’d be doing me a big favor.”
“How?” She raised an eyebrow.
“I’m not interested in the other women that come to this social party looking for an eligible bachelor. With you on my arm, it would send a clear message to all the others that I’m taken.”
“God, you’re impossible. Ginger is more than capable of providing you that kind of service.”
“I don’t want Ginger. You have the grace, quiet beauty, and finesse I want in a date, and I will not take no for an answer. After Maria’s recital, you and Rhonda will set a shopping date. And one more thing. When you get your hair done, I’d like you to wear it down.” He smiled at her.
“This is not going to happen.” She put her hands on her hips and glared at him.
“It will. I’ll just have Maria work on you.” He eyed her.
“What?”
Stefan grinned. “You heard me. You’d never turn down anything from Maria.”
“Grrrr.” She growled and stomped up the stairs.
He laced his hands and put them behind his head. Oh yeah, it’ll be a night she’ll never forget.

About the Author:
Constance Bretes is an author of contemporary romance and suspense. Her romance books are often set in different parts of the country, but her favorite site is Montana. She retired from the State of Michigan after 38-plus years of service and now writes and researches full time. She is married to her best friend and has recently moved from Montana to Alabama. Her hobbies include basket weaving, sapphire digging, and checking out old ghost towns.

Constance’s Social Links:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

It’s a Winter Wonderland Giveaway!

Hello My Awesome Readers,

The annual Winter Wonderland romance reader event is on!

 

Ready to Win? I’ve teamed up with Night Owl Romance and other authors to bring you the chance to win a Kindle, Amazon cards, SpaFinder.com cards, Sephora.com cards and eBooks.

 

During this event I’m going to help you find some great new books. Make sure to check my novel Ghost of a Chance along the way. 

 

The grand prize is a Kindle Fire HD 8 w/Alexa!

 

Enter the giveaway at: http://bit.ly/NorWinter2018

 

What a wonderful Christmas gift, eh? And even if you don’t win, there are fabulous deals on great stories so it really is a win-win for everyone! Since the weather outside is frightful, let’s sit down in front of a fire with some delightful hot reads to warm us up!

 

 

Will Audiobooks Replace the Written Word?

Photo by Kaboompics .com from Pexels

Let me start this post by saying I’m not against audiobooks. I’m listening to an audiobook right now, as it was started on a long car drive and I hadn’t finished it by the time I returned home. A well-done audiobook is a delight, and some of my favorites include the Poirot books read by David Suchet, the actor who has played Poirot in some of the Agatha Christie screen adaptations.

My husband has a two hour commute to work each day, and has become a big fan of podcasts as a result. My current commute is much shorter, so I tend to listen to music instead. I get frustrated when I can’t listen to something in large blocks of time. I also tend to use walking the dogs and riding horses as a writing brainstorming time, and as such, would prefer music or simply appreciating nature to listening to an audiobook anyway. Ditto the rare times I clean house. 🙂 Since I tend to listen to an audibook when I’m doing something else, I’m usually not able to devote my full attention to it, and as such, I don’t feel as though I’m getting the maximum amount of enjoyment out of the story as I would if I were reading it instead.

But I don’t begrudge people the right or ability to access their reading material via audio over the printed word. For many, audio represents the only way they can easily access books, especially for the visually impaired. Many more simply prefer audio to print. Perhaps like everyone else, they’re so busy it’s the only way they can fit “reading” into their schedule. Or maybe reading presents challenges for them that listening does not. I’m all for people accessing fiction any way they can get it, and it is one reason I’d like to create audio versions of all my works.

As a reader, however, I can rarely afford to buy audiobooks. Death on the Nile as read by David Suchet is almost $30 US dollars. Newer cars are no longer including CD players, so checking out books on CD from the local library won’t work for me either. Sure, I can subscribe to a service like Audible.com but we’re back to another subscription service. Do I really want to pay for cable, Netflix, Hulu, CBS All-Access, Kindle Unlimited, Scribd, and Audible, too?

The answer is no.

Yes, I have a smartphone, but it’s an Android, not Apple. I don’t have a tablet. I have an elderly iPod Nano that is on its last legs and I don’t want to lose it because they aren’t freaking making them anymore and that’s how I listen to music in the car. *weeps*

But that’s okay, right? I don’t have to listen to audiobooks if I don’t want to.

Only the buzz I keep hearing is that in the not-too-distant future, everything is going to go the way of audiobooks and podcasts. I haven’t been able to pin down the source of this information, but I keep hearing it repeated over and over. Certainly articles such as as in Forbes, calling Audiobooks Officially 2018’s Publishing Trend would seem to support this notion. Sales of audiobooks were up 43% in 2018. I keep getting advice to make podcasts, or short video presentations on Youtube. Every time I open a news article, it pops up with video. Whenever I click on a link for marketing information these days, it is only available in a video format.

I have to say, as a consumer, this pisses me off a bit. I can read an article–and retain the information in it–faster and more efficiently than it takes for me to watch a 45 minute video. I can read articles on my lunch break–or when I have five minutes between appointments. Presenting everything in video format also assumes the viewer has perfect hearing, which isn’t necessarily the case. Moreover, I can’t watch videos until I’ve finished my 10-12 hour workday and am at home with the headphones on so as not to interrupt anyone else’s activity, and let me tell you, I have more pressing needs to take care of by then. Am I going to take 45 minutes to watch another video or spend that block of time writing a scene? Writing is going to take precedence every time.

As a writer, this notion that everything will go to audio format in the future disturbs me greatly. For starters, creating quality audiobooks is expensive. I experimented with creating an audiobook for one of my older stories, and I found that while I could lower production costs by sharing royalties with the narrator, the top-notch narrators wanted payment up front. Also, for the costs involved, the payout is skewed. Despite the high costs of production, only a sliver of money earned gets paid in royalties. I have as yet to recoup my ROI for my one attempt at producing an audiobook. I may never earn back the investment at this rate.

But it’s possible I’m just doing things wrong. Perhaps my tech is out of date. Maybe I’m uninformed because I’m behind the times. So I’m curious: how do you consume your fictions these days? Ebook? Print? Audiobook? Do you pay for a subscription service? Are you finding limitations on the books you’d like to check out because it doesn’t come in your preferred format? If you preferentially consume audiobooks, does this dictate what other books you may or may not read?

If you’re an author, what cost-effective methods are you using to invest in audiobook production? Are you seeing a ROI? What service are you using? How are you finding your narrators?

Drop a comment here and let me know what you’re doing. I’ll select someone at random from the comments to win their choice of one of my stories (though sadly, they will only be available as ebooks).

Friday Feature: His Midnight Sun by Viviana MacKade

 

 

Hey, it’s Feature Friday, so that means we have a guest poster today. Please welcome Viviana MacKade as she shares with us a little about her upcoming release, His Midnight Sun!

 

 

 

 

 

His Midnight Sun

by Viviana MacKade

 

Tormented, fierce, and broken, sculptor Aidan Murphy has judged himself guilty. He yearns for love but pushes everyone away. He longs for acceptance but has lost the key to open his heart. Until he meets Summer Williams. Beautiful and smart, Dr. Williams promises haven for a man who believes he deserves none. All he has to do is let her in and risk his heart and soul.

Summer’s managed to keep her inner light alive, even through tragedy. She’s created a new life for herself and her daughter in Crescent Creek with loving, caring and fun friends–well, except brooding, breathtaking Aidan. She’s used to keeping away from his type, though. All she has to do is ignore the pull of a man who’s turning up to be much more than snarls and storms. Will her compassion and medical instincts let her?

Love can heal a broken soul and shake up a timid heart. Or it can unleash devastation and revenge.

Will Aidan and Summer survive the hurricane?

 

Release September 15, available for pre-sale

$ 0.99 FREE with KU

On Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

I didn’t realize His Midnight Sun had a theme until well after I finished it. Honestly, I don’t write to teach, preach or any other significant and profound reason. I write to entertain. To give people a break. I like to think my stories are fairy tales for adults, where the characters go through changes and problems and tragedies, but will get to the happily ever after. The great Susan Elizabeth Phillips said that life is too short to waste with depressing books, and that sums perfectly the way I want my books to be.

An escape. Heaven knows if we all need it one sometimes.

So I didn’t have anything in mind other than telling Aidan’s story when I started.

And what do you know, I found myself with a phoenix’s story. A man who learns how to leave the past where it’s supposed to stay, who learns how to forgive himself and how to accept love. And through him, I discovered the same things. In many ways, Aidan’s story is my story, his demons are my demons, and because of him, I saw a way to boot them out.

Summer showed him the power of love–not just romantic love, but for the other people. For friends and strangers alike. Which turned out to be the theme of the book.

The healing power of love.

 

 

Excerpt

Chapter 1

 

Crescent Creek, early July.

With no fight left in him, Aidan Murphy sank down on the wooden floor of his home studio.

Done.

Aidan filled his burning sight with the finished, almost 7 feet tall piece of art. Hell to work on, pure and simple, but it couldn’t be helped, not when it had called to him with such powerful voice.

Two weeks earlier, he’d been wandering around the stone-site when his skin began humming, and his heart beating faster. Years of sculpting had taught him how to hear the calling, the silent scream of whatever form lay trapped inside the rocks begging him to free it.

He’d followed his guts like so many times before and laying a palm on the cold, white alabaster, had known something waited in there. He’d bought the squared monstrosity, never stopped working on it since the day it had been delivered to his address. At every bite of the masonry blade, at every kiss of the chisel and caress of the rasp, its voice had been easier to hear, pushing him, constantly pushing him to keep going, keep working.

A couple had emerged from the stone and if beauty could hurt, by God, this one would in so many ways. Those two people were set to break any viewer’s heart. Nothing happy or gleeful about them, nothing about being lost in the fallacy of love; the pair stood in a tight embrace made of disillusion and reality. Rightfully so, because wasn’t love just that? Another form of pain? A delusion?

Aidan shook his head. Whatever love was for the average person, these two people he’d given life to scratched at the thick walls of his reticent heart. He didn’t care for such shit.

Much smarter to focus on his very real, very tired body.

Too bad the small motherfucker rock poked at the edge of his consciousness, staring from the opposite side of the room.

Not the colossal couple he’d just freed from alabaster. Oh, no, the one giving him attitude was a stupid overgrown pebble slightly smaller than his fist. Why was it even in the house? He’d cut outside, it made no sense for it to be there. “Shut the fuck up,” he grumbled, rubbing exhausted eyes with scarred, dirty hands.

Never a stone’s call had been left unanswered, but… fuck it, it was too much, too soon. He needed time to return human before starting a new project and besides, what could possibly be inside that little piece of shit? A fucking bug? “Fuck off.”

Of course, the nagging didn’t stop.

Ignoring the silent pull to the useless stone, he got up, walked to the other side of the room, picked it up and all but crashed it on his desk. “Better leave it alone, matey. Next time you bug me, I’ll turn you into sable. Ugly fucker.”

Aches pulsed and hissed everywhere; a thin layer of dust, crumble of wax, and sweat covered him, made his skin prickle. For all the good clothes had done to him, he might as well work buck naked next time.

Back in front of the new statue he stood, hands on hips, looking at it–tall and strong, fiercely beautiful in its message of pain. Perfect.

A sudden ray of light stabbed his eyes, made him jerk his head in protection. Fucking morning sun. Or afternoon sun. He had no clue. It was hard to tell the passing of time when he got lost in the wild, strenuous journey into the heart of a rock.

How many days had gone since it had been delivered and he’d started working on it, four? Probably more as not bruising the stone had slowed everything down. He’d heard fireworks in the distance, so Independence Day had come and gone. Hard to say how long had passed after it.

For days he’d eaten bread straight from the plastic bag or some other easy crap when hunger punched his stomach; had drank lukewarm water from bottles scattered everywhere; slept on the couch when he made it so far from the sculpture, although most of the times he’d pass out on the hard floor until discomfort woke him up, and he’d go back at the rock again.

Ah, but what an adventure, he thought with awe as he ran a hand over the side of the sculpted woman.

Now he was done, meaning he didn’t want to have anything to do with stones for the near future.

He took a sharp intake of air when the little rock on his desk poked at his mind again. No clue as to when but at some point, the cleaning crew would come, let’s see how the rock would like it. “If I throw you back on the floor, they will get rid of you. That’s right, they’ll throw you away,” he croaked, his damned throat hurting from not having talked in days.

Aidan sat down, stretched his aching legs in front of him, and tried to lean back on his arms; his muscles screamed in protest. 

Shit, he was in pieces, worse than usual.

Giving up, he laid on the dirty floor and closed his eyes–they scratched like sandpaper.

Bed. He craved a bed more than the next breath. Decent food. A shower. After that, the little stone would stop being a bitch and leave him alone. It was only a fucking pebble, a leftover from the couple and too small to have anything special in it, anyway.

He’d wait five minutes, no more, and he’d get up, order food, hit the shower and, finally, pass out on a real bed. Satisfied with the carved couple, clean, and with a full belly.

Just five more minutes.

 

THE AUTHOR

Beach bum and country music addicted, Viviana lives in a small Floridian town with her husband and her son, her die-hard fans and personal cheer squad. She spends her days between typing on her beloved keyboard, playing in the pool with her boy, and eating whatever her husband puts on her plate (the guy is that good, and she really loves eating). Besides beaching, she enjoys long walks, horse-riding, hiking, and pretty much whatever she can do outside with her family.

 

Find me:

On my website http://www.viviana-mackade.blog/

On FB

On Twitter

Amazon Author page

 

Free Stories, Upcoming Releases, and More!

Because it’s a national holiday here in the US, I’ve opted to move WIP Wed to next week–so be sure to come back to participate then!

I’m considering starting a New Release Saturday as well–where people can drop in and share what they have that’s about to come out–what do you think?

In the meantime, I’m in the final edits on Ghost of a Chance, the next standalone in the Redclaw Security series.

I can’t wait to share this one with you! I see a lot of similarities between Sarah and myself: we’re both fangirls and we grew up frequently hearing how we fell short on expectations. Part of Sarah’s journey will be to recognize her self-worth, and discovering things some people see as flaws can be your biggest strengths.

As part of the run up to the next book release, first Reclaw book, The Panther’s Lost Princess is FREE until July 5th,  so grab your copy now!

The Greatest Threat to Your Creativity Isn’t What You Think It Is

All my life, I’ve been a daydreamer. So much so, my parents despaired of my ever being functional in society. There were even times when I decided that daydreaming was bad for me, and counterproductive to my goals in life, and that I should do my darnedest to quit. To stop inserting myself into my favorite books, shows, and movies, having grand adventures throughout the day as I went about my daily tasks.

I was never successful at eradicating this behavior, and eventually I embraced it for what it was: a rich fermentation vat of ideas that would bubble and simmer until they produced a story of my own, something original and unique to me. I’ve always been a writer at heart.

The good news is I managed to be a productive member of society despite the relative ease with which I could drop into another universe. I discovered online fanfiction archives, wrote over a million words of fanfic, and then began writing my own original stories. In my fandom days, I wrote the equivalent of a novella a month. The words just flowed out of me. The transition to original fiction wasn’t without its bumps in the road, and my productivity slowed down as the stakes became higher. Without a built-in audience, world-building and character development had to be stronger. It wasn’t sufficient to have beta readers–you need betas, critique partners, and a good editor if you want to turn out quality work. You can’t just throw down words and have everyone applaud because they love your pairing and they’d leave kudos on a story where your characters read from the back of a cereal box. Writing for fun is lovely, but the more you write, the greater the drive becomes to do better than the last story. You begin seeing where you failed, and how your craft doesn’t measure up to your favorite artists. You can either quit at this point, or buckle down and do the hard work. But hard work takes time.

So I just assumed my new glacial pace of story production was pretty normal. After all, I have a stressful day job and a home life that’s heavy on commitments. Some of the people turning out a book every month are actually writing teams, which makes me feel a bit better about only getting out one or two stories a year. 

But the other day, a realization struck me like a bolt of lightning out of a cloudless blue sky.

I don’t daydream any more.

Could that be why my production is way down?

I used to play scenes from potential stories in my head at every free moment–outlandish, outrageous self-insert scenes to occupy my mind as I walked the dogs, or did some sort of mindless task (like the dishes, or folding clothes), or commuting to work, or just before I fell asleep at night. I’d replay the scenes over and over, polishing the dialog, perfecting the action, trimming the worst of the excesses, eventually removing myself as the heroine and replacing the lead with one of my characters. When I sat down to write, the scene was right there before me–I only had to smooth off the rough spots and blend it into the story I wanted to tell. Even better, if I was stuck on something, entering that day-dreamy state of mind often allowed me to untangle a thorny plot problem, causing me to suddenly shout “Eureka!” and grab the nearest pen.

But I don’t do that any more.

My daily commute, which used to be over an hour, is now less than 15 minutes most days. While I’m delighted to get two hours of my life back every day, I actually made good use of that time when I was driving by plotting and daydreaming about my stories. I rarely listen to music these days, as I mostly did so when driving. Music has the power to send me to that dreamer’s state more quickly than almost anything else, and without the pleasant background noise, I find it hard to get in the zone. But I rarely have the time to just sit and listen to music the way I did when commuting.

Getting a good night’s sleep is tough for me these days as well, so I usually read until I fall asleep instead of daydreaming. To be honest, I’m almost afraid to let my mind ‘go’ when I’m trying to fall asleep because instead of exciting adventures or romantic encounters, my brain is most likely to circle at the base of the Anxiety Tree, worrying at problems out of my control for the moment. So yeah, I’d rather lose myself in reading.

Worst, now when I’m walking the dogs, I’ve got the phone in my hand, checking my social media sites. That used to be a BIG source of my plotting time–I’d enter the theta brainwave zone and happily organize plots, scenes, and time lines while getting some much-needed exercise for both me and the dogs.

But now that phone is out and I’m checking to see what fresh outrage is occurring on Twitter.

I used to be the sort of person who carried a book with them everywhere, so if I had to wait somewhere, I could happily read. Reading served as fuel for my own story ideas, creating a lovely cycle of creativity. Now I scroll through timelines. An obsessive thumbing of bite sized pieces of information that frequently has a negative impact on my mental well-being.

The other night, my husband and I were out at dinner, and after we’d placed our orders and caught up with each other’s day, somehow we both drifted into scrolling on our phones. If this is something a middle-aged person that addictive to a middle-aged person, I fear for the minds of our kids. I really do.

I’m not saying don’t be informed. We need to be informed. We need to share information: about natural disasters, government atrocities, mass shootings, lost pets, you name it. We also need to share the good things: our wins, both big and small, the things that encourage us and make us smile, that give us hope when all hope is dying. But we shouldn’t let the constant NOISE of information drown out our creative voice.

We’re told we as creative types must maintain a presence on social media, and I believe this to be true. But I think our utter dependence on our phones to keep us occupied AT ALL TIMES is extremely detrimental to the creative mindset.

Blonde girl with retro camera

I recently read an article that said taking photos of a trip makes your brain forget the memories of the trip itself, and while that appalls me (because I love taking pictures), I can understand it too. Because you’re ‘capturing the moment’ on your device, your brain doesn’t feel the need to do so in the same detail. Think about it: do you remember phone numbers anymore? I don’t. I know where to find someone’s contact information on my cell phone, but I’d be out of luck if I had to call someone if my phone was damaged or the battery was dead. (NTS: make a list of important phone numbers and keep it in your car)

So while I see the need to keep feeding content to my audience, wouldn’t the better use of my time be to write actual, real content instead of snapshots of the boring life of a middle-aged woman? I can answer that one myself: yes.

And while I’m still going to take photographs, it won’t be the first thing I do when I arrive somewhere new. I’m going to take a deep breath and appreciate the scenery. I’m going to memorize what the air smells like, and what sounds I hear, and how I feel at that moment before I pull out my camera.

I can’t leave my phone at home when I am out and about because I need to be available 24/7. But I can choose not to take it out when I’m walking the dogs, or bringing the horses in from the pasture, or waiting in line at the DMV. I’ve deleted most of my social media. I’ve gone back to carrying a book or an e-reader. I’m making a point to listen to more music–turning off commercial radio and just playing the songs I want to hear. Because it doesn’t matter how much content I feed an audience if there isn’t a book to go with it eventually.

And you know what? I’ve started daydreaming again. Without any attempt on my part to make it happen. I just had to open the window to let it in.

 

The Language of Romance Novels: Sweet and Sensual vs Hot and Steamy?

I’m in the process of making up a bunch of promotional posts in advance for a fest I’m doing in July, and one of the prompts was “Sweet and Steamy or Hot and Heavy?”

Which got me to thinking about the kinds of things I like in my romances.

I live for the slow burn romance. I want to watch the characters get to know each other, overcome obstacles (personal or otherwise) to be together, work for the reward–which is usually a sex scene but not always. Sex can take place at any point in the story, but I tend to prefer the slow burn where the characters lead up to it over time. I also enjoy it when sex doesn’t prove to be the magic solution to their relationship issues–that it frequently complicates things before the characters get it sorted out. As both a reader and a writer, it’s part of the payoff for being invested in the relationship.

But I was a bit bothered by the terms here: sweet vs hot. Or sometimes it’s ‘clean vs spicy’. These are terms the romance industry uses to help readers determine how much sex is in their stories, and most of the time, that subtle warning system works for me. Kind of like how I know what to expect when I go see a Star Trek movie in terms of violence and sex (which is why I’m a HARD PASS on a Tarantino-directed R rated Star Trek Movie. No Just. Ugh. No.)

“Clean” to denote a romance where the sex takes place behind closed doors/off-stage makes me stabby. I resent the implication sex is somehow dirty if depicted on page. “Spicy” makes me stabby too. It’s feels like a euphemism because we’re not grown up enough to say the ‘naughty’ words. Mind you, I understand why authors feel compelled to use these terms–it’s because even if the audience doesn’t explicitly know what they mean with reference to the story, the meaning is implied well enough that they can guess.

“Sweet” is marginally better. It’s clear where the industry is going with this–a one-word term to instantly identify the heat level of a story to a reader–especially since heat levels mean different things to different people. Sweet doesn’t mean there can’t be any sex at all during the story (though sometimes that’s the case). It’s just when it does occur, it takes place off-screen. There are times when that’s exactly the kind of story I’m looking for, and it’s nice to know nice to know in advance what you’re getting. Likewise when I read a blurb for a Regency romance that states the heroine is a widow, it’s pretty much a given there will be sex between the main characters. As long as there isn’t a bunch of teasing with long, complicated reasons as to why the characters never have sex at all, I’m okay with the fade-to-black scenes. If the characters are demonstrably showing passion for one another but that passion never takes place–either on screen or implied–then I tend to get a little cranky. Unfortunately, “sweet” as a term to describe stories with no on screen sex makes me think of a vapid, usually blonde heroine who hasn’t a clue–or else a story so full of saccharine it makes my teeth ache to contemplate reading it.

But recently I’ve read some wonderful stories that could have technically described as sweet, but the lead-up to the closed door was so romantic, so passionate, so sensual that I didn’t miss the actual sex at all. And yet “sweet” is hardly the term I’d use to describe these stories. The scenes were as hot as any graphic sex scene I’ve ever read–right up to the point where the door was closed and we return the following morning.

Are there better terms out there? I wonder because my own feelings toward the sex scenes I’m writing is evolving. Paranormal romance is a genre that tends to demand a lot of sex scenes, in some cases, the more raw and “hot” the better. Being a slow burn kind of gal, I include much less sex than some readers expect. I lean more toward the sensual than “hot”. But I suspect those lines blur for many readers, as do writers, too. Sometimes sensual becomes hot and vice versa. If a story is described as “sensual”, will readers know what to expect?

Which is why writers tend to fall back on industry descriptors. But if you’re wondering, I go for sensual every time. 

Emotional Writer’s Block: Get Real or Go Home

I’ve been struggling with a WIP for over a year now, while at the same time dealing with a great deal of personal loss. For some time, I thought my inability to punch my way through the barriers in the story had to do with the initial set up: I took two strangers and isolated them on a farm in a snowstorm. For much of the story, it’s just the two of them, with no other characters for interaction.

Now, I confess, that kind of scenario is one of my favorites. Show me a story with ‘snowed in’ as a premise, and I’m one-clicking that baby. It was only a matter of time before I wrote one myself. And I’ve written novels before in which the two main characters were the only speakers onstage for much of the story. So I couldn’t understand why this story felt so wooden and dull, why the protagonists seemed to have little chemistry or sparkage.

I knew my creative energy was down because my emotional well was depleted. But I’ve written in those circumstances before, so I just didn’t get it. Why was this story being so difficult?

It finally dawned on me that the problem was I had two characters that were walled-off emotionally and unwilling to communicate. Well, let me tell you having one such character is pretty standard in romances. It’s usually the hero with the stiff upper lip,  who doesn’t share anything with the heroine until she breaks down his emotional barriers. It’s my favorite kind of hero, to be honest. But you can’t have both main characters walking around with a stick up their ass, saying “I’m fine” whenever someone asks how they are doing. Two taciturn and uncommunicative characters isn’t just difficult to write, but they’re boring to read as well.

My critique group tried to point this out early on, but I wasn’t having any of it. I was defensive of my characters and their inability to vent their emotions. I had my reasons for why they behaved in a certain way–and yet I felt the lack of connection and complained about the dullness of their interactions. Now, I don’t confuse bantering with bickering. The first is a witty, sometimes playful back and forth between the two main characters. Think Nick and Nora from The Thin Man movies or the early days of Castle. Banter isn’t mean. It doesn’t snipe at one another, taking nasty potshots along the way. I don’t want my hero to be a jerk–especially if he and the heroine are trapped together in the same house for a while. But there has to be that spark between them. And with both of my characters being tight-lipped and suffering-in-silence, that wasn’t happening.

I frequently joke that when I don’t know what to do with the plot, I blow something up or burn it down. It’s a great way of getting unstuck from a plot point, or when your characters are wasting time getting coffee or putting on makeup instead of moving on with the story. I was pounding my head on the desk trying to figure out how to get my characters to engage without turning one of them into someone I didn’t want to be around, when it suddenly hit me.

I needed an emotional fire. I needed for them to get real or go home.

There’s a lovely scene in Have His Carcase by Dorothy Sayers, in which Lord Peter and Harriet Vane are discussing this very same problem with one of her stories–and Lord Peter’s suggestion is to get real with the murderer–give him a true reason for committing the crime as opposed to being a vehicle for posing a pretty mystery puzzle. Give depth to the story beyond what the genre called for. Harriet, having just been acquitted of murder recently (thanks to Lord Peter), is reluctant to do this because it may hurt too much. Lord Peter essentially says, “What difference does that make if it makes for a better story?”

(Lord Peter really gets Harriet on a fundamental level. My goal is to one day create a romantic couple with that kind of dynamic in their relationship.)

In many ways, I believe writer’s block can be boiled down to this: an inability or unwillingness to get real with the characters. For the writer to strip themselves naked and stand on display in the form of their fictional creations. Not that characters are necessarily stand-ins for authors, but when you read that one sentence that utterly rings true for you, when someone details an experience, and you nod knowingly because you’ve had that experience yourself–that’s getting real.

And that was what was wrong with my WIP. To fix it, I went back and re-wrote all the dialog and interactions, taking out the silent, simmering refusal to emote and putting back in the emotions I’d been afraid to experience myself. 

So far, early word from my beta readers is promising. They love the WIP and think it’s better than my previous book, which is a relief, let me tell you.

So much so, it’s going to be my new motto: Get Real or Go Home.