Wednesday, March 27, 2013

It's In The Details

...not an original sentiment, but true. I’m talking about research.
As I consider the options open to today's authors, I wonder how writers of old did their research. I suppose some of their questions could be answered at their local library, but I suspect that the facts they dredged up were dry and boring. Perhaps that’s where the expression “write what you know” came from. How could they do otherwise?
When it comes to research, I consider myself to be in the golden age. Will it get easier than an internet search? I wouldn’t bet against it, but writers today are surrounded with information. We have no excuse not to get it right.
So what interesting facts have I looked up over the past couple of years? I’m looking at an alphabetical list of my self-published books, and I researched the following:
Blogging From The Heart: Although I’m a keen hockey fan, I didn’t really know how the league is structured. I needed to know about the different Divisions, Conferences, etc., and how the playoffs work. It’s added to my enjoyment of the game.
Deception: I learned about CAR – the Central African Republic; what diseases go untreated, food staples, airports, and general terrain. I only skimmed the surface, but knowing these things added texture to the story.
Fallen Angel: I researched Hellfire missiles. I needed an idea of how a pilot would know if it was too late to abort firing his missiles. It’s amazing what you can find.
Fixing Freddie: Most of the details in this book are from personal experience. When I was young, I worked in downtown Vancouver and walked the streets the characters walk. I’ve been to Whistler, and the Gulf Islands. What surprised me, however, was that after the book was released, it was featured in a gaming magazine. The hero (the love interest) owns a computer gaming company and Fixing Freddie's cover, the storyline, and the link to Amazon was given a prominent spot in their online magazine. I was seriously impressed.
Full Circle:  I researched the markets at Venice Beach. Even though I wrote the story a couple of years ago and it’s been read by thousands of people, I’d still like to go there. I’d like to walk the pier at Santa Monica, where Bella and Sofia got the idea to sell childrens’ clothing. Some day I’ll do that
I could go on about my books, but you get the idea. I’m working on a book now, and one of the characters has a shop on South Granville Street in Vancouver. That’s not an area I’m familiar with, and I needed to know if there were many high-rises. Simple! I walked the little Google man around the streets and looked at the buildings. Research simply doesn’t get any easier, or better, than that.
Sometimes I look up what songs were popular in the era I’m writing about; what movies were playing. I look up Swiss, Chinese, or Australian names for my characters. And guess what? It’s fun...at least for me.
I read a romance by a well-known author some years ago where a lot of the action took place at an archaeological dig. It went on and on and on, divulging more details about how to set up a dig than any sane person could possibly want to know...at least this sane person. I bought the book thinking I was going to get a romance, not a how-to manual. I’ve never forgotten that, and I’m careful not to overdo it in the information department. What do the youngsters say? TMI? That was definitely too much information.
But details do matter. And nowadays, we authors can be more accurate than ever when presenting them. Write on!





Friday, March 22, 2013

A Shout-Out to Kindle Book Promos

Sometimes you just get lucky...and I feel I got lucky to be interviewed by Kindle Book Promos. This site is user-friendly for authors as well as Kindle owners looking for good books to download.
   Thank you, Laura.
    See the interview at http://kindlebookpromos.luckycinda.com/?page_id=6926

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Is Chivalry Still Alive?

My dictionary describes chivalrous as ‘graciously courteous and considerate, esp. to women’, and ‘having the characteristics of a knight, e.g. valor or gallantry’. Kinda makes me warm and tingly all over.
Chivalry is still very much alive in my personal life. I strongly believe that chivalry boils down to a simple principle. People (in this case, the men in our lives) will treat us the way we expect to be treated. Call me old-fashioned, but why would I waste my time with a man who doesn’t respect me as a woman? It goes both ways, of course. I wouldn’t choose a man I don’t respect.
A lot is written about young people these days...teenagers in particular. But as with any controversial topic, we’re told about the instances that make us raise our eyebrows, but not about the growing number of young people who respect themselves enough to demand the same from their peers. I’ve seen it among the young people in my small town, and I salute them for that.
Perhaps chivalry has been in the forefront of my mind recently because of being a romance author. I write contemporary romance, but it doesn’t matter if the romance is set in a futuristic colony somewhere in space, or in Regency England, a man who is considerate to women has a strong appeal. Is the ‘bad boy’ appealing? To many, yes. But that’s what’s so great about being an author. We can take someone perceived as being the classic bad boy and either show his transformation, or reveal that he’s not bad after all.
As I think back on the many heroes I’ve written, I realize that they’re a varied bunch. They have different backgrounds, different goals, and different motivations. But one thing remains: they are strong men who know who they are. To use a slightly overused expression, they’re comfortable in their own skin. And yes, they’re often a bit larger than life. But after all, this is romance.
Please don’t ask me to write about men who inflict pain on the women they’re supposed to care for. Don’t ask me to write about a man who cares about his own pleasure more than his partner’s. Don’t ask me to write about a man who uses his position of authority to subject a woman to degradation. There are plenty of other people doing that, but count me out.
Give me a chivalrous man any day. Trust me, they’re the best kind!


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Writing From the Heart

  It’s a question authors ask themselves all the time. What are readers looking for in a romance?
  Of course if we knew the answer, every book we write would be a best-seller.
  Instead of trying to figure out what the reader wants, and twisting our prose to suit what we think might appeal to them, perhaps we should write what interests us.
  Think about it. If we write what is real to us, our stories will be heartfelt. We’ll be able to express genuine emotion, instead of throwing out words and hoping that some of them stick. Have you ever read a passage in a book and thought to yourself “that just doesn’t make sense?” Me too.
  All of the ‘How To’ books will, at some point or another, tell aspiring authors to ‘write the Book of Your Heart’. It’s become such a trite and over-used expression that most authors recognize the acronym BOYH without even thinking about it.
  So why don’t more of us write from the heart? Perhaps because we’re chasing the latest trend. Or maybe we’re afraid to expose ourselves; to let the reader see our fears and insecurities as well as our hopes and dreams. How’s that for four over-used words? Over-used perhaps, but true.
  Fiction writers love to discuss which is more important, character or story. I’d also add setting to that mix, although to a lesser degree. As a writer, I need to like my protagonists, even if they’re flawed. As a matter of fact, it’s more interesting if they’re not perfect. I need to be invested in their story and know the setting. I care about what happens to them. That’s what keeps writing fresh for me...and fun. And when all three elements come together, I have a smile on my face when I hit that final keystroke.
   My book Then Came Love is an example of writing from the heart. The characters are ones with whom I easily identify, and the setting is familiar to me...a winning combination. And I’m happy to say that a lot of readers agree.





Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Predictability: Good or Bad?

I have a confession: I think about writing all the time. For example, the other morning I pulled up at McDonald’s drive-thru window and the girl had my order ready. I laughingly asked her if I’m that predictable, and she said ‘yes’. That got me thinking...about writing.
Romance novels are, by and large, predictable. As recently as a few years ago, when authors were submitting their books to the few major publishers in the romance field, we were told how many words to write, what level of sensuality was suitable to their line and how quickly the heroine should meet her hero. These are just a few things, but they show you how restricted an author used to be.
Don’t get me wrong. Many readers want to know what to expect when they buy a romance novel. But let’s be honest; the availability of e-books has caused a seismic shift in the romance genre.
Nowadays, with the rising popularity of independent authors, the reader can expect to be delightfully surprised by the fresh new directions of romance fiction. For example, some of the main characters in my books have actually died, and the book didn’t suffer for it. As a matter of fact, readers have commented that such realistic storylines have made their reading experience richer.
And yet, predictability in a romance novel is comforting. We know that we’ll almost always get a ‘happily ever after’ ending. If we don’t, we’re usually disappointed. But what’s to stop today’s authors from stepping a little outside the box? Happily, nothing. If the readers don’t like it, they’ll let us know soon enough.
Are we authors walking a tightrope here? Not really. Thanks to the new freedoms, we’re able to break free from former restrictions thrust upon us and fly free. Yet we know not to go too far; that beyond this place there be dragons. I enjoy keeping my stories fresh by inserting interesting twists and surprises. The reader and I are usually on the same page at this point. She (or he) has an inkling that something is being held back, but we go hand in hand to the end of the book, delighted when our suspicions are proven to be true. As a bonus, we’re left with the warm, fuzzy feeling of a happy ending.
Ah, romance. Predictable or not, there’s nothing like it.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

It's Hockey Night in Canada

   I can still remember as a little girl, sitting around the radio on Saturday night, and hearing Foster Hewitt say those magical words..."It's Hockey Night in Canada."
   In my memory, the radio is a large brown piece of furniture. It had cut-outs on the side, covered in some sort of fabric. I remember this, because I could see little lights glowing on the inside while we listened to hockey, or The Long Ranger, or Hopalong Cassidy. I still get shivers up my back when I hear the words "The Shadow Knows".
   But hey...I'm getting off track.
   In this shortened hockey season, almost every night is hockey night in Canada. Only this week, unnecessary violence raised its ugly head again.
   I wrote about this some time ago in a romance novella. In Blogging From the Heart, Claire's brother, who plays in a minor hockey league in Vancouver, is sidelined for the rest of the season as a result of a concussion. She agrees to blog for a local newspaper, and of course her topic of choice is violence in hockey.
   When she meets an attractive, rugged man with a broken nose she doesn't recognize him as a key player for the Vancouver Canucks. Defending his sport, Jack Logan agrees to blog from the opposing point of view, unaware that Claire is the person on the other side of the argument.
    How can Claire trust Jack when he hasn't told her who he is... not to mention the fact that he refers to her opinions as 'drivel'?
    Blogging From the Heart is a sweet romantic novella at just over 20,000 words.
    By the way, this novella is also available in a collection I've called The Great White North. It's bargain priced and is offered along with Fixing Freddie, and Listen To Your Heart. All of these stories take place in and around Vancouver and Whistler.

Two more authors...

It’s Saturday, and time again for two more Author Spotlights.
Lee Hanson - Castle Cay
When her best friend is murdered, Julie O'Hara, a body language expert, packs up her suspicion and flies to Boston for his funeral. Who could have killed rising artist Marc Solomon, and what does Castle Cay, the Solomon's mysterious Caribbean island, have to do with it? Before long, Julie's sixth-sense pulls a hidden string that unravels a deadly conspiracy...and her own troubled past.
Jeannette Raleigh – Death Knell
  Nightmares of a horrific car accident haunt Amber, and the scars go deep. As she struggles to regain memories of the past few years, Amber receives a phone call from an old high school friend, a woman who has been missing for three months. The call is disconnected as her friend pleads for help.
 With her neighbor at her side, Amber digs into the disappearance, but sinister men are watching and they don't like Amber's meddling. While danger lurks, Amber discovers secrets that may unravel her life.
  Someone wants those secrets buried...

Monday, March 4, 2013

Canadian Rock Stars

...and no, I'm not talking about Bryan Adams.
  It's Brier time in Canada. We love our curling here. Why not? In much of this country we have eight months of winter and four months of poor sledding. But that's another story.
  Curling clubs abound here. They're often called the 'Granite Club'; a reference to the fact that the curling rocks, or stones, are crafted from granite.
  Canadian men and women excel not only at the Olympics, but at the big international tournaments. At any one time there are probably six or eight teams in the country that could take on the best in the world...and win.
  It won't always be that way, of course. China and Korea are coming on strong, thanks to Canadian coaches. Sweden, Finland, Norway, Germany, Switzerland and Scotland have always had excellent teams. To the south, the Americans are skilled, but have fewer teams against whom to polish their game. Allison Pottinger and Debbie McCormick are well known and popular here in Canada, as are Pete Fenson and Heath McCormick.
  But the unsung rock stars in the curling world are the ice makers. Even curling fans like myself who don't play the game know the importance of the ice. The variables are myriad, and rarely predictable. I find it interesting that curling fans are as familiar with the names of the icemakers as they are with the players...well, almost.
  So, a tip of the hat to the icemakers. It's a tough job, but at least for today, not thankless.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Blog Tour Stops

Here are some quick links for the next few days:

March 3 Interview
Roxanne’s Realm

March 4 Guest blog

March 5 Spotlight and review
Readaholic's Reviews 

March 6 Spotlight
Regina May Ross's Blog

Don't forget to enter to win the Free Kindle Fire, or one of ten e-Books.
See you there!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Grab Yours!

For those of you who have been meaning to buy Colleen Hoover’s Hopeless, it’s on for 99c.
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AQ3K8IU/
 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Stops for the next few days...

Here are the stops:

March 2  Interview
Books Books The Magical Fruit

March 3 Interview
Roxanne’s Realm

March 4 Guest blog

March 5 Spotlight and review
Readaholic's Reviews 
www.readaholicsreviews.com

Good luck to everyone who enters the Rafflecopter draw for one of ten e-books, or a Kindle Fire.

Hello, Cambodia!

Okay, now I'm officially impressed. Someone in Cambodia checked out my blog.
Thanks!
Mona