Researching Mundane Words

photo meThe things you learn when you double check something you’ve never really thought about such as the difference between button-down and button-up shirts. I’ve always called a dress shirt (besides dress shirt) a button-up shirt. Well, it turns out that’s wrong. A button-down shirt includes the button on each collar to hold it in place (that’s the button-down part). The button-up does not. AND a dress shirt will always have the buttons on the collar. Thus always a button-down shirt. The things authors have to know.

By the way, my mom would always correct me as a kid when I referred to my top as a shirt. She said boys wore shirts, girls wore blouses. I can see that except when it’s a t-shirt. (Of course, the spelling of t-shirt is another argument. ) HA!

Enough is Enough

1pic for blog[Reprint of post from Romance Magicians’ blog May 29, 2011]

This still applies and maybe will help others to understand the need to continue and be dedicated in becoming published with a traditional publisher or in finishing a novel and becoming self-published.  

When is enough enough? I’ve thought about this a lot the last couple years. My first submission was sent out in 1992 and I didn’t send anything else out for ten years. Partly because I had no self-confidence and partly because life got in the way. In 2002, I decided I wasn’t getting any younger and if I really wanted this, I had to find out what I was doing wrong. Nothing has been as important to me to accomplish since I wanted a second child. She was born eight years and 12 hours of labor after the first one. This delivery was a hell of lot longer.

I worked on improving my grammar, bringing out my voice and learning how to pitch to editors and agents. I practiced writing query letters, talking to an editor and agent at conferences, and being the best I could be as a writer. For the next nine years, I drank, ate and slept writing. Am I perfect? Oh, goodness, no! But I have ten books to prove my perseverance. Being at my RWA chapter meetings helped and encouraged me to keep trying.

One evening at a conference, I had the pleasure to relax with Sherrilyn Kenyon in her hotel room, and we were talking about what it takes to be a published author. Sherrilyn’s road to publication and staying published was a hard one. If you ever get a chance to hear her talk about that road, do so. It’s scary but also an uplifting story. Anyway, she mentioned how sad it was that a friend of hers had given up on writing. She’d read her work and hadn’t understood why an editor hadn’t snatched it up. She encouraged me to keep trying.

Since I couldn’t quit my day job, I gave up watching television, having floors I could eat off of, and reading one book after another. All my spare time was dedicated to what I wanted most. To be published. But my rejections continued to come in.

So the question is still how to know when enough is enough?

I believe it is when you can say, I quit it all. When you no longer have a story nagging at the back of your mind, or you read a book and say I can write better than that or I wish I can write a good story like that. When you don’t imagine dogs and dragons in the clouds or hear words of mystery and intrigue whispered in your ears by the wind. When you can close your eyes at night and don’t feel the presence of someone looking over you (good or bad). When you can ignore the wide-eyed pleads of your children or nieces and nephews to repeat the stories of your childhood or the made-up scary ones. Then that’s enough.

I came close, but thanks to the Good Lord, I wanted more.

This post was written just after I had gotten my first call from HarperCollins. Now it has been three books with HC and two books with Random House (Loveswept). So see, hard work pays off. Keep trying and decide what you want and be willing to change.  Goodness knows, the publishing world changes often, and as an author you need to be willing to do that too.

Poetry and Sex

When I think of Jack Drago in Circle of Defiance, I think of how different he is from all the other heroes in my books. He loves cats. In fact, owns a white one named Kinky. His best friend is a female (Marie from Circle of Danger), and strangely, considering how he falls in love with unavailable women, he never touches her sexually. And he recites poetry when he’s amorous (fancy way of saying horny).

Though his brother hates his guts, he has a soft spot for the big guy (Rex from Circle of Deception). Hey, he made sure that his brother and his brother’s sweetie reunited. No one knows the real Jack. Totally misunderstood by all who hate him and that’s a lot of people in The Circle. Bless his heart, he even ended up being dumped in Sand City, Alabama drunk and in trouble with the organization that should be looking after him. But one woman understands him, better than he’s comfortable with. She doesn’t have a sweetheart or husband, but I imagine Jack believes she’s unattainable because her dad is the head of a dangerous syndicate. The same one that hung his brother naked by the ankles in a warehouse (Circle of Deception). To Jack, Katerina is merely a challenge. He loves challenges.

Here’s the beginning of the novella.

The sharp smell of blood and alcohol penetrated the cool air as the glass door closed behind Katerina Savalas. She hesitated and scanned the unfamiliar surroundings. Being in the less than safe side of town, she wanted to get her business done and over with as fast as possible.

Never in her wildest nightmares had she imagined stepping into such a place. When her dad kicked her out of the house, she’d sworn she’d find another way to express herself. Too many people believed it to be the perfect way to protest. Instead, it became a rebellion that led to a habit. Not her. No way.

Looking at an intriguing drawing on the wall, she shook her head. Maybe it was a tiny bit tempting.

“Hello, pretty little girl, what can I do for you?” The man smiled and his skin pulled at the black swirling pattern covering one side of his face. A chain connected his pierced nose to a large spool in his ear and jingled when he moved around the counter. He stopped a little too close.

She swallowed, trying to keep her stomach from turning upside down. Just thinking about a needle sinking into her skin gave her the willies. Taking another deep swallow to settle her stomach, she forced her legs to stiffen and hold her up.

Wrenching her gaze away from the maltreated chunk of fat and skin, she looked over his shoulder to regain her composure. “I was told Jack Drago’s here.”

“Who told you that?” His tone was threatening.

“Phil at the Sandbox,” she answered, straining to see around a curtain in the back of the room.

Whoever named the bar had thought they were cute, playing with Sand City’s name. She agreed the place was pretty decent as it sported a couple pool tables in the back and a small stage for local bands. Even on Tuesday nights, families gathered and enjoyed an old movie shown on a drop-down screen. A person could call the atmosphere homey, for a bar. She’d visited it several times since moving into the small town. But then again, the Sandbox being the only bar in town limited her choices.

The owner had told her to hang around until late that evening. Jack often showed up by nine. The problem with that was she didn’t want to waste any more time. So he’d suggested checking at Lonnie’s Place.

From what she’d seen so far of Lonnie’s, she preferred the Sandbox Bar and Grill.

“Phil’s going to get his ass beat, if he ain’t careful. He knows better than to give out info about Jack.”

“So he’s here?” When the man’s brow wrinkled in confusion, she added, “Jack. Is Jack here?”

The Mike Tyson wannabe leaned close, his onion-loaded breath bursting across her face. She moved back a step and pretended to scratch her nose. Anything to block the smell.

“Whatcha going to give me?” He grabbed her arm. “Everyone pays a toll.” The leer told her what he expected.

Without thinking, she pushed forward and brought her knee up hard. He hit the floor with a scream so high-pitched it came out more like a squeak before he curled into a ball. Thanks to her brothers’ endless roughhousing, she’d learned that little trick a long time ago. She grinned and stepped over his body, heading toward the large red satin curtain separating the back of the room. He’d think twice before placing a hand on her again. Nevertheless, she’d better find Jack quick before the man recovered.

Pausing for a second to take a deep breath, she then fisted the soft material, yanking it across the pole, making the large metal rings clank. She gasped.

Stretched out on a recliner, head shaved, broad chest bare, jeans and black underwear around one ankle with a large smirk on his face, was Jack Drago. A shapely blonde sat between his legs with her head bent over his groin.

Face hot, Katerina took one step back but hesitated, squashing the desire to turn and run. She needed his help, and she couldn’t put it off any longer. With her decision made, she forced her gaze to meet his, not caring about whatever she intruded on. Light blue eyes examined her with lazy, licentious interest. No matter how uncomfortable his stare made her feel, she refused to look away.

The man was still as gorgeous as she remembered with his grid-defined abs and huge muscled arms on full display. Some type of Celtic design covered one shoulder to wrist. Piercings through his nipples, one brow, and a loop in his lip made him look like a pagan god while the woman worshiped his . . . staff?

Warmth spread across her face and neck.

“Hey, you look familiar,” he said in the deep gruff voice she remembered. “I know.” He lifted a stubborn chin. “You’re that Savalas girl. Kristina. No. Katerina. Yeah, that’s it.” He slung a beefy arm over his head; his relaxed pose displayed muscles and toned body like a romance novel cover. “Come over and tell me how she’s doing. She claims to be a pro at it, but I think I’m her first.” He chuckled as he lifted a bottle of Devil’s Cut in his other hand and guzzled a third of it.

Shaking her head, Katerina held up a palm. “No. No. I’ll pass. I didn’t mean to interrupt.”

The blonde huffed and leaned back. “I’ve been doing this for ten years, and I’m a hell of lot better at it than the fellow in Atlanta you were telling me about.”

Fellow? Eyebrows raised, her gaze returned to his face. He swung both ways? Then a mechanical humming stopped. What in the world? Unable to resist any longer, she peeked over the blonde’s shoulder.

She breathed a sigh of relief on seeing the artwork the woman worked on. Feeling a little stupid ― it was a tattoo shop ― she eyed the design.

On the left side of Jack’s groin, a large black ink pattern depicted a fallen angel with wings curled over a bowed head and around a bruised, bloody body. Dark feathers brushed Jack’s abs and ended where his thigh and torso met. The design was beautiful and poignant.
When Jack’s cock twitched, she realized where her gaze had drifted, and her face heated again until it probably looked like an overripe tomato.

She twirled around, giving him her back. “Uh . . . I need to talk with you. After you pull up your pants.” The image of his cock would be seared on her brain for the rest of her life.

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Be on the lookout for the paperback book with the novellas, Circle of Dishonor and Circle of Defiance, coming out soon!

The Emerald City

wizard-of-oz-quoteBeing a published author is like being Dorthy going to the Emerald City. You want to get to that beautiful, magical place of where your wonderful story will be presented to the world. But you have to go through trials and detours. Scary things like flying monkeys trying to hold you back and witches trying to stop you, but when you finally arrive, it takes your breath away. It’s more than you ever imagined. You’re fascinated by all of the exciting activity, and how everyone wants to make your story pretty as possible.

And then you go to see the wizard (booksellers and reviewers).  Still a little scary, but you know this is what you want and you’re determined to show how brave you are. Then with a lot of clanging and smoke billowing, you find out the truth.

It’s what is in you that makes you successful. Not all the hoopla or even the polishing, your writing is all that counts and will bring you to where you should be. So simple, yet so difficult.

[As you can tell, I quite often relate writing to movies. My post is from the one I did for the Romance Magicians’ blog on January 15, 2016, but changed a little.]

 

Website: www.carlaswafford.com
Twitter:  @carlaswafford
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What You Can Learn From a Movie

batman-beginsYes. I’m revisiting old blog posts from my stint at the Romance Magicians’ blog. Here’s another favorite from May 28, 2006. It still applies.

What you can learn from Batman Begins, and how it applies to writing.

1) If you want something bad enough, you’ll climb mountains for it. (If you wish to be published, don’t expect it to be easy. Plan to improve on your weaknesses and exploit your strengths.)

2) You have to hit rock bottom before you can look up. (Rejections of all different types can push you down, but they can help you appreciate the successes.)

3) Be prepared to change course. Be flexible. (Though you have THAT certain publishing house or special editor in mind, keep your eyes open for other opportunities.)

4) Have plenty of back up. (Keep writing. Build up your library, and at the same time, improve on your experience.)

5) It doesn’t matter what others think. It’s more important what you think of yourself. (This is the hardest lesson of all, but we need to believe in ourselves. Believe in yourself and your writing.)

6) When we fall, we must learn to pick ourselves up. (Again, rejection can knock you down, but keep writing. An editor cannot publish a book you haven’t written. No one can write your book for you.)

7) You can’t do it alone. (Surround yourself with supportive people. Join a RWA chapter and be active.)

8) Even regular looking guys look good in black leather. (No explanation needed. See picture above.)

Website: www.carlaswafford.com
Twitter:  @carlaswafford
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Ten Things I Hate About Writing

!FB memeIf you follow me here or on Facebook, you know that I love lists. This is one I did at the Romance Magicians’ blog back on August 14, 2009.

10. I hate how I have to wait months and months (I’m a slow writer) before I can find out how my own book ends.

9. I hate how I fall in love with my hero and then have to give him up. He belongs to the heroine.

8. I hate how I have to concentrate on one book at a time. I have two hands, two sides of one brain (the logical side to set the plot, the creative side to make a love scene believable). Why can’t I write two books simulaneously?

7. I hate how I can’t save children from predators and kick butt like my heroines.

6. I hate how my love life isn’t as exciting as my heroines’. Oops! Did I just type that?

5. I hate how I have to write a synopsis to sell my book. How do you say CliffsNotes?

4. I hate writing the synopsis.

3. I hate how I get a bug-eyed look from non-writers when I talk about writing.

2. I hate how I can talk about nothing but writing.

And drum roll please….

1. I hate how no one [publisher] has bought any of my books yet.

Since I wrote this, I’ve sold three books to Avon (HarperCollins) and two books to Loveswept (Random House).  And I’ve self-published one novel and two novellas.

For more information about my books, click on one of the following booksellers.

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A Hero’s and Heroine’s Top Five Traits by Olivia St. Vincent

CircleofDesire mm c[Reprint of my post on 08/15/2014 at the Romance Magicians blog; it was so much fun, I thought it worth repeating here.]

Carla’s busy for the next couple of weeks. So she wanted my help in writing her post, and I told her I would on one condition, that she write me into her latest book. Well, she did. Sort of. The tricky little bitch. She gave me a two-bit part in CIRCLE OF DISHONOR. And only a small mention in CIRCLE OF DEFIANCE. Talk about being gypped!

*sigh*

Okay, okay. I didn’t fine tune the agreement. I’ll know next time. Anyway, my name’s Olivia St. Vincent, and if the name is familiar, then thank you for reading my story in CIRCLE OF DESIRE and my cameos in CIRCLE OF DANGER, CIRCLE OF DECEPTION, and CIRCLE OF DISHONOR. Though the last one she wouldn’t even let me kiss ―

Olivia. Shut up and get to the post you promised to type for Carla.

That’s sugar britches, everyone. My hubby, Collin, who probably won’t live to see our third anniversary coming up this October.

Enough, Olivia!

*eyes roll*

He has a point. Now, the conversation we had with Carla the other day.

Carla: Olivia, what are the top five traits you look for in a hero?

Olivia: Well, let’s see. I never imagined falling for a man who talked in a near whisper most of the time. Though I must admit, when he talks, a room full of arguing operatives shuts up in seconds. That’s a man who can lead.

Carla: So number one would be a commanding voice.

Olivia: More like number five. The voice helps get my engine running, but it’s not number one.

Carla: Olivia, don’t forget this needs to stay PG. So no physical traits to be included in the list.

Olivia: I’m hurt. You don’t trust me?

Carla: Let’s say I know you too well.

Olivia: Very well then, let’s get to it. Trait number four: a hero must be comfortable with handling weapons of all types. You know how I love guns, especially sniper rifles, the more powerful the better.

Carla: So an expert in weaponry. I guess, when it comes to a trait, it would fall in the category of being protective. That would be number four. Three more to go.

Olivia: A hero must be honorable. He would never take advantage of those weaker.

Carla: Now we’re getting somewhere. I agree totally.  That would be number three. So you think Collin is honorable?

Olivia: Humph! Who said we’re talking about him? I thought you wanted to know about heroes.

Carla: Collin is certainly hero material. He could have killed you instead of bringing you into his organization, the OS.

Olivia: He could’ve tried.

Carla:  Olivia.

Olivia: Oh, okay. Yes. He handled it rather well that time I held the sniper rifle on him and accused him of betraying me to The Circle, though he did eventually hand me over to them.

Carla: You know he didn’t have a choice. Your ex-boss would’ve killed the two OS operatives he held hostage.

Olivia: Yeah, yeah. Don’t beat me over the head with it. Collin’s all noble and a bag of chips.

Carla: You sound almost jealous.

Olivia: Everyone thinks he’s God’s Gift to the universe and I’m evil incarnate. Wouldn’t you get tired of being painted like that?

Carla: I’m sorry. You’re right. Let’s continue on with our list.

Olivia:  All right. Number two. Hmm, this is getting more difficult. I can’t include body parts?

Carla: No. Physical. Traits.

Olivia: Don’t get snippy. What is it that you call a hero who’s a push over when tears are involved?

Carla:  Maybe you’re thinking compassionate.

Olivia: Sure. Compassionate. I like how it goes along with passionate.

Carla: Ooolivia.

Olivia: That’s not a body part. Geez. You’re no fun.

Carla: Let’s move on to number one. What’s the most important trait?

Olivia: Easy. He must be intelligent.

Carla: Smart. I agree.

Olivia: Collin was smart enough to fall in love with me.

Carla:  I thought we weren’t talking about Collin.

Olivia: Of course, the man’s got a big enough—

Carla: Oooliva!

Olivia: Now who’s being naughty with that dirty mind? Tsk, tsk, tsk! I was saying he had a big enough ego without me adding to it.

Carla: *sigh* Okay. Go over there while I talk with Collin.

Olivia: Fine. But don’t believe a word he says.

Carla: Shh! Behave, Olivia. Collin, thank you for being so patient. It’s only fair to ask you a similar question. What are the top five traits you look for in a heroine? Starting with number five.

Collin: Definitely confidence. A woman must know her own mind and be sure of her abilities.

Carla:  Much like Olivia, wouldn’t you say?  

Collin: She’s certainly confident in her skill with guns.

Carla: Why do I get a feeling you’re saying she isn’t always sure of herself?

Collin: At times, her bravado can be an act.

Carla: I see. She acts tough but is a softy inside.

Collin: That’s true though she hates to admit it. Number four is adaptable.

Carla: Uh, I’m not sure what you mean by that.

Collin: She understands the world isn’t black and white. There’s a lot of gray. Sometimes what you believe is true, isn’t.

Carla: Oh, okay. Like her believing The Circle were the good guys. That is, they were at one time, but had gone to the dark side you could say.

Collin: Yes.

Carla: I like how you’re up front about Olivia being the heroine you’re describing.

Collin: She can be when she sets her mind to it.

Olivia:  I heard that!

Carla: This is Collin’s turn! Go! Let us talk.

Collin: Number three is intelligence. A heroine needs not only brains but street smarts too.

Carla: I find that interesting. Would you like to speculate on why she placed it as number one for heroes?

Collin: No.

Carla: Would you at least explain the sexy grin you’re wearing?

Collin: No.

Carla: Alrighty then. Let’s move on to number two.

Collin: Number two is a heroine must be loyal.

Carla: Loyal? Do you want to explain that one?

Collin: A heroine will sacrifice herself for the greater good.

Carla: Oh, no, you didn’t. You didn’t pull the Buffy card.

Collin: I’m not sure of what you mean, but a heroine will stand by those she loves even when it might endanger herself.

Carla: Okay. You can have that one.

Collin: The top one is independence. There’s nothing sexier about a woman, than one who knows her own mind and doesn’t need to lean on others, including a man, to achieve her goals.

Carla: Wow! I love hearing a man say that. When a man isn’t threatened by a woman knowing her own mind … wow! That’s sexy.

Collin: I’m taken.

Olivia: You tell her!

Carla: Uh-huh. I wasn’t … I didn’t mean …. Oh, heck.

Olivia: Come here, sugar. So I can show you one of my goals.

Carla: Uh, anyway, thanks to Olivia and Collin for helping me out. Quit that, you two! For goodness sakes, get a room!

Okay. That’s all of the interview. I think it went well. Don’t tell Carla this, but I think she has a crush on my sweetie. Actually, all of the Circle guys. The woman can be such a slu ―

Olivia, you need to wrap it up now. 

Sure, sure. *leans closer* His voice has gotten all soft and heated now. That means he’s pissed or turned on or both. I do know I’m in trouble. See my knees shaking? NOT! Want to wrestle, lover boy? *laughter* Come over here and try to pin me to the floor!

Ladies and gentlemen, ignore my wife. Carla would like to warn you her books are very hot, and the world her people live in is violent. A world filled with assassins and betrayal. But two lovers can find a sanctuary from all the craziness by loving each other.

Ah! Isn’t he sweet? I do love that man. Now, drop those drawers and let’s have fun. What? What? Don’t glare at me. That’s as romantic as I can get.

*door slams*

Website: www.carlaswafford.com
Twitter:  @carlaswafford
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Things That Turn You On

naked-heat-cover
To be Released February 21, 2017

The other day, I was re-watching a simple video (click here to go to my Facebook page to see it) I had made of a ice hockey netminder warming up before the second period of play. The way he skated back and forth to the beat of the music was so hypnotizing. I find myself going back and watching it over and over again.

Yeah, yeah, if you’ve been reading my blog, you know how much I love hockey, but still there’s nothing provocative about it. Sure, the guy is 6′ 5″ and in great shape, but with all the gear on, it’s hard to tell anything.

Other people watch it and don’t see anything of great interest. They maybe say, “cool,” but not much more.

Becoming fascinated by something that’s nothing really remarkable happens to me on occasion. *shrug*

Several years ago, it was a music video by Reba McEntire titled Cathy’s Clown (click here for music video). In the video, Bruce Boxleitner plays the mistreated lover/husband of Cathy’s. Reba’s character is a prostitute singing about her love for him despite his being emasculated by his wife. The part I love, besides the way Reda sings, is how Bruce’s character notices Reba’s intense stare and gives her a wary smile as if he’s unsure how to react to her attention. There’s something about that smile that got to me. I freaking watched that video over and over again. Even just hearing the song remains me of that scene.

There’s a Leann Rime song, Probably Wouldn’t Be This Way (click here for music video), that I loved so much, I wrote a whole book based on that song.  The book isn’t published yet, but I plan to find a home for it, or self-publish it one day.  Heck, I have another book I wrote from listening to I Shot The Sheriff by Eric Clapton (click here for music video). Same thing for it, find a home or self-publish one day.

Obviously, writing a book is how I get rid of that song replaying in my head.  HA!

At times, certain books and movies have done the same to me over the years. Thankfully, this craziness of watching or listening to something over and over again is spread out over a period of time and keeps me from worrying about my mental heath. *smirk*

So what is about these little things that fascinate me? I believe it sets my imagination on fire as you can tell with the songs. Makes me want to write that perfect scene with that moment or feeling I get from watching or listening to that certain part.

For that favorite book I love to read over and over again, until a new one takes its place, it encourages me to work harder at being a better writer. I want to write a book that someone wants to visit again and again.

Walks Like A Panther

red-river-wayneHow many times in numerous books have we heard the hero walks like a panther or tiger or some creature on the prowl? They’re cliches, but I understand the concept. He has a smooth step with a determined gaze.

It makes me think of a certain actor named John. No. Not John Travolta. He’s known for his walk going up stairs (Get Shorty) and his moves on the dance floor (Saturday Night Fever and Pulp Fiction). It’s John Wayne who is known for his walk.

With that thought, I went searching for videos of John Wayne’s walk. Of course, I came across the hilarious scene in The Birdcage with Robin Williams trying to instruct Nathan Lane’s character to walk like a man. He’d suggested John Wayne’s walk. Luckily, I found one where it shows both clips (John Wayne’s and Nathan Lane’s) along with the original French film and “the walk.”

Click here to go to YouTube and watch.  It has Spanish subtitles.

One thing to remember, John Wayne was so much more than his walk. The way he held his head and shoulders. He stares straight ahead. He doesn’t look down. The man didn’t worry about tripping over his feet. His sureness in where he was going and what he was going to do next is so obvious. Yes, he’s an actor, but don’t you know part of his own persona shows in that stride.

John Wayne was a man’s man. Lordy! Not many of them anymore.

Here’s another video on how to walk like a “badass.” The guy tells it like it is. Click here and enjoy.  LOL!

What’s In a Title?

Hidden Heat_SwaffordThe other day at a meeting with other writers, one NYT bestseller author said she couldn’t start her book until she thought up a title. Most likely the publisher would change the title before releasing it, but it helped guide the author in the feel of the story line.

I totally understood what she meant. Ninety percent of the time, I have a title for the book I’m writing even before the first word is written. My editor at Loveswept understands that. She even helped me decide which one to use, and when the first title had to change, we worked together for the new one along with the other Brothers of Mayhem titles.

Hidden Heat was originally Burnout, but another author had one coming out with the same name. To think of it, I don’t remember seeing the book afterwards, but my goodness, everyone and his brother has that title. So I’m happy with Hidden Heat. LOVED the double entendre, don’t you? If you don’t know what I mean, then you need to read the book.

If you’re wondering, how can a title affect a story? If you read the title, How to Flirt With A Vampire, would you think it’s a romantic suspense? No. More like a romantic comedy paranormal. What about As Far As The Eye Could See? That could easily be a contemporary romance or literary fiction. Any title with dark, deep, blood, shade, kill, and die, can be romantic suspense or paranormal.

Most titles can be interchangeable and easily forgettable, but a writer or publisher should never let it be misleading, like placing the title Purple People of Mars, and it be about a gunslinger in the late 1800’s American west. (Made me remember the movie, Cowboys and Aliens. Good, fun movie if you don’t let logic play a part.)

Like I said, titles are important to me when I write. Since I started using Scrivener to organize my work-in-progress, I’ve started giving each scene a title. I usually have two scenesscenes per chapter (can be as many as four, but not as often), with one POV per scene. It helps me remember where I’m going with each scene. And if for any reason, I need to go back to a certain scene, it’s easier to find. Plus I love having fun with them. You should’ve seen Hidden Heat’s. I have to say they were hilarious and dirty.

Here’s an example from Naked Heat on the left.

For those who have taken my workshop, Save The Story, you will see I’ve used my beats for each chapter. Then the scenes are titled below it. You can almost tell what I’m about to write about. “Once more with a smile” should be easy to figure out considering I write HOT romantic suspense.  HA!

So, for many authors, the book’s title is important. Although most readers never remember them, no matter how good the book. For that matter, the story is more important. Well, that and the author’s name. 🙂

 

 

Romance Readers Luncheon

With two Romance Readers Luncheons coming up this year, one in Huntsville with Kristan Higgins and another in Birmingham with Jennifer Ashley (special guests Sherrilyn Kenyon, Dianna Love, and Lynn Raye Harris), I couldn’t help but remember about my favorite luncheon. It was the year Anne Stuart appeared as the keynote speaker in Birmingham.

Most people who follow me on my blog and Facebook know that I’m a big fan of hers.Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00009] Anne’s Ice series is one of my favorites, especially the book FIRE AND ICE. Hey, I even have a hero named after her series and based on her hero in that book. Be sure to check out Ice Takahashi in my book, CIRCLE OF DISHONOR.

The best part of the luncheon with Anne was that I had volunteered to pick her up at the airport. Such a hardship. NOT! I greeted her with a sign that read “Your Greatest Fan!” Oh, yes, she had a worried look on her face. Think Stephen King’s MISERY. HA! I promised her I didn’t have a sledge hammer. She looked relieved to say the least. It was the best fifteen minutes I spent in a car. She was so much fun to talk with.

Though at any of the luncheons, you probably won’t have fifteen whole minutes of alone time like I did with one of my favorite authors, you do get a chance to speak with them, shake their hand, and get your book signed. I promise. They will be excited to be asked.

Plus you get a bag of free books, a chance at a door prize and other opportunities to take home a basket of goodies. And the authors (there are many) at each table usually have all kinds of fun swag for you to take home. Yes. You get to sit with a published author and ask questions to your hearts delight or sit there and listen to what others ask. If you’re an introvert, don’t worry. No need to say a word. Just sit and enjoy a lunch and lots of romantic literary energy around you.

So you want to know more about these fun happenings? Huntsville’s is June 11 at the Westin Hotel near Bridge Street Town Centre. Click here to find out more. Birmingham’s is November 5 at the Embassy Suites near the Riverchase Galleria in the suburb of Hoover. Click here to find out about this one. Come to one or both. You will have a great time. Food, free books, free author swag, opportunities to buy more books and get them signed by the author, and lots of entertainment.

Of course, I will be hanging around. Come and sit with me. Don’t leave me alone. You never know what kind of trouble I can get into. Well, maybe you want to help me get in trouble? Hmmm. You sound like my kind of people. HA!

Hope to see you there!

REVISED – Originally published on the Romance Magicians’ blog, August 25, 2015.

Hidden Heat_Swafford~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Carla Swafford loves romance novels, action/adventure movies, and men, and her books reflect that. She’s a rare creature in the Deep South, she loves hockey too. Her current book is the Brothers of Mayhem MC book, Full Heat_SwaffordHIDDEN HEAT. Be sure to check it out. The next one, FULL HEAT, will be released July 19.

http://www.carlaswafford.com
Look for me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+
Time Magazine, [Circle of Danger] “. . . involves deadly assassins, drug lords and doing it.”
Action-Adventure-Romantic-Suspense

A Growth of a Series

PrintFirst, I love reading books with bad boy heroes. Hell, I married one. If you’ve ever read my Circle series, you’ll know how much I love writing about dangerous, ill-tempered (HA!) men.

When I began writing the Brothers of Mayhem series, I had already read a couple MC (romance/fiction) books and watched all of the Sons of Anarchy. Click here to read my post about researching the series.

So I thought readers of MC books would be interested to know that the first book (HIDDEN HEAT) of the Brothers of Mayhem is not the typical MC story. The majority of the bikers in that story are not good guys. But you will see a shift in book two (FULL HEAT – Storm’s story). It has a mixture of good and bad. New blood.

By book three (NAKED HEAT – Wolf’s story) you’ll see more of the brotherhood that you come to expect in a MC romance. And in the fourth book (RAW HEAT – Cutter’s story), the club heals and the brotherhood tightens.

It’s like this, throughout the series, each book can be read separately as stand-alones, but like the romance in each story, the club has a path to take with all of the ups and downs. The growth of the club as an unit will ensure its survival. In the end, it will have the right guy in place and everyone will be happy. *sniff* I do love for my people to have a happy ending.

And you could say each story has something for everyone, from the unique MC story to the hard core.

It’s The Small Things

Beautiful Woman Enjoys CoffeeI can’t help but laugh at the title. Being a romance author, I can imagine what some people may be thinking of what I’m about to post. Not THAT!

Over the years of writing (a lot) and the few years published, I learned a few minor things I would like to pass on.

Avoid naming your hero or heroine with initials, such as J.T., J.R., L.B., M.J., etc. In one of my unpublished books, I had a big strapping sheriff referred to as J.T. I got so tired of fighting with the software wanting to capitalize after every time I typed his “name.” Yes. I could’ve turned off the autocorrect, but really, that would be a hassle too. (And note how I ended the sentence above with J.T. and started the next with I. Looked odd, didn’t it?)

Continuing on about names, there are certain ones you’ll want to avoid. Of course, most authors know not to name the heroine and heroine (and other characters, if at all possible) with the same first initial. Such as John and Jane, or Mark and Mary, etc. Readers often scan over names and this may cause confusion along the way.

But this one is a little different. During my usual break each evening, I was reading a contemporary romance — even when I’m under deadline, I make myself take one hour each night to read — and the hero’s name was Woolf.

Oddly, I’m writing a hero with the same name but different spelling, Wolf as in Wolfgang (NAKED HEAT). Anyway, the other author’s heroine would say his name during sex. Common enough, but when I hear it in my mind as I read, it sounds like the heroine is barking. Think about . . . Woolf, Woolf, oh, Woolf. Yeah. You hear it too. So this is probably the last hero I’ll have with that name and my heroine is most likely to scream “Who’s my daddy?” before I’ll let her bark. (Just teasing.)

Avoid heroes with one eye, unless you’re writing a tear jerker. (No pun intended.) Oh, this one happened in my second book, CIRCLE OF DANGER. The hero had been badly burned when he was ten. He lost one eye. Do you have any idea how often eyes are mentioned in romances? Cliché warning: They are the windows to the soul. So in this book, I avoided saying, “His beautiful blue eye looked at her,” or anything like that. Too scary sounding. (Don’t come at me about being insensitive; this has to do with the flow of the story along with setting up the mood. The hero was very sexy even with one eye and scars.)

The next one I mentioned on Facebook the other day.

Authors, please do not place the heroine’s name directly after the hero’s dialogue and vice versa. Example only.

“You look beautiful today,” he said as he pulled Mary into a hug. After a long kiss, he looked deep into her eyes. He wanted her more every day.
“And yesterday?” John smiled as Mary stepped away.
“Do you want a drink?” 
“Yes. A beer will be fine,” 

*This is a better way (my opinion).*
“You look beautiful today,” he said as he pulled Mary into a hug. After a long kiss, he looked deep into her eyes. He wanted her more every day.
“And yesterday?” Mary teased.
John smiled. He loved her sense of humor.
“Do you want a drink?” He nodded toward the bar.
“Yes. A beer will be fine.”

Can you tell in the first example who is saying what after the first line? I have to read a bit more to get it straight in my mind.

That’s it for now. I’ll probably think of ten other small details (and make a few boo-boos myself.)  HA!

What Model Of Alpha Do You Want?

tumblr_myfffeXLM61srko8to1_r1_500Reviews are a double edge sword. Authors want and need them to get the word out about their books, but reviews with low ratings and pure hate for a book are not helpful in my opinion. The reason I say it that way is that I had a well-known blogger tell me even horrible reviews can help sell a book. You know, everyone wanting to see if a book is really as terrible as everyone is saying. Heaven forbid, if that ever happens to me. I’m all for the positive hook.

Anyway, reviews per se is not what this post is about.

Occasionally, I read reviews from some of my favorite authors. Why you ask? Whenever I’m feeling down about my writing (what the fuck am I doing?) and need to see even my favorite NYT bestselling authors have a handful of disparagers among their hundreds of five star reviews. Yesterday, I was looking at an author whose publisher had released her backlist in ebook. So thrilling because now I can get copies for my iPad and the paperbacks can stay on my shelves in good condition.

On one hand, I was surprised by the many one stars (and anger) for books I love of hers. As I read the reviews, the main theme appeared to be the way the heroes treated the heroines.

See, from 1970s to 1990s, it had been popular for the heroes to be what I call supreme alphas. It started with the bodice rippers (literally, and by the way, I freaking hate that term for current day romance in general). Yes. Historical romances were queen in the beginning and the heroes thought nothing of ripping the bodice off the heroines. It was so different from what women had been reading before then. I can get into the dynamics of the sexual revolution and birth control and woman finding out they loved sex when there was little fear of pregnancy (only 2% to 9% fear as pills are 91% to 98% effective), but that is still not what this post is about.

In my dear favorite author’s earlier books, the heroes bossed and took over the heroines’ lives as if the women had no sense at all. At the time, and to a point nowadays, I love reading books with those types of heroes. But from what I’ve read in other articles, reviews and in general conversations with twenty- to thirty-something readers, they do not want a hero to act that way. In real life, I wouldn’t either, but, folks, this is fantasy. Anyway, onward and upward…

I thought that was interesting considering how many readers love kinky doms (BDSM), demanding billionaires, and dangerous bikers (MCs). So I compared the differences and realized in most cases, the older romances with dominating males, the heroes came across as cold and unfeeling at least until the end. While the new wave alphas show tenderness and often sweet talk their heroines, they are the same type of heroes, but they have smoother edges.

Both have pluses and minuses. I have found that sometimes when I’m reading a new author’s male point of view, the guys sound a little girlish. More of how the author wished a male would be. From what I know of most men, they are straightforward in speech and action and rarely think about how so-and-so feels about something. They believe they do what must be done and not worry overmuch about it. They have gut feelings and realizations. Not all of that touchy, feely, (I’m not talking about sex) I-have-to-talk-it-out stuff. Of course, there are the exceptions, but they are usually the villains.  HA!

Oh, if you’re reading an old romance, be sure to keep all of this mind. Hopefully the publisher (or author, if self-published) will show the original published date. It would be best in the end. Fewer rants by readers. Geez!