Tag Archives: postaweek2011

Sisters are doing it for themselves

I don’t have any sisters. I have a “little” (i.e. younger, but now well over six feet of muscles that belong on a romance cover) brother. You might remember him from my post The problem with having an alpha male brother.

Sister gets little brother in a headlock

© Christopher Low/istockphoto

My brother and I never got along when we were kids, though I can’t imagine why. I mean, I put so much effort into parenting him because my parents clearly weren’t doing a good enough job of it. As his big sister, I made sure he knew exactly what he was doing wrong at all times. He didn’t know as much as I did, and I pointed out all the things he was ignorant about so he’d learn.

Yes, I was the kid who spent weekends playing “school” and planned lessons for the neighbor kids to sit through. I also borrowed my brother’s motorized mini police car and drove up and down my street handing out tickets to kids who rode their bikes too fast.

In other words, I was a friendless loser for much of my childhood. And my little brother has always been the exact opposite.

Having another girl in the house would’ve been torture. I had to be the best at something, and if I couldn’t be the best at making friends then at least I could be the best girl in the house. No one else could be a girl the way I could—that meant shopping with Mom and my grandma, going on dates with Dad, and just generally smelling good and avoiding roughhousing.

If I’d had a sister? I’d have had to discover something else to be best at.

Girl pretends to push brother off a cliff

© M. Eric Honeycutt/istockphoto

By having a second child, my parents forced me to suffer decades of sibling rivalry—but I never regretted that it was a boy child (I just, y’know, regretted his entire existence sometimes. Hey, I’m not proud of myself for it).

Growing up with my biggest rival living in my own home and sharing my parents’ love has given me a deep affection for fictional heroines who have to endure bratty siblings—even if those siblings are grown up.
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Sarah Mayberry interview – and giveaway!

Sarah MayberryLast year, after reading loads of buzz online about a couple of Harlequin Superromance authors, I bit into my book-buying budget and ordered about a dozen Superromance novels.

Why was this expensive? Because they wouldn’t ship to me in London, so I had to have them sent to my parents’ house and then reimburse my mom for shipping a big heavy box to London.

Worth it?

Oh God yes!

In that box, I discovered two new favorite authors: Sarah Mayberry and Karina Bliss. Sarah Mayberry has a new release out this month—All They Need—and she’s giving away two copies here. Huzzah!

Thanks for being here, Sarah!

Thanks for inviting me. I always love talking about writing and reading – two of my most favourite things in all the world.

1. In addition to writing romance, you also write for TV, including the insanely popular Australian soap Neighbours. What skills have you developed through writing scripts that carry over into writing novels? And what’s the craziest storyline you’ve ever developed for Neighbours?

One Good ReasonI actually credit Neighbours with helping me develop me the story chops that led to me getting published. Before I’d worked on the story table, I had made something like 8 different attempts at writing a romance novel, all of which had been rejected.

Then I worked at Neighbours and helped plot a long term, slow burn romance between two of the characters and I suddenly understood what I’d been doing wrong.

Working on Neighbours also taught me to love planning and plotting my books in advance. A lot of romance writers are “pantsers” – ie they write by the seat of their pants and what happens next is as much of a surprise to them as it is to the reader. But Neighbours taught me to love thinking about the story and teasing out the nuances of the story before sitting down to actually write it.

It also taught me to love thinking about character. I always try to build layered, multi-dimensional characters who feel real and who you can believe existed before they walked onto the set (or onto the page) and who will continue to exist after the show ends (or the last page is read).  That’s something we spent a lot of time on on the show – talking through who people were and what they wanted and what their strengths and weaknesses were before throwing them into the mix.

As for the craziest storyline… I wasn’t actually working in-house at the time, but I can remember there was a storyline where Paul Robinson, the show’s current big baddy, and his daughter, Elle, arranged to have one of the other character’s delivery van blown up. I’m actually not sure if that story ever made it to air – my memory has become a little hazy over the years. As storylines go, it was a little out there for a show set on suburban cul-de-sac. But I guess far weirder things have happened on Desperate Housewives!

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Friday feminist funnies

I’ve stumbled across some brilliant parodies this week. The first is the blog Feminist Ryan Gosling, with its “Hey, girl” captions.

Feminist Ryan Gosling has only been around for about six weeks. Danielle, a University of Wisconsin grad student and teacher on the gender studies program, created it as a way of helping her remember the feminist theories she was reading.

Sadly, I first heard of Ryan Gosling only a few months ago, after my mom took my teenaged cousins to one of his movies (don’t ask me which one). When I asked her how the movie was, she hesitated and said, “Well, the girls liked it. And it’s not hard to spend two hours staring at Ryan Gosling.”

If Mom finds him attractive, I feel I can’t.

Genetics are perverse, eh?

My other favorite finds of the week are videos from The Second City Network, with Disney princesses giving love advice to young girls.

And let’s not forget Snow White with her seven man-friends.

Priceless.

What dating advice would other Disney princesses give young girls? Jasmine? Sleeping Beauty? Ooh, Sleeping Beauty’s gotta be ripe for giving sound relationship advice.

Do you have a favorite Feminist Ryan Gosling photo? Or do you prefer staring at him without the captions?

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Winner of Read My Lips: A Complete Guide to the Vagina and Vulva

Read My LipsA big thank-you to everyone who commented on my post Five things romance writers should know about vaginas.

I wish I could give away more than one copy of this fantastic book, but I hope you’ll all go out and get it even if you don’t win it (you can click on the book cover to check it out on Amazon).

The winner of a free copy, courtesy of the authors, is…ameliajamesauthor!

Amelia, I’ve emailed you asking for your mailing address.

Everyone, this week author Brenda Novak is giving away a copy of her latest romantic suspense novel, In Close, so leave a comment on my interview with her to enter!

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Authors’ surprising hobbies

I have a game for those of you of a literary bent.

Match these writers with their hobbies (answers here but don’t cheat!)

1. Emily Dickenson

2. Vladimir Nabokov

3. Franz Kafka

4. Ayn Rand

5. Flannery O’Connor

6. Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes

7. Haruki Murakami

8. Zadie Smith

9. Mark Twain

a. raising peacocks

b. beekeeping

c. baking

d. inventing things

e. lepidopterology (studying butterflies and moths)

f. dancing

g. stamp collecting

h. listening to jazz

i. collecting porn

How did you do? Which of your hobbies would surprise people? 

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Interview with Brenda Novak – and giveaway!

Brenda NovakThis summer I picked up INSIDE, the first novel I’d read by romantic suspense author Brenda Novak, and couldn’t put it down until I’d finished. I read through the night and lost my heart to its hero, a man who spent his entire adulthood in prison for a crime he didn’t commit and is still paying for crimes he did commit while locked away.

I leapt on the opportunity to review her entire Bulletproof series, and I’m thrilled to say that Brenda’s here today answering my questions and giving away IN CLOSE, the last in the series (which you can easily read on its own if you haven’t read the other two).

Thanks for being here, Brenda!

1. You say on your website, “I learned how to write by reading what others have written. The best advice for any would-be author: read, read, read….” Being a bestselling author, mother of five, and organizer of a major annual fundraiser for a cure to diabetes, do you still get time to read? If so, what recently published novels have you learned from?

Inside by Brenda NovakI do still read. I think I’d go crazy if I didn’t. I’m writing so much that I have to be putting something back in the well to draw from.

I just finished CHILL FACTOR by Sandra Brown. Fabulous example of plotting and character development. Really enjoyed it. I’ve also recently read ROOM by Emma Donaghue, whose clever use of POV (it’s told completely from the point-of-view of a little boy) really makes that story shine. I’m currently reading Ted Dekkar’s latest futuristic. I’m not very far into it, but I’m enjoying it.

2. My freshman year of college, I regularly volunteered in Cook County Jail in Chicago, and ever since then I’ve been interested in artistic portrayals of prison life. I devoured the first novel in your Bulletproof series, INSIDE, which features a hero who has been released from prison and a heroine who’s an assistant deputy warden. Can you tell us what inspired you to write it? Continue reading

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Five things romance writers should know about vaginas

If there’s one thing you’d think romance writers – who tend to be women writing for women – know about, it’s the workings of their own bodies.

After all, some of us write fairly explicit sex scenes, right?

Read My LipsThis week, though, I was surprised to discover how ignorant I was as I read the delightfully informative Read My Lips: A Complete Guide to the Vagina and Vulva by Debby Herbenick, PhD, and Vanessa Schick, PhD.

This book, which will be released on November 14, should be required reading for everyone – women and men. It expels myths, builds confidence, and contains vital health information that would surprise many women.

And there are craft projects! I don’t want to reveal any spoilers, so let’s just say I know what I’ll be dressing as next Halloween.

Luckily, Debby and Vanessa are giving away a copy of Read My Lips right here! (Details at the end of the post.)

For those of you who don’t write romance, please don’t feel you need to click away. Vulva knowledge is good for everyone – whether you carry one around all day or love someone who does.

First, a brief word on terminology. Vulva is used here to describe the genital region that can be seen from the outside (clitoris, lips, vaginal opening, etc). Vagina means the passage between the outside world and the uterus. But I won’t be anal about people using “vagina” to refer to the whole shebang.

Ready to learn about the mighty vulva?

1. All vulvas are different.

This might sound obvious, and maybe it is to people who have seen lots of naked women.

Then again, depending on where you encountered those women you might be forgiven for thinking most vulvas look the same. Apparently, most of the women pictured naked in magazines and online have a certain look: hairless or nearly hairless, with small inner labia that are fairly uniform in color.

But women are much more diverse. The authors say:

Painted lady statueThe inner labia (labia minora) are perhaps the most diverse part of women’s genitals. The color of women’s inner labia may vary greatly from one woman to the next. They may be a shade of pink, red, brown, gray, black, or slightly purple (particularly as women become sexually aroused and blood flow increases to the genitals, as the inner labia are filled with blood vessels; inner labia also sometimes darken in color while a woman is pregnant). The outer ridges of the inner labia are often darker than the rest of the labia. Similarly, in one study, forty-one of fifty women (92 percent) had genitals that were darker than the skin around their genitals.

Now, a lot of romance novelists skim over this kind of detail when describing sex scenes, but some don’t. And if you write explicit scenes, then you might like to add a little more genital diversity. Not only will it make your heroine more interesting, it’ll make her more real.

Most importantly, though, it could encourage your readers that their bits are normal, healthy and sexually desirable.

Wikipedia has a set of drawings showing vulvar diversity.

2. The hymen is at the vagina’s entrance.

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My favorite war poem

When I was in college, I took an absolutely brilliant class on 20th century American war literature. Although my beliefs have always tended strongly toward pacifism, I grew up in a city with large military bases and a strong military history.

My grandfather told me stories of his experiences in the Philippines and Japan. Grandma said he never once spoke of the war after he came home until I was 12 and told him what I’d learned about it in school. He started telling me stories, and it was the first time she’d heard them, too.

I can’t think of any literature more heartbreaking than stories of armed conflict. For me, the most powerful stories aren’t those that focus on the political or ideological nature of war, but on the personal. The best war fiction shows the often absurd nature of conflict, and the contrast between those who are far removed from battlefields – families, politicians, media – and those who are far too close.

That’s why this poem – my sweet old etcetera by e.e. cummings – is my favorite war poem. In fact, it’s one of my favorite poems on any subject. I can’t read it without picturing my 22-year-old grandfather lying in mud and dreaming about the 19-year-old wife he left in California.

my sweet old etcetera

by e.e. cummings

my sweet old etcetera
aunt lucy during the recent

war could and what
is more did tell you just
what everybody was fighting

for,
my sister

isabel created hundreds
(and
hundreds) of socks not to
mention shirts fleaproof earwarmers

etcetera wristers etcetera, my

mother hoped that

i would die etcetera
bravely of course my father used
to become hoarse talking about how it was
a privilege and if only he
could meanwhile my

self etcetera lay quietly
in the deep mud et

cetera
(dreaming,
et
cetera, of
Your smile
eyes knees and of your Etcetera)

Do you have a favorite war poem or story? How are you marking Remembrance Day/Veterans Day?

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Review: The Heart of a Killer by Jaci Burton

Action- and passion-packed suspense that kept me awake all night long

The Heart of a KillerIn one horrific night, sweet sixteen-year-old Anna Pallino is attacked in the alley behind the ice cream shop she works at. Her boyfriend Dante Renaldi and his three foster brothers save her life by killing her attacker, but not before the would-be killer carves a heart in her chest.

Dante leaves that night and doesn’t return until years later, for his foster parents’ anniversary party. But on his first night back, someone he loves is brutally beaten to death in the same alley and has a heart carved into his chest.

Anna, now a detective who’s nursed anger for Dante since he abandoned her when she needed him most, points the finger of suspicion at Dante.

Jaci Burton’s terrifying story hooked me from the first sentence. With a hero and heroine who smolder even as teenagers, Heart of a Killer is jam-packed with sexual tension and emotional upheaval.

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Why Australia’s the sexiest country in the world

The Power and the PassionMy first introduction to the romance genre was through Harlequin Presents novels, so not only did I learn a whole lot about what boys and girls do when they like each other, but I also got to explore new countries for only a few dollars a month.

That’s how I realized Australia’s the sexiest country in the world.

Lots of the novels were set in London and Australia—places where they called their friends “mate” and lived in flats (which for years I pictured as apartments with lower ceilings).

Both places sounded amazing, but Australia kicked London’s ass on several levels. First, the London novels often took place in offices (*yawn* I’d seen 9 to 5 with Dolly Parton—offices looked like dreadfully boring places to fall in love). The heroes seemed uptight and the heroines wore stockings.

Not the grown-up life I wanted to have.

Australians, on the other time, chased each other through the Outback. They frolicked in the surf. They occasionally encountered animals so bizarre that only funny-sounding words could describe them: kookaburra, wombat, kangaroo.

Okay, maybe there weren’t wombats and kookaburras. I do recall some storylines with kangaroos, though.

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