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Interview with Lisa Dale – and giveaway!

Lisa Dale

Photo by Eric Rank

A couple of years ago, I began hearing about an author who wrote very smart contemporary romantic novels. I picked up Lisa Dale’s It Happened One Night and fell in love with her style.

Lisa’s intelligence and curiosity about a wide array of subjects shine through her stories. She’s here today talking about her latest release, A Promise of Safekeeping, and giving away a copy of her previous novel, Slow Dancing on Price’s Pier.

Welcome, Lisa!

Thank you tons for having me!

1. Your novels always feature characters who have really interesting careers – or maybe it’s the way you include fascinating bits of your research into your novels that makes their careers seem so interesting. From astronomy to flowers to the history of coffee, you cover a wide range of topics. What’s been your most interesting subject to research, and what can we look forward to reading more about in A Promise of Safekeeping?

I love all of it! I’m as nerdy as it gets…so I’ve always got my nose in a book and am trying to learn new things. Part of that comes from being a writer: we have to know things like, what certain flowers are called, what certain trees are, what are the architectural parts of a building and what period are they from…etc. Knowing those kinds of things aids in writing good descriptions.

A Promise of SafekeepingMy characters’ careers are often just an excuse for me to dig into a subject. Lauren, in A Promise of Safekeeping, is a body language expert—which is SOOOOOO fascinating. Lauren’s great at her job, but not so good at reading body language in her personal life. She can tell if a criminal is lying…but her love life is a different story. What kind of person would you be if you could read the words beneath the words?

The hero, Will, is an antiques dealer, and I think that’s because I’m starting to realize that I’m infatuated by the concept of history, by the notion of so many lives and experiences happening in the same space, by history being all around us, right now, in the present.

Will collects antique keys, which reflects the themes of “keeping” and “locking away” that run through the book. Old keys embody what I love about antiques: the mystery of the past. The inherent opaqueness of it. What did this key secret away? Or, who did it imprison? Who was it meant to keep out? I think this idea of the layers of history has been a latent theme of my writing that is just starting to come out in A Promise of Safekeeping, and more in my W-I-P.

2. Your characters face enormous challenges that many readers will recognize from their own lives. To me, this makes their happily-ever-after all the more satisfying. Do you get many emails from readers who’ve experienced the challenges your characters have?

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One woman’s tips for writing in the male point of view: Guest post by Kaki Warner

Colorado DawnOne of the things I love about Kaki Warner‘s historical Western romance novels is how she writes men. They’re authentically tough and often befuddled by women. I personally find writing a hero’s point of view very difficult, mostly because the men I know in real life are chatty, sensitive charity workers. My critique partner Moriah once commented on a scene I wrote: “Does he watch a lot of Dr Phil?”

So I asked Kaki for some advice, and she’s been kind enough to share her tips.

Leave a comment below and you could win her latest novel, Colorado Dawn.

DISCLAIMER:  In no way is anything I write here meant to be insulting to men.  I speak in gross generalities (and mostly about American men).  I am fully aware there are MANY men who are sensitive, fully in touch with their feminine side, and the total opposite of what I am about to say.  OK?  OK.

Let’s start with the obvious:  Men are pretty basic.  That’s not to say they aren’t complicated, thoughtful, or fully aware of what’s going on.  Most of the time they just don’t care.  Certainly not the way women do.  Ask a woman how she feels, and you’ll get a complete rundown of how she slept the night before, how bloated she feels, how upset she is because of what her BFF said, how mean her boss was, if she’s starting her period, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Ask a man how he feels, and after a quick mental check:  Am I hungry? Sleepy? Thirsty? Horny? He’ll usually answer fine.  And that’s that.

The same holds true in dialogue.  Example:

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How a small community can smother your characters

As a contemporary romance writer, I know that series set in small towns and tight-knit communities are insanely popular.

But there’s also a danger that, as a series grows, those communities can begin to smother the vibrancy of later novels and their characters.

This isn’t just a danger with small-town contemporary romance. It can happen in any series that focuses on a particular community, whether that’s the ton in Regency romance or a fantastical world completely of the author’s creation.

Here are the ways communities can alienate me, the reader, and my thoughts on how to avoid it.

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Interview with Tracy Sumner – and giveaway!

Tracy SumnerA couple of weeks ago, Tracy Sumner contacted me to ask if I’d like to read one of her historical romance novels, Tides of Passion. Whenever someone asks me this, I always feel honored, but that honor is tempered with a bit of trepidation. What if I don’t like their novel? Or, worse, what if it leaves me feeling ‘meh’? What do you say in that situation?

Thank God, that didn’t happen with Tracy’s novel, Tides of Passion. I hate to sound clichéd, but it swept me away. I loved the intensity of the conflict between the hero (a small-town constable charged with keeping the peace) and the heroine (a suffragist stirring up local women to fight for their rights). Even more, I loved how realistically and maturely the two confronted their issues with each other, instead of letting their differences define them. (You can read my review here.)

Tracy’s intelligence shines through the story, and I’m thrilled to have her here so we can all get to know her better—and you get the chance to win one of her novels!

1. One thing that kept my heart pounding as I read Tides of Passion was the interplay between Savannah’s fight for women’s rights and her growing feelings for Zach. Did you choose to write about the period because of its potential for conflict between suffragists and the men they loved, or did you have other reasons for setting this series in late 19th century North Carolina?

Tides of PassionGreat question! Okay, the series starts with the novel TIDES OF LOVE. I actually dated someone who was a marine biologist, and he had worked briefly in Beaufort, NC (which is what the fictional Pilot Isle is totally based on). Anyway, the setting was one I chose based on that.

Savannah’s career came about because I lived in Manhattan during the writing of TIDES OF PASSION. So, I knew the hero of the story was the luscious older brother, Zachariah, but the heroine…? She was a New Yorker, I just knew it. And digging into the history of turn-of-the-century NYC uncovered the women’s rights movement. Voila!

I also felt that the lifesaving programs around at that time on the Outer Banks (due to the dangerous shoals and subsequent shipwrecks) was part of Zach’s passion, responsibility and despair.

2. Kensington published several of your books about ten years ago, and you’re now re-releasing them yourself digitally. What have you been up to in the years between?

Moving! 🙂 Due to my husband’s career (finance, not the military!) we move often. Anyway, I also have a fairly active graphic design career. And a four-year old! Add to that travel (I’ve been to about 50 countries and counting) I stay busy. I am writing, though, and trying to get the books out there. All due to my lack of discipline. I apologize! Loving the indie/self-pub aspect, though.

3. I hear you have an anthology coming out soon and a contemporary novella in April. What can you tell us about them?

Well, I’m part of a joint anthology in April with a group of writers. Excited. More info here.

The holiday anthology from this group is a bestseller on Amazon!

It will be a contemporary with a spring-based theme. My other release is a Victorian “light” paranormal sometime in 2012. Not sure of the date yet. And still a working title. By “light” paranormal, I mean psychic characters. No shape-shifting, etc.

4. Which of your heroines is most like you? And which of your heroes would you most like to…spend quality time with? 🙂

To Seduce a RogueNoah is my favorite hero, hands down. The sexy nerd. A marine biologist. Intelligent and surprised by passion. I just LOVE him. Though his brother Zach comes in a close second.

Heroine? Maybe Charlie (To Seduce a Rogue – releasing Jan 2012). She’s rough around the edges, driven and a little uncaring about fitting into society. 🙂 She’s a creative type.

5. Like me, you’ve been bitten with the travel bug. What’s the most spellbinding place you’ve been to? Would you ever set a book there?

Nepal? I white-water rafted for two days down the Kali Gandaki river there. Amazing! I also have a big love affair with Vietnam. My son was adopted from there – and I spent four months in 2007/2008 going through paperwork!

Tell us about Tides of Love and Tides of Passion.
I’ll put the back cover copy here. 🙂

Tides of Passion
National Reader’s Choice: Best Long Historical
Beacon Award: Best Historical

She is his greatest temptation.
He is her forbidden desire.
A battle of wills leads to love.

AN UNCONVENTIONAL WOMAN
Tides of PassionSpirited Savannah Connor is passionately committed to stamping out social injustice. Yet when she arrives in Pilot Isle, North Carolina, ready to take up a new cause, she quickly finds herself on the outs with the town constable. Zachariah Garrett is the most arrogant, infuriating, maddeningly attractive man it’s ever been her misfortune to meet. And suddenly, Savannah is fighting a whole new battle—this one against her own yearning for a man who is impossible to resist.

AN UNCOMPROMISING MAN
Ever since his wife’s death two years ago, Zachariah Garrett has dedicated his life to Buy from Amazon.comkeeping the peace. And avoiding love. But Savannah Connor isn’t an ordinary woman—and she proves hard to ignore. She’s a beguiling beauty with the power to awaken emotions Zach thought he’d never feel again, and the tenderness to help him forget his fears. And risk his heart once more.

Tides of Love

He left all he loved behind…
Will he be able to return and win her heart?

A SPURNED WOMAN

Tides of LoveElle Beaumont has learned life’s lessons the hard way–by foolishly exposing her youthful heart to love, only to have it broken when her true love fled Pilot Island, North Carolina. Now Noah Garrett is back, rekindling dreams she’d given up for lost, and turning her world upside down. Elle’s girlish yearning for him has become something more powerful than she’d ever imagined.

AN HONORABLE MAN

A man dedicated to science and rational judgment, Noah rejects all notions of Buy from Amazon.comromance…until the girl who used to cling to him like a shadow begins haunting his every thought. But even as he struggles to resist Elle’s sensuous beauty and the wildfire attraction erupting between them, Noah cannot deny that their passion is as irresistible and endless as the tides of love.

***

There are lengthy excerpts on my website, too.
@SumnerTracy
Facebook.com/TracySumnerRomanceAuthor

Giveaway!

Tracy’s giving away a digital copy of Tides of Love and Tides of Passion, so we’ll have two winners! Comment below before the end of Monday, December 12 to enter!

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Discovering the book you wish you’d written

A few weeks ago, I sat down to read a book by a new-to-me author that’s coming out soon. The premise had sounded intriguing, but to be honest, I’d requested it along with about a dozen others so by the time I started reading it I couldn’t even remember what it was supposed to be about.

So I read. And I read. And soon I started thinking, “Holy crap, why didn’t I write this book!”

Just to be clear, I don’t think I could’ve actually written this book, for many reasons. It doesn’t have a similar plot to any of my stories. The characters are very different from mine. It’s not even the same subgenre I write.

But it’s set in the same sort of world I’ve worked in for years, a world I’ve researched backwards and forwards and spent countless hours writing about for my day job: the world of major disasters.

The book I wish I’d written is Hot Zone by Catherine Mann. And this is how I tried to console myself for not having written it.

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Are men worse at writing sex than women?

The Literary Review has announced its nominees for the 2011 Bad Sex in Fiction Award.

If you’re not familiar with the Bad Sex in Fiction award, I can’t describe it any better than Jezebel magazine does:

[E]ach year the Literary Review has singled out an author who writes awkwardly enough about sex to convince readers that the winning author’s experience with actual sex acts has been limited to puppet performances put on by a middle school health teacher who had a very limited sense of irony.

Frustrated man at a laptop

rajsun22/sxc.hu

This year, male nominees far outnumber females, an occurrence that isn’t unusual. In fact, only two women have won the undesirable award since it began in 1993.

So are men worse at writing sex than women?

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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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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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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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