Samantha's Blog

A Week in the Life of a Writer

Do Not Disturb sign

I could use one of these.

Since I began writing in 2010, I’ve kept a time card of my work. It’s divided into different departments of the business known as Samantha Ann King: studying craft, research, business and writing. Here’s what the week of March 14-20 looked like.*

Disclaimer: My daughter was home for spring break, so I took some time off to enjoy her company.

Craft: 1:50. I’m currently working through Margie Lawson’s Deep Editing, Rhetorical Devices and More packet. I like to read a lesson before I start writing then try to apply that lesson to the writing. I worked three lessons last week.

Research: 6:35. Research has been heavier than normal over the last three months because I spend four to five hours a week at the BCSO Citizens Academy. The classes are fascinating, and I’ve connected with a SWAT sniper, who has helped flesh out parts of my WIP. Research is dangerous for me. I enjoy it so much that I can get lost in it. It’s one reason I like to get out of the house to write. The internet is less likely to suck me in when I’m away from my secure home wifi.

Parade Magazine April 2016 CoverBusiness: 6:45. Unless it’s urgent, business gets done on weekends. This category is a hodgepodge. I’m the guest author coordinator for the Café, so that work goes here. Also, blog posts that I write. Promotional work. Contracts. Writing conferences and meetings. (Haven’t been doing many of those lately.) Last week was a lot heavier than normal for business. One of the guest posts for the Café came in late and one was on time, so I had two posts to get ready. While I was working on those, I realized that I had four days to write my March post. Then I learned that I would be featured in Parade Magazine’s April issue of What People Earn, so I was scrambling to maximize the exposure.

Laptop with books

He makes it look sooo easy.

Writing: 11:40. This is the actual writing of the book. Putting the words on the computer and editing them. Plotting goes here, too. The manuscript. The dreaded synopsis. The query letter.

Total: 26:50*

Is this what every week looks like? No. Most weeks are heavier on writing, closer to twenty hours. When a book is nearing release, it’s more business. If I take a writing workshop online or in person, it can be weighted toward craft.

There you have it. A week in the life.

*No chocolate was consumed. None.

This post first appeared at The Contemporary Romance Cafe in March 2016.

 

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Opposites Attract

MagnetsOpposites attract. I’ve seen it in real life. In fact, I’m living it. And I prefer it in the romances I write and read. The bad boy and good girl (Kristen Ashley, Motorcycle Man). Or bad girl and good boy (Lauren Dane, Laid Bare). The socially inept science geek and the social butterfly (Delphine Dryden, The Theory of Attraction; my book, Waiting for Ty). The rich girl and the boy from the wrong side of the tracks (Lisa Kleypas, Sugar Daddy). The introvert and the extrovert (Julia Quinn, Romancing Mr. Bridgerton). The soldier and the pacifist (Penelope Williamson, The Outsider). The Republican and the Democrat (the 1994 movie Speechless; my book, Tempting Meredith). Opposite sides of a war (Kresley Cole, any of the Immortals After Dark).

But why do opposites attract? Well…

Is there anything more seductive than wanting something you shouldn’t want, something that is oh-so-bad for you? Think chocolate lava cake when you’re trying to lose a few pounds.

How about something that takes you out of your comfort zone? Like a city dweller on a cattle drive. Or someone without that risk-taking gene jumping out of a perfectly good airplane.

Or curiosity about other cultures and lifestyles that takes you to a foreign country or even a different region of your own country.

Turns out, biology also plays a role. In a study by Claus Wedekind, women were given the t-shirts of six different men who had worn the shirt for two days. They were asked to rate the smell of the shirts. When the women weren’t taking oral contraceptives, they rated the scent of men with MHC different from their own more highly than men with similar MHC. In other words, they were attracted to the scent of men with DNA different from their own.

But what happens after you’ve eaten that cake or checked out China or jumped out of the airplane, or become accustomed to those different pheromones? Isn’t the thrill gone? Is it, as my mom would say, “Been there, done that.”

Maybe.

Yin and Yang symbolFalling in love isn’t just about the initial attraction. It’s also about staying in love. It’s about learning from each other, strengthening each other’s weaknesses, and knowing that sometimes those weaknesses are strengths. It’s yin and yang, a balance of opposites.

At least, that’s been my experience.

What about you? Do you subscribe to the opposites attract theory?

This post first appeared at The Contemporary Romance Café.

 

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Writing: The Bare Necessities

fish

I’ve joined the adult coloring movement.

This month I’ve been bouncing all over the place, searching for a topic for my January post. First, it was everything I’ve learned about the complexities of American English from my work as a literacy volunteer. There was also the househunting show I saw on HGTV with the woman who needed a fancy office to write her first book. And then I thought I’d talk about coloring books. Or the online writing workshop I’m taking with Margie Lawson and how anal I am about her color-coded EDITS system. Until I walked into our TV room, where my husband was working with a power tool, and it occurred to me how sexy he is when he’s home-improving.

Squirrel!

What does any of this, other than Margie’s workshop, have to do with writing? Well, they’re all inspiring my work…except the woman searching for the perfect office. Snort.

Last fall, I decided to do something I’ve been thinking about for years, volunteer as a literacy tutor. After two meetings with my ESL literacy student, I’ve decided that anyone who can learn English as a second language is truly gifted. My student asks question that force me to think about the precision of our words and choosing the correct one(s). For instance, our phrase, “the other day.” For me it can mean anything from a week ago to a couple of days ago. For others, it might mean two weeks ago or longer. I finally decided that if someone says “the other day,” specificity isn’t important. Oh, and the phrase, “I’m sorry.” We say it to apologize for mistakes we make, but we also use it when someone experiences a loss (of life, health, property) even though we’re not responsible for that loss. Weird, huh? It never occurred to me how odd that is or how confusing it can be, until my student pointed it out. Cardinal and ordinal numbers? When to use which and when you can use either? Yeah, I’m dusting off some brain cells.

rooster

Coloring frees my mind and jump-starts creativity. Bonus, it’s soothing and has fewer calories than alcohol.

After creating a map for the town in my new series, I realized how much I miss coloring. I hadn’t done any since the kids outgrew it. Sooo I’ve joined the adult coloring movement. My daughter gave me two books for Christmas, and I’d already bought the crayons (the 152 box with the sharpener) and colored pencils (24 count). (After experimenting with both, I’ve settled on colored pencils. They blend and go on the paper better. Just in case you’re wondering.) Coloring frees my mind and jump-starts creativity. Bonus, it’s soothing and has fewer calories than alcohol.

Margie is helping me empower the emotion in my manuscript. In fact, she’s been doing that since she spoke at a LERA conference in 2011. While that one day with her certainly benefited my writing, I needed a refresher and more depth. The class began January 1, but I didn’t register until January 15, so I’ve been playing catch-up. After six lectures and peppering Margie with questions, I’ve finally figured out her color-coded EDITS system and stopped obsessing over choosing the “right” color. My plan is to work up to her Immersion Master Class.

And my sexy husband? Well, he’s always an inspiration for my heroes and a wonderful resource for things I know little about: physics, programming, hunting, power-tooling, beer, dimples. He’s not only sexy when he’s home-improving, but he also rocks it when he’s hunched over the computer paying bills and even more so when he’s hunched over the computer resolving a technical issue for me.

As a writer, I absolutely need inspiration and new experiences and I need to improve my craft. These things aren’t optional.

So the question of the day is what do you absolutely need to keep creating…other than time and the perfect office. 😉

This post first appeared at The Contemporary Romance Café.

 

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Researching Romantic Suspense

My first book, Sharing Hailey, had a romantic suspense element to it. My second and third books wanted romantic suspense—begged for it—but after doing all the law enforcement and legal research for that first book, I didn’t want to go there again. It’s not that I don’t like research. I love it. It’s just that it takes sooo long. However, with my new series, I gave in to my characters’ demand for that combination of danger and romance, and did a cannon ball into the pool of law enforcement. I’d like to share some of the wonderful resources I’ve discovered.

Prisoner transport van

Prisoner transport van

I started with my local citizens’ police academy. I had no idea these existed. I was even more surprised that the Albuquerque Police Department conducted a three month, two nights a week class at the police academy training center. Someone from every department in APD made a presentation on the work specific to that department: SWAT, K-9 (with a demo), Recruiting, Violent Crimes, Air Support, Horse Mounted, Explosive Ordinance Disposal (the bomb squad), and Prisoner Transport, to name a few. We toured the 911 call center, the evidence warehouse, the prisoner transport center (where prisoners are processed before being taken to the county jail), and the real time crime center. Some participants got weapons training at the APD Firing Range. (I passed. It was cold, rainy and windy that day. I’ll only go so far for my art!) We even got to experience FATS, the Firearms Training Simulator, where police cadets learn to handle use of force situations. It gave me a whole new perspective on what law enforcement is dealing with in the field.

This combination toilet/drinking fountain is a good enough reason to stay out of jail.

This combination toilet/drinking fountain is a good reason to stay out of jail.

Next up was the Writers’ Police Academy, the brain child of Lee Lofland, a former law enforcement officer. His resume is extensive. Some of the highlights: sheriff’s deputy, patrol officer, K-9 handler, undercover officer and detective. He’s worked narcotics, homicide, murder-for-hire, robbery and burglary. His book, Police Procedure and Investigation, is part of Writers Digest Books Howdunit series and sits within easy reach when I’m at my desk.

This year, the Writers’ Police Academy was held for the first time in Appleton, Wisconsin at Fox Valley Technical College Public Safety Training Center. It’s an incredible facility with resources for training firefighters, law enforcement officers and EMTs. I got hands-on experience in lifting fingerprints (processed using superglue, I kid you not), intubating a dummy, delivering a baby, breaching and searching a house, and use of force in MILO (another virtual reality training system for law enforcement). I toured the county jail, which was across the street from the conference hotel, and let me tell you that was a little uncomfortable. We could see the inmates through the glass windows and they could see us. I learned about the mindset of cops, women in law enforcement, interview and interrogation, processing a crime scene (Did you know that DNA evidence goes in a paper bag? Plastic can degrade the DNA.), and forensic psychology. The conference was so jam-packed that I didn’t get to attend every workshop I was interested in. Decisions, decisions.

Learning to intubate. Hands-on at the Writers' Police Academy.

Learning to intubate. Hands-on at the Writers’ Police Academy.

Delivering a baby at the Writers' Police Academy

Delivering a baby at the Writers’ Police Academy

Samantha Ann King (back, left) Fingerprinting 101.

Samantha Ann King (back, left) Fingerprinting 101, Writers’ Police Academy

NYT bestselling author Allison Brennan shared research tips, including the fact that many FBI field offices host their own citizens academies. Can’t make this incredible conference? Don’t have a local citizens police academy? Allison suggested checking out the Crime Scene Questions for Writers, where law enforcement officers, private detectives, medical examiners, EMTs, and combat medics (again, just to name a few) answer writers’ questions so we can get it right.

A red barn in WisconsinI also saw more red barns in one hour than I have in the fifty-five years prior to that conference, but that’s another blog.

The research has been fascinating, not only from a writer’s standpoint but from a citizen’s, too. I’m glad I took the plunge. Do you have any resources to share?

This post first appeared at The Contemporary Romance Café.

 

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Starbucks: The Writer’s Office

I discovered Starbucks this summer. Okay, pick up your jaw from the floor. I know I’m late to the party. No surprise there. While many writers have been using Starbucks as their base for years, I didn’t understand the appeal. Why go to a coffee shop and spend money to write when I could do it for free at home? Not to mention the commute time—a whole five minutes. But I’m onto the secret. (It was a secret, right?)

Starbucks shaken iced green teaI actually write at Starbucks. At first I thought it was the fancy tea (I’m not a coffee person), so I tried to reproduce the experience at home, because I’m a writer, Jim, not a millionaire (Star Trek, anyone?), and I was hoping to save some money. Nope, it wasn’t the tea. I thought it might be the decadent Starbucks pastry, so I added a croissant to my reproduction. And then another and another. Four croissants later and all I’d managed to do was increase my waistline, not my word count. Perhaps it was all the sunlight streaming through Starbucks huge windows. Sooo I opened the blinds of a large picture window in my living room and sat in front of it with my laptop.

You guessed it. Nada.

I gave up and returned to Starbucks, thinking the novelty would wear off after a month or so, because, hey, that’s how I roll. Nothing lasts forever. Before I met my husband, none of my romantic relationships lasted longer than six months, and I was looking for an out after three. Before I became a writer, none of my jobs lasted longer than two years, and I was bored after one.

But five months after that first trip to Starbucks, I’m still making that five-minute commute and still producing words.

Of course, I’ve analyzed this phenomena to death. But it all boils down to one thing. No distractions. Well, not many, anyway. No laundry. No dirty house. No internet! It’s the same reason I considered renting office space somewhere…anywhere but my house. But as I said before, I’m not made of money so I never followed through. Besides, I’d have to clean office space, and I’d probably add a fridge and a microwave, which means I’d pop up every five minutes to use said fridge and microwave. Plus, I’d probably get WiFi. We all know what a sand trap that is.

True, Starbucks has WiFi, but hackers have scared me away from unsecured connections, so no email, no online games (I’m talking about you, Text Twist, and you, Bounce Out.), and no extensive research. Yes, I have a phone, and yes, I have a data plan, but I’m all thumbs when it comes to typing on my cell, so I do it as little as possible. And yes, some of the Starbucks regulars who don’t write sometimes want to chat instead of read the book sitting in their laps, but I’m great at avoiding eye contact, and when that fails I’m pretty good at quickie conversations.

Starbucks logoAnd the expense? I figure the approximately $75 a month I spend on tea and the occasional pastry (specifically the Iced Lemon Pound Cake) is pretty cheap for office space.

So here’s to five months of Starbucks bliss. May there be many more in my future.

This post first appeared at The Contemporary Romance Café in 2015.

 

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I love my heroes, but…

I love my heroes. Their love, patience, and strength of character helps ground my heroines and come to terms with what’s right for them. The strong jaw, six-pack abs and broad shoulders don’t hurt, either. But for me, the heroine always comes first. The story begins and ends with her.

Don’t get me wrong. I love men. My first three books featured two men in some combination. MFM, MMF, and MM. But when there’s a heroine in my story, she’s the focus. She’s the one I most easily relate to. She’s not necessarily easy to write. I assume this is because she is some part of me. A part I have difficulty facing. But let’s not get into my demons.

Laid Bare coverTempted coverWhen it comes to reading, the books I love most, the stories that really speak to me are steeped in the heroine. It’s one reason I’m such a big fan of Megan Hart. There are depths to her heroines that are sometimes painful to read. Elle in Dirty. Sadie in Broken. Anne in Tempted. Olivia in Naked. Their secrets touch me to the core. But she’s not the only author whose heroines have stuck with me. Although I read Penelope Williamson’s The Outsider in Outsider coverSugar Daddy cover1997, the heroine, Rachel Yoder, still haunts me. Liberty Jones in Lisa Kleypas’ Sugar Daddy. Sugar Beth Carey in Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Ain’t She Sweet. Erin Brown in Lauren Dane’s Laid Bare. These women, these heroines, stand out from the thousands of books I’ve read.

So there you have it. I love my heroes, but…

Who are your favorite heroines, the ones you can’t get out of your head?

This post first appeared at The Contemporary Romance Café.

 

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Eat, Drink and Live Well!

Eat, drink and live well! That’s my motto. Really. It’s on the family crest. Or it would be, if I had one.

I’m pretty sure I starved to death in a previous life. That’s the only explanation I can come up with for my obsession with food. In this life, I’ve never wanted for food. My dad called me the human garbage disposal, because I’d clean my plate and the rest of the table’s, too. My husband and kids will tell you that I’m always worrying about the next meal…what we’ll eat, when we’ll eat, where we’ll eat. One of my friends (a writer) complained that whenever she came to my house I insisted on feeding her. Didn’t matter if it was meal time or not. She probably wouldn’t have said a word, except she was trying to lose weight.

chocolate souffleSo of course, food plays an important role in my books. All of them. It’s one way my characters show love or at least interest. It’s a case of art imitating life. And it’s not just the heroines who cook. In fact, my heroes are more likely to feed the women than vice versa. Because the way to my—uh—my heroines’ hearts is their stomachs. A butter knife tender, prime steak, grilled rare; a baked potato, loaded (Did you know that carbs and butter are aphrodisiacs?); a glass of red wine; a dessert that I/they don’t have room for.

In Sharing Hailey, breakfast is truly the most important meal of the day. It’s where Hailey’s brother learns that Hailey is dating his two best friends…at the same time. In Tempting Meredith, Charlie woos Meredith with Tex-Mex, and Blaine eases her fears during a no-pressure picnic in the woods. In Waiting for Ty, pizza and beer lead to a lip lock that leads to…well, it leads to more than garlic breath.

Thanks to the beer, Landon had a great buzz going. He was keeping up with the game better. It was close. Texas and Colorado exchanged leads several times. When the final horn sounded, Texas had the win by only two points.

Landon and Ty shouted, “Yeah!”

Jumping to his feet, Landon high-tenned Ty. As soon as their palms touched, Landon curled his fingers around his best friend’s. He didn’t think about it, didn’t plan it. He just did it.

Hands clasped above their heads, callused palm to callused palm, their gazes locked. Landon didn’t move, didn’t breathe, afraid to break the contact. The crowd’s cheers and the Longhorn band’s brass-heavy fight song merged to create distant white noise.

His heart pounded as he searched Ty’s expression for some indication of what he was thinking, what he wanted…or didn’t want. His eyes were dark and glittering. Anger? His lips were parted slightly, his breath coming in shallow puffs. Excitement?

Damn it. Why couldn’t he read him?

His skin stretched tight, hypersensitive, desperate for Ty’s touch. His lips drew closer, an intangible, invisible force playing tug of war with his better intentions.

Closer. His lids drifted to half-mast.

Closer. Ty’s scent, musky and masculine, overwhelmed his own.

Closer. Ty’s breath whispered against his lips.

Closer. Five beers and four years of longing conspired against him. Their lips touched, gently at first, as if by accident, an almost imperceptible summer breeze skipping over bare skin.

Meals are for sharing not only food but also the day’s ups and downs. They’re about creating tenuous bonds or strengthening existing ones. As many of the Café’s authors have revealed, meals are for seducing. You don’t even need the beer/liquor/wine. In fact, sometimes it’s best to avoid alcohol, as in this scene from Tempting Meredith where Meredith has sipped a little too much Don Julio 1942.

Bottle of Don Julio 1942

…she grabbed Charlie’s arms to steady herself. “Uh-oh. I think I drank too much. The room’s twirling. Twirling,” she said in a singsong voice as she followed the motion with her head, hoping to counteract the constant spiraling. Didn’t help. “Oh, yeah. It’s definitely twirling.” She tightened her grip on him.

“Are you gonna throw up?” he asked.

“I don’t throw up,” she said, offended at the suggestion. “Not when I’m drunk.”

“That’s good news.” He scooped her up, sending a fresh surge to the merry-go-round in her head.

He jostled her as he walked, but she didn’t mind. She liked being carried by Charlie. He was warm and safe, and he smelled good, like…like…well, like something good. She supposed he just smelled like Charlie, and that was good enough. Even with the world spinning, it was nice. He laid her on a cushy bed. She curled up on her side and closed her eyes. She’d just sleep for a few minutes until the world stopped spinning. Except it twirled faster when she closed her eyes, so she opened them and stared at a beige wall. Then the light went out and the wall darkened.

She struggled to sit up. “What are y’all doing?”

Blaine pointed the remote at the TV. “We’re gonna catch the end of the Rangers game.”

She crawled to the head of the bed and leaned against the headboard. “Then can we please have sex?”

“If you haven’t gone to sleep by then,” Blaine answered.

“I won’t,” she said happily.

Blaine and Charlie bounced on the bed, bumping her shoulders then settling against her like earmuffs. They spoke in low tones to each other, the drone of the game in the background. Following their conversation took too much effort. But it was nice simply sitting here alone with them. No one else around. Just the three of them like before. She’d been waiting weeks for this. She snuggled down between them and sighed. No, longer than weeks. Years, maybe. Or her whole life, except that was rather dramatic.

Their voices soothed. She slipped further down, and her eyelids drooped. The world stopped spinning.

Food, wine, and romance…where hearts meet (or not), secrets are revealed (or not), life slows to a more sensuous pace (or not), and characters eat, drink and live well (hopefully).

Do you have a food motto?

This post first appeared at The Contemporary Romance Café.

 

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Back to Basics

Which is correct?

Grammar BeeWith whom are you sexting?
or
Who are you sexting with?

He knelt at the altar of her heaving bosom.
or
He kneeled at the altar of her heaving bosom.

Last week I decided I needed to take a little time each day to get back to the basics of writing. You know, that little thing called grammar. In high school, I took an elective in grammar. In college, I took an extra-curricular class. That’s right, no credit for it because my major was Finance. Since college, I’ve taken several grammar classes and home-schooled my daughter in it. But it doesn’t matter how many classes I’ve taken, how many times I study subject verb agreement; subject, object and reflexive pronouns; or commas, colons and semi-colons, I find myself questioning myself. (I find me questioning me? I find myself questioning me? I find me questioning myself?)

So why haven’t all of those classes stuck? Part of the problem is reading all the mistakes that slip past writers and editors. I see “that” used so often in reference to people, I wonder if I’m the one making the mistake when I use “who.”

Oxford commaAnd part of it is the evolving rules. I was raised on the Oxford comma. We didn’t call it that. We called it the series comma. When I transferred that particular grammar law to fiction, I worked diligently to make certain I didn’t miss a single Oxford/series comma in my manuscripts. In fact, as my editor and I were passing my first manuscript back and forth, I became frustrated because I was missing so many of them. Then I realized my editor was taking them out. Later, I learned that most publishing houses discard the Oxford comma unless it’s necessary for clarity. And let’s talk about snuck and sneaked. In high school, my grammar teacher was horrified that “Jack snuck down the hill” in Ray Parker Jr.’s “Jack and Jill.” (I’ll have to Google song title format before I post this.) He should have sneaked. These days, if my research is correct, both are acceptable.

Yet another problem is regionalisms. For me the past tense of kneel is knelt, not kneeled, but my editor wanted me to correct knelt to kneeled. And what about the past tense of leap? Leapt or leaped?

So I go back to the book…the grammar book. The Elements of Style, aka Strunk and White; Painless Grammar (as if such a thing exists); Image Grammar. If I’m too lazy to get off my as—uh, I mean computer—I search online at Grammar Girl and various university websites.

These resources are great. They’re right at my fingertips, so why bother taking the time to brush up? Because I don’t immediately do the research. I often argue the point before finally breaking down and looking it up. Plus, I hate not knowing.

So it’s back to class. This time I’m using The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation. It’s straightforward, has lots of examples, and includes pretests, worksheets and final tests…all in one book.

Wish me luck. I really want to nail it this time.

Okay, time for show and tell. What’s your favorite grammar resource? Or the grammar bane of your existence?

This post first appeared at The Contemporary Romance Café.

 

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Location, Location, Location

Location, location, location. It’s the realtor’s mantra, but it works for me as well. From the mundane to the exotic, a change of location and the accompanying change of pace unleash my creativity and open me to new possibilities. Some examples:

  1. Sharing Hailey CoverHawaii. Specifically, the Big Island. More specifically, the Kailua-Kona area. I fell in love with it the minute I stepped off the airplane at the Kona airport. The sweet scent of plumeria, the warm breeze fluffed with just the right amount of humidity. All in the middle of winter!  I’m not a fan of winter. The days are too cold and too short…and too cold and too short…and did I mention too cold and too short. When the calendar flips to December 1, I just want to crawl into bed and sleep until March. Yeah, not a fan of winter. So no surprise that I set my first book, Sharing Hailey, in Hawaii. It’s the only place I’ve ever vacationed that I cried when I had to leave. Setting a book on the beautiful Kona coast allowed me to spend a little more time there…in my imagination.
  2. Red River, New Mexico (and all the ski resorts I visited before I decided that wintry weather and icy roads weren’t relaxing, not even a little). Last summer, my husband Tempting Meredith Coverand I spent a long weekend in Red River. It was my first visit, and I was instantly intrigued by the workings of a small town where the primary industry is tourism. Within twenty-four hours, I had an idea for not just one book but an entire series. I’m currently revising the first book in that series and writing the second.
  3. Austin. This enclave of liberalism in the conservative state of Texas was the setting for Tempting Meredith. And the heroes and heroine in the story reflect both political ideologies.
  4. The blood mobile. Yes, one day while donating blood, I came up with the beginning of a book involving blood donation and a bomb. Haven’t written that one yet, but someday…maybe.
  5. Waiting for Ty CoverAll over Texas. Houston, rural west Texas, Dallas. I find it difficult not to write about characters shaped by my birth state. Like my life there, Waiting for Ty takes place in every corner of it.
  6. New Mexico. I can’t forget the rest of my adopted home state, the setting for the second half of Sharing Hailey and the above mentioned work-in-progress. Albuquerque, Corrales, Santa Fe, Taos. I’ve lived here for thirty years, but the familiarity hasn’t dimmed my enthusiasm for the Land of Enchantment. Mountains formed from volcanoes, gorges cut deep by rivers, sunrises and sunsets so colorful I thought they only existed in paintings. The home of scientists who built the atomic bomb and artists who share the state’s beauty and culture through their works, New Mexico is as diverse as the United States itself.

From books that will never see a publisher to those already out there, location inspires me and shapes my writing. How important is location to your work or the books you read?

This post first appeared at The Contemporary Romance Café.

 

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Pretty Woman, Cinderella and Romance

PrettyWomanPosterPretty Woman. Yep, that’s the one. When I began thinking about this month’s topic—movie and television characters—I kept coming back to Pretty Woman. As a feminist, I shouldn’t love this movie, but I do. And my favorite part is Vivian’s shopping spree courtesy of her “john,” the incredibly wealthy, Edward Lewis. I know. Could I be more shallow? (Okay, Word is telling me that the correct word is shallower. Sorry, it just doesn’t have the same impact.)

Pretty Woman is a Cinderella story, but unlike the Cinderella movie I talked about last month, the characters in Pretty Woman are transformed by the end of the story. And like any good romance, their transformations occur because of the hero and heroine’s growing love for each other. For those few living under a rock (or too young to be familiar with the movie), here is a brief synopsis. Edward Lewis despises his father, who abandoned him and his mother. But he has followed in his father’s footsteps by using and discarding women. Vivian Ward is the hooker with a heart of gold and little self-esteem. As she tells Edward, “People put you down enough, you start to believe it.” Edward learns to love and trust. Vivian learns that she’s worth more than a paid, five minute hook-up with a stranger. And they all live happily ever after, although I understand the HEA wasn’t included in the original version.

Billionaire bad boys and poverty-stricken, nurturing women aren’t new to the romance genre. From Regency dukes to modern day CEO’s, from the orphaned ingénue to the single mom trying to put one more meal on the table and still afford the monthly rent, they abound. Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, anything by Dame Barbara Cartland, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The “sugar and spice” gender learns that if they are good and kind and patient and nurturing, they will receive their reward in the form of a handsome, “obscenely” wealthy and often dysfunctional man. But women must possess all those saintly qualities to tame/snag that oh-so-desirable (?) man.

Surprisingly, the trend has continued in today’s romances. In fact, it seems to be on the upswing. I have to ask myself why. Yes, women are still underpaid compared to men, but it’s not like the old days. Remember them? When the highest position a woman could aspire to was the CEO’s secretary?

While my taste for the billionaire bad boy has declined over the years, I still admit to the occasional indulgence. Would I have loved Pretty Woman without the penthouse, the private jet, the insanely expensive restaurant and the aforementioned shopping? Yes. After all, I married a poor college student. We both still laugh about the day, shortly after our wedding, when I found a dollar bill in my purse. The excitement of being able to afford a loaf of bread bubbled over, and I called my husband at work with the joyous news! I’d won the lottery!

A romance is a romance. A great romance is a great romance. But that fantasy life of luxury, of being taken care of, calls to me from time to time. What about you?

This post first appeared at The Contemporary Romance Café.

 

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