Sunday, December 14, 2014

Think Like a Man

All of my books so far have been written in third person from both the hero’s and heroine’s point of view (POV). This is  standard in contemporary and historical romance,  principally because we all love to read about how the hero views the heroine. And of course we get to see what’s holding him back or making him act like an idiot. It gives us a way to understand what he's going through.

But that means writing from a man’s POV. Writers have always written from the perspective of the opposite sex. I mean, you can’t expect a woman writer to only write from a woman’s POV and vice versa. In romance, most of us are trying to write something that feels authentic, but there’s also an element of fantasy, or idealism at least, in our portrayal.

So, how does one write from a man’s point of view? My approach has always grown out of each individual character. For instance, Ian (Tempt Me and Keep Me) is a smart guy, but I didn't make him overly sensitive or perceptive. He really cares about Nina but he's often at a loss as to what's going on in her head and what to do about it. Jason (Stirred Up) is a teacher who understands people pretty well, and he's probably the most sensitive guy I've written, though he's also lusty and crazy hot for Cheryl. Cutter (Set Loose) is stoic, so while he's pretty perceptive, he says a lot less than he feels. This is true of most men. 

I often think about my husband when I'm writing a man's character. While he can read me pretty well, he's not comfortable articulating emotions or even telling me what's on his mind at lot of the time. Pretty typical. Oftentimes after we've had a fight (which of course are always his fault) instead of apologizing he shows me he's sorry by being attentive – turning up the heat so that I'm warm enough, making dinner. He's more comfortable with action than words.

For most men, less is more, so when revising I often cut back dialogue that goes on too long. Or I take out parts that make them sound too evolved. If a guy's too perfect, there's less tension and confusion, and less to write about.

I'm writing the kinds of books I like to read, and given that they're written for women, I'm under no illusions that men will read them and think, "Yes, she got that exactly right." But I'm trying to make men who feel real and jump off the page. I now have a male beta reader, so if I do something that work for him, I expect he'll point it out. As does my critique partner, Abby. For instance, in my new book I had Jesse thinking to himself that he was stinky, and she pointed out that he wouldn't use a word like that. She was totally right, and I changed it to sweaty. (Jesse works up a good sweat when he's on stage.)

I read a book not too long ago by an author I really like, and in it the hero noticed that the woman was wearing a beautiful blue sheath. As in dress. Just that one word choice took me right out of the story because no man, unless he’s a fashion designer, is going to think the word “sheath.” Few women would either, for that matter. It's amazing how one little word or detail can throw a book off or make you doubt the author. I can only hope that doesn't happen with my books, or that if it does, my readers forgive me. (Please forgive me!)

I read many stories where the heroes are amazing and insightful, understanding so much from their beloved’s face just by the look in her eye. I love that kind of thing, but sometimes it can go too far and it’s hard to believe the guy is for real, even for a romance. But where’s the line? 

I suppose it all goes back to the characters and the story the author created. Maybe a guy is too good to be true. And let's face it, if it's a romance, that's pretty much always the case. As long as the book feels true and makes us swoony, it's all good. 

Very, very good.


Thursday, December 4, 2014

New Release!!!

After a fair amount of blood, sweat and tears, I can finally announce that my new book, Slow Burn, is coming out December 19th. I am pretty much madly in love with Jesse, the sexy lead singer hero. He's a bit rougher around the edges than my other heroes, but that's exactly what my heroine (and I) needed.

So the good news: it's available for pre-order now from Amazon, iTunes, and Barnes & Noble, and if you buy it before December 19th, you get the special pre-order price of $.99. Once the release date comes it'll go to its normal price of $3.99. 

Intrigued? Here's more:


Beth Levine left her Ohio hometown and cheating fiancĂ© behind, determined to shake things up. She succeeds beyond her wildest dreams when she finds a job touring the country with a band she’s never heard of. Because even uptight, rule-abiding accountants need to live a little.

Everything about Jesse Rhodes is larger than life, including his rattlesnake tattoos. He’s sexy as sin, but Beth’s got a front row seat to all the girls who throw themselves at him, and she’s not interested in vying for his attention. Besides, all the sexual chemistry in the world won’t make her and the lead singer right for each other.

Jesse takes one look at Beth’s pin-up girl curves and wary eyes and knows he’s in trouble. But Beth isn’t looking for a fling, and with his career taking off, a few sexy weeks are all he has to offer. As soon as the tour is over they’ll go their separate ways. At least, that's the plan...but some things are easier said than done.

Slow Burn is a 61,000 word contemporary romance novel.

Excerpt:

Her stomach was turning itself inside out as the reality of what she’d signed up for sank in. What had she been thinking? Surely there were other ways to find adventure. She couldn’t even remember the last time she saw a band live, and now she was supposed to help run one?

She was so immersed in her doubts she didn’t realize anyone had shown up until there was a knock on her window. She gave a stifled yelp, feeling like a fool as she looked up at what had to be the sexiest man she’d ever laid eyes on.

Jesse Rhodes, in the flesh.

Dark, mussed hair under a beat-up cowboy hat, dark eyes bright with amusement, and a smile that could have curled a nun’s toes. And she was no nun.

“Hey, honey. You waiting for us?” he asked, his deep, raspy drawl like a match against sandpaper.

Hearing it through her laptop’s tinny speakers had been enough to spark discussion of panty-dropping, and it was nothing compared to the real thing.

The real thing coming out of the real man.

Her gaze dropped, unable to hold those laughing eyes, and she found herself looking at a tattoo of a rattlesnake coiled around each finely muscled forearm. They were artful, almost delicate, the black ink shading lighter and darker in a realistic diamond pattern.

Here were the snakes, just like in the song. Would there be scorpions inked onto the lean muscles hiding under that t-shirt of his?

This man was too good-looking, too sure of himself. She could feel the pull of him through glass and metal. He seemed to be waiting for her to get out of the car, or at least roll down the window.
Part of her wanted to remain in the safety of the car, maybe even drive away and forget the whole thing. Then she pictured the alternative – sitting in a cubicle at another accounting firm without having tried anything new – and she got out of the car.

Heat billowed up from the parking lot’s freshly tarred surface, and instantly she was drenched in sweat. Jesse stepped back and looked her up and down without even trying to hide it. His smile widened.

Maybe she should have worn something else. Like a potato sack.  Her sporty aqua tank dress wasn’t cut low or overtly sexy, but standing next to this man she was suddenly aware how much of her skin was on view.

“You must be Beth,” he said, holding out his hand.

It was a big hand. She took it, hating how aware she was of everything about him. She was tall, but he had her by several inches. It was more than that, though. Even in a t-shirt, cargo shorts and running shoes the man had presence. No wonder he was making a name for himself.

“You must be Jesse,” she said, shaking his hand in a firm, business-like way, hoping to make a point.

“That’s a real firm handshake you got, Beth,” he said, his eyes teasing.

_____________________ 


So there you have it. Now that Slow Burn is out I'm thinking about my next project, and I have an idea that I think will make a lot of people happy. But since I have a tendency to change my mind, I won't say anything until I'm well into the book and can say with confidence that it's going to happen. 

Watch this space.....





Thursday, September 11, 2014

Working Away

There is a book in the works, I swear. That's part of the reason for my intermittent radio silence. It's going a bit slower than I'd hoped, though, and the publication date will probably be in early December, though I'll confirm that closer to the date. Here is the ms as of today.


See, it's a real thing! I am at the stage in revisions where I'm going through it in hardcopy. The title is "Slow Burn" and I'm in love with the main character, Jesse. Then again, I'm in love with all my heroes, naturally. He's got more of the bad boy thing than my others do though, which is wickedly fun to write. He's got a Texas drawl and some very cool tattoos, also a first for my heroes. I'm a big fan of sexy arm tattoos (my husband has some good ones), so it was about time I had a hero who sported some ink.

Stay tuned! Soon I'll have a sexy cover to show you.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Birth of a Romance Reader

We can set the blame for my romance addiction squarely on the head of my grandmother. (Though let's face it, I'm sure I would have gotten there on my own at some point.)

The summer I was thirteen, just about to turn fourteen, by grandmother came to visit us from where she lived in Florida (where all the Jewish grandparents went if they could). With her she brought a bag full to the brim of Harlequin romances. My mother, grandmother and I all read them, passing them along after we'd finished them.

I remember several of them fairly well, oddly enough. One was about an 18 year old girl whose father dies and leaves her under the guardianship of a smoldering thirty-something man with thick stubby lashes. It was pretty sexy, actually, but these days you'd never see that plot in a contemporary romance.

Then there was one by Violet Winspeare. Just to impress upon you how old-school these books were, the "heroine" was this beyond passive wimp of a woman who married a cold-hearted man for some reason of convenience I cannot now recall. She loved him even though there was no reason on earth she should, since he bullied her and slept with her in circumstances that are murky now but might reasonably have been called rape, though there was nothing graphic.

And yet I kept reading. Yes, I found some of it distasteful, and I knew that was not how men and women should be together, but my understanding of sex and romance was still vague enough that I ate up anything that had anything to do with them. I even went through all the (non-romance) books on the living room bookshelves looking for the sexy parts, and I found some good ones. It was quite an education.


But the weirdest romance I read was about a young woman, maybe mid or late 20's, whose older husband had just died when the book opened. The main thing was that in her marriage the man called the shots. She did what he wanted and he made the decisions. It was like this with the new, younger man who came into her life as well. That was just the way it was in this book's world. It wasn't an issue, just the belief system the main characters shared. Or the woman shared and the new guy had no interest in dismantling. All I can think is that the author felt the same way, so she wrote a book with characters that felt this way.

Nowadays that would be something two characters would role-play, something kinky to try in the bedroom. But that wasn't what this was. And I read it, bemused, confused, but still insatiably curious. The goofiest thing of all though was a scene in which the heroine takes a shower, then wraps the towel around her waist. She hears someone come in the house and walks into the hallway to see the hero standing there. They talk for a minute before she suddenly remembers that she's standing there bare-breasted.

It could happen to anyone, right? There you are, chatting with some guy, completely unaware that you're flashing your boobs.

God, those books. They were so wrong, and yet they were edited and published and sold to millions of women (and girls) around the world who gobbled them up.

Harlequins were my gateway drug.

Mind you, none of my grandmother's books were ever discussed between us that summer. What did my mother and grandmother, two of the strongest women I've ever known, think of them? I have no idea. We read them as if it were a secret, as if we weren't supposed to acknowledge we were doing it. Or maybe it was the fact that I was so young, and they had no idea how to talk about it. There were no graphic sex scenes, so it wasn't that, but ours was not a family that talked openly about those sorts of things. Of course, few are.

But then one day, when I was maybe seventeen, I walked into the kitchen with one of my romances and my mother, prompted by who knows what, said to me:

"You know it's not all stars and fireworks in real life."
"I know that," I said,  mortified.
I was a virgin, as she well knew, and I think she wanted to keep me from having unrealistic expectations. I felt foolish, like she'd seen into my secret yearning hopes, and so I acted like of course I knew that wasn't what sex was like.

Maybe I was impressionable and getting the wrong idea about simultaneous climaxes and whatnot, but what was that going to hurt? I'm all for setting a high bar.

In any case, it didn't slow me down. It was my escape from my nerdy, no dates ever high-school existence.

I soon discovered Annie's Book Swap, a used bookstore chain with an enormous romance section that I and many other women treated as a lending library. Buy five, read them, bring them back a week later and buy more. Of course, you never got as much in trade-in as you paid for them, but by the time I could drive, I was going there every week for my fix. Soon I was also reading historicals. These, too, were unlike the ones you'd find now. Historical romances of the 1980s and 90s were all over the place. The guys were usually serious dicks, stern and cold and alpha male to the hilt, and the women suffered rapes and abuse (sometimes by the heroes but not always) before falling into their arms.

I have occasionally since the old days come upon one of those historicals, and I can tell immediately I'm reading an oldie. Whereas now the stories are tighter and the arc clear, these were more about adventure, which is a fine ambition. But nowadays we want our heroines to be happy and find their power, no matter how out of place that might be in a nineteenth century story. We want the men to be gorgeous and built, alpha and sensitive as well as fabulous in bed. And why not? They're our fantasies, after all.









Sunday, June 8, 2014

Write Less

This past few months several of my favorite romance authors published new books, and I snapped them up the second they were available. Oh, the joy when I saw that the books on my wish list had actually been released! I curled up on the couch to read them, more than happy to let everything else in my life - including my own writing - fall by the wayside. I couldn't wait to be sucked into their fun, sexy stories.

Except I wasn't.

So I'm going to say this here, even though it may sound crazy. To all those authors who release more than two books a year:  Please, please write fewer books.

I know this sounds crazy, and it's probably the exact opposite of what most of you feel. As fans, we're always thrilled when our favorite authors release a new book. But so many of the authors I once bought without hesitation are putting out work that's increasingly generic and lackluster. Not terrible, but far below what drew me to them. I haven't even been finishing their books, because why keep reading a boring romance? There's nothing more pointless.

I don't give up easily, mind you. One disappointing book won't keep me from buying an author I like, because everyone has a dud here and there. Nor will a second disappointing book, and maybe not even a third one. But there comes a point when I do give up on an author. I've been through this cycle many times, mind you. In fact, as soon as a writer I love hits big and starts churning them out, I wonder how long it'll be before I see a dip in quality. Oh, the humanity when I see it happen again!

It's difficult to make a story shine, to make romance tropes seem fresh. That's the challenge for all writers. So how can anyone expect to write more than two awesome novels a year for years on end? It's kind of ludicrous when you think about it. No way can anyone keep that up.

Of course, a writer has to earn a living, and the more you publish, the more you earn. But shouldn't you want to keep your biggest fans? Isn't it better to make sure you can have a long and lasting career?

So in my little blogger way, I'm asking all those fabulous ladies to slow down and say no to some of those offers. Save something for later. If you keep writing good books, your readers will be here waiting.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Hottie Quiz and Giveaway

Today is going to be more pictures than writing. In fact, it'll be about me objectifying the hunky men of my fantasies.

Below are pics of men I think are smokin' hot. The first five people to make a guess at who they are will receive an ebook of my novel Stirred Up. Hint: I have mentioned every one of these men in my blog.

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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Keep Me is Released

If you've been waiting for Nina's and Ian's happily ever after, the wait is over. Keep Me is available everywhere!