Archive for February, 2010



TOO WICKED? Inconceivable!
by Our Guest on February 25th, 2010

erica-ridley_sm

Today, Silk And Shadows welcomes Erica Ridley, whose debut TOO WICKED TO KISS has a dark hero to die for. 

Breaking News: Win an autographed copy of Gothic historical TOO WICKED TO KISS this week only, just by answering the daily kiss question on Twitter #2w2k or Facebook!

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Although release day for my debut Gothic romance is Tuesday, March 2, today I received a text from a friend who saw a stack of copies on the new release table at Borders (!!!) and sent me a photo with her iPhone. So exciting! Too Wicked To Kiss is also a Barnes & Noble book club pick for the month of March, and I’m hoping to get news of 2W2K sightings in those stores soon, too. I’m also getting ready for my first-ever signing next week, at a local independent bookstore. Definitely a scrapbook moment! But enough about me… let me introduce you to the book!

I absolutely love the cover. I think the art department did a spectacular job at evoking both Gothic darkness and sensual romance. The back cover reads:

too-wicked-to-kiss_erica-ridleyHIS TOUCH HOLDS HER CAPTIVE…

From the ravens circling its spires to the gargoyles adorning its roof, Blackberry Manor looms ominously over its rambling grounds. And behind its doors, amid the flickering shadows and secret passageways, danger lies in wait.

TO HIS EVERY DARK DESIRE…

Evangeline Pemberton has been invited to a party at the sprawling estate of reclusive Gavin Lioncroft, who is rumored to have murdered his parents. Initially, Gavin’s towering presence and brusque manner instill fear in Evangeline…until his rakish features and seductive attentions profoundly arouse her. But when a guest is murdered, Evangeline is torn. Could the man to whom she is so powerfully drawn, also be a ruthless killer?

TOO WICKED TO KISS

I had absolutely zero to do with the creation of the back cover copy, which turns out to be a good thing, because I think the copywriter did an amazing job at evoking the Gothic tone and hinting at the hero’s darkness.

The heroine’s first impression of his mansion does not exactly go over well:

Despite the tall arched ceiling with its bowed wooden beams curving at the creases like so many rib bones, the air was thick, heavy, oppressive, as if she had not stepped into the foyer of an aristocrat’s mansion, but a long forgotten sepulcher untouched by anything but death.

Were there no windows? Evangeline craned her neck to peer upward, just beneath the rafters. Ah, yes. Several. But not the kind to let in light.

The narrow slashes high above her head were the sort suited for medieval castles, for skilled archers to aim their deadly arrows at those who would trespass below, not for illuminating entryways for members of Polite Society. This evening, no archers crouched at the ready, just as no sun hung in the sky. Only the slipperiest, blackest of shadows filtered through the thin cracks to fall upon her upturned face like the cool caress of ghostly hands. The wisps of damp hair on Evangeline’s neck fluttered nervously, touched by a breeze she could not feel.

Nor does her first impression of the man himself:

He stood at the landing above the spiral stair, cloaked in shadow. Tall. Unnaturally so. Was it the angle, the skewed perspective of being so far beneath him? Or was his towering stature undeniable, evident in the width of his shoulders, the muscular length of his legs, the long pale fingers curved around the banister?

Evangeline swallowed a gasp.

Not because of the obsidian eyes framed by equally black lashes. Nor because of the angry slash of cheekbones, the flash of bared teeth, or the scar just above the edge of his jaw. Those things, though separately terrible, together formed a face of cold, cruel beauty. A face for statues, for frescoes, for—

Another flutter of orange light as he reached the final stair, and Evangeline could no longer breathe.

He was angry. Horribly angry. Livid. Enraged. Furious. His eyes glittered like a wolf’s because he was a wolf, a beautiful, powerful, violent wolf, prowling toward his unsuspecting prey.

Miss Evangeline Pemberton has her own dark secrets to keep, some of which are linked to the psychic abilities she’s tried so hard to hide–which is hard to do when she’s bombarded by visions and debilitating migraines at the slightest skin-to-skin touch. Before he discovers her secrets, the hero has his own unsettling encounters with the heroine:

For several long moments, Gavin watched her, unnerved by how still she held herself, how statue-like she posed. Her body was as lifeless and beautiful as an ivory sarcophagus molded in her image.

She stood so quiet and unmoving he might well have been in a room with two dead bodies. The unwelcome sensation of watching a pair of corpses had his muscles twitching in trepidation.

Gavin shifted his weight, uncomfortable in his own skin, even less comfortable with the motionless woman a few feet before him. Her fingers no longer shook, so frozen did she stand. He could not hear her breathing, even in the unnatural silence of the dank chamber. Her breasts no longer rose and fell. Even the folds of her gown held no ripples, no motion, as if they too were carved of stone and impervious to both breeze and life.

These two have a lot to deal with, but don’t worry–there’s still plenty of time for romance! Here’s a snippet from just before their first kiss:

He coasted his open mouth just above her flushed cheek, his breath steaming against the curve of her cheekbone, the dip below her earlobe, the length of her exposed neck.

Her body writhed between the hard wall and the even harder man before her. A sudden urge to force his lips upon her thrummed in her veins, but her dimming sense of self-preservation cautioned her to flee while she was still able.

You can read the full kiss scene on my blog at:
http://www.ericaridley.com/blog/2010/02/excerpt-monday-illicit-kisses/

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Erica will be hanging out at the blog today, so please leave comments! And don’t forget to check out the kiss contest on Facebook or Twitter and win an autographed copy of Gothic historical TOO WICKED TO KISS!

Get extra content and bonus features for Too Wicked To Kiss on the Unauthorized Scandal Sheet at: http://www.2wicked2kiss.com

For contest, blogs, embarrassing photos, and other fun stuff, check out Erica’s author web site at: http://www.ericaridley.com

Please join Erica for lots of games and prizes in the Facebook community at: http://www.facebook.com/EricaRidleyFans

And if you have Twitter, please come tweet with Erica at: http://www.twitter.com/EricaRidley

Enter the Brontes
by Sharon Ashwood on February 24th, 2010

The problem with identifying the first romance novel that I ever read is the age-old question of what constitutes a romance novel. I devoured anything to do with history, so Jean Plaidy, Nora Lofts, and all derivations thereof made up a large part of my reading diet from about the age of nine. I encountered Cherry Ames, Student Nurse, and at least one of the medical romances of the Dashing Dimpled Doctor Daring variety. I’m not even sure how I got my hands on that last one, since my mom never read fiction (still doesn’t) and my dad was into English murder mysteries with occasional side trips into action-fantasy like The Tarnsman of Gor.

Their idea of what a young girl should be reading wasn’t very defined. At twelve, I received a critical analysis of medieval literature for my birthday. The year before, it had been The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (all five volumes in one handy paperback). I read both, but also the Nancy Drew a friend gave me the same year. At that age, I didn’t fret over the disparities in content. If it was a book, I liked it and sponged up everything with equal interest.

Around the same time, I outgrew my Pepto-Bismol pink bedroom and opted for a virulent mauve. My sainted mother barely winced at the colour and, during the scorching July heat that only a prairie can produce, tackled the walls with brush and roller. This meant I had to sleep on the living room couch, a place of strange shadows and unfamiliar noises come the night.

jane-eyre

That same year, my aunt (who knew what young girls liked) mailed me three books: Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and Treasure Island. Interestingly enough, they were all from Signet. I do recall staring at the stylized S on the logo and thinking how cool it would be to write a book. Funny old world that I would end up publishing under a version of that same logo.

Anyway, I started with Jane Eyre because Treasure Island was about hairy pirates (Jack Sparrow was far in the future) and Wuthering Heights had long passages in a Yorkshire dialect with which I was not yet familiar. So, while sleeping on that couch on a hot night with the strange noises and shadows, I devoured the adventures of Jane and Mr. Rochester, lapping it up with the intensity that only a pre-teen can. I can’t say that the romance portion of the book rang my chimes all that much—that held much more resonance when I reread Jane in high school. What I remember from the first go-round was the orphanage, the mad wife, and my steadfast (and still current) opinion that St. John was a boring dork.

wuthering

I think what stuck with me from that first encounter with a bona fide romance was the concept of having to earn the right to happiness. Both Jane and Rochester have to confront their demons in much the same way current romance protagonists must—and I wonder how much Charlotte Bronte and her contemporaries influenced what we write today. My guess is: a lot. After all, wasn’t her sister Emily’s creation, Heathcliffe, one of the original dark and dangerous heroes?

Romance Firsts
by Annette McCleave on February 23rd, 2010

I’m sad to say I can’t recall the very first romance I read. I do know it was a Harlequin romance—my mother was a monthly subscriber to the Presents line. I can remember reading dozens of books by Violet Winspear, Penny Jordan, Anne Mather, and Charlotte Lamb. I devoured a ton of delicious stories about wealthy alpha heroes, princes, and sheiks.

The first book I actually remember reading was Sweet Savage Love by Rosemary Rogers. Probably not the best book to form the foundation of my love affair with romance novels, but definitely a memorable one.

The book that truly hooked me and made me a lifelong reader of romance was Kathleen Woodiwiss’s The Wolf and the Dove. I loved it then, and I love it now. The bastard son of nobleman trying to make good, the feisty heroine standing up for her people, even the hint of something paranormal in the appearance of the wolf. Loved it all. My original copy has long since fallen apart, but I still have a copy on my keeper shelf, and every ten years or so, I read it again. No surprise that my first forays into writing were medieval romances. I heart stories of knights and maidens and castles.

I’ve been a fan of Teresa Medeiros for years—she was my first glom. I read Touch of Enchantment and promptly ran out and bought every book of hers I could find. My next crush was on Karen Marie Moning. Her time travel romances with heroines falling into the lap of handsome highland heroes sent my imagination soaring.

I’m still discovering new authors—some have been around for ages and I’m just cluing in. Some are new debuts. There’s a treasure trove of great authors out there, thank goodness. I’ll never run out of excellent stories to read.

My first romance… Novel, that is :)
by Jessa Slade on February 22nd, 2010

Currently working on: Just finished page proofs on FORGED OF SHADOWS, the last step before June 2010 publication
Mood: Good luck, little book!  Now get out

rose-in-winterDoesn’t everyone remember the first romance novel they discovered?  Back in the day, I stumbled upon my mother’s copy of A ROSE IN WINTER by Kathleen Woodiwiss.  A charming rouge, a burned-out manor house, an auction-block marriage, a winter ball, and a Beauty and the Beast twist.  Oh my!  After reading that, I was ruined forever.  Kinda like your typical swooning historical ingenue.

I think the right first romance novel is very much like the right first kiss.  You want it to be special, deep and meaningful, a memory to cherish.  So, like a fairy godmother picking out a prince, I take a book recommendations very seriously, especially when I am recommending a first romance novel.

Romance novels already suffer from red-headed stepchild syndrome with some (silly!) people, but I love when I can win over a new reader.  I’m always discovering new great books that I just KNOW will turn on the most hard-hearted cynic, and I also have a few gold standards that I can fall back on.

Romantic comedy
I always like to start off easy on a new romance reader.  I find a contemporary romantic comedy can be a good beginner romance because:

  • The contemporary settings are readily absorbed.  There are no Austenian social mannerisms to maneuver around, no “och, wee lass, do ye ken mah claymore yearns fer ye?” historical diction to decipher.
  • Rom-com movies often pave the way in reluctant psyches.agnes
  • The fun covers sometimes don’t even give away that it IS a romance.

Anything by Jennifer Crusie is a great “starter” because her dazzlingly delightful dialogue will win over non-believers.  And it’s so convenient that she’s writing with Bob Mayer now, because you can even spring these books on unsuspecting male-type readers because — hey! — there’s a guy’s name on the cover!

Historical romance
For the slightly uptight, a good, corseted historical can help loosen them up.  The trick with “reading” a reader who might like a historical is figuring out whether they’ll sway toward a more correct historical interpretation or if a rollicking adventure would more tickle their fancy.

But as far as tickling goes, a spicy, saucy story like Delilah Marvelle’s are sure to please.  And by pleasure, I think we all understand what I mean ;)

Of course, there are also category romances, romantic suspense, inspirationals, straight contemporary, women’s fiction (with a strong romance)…  And, of course, paranormal romance :)  But as you know, paranormal romance isn’t for the faint of heart.

Finding a first romance novel for the people around me isn’t just a job.  It’s a passion!

And how lucky I am to be able to indulge my love as a tax write-off ;)

What’s the first romance novel you recommend to newbies?  Have you ever made a romance reader for life (or — in the case of paranormal romance – afterlife)?

Doubt Everpresent
by KimLenox on February 20th, 2010

When you were young, did you ever read those chapter books where you got to choose Chapter Ending A, B or C? I used to love those books, and would read them time and time again, enjoying the different story combinations.

Writing is a lot like that for me, but the A, B or C (or D - ZZZZ) choices come at every turn. Every next sentence, every paragraph transition brings a choice. What if I make the wrong choice? I have to battle not to fall into analysis paralysis. At the same time, that’s why writing is so much FUN. There are so many possibilities. It’s truly an unfolding adventure.

Do I do a lot of plotting? Yes. You’ve probably seen me say on this site that for every book, I write out a fourteen to fifteen page synopsis. Seems pretty detailed, eh? Not to my brain. There’s a million different choices to make for my characters buried within the framework of those fourteen pages of story.

Do I make story mistakes sometimes? I’m certain of it. And when you’re writing on deadline, sometimes you have time to write things wrong, and realize they are wrong and go back and fix them. Sometimes you don’t.

But the amazing thing that I’ve discovered is that sometimes, I’m so certain I’ve taken my characters down the wrong path, and I make myself sick over wishing I could have a do-over … only to read the pages later (usually much later, months after the book is published) and realize I made a great choice. Surprise! I tend to get very consumed by my stories, and sometimes just need a bit of distance.

One ever present reality in my mind is that I have a responsibility to my reader to do my very best as a writer. I know books are dear to readers, as is the money they spend on them. I don’t ever want to produce a story that is lackluster or meaningless.

Going back to the A, B and C choices, have you ever read a book, and imagined a better ending for the story than what was written? Do characters usually stay “alive” in your mind after you put a book down?

Mistakes or simply outlandish writing behaviour?
by Sharon Ashwood on February 17th, 2010

One of the reasons I love cats is that they never make mistakes. If they’re prancing along the window ledge, misstep and do a belly flop to the floor, they pretend that they meant to do that, dammit. They pick themselves up, lick a paw, and sashay off to the next adventure. As an approach to life, I’ve met worse.

falling-cat1

In writing, one has to decide when a mistake is a mistake. I’m not talking about grammar/spelling/punctuation, because when two or more copyeditors are gathered together, there shall be clashing opinions, none of which coincide with mine. The real blunders come on a much larger scale, such as when the plot goes to pieces. I often have a terrific scene in mind and will commit all sorts of logic errors just to get there. Or, I write the book how I see fit and find afterward that the result appeals to me and no one else. Most often, I commit the error of overcomplicating things. I do like my subsubsubplots. I also like shades of grey. I don’t always care about how conventionally sympathetic a character is. I’ll take “interesting” over “nice” every time.

Hence, I do a lot of rewriting.

Why do these things happen? Pull up a chair, would-be writers, and learn from the error of my ways:
1. Think through a scene (and a book) before committing it to paper.
2. Remember your audience. Who are you writing for?

With regard to #1, an outline can look better in a notebook than it does in action. Once you’re into a story, it can become evident that your brilliant plot twist was the product of that third glass of Shiraz. Unfortunately, backing out of a bad idea and slashing gobs of pages is sometimes necessary. Or, you can take the cat’s approach and act like you meant it. After all, stories are all about the motivation. Convince yourself, convince the characters, and sometimes it all works out.

With regard to #2, know the expectations of your genre. I struggle with this because I dislike the entire concept of slotting books into pigeon holes, and yet that’s the reality of the marketplace. Trying to be innovative can work, but it can also mean rewriting the entire book back inside the genre boundaries to make it marketable.

A lot of this stuff I don’t regard as mistakes per se, but as choices. An author can choose to be commercially accessible or not. He or she can choose to adhere to today’s favoured structure of story writing–or not. That doesn’t make it bad writing. Much literary fiction goes in the opposite direction and is well-respected.

The down side of there being so many “how to” resources for writers is that the concept of right and wrong storytelling techniques has become firmly entrenched in the hearts and minds of the commercial writing and reading community. The debate over accepting first person point of view is a typical example. It’s not exactly radical stuff, but it’s been a hard sell with many readers. Experimentation is rare. Have we, as writers, followed “the rules” to the point where we’ve trapped ourselves?

Embracing Mistakes
by Annette McCleave on February 16th, 2010

An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field.

–Niels Bohr, Danish scientist

I love this quote, because it keeps me humble. I’m not an expert yet, but I’m working at it. :smile:

Mistakes can be a hugely valuable learning tool. I embrace that philosophy now, but for the longest time, I sought perfection instead of allowing myself to fail with forgiveness. I sought the ‘silver bullet’ of writing. I took every course, read every writing self-help book, and absorbed the words of every lecturer believing that I simply needed to find the right piece of wisdom and success would be mine.

I’ll let you in on a secret—it doesn’t work that way. There is no silver bullet of writing, no miraculous writing technique that will take you over the bridge into publication.

That’s not to say that writers don’t need to know their craft. They do. None of the time I spent seeking the silver bullet and learning to write was wasted. There’s always more you can learn, always more you can do to improve your craft. BUT…in my fear of making mistakes, in my single-minded drive for perfection, I ignored my role in the writing process. I spent little or no time assessing my own style and my own voice.

Yet, if I could name one thing that I believe took me from unpublished to published, it would be voice. Once I stopped trying to write the perfect book and focused instead on writing a book only I could write, I sold. Once I stopped aiming for perfection and gave myself permission to make all sorts of errors—as long as they my errors—my writing developed its own identity.

Because of that, I’d list this quote as one of my favorites:

If I had to live my life again, I’d make the same mistakes, only sooner.

–Tallulah Bankhead, American actress

Oops, you made a mistake
by Jessa Slade on February 15th, 2010

 

Currently working on: The last dash of Book 3
Mood: Breathless

I hate revising.  I understand the need for revising, in the same way I understand the need for flossing after brushing.  But I don’t have to like it.  Revising means I didn’t do it right the first time.  And I hate not doing things right the first time.

There was a School House Rock song from the 70s that shows a string of bloodless Kid Fail bloopers: spilled milk, falling off bicycles, shooting water from the water fountain up your nose.  The chorus goes like this:  “Oops, you made a mistake, that’s all.  Mistakes can happen to anyone.”

mistake1

Despite the cheery tune, conciliatory message and studiously rainbow interracial casting, the sentiment irked me.  Then, like now, I found mistakes to be annoying, wasteful and embarrassing.  But — and I’m reluctant to admit this — mistakes aren’t all bad.

Mistakes are where a lot of serendipity happens. 
I made a mistake when I started writing Book 3 of the Marked Souls.  See, I sort of forgot to plot it. And I’m a die-hard plotter.  I love to plot.  I love charts and spreadsheets and workbook pages filled with plot.  But in one of my many spreadsheets, I forgot to schedule plotting into my calendar and so I never got around to it.

By the end of the first draft, Book 3 was out of control.  I had to make notes to myself on every page, notes like the following, cut and pasted from my manuscript:

  • What is this clue they keep talking about?!
  • Is this appropriate post coital convo??
  • Did we see where the body was last time? Whose body is it?!

Going back through the pages as I revised and seeing note after note of fumbling confusion was maddening…  And really interesting.  I had no idea what would happen until it happened, and I discovered new things about my characters, my storyworld and myself as a writer.

And I won’t ever make that stupid mistake again!  But I think I will try to preserve some of the sense of mystery that kept me turning pages.

Beading and collaging have helped me accept  work with work around my hatred of mistakes.  For a long time, I had trouble beading because I just couldn’t get started.  I thought:

  • I needed one of every bead in the world so I could be sure I had the right combination.
  • I had to get it strung exactly right the first time. 
  • I had to have an outfit that went with the beads.

Oh please.  #1, I’m never going to have one of every bead in the world.  And besides, I’d need at least two of every bead in the world so I could have matching earrings.  #2, I can just restring it if I don’t like it.  And #3, I can give the piece away as a present if it doesn’t work with my wardrobe.

Collaging (with the help of glue sniffing probably) taught me that flipping through all the world’s magazines (are we seeing a trend here?) to find exactly the right image is boooring and cutting on straight lines is for wusses.  I learned to flip, rip and stick and move along.  Sure, my collages are crooked and a little sticky (glue is every bit as messy as you remember from preschool) but they’re INSPIRING to me, and inspiration trumps correct every time.

Most importantly, mistakes are inevitable.
Knowing that I WILL make a mistake at some point, I try to cultivate a certain fatalism, even PLAN for the mistake.  I heard from a Navajo basket weaver once that the patterns in some Native American baskets are designed to include a visible flaw, because perfection belongs only to the gods.

I have no idea how true the story is, but it works for me.  Perfection belongs to the gods, and I’m just stumbling along behind, tripping over the flaws.  It takes a lot of the pressure off  :roll:

In the end, “Oops, you made a mistake, that’s all” was just the start.  Now, when the mistakes are coming fast and furious, I have my favorite mantras to get me through:

  • Don’t get it right, get it written.
  • We’ll fix it in post.

And lastly, a favorite quote:

  • Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.
    Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert

Do you have favorite saying or quote to console yourself after a mistake?  Or is chocolate enough for you?

What really matters
by Sharon Ashwood on February 10th, 2010

I checked the Web for some Valentine’s Day fun facts. Here’s a few things I found:

• About 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged in the US each year, second only to Christmas
• About 3% of pet owners will give Valentine’s Day gifts to their pets.

valentinespup

• Approximately 110 million roses, the majority red, will be sold and delivered within a three-day time period.
• In the Middle Ages, young men and women drew names from a bowl to see who their valentines would be. They would wear these names on their sleeves for one week, giving rise to the expression “wear your heart on your sleeve.”
• Richard Cadbury invented the first Valentines Day candy box in the late 1800s.
• The oldest surviving love poem till date is written in a clay tablet from the times of the Sumerians, inventors of writing, around 3500 B.C

It seems to me, though, what really matters are those unique traditions that spring up between couples. Y’know, the things that mean something to those two people but no one else. Stupid jokes. A favourite brand of coffee. Remembering to tape the other person’s favourite show. It’s the fact that your loved one is remembered, considered, and cherished that matters. The commercial holiday is lovely window dressing that can never, ever replace the real thing.

I always try to remember that when I get grumpy at someone for forgetting significant dates. Did they remember the important stuff, like my TV show, to feed the cats, or to send words of encouragement when life got rough? If they’re truly in the trenches with me 24/7, does the sparkly card matter?

To me, Valentine’s Day is a great excuse for a celebration in an otherwise blah month, but not much more than that. But, don’t get me wrong–I always accept chocolate.

And, BTW, if you’re looking to send an e-card, I have one on my web site. For every one sent, a donation goes to the Animal Crusaders to cover the medical costs of the rescued strays.

A Romantic View
by Annette McCleave on February 9th, 2010

To most people Valentine’s Day means chocolates and flowers and an outward expression of love. Like Jessa, I’m not sold on the tradition, but I love my chocolate, so I accept any and all offerings with an appropriate grin.

Since I joined my local RWA chapter in the Fall of 2003, Valentine’s Day has taken on an additional meaning. It’s the annual event where my chapter gets together to celebrate the accomplishments of our members. We have a lovely lunch, cheer the efforts of our authors, both published and unpublished, thank our selfless volunteers, and reaffirm our love of romance.

I don’t know if I would be published today if it weren’t for the wonderful and supportive members of my local chapter. From the beginning, they offered me terrific advice, critiques on manuscripts, and the kind of valuable encouragement that only other writers can offer you—because they’ve walked a mile in your shoes. They understand how gut-wrenching the writing process can be, from the creation of the prose to the mailing of that first partial to the heartbreak of the first rejection.

My chaptermates taught me to accept constructive criticism, to have the courage to discover my own voice, and to never forget the reason I write romance—because I believe in love and Happily Ever After. Even though I know they both take work.

That’s what Valentine’s Day is really about. Right?

Okay, yes, as Sharon pointed out yesterday, silk lingerie fits in there somewhere. And I won’t say no to the chocolates. :-)