Sunday, March 30, 2008

Conversations concluded...

I thought I'd throw together the last couple of emails into one post. I hope you enjoyed our conversations. For more information on Diana's books, please visit her websites at or
I love that you were passing Distracting the Duchess around your meeting. That's totally something I'd do. and it sounds like the kind of trouble I'd cause.
You make a good point. We don't want the humor so distracting, that the reader loses sight of the story. It's a gentle balance, because you want the reader to keep reading. You want the book to be engaging, but running gags aren't enough. I think that's why I try to balance the physical humor with the conversational. The humor needs to reveal something about your characters. This is especially important to me during my more revealing scenes. Just last night I wrote a the scene where my hero goes to visit the heroine for the first time since he's realized she's in his town. He's confronted by her best friend, who has no intention of letting him see her friend. This could have come across as a very intense scene, but if I had, I would have lost the heart of these characters. The feel deeply, but they cover a lot of that emotion with their wit. I had to start and restart the scene several times to get just the right feel for it all.
Did you find it difficult moving from the more emotional historicals you've been writing, to the more lighthearted Emily books? I'd imagine it would be a bit like having a split personality.
Hugs, E.
Re: switching from dark, angsty drama to light-hearted romps. Oh, yeah, it was a stretch, but there's light and dark in everyone. It was just a matter of letting one side of my personality out a bit more. The hardest part has been getting used to having two names. I have yet to answer to Emily, but it'll come.
Part of why comedy is so hard is that so often things are only funny because they happen naturally. There's nothing natural about writing comedy, but you have to make it seem as if the joke happens without effort. So setting up the comedic premise is important. My stories have to live in a place where funny things can happen almost inevitably.
But I do have to watch myself or I'll let things get serious. Part of that has to do with the fact that my books are love stories first and foremost and loving someone is about as serious as life gets. Plus, I love to add adventure to my tales. Even though life is mixed portions of comedy and drama, we expect fiction to be more one thing than another. I start my stories with the promise of laughs. Part of my job is to make sure I don't give my readers whiplash later, but I do sneak in some adventure and a few somber moments just to make it real.
Writing my Emily Bryan stories has been great fun. Hopefully, the joy I feel at the keyboard will transfer to my readers.


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Friday, March 28, 2008

Conversations part 6, in which I'm redundant...again...

I hope you all are enjoying our Conversations. I know Diana and I had a blast discussing our approachs to writing...and a myriad of other things. Tonight you get a two-for-one special, since I inadvertantly missed yesterday's post. To make it up to you, I've posted both my email, and Diana's reply. Enjoy!
I was the one getting acupuncture, not him. But I was a little worried the doc would wander in to ask why I was talking to myself. I like the idea of keeping your theme in mind with a sticky note. Sometimes that's the hardest part about not having it all filled out for me, I can easily get distracted by a great scene, but not realize that it really has nothing to do with anything else.
Oh, and I realized I didn't address the romantic comedy statement you made earlier. For me the biggest part of making it funny is if you can have a sense of humor about it. I tend to use a lot of physical comedy in my stories, something that's hard to write, since it's visual. A perfect example is that in my latest book, one of the opening scenes if of my character watch her shoes bounce down the highway behind her car as she drives. it came out of a real event from when I was a child, and sets the stage perfectly for the way her life is going at that point. I also use a lot of what I consider a sarcastic sense of humor. Of course, humor is such a personal thing, you really have to go with, "Does it make me laugh?" If it makes you laugh you're on to a great start in my opinion. From there you can worry about if it translates or not. Of course, as most of my blog readers know, I crack myself up, so I might be a bit scewed on this topic.
Ok! There's a perfect example of what's funny. A misunderstanding. I really thought you were wringing the truth out of your hero by threatening him with those long needles. (Not sure what that assumption says about me. Hmmmm.)
I attended a comedy workshop by Mary Janice Davidson last year at the Romantic Times Convention. She is wickedly funny and has some definite ideas about it. She says she usually aims for a smile. If you make your reader shoot coke out their nose, you risk pulling them out of the story.
That said, I really like to go for the snort. A couple weeks ago I took a copy of DISTRACTING THE DUCHESS to the RWA meeting here in Massachusetts. While the chapter president was opening the session and taking care of all her parliamentary stuff, I was sending the DUCHESS around the room. I tried to use comedy as a hook for the this story and it seemed to work. As the book made the rounds and the women read the first sentence, the giggles and nose noises followed like a wave in a football stadium.
The chapter president was not amused.
It's great when the humor accomplishes two things at once. Your shoes flying down the highway are not only a good humorous visual, but it says something about your heroine's life. Not just gone to the dogs, but doggone!
We're having way too much fun here. I need to get busy. VEXING THE VISCOUNT will not write itself.

Diana or Emily (whatever)

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Conversations part 5, in which there is a misunderstanding...

I did something different for my last story (this is a romantic suspense that's currently under consideration, wish me luck!). To decide on plot points before I started writing the synopsis, I wrote one-sentence points as they came to me on sticky notes and plastered them all over my full length mirror. It really helped to be able to slip them around in different places however I pleased until I was satisfied that the story had a cohesive order about it. Then I used them to write the synopsis (which I had to re-write after I finished the manuscript because I veered off in different directions a couple of times once I got into the story). But it got me going and one of the most helpful sticky notes was the one-word theme for the story:TRUST. Whenever I needed to make a course correction, TRUST is the rudder I steered the story by. If the direction of the book wasn't developing that theme in some fashion, I knew I'd wandered too far from the initial synopsis.
Interviewing a character while giving him an accupuncture, hmm? A bit sadistic, but I like it.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Conversations part 4, or why it pays to take your time...

Oh, wouldn't it be nice if the words just dripped on to the keyboard? I think the thing about not plotting everything out that scares everyone, is the idea of the unknown. They are scared they might write themselves into a corner, or that they'll lose a thread somewhere. Some need to be able to see all the little details, to know where to drop hints, etc. Lacey did a plotting presentation for the chapter a couple of months ago, and the intensity of understanding that it takes was overwhelming. The Tiaras kept laughing at me as my eyes got bigger with each new idea we had to think about. It was way too much. And it's not that I don't enjoy plotting. I actually love to talk about my book with another writer, or another ear. Or to help another writer talk through their plot points. That's how I work through difficult scenes. But something about putting those ideas down on to paper prematurely makes them too concrete for me. I'm a big picture kind of gal, in all areas of my life. Even in my teaching, I'd rather let the little details work themselves out. I figure as long as I know the major points I have to hit, how I get there will work itself out. Do you tend to hold revisions until you're finished? Or do you rewrite as you go? I do remember your love of the Jade Lee workshop, and how quickly everything seemed to turn around once you got that beginning fixed up. That's kind of where I'm at with my current manuscript. I'm hoping by taking a little extra time now, I'll save myself pain and anguish later.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Conversations Part 3, or why Diana's husband is a lucky guy...

Diana: Readers should understand that I'll probably make changes as I go, but the refining is part of the process. If anyone would like to read the first draft of VEXING THE VISCOUNT (first chapter only) I've posted it on my website. (Click on the Books page for a link to VEXING). For those who remember Jade Lee's online workshop (online workshop for Eastside RWA), you'll know she eviscerated my initial offering for PLEASURING THE PIRATE. After much re-working, that sad start turned into something my editor made a two-book offer on. So the moral of the story is: It doesn't have to be perfect the first time. We just have to not be satisfied with the first time. I think lots of writers believe the story should just drip effortlessly from their fingertips, and I'm sure there are a few "wunderkinds" out there. But for most of us, the difference between writing for ourselves and writing for a paying audience is REVISION. We have to be willing to belabor our writing, to polish our prose till it sparkles, to rethink our whole premise if we need to and (sniff of sorrow) be willing to toss out everything that hints at being sub-standard. Interesting that you like to talk out your plotpoints, Erin. I run things by my husband all the time. He sometimes comes up with a unique slant I hadn't considered. Bless his heart, he even proof-reads my stories though romance isn't typically his genre. He helps me with the guy POV and whenever I'm stymied about how a guy would react to things, he's my sounding board. His favorite part of my books? The love scenes, of course! But he totally doesn't get the value of a 'near-miss.'

Come back tomorrow for more convesations, when we find out just how scary a plotting board is to me...

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Conversations continued, or why pantsing is never as simple as you think...

Sometimes I feel like I have a lot of nothing to start with. With my latest book I knew exactly two things at first. I knew my heroine was moving across the country, and I knew that she'd rediscover her vacation romance. I also knew I wanted to somehow include my recent trip to Israel in the story, but I wasn't sure how I'd do that, when the story itself takes place in Seattle. Since I write contemporary, I don't have to worry so much about historical accuracy, but I do have to worry about not making everything TOO coincidental.
I had a lot of trouble getting going, as I'm used to talking out some of my plotting points before hand. After a long coffee with Dona, I was able to pinpoint some of the more important details like what kind of business she's in. Important, since that's why she's moving. I also found out why her brothers are so overly concerned, and what really happened on that trip to Israel. What I came out with was about 2 small pages of handwritten notes that I keep forgetting to look at! But the story bud itself is good to go. Devora convinces her brothers to let her open up a branch of the family PR business in Seattle, 2000 miles away from their home office. Since her father died, they've taken the "watch over your sister" a little too seriously. Before the move she goes on a mission to Israel, and has a brief affair with Seth. The first spontaneous things she's ever done in her life. But it's safe, right, since she's leaving and will never see him again. Except of course that when she arrives in Seattle, she finds herself up against Seth in a bid for a large account, one that could either make or break her career. Somewhere in there I need to get the sparks flying again, and I need to insert the secondary storyline about her best friend's marriage.
I did something a little different with What Happens in Israel, Stays in Israel, and sent the first 50 pages to Serena, to get an honest opinion about what was working and what wasn't. Usually I save all the revisions until the end, since it's my least favorite thing to do. But I also figured that since I'm conciously trying to write a bigger book, I wanted it to start off with a bang, and give me somewhere to go. She sent me back fantastic feedback about the overall story, and specifically what needed to be beefed up, moved around and what was missing. Like my hero's motivation in all of this. Which was of course missing, since I didn't really understand him that well. I ended up "interviewing" him during an acupuncture session, to try to find out what makes this guy tick. Of course, now I have to remember it all.
Of course, even armed with all this information, I still have to figure out what to do with it all. That's part of the adventure, in my opinion, when you're not a full-on plotter. You have all these bits and pieces to weave together, but no pattern to work from.

Make sure to come back tomorrow for the next installment which brings us a misunderstanding, and begins to answer the question, "What is funny?"

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Conversations with Diana Groe

When we first began this experiment, Diana and I went back and forth on what we wanted to share with you. Finally I asked Diana how she starts her books, as I'm always curious to hear how other pantsers get going.
Here's what she had to say:
I'm just at the starting point for VEXING THE VISCOUNG, my Spring 2009 release. I have to turn in the first draft August 1st. Right now, I have about 50 pages of noodling.
I have an idea about who my characters are (I cheated a bit with the heroine. I already knew her. She's a 10 year old in PLEASURING THE PIRATE. She's a firmly on the shelf spinster by her own choice by the time VEXING THE VISCOUNT starts.)
I know my hero is a threadbare viscount, whose father (an earl) lost most of the family fortune in the South Sea stock swindle (an actual historical financial scandal). Lucian is determined to rebuild the family fortunes, not by marrying money, but by recovering a lost Roman treasure. He's uncovered an enigmatic ancient tablet describing an ancient theft of the Legion's payroll with clues to its location. Since Daisy (our heroine) found a hoard of pirate gold in PLEASURING THE PIRATE, she's been bitten by the treasure hunting bug and longs to have another adventure.
However, Lucian doesn't want anything to do with her since his father blames her uncle for his financial woes (Daisy's uncle wouldn't invest in the South Sea Company when it might have buoyed up the values long enough for Lucian's father to pull out.) So enterprising Daisy pretends to be an elusive French courtesan (who always wears a mask) who offers to finance Lucian's excavations as he follows the Roman clues to the treasure. Her one caveat is that he accept her agent as part of his team. YOu guessed it. The "courtesan" sends Daisy to guard her interests.
And that's about as far as I've got. The year is 1731, so I expect a few Jacobites will be after the treasure as well in order to finance the next Scottish uprising. And I know Lucian will be trying to seduce the courtesan (Daisy) who only wanted a financial business relationship with him while keeping Daisy (who's nursed a crush on him since she first met him when they were children and she accidentally gave him the scar that he still sports on his chin) at arm's length because of her family connections.
Now, I know some authors would sit down at this point and map out each scene. I wish with all my heart I was one of them. The closest I can come to it is to continue this rambling narrative until I have the bones of my story down. I've also talked to writers who find making collages helpful. By arranging and rearranging the pictures, they begin to see relationships between the characters that they hadn't suspected before. Mostly, I try to follow a "hero's journey" type of structure to my stories, all the while keeping a sticky note attached to my computer that says, "It's the relationship, stupid!" I have to watch myself or my plotting and intrigue will overshadow the romance.
Oh! And now I'm expected to be funny as well. Sheesh! I'd say I felt like a plate-spinner on the old Ed Sullivan show, but that dates me something awful. Writing comedy is another twist in my career that's given me a very steep learning curve as well.

Happy Writing,
Diana aka Em (yeah, that still feels weird!)
Be sure to come back tomorrow, when I'll post the next installment.

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Welcome guest blogger: Diana Groe a.k.a. Emily Bryan

As a special treat for you all, and let's be honest for me too, I invited Diana to join me for a series of posts about the writer's life...from a pantser's point of view. Over the next several days, I'll post our conversation here for you to read.
Until then, you can order Emily Bryan's first release, Distracting the Duchess, at DtD continues to receive fabulous reviews from all angles, including Publisher's Weekly and RTReviews. Writing also as Diana Groe, her releases Maidensong and Erinsong have put her on many an auto-buy list. DtD is her first shot at lighthearted historical romance, and I can't wait for to pick up my own copy.
Diana and I have had way too much fun chatting with each other, and can't wait to bring it to you. Make sure to check back frequently for updates on our chat.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Guilty Pleasures...

We all have 'em, those movies you can't help but watch. Those cheesy romantic comedies we watch when we're blue, or just not feeling well. Those movies they play on channels like ABC Family and Lifetime. I promise to share mine, if you'll share yours.
Anyone else remember when the first The Cutting Edge came out? I remember loving the movie about the ex-hockey player and the rich-b**ch figure skater. I couldn't help it. There was something about the bad writing, the cheesy dialogue, and the sweet love story. I couldn't help myself.
Which explains why I watch it when it comes on t.v. It doesn't explain why I watch The Cutting Edge 2 when it comes on. But I couldn't help myself! I swear! I mean c'mon! It's the story of their daughter. Anyone who has enjoyed the old romance sagas like the MacGregors will understand my weak willpower.
None of this explains why I felt compelled to watch the third installment tonight. I could blame spaghetti brain from report cards, or simple exhaustion. I could try to make you think that there was nothing better on television. All would be true, yet all would be a lie. The simple fact is that these are my guilty pleasures. Cheesy romantic comedies with predictable dialogue and expected results. I just can't help myself.
So, now it's your turn. What's yours?

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I am happy to announce I'm finally free of report least until June. But we won't speak of it.
Still, I'm done with the bane of my existance and spring has sprung...sort of. It's still nice and cool out, but the cherry blossoms have begun to bloom, and the sun shines more and more frequently. I love it!
Another sign of spring is my elementary school's annual auction. Funds raised at the auction help to fund many projects at the school, along with a fair number of salaries. I didn't go last year, but after all the stories I had to go to this year's. And let me tell you, this auction surpassed any expectation I might have had. The theme? Denim & Diamonds. And when I tell you that some people showed up in gun belts? I'm not exaggerating. I laughed so hard last night...too bad I can't share half of the stories. Let's just say fun was had by all, and children's artwork went to the highest bidder.
Truth, my friends, is most definitely stranger than fiction. Thank goodness the parents of my classroom are such wonderful, down to earth people. I'm so lucky this year. That said, it's back to writing, revising and the fun that is normal life.

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Monday, March 10, 2008


Popping in for just a moment. I'm drowning in report card hell right now, but plan to resurface by this time next week. At that time I hope to have:
-An update on books read and enjoyed
-A writing update
-A possible contest announcement
Until then, you'll have to amuse yourselves.

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Interview with author Eileen Cook

At long last Eileen Cook is home from her book tour, and sat down with me (okay, over email) to share the answers to a few burning questions.
Moi: At a time when paranormals are all the rage, why did you choose to make your heroine a fake psychic?
E: Oooh nice question. I love to read a good paranormal- but I noticed there didn't seem to be much on the skeptical point of view. I think too often we seek out magic instead of seeing the ordinary day to day magic that exists in our lives- like the fact that our dogs are thrilled every time we come home, waking up next to someone you've been with for years and realizing you still the love heck out of them or the thrill of finding a pair of killer shoes on sale- in your size. Lastly, I had been to a conference that was looking at how psychic skills could be faked and while it was fascinating, it left me wondering WHY someone would do it- that was the beginning of Unpredictable.
Moi: What was your favorite scene to write?
E : I am ashamed to admit I crack myself up. I know it's a good scene when I'm typing and snorting all at the same time. It's a good thing I find myself funny as I suspect there are times when I'm the only one. I think my favorite scene was the ending both because I was happy with how the story came together and it was the end. I am not a plotter. I have plotter fantasies- but I still tend to write as I go- so when I see things coming together I'm quite relieved.
Moi: Who would play Sophie in the movie version? (At the time I wrote these questions, I did not know the book was optioned. How's that for being psychic?)
E: When people hear that Unpredictable was optioned for film they always ask who I see in the various roles. When I was writing the book I never pictured any particular actress- and perhaps since I know that as the writer I have just about zero say in what the studio does I still don't have any firm ideas in my mind. I could see someone like Anne Hathaway (from the Princess Diaries) or Reese Witherspoon- but to be honest I'll just be thrilled if I have a chance to see it on screen. I should go on the record that I would fully support Johnny Depp being in the movie- not because I think he'd be perfect for any particular role- but mostly because I think he's dreamy.

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Sunday, March 02, 2008

A pronunciation guide for Rachel Ray...

Okay, I have to write this. You can ignore my rant if you'd like but I'm going to share regardless.
Ms. Ray, the word is challah, with a gutteral "ch" sound. It should sound like you are trying to clear your throat, or perhaps hack up something distasteful. It is not pronounced Hallah, Holla, or Hola. Does the word start with an h? No. It does not, therefor it is not pronounced like the Gwen Stefani song "Holla Back." Okay? Are we clear? I enjoy your show, and would like to continue to watch, but will have to stop if you continue to butcher the words you speak.
Thank you.

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I'm not talking to myself...

I'm talking to the voices in my head.
Doesn't sound so reassuring, does it? I'm pretty sure my acupuncturist was on his way to call the Loony Bin on my behalf, after I made this announcement yesterday morning. I was full of needles, had the little eye pillow on, and I called out, "Don't worry if you here me talking. I'm just talking to myself, working on my book."
I'm pretty sure that's a first for him.
But see, it was the perfect time. I mean, what else was I supposed to do? Moving created pain...not to mention no one wants to see you hobbling down the street with needles sticking out of your feet.
I could nap, but I didn't have to work yesterday so I'd gotten plenty of sleep.
I could hum a little tune, but that seemed pointless.
Or, I could figure out why my hero was such a tight-lipped SOB. He doesn't like to share anything about himself. A problem, when you're the writer and need to write his story. So at Serena's suggestion, I interviewed him. And let me tell you, he does not like to be pushed around. But when I pushed, I found out some very interesting things about my guy.
I don't care (too much) that I sounded like a crazy lady, muttering to myself. I mean, there was only one half of a conversation to hear, as my hero only talks in my head. That would just be weird, if he talked through me.
I still have some things to work out with him. A few deals he's going to have to make, whether he likes it or not. He doesn't like to let people in, but I'm not just anybody. I control his world, and all that happens in it. He might want to think about that the next time he tries to shut me out.

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