Ask a male author about your male character traits or thoughts.

Amazon links to my stories: Autumn Breeze, A More Perfect Union, Double Happiness, The Wolves of Sherwood Forest, Neanderthals and the Garden of Eden can be found down the right side of the blog.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Christmas romance/short story

Merry Christmas and a belated happy Chanukah to you all,

They say don't burden a blog reader with lengthy anything, but this is my holiday present to you. For those not acquaited with my romance writing style read on and let me know if you liked it or not. Christmas Wings is a short story, inspirational romance, with the same whimsical theme as "It's a Wonderful Life."

For those who can't invest the time in the short story, I'll first present a clip from the holiday classic, It's a Wonderful Life, 1946. This Frank Capra directed movie was based on a short story called, The Greatest Gift, by Philip Stern.



Thanks to a certain dear friend for some little editing suggestions: 12/22/2013 rev. 1
CHRISTMAS WINGS

Apparently, everybody wants to get their cars fixed before Christmas, but could anything or anybody fix my broken life?

Ruth found herself without car, without much food, unemployment running out, and soon—too soon— without a home. But none of that mattered when she thought about losing her only daughter.

Her precious about to be six-year-old, Tina was sick, very sick.

Ruth put six candles into a raisin bagel.

“I’m not hungry, Mommy. You can eat it.”

“But honey, you have to eat and make a wish.”

“I liked the donuts.”

“So did I, but they don’t like me.”

“That’s silly. Donuts don’t have feelings.”

After the dinner, dessert, birthday party combo they watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” for the umpteenth time. What was it about little people and watching stuff over and over?

“How does an angel get to pick the person they want to help? You know, to get their wings.”

“I don’t know, maybe it’s somebody they knew or feel close to. Or maybe God tells them to.”

“I’m going to die on Christmas Eve, so I can give you a present. I’m going to ask God if I can get my wings by helping you find a new daddy.”

Ruth turned her head away so her little girl wouldn’t see the impending flood. After she had learned Tina was dying of Leukemia and then later that nothing could be done anymore, she ran through her savings grasping at half-baked dreams. All the accepted treatments had failed.

Failed, just like the loser she was. Just like her life.
Legs buckling, she dropped to her knees and then worried her daughter would for the first time see the ugly face of despair. Recovering just enough, she opened her arms for a hug. Aside from bright eyes here, she was an abject failure. Utterly, completely, miserably, a poor excuse for a human being.

Oh my darling. I am so sorry.

She petted her little girl’s grown-back golden locks. Took in the heady scent of baby shampoo as if it were her last breath and then snuggled with the light of her life. Without Tina, there’d be no reason to live, no need for charade.

Please God, save my little girl. Oh, please.

She recovered because she had to. “Honey, the best way to help me is to stay right here with me.”

Tina stomped her foot, stubborn like her dad used to be. “You need a daddy. I’m going to get you one for sure when I get to heaven.”

“I bet you won’t have to go to heaven to get me one. I’m still pretty, right?”

“You are the most beautiful mommy in the whole world, ever. I love your robin egg eyes and happy smile too.”

“Just like yours, baby.”

“Daddy said you got it. Whatever that it is.”

Ruth staggered through her words sobbing. “Well then, I’ll just take my ‘it’ and go find a husband for me and a daddy for you and we’re going to pray for a miracle, so you won’t leave me. There now.”

Later, she tucked Tina in. They prayed again for a daddy and a miracle cure. Ruth wondered if just walking by a guy dressed in something form-fitting, maybe gray leotards, short Scotty skirt, gray sweater vest, her long blonde hair flared out like a Christmas tree over her shoulders, would do the trick. Nobody could ever replace her daughter’s father, Winston. He was beautiful of body, face, mind, and spirit.

Was he a spirit up there? Would he get his wings by finding her a husband? Would he steer them to some impossible cure for Tina? Hubby would have to get said suitors and doctors to stop by the house until she could get her car fixed.

Before sleeping, Tina had instructed her mom to put up two sets of bells on the Christmas tree. But Ruth also added mistletoe to the entry arch.

You’d never know which miracle would come first, right?

# # #

Doctor Max Fielding, head of research at CHOP, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, picked up the phone.

“Hello.”

“Doctor Fielding?”

“Yes, sir.”

“This is Angel Winston. I need to get my wings. You’ve got an experimental program for possibly curing Leukemia and I’d like you to consider Ruth Trent’s daughter, Tina, of Philadelphia.”

“Your connection is weird, Angel.” It sounded like Angel was in the middle of a hurricane. “You mentioned wings, are you with the Air Force?”

“Never mind that now. Ruth lost her plant manager’s job to out-sourcing. You heard of Widgets, USA, now in China. Lost her husband in Afghanistan. Her home is almost foreclosed. She’s taking leftovers from bakeries. Her car needs a new head gasket. And her daughter has chosen Christmas Eve to die. And she will if we don’t do something. She’s stubborn.”

“Well, a number of things . . .”

“Yes, I know the 40 volunteers are confidential.”

“I have a heart, Angel, but we can’t be having this conversation.”

“Just check case number 17.”

“Who do you report to?”

“The guy on top. I take my orders from him.”

“I don’t care if you take your orders from God himself. We must maintain hands-off fairness. I’m going to have to go.”

“I’ll send you their pictures and info. Take a look at her mother, ah, I mean the file.” How this person got his email. Was it NSA via the President through NIH?

“I’m afraid you’ve ruined her chances by employing undue influence. Good day, sir.” He hung up, but felt terrible. He should have told the man: with only three weeks til Christmas and if Angel meant literally the child would die around Christmas time, CHOP’s program would not work. Then his texts chirped and his emails beeped.

The texts read:

“We have little time left for this Christmas miracle.”

“My boss is all over me on this one.”

“This will change your entire life.”

“Besides, there’s my wings to consider.”

He must have been dealing with a madman. Still, he’d check number 17. Curiosity was always a weakness with him. Perhaps in another life he might have been a detective.

He picked up his phone. “Jamie, could you check the status of number 17?”

His secretary and nurse assistant reported 17 as just admitted to Saint Jude’s in fair condition. He called security to have his landline phone log and cellphone checked, but they reported he had received no call and couldn’t pin down the source of the texts. Where was NSA when you needed them?

Later, Jamie buzzed him. “Doctor, number 17 died 33 minutes ago. I am so sorry.”

“I know, a little boy, four years old. God awful. I’ll make the call, but I want you to run the lottery from the pool for a new volunteer, immediately.” He would never interfere with a blind and fair system, no matter how many Angels called him. He couldn’t save them all, but maybe one more.

“Yes, Doctor.”

More texts and emails came in. He inspected them one by one, read all the very compelling info and then staggered when he saw a full page image of the little girl’s mom, Ruth. He relaxed, now euphoric in reflection. Sweat on his fingers. This gorgeous woman used to go to the same gym. The most fantastic creature he had ever seen in his life. She had exhibited signs of fainting the first time they met. This twisted his heart with the odd implication someone actually found him desirable without knowing he was a doctor. Her empathetic heart, sweet disposition, overwhelming smile and obvious attraction to him had made them fast friends, maybe besherte or soulmates. He nicknamed her, Sunshine, to match her hair and life nurturing nature. He soured on the next thought; he had finally decided to make time and date her, if only in short intervals. The prospect of finding a cure for leukemia kept him in the lab seven days a week, often back again at night. But then she disappeared by quitting the gym. He tossed away his libido and all things male to become a one-eyed monster focused on saving mankind, God willing.

A new text came in.

“Ruth’s been eating too many donuts, lately.” Would this guy ever quit?

He had to allow the lottery to pick a new number 17.

Jamie buzzed him. “The new and local volunteer is on your screen, doctor.”

“Thanks, Jamie, I’ll take care of the call. Prepare the paperwork, shots, extraction-pac, and cross-matched RBC for transport.” The secret lay in infusing the child with cancer killing T-cells. The patient might exhibit AIDS like side effects, for which the mother would have to sign the consent form one more time.

With 1637 possible volunteers from all over the world, it was no small miracle that Ruth Trent’s child, Tina, was chosen. Living just off 54th and City Line and considering how much he’d like to tell her in person, he knocked his knee jumping up, which spun his chair. He sprinted for his coat. High school geekyness to the extreme.

Jamie peeked up from paperwork, with a look of alarm. He never left early.

“It turns out the new patient is on my way home.”

“I should go with.”

Max tried to duplicate the patient’s mother’s heartwarming smile. Jamie tossed her pen over her shoulder. “She must be pretty,” said with eyes rolling. Jamie buried her head in the paperwork but he could still see a blush. “Well, go on. Leave me here all alone.”

He didn’t know what to say so he decided to put foot in mouth. “You know I love you like a sister. . . . but you and the team will coordinate the follow up home or hospital visits.” Memo to self: offer to fix Ruth’s car.

Just 33 minutes later, despite snow flurries, he pulled up to an old three story Victorian badly in need of repairs. The place loomed over forward, perfect for Halloween.

# # #

Ruth had tried on her man-catching outfit and was practicing her smile in the mirror when the doorbell rang.

“Oh my God, it’s you.” Max had always been polite, giving her space. She never gave him her address, email, or phone. Perplexed. She smiled broadly while delivering a prickly line. “Well come on in, stranger. You haven’t turned into a stalker, Max? Have you?”

“No, not ever, Sunshine. I’m here to deliver a little good news.”

A little duplicate of her mother came running down the stairs, eyes widening the closer she got.

“Are you my new daddy I’ve been praying for?” She shook his hand while nodding her head seeking a yes answer. He squatted for an eye to eye.

“Maybe, sweetheart.”

Aside from being stunned by his remark, Ruth really never knew who had the worst case of infatuation. She wrote off his remark as an effort to placate her daughter.

It worked out great, bagels and coffee, quite chic, if he only knew, that’s about all she had in the house. He explained his position at CHOP, the 40 volunteers, the unfortunate loss of a little boy. She gladly signed every paper he slid over to her.

“So by some minor miracle the completely blind lottery picked you, Tina, to hopefully get well. I know nobody likes needles and shots but I’ve got little medical miracles inside this bag and brand new blood. Would you like to see what I’ve got in here?”

“I’ll take the needles and blood, Doctor, if you’ll marry my mommy.”

“One miracle at a time, baby,” Max said. He looked into Ruth’s eyes, as if searching for a yes. Sure they had chemistry, definitely the hots, but a life together?

While Max poked Tina with needles, he chatted her up with whimsical remarks and inventive fantasies.

Entranced and unflinching, Tina said, “So maybe I won’t have to die on Christmas Eve. Doctor, will you stay with us, on Christmas Eve, so I don’t kick the buckets? You see, I made a promise to my daddy that I would help him get his wings, starting that day.”

“I’ll be there.” A tear fell from Max’s eye, and sheepishly he peered up at Ruth. “If your mom will let me.”

What could she say? The universe was conspiring against her. Or was it the other way around? Over more bagels and coffee, they discussed the child’s belief in angels, wings, and her daddy Winston. Looking at his kind face and intense eyes, she dared to consider miracles.

“I love your outfit, Sunshine. I’ve missed you like you would not believe.”

“Me too. You still make me spin.” The first time she met Max, she had to grab hold of the weights rack to keep from fainting.

“It’s a good start.” He said his goodbyes with hugs, and kisses on their cheeks. Good enough for now.

# # #

Three solid weeks of stolen minutes and hours followed. They were definitely becoming more than friends.
On Christmas Eve, the three of them decided to hang bells Max had bought, all over the tree. It was fun and with the initial medical results encouraging, appropriate. He had never had a better Guinea piggy. Her progress might break every record.

“It’s encouraging but she’s not out of the woods yet.”

His cell rang. His nurse/secretary Julie was calling late. “I’m sorry to disturb you, Doctor, but ah.”

“Go on, Julie. I’m just decorating Tina and Ruth’s tree with some more bells.”

“I’m glad you are, Doctor. Wish them the best for me. About Tina, and aside from a merry Christmas for them and again, happy Chanukah for you, I have some very good news.”

“Let me put you on speaker.”

“Hi everybody and especially you, little one. You are doing so good, Tina, you won’t have to die today. Nope, maybe you’ll live a long, long life.”  She went on to explain how the computer predicted a complete cure, if they stayed with the regiment.

“Maybe I’ll get a handsome husband like Doctor Max someday.”

Ruth, staggered by all the news, bumped the tree setting the bells to ring.

“What’s that?” Jamie asked.

“Just a little miracle wouldn’t you say?” Max gathered the girl and woman into a group hug. He had an instant family. Thanks to Ruth’s deceased husband, Max’s life would change forever. If only he could convince a certain someone that her angel husband, Winston, believed they belonged together. He prayed for just one more miracle. Silly thoughts for a man of science, but what did he know, really? Lately? Not much, indeed.

A little later, Tina tucked in and sleeping, Max casually maneuvered Ruth to under the mistletoe.

“As your child’s doctor, don’t you think I deserve a kiss?” He pointed up at the hemiparasitic, poisonous plant, and quack cure for cancer hanging over them. A very pretty and in this case potent plant, indeed.

“Well, I guess, it’s the least I could do.” He stared down into her beautiful blues, noticed her dreamy, almost school girl excitement and knew she wanted him too.

He bent down and kissed her, sweetly. What sounded like a crescendo of chapel bells rang in his head.

“Did you make the bells ring?” She tiptoed into another kiss.

They weren’t close enough to the tree to jostle the bells.

“I think, Winston, has gotten enough wings for an eternity.” He wrapped her more tightly into his arms. “Would you consider marrying me? I mean if . . .”

She shut him up with another and deeper kiss, promising everything.

With a beaming smile and breathless voice, she said, “Maybe.”

Sunday, December 8, 2013

MEN ON TOP


Men on top.

As a chess master, I was attracted to the World Chess Championship recently concluded in which the young twenty-two year old challenger, Magnus Carlsen, Norway, took the title away from the forty-three year old champion, Vishi Anand, India. Maybe it’s a bit of a stretch to present this here, but it might give you a peek into a world most know little about (see the video) and show a little about how the best at the top of their game treat the competition and the competitor. It’s true for women too. Right? These two men became friends primarily out of respect and a common love for chess. In writing, a sterling hero is often chivalrous or appreciative of another person’s efforts to achieve greatness. Generally the same end is sought by women; they just have a somewhat different way of showing it. This brings to mind women like Christi Yamaguchi, Laili Ali and the magnanimous way they treated their competitors.

This doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t portray scalawags or heroes in the process of change.
 
You may find some interesting behaviors in the ways these two men present themselves:
Post final game press conference: World Chess Chamionship, 2013.

 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Sound Of Music

Tomorrow night, December 5th, 2013, Thursday, 8 PM til 11 on NBC, Carrie Underwood will pay homage to a much beloved role and actress, Julie Andrews. I'm sure she'll do well. But that's not why I'm writing.

My mom is suffering from a form of dementia, but she remembers completely only one movie, The Sound Of Music. But that's not why I'm writing.

This movie is a romance, first and foremost, with a very traditional happily ever after. Is it epic like Doctor Zhivago? In a way, yes. It's not as sweeping. Is it inspirational like one of Judy Duarte's romance novels' inspirationals? In a way, yes. It's not as focused.

So what is it about this movie/play/TV production/book-memoir that endears the audience to it? I'd like to say, there was never a greater evil to inhabit the earth (Nazism) and for love to be the weapon of choice in defeating this evil makes us all feel better. So better not miss it, if you write romance or are human!

For the record and to get ready for tomorrow night:
20th Century Fox's promotion for The Sound Of Music,
starring Julie Andrews & Christopher Plummer, 1965.

 
 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Devil or Angel

Devil or Angel

Do guys like devils or angels? Do they like the naughty girl or the straight-laced? It depends. Are we talking straight laced to the point it must always be the missionary position and only on a harvest moon? Are we talking naughty to the point that she ties you down, literally (and then performs a ritual sacrifice)?

Of course, the answer is, it takes all kinds, but you had better show both the hero and heroine considering what they like and don’t like, what they want from a life partner.  I’ve read some romances in which I have no idea, beyond sex, why the two are together.

I think it would be interesting to have a hero or heroine who is both straight-laced and wild. How fun is that? Think, the naughty librarian. How about a woman who is addicted to porn (by herself) and is caught (extremely unlikely and I wouldn't write that, but . . .)? The unusual may not be very close to real life, but it would certainly be memorable and it would leave your reader with something more to worry about.

DEVIL OR ANGEL, original recording, 1956, by The Clovers


I want to know if you're a devil or angel. The ms. I'm working on now is all about a devil or angel. I got my inspiration not from the song, but from one of our own great and famous authors, Linda Thomas-Sundstrom. Nobody writes this type of character better.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Susan Burns is our guest poster today


Today’s guest is our own RWASD member and author, Susan Burns. She writes under the pen name of S.B.K. Burns. She’ll tell us how she came up with her romantic heroes, but leads off with a replay of a behind the scenes pitch from hell:

Confessions of a Fifty Shades Junky by Susan Burns
[Please don’t forget to comment or at least thank our guest. At the bottom I'll insert a video of Dexter suggested by Susan: Inside the kill room. - Bob]

“I have this really neat story,” I say, as a prelude to my pitch.

“Yes, but what motivates your hero? What category does he fall into? What are his hopes and dreams? What does he stand to lose?” et cetera . . . et cetera

For a pantser like me, who only needs to get an idea of my entity’s attitude and voice—letting my characters speak through me when I write—this interview seems worse than death.

I panic. My palms sweat. Was this editor asking me all sorts of analytical things about a character that sprung into my mind fully formed? I thought all I had to do was to complete my novel and wrap it up in a satisfying way.

You might ask me what is so wrong with answering those questions? Don’t we have to know our characters, plot them out in great detail, before we write about them? Even if we don’t plot out our stories?

My answer is no. With two advanced degrees in engineering, I was the only woman working with men for too many years to contemplate. The heroes that spoke to me were already educated in that arena. [Oh I like Susan, says an ex-engineer. Finally somebody understands me. - Bob]

Some women authors, the plotters, analyze what a man should be, think, feel, and how he should love. I let mine react to the heroine and life, revealing themselves as they go along.

And, as with my friends, I try not to impose expectations on my characters. If I have something planned for them, I know they will surprise me. I hope they will surprise me. 

So pay attention, you editors and agents. Please don’t force me to get analytical about something I love. I’m done being the geeky analytical scientist. I’ve spent a lifetime doing that. That’s your job now.

So here are my confessions about E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey.  Yes, I have read all three books—three times.  And I think after the movie moguls decided to quit Charlie Hunnam as Christian Grey for pointy-nosed Jamie, I lost interest in the movement.

Here’s what drove me onward into, what some of you might call insanity, reading all three books obsessively.  It was the hero. I’ve only been obsessed with one other hero, watching his Netflix TV episodes nonstop. He's Dexter, the serial killer we all love and cherish, because . . .

What makes someone, me in particular, love this guy? The same reason I loved and couldn’t get enough of Christian Grey.  And no, for you out there who think it’s because Christian is a bad boy. He isn’t. He’s just tormented.

The editor for my sci-fi romance series, coming out soon (Legends of The Goldens), said I needed to give more angst to the hero in my second book, just like I did with the first. And that’s what it’s all about—the suffering.

Our heroes, though it doesn’t seem very romantic at first, need to be FLAWED, and by my obsession, I’ve got to say—very flawed.

Dexter, as a toddler covered in blood, watched his mother chain-sawed to death.

Christian, as a toddler, watched his mother murdered and then cried alone beside her dead body. Both heroes were taken into, some might say, healthy, well-adjusted families. [Fascinating insights & comparisons of the two men. – Bob]

How, we wonder, can a human being cope with such early trauma?  And that’s the hook for me. How a child faced with such insanity can pull himself up to become that romantic hero at the end of his character arc.

He’s the innocent who fights the brutality of a dysfunctional world he’s been thrust into. How could we not root for such a character, hoping he’ll emerge sane with the ability to truly love another person, and, of course, himself.

In the first four books I wrote, my heroes were wrapped up in their looks and their superhuman powers. So into themselves, they thought all they had to do was look good and women would fall at their feet. This was a good place to start, but Saffron, the hero of Forbidden Playground, the first book in my Goldens Series, has a problem far worse than self-absorption. He’s grown up with the heroine, she’s his best friend, and she abandons him. Too late, he realizes, what all romance readers hope for, that he discovers he cannot exist without the heroine.  So, right now, to please both my readers and my editor, I need to dig deep to find the pain in the heroes of my second and third novels in the series. To escape those painful beginnings, the hero must have the courage to remake himself—to die to himself, only to emerge victorious.

Yes, on the surface Christian and Dexter appear to be bad boys. They both are  “mild-mannered reporters” by day and monsters by night—kind of a Jekyll and Hyde (my, am I analyzing my heroes? And I said I didn’t want to do that. But only for you, dear reader.)

One thing the heroine wants in a hero is HONESTY. The honesty comes in, not with the hero telling everyone of his plight, but by his own recognition of who he is and what limitations are set for him (this can be seen in third person, deep POV, where the hero narrates his own story through internal dialogue and discrete thoughts).

“I F**k hard,” Christian says to Anastasia, his heroine, almost upon their first meeting. But he gives her the FREEDOM to decide if she can deal with his monster. She gets tied up (forgive the pun) with the psychology of this stunted man-boy she so very much wants to love.

The men in my stories basically want the sex part, but I weave in the psychological part as well. The sexual intimacy means—as the man fills the woman, she fulfills the man. He now belongs someplace, to someone. The emotional VOID, he’s been fighting against, gets filled. And the power of this change in my hero is so very much greater, depending on how severe his childhood trauma.

Inspired by Dexter and Christian, the hero in my WIP, Flat Spin, is an emotionally challenged test pilot. He’s all analytical, loves to take risks. But is he up to the task of risking it all on a lethally dangerous alien who could put him to sleep, forever, with just the blink of her eyes?

To bring me, and my potential readers, to obsession, the hero needs—a traumatic childhood experience (FLAWED), a conscious knowledge of his maladjusted plight (HONESTY), be disciplined enough to give the heroine FREEDOM of choice, and, at some point, a willingness to lose himself, to fill his emotional VOID, to attain the ability to accept and love, first himself, then others.

Dexter: Inside the kill room:


OMG, I've never seen this show. I'd be banished to a different TV (and room) if I watched this. For Susan fans follow her links below:
 
The Forbidden Playground Comic Teaser:
Amazon ebooks by S.B.K. Burns:
 
 

Monday, November 18, 2013

What drives men? November 18, 2013

What drives men?

Before I answer this question from the male POV, consider another question.

What drives women?

What . . . do I hear rumblings? You can’t put us in a box, Bob. Well the same thing goes for guys. And writing romance is all the better for it.

In most romances I have read the guy is either romantic or comes around to appreciate romance. I’ve always found the ‘coming around’ arc hard to believe because a boy’s teenage years are all about mapping out their hopes and dreams, their lives. For a boy or man to not do this type of thinking would be thoughtless or worse non-romantic. The non-romantics may look at life in a more pragmatic way. They might decide what is right or wrong based on the situation and how it benefits them. If they marry, it will be for many reasons, but not likely love. Because to them love doesn’t exist, just survival. They’ll often divorce, once the marriage no longer benefits them. Ego-centric thinking is so monochromatic. Those who engage in it miss so much of what life has to offer.

Yes a man could have an epithany, an enlightenment. I’m just suggesting that something doesn’t come from nihilism. This writing blunder (a man who never considers love or that love exists) is easily fixed with backstory, especially in his teenage years.

Yes, you can have your heroes be driven by success or competition, even when it comes to competing for women (which shows passion). And many men are driven to compete, to excel. But aren’t women like this too?

So write your success driven hero with a heart, with dimension, with an inner drive to find that someone special someday. Perhaps he had put if off for various reasons until a special woman causes him to rearrange his priorities.

Jerry Maguire, 1996 is a fair representation of a driven man who has some backstory and backbone. Tom Cruise and Renee Zellweger are driven by a deeper meaning in living their lives. They rsik it all. This drives the movie and makes the plot and their romance work.
 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A new critique group, November, 12, 2013

Announcing a new critique group:

One advantage to joining this group might be that your male characters will become more real, (if not already).

I belong to a general writing critique group which meets every Friday for 3 hours. They’re great but I feel the need for a romance critique group to sharpen a very specialized genre.

Since RWASD members and others who follow this blog are spread out geographically, I picture a small online critique group. Maybe a total of four members. There is a possibility of meeting in person, perhaps on special occasions. I live in La Costa and can host. Our jobs would be to critique one scene a week and send it back by the end of the week at the latest and then start over.

Any romance genre is okay by me. I'm sitting on four contemporary novels right now: some rom coms, some paranormal (actually unexplained phenomena would be more precise). I have written a young adult about Robin and Marian (novella) and multi-protagonist love and adventure story set 100,000 years ago (not strickly a romance).

Those who sign up should email me at rwrichard@ymail.com not the Blog's email. Let me know if you want your name shared on this blog or not and a little about yourself and what you are doing. I’ll choose the three who will join me.

We’ll need a name for the group. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

RW Richard (Bob)

I videod my critique group. I picture the new group as three gals and me.

 
Thanks to a long forgotten but great movie, Twelve Angry Men, 1954-1957, TV, stage, movie.
 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Compare mystery and romance writing rules? Nov. 3, 2013

Just how different is romance writing when compared to mystery writing?

Phyllis Humphrey, of our chapter (RWASD),  has graciously consented to allow me to use her blog post about mystery writing rules so I can compare them to rules for writing romance.

Phyllis wrote: 

The twelve great rules for mystery writing are as relevant today as they were five years ago when Hallie Ephron wrote an article about them. For a slimmed-down version, go to http://phyllishumphrey.blogspot.com.

Bob's comments about romance writing are italicized.

#1. Coincidence or an Act of God. Coincidences happen in real life, but the rules are more stringent in fiction. If your sleuth is in a bathroom stall and overhears two strangers plotting a murder, Rewrite!

ROMANCE: If your hero or heroine overhear someone else solving the impasse between them, Rewrite!

* #2. Concealed Clues. Mystery readers want to solve the crime along with your detective, so if your sleuth knows a fact you haven’t revealed to the reader, Rewrite!

ROMANCE:  If your hero or heroine is withholding their true feelings or contemplated actions from the reader, not each other, Rewrite!

* #3. Plot-Herding Characters. Don’t let your characters do things normal people wouldn’t do just because your plot requires that. If your character, all alone and unarmed, goes into a scary place to confront the villain, you’d better give him a darned good reason, or else... Rewrite!

ROMANCE:  If your hero or heroine both inexplicably head for the same place, let’s say the top of the Empire State Building, Rewrite! Coincidences in romantic comedies which are written to snag laughs and fit the plot are the exception.

* #4. False starts. Readers need a mystery, or something exciting, to keep reading, so if you give them an immediate information dump, or a “flash forward” instead, Rewrite!

ROMANCE: Many romances are guilty of (especially in the heroine’s internal POV) rehashing every possible problem and then doing it again and again. Or the heroine overanalyzes the future giving away every possible scenario. Unless your heroine is a detective, enough is enough, sprinkle in some external plot and let them react to that, Rewrite!

* #5. Narration in dialog form. Sure, there are things you want the reader to know, but if your dialogue is stuffed with “reader feeders,” Rewrite!

ROMANCE: “Do you remember the time you did this and that?” “Yeah, it was yesterday. And you did this and on top of that, you did more.” No matter how far or close in the past this is unaffectionately known as the information dump. Rewrite!

* #6. False finish. These days readers expect the sleuth to have a final confrontation with the enemy, or at least a credible, though unexpected, solution. If you’ve picked the least-suspected person to be the villain and it’s not believable, or the sleuth spends pages explaining to the gathering how he put all the clues together, or if good luck, or divine intervention or a sudden rescue party solves the problem... Right. Rewrite!

ROMANCE: Divine intervention is no way to solve problems of the heart unless you writing a story about miracles. The hero and heroine need to understand why they can’t live without each other. And please don’t tell me all they have is chemistry. Rewrite!

* #7. Too many viewpoints. There’s a reason so many whodunits are written in first person. Readers have no problem following one person and trying to solve the crime when, or before, he does. Your story may require two viewpoint characters, but if you write more than three, and especially if you switch viewpoints in the middle of a scene, Rewrite!

ROMANCE: 99% of romances have two main points of view, if you have only one POV, unless there’s an exceptional reason . . . Rewrite! If you are uncomfortable writing the male POV or stuck on some point, try asking a guy or email me, I’m a guy.

* #8. Sidekicks as Stereotypes. Please, no heart-of-gold ex-hookers, no eyeglass-wearing, clumsy computer nerds, no incompetent cops. Dream up an interesting original or else, Rewrite!

ROMANCE: The same goes for romance, but I’d add a twist and that’s all that’s necessary. For instance, the heart of gold hooker was a nun. Rewrite!

* #9. Zigzag Timeline. Don’t switch between time periods if it can be avoided. If you make the reader wonder if this is 2013 or 1990 too often, you’ll lose her. Rewrite!

ROMANCE: The worst thing in a romance is to wonder bending your arcs of love and hate to the point they resemble a bowl of spaghetti. No reader can decipher such drivel. Rewrite!

* #10. Fa, la, la, gathering clues. Remember the theme of all fiction is conflict. If your sleuth is brilliant, fearless and cunning at all times, if he always stumbles upon the necessary clues, if witnesses always tell him the truth, let’s face it, it’s boring.  Rewrite!

ROMANCE: Try not to make your hero or heroine perfect. HelenKay Dimon is fond of giving her main characters, flaws. You’ve heard of this technique, no doubt. Rewrite!

* #11. Overstaying your welcome. If your sleuth reveals a suspect to be the murderer, and then decides he’s not and chooses someone else, or the killer escapes and the last hundred pages are just a “007" chase scene, Rewrite!

ROMANCE: Don’t make the last 100 pages a, can I tell you one more thing that happened since they married or declared their happily-ever-after. A short epilogue can add charm; a long one can add weight. Rewrite!

* #12. The small stuff. Mystery readers are relentless about wanting things to be accurate, so make sure you have no glaring errors. That applies to punctuation and grammar too. Do it right, or Rewrite!

ROMANCE: Need I say anything more than, Rewrite!
 
Inexplicably a seemingly unrelated video appears below which mixes romance with mystery.
Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James in a clip from McMillan and Wife (Series run 1971 -77):

 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Lydia Michaels talks about writing entirely in the male POV. Oct. 27, 2013

Award winning author, Lydia Michaels, has kindly consented to allow me to turn her inquiry about this blog into a guest spot in which she discusses the male POV. She has just published a very interesting and unique romance. Entirely in the male POV. 
   
I wrote Simple Man because I heard a song (Some Nights by FUN) and the story came to me. It came to me in male POV. I also saw some reader forums where women were searching for the ever hard to find male POV, so I figured I'd go for it. My Character, Shane, is a man in his 20's with no reason to act like an adult (not an uncommon situation). When I wrote Simple Man I did so in a matter of 5 days. It was one of the easiest stories I've ever written and while editing I found myself cracking up, because, let's face it, men get to say things women characters can't always get away with.

When I first pitched Simple Man I was told the title was "not sexy" and almost changed it to Unsung Hero, but the song Simple Man spoke to me and that was what I was going for so I kept it. Then I was told Shane was simply "unredeemable". You see, he's very irresponsible in the beginning. He's also selfish and burdened by financial problems and the like. He isn't the typical "book boyfriend". His priorities are beer, making sure no one smokes his stash, and getting laid. He thinks like a man. Us women like to fantasize about our heroes being perfect, but real men aren't. They aren't built like gods, they can't last forever, and they hardly say what we expect or hope. Yet, we direct our real lives around love, love for the real man. My characters, not just in Simple Man, but in other books I've written, have a tendency to be "real". My latest bestseller (SKIN) is about an obese woman who hates herself so much she can't recognize genuine love when it's staring her in the face. I've had more success with my "real" characters than my "fantasy" ones and my readers now look for them in my work.

I watched men and thought long and hard about what makes them tick, what motivates them to grow and mature. There is a need to work, to provide, to be self sufficient. Where romance seems to motivate females, men are directed by the simple power of pride. The male ego seems to be the driving force in all decisions, yet there are hidden vulnerabilities woman may not see or want to see.

Simple Man is a romance and as such, I played on those insecurities. Is he making enough money? When he's laid off is she judging him? His reluctance to get government assistance vs. his need to keep his home, which is a meager trailer. She has a nice house and he's afraid to go inside because it will kill his mood. The thing is... there's now a child involved and Shane must step up and swallow his pride in a lot of ways to be the hero he needs to be for his defenseless nephew. But when his happiness is threatened, all his attempts and little successes come tumbling down and he breaks in a way.

I think it is a truly realistic story and one readers (so far) seem to really enjoy. I'm attaching a blurb and excerpt here for you to look at and if you have any other questions I'd be happy to talk some more. Thanks!

Here's the book trailer if you want to take a look:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IwSnY5u_sak (Preview)               
Simple Man isn't on Amazon yet, but will be available there on Monday. The link is http://www.amazon.com/Lydia-Michaels/e/B0071ZV41G/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1382787561&sr=1-2-ent

Called to Order
Calling for a Miracle
Destiny Calls
White Chocolate
All for You
To Catch a Wolfe
Chasing Feathers
Breaking Perfect
Sacred Waters
 
Thanks so much and best of luck with all of your work!
~Lydia Michaels
www.LydiaMichaels.org
 
 
Thank you so much, Lydia.
 
You all know I like to present a video at the end of the post. Reading Lydia's comments led me to choose one of many driven young men with defects . . . Johnny Cash.
 
Walk The Line: trailer, 2005
 
 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Writing down the bones, October 20, 2103


Writing down the bones, October 20, 2013

I’ve recently had the good fortune to read a first draft romance as part of a swap project with my first draft. I quickly realized that things were missing from my swap partner’s manuscript. What wasn’t missing was the bones (the necessary character and scene development). Using this technique, you write each scene you want and quickly. You pay attention to the dialogue and interior monologue but go swiftly or sparingly through what might normally slow some writers down, like research, description, the senses, the who, what, where, why, and when.

How do you write your first draft?
 
Sometimes you don't have to do any research at all and your work can be a hit! Both my nine and six year old grandsons know the words and sounds to this, this, well see for yourself the most viral video in the world today.
 
 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

A hero who plows straight ahead, October 13, 2013

Your hero takes a surprising turn.
Does your hero walk straight ahead? If so, he’s not a real man. Heroes (and heroines) must adjust to circumstances. It’s better if the character arcs have stops and starts, up and downs, not necessarily scene by scene. A story that is too smooth is boring, monotonous. For instance, a couple may have decided on principle to wait until they’re married but sometimes the plot or circumstances draw them into each other’s arms before they say I do. The complications resulting from their ‘compromise’ is a story in itself. We’re here to entertain not make stereotypes or stick figures as stiff as cardboard.
I see this type of writing as Baroque art: The Baroque is a period of artistic style that used exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted details to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in sculpture, painting, architecture, literature, dance, and music. (Started in Rome around 1600 . . .)

Try not to create your hero like this guy did using dead parts from here and there.
Frankenstein, 1931

 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

To indie or not to indie, October 6, 2013

Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
The Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
Alice: I don't much care where.
The Cat: Then it doesn't much matter which way you go.
Alice: …so long as I get somewhere.
The Cat: Oh, you're sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.
 ..............................................................
I stand before a fork in the road.
I have just finished a great course on indie-publishing which left me conflicted about which direction to take. Over two and a half years ago I joined RWASD to meet fellow authors/agents/editors, take classes. Get better at craft. I did. Plus I made friends. I have met my idols close up, starting with Mary Leo. I have submitted ‘fulls’ to various agents/editors, but so far no takers. Apparently I write in a different tone. I ascribe that to not yet being all that I can be as a writer, not to being male.

At one point I was asked by an editor if I wrote like a male or a female (we were partially joking around). I tried to explain that I could mimic a female writing, but I now know that was the “buzzer” bad answer. I write like an experienced writer!

Yet I’m conflicted. I’m sitting on four romance novels. Three of which have received very high marks in contests. The first one I wrote, not so much. Unless lightning strikes I’m, going to publish over the next year all four through my own company (of one) WEB press.

There’s my plan. I’m not driven by dollars or fame, but I do want to see my babies born. I’m an artist and believe my work has value. Secondarily, I intend to land an agent/editor for whatever I’m working on at the moment (when it’s ready) and if I don’t I’ll hand the ms. over to me, owner of WEB Press.

I do have a question. What do you think about a banner or back cover statement about a division of WEB Press which publishes guys who write romance, along with their mission statement? Is any publicity good publicity?

An apropos scene from Disney's Cartoon classic: Alice in Wonderland



Sunday, September 29, 2013

I can't give you anything but love, baby. September, 29, 2013

Sign up to rescue your damsel, right here. (spoken with a New York City accent)

Guys whether they be alpha or beta or crappa-outa want to rescue damsels in distress. Some may fumble trying which is also the stuff of romantic and screwball comedies.

It’s built into our DNA. Guys want to protect, come to the rescue, help. Knowing this trait and how overwhelming it can be is a useful tool in developing reasons why the guy is attracted to a gal and/or part of why the romance gets started. The hero might ordinarily overlook the waitress/secretary until he finds out she’s a divorced mom. The heroine needs a man. I’ll be so bold as to say this hero will rationalize his attraction so that he could help her.

So why would a guy who normally likes Asian women go for the down on her luck red head? Because by serving, he proves his worth, he has done a good deed. He has found somebody who would appreciate him.

Being loved back is the most important consideration of a guy. The heroine will see him as a knight in shining armor. This strokes the male ego and rewards both parties.

I guess what I’m saying is try not rely on physical attraction alone. Besides, building in these tropes and traits makes the story more interesting.

Can you think of some prime examples?

Here’s one: “It isn’t everyday a guy saw a headless beaver marching down the side of a road, not even in Dean Robillard’s larger-than-life world.” Thus starts, Natural Born Charmer by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. What upstanding member of the male human union would not want to rescue a headless beaver?

Here’s another example:

 
BRINGING UP BABY,  Katherine Hepburn & Cary Grant, 1938