Thursday, November 5, 2009

Yay! ADDICTION is Released Today.

Hi Everyone,

Do you think I'm happy today? I definitely am. My first book with Eirelander Publishing is out today. I'm so happy that ADDICTION is being released, and you can buy it at

This story is about addictions, but it's about so much more than that. A young woman gains self-esteem and learns to trust in herself with the help of a handsome Irishman.

If you would like to read excerpts visit my website, or my publisher at

Thank you,
Sandra K. Marshall

Thursday, October 29, 2009

And a repeat would be...

... a totally icky thing!

Pardon my introduction into this post. I have been away for a while (not awol since I was on study leave) and now I'm revving up to have a go at blog posting again.

I've been following the amazing posts of the women of RBA over the past couple of weeks, and I gotta say a chord is resonating inside me. Sandra spoke of wimpy heroes and Angela about formula writing.

Sadly, these two components (broaden the first to include wimpy and limp characters) are a recurring, evil-like theme in books of recent times. It's just repeat and repeat, or as I like to compare it to - shampoo, lather, rinse, repeat. There really is nothing more complicated than that in books today. Shampoo is hero+heroine+sex, lather is hero+heroine+sex have sex in a next-to-nonexistent context and setup, rinse is hero+heroine+sex+some conflict=resolution, and then for your next book, you just take the same shampoo and lather and rinse. And repeat.

Wonder what the poor hair that's being so shampooed looks like in the end. What would that hair be? Writer's imagination (that they're not stretching by any lengths. Using the same shampoo loses its efficiency on your hair after a while, that's a well known fact. So what then does it say when applied to writers' imagination and writing?). Another 'hair' would be readers. Aren't they sick and tired of the same shampoo that promises the same generic result on every aisle of every drugstore? Don't their 'hair' have special needs, which would be fed and satisfied by different mixes of shampoo?

Where has the imagination gone? I know we've been asking this same question for ages here at RBA, but is it a wonder we keep running circles and coming back to this very same issue? Characters in today's writing world are most often limp, stringy 'thingies' (can't even call them people!). Formula is so generic you know a book even before you read it. Take a historical and most often you get an ingenue who is all revved up to take her life into her hands and what does this mean - oh yeah, she wants to be her own person. How? Absolutely no clue, either for the writer, or for the reader if she even manages to finish the book. There seems to be an unwritten rule that goes, this much is enough and no need to bother with more coz no one will bother at the other end.

People, readers DO bother! They DO care! And they hate being taken for fools and idiots and the dullest knife in the drawer. For once, I'm putting aside the writer mantle and stepping into my reader shoes. I have a full shelf of reader shoes - comfy sneakers-like ones, strappy and glittery stiletto-type sandals, fluffy slippers that welcome your feet in a smug and warm hold. But lately, my reader feet are going bare, because there seems to be so little good and out-of-the-box reads that I don't even have time to slip on the shoes, any shoes, so much there's next-to-nothing to read. I am having to fall back on my 'classics', books I'd acquired years, even decades, ago, leading me to now thread-bare slippers that are threatening to disintegrate every time I pick them. The stilettos, sadly, remain in their tissue wrap and never get to see the light.

Angela mentioned everything is coming down to formulaic stuff. I agree - everything is a repeat of another in today's world.

What do you think? Chime in and leave a comment!

On a side note, come check out my latest book trailer, for the upcoming suspense/mystery Walking on the Edge

Aasiyah Qamar - Cultural Romantic Fiction, With a Twist
Available Now!! - Light My World - Eirelander Publishing
Nolwynn Ardennes - The Promise of Fulfilment
Coming out January 8, 2010 - Storms in a Shot Glass - Eirelander Publishing
Coming out June 4, 2010 - Walking on the Edge - Eirelander Publishing

Aasiyah Qamar/Nolwynn Ardennes - Romance the world over

Monday, October 26, 2009

With Love, from Ms. Blush

Hello to you all wonderful, beautiful people!

What a month! If we thought October would be quiet, we had another think coming! In between releases, promo, and catching up on the meanders and intricacies of a publishing house, it's been non-stop rushing!

As you probably know, Eirelander Publishing opened its doors at the start of the month. Two authors of the RBA posse saw their releases debut-ing the Main and Heat lines of the publisher, respectively.
Aasiyah Qamar released Light My World, a multicultural contemporary romance with comedic influences set on a small and dynamic island of the southern Indian Ocean, Mauritius.
Tethys J. Killian released Master and Commander's Prey, a time-travel, erotic historical that brings you into the world of a master and commander hero, Captain Jacob Wolfson, and his Fate-determined clash with modern-girl Shiloh Montgomery-Moore.

In between all this, needless to say, the two have been hard-pressed to hold on to a scrap of sanity to blog. But, they knew they could count on the other wonderful ladies of the RBA clan to hold the fort. Sandra Marshall and Angela Guillaume (who made her blogging comeback with us - give her a big round of applause!) have done a stellar job of grabbing and captivating the blog's audience with their thought-provoking pieces.

So as we finish off October, amidst a show-stopping fireworks display to celebrate the above-mentioned releases and the opening of the publisher, and while gearing up for a fabulous Halloween weekend, we ask you again - are there skeletons lingering in writers' closets?

Don't forget:

This October, we want to try and put some flesh, meat and skin on this poor soul we now meet that bears the name of 'story skeleton'. And maybe, get a heart to beat inside this ribcage.

This October, we're on the quest:

Searching for a some meat and beef...

The best of us for the best of you, that's our promise as we deliver the full flush of romance.

From now till later, enjoy!

With love, from Ms. Blush

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

E=mc2 – The satisfaction, or boredom, of formula writing

by Angela Guillaume

I’m sitting at my desk at 3.45am. It took me an hour to put my baby son to sleep yesterday and after that I managed to sleep 4 hours. 4 full hours! Great! For some reason when I woke up I gravitated toward my computer to write this blog. I thought about this topic – formula writing – because I’m presently reading (or trying to read, during 5 minute breaks) an Amanda Quick book, her latest. I thought of the other Amanda Quick books I have read. Then I thought about some other authors whose books sit on my shelves. I couldn’t help but admit that although I liked these books, lately, I’ve been somewhat bored or disappointed with some of the stories I’ve read.

Why is that?

I thought and thought about it, but one day it dawned on me. It’s the formula. It’s that thing many publishers use to attract readers. A certain type of character. A particular plot. Events that happen routinely at different points in the book. I have come to expect that in formula mainstream romance such as is published by Avon, for instance, there will be a sex scene between the hero and heroine around page 180 – 220 of most of these mass market paperbacks. This will indicate a culmination of the relationship between the two main characters. What follows will be a bit more emphasis on romance (one or two more sex scenes, a little less detailed than the first), and then sh** happens. Yes, then the danger that lurks around the corner finally surfaces, and the hero or heroine (usually the heroine) is put in jeopardy. Or else, something happens to bring the progress of the relationship to a halt and the characters are pulled apart. In any case, a MAJOR EVENT happens, and all hell breaks loose for a while, usually until the hero (in a few cases, the heroine) saves the day.

Entertainment is all about the packaging these days. It is so in music, TV, and movies. And this advertising model includes books. Everything must be categorized and made to “fit” a certain mold so the publisher can go after different readers with different tastes. Few publishers of popular fiction take chances these days, particularly those dishing out the mass market lines. Publishers have different lines – erotic, mainstream, historical, contemporary, fantasy, paranormal, dark, etc. That every line is managed separately is understandable because every type of story attracts a different sort of reader, yet, some publishers go beyond this to state what kind of heroine or hero they want for a particular line. There are professions to give the characters that are acceptable and others that are not. Look at Harlequin, for example. The result of this is often that one feels like one is reading the same book over and over, about the same two characters. The cover, and the title on it, may be different, but one author’s book reads pretty much like the other that succeeds or precedes it. Sometimes, the same feeling is engendered when reading different authors from the same line/publisher. Perhaps this is comforting to some who have come to expect a particular story from a particular author. After a long, hard day one may not be inclined to opt for reading which is unpredictable or displeasing. If one knows what to expect, one won’t be disappointed, I suppose. And in fact, I have been guilty at times of choosing books because I did not want to be surprised. I may have had the flu or come out of a 12-hour workday week so needed to be comforted with an easy going book…nothing too demanding and of course, one with a happy ending...but, this doesn’t have to be the be all and end all of our reading choices, does it? Sometimes we like to think, to ponder, and be challenged. Sometimes, we just want the “other” choice.

The reason publishers give for following this formula is one that finds its core in marketing. Yes, I can grasp this reasoning but… I wonder, have they lost their faith in readers that they won’t take a risk outside their set parameters? Wouldn’t they sell books if they did take a few more risks? What about talent and quality? What happened to thinking outside the proverbial box? Are readers this petty that they only read writing and plots that are formulaic? Sometimes I discover a “different” sort of author and I feel thrilled and excited about their work because it feels like the opposite of formula writing. Someone like Lisa Valdez who, to my chagrin, only produced one book. Or Robin Schone, at least her earlier books. These authors had the guts to do something different, something daring, whether one agrees with it or not. And their publishers decided to take that risk and unleash these works in the market. It’s not rocket science. One takes a risk or one doesn’t. If one does, it may just pay off.

I’m sure that even these unconventional books contain some sort of formula with respect to plot points, pacing, characterization, etc. I think that all books do and all books need to be grounded in technique to make the story coherent and readable. However, this does not mean that certain events have to happen just so in the plot. And that the events or characters in one book should be eerily similar to those in another. Formula writing should make it easy to teach the technique of writing but outside this fact, I think that one should leave room for individual talent. And by this I not only mean the author’s voice, but also the author’s ability to write something compelling, that leaves an indelible mark on a reader. This is hard to achieve when the formula takes precedence over everything else. This, coupled with the hard fact that authors are supposed to dish out a certain number of books a year, quality be damned, does not help matters at all.

Don’t get me wrong. I still love romantic, feel good books. I think they’re essential. I will continue to write them and read them (mainly I gravitate to single title now). This does not mean, however, that I shouldn’t be surprised with a theme that’s out of the ordinary even in a formula book. This would be possible if the publishers were a bit more open to change. I give you one example. A while back I pitched a story to an agent. I made the mistake (well, I was just being honest) of telling her that the tale is set in Italy. That was all it took for her to reject it. She told me, if it wasn’t set in England in certain time periods (Regency, Georgian or Victorian mainly, and some medieval), then, she wouldn’t even bother trying to sell it.

So what is your take on this? Do you ever think of this when you’re reading a book? Do you think publishers have become too restrictive by requiring this from authors? And are they wrongly assuming that readers wouldn’t want something more “adventurous,” rather than being force fed the same recipe release after release?

Angela Guillaume writes contemporary, historical and fantasy/paranormal romance.
Her debut contemporary shorts are...

Mr. & Mrs Foster - Available now at Whiskey Creek Press Torrid
Mile High to Heaven - Available now at Whiskey Creek Press Torrid

Friday, October 16, 2009

Introducing Master and Commander’s Prey

Over a year ago I was handed a challenge. I had to write something not in my genre (time travel) and I had to follow a very specific plot (man vs. situation with adaptation as the main thematic premise). The result was Master and Commander's Prey.

My plan was simple. Make a story hot, with a plot and not have it all sex. Not an easy plan to accomplish when you have publishers out there who want you to add more heat at every turn. That wasn't for me. I can write sex at every turn if need be, but I wanted this story to have, and not to insult anybody, a modicum of class. Something where not only the heat was memorable but also the characters.

First I began with a very basic concept. I made Time a predator. Some say it's our friend or even a companion, but that wasn't going to work for Master and Commander's Prey. It needed to have teeth and an ulterior motive. Thus the story began unfolding around a simple premise – I gave the existential antagonist of 'time' teeth which lent meat to the story.

Introducing Shiloh Montgomery-Moore. She's a heroine like many young women out there. Attitude abounds and she's got some big emotional baggage. So, what can she do when she's whisked back in time and meets Captain Jacob Wolfson? Jacob's a hero who not only comes across alpha but he's got his own issues to deal with. Combine a modern day woman with a military man and the sparks flew.

Then, partnering it with my thematic premise of the traveler adapting to the new time period, I came up with a story I love. It's hot. It has a plot. The characters are great. What more can you ask for?

I hope you check it out at



Thursday, October 15, 2009

Word Associations

Ever noticed when you read something that it seems, I dunno, flat? I've noticed this happening more and more, not just in books, but in writing in general (articles, reports, reviews). No one seems to be using words as a tool any longer!

A teacher once told me - paint with your words. At the time, I had figured this out to mean, use descriptives and visual phrases to portray what you want to convey. For example, the character is feeling down and goes, My life has just gone down in the dumps. You clearly get the visual, of a life being flushed away, going down, in a spiral of oblivion. It paints an image for you in your mind.

As a writer, the only tool you have at your disposal to achieve the aim of creating a memorable story and characters that leap off the page is WORDS.

Yup, words. There's so much behind a word! Ever stopped to think, why did the author use this word and not that one? What does he/she want me to grasp because of this specific word used at this point?

Some authors use words in ways that are out fo the bounds of simple tools. They use words that form a story within a story, a different layer to the plot, that you'd catch only if you were in tune with the writing and not just glossing over the words. This is very much a trick of literature, but popular fiction authors use them too. To see an example, check the free read up at Eirelander Publishing (The Tides of Yule).

I will say it frankly - few of us can expect to write a story within a story. That's deep symbolism that takes time and craft and lots of practise to master. But here's what you can do - you can use words and all that is associated with it.

Words have meaning, and this too takes different levels. Denotative, connotative, symbolic, mythical, and ideological meaning. All this can be layered inside a word you use in your story.

Denotative meaning - refers to the common sense meaning of something.
For example, a skeleton is just that - a collection of bones that form the human body structure. Used in a denotative meaning, it can show a corpse.

Connotative meaning - meaning which has to be deduced by the reader. Its meaning is not obviously apparent at first glance.
For example, you say, the skeletons on the catwalk. This shows a negative connotation, as in a living body is not a collection of bones. See how this immediately springs a visual and creates deeper layer to your writing.

Symbolic meaning - general/constructed meaning which is derived from the sign.
For example here, a skeleton when used can symbolise death, horror, spooky, or even Halloween. It 'stands' in the place of something to convey a meaning.

Mythical meaning - refers to meanings constructed by society through connotative meaning to derive a mythical meaning that can even be said to border on symbolism.
Using the skeleton on catwalk example, this throws you to the myth of the anorexic, skin-on-bones, bone-bag model, or what modelling now stands for.

Ideological meaning - refers to meaning at the service of power.
This one pertains more to the use of a word to project/portray power in the view of achieving a goal.
For example, a slogan by curvy women who go, Real women are no skeletons. The word skeleton here is used in its denotative, connotative, symbolic and mythological meanings to empower these women in this forceful, hit-right-where-it-impacts statement. It is thus meaning that is used in the service of power.

All of these help to create layers in your story. Another example (taken from the start of the upcoming Eirelander release Love Beyond Time by Rebecca Royce) is the use of a staff.

At the start of this book, we are introduced to an old man. He is walking towards the rise of a grassy hill, but the way up is hard for him, as the elements are fighting against him, conjured up by evil powers who want to destroy the man, Abraxas. In his hands is a staff. He uses it to lean on through his trek.

A staff is what? Something like a walking stick (denotative meaning), which however, connotes power in the realm of the paranormal/fantasy. Symbolically, a staff represents power, magic, authority. The fact that Abraxas is old, coupled with the fact that he has the staff, already portrays him in the light of the authority figure, the leader, the wise one. And the fact that he has a staff and not a spear goes to another layer to show the reader that he is a wise one, a spiritual leader, and not a warrior who would have a spear (a weapon) in his hands.

Little details like this help you to paint a deeper and more intricate picture. I agree - not everyone will automatically 'get' what you'd be trying to say, but those who will, to them reading your words will not just be a reading experience but it will transcend their minds as something that engages their imagination and intellectual skills in a deeper manner.

Any questions, just holler!

Aasiyah Qamar - Cultural Romantic Fiction, With a Twist
Available Now!! - Light My World - Eirelander Publishing
Nolwynn Ardennes - The Promise of Fulfilment
Coming out January 8, 2010 - Storms in a Shot Glass - Eirelander Publishing
Coming out July 2, 2010 - Walking on the Edge - Eirelander Publishing

Aasiyah Qamar/Nolwynn Ardennes - Romance the world over

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wimpy Heroes

My mentor says to me, you are making your hero girly. After talking to my hubby one day on the phone she spoke to me. Oh yes, she makes a habit of knowing every member of the family. lol I'm straying from my purpose here, but I'm getting to it. Really, I am. She told me to pattern my hero after my hubby he is an alpha male and they are the action oriented heroes. What an awakening that was for me.

True, I knew he was my hero, but her words reminded me of some of the instances when he'd been there for people in his life including myself. The more I thought about it, I realized I lived with a real live hero. He is an alpha male with a soft core in his heart.

I hate to read about wimpy heroes. lol Even though, I have written my heroes as wimps in the past. I'm trying to break the habit. Okay, I admit it's tough not to write a wimpy hero, but I still don't like to read about them.

A hero is supposed to be tough, take charge and always be heroic when the chance comes. He thinks and he acts, which means he instinctively knows what to do in all instances. A secondary male figure can be wimpy, but not the hero.

This doesn't mean that the hero can't show his softer side. He has to open himself up to his tender side or he wouldn't be the hero. Of course, this is not the most frequent side of him you see but it's there hidden away waiting to come out at the most unexpected times.

What do you think about wimpy heroes? Do you want to read about them in your books, or do you want to read about an alpha male who takes charge.

Sandra K. Marshall