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

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Watching... books???

I'm gonna try to make this short and to the point, coz the power keeps going on a nd off at my end and that leaves me with a little window to get it all done. Yikes - how do I write short and to the point?

Hmm, maybe if I just related what I saw. You know, like you're watching a movie and it's a blow-by-blow visual of what's happening on the screen to the story. That'd be perfect, right? I'd be able to cover everything, innit?

Wrong! This is a blog about writing, and this means I gotta write.

That's where it seems a lot of writers are going wrong lately - they write a story with the same viewspan and attention span as watching TV or a movie. It's like, you watch a movie, get it? Start, middle, end, you show what's taking place in the story. There you go - story written!

Sure you go. You've written a story with start, middle, end and it even holds the line! But wait a second too - you're giving me the movie version, not the book one!

I'll take an example. Twilight movie v/s Twilight book. Each has start, middle, end, the same story, same people, same setting, same plot, same whatever. Where's the difference then?

This is what's different - I watch the movie while I read the book. Not making sense? Okay - the book gives you an addtional layer to the movie version, because you are not seeing the characters but you are the characters!

That's why you cannot 'watch' a book, you need to read it. Reading means you open a total different world for the reader, one where it's almost a virtual reality simulation without the gadgets coz the reader uses his brain as the simulator and your words as the connection.

Still not making much sense? Okay, let's try another approach. How many times have we as writers heard this line - show, don't tell! It's almost become a mantra that switches on automatically when we get to the keyboard. But how much are you really showing?

Bear in mind the virtual reality simulation again. You need to show something to your writer. Say, for example, your heroine is angry after a tiff with her lover. So, in show and don't tell mode, you go - Megan fumed inside, and as she went out, banged the door behind her.

Made your point, innit? She's so angry she bangs the door. You showed! Actually, no. Sorry to burst your bubble, but you didn't show me this. You gave me a visual, which is basically what one would watch in a movie. But in the movie, you'd see the expression on the actress playing Megan's face. You'd see her bunch her fists maybe, bite her lip extra hard, stomp her heel. Where have you shown this in the above line?

Also, is this door-banging in character with her? What makes her bang the door? Exasperation that her man is taking her for granted/brushed her off again? Is it completely unrelated, as in this tiff with him not understanding that he needs to pick his socks off the floor, is it simply the drop that made the vase overflow? Is she maybe feeling irritated by everything and nothing because it's a hormonal time for her?

All of this you would give your reader to connect with if you showed not just her movements but what's in her head too.

And this is the difference between watching movies and reading books. You watch a character on the screen, whereas you relate from the character's POV in the book. You become her, you experience what she is feeling, it's a virtual reality simulation for you!

You can call this Deep POV; you can call this being in her shoes; you can call this TMI, but this showing part is definitely lacking in books nowadays. If we wanted to watch a movie, we'd watch a movie. Where's the thrill in reading, in being taken to that other world with all your senses involved (not just eyes and ears), that reading is supposed to give a reader?

Remember that this connection lies in your hand, you the writer. It has to flow from your pen, to be able to whisk your reader away. Otherwise, why bother to read your work when he/she can watch a movie?

Any questions or comments, feel free to 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

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Do you care?

First, a big congrats to my friend, Gemini Judson, for releasing her first book Animals. It's now available at Loose ID.

Okay, back to the topic at hand. Do you care?

**Warning – I will offend some people with this blog post**

It's a simple question. Do you care about your story? Does it give you a sense of pride? Do you invest yourself in it or are you afraid that if you go there you'll release some inner demon. Do you really care about the craft?

These are all important questions that a writer must ask themselves at one point or another. The most important is this, "Do you give a shite about what was once your dream?"

Do you?

I can ask that because I'm not only an author but an editor and publisher. This has become flagrantly obvious most writers have forgotten the principals of what makes a good story a really good story or have never learned them. They've been led by their blind-as-a-bat crit partners to believe any 'supposed' bible that comes out is the be-all and end-all in writing. Wrong! Very wrong!

Here's a clue, and this isn't brain surgery, know what you write and write it well. Put something of yourself in every story and make it the best work you can. Understand the principles of writing and don't let some nimrod whose read Whoever-Famous-Author's book on writing tell you, "but Whoever says do this". Guess what, they're famous and they don't care about little old you (but they thank you for putting more money in their pocket by buying their book). Plus, if you read most of them and then their work, you'll see they don't follow their own advice – duh.

So let's break it down – the components of a story (reject at will).

World Building – that's the place your characters do what they do and it creates the dramatic backdrop for them to do it against.

Characterization – This relates to the paper dolls most writers are penning right now. They're supposed to be part and parcel of the backdrop and the setting feeds them. Character arcs are a part of this and they are the written journey of the hero and heroine. It includes emotional drive (deep pov) and all that crap most authors think is bs anymore because it all has to be shown. Show the fricken' emotions.

Plot – I could scream this for years and, guess what, most writers won't give a wit. Study plot. It's IMPORTANT. Take a journey with a plot and the story will become greater than the sum of its parts.

Resolution – ever read a story and the ending is flatter than a car tire that's just gone over spike strips. That's because the story ran out of steam. The author just ended it because they have the attention span of a flea (yes, I'm being hard on people here because I'm about sick of flat endings).


These are integral parts of a story.


Until next Tuesday, cheers and happy writing,






Monday, October 5, 2009

With Love, from Ms.Blush

Hello to you all wonderful, beautiful people!

Last week saw the opening of Eirelander Publishing, a small-press house many of us RBA posse are involved with. It's been a terribly exciting time for us, and take a moment if you can to check it out. I promise you won't regret it!

So. October... already! Hmm, spooky atmosphere, lengthening darkness, creatures of the night and hallows, Halloween... Expect to see jack-o-lanterns everywhere, rich and warm fall colours, ghouls and other such lot, skeletons...

Speaking of which, we here at RBA are sad to say this, but if you're a book lover, you don't need to look long and hard and even far to see skeletons lately. Just take a look at most books coming out right now and bam! There you are - a skeleton of a story packaged as a book!

This got us thinking, bumping our brains and making hissing sounds come from our lips. Why? We kept asking ourselves - why is there is no real story now? Where are the writers? Where did they check the 'wow' factor that should be so inherent to writing?

Stay with us this month as we try to answer this question while navigating through the sinuous and tortuous waters of what is known today and in this age as publishing and writing.
T.J. and Z(Aasiyah/Nolwynn) will be taking all these on, as well as our regular contributors Sandra Marshall and Diana Castilleja. And after months off (wherein she achieved another superwoman milestone - that of becoming a mommy!), Angela Guillaume is back with us and ready to roar!

Catch us this week as we hiss the turmoil out of our systems!

On Tuesday, T.J asks writers today whether they really care about their craft.

On Thursday, Z(Aasiyah/Nolwynn) will want to know whether you're watching books or reading them.

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

P.S A little woman-to-woman aside: October is also Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Take a minute to get the knowledge on how a little thing like a monthly self-exam can save your life, and remember, Think Pink!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Think with your heart

I know, I seem to be stuck on those cheesy title lines. I dunno, could be something in the air. Summer is coming in around my side of the world (southern hemisphere actually, my kids would correct me!) and suddenly all's bright and nice and warm and the birds are chirping while the sun is this big golden orb in the spotless deep blue of the sky, with little puffs of fluffy clouds like cotton candy dancing in from time to time... Uh, sorry, got carried away by the light flower-scented breeze that drifts in the wide open windows and terrace doors... Oops, I did it again! (oh bugger, I'm quoting Britney Spears! Yikes!!)

Allright, back to business (not back to black - Amy Winehouse btw - oops again!). I dunno for you but I see a little pattern emerging between my title and the little (okay, long!) paragraph I just wrote above. What is it?

I wrote it with my heart. Summer makes me feel good, and the feelings flow inside me, and then I have no trouble finding ways and means to describe it all in a lyrical and flowing voice (granted, take Britney and Amy out of it, but that too can count as voice, or characterization!)

What I'm getting at is this - if your heart is into something, it shows in what you do. How many times have you dragged your feet to do a chore? Granted, yes, you got the job done, even got it done well, but the fact remains, you had to drag your feet to do it. Now imagine doing something you're all revved up for. You can hardly remain still until you can get to this task, and when you do get to it, you immerse yourself in so much time flies, and when it's over, you're like, that's too soon, I want to hang on to this feeling.

Ask yourself then if your writing is a feet-dragging chore, or an elation-filled endeavour. If it's a chore, I think you need to reassess your position. Is it the writing itself that's drudging, or is it other factors in your life that are impeding upon it?

The fact remains that while writing should be a labour of love, it should also be a task you undertake with all your heart. When this is the case, have no doubt that the story that flows out of your pen (or keyboard) is one that is bound to be strong, solid, and overall a round story that covers all aspects of what constitutes a good story. Why? Because you wrote it with your heart in there, not just to fill a slot of the market demand and to make a quick buck or to get a shoddy credit.

Ask most good writers (the ones we all rave about) what they are after, and they'll most probably tell you that their goal is strong stories that they have invested all their heart and soul in.

Is it that hard to do? No, but you need to sit down and decide what you want. A good story most often brings you all of publishing contract, publishing credit, readership, and some money. Add to it that there's also the elation-filled author satisfaction that can tide you through weeks on end. Take all of these elements apart - contract, credit, money - and without your heart in your work, you may end up with any or all of these, but all of it may not last long - it may not bring you more contracts, credits or money. Whereas a good story, well, it can pave the way for your future career path.

Think with your brain and common sense, think with some logic - find what you want to do, and then think with your heart when you are writing. A story that has author investment and the author's heart and soul into it will shine out of the lot without you needing to do much work, and that, I believe, should be every writer's big goal.

Any questions, just holler!

Aasiyah Qamar - Cultural Romantic Fiction, With a Twist
Coming out October 2 - 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, September 23, 2009

Make me believe it!

As a reader, I'm very easy to please. Cover to cover, make me believe in the story, in the characters, in their world. Whether it's a sci-fi alien gig, or a vampire-werewolf thing, suck me in. If the characters are suppose to be attracted to one another, show me that they are, let them express it. If the villian is going to be a major stumbling block, show me why. That's all I ask for.

I know. I don't ask for much.

Honestly, that's just the basic idea of what makes a good book for me. I really prefer HEAs, but will take a solid HFN. A weak HFN only makes me feel incomplete at the end. The 'he might join her if' kind of ending. Blah. Not my kind of thing.

I love great characters. They give momentum and nuance to a story, whether it's just the H/h or half a dozen hangers-on. I will tell you, if you're shoving people into the story just to make page count, I can tell. I've come across quite a few where an extraneous character was just well...extraneous. Doesn't really hurt the story, but adds nothing just the same. I love Alpha males, but will take a solid Beta or Gamma with Alpha tendencies. Strong heroines need strong counter-characters. I love sparks between the characters. You know, because real life is just so dull.

I love worlds I can fall into. Doesn't really matter if it's Earth or some semblance there of. Pull me into the moment, the locale. I don't need a thousand explanations about how she became a vet, how a vet tech's day proceeds or why or how often they have to clean cages. Let me fill in the blanks. Granted if it's something a little less common, expound, but don't overinflate. Nothing makes me skip paragraphs faster than monotonous unnecessary overkill.

In essence, this is really how I write myself. A woven story where one facet feeds another to the culmination, with lots of tension, chemistry and anticipation. Keep in mind, this is ME, and we all know how weird I can be. So my reading preferences will most likely differ from yours, and that's okay. No two readers are going to catch the exact same images, patterns and nuances from the same story. That's why writing is subjective. We read the same story, but discover different details that stick. Often that's why reviews can be in the range of Great! to Sucked Swamp Water.

All I ask from a story is make me believe it, and I'm usually happy.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Just a little investment goes a long way.

I remember the days when I was an aspiring writer. I wanted to make it, and in a sick way, I wanted to prove myself not to the arses who said, "I couldn't" but to myself. Every story was a labor of love and so much sweat there were days when I wanted to tear my hair out. It all boiled down to one thing – investing in the story.

Today, that's changed. There's so many publishers out there that it's more a case of pick your poison on their side than sweating out the little stuff in the story. You see, when I started writing there was no internet. Shoot, a computer was something that took up a whole room and needed fifty workers to care for it.

It was an age when every story had to count. Each page had to have that spark that got your foot in the door and, potentially, a contract in your hand. That's what I come from. Where it was the effort you put into the story that counted.

Maybe I should hang up my old typewriter and say, "Characters don't count. Plot doesn't matter. It's all about banging out the story and selling it then waving the credit in front of all your crit partners because somehow that makes you bigger or better."

Sorry, but that's sad. It's not that I don't think prolific writers don't exist. I know they do. My main beef comes down to how much garbage is out there. Don't say there isn't because we've all come across at least one crappy story in our days.

You can tell who's invested in their story. It's obvious and if nobody is willing to tell you that then I will. In my own mentor's words this is a matter of sit-down-shut-up-and-listen.

There's another side to my beef. That's where an author has the unmitigated gall to say – "I wrote it but it's the editor's job to fix it".

What planet are you on? And how did you get lucky enough to get a contract?

Then you get the author who will sit there and say – "But my crit partners tell me this or that or the other thing."

Wake UP!

You didn't enter into a binding contract with your crit partners. And for the record, about fifty percent of them are about as helpful as a pilonidal cyst. They tell you to do one thing, so you follow that. Then another says something else, so you follow that. Finally you end up with a mishmash of words that has stripped your story down to a lovely skeleton that's baking on the desert sand or have twisted it inside out. (Can you tell I could go on and on about this?)

Invest in your story. Use your common sense when it comes to crit partners. And take the time to create the best story you ever could have.


Okay, I'm done ranting. It's your turn. Can you tell when an author isn't invested in a story or am I just blowing smoke? Do you think it matters and that authors have to get tougher on themselves when it comes to investment?


Until next Tuesday, cheers and happy writing,


Monday, September 21, 2009

With Love, from Ms.Blush

Hello to you all wonderful, beautiful people!

Read any good books lately?

Ask anyone this question and most often, sadly, you hear something like, not really.

I say, what a shame! I mean, come on, can you count the sheer amount of writers out there, the humongous number of authors in the publishing world? And not even a handful of good, memorable stories every month? Am I too demanding or what?

We, the Royal Blush posse, have been trying to wrap our minds around this sad fact - where have all the good stories gone? Whatever has happened to take the number of amazing books published from a good deal a decade or two ago to not even a handful today, while there has to be at least a hundred stories coming out every month?

Why, what, how? And again, why?

Catch us this week as we try to not tear our hair out and shed some light and thoughts on this terrible issue.

On Tuesday, T.J. asks whether it may be that investment is lacking in a story. Come check her post on what it was like when she started writing, and what the situation is like today.

Wednesday, Diana chimes in to bring us her simple but at the same time apparently 'un-get-able by writers today' view of what constitutes a good story in her world.

On Thursday, Z(Aasiyah/Nolwynn) asks whether the writer's heart is into her work or not, and how this may affect the story that comes out of said writer's pen.

Don't forget:

This September, we want to go back to the roots of what makes writing, and reading, such a life-changing experience.

This September, we're on the quest:

Searching for a good story...

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

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Imagine with your imagination

I know, cheesy title, silly really. What on earth is she gonna ramble about today, eh? Bear with me for a little while, you'll see what I'm getting at.

Yesterday, my six year old son must've been really bored out of his senses to come to my bedroom and plop himself down on the bed while I was blow-drying my hair. Usually one to talk the hind leg off a donkey, after a few minutes, he got bored again that we both had to shout over the noise of the hair dryer. So he did what every self-respecting little boy would do - look for something to do. Now, my room ain't exactly girly (remember I share it with the hubby, who's best described as a caveman of sorts) but it ain't exactly a little boy's heaven either. So there my little one goes, making tons of noise like the sound of a gunning engine, and with all things, a bottle of body lotion in his hands. As I usually do if he isn't breaking anything, I humor him, and ask, is that a car (he's obsessed by racing)? Little one rolls his big eyes and shakes his head (yeah, his mom's a hopeless basket case according to him!) and goes, it's a speedboat, Ma! Can't you see that's the engine and the propeller? And true enough, it was one of those pump bottles, the pump bit was turned in such a way that it really looked like the engine of a boat.

What I'm getting at is this - who'd have thought a pump bottle of lotion would make a great speedboat?

The answer is, imagination!

As a writer, it got me thinking then - where has our imagination gone? When you see the amount of templated work out there (which Sandy touched upon yesterday in her post), you wonder what happened to originality and twists and turns. It's as if writing, especially in the romance category, has gotten as cliche and as predictable as soapies. You always know in a soapie that the guy who loves this one is gonna marry someone else and this first love may try to break them up or they both pine for each other and blah blah blah. Same for romance with its rehashed stories.

But what's even worse, and that T.J. touched upon on Tuesday, is that there is no emotional drive behind the stories you get. Even if you lay your hands on a romance that is not loaded chock-full of mindless sex, you hardly ever have a plot and even more rare is good characterization.

Let's come to the mindless sex bit (sorry, this kinda sticks in my throat, and I know it's the case for many other unfortunate readers and writers of my acquaintance). Let's use our imagination, and let's use our common sense too.

So imagine you're a girl who's out in the big bad dating world. One of the big rules you would follow, as a sane and sensible person, is no sex on the first date. Why? You risk coming across as a cheap shag who has no respect for herself. How then do you expect a guy to respect you?

Makes sense, right?

So why then does the heroine of your book jump a guy's bones, not even on the first date, but within minutes of meeting him?

Okay, lust-driven attraction can happen, but it doesn't just happen bam, bang, boom out of nowhere. There's a buildup to this lust-driven state. So where is that in your story?

Another dating rule: don't shag everyone and everything. Come across otherwise as a no better than a brainless idiot who thinks with her libido. Now think of that girl you may know who shagged everyone and everything. Did you like her, respect her, want to know what happened to her? I'd bet on a big fat no!

So why then should we as readers like, respect, and want to know what happens to your heroine if she is like this?

Dating rule to never forget: a man who thinks with his crotch may be a good shag but he ain't ever worth it. Yes, he may have money, looks, a penthouse in the hippest part of town, drives fast and expensive cars, wears hand-stitched suits and shoes. So what? He shags you, shags the girl at work, the woman who hit on him in the wine bar, the woman he met in the elevator, basically he shags everything that catches the attention of his groin!

That's supposed to be a hero? We're supposed to cheer for him?

Oh, I forgot - the heroine is the one who's gonna change him and make him monogamous, right? How will she do this? By sending him into andropause thirty years before he's due to hit it?

Think, and use some common sense first and then lead that on with your imagination.

I don't say sex cannot be integrated in a romance, or in any other story for that matter. Take a very good example and you'll see what I'm getting at. Basic Instinct. Michael Douglas as tough cop. Sharon Stone as wicked temptress. Everyone will agree that movie is chock-full of sex and sexual innuendo (the interrogation scene, holy cow!). But, but, but - is the movie a string of mindless sex scenes? No! Why? Because the characters are involved, they're building up the tension, taking you along with them along that feverish, rising pitch of lust, emotion, and denial. In some places, you can cut the tension with a knife, and nothing more than a long, steady look is taking place between the protagonists.

Basic Instinct is hot, sexy, sultry. No one can say that isn't an erotic-inclined movie. But was it cheap? No! Was it hare-brained? No! Did it make sense? A resounding Yes!!

Why? Because there was thought, emotion, involvement, imagination that were all used in equal measure in that story.

Where has the imagination of writers gone then today? Into the gutter?

I'd love to know what you think.

As always, any questions, just holler!

Aasiyah Qamar - Cultural Romantic Fiction, With a Twist
Coming out October 2 - 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, September 9, 2009

What Gets Me Interested in a Story?

It’s so much easier to tell you what doesn’t interest me in a story. The characters can draw me into the story but to keep me there the pacing better be fast forward much of the time. I don’t like huge amounts of setting and description just enough that I can picture the scene and see the characters.

Another thing I don’t like is pages of introspection. Thoughts can be boring unless it pertains to what is going on in the story. Something else I detest is reading about gratuitous sex. It’s boring, and I’ll skim through the scene so fast your head would spin. If the scene requires a love scene, then I’m all for it and if it’s a good one I’ll read it.

Something else I don’t like is the same old plot. How many times do you want to read about runaway brides, women with babies their spouses, boyfriends, etc., don’t know about, navy seals and on and on. What is wrong with writers? They read a story they like about a hero/heroine and they decide to write the same story with the very same characters. After a while it gets boring. Please come up with something new.

For instance, why can’t the hero be a soldier, sailor, marine, or someone ordinary instead of a navy seal, special ops, CIA, FBI, or mercenary? I have to admit here that I’ve done the very same thing, but the ordinary men and women in our military are brave heroes, too. It is only right to portray them as such instead of ignore them for what we think are more high profile characters.

Okay, I am going to get to what I want in a story. I want to read something with meat and potatoes to it. First, I want a hook, and I want emotion. This requires real depth to the characters and to the plot. I want to live what those characters are living and I want the plot to be believable. I want to care about those characters.

A story is good if it gives me something to think about, makes me keep reading until it is finished, and then stays in my mind for weeks, months and years. I remember the premise of a story I read years ago, but I don’t remember the title of the book. It was about survival, the people lived below ground because the air above was tainted, but there were those who survived above ground. They wanted to go underground, but the ones who were already there wouldn’t allow them to come down because they were contaminated. This could have been a movie, too, but whatever it was it always stuck with me.

The story had a great beginning (hook) and it only grew from there as there was fighting between the two groups. The conflict started immediately, it intensified and with a plausible plot that could happen in real life the story held my attention to the end. There was even a love story.

Tell me what you want in a book.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Whatever happened to really good emotional drive?

Yep, this is gonna be a rant and a half. I sat down for a little while yesterday, piddling along the internet going – hmm, does anything look good to buy? I went to all my favorite haunts, but ended up ordering an old story from by one of my favorite romance authors and then sat wishing I had it in my hands. The author? Kathleen Harrington. The book? Cherish the Dream.

I actually do have the book. I just have to read it carefully. My copy is falling apart at the seams, literally. So, gingerly, I fell back in love with the characters. Blade Roberts – Captain and half Cheyenne Indian. Did I mention it was a historical? LOL. Theodora Gordon, botanist and blue stocking if ever there was one. Engaged to some entrepreneur who funded the mission to map over the Sierra's. Lieutenant Kearney/Fletcher/O'Fallon. It's amazing that I remembered so many of them, and all the good things about them. Why?

Because Ms. Harrington had the great ability to capture emotional drive and the story epitomizes exactly what emotional drive is. It's the fuel feeding the reader to turn pages. The angst that makes you wish the story would go on forever. It's real and you feel it as a reader.

There's some special quality that keeps you enthralled. I can say that with all honesty with this book because from moment one I read and read until it was four in the morning. An all-nighter I didn't regret in the least. And she isn't the only author who captured me that way: McNaught, Garwood, Rogers, Norton, Lindsay. They all brought their characters to life via emotional drive.

So what's happened to this aspect? I think it's more that writers have forgotten about it. That there should be more than – oh, he's hot and I want to screw him. Or, she's a babe, I wonder if she gives good head? This is what's happened. In a way, it makes me want to write better. To show the writers who load a story up with sex that I can write hot, with a plot and have my characters become memorable.

It's a tall order I've set upon myself, but then again, I've never shied away from a challenge.

Your turn, tell me what you think is lacking in stories today? Is it that emotional drive has gone by the wayside or is it that some stories aren't hot enough for you? What would you like to see in a story?


Until next week, cheers and happy writing,




Monday, September 7, 2009

With Love, from Ms. Blush

Hello to you all wonderful, beautiful people!

We launched off into September with a really swift kick to the backside, touching upon an almost taboo question in the writing and publishing world today: where have all the good stories gone?

Is it a wonder then how many of us as readers are falling back on books written one or even two decades ago? Why, when there's so much writing and books and ebooks and new authors popping up everyday in the world and in cyberspace?

Last week, we attempted to answer that loaded question from a the angle of characterisation - how good characters maketh a good, memorable and lasting-impression story.

This week, we continue to try to find answers to this dilemma.

Catch T.J. on Tuesday as she tells us how she feels emotional drive is totally, absolutely missing in most stories today. She also asks us what we feel is lacking in stories today - are we up for grabbing good emotional drive or just mindless sex?

Sandra Marshall pens us her monthly point-of-view piece on Wednesday. Find out what she has to say about what attracts, retains, and repulses her from books. She tells us what a good story is for her as a reader.

On Thursday, catch another of Z(Aasiyah/Nolwynn)'s endless rambles on the current topic. This week, she talks about the dwindling collective imagination of this bizarre species called writers.

Don't forget:

This September, we want to go back to the roots of what makes writing, and reading, such a life-changing experience.

This September, we're on the quest:

Searching for a good story...

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

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Line up your characters and... Action!

I remember the first time something on TV captivated me. I was watching the sitcom Friends, and I was on the edge of my seat, because Monica was suddenly looking at Chandler like a potential shag! I was like, whoa there, wait a second!! Monica, this is Chandler! Chandler Bing, from across the landing, the guy who dated Janice for God's sake!!

I'm pretty certain there were thousands of people out there who just like me, were having the same reaction. Ever wonder why?

Let's see - what's Friends basically? A sitcom, about the life of 6 friends in New York. I'm not sure there was even a plot behind there, but lo and behold, Friends went on to complete 10 seasons, and its reruns are watched by millions still, with almost the same enthusiasm and anticipation as when you first catch an episode on air.

You have these 6 very different people then, brought together in the same building (Rachel/Monica in one flat, Chandler/Joey across the landing, with Monica's brother Ross and their friend Phoebe dropping in to complete the cast). So there you go, starting point - 6 young people struggling in New York. It wasn't any more than that.

But what made Friends so memorable and so followed, is that the story centred around the lives of these 6 people. In short, the characters drove everything! There was Ross pining for Rachel since he's a teenager, Joey who sleeps with almost everything in knickers, Phoebe who gave a new meaning to crazy-loony-mad, Monica who was obsessed by cleaning, Rachel who's the little rich girl who wants to spread her wings and get away from daddy's credit cards, and Chandler who frankly, was so uptight and 'twisted' he didn't make much sense in the start.

You had Ross, always trying to woo Rachel (especially when his marriage to a woman who disovered she was a lesbian fell through). Rachel who doesn't want to give Ross a second glance, like she's always done. Over the course of the ten seasons, Rachel and Ross had hooked up and broken up at least thrice, and had had a baby together! Then of course there was Monica, looking for her Mr. Right, who on the day of Ross's second marriage to British girl Emily, was so down she knew only a shag would do for her, so she goes for the one who's always ready to shag, Joey. But instead of Joey she finds Chandler in the room, and suddenly they are in bed. It's the prelude to one of TV's most cheered on and satisfying relationships and marriage!

And what happened plot-wise? Nothing! Friends was about people, and as a writer, you must realize that Friends was all about the characters! The characterization of this show was so well sketched that the characters just grew on you, you felt you knew them. You would've wanted to bash Rachel when she has that one-night stand with Ross and then finds she's pregnant! You'd have wanted to group hug Monica and Chandler when they finally declare their love for one another! You'd have wanted to take Joey aside and tell him that this is not the way to treat a woman. You would've gladly thrown a shoe at Phoebe when she got into another rendition of the song "Smelly Cat".

You as the audience were made to forget that these people's names were really Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox-Arquette, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry, Matt LeBlanc, and David Schwimmer. They were simply Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Chandler, Joey and Ross. Period! It's the characters that were real, not the actors!

It makes me think of another instance where this has happened. One man, two roles, two Academy Awards nomination (one win). Russel Crowe, Maximus in Gladiator, John Nash in A Beautiful Mind. Two characters that when you looked at them, struck you as THE man/hero of the story. Not as Russel Crowe, because he became the characters he portrayed. Take another look at the same actor as Ed Hoffman in Body of Lies, and you'd see someone else!
Another good example would be Tom Hanks as Andrew Beckett in Philadelphia, and as Forrest Gump in the eponymous movie. Put these two men side by sidee and you'd go - yes, a passing physical resemblance, but never would you say, that's the same man!

So what does it come down to in the end? Characters, and characterization. A key ingredient of a good story is the characters peopling it. As the writer, it is your job to make these characters transcend from the page into fully-fleshed, living, breathing, human people. Actors do it when they take on a part. The writer too needs to do it armed with words, and with the inherent knowledge behind his/her characters.

Think of it - if you don't know your characters, how will you put them across to the audience? How will you make worthy and captivating things happen to them? If the writers of Friends didn't know that when Monica went to look for Joey in his bedroom when the wedding reception was in full swing that she'd find Chandler asleep there, how would we have gotten the twist that they have sex and find out there's more between them? They had to know Chandler is not one for receptions and all the hoopla and so he goes to bed when everyone is partying away. They needed to know that Monica does not give in to casual sex and that this is a turning point for when she sleeps with Chandler. They had to know that there's no way skirt-chasing Joey would be in his own bedroom before the early hours of morning when there are gorgeous bridesmaids to chase after!

You see thus that the story of Friends could not have progressed the way it did, the way it gripped its audience and captivated people's attentions, if the writers hadn't known the characters. Ask anyone what one of their favourite sitcoms is, and they'll say Friends. Why? Because while it may not have had a plot per se, it had wonderful, human and totally well-rounded characters at its heart.

So next time you're thinking of penning a good story, think of this underestimated and undervalued ingredient called characters and characterization. You may be holding the rough, unpolished gem of a story in your hand and not know it!

Any questions, feel free to holler!

Aasiyah Qamar - Cultural Romantic Fiction, With a Twist
Coming out October 2 - 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

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Starring … Your Characters

There's just something about those memorable characters that jump off the page and endear themselves to your heart. It's part, they aren't just cardboard cutouts or mechanical robots; it's the one where they're almost human which catch our attention. They have flaws we can relate to, even sympathize with. They aren't all my groin is making all my decisions, but are faced with real issues. Strong or weak. The existential 'knight in shining armor' or the 'heroine in distress' who give the reader insight into their world, these are the characters we're most likely to remember.

I can tell you the first romance I ever read that opened my eyes to what was possible with characters. I can even tell you the character – Nick Sinclair. Yep, I'm talking Judith McNaught's, Double Standards. Rich, powerful, self-made millionaire who was disgustingly 80s, but then again, it was the 80s. Jaded, manipulative and in a very strange way, a true hero.

There's no telling how many times I read the book, absorbing the story, considering how great the characters were together. When I started writing romance, that's what I wanted to create. Characters who leapt off the page and at times made me want to tear my hair out. In some cases I succeeded, in others – not so much. The fact was I had to start where all great characters start – with them.

Notoriously, I am a big character profiler. I want to know how they tick and what makes them so deliciously imperfect and yet great at the same time. So, I constantly pour over my character profile, staring at it, going "If my character is in this position, how would they act?" Once I'm familiar with them, I go into their arcs, GMC and all the goodness that is emotional drive.

In the end it comes down to the character. Who they are, and what makes them great. How the reader relates to them and how they connect with the rest of the story.

Yesterday, I was reminded of one of my first short stories and how much frustration I had with my characters. It took a very good friend of mine to sit me down and say, "Shut up, TJ, and do the work." Okay, so I was a bit stunned, but he was right. I hadn't invested in them because I wanted the next credit. In those days, it was all about making me feel bigger because I actually determined who I was by the number of sales I made. My friend, plus my editor, plus a few internal rants showed me, it wasn't about the number of stories I sold but the quality which only I could create.

So today, I do the slug work. I learned my lesson. Character Profiles. Character Arcs. GMC. Emotional Drive. The whole nine-yards of it.

Never forget that this is a craft, and however you draw your characters, do it well. After all, they star in your story.

Time for you to shout back. What was the first book you ever read that made an impression on you? Was it so good, you'd go back to that author just cause of that first story?

Until next Tuesday, cheers and happy writing,


Monday, August 31, 2009

With Love, from Ms. Blush

Hello to you all wonderful, beautiful people!

Already September! Where did the time fly? Summer's practically over, fall is settling in, and with it comes longer evenings and thoughts of cozy fires and snuggling up with a good book...

If you even find a good book, that is! Big if here.

This got us thinking, here at the Royal Blush Authors, about good books, the lack of them on the market, the loss of desire by writers to pen strong, quality-infused stories. Where have all the good stories gone?

Catch us this month as we attempt to answer this question from our perspectives as authors, readers, editors, and even a publishing-house owner!

Throughout September, we'll cover aspects such as characterization in a good story, how cliche kills a good endeavor, how much respect needs to be paid to a genre, and also how the story of our heart as authors breathes a new dimension in our writings.

T.J. on Tuesday kicks it off with characterization - your characters are the stars of your story - it's high time all writers realized this!

On Thursday, Z(Aasiyah/Nolwynn) tells us how characters have led the way for her in her writings, and how you too can figure out a totally unique story path when you listen to these fictional people's voices.

Don't forget:

This September, we want to go back to the roots of what makes writing, and reading, such a life-changing experience.

This September, we're on the quest:

Searching for a good story...

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

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Lyrical Press Inc. behaving very badly!

Who the hell died and left Renee Rocco empress of Small Press? I'd like to know. Not only is she the 'empress' but WTF to her contract. Here's the skinny for those of you who know it takes a lot for me to lose my cool.

A sneak peek at LPI's convoluted contract.

10. REVISIONS - If the Publisher considers it necessary in the best interests of the Work, the Author agrees to revise the Work on request of the Publisher. The provisions of this agreement shall apply to each revision of the Work by the author as though that revision were the work being published for the first time under this agreement, except that the manuscript of the revised work shall be delivered in final form by the Author to the Publisher within thirty (30) days after request for revision. Further, no initial payment shall be made in connection with such revision. Should the Author not provide a revision acceptable to the Publisher within a reasonable time, or should the Author be deceased, the Publisher may have the revision done and charge the cost of such revision against royalties due, or that may become due, the Author, and may display in the revised work, and in advertising, the name of the person, or persons, who revised the work.

So if you die – don't worry about it. LPI will publish your little gem and NOT pay your heirs. WTF! Oh and don't worry if you are planted six feet under – LPI won't put your name on it – they'll put their editor's on it. It's rather funny and completely hypocritical that they have a clause in their contract should the author want out:

20. RIGHT OF TERMINATION This agreement may be terminated at the Publisher's discretion so long as written warning is provided to the Author within a thirty (30) day timeframe and a valid reason is provided. The terms of this agreement may be terminated for conduct unbecoming of a representative of the Publisher.

In the event of Author requested termination of this agreement, Author will compensate Publisher and Editor for monies invested in the Work in the sum of no less than one hundred and fifty dollars ($150.00) and not to exceed two hundred and fifty dollars ($250.00). Author termination of this agreement relies solely on Publisher's discretion.

But they don't give the author/heirs the actual cost of editing should Ms. Rocco, Supreme deity that she is, decide your story doesn't meet her fictitious quality standards in the aforementioned contract clause #10. Remember, it doesn't matter if your pushing out stories or pushing up daisies. Don't you just love how that happens? "I'm sorry, Dear Author, but you should pay hand over fist just cause I have decided you are unworthy". Begs to question why she contracted the book in the first place? This conduct should be along the lines of that which is unbecoming a publisher in good standing with her authors.

The trump card in these two clauses is Ms. Rocco can kick you off your book should you make waves and she has already done this to one author I know of though I suspect there are more. It's your story! Who does she think she is raping it like this and then charging you for it?

Lovely. So, what's an author to do? Copyright your work. With publishers now pulling this stinking mountain of crap, we all need to be on our toes. The fact is, no publisher can take your work and completely revise it without the author's input. This would be copyright infringement. That Ms. Rocco and the other nimrods at LPI think they can get away with it shows just how badly some publishers can act.


I could go on and on about Lyrical Press Inc and probably will in future 'special' blogposts. The fact is no author should ever have to put up with this shite. Not only is it demeaning, it's illegal.


Be very aware!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Heat and Sex

When I was told we were writing about sex this month at Royal Blush Authors, I cringed and wanted to climb into a hole. Lol Oh sure, I write sex in some of my stories, but what do I really know about sex?

Well, I do know that curiosity starts for young girls in high school (in my day, and much earlier these days), and the female hormones start kicking in high gear in the mid-twenties. Those hormones can make a young woman as horny as a fourteen old boy starting puberty. Thirty-two years of marriage has taught me a few things.

We are not talking about kids, we are talking about adults. It’s about the heat that builds when a young woman and young man first meet, and there is an immediate connection between them. This heat can cause two normal adults to skip the getting to know you process and cause them to hop right into bed, the back seat of a car, the floor, etc (you get my picture). These two may not be into one night stands, but the magnetism that brings them together can be so intense that they can’t stay apart long enough to learn about each other.

Sometimes the attraction is great enough that they decide they want to learn more about each other even after intercourse. If their personalities also click and they enjoy one another’s company outside of the hot sex then this is when a real relationship may develop.

For my purpose, I’m talking about sex in a romance novel, and there has to be a certain level of commitment involved between the heroine and the hero whereas in real life there might not be. As a writer, I want to build the tension between the pair to make them want to get together physically as a couple, but also want more. It doesn’t have to be through marriage, but there must be some pledge keeping them together.

Okay, so I haven’t really said anything about the hot sex. Lol In a book, your description and the actions of your characters must show your reader what is going on because a novel is not the same as a movie. You show a love scene by using the actions of your characters touching one another, and then showing their reactions. You can always use the action/reactions to build up your scene.

I know a group of ladies who told me they started reading their sex scenes to their husbands and they tried new positions out because of their stories. Their husbands even became better lovers because they learned what their wives really wanted from them.

I could go on a little more, but I think I better quit while I’m ahead. I hope.

Have a good weekend everyone.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Tense, more tense, even more tense...

... leads to strung rope that may break at any minute!

I was wondering what angle to talk about today when I went over to the blog and reread T.J's post for the week. Yes, she inspires me, in more ways than one, but for today I'll focus on her post about ambition.

One day, she asked me, what's your ambition? After lots of hollering and screaming and a few knocks to my hard skull, I finally understood what she asked - where did I want to be in say, five years, and what do I want people to be saying about me?

At that time, I had been struggling with finding my way in the writing world. I had found my 'voice'; I knew how to write (and that meant, and still means, drafts and writes and rewrites and countless edits); I had ideas for stories and was starting to come out of the cliche fold.

And, lo and behold, guess what was hot, hot, hot back then? You got it - erotica!

Now I knew I couldn't write direct, in-your-face erotica. Growing up in an Indian/traditional/Muslim set-up, you do tend to view sex as a prude, like what if my mother and all the aunts suddenly came over my shoulder and peeked at the screen? *shiver* It's ingrained inside of you. So there we go - sex is all the terrific thing that's going on in the writing world. I thought, let me try, even if I won't be writing the sequel to Basic Instinct any time soon!

I put pen to paper (fingers to keyboard). Got my story, spun it on itself, got the cliche out, grabbed the characters and fleshed them, with a solid backstory and impact moment, and yes, I had a plot in there. The spin was, it was erotic in nature. I wrote the story. Some solid, at-least-3-pages long sex scenes in a 22K short. It got good raves from my CPs, even from my mentor. I was even on the brink of having it published when the pub house it was going to closed because the owner was facing health issues. So I submitted the story to other places, it was even accepted.

But then I didn't have it published. It still sits on my hard disk today. Why?

Because that story was good but it wasn't me. Erotica isn't me, because I write sex as part of the character's journey, not just for the sake of sexing it up. At around that same time, I penned another ms, 25K, very hot, lots of sex, and with a plot too! But again, it sits there.

It's not that these stories were too hot. It's not that they didn't hold the line, or weren't good, or were just sex scenes strung together. It's that - they're not me!

I come back to the question T.J. had asked me - what's my ambition? And the answer I remember giving her in the end was - to be known for the strong stories and fully-fleshed characters I create.

Sex may be a part of it, but it isn't the be-all and end-all of it.

So I come to the question that plagues all writers who at some point of another, reflect upon this question in view of writing for the market or writing what their heart tells them to write - Is sex necessary? (If they don't reflect on this, they should!)

My answer would be, sex is as necessary to your story as it is necessary to the people making this story. In real life, two people don't just keep ripping all their clothes off the minute they're together (clothes cost money too, guys. They'd need to buy a new wardrobe everyday unless they join a nudist colony). Two people cannot just burn down the sheets every single time they get together (sometimes they'll just rumple those sheets!). A man cannot simply be having sex like a rabbit all the time (unless he's pumped up on Viagra and that too is a health hazard!). A woman also needs to start buying stocks in a panty-liner-making company if all she does is wet her panties all the time!

The point is, real people do not have sex like that (if they tell you they do, take it with a grain of salt!). So why then would the people, the 'real people' you want to portray in your story, act so illogically where sex is concerned?

As a writer, you need to think. Think it all through. How would such a person act in real life? What would he/she do or think? How would he/she act/react? That's the mark of getting good, 'real' characterization down, and if you do this well, then you'll be writing well and strong too. Whichever way you cut it, a story is about a plot and the plot is brought to life by the characters. It's no different for erotica, erotic romance, or just a sex scene in your mainstream work.

So next time you'll be writing, stop for a minute and think. Where do YOU want to be in five years? How do you want people to know you? And for the right here right now, what are your characters about, what are they like? And how do they have sex?

Pen down a few answers, and you should see the path. Hopefully, it won't be a tight-strung rope that you may just bounce off and land in the middle of nowhere when you try to step on it.

In my mss mentioned here, I first let myself down, beacuse I didn't stop and think and just thought to place some sex scenes in. I let my characters down, because I made them think with their crotches and not with their mind and ultimately, their heart. Why their heart? Because sex and all that leads to it is also a question of feelings and emotions. Think of the tension before that first kiss, the sizzle of recognition and longing when your gaze crosses that of the person who makes your body temperature go up by ten degrees in the blink of a second, the rush of feeling down your spine when the first touch lands on your skin, or when the heated, passion-darkened gaze of your lover roams over you, creating that almost magical, intangible link that will not sever until after the fires have been doused?

Think, people, think!

Any questions, just holler!

Aasiyah Qamar - Cultural Romantic Fiction, With a Twist
Coming out October 2 - Light My World - Eirelander Publishing
Nolwynn Ardennes - The Promise of Fulfilment
Coming out in January 8, 2010 - Storms in a Shot Glass - Eirelander Publishing

Aasiyah Qamar/Nolwynn Ardennes - Romance the world over

Monday, August 17, 2009

Have you lost your ambition?

I know, I'm supposed to blog about sex this month, but this is something I see becoming pervasive in e-publishing specifically and the market as a whole. Ambition.

It's a simple word. It means to reach or strive for some goal or reward. Easy to understand. Harder to accomplish in this field. Ambition has become for the proverbial 'pimp publishers', make it hotter, make it more erotic, make it something that in essence isn't really a story but just sex scenes strung together. Oh, but wait, don't push the actual act until the final act and then wham the characters have sex.

Woohoo. That's so hot it's stupid. Wait – did you call that STUPID as in idiocy, like the characters crotches do all their thinking for them, sort of dumb?

Yes, I did. And you have to remember I read the story about the priestess who had to take her concubines with her on her journey to find love, the fairy whom needed an orgasm to open her wings, and my all time favorite, the story in which the vampire who was a vampire hunter had male/male sex with the villain more than he had sex with the heroine he supposedly loved. Let's face it, for some writers, myself included, sex is easy to write. This isn't brain surgery. Get 'em naked and have at it. Full Monty, tatters flapping and all that good stuff, or at some publishers – don't have it until the final scene, but lots of fellatio and cunnilingus must lead to that (Pimp Publishers are notorious for this cause – ha ha – they think its hot).

There was a time, and I still follow this, where an author strove for something in a story. They made, through trial and error, a story better, hotter, more enticing, not because they wrote for the market but wrote for the story. This was ambitious. They developed their characters and made the sex add to the plot not just bury it beneath existential sex. It was, first and foremost about the story.

To this day, I know authors who still do this. They work their fingers to the bone bringing in originality even in hot stories. I do know the other side too. Those who have decided sexing it up is better than just thinking about the characterization and the story's plot.

Ambition comes in many forms. In the above, I've only given two. Here's the truth, I've lived both of the examples I delivered above. There were years where I was so booked my brain ached because I thought if I wasn't selling...selling...selling I wasn't doing my job. I got a reality check on that when I hit a road block. That would be the twelve stories I'd pounded out that didn't sell. I loved them but on retrospect they were so blah blah blah overdone I should have known better. An editor finally said, T.J., this is so much like everything else you've sent me why would I publish it? My answer was - um - had no answer. The other side is the stories I've written that are so far off the map every publisher I've gone to think I'm out of my mind.

I screwed up and I paid for it. I thought I was untouchable and I could get away with anything (read that as anything). Learning the lesson taught me so much, because one brought me off my pedestal and the latter warned me to control myself too.

In the end- ambition is what you make of it.

Until next Tuesday, cheers and happy writing,


With Love, from Ms. Blush

Hello to you all wonderful, beautiful people!

Well, we're supposed to be talking about sex... The good, the bad, the nasty, the darn ugly... and the downright stupid!

Did I just say, stupid? Yes, and I'm echoing the words of one of the driving forces behind this blog. Catch us this week and find out what we're talking about!

So, what do sex and ambition have to do together? No, we're not talking couch-based promotion. Frankly cannot believe that still exists, but it does, sadly... Sigh

Still, what does a writer do when stringing ambition, writing, and sex in the same sentence? We attempt some answers for you.

Catch T.J. on Tuesday as she asks us where our ambition got lost when erotica started to burn trails down the publishers' paths. Don't miss this post, coz it's very insightful!

On Tursday, Z(Aasiyah/Nolwynn) takes a page off T.J.'s book and pens her own post on where she lost herself in the maze of trying to go down the erotica route. She poses a few questions and tells a bit about where and how sex and characters fit in a story.

And on Friday, don't miss Sandra Marshall's post on the whole issue of sex and heat in writing!

Don't forget:

This August, we're turning up the dial where the heat is concerned.

This August, we're on the quest:

Searching for a blast of heat...

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

Thursday, August 13, 2009

People making love...

T.J. talked about sensuality in romances, the spark that leads to the romantic and sexual encounter. Where did it get lost in books?

It got me thinking of another facet - where did the people making love/having sex get lost in those books?

A thing that is missing in a lot of romances and erotica lately is emotion. Emotional drive = zilch, nada, non-existent.

You might ask, what's emotion got to do with it (in a strange twist on the Tina Turner title What's love got to do with it?) Well, love needn't have anything to do with the sexual encounter in your story, but emotion does. Why? Because emotion is the fuel for your scene.

Face it, people - you're not writing porn. Porn is about the mechanics, it's sex in motion/written, the nookie happening between two or more people depending on the scene you're penning.

For the sake of this post, I'll focus on two people, a man and a woman.

So let's say your setup is a hero and a heroine and they're burning for each other. You get them together in the same room and you make them do the deed. Great - you've got the sex scene in your story and if it's an erotica, well you're living up to the name by giving an erotic encounter. Right?

Wrong! Even erotica isn't porn - the basics, the mechanics, the deed being done do not constitute a sex scene in an erotic work or a romance, and far from it to even make a love scene!

What does then?

Well, think about it. Sex is said to be an intimate experience. Why? Because it's an intimate act. Intimate means it affects the person in some way, impacts him or her, involves him or her in a unique way.

If this involvement is lacking in your sex/erotic scene, you're writing porn. What makes this involvement tangible is emotions. Sensuality too, as T.J. put across so well. What is this person feeling when having this encounter? How is this impacting him/her? How is this changing his/her world, even if only for a split second?

At the same time, people are different. Characters are supposed to be people too, well-defined people that you as the author are putting across and whose story you're recounting to your audience. No two people have sex or experience a sexual encounter the same way. As a writer, think of this when you pen your sex scene. It should be commensurate with the kind of character you are portraying. A hardened cop, all male and Alpha, isn't going to worship his lover by thinking about her body in purple prose during the act. He won't wax poetic or lyrical in her ear, confessing undying love. Oh yes, he can make tender love, but the act itself is at the heart of the issue - he's hot, driven, and takes what he wants. Sex to him will be hooking his partner on whatever available surface and having wild sex on the moment, their carnal pleasure as the goal. A wilting wallflower isn't going to turn into a sex-crazed goddess/vixen the minute you unlock her in a bedroom. She isn't going to tear down the hero's shirt and nip hickeys all over his body just because passion combusted inside of her. No, her character demands TLC, romantic setting, candles, and all the hoop-la. People are different, and again, different people view and experience sex differently. Even encounters between the same couple will be different - the first drunken encounter that hits off right after leaving a club will be different from the way this same couple, if they do hook up long-term, will make love once they're an established couple.

And what highlights this difference is emotions. Tune in to your characters emotions and the emotional drive behind their actions and reactions. This will in turn fuel your sex/erotic scenes with something unique, something your readers will be grateful for because you are embarking them on a journey, the journey the characters are undergoing when they are in this world of sensuality and heat. Every character's journey, even in sex and love, is unique, and as the writer, this is one joker you hold that can make your work sronger and more powerful. Don't fail to use it.

Any questions, just holler!

Aasiyah Qamar - Cultural Romantic Fiction, With a Twist
Coming out October 2 - Light My World - Eirelander Publishing
Nolwynn Ardennes - The Promise of Fulfilment
Coming out in January 8, 2010 - Storms in a Shot Glass - Eirelander Publishing

Aasiyah Qamar/Nolwynn Ardennes - Romance the world over