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The Grand Gesture in Romance Novels

It’s my pleasure to welcome Ines Johnson today. She’s here to talk about her new release Pumpkin, a Cindermama story.

Ines writes books for strong women who suck at love. If you rocked out to the twisted triangle of Jem, Jericha, and Rio as a girl; if you were slayed by vampires with souls alongside Buffy; if you need your scandalous fix from Olivia Pope each week, then you’ll love her books!

Aside from being a writer, professional reader, and teacher, Ines is a very bad Buddhist. She sits in sangha each week, and while others are meditating and getting their zen on, she’s contemplating how to use the teachings to strengthen her plots and character motivations.

Ines lives outside Washington, DC with her two little sidekicks who are growing up way too fast.

Now it’s on to The Grand Gesture…

Traditionally the Grand Gesture is known to be a common plotting point in romance stories where the hero does something bold or gives up something big in order to show the heroine that his love is true.

In Pride and Prejudice, Darcy puts aside his contempt of Wickham to help save Lydia’s reputation. This grand gesture is what finally convinces Elizabeth to take his hand.

In Twilight, Edward’s grand gesture, the thing that shows his true love of Bella, is when he sucks the poison out of her wrist without killing her.

For more on grand gestures, we’ll turn to the hero of my latest release, Pumpkin: a Cindermama story. This romance is a fairytale retelling of -you guessed it- the Cinderella story.

EXCERPT

The Mistress of Ceremonies hurried through her introductions and then the microphone was in Manny’s hand, but he didn’t take out the notes of his prepared speech.

Pumpkin"Many of you knew my mother," he began. There was a murmur of nostalgic assent throughout the crowd.

"You may not know that after her diagnosis, she spent most of her days watching romantic comedies. She believed she could laugh the illness out of her body. Her favorite moments in these films were something called the Grand Gesture. That scene just after all hope is lost because one of the lovers, normally the guy, has done something stupid that’s led to the end of the relationship. So he thinks up this bold, romantic move to get the woman back."

A glance around the room told Manny that he held the largely female crowd in rapt attention.

"An example of a grand gesture would be a guy telling his estranged wife that she completes him in the midst of an angry mob of women. Or rescuing her underwear from the class geek and returning it to her at her sister’s wedding. Or holding a boom box over his head, in front of her bedroom window, early in the morning, while blasting the song that was playing as he deflowered her."

A different wave of nostalgia swept through the crowd this time as they remembered these treasured moments of Hollywood cinema.

"In the real world, some people might call these behaviors creepy, or stalker-ish. But not my mother. She loved them. She believed in love, believed that when you loved someone you said it loud, you showed it often, and you never gave up."

Manny paused here, partly for effect, mostly to collect himself as visions of his mother’s joyous face played in his head. He rubbed the heel of his hand against his chest.

"The national divorce rate is 50 percent."

There was no surprise in the room, where most of the men were older and the women on their arms were younger.

"There’s never been a divorce in the Charmayne family. Not one recorded anywhere in our family line."

The sparkle of young women’s eyes threatened to blind Manny from where he stood on the stage.

"What that means is when a Charmayne gives you their pledge, they are committed."

The decision was a split second one, but once Manny made it he stuck with it. He stepped around the podium, mic in hand and dropped to one knee. The gasp of every woman in the room was near deafening.

"To earn your vote, I will do whatever I have to, including blast Peter Gabriel in the streets. Charmaynes don’t quit. I’m committed to this, to the people of this town. I hope that I can count on your vote."

The room erupted in thunderous applause, and the women’s eyes sparkled even brighter.

We’ve seen literary heroes perform the feat of a grand gesture near the end of the tale. In Pumpkin: a Cindermama story, my hero Manny talks about this moment in the first act. I take a moment early in the book to teach the reader the rules of the grand gesture in this speech so that they are prepped for later in the book when I break these rules in favor of a more non-traditional grand gesture near the end of the story. To find out who messed up and how they declared their love in a grand way, pick up the book.

Interested in learning more?

Here’s the blurb:

Single mother Malika “Pumpkin” Tavares lost faith in fairytales after she fell for a toad. Now she believes she’s not cut from the storybook, heroine cloth and searches for Mr. Good Enough amongst the sidekicks and supporting men of the town.

Love at first sight isn’t a cliche for town royalty Armand “Manny” Charmayne. For generations the Charmaynes have spotted their soulmates by seeing a golden aura the first time they laid eyes on The One.

When Manny meets Pumpkin he sees…nothing, but sparks fly off the richter scale. The more he gets to know her the more he considers defying fate, if only he can convince her to take a chance on love again.

Purchase at Amazon

Visit Ines:

Website

Facebook

Goodreads

Twitter

Do you have any questions for Ines? Ask away in the comments section.

A is for Auckland

I’m an A – Z virgin, and I’m looking forward to tackling this challenge. Since I live in New Zealand, I thought this would make a great theme for my posts. I intend to introduce you to my home country and also to some of my romance novels, which are set in my home country.

A is for Auckland

Mt Eden, Auckland

This is the view of the central business district of Auckland and the Sky Tower, taken from the top of Mt. Eden, a dormant volcano. In the foreground you can see the crater of the volcano.

Auckland Harbor Bridge

This is the Auckland Harbor Bridge that spans the harbor.

Sky Tower

Sky Tower can be seen from all over Auckland. It’s the largest tower in the Southern Hemisphere.

 

Six Things About Auckland

1. Auckland is the largest city in New Zealand, although it’s not the capital. The population is spread out over a big area.

2. The city of Auckland is built on and around a field of dormant volcanoes.

3. It’s also known as the City of Sails since there are so many boats on the harbor and has excellent fishing.

4. Auckland is the gateway to the rest of New Zealand. Both cruise ships and planes arrive in Auckland.

5. No matter where you live in Auckland, a beach isn’t far away.

6. The Sky Tower in Auckland is the tallest in the Southern hemisphere.

Auckland is my home, and I’ve written several romances, which are set here. The perfect way to armchair travel to Auckland.

There’s The Bottom Line, Past Regrets, Summer in the City of Sails, Make That Man Mine and One Night of Misbehavior.

Visit the A – Z Challenge blog

When Author Promo Goes Over The Top

Author Cathy Yardley has an excellent post about Selling Books (without being an asshat). She says nobody wants to badger readers — but “if we want to sell books, what else can we do?”  Right? Read the rest of her article here.

I have to say, from my own observations, that my twitter stream is full of “buy me” type posts. Recently I’ve been doing a lot of editing, and now I’ve started working on a new book. Not terribly interesting to read or tweet about. When that happens I like to retweet a couple of posts that I’ve found interesting for some reason or another. Some days it is hard to find a decent post to RT amongst all the white noise of “like me”, “buy me”, “RT me” or “do—” (insert relevant item in the blank area).

On days like this, I shake my head, give up and get back to my current WIP. If anything, I seem to be doing less and less when it comes to promotion and focusing on my next book instead. I thought my sales might drop away because of the lack of promotion, but in truth, my royalties seem to be better than ever. Who knew?

I’m not saying writers shouldn’t do promotion, but maybe think a little harder before you add to the white noise online. Seek to entertain rather than demand attention, and I think you might have a better shot at getting your book noticed.

What do you think?

What is the Big Deal With Pinterest?

“Oh, no!” I hear you say. “Not another form of social media to soak up my writing time.”

To be honest that’s what I thought when I first heard about Pinterest, and I turned my back and walked away.

Then, I started to see posts about Pinterest in my blog feeds. I read them. “Okay,” I thought. Maybe this Pinterest would be helpful with the new series I’m percolating in my head. I read the Pinterest posts again and requested an invitation.

Here are some of the articles I found useful:

Pinterest, oh, the potential by Nicole M Miller

A Few More Thoughts on Pinterest by Nicole M Miller

3 Ways Authors Can Use Pinterest Guilt Free by Caitlin Muir at Author Media

Pinterest: 13 Things Authors Should Know by Rachelle Gardner, agent

My experience with Pinterest:

1. The actual joining was very easy. During the sign up stage you tick the subjects you’re interested in and Pinterest automatically sets you up with people (friends) who have common interests.

2. I haven’t bothered searching out people to friend since my main purpose in joining Pinterest is to use it as a source of inspiration while I’m percolating new stories.

3. I set up boards for the heroines in my new series, and it has really helped me to think about facets of their characters.

4. I also set up a board for my blog, and it occurred to me that I could do a board for my latest release, Cat Burglar in Training. This is something of a work in progress, but I added a link for the board to my book page as an added extra for readers. Cat Burglar in Training Pinterest board. I included images of elements from the book ranging from ball gowns, cars and jewels to peanut butter. The purpose of these boards is to hopefully direct traffic.

5. I was so pleased with the Cat Burglar in Training board that I also started one for my Middlemarch Mates series.

Shelley Munro's Pinterest Boards

 

Here’s the link to all my boards if you’d like to check them out: Shelley Munro’s boards.

What are your thoughts about Pinterest? Have you succumbed? If so, how are you using Pinterest? Is it for writing purposes?

Strategies for Procrastinating Writers by Shelley Munro

I’m visiting Terry’s Place, the hangout of author Terry ODell today and talking about Strategies to beat Procrastination.

Change procrastination to productivity.

Does this sound like something you need? Yes? I have to admit there are times when I’m a champion procrastinator. Yes, it’s true. Sometimes attacking the ironing pile seems like way more fun than sitting down to write. On days like this it can take me hours to pound out my target number of words, and each one is dragged from me kicking and screaming. Read more at Terry’s Place.

Promotion Secrets with Author Maria Zannini

My special guest today is author, Maria Zannini who recently self-published a paranormal romance called The Devil to Pay. Maria has been out on the virtual road with the Indie Roadshow where she tells writers about her self-publishing journey and the things she’s learned along the way. Today Maria is talking about promotion, which I know is something many writers struggle with and don’t enjoy. Over to Maria…

The Indie Roadshow

Psst. Do you want to know the secret to good promotion? You might be surprised when I tell you because it’s been in front of you the whole time.

Ready for it?

You have to find the reader, rather than wait for him to find you. And when you do find him you have to talk to your reader and keep him engaged.

Book promotion is time consuming, expensive, and there are no guarantees that your efforts will bear fruit. But a lot of your labor can be cut in half if you focus on the reader and what S/HE needs.

Think about yourself as a reader. You just finished a fantastic book from a new-to-you author and you decide to Google the author to learn more about her. When you reach her blog, all you find are advertisements for more books. It feels like a bit of letdown, doesn’t it?

To attract the reader your best bet is to go to his haunts. And when it comes to indie publishing most of those avid readers will be found at book blogs, reading forums, book clubs, and book outlets (like Amazon).

Most of these outlets are free to you, though some might require asking for an invitation to appear. Others, like Goodreads and Shelfari welcome you as long as you keep the pimping low-key.

And there’s still room for legitimate advertising. LASR (Long and Short Reviews) and The Romance Studio are two I’ve used. Both offer low-priced packages and get a ton of traffic.

Here are a list of options for you to consider that are either low cost or no cost.

Buy advertising packages at a book-centric web sites. (Make sure they get a lot of traffic.)
• LASR (Long and Short Reviews)
• The Romance Studio
Coffee Time Romance
• All Romance ebooks

Share yourself
• Guest blogging. Double your mileage and blog at places where you’re lesser known.
• Forums, such as Kindleboards, Absolute Write Water Cooler, and genre-specific forums

Talk to book bloggers about:
• Reviews
• Interviews
• Guest posts

Give your book away
Liz Fichera had a marvelous idea when she gave away her arc for Craving Perfect to ten people who would agree to review it. With an indie book, there are no limitations on how many books you can give away. Be generous. Word of mouth is priceless.

Go where the readers are like:
Goodreads
Shelfari
Facebook

Finally, don’t leave out television and radio. It might be difficult to nab a guest spot, but if you have a small station locally, you’ll reach an audience you might not otherwise find.

It’s scary to put yourself out there because you don’t always know how you’ll be received, but if you’ve written the best book you can, all that’s left is to be the kind of author people want to know.

And I’ll tell you my personal secret for promoting myself. I comment on many different blogs. Not a ‘hi, I like your site’ comment, but something personal and thoughtful. If you leave short and intriguing comments, I promise you, people will follow you back.

***

I hope you’ll follow along with the rest of the Indie Roadshow as I share the things I learned on my road to self-publishing.

The Devil to Pay

The Devil To Pay is available at Amazon and Smashwords for only $2.99. It is the first book of the series, Second Chances.

Synopsis: The road to Hell is paved with good intentions and bad tequila. Shannon McKee finds herself at the end of her rope, and she bargains her soul in a fit of despair.

Shannon’s plea is answered immediately by two men who couldn’t be more different from one another. Yet they share a bond and an affection for the stubborn Miss McKee that even they don’t understand.

When Heaven and Hell demand their payment, Shannon has no choice but to submit. No matter who gets her soul, she’s not getting out of this alive.

Bio: Maria Zannini used to save the world from bad advertising, but now she spends her time wrangling chickens, and fighting for a piece of the bed against dogs of epic proportions. Occasionally, she writes novels.

Follow me on Facebook or my blog.

Finding Foster Homes for Orphan Sentences

Kat DuncanKat Duncan is my special guest today. Kat likes to write and teach. She also likes to write about teaching and teach about writing. Today she’s giving us a few hints about finding foster homes for orphan sentences.

Have you ever tried the writing technique called layering? It works like this: you draft out your basic scene with “he said” and “she said” or “he did” then “she did”. After you’ve got that bare bones framework you go back and add details such as where they are, what they look like, the weather, the room they are in, how they feel, etc.

The trouble with this technique is that it often results in disjointed scenes. Just when the dialogue gets going, the author throws in a scenery detail or stops to have the character focus on something other than the person she’s talking to. The worst blooper of this kind happens when one character asks a question and the other character goes off into a paragraph of thinking before answering.

So what’s the solution? You don’t want to skimp on these important details, so you really need to keep them. But you have to give these poor orphans a home. Make them feel part of the family. You will want to learn how to blend dialogue, action and scenery for best effect. One easy way to do this is to give your character a reason for observing the scenery, or for moving about in the scene. Linking the scene to the character’s emotions is the most direct way of doing this.

Let’s take an example and see the progression. Here’s a snippet of conversation:

“Say what you mean, Anna.”

“Okay, I will. You can’t just barge back into my life after so long and expect to pick up where you left off.”

“It hasn’t been that long.”

“It’s not about how long. It’s about assuming that you leaving had no effect on me.”

“So, you missed me?”

“I missed you, yes. And then I got over you.”

Now that I’ve got the basic dialogue, I want to add some dialogue tags and maybe some emotions, scenery and action. I’ll layer it on all at once:

“Say what you mean, Anna,” he said.

“Okay, I will. You can’t just barge back into my life after so long and expect to pick up where you left off.” She glanced out the window at a pigeon pecking crumbs on the windowsill.

“It hasn’t been that long.”

“It’s not about how long,” she said, lifting her head to stare into his dark eyes. “It’s about assuming that you leaving had no effect on me.”

“So, you missed me?” His voice dropped to that familiar seductiveness and he reached for her.

She stepped away from his outstretched hand. “I missed you. Yes. And then I got over you.”

Can you pick out the orphan sentence? It’s the one with the pigeon. I tried to give a sense of where they were while they were talking. Mentioning “out the window” tells you they are indoors. The pigeon on the windowsill tells you they are probably in an urban setting, perhaps a few stories above ground.
But…

It doesn’t fit the scene. It’s an orphan because it doesn’t connect properly with what came before it or after it. I also tried to give a sense of discomfort for Anna. Suddenly looking away at something ordinary during a conversation indicates unease and uncertainty. But the sentence isn’t working the way I intended. Let’s see if I can make this orphan sentence part of the scene’s family:

“Say what you mean, Anna,” he said.

“Okay, I will.” She edged away from him and faced the window. “You can’t just barge back into my life after so long and expect to pick up where you left off.”

“It hasn’t been that long.”

“It’s not about how long,” she said, waving a hand to shoo the pigeon pecking on the windowsill. “It’s about assuming that you leaving had no effect on me.”

“So, you missed me?” His voice dropped to that familiar seductiveness and he reached for her.

She folded her arms against her body and stared out at the cold cityscape. “I missed you. Yes. And then I got over you.”

Better, don’t you think?

Layering can work well. Just watch for those orphan sentences when you’re re-reading and be sure to give them a good home. For more examples of how to blend action, scenery and emotional details, check out my year-long novel writing course at Savvy Authors beginning in May, 2011. You can also find me on the web at http://www.katduncan.net

Writer Tip: Holly Root (agent)

What is your best craft tip for aspiring authors wanting to submit to an agent?

90% of writing is rewriting. I don’t know that it ever gets easier, but I know that the more you learn to self-edit and polish, the stronger you’ll be at those skills.

Follow this link to read my full interview with agent, Holly Root

Writer Tip: Sarah Mayberry

“Take disco breaks. Get up every hour and get the blood flowing and give your brain a break by punching up something pumpy on your ipod or stereo and rocking out for a few minutes. Great to reset things and bring you back to the computer with new energy, and helpful to stop your body from seizing up after long hours toiling over the keyboard.”

Visit Sarah Mayberry’s website
Purchase Sarah’s latest release, Her Best Friend

Writer Tip: Brenna Lyons

“The editor is there to do two things: to make the book as polished and professional as she can and to help you and the publisher avoid infringement suits. There are no brownie points for refusing reasonable edits. My first editor [Suzanne James] taught me: “An editor is not dismembering your baby; she’s polishing your gem.” To that, I added: “Sometimes you have to cut off the rough edges before the soft cloth comes out.” While you may not agree on precisely what changes need made to smooth the work, you should work with the editor to come to a compromise and not dismiss the concerns outright. Chances are, if the editor sees a problem, the readers will as well. Remember, what you see in your mind’s eye is often filling in the blanks between the typed lines, because you know the subject so well. For a reader to see the same thing, it has to all be on the page.”

Brenna Lyons, author of the EPIC’s e-Book Award-winning TIME CURRENTS