Hooray for Hollywood

“To place in the limelight a great number of people who ordinarily would be chambermaids and chauffeurs, and give them unlimited power and instant wealth is bound to produce a lively and diverting result.”

–Anita Loos, A Girl Like I

Several months ago, my publisher, Entangled, put out a call for submissions for an anthology of historical novellas. I’m a sucker for special calls, but I normally stick to contemporary. It made me wonder, however – if I were to write a historical romance, what era would hold my interest long enough to do the required research?

Only one came to mind – Hollywood in the days of silent films.

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HEA — My Drug of Choice

The first romance I ever read was a gothic – Menfreya in the Morning by Victoria Holt. I was in 8th grade, and didn’t realize at the time that gothic romance was a genre. I just thought Victoria Holt was awesome, and read all of her books that I could get my hands on.

I didn’t read the quintessential romance, Pride and Prejudice, until after I graduated from college, and then almost by accident – I was visiting my cousin in Indianapolis and pulled the Holy Grail of Romance off her bookshelf because I had nothing to do while she was at work other than read (and try to keep the crazy landlady from soaking the inside of the apartment when she hosed down her aluminum siding every day). Again, no clue about the genre. I just thought Austen was fabulous and read all her books.

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Free: Not Necessarily a Good Price

As a dyed-in-the-CPU geek, I’ve attended beaucoup technical conferences and I can tell you nothing fires up your average nerdy type like free stuff. We stampede the vendor hall to scavenge the giveaways. T-shirts. Water bottles. Tote bags. Orange rubber duckies.

I’ll always grab a XXL t-shirt for Curmudgeonly Husband. I’ll score a water bottle for Lovely Daughter to cart to her daily gym sessions (she just joined a Muay Thai gym…be afraid).

But the problem with most of that stuff? It’s not technical. The most successful swag, in my opinion, is something a tech person would actually use. A USB flash drive (even a piddly 1GB model…pish) beats out a water bottle by a mile. Free software body-slams the Tyvek tote bag every day and twice on Sunday. And as for the t-shirts…well, never mind. No self-respecting geek would ever turn down a free t-shirt.

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Foreplay and Afterglow

One of my favorite love scenes ever isn’t in a romance novel.

In 1997, Steven Brust and Emma Bull co-wrote Freedom & Necessity, a massive epistolary novel set in 1849 that puzzled me greatly because I expected a fantasy (Brust and Bull write some of the best out there – Bull’s War for the Oaks remains one of my favorite books of all time).

I kept waiting for the magic to occur, but it didn’t — at least not in the hocus-pocus sense. That first love scene between James and Susan though? Now that was magical — unbelievably sensual and touching and gently amusing. It also surprised the hell out of me, set down as it is amidst all the philosophy and political intrigue and convoluted family drama.

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ChainChainChain

Last summer, I had the pleasure of meeting the wonderful Roxanne Snopek at the Entangled in Vegas conference. She invited me to participate in the Writing Process Blog Chain, in which writers share information about (wait for it…) their writing process, by answering the following questions:

1) What am I working on?

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Puttin’ on the Tropes

Romance authors get a lot of grief over the use of recognizable plot devices – tropes. You know the kind of thing – the fake engagement, the secret baby, the ugly duckling. Billionaires! Sheikhs! Cowboys! Billionaire cowboy sheikhs!

The first definition for trope in both the online Merriam-Webster and Oxford American English dictionaries is (essentially) the figurative or metaphorical use of a word or expression.

The second definition in Oxford is a significant or recurrent theme; a motif.

In Merriam-Webster? A common or overused theme or device : cliché

Dude. Way harsh.

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Confessions of a Reformed Pantser

Once upon a time, in my eternal quest to figure out what the heck happens next, I checked Chris Baty’s No Plot, No Problem out of the library. If you haven’t read this book, it tells the genesis of National Novel Writing Month. I read it in October, 2010. NaNoWriMo starts in November. I decided it was A Sign.

I pantsed my way through the 2010 and 2011 NaNos, passing the 50K finish line by Thanksgiving weekend each time, but the resulting stories had so many holes in them they could double for a pair of screen doors.

But in 2012, two things happened that fundamentally changed my process.

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An Introvert’s Purgatory

Hands trembling. Stomach clenched. Mouth dry.

Any minute now, it will be my turn. I’m about to read an excerpt from my soon-to-be-released debut book to a roomful of people who have already had ninety minutes to stoke themselves with alcohol.

Will they like it? Will the group of people carrying on a conversation in the back of the room drown out my voice (microphone not withstanding)? Will I talk too fast? Will my voice escalate into Minnie Mouse range as it used to do whenever nerves attacked?

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It’s not what you see…

I lack the teensiest vestige of a sixth sense. Never seen a ghost. Never sensed an unseen presence. I can’t even be hypnotized because my brain tells me that it’s not sensible.

So it’s pretty ironic that my first sale was a ghost story.

But even though I’ve never experienced the paranormal directly, the notion of what might be out there, if only I weren’t the equivalent of a supernatural dead zone, is enough to start the caterpillar-creep of gooseflesh along my spine.

When I was in college, my roommate Brigid’s sister, Shannon, had a ghost. Shannon called him Paul – and if my murky memory serves me, he was supposedly her brother in a previous life, when they’d both lived in France. (I didn’t ask how he got from France to Laramie, Wyoming. The séance express?)

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Country Life — Oh, the Horror!

My youngest (by eight minutes) son is a lifelong aficionado of the macabre. Nick’s favorite book in grade school was an oversized, cheerfully illustrated book on historical disasters (his favorite was – and still is – the Black Plague), and post-grade school, he graduated to all-things-Stephen-King.

nick_on_foggy_roadIt’s only natural, then, that when he was a senior at the local arts magnet high school, he and his friends decided to make a horror movie. Their script involved a too-good-to-be-true free vacation at a B & B that turned out to be the lair of cannibals. The location for the creepy isolated hotel?

Our house.

I didn’t know whether to be insulted or flattered.

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