Monday, October 25, 2010

'Tis the season for paranormal romance

Halloween is in the air! I spent Saturday evening at a haunted house with one of my boys. I'm talking a real haunted house. Sure, decorations were added to ramp up the spooky mood, but this house is truly haunted...if you believe. It's an old, stone farm house built in 1800 and nestled in the middle of nowhere. It served as a hide-out for those headed north to escape slavery. This place was amazing and filled with presence no one could deny. Being the writer and reader that I am, it got me thinking about paranormal romance. Hey, can you blame me?

One of my favorite paranormal romances involved a haunted house much like the one I was in on Saturday. It's one of Nora Roberts' McKade series, The Return of Rafe McKade. Speaking of paranormal and Nora, I absolutely love all of her Donovan clan books, Charmed, Enchanted, Captivated, and Entranced. Those are a must read for anyone who likes witches and magic. She makes it all so skillfully woven into everyday life that you have to believe her characters could be your neighbors. Love it!

I have also enjoyed reading Terry Spear's Heart of the Wolf and Destiny of the Wolf for the same reason. Terry not only incorporates real wolf and wolf pack behavior into her stories, her werewolves are also so well blended into human society (in their human form) that you're left thinking that they really could exist. There are many more books in this series that I have yet to read, but I definitely will.

I like paranormal romances that have a strong plausibility factor. I think it gives them a longer lasting impact. They leave you wondering...looking over your shoulder. What are some of your favorite paranormal romances? Do you like to curl up with them during the haunting season?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

You can't tell it's a Gluten Free/Dairy Free Pumpkin Pie

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. When I went gluten and dairy free a few years ago, I refused to give up my favorite, traditional Thanksgiving dishes, so I spent a lot of time coming up with GF/DF versions that tasted the same (or better) than the recipes I grew up with. Let me tell you, this pumpkin pie does the trick.

Rula's GF/DF Pumpkin Pie Recipe

Mix: 3/4 c granulated sugar
        1/4 tsp salt
        1 tsp cinnamom
        1/2 tsp nutmeg
        1/4 tsp ginger

Add and mix:
        1 can pumpkin
        2 large eggs
        1/4 c rice milk
        1 c MimicCreme  (a superb creme substitute made from almonds and cashews)

        1 box Kinnikinnick S'moreables graham style crackers
        1/4 c mild cooking oil (I use safflower because it's supposed to be good for your metabolism)

Put the graham crackers into a gallon Ziploc bag, seal, and crush/roll with a rolling pin. Think of your synopsis while doing this and you'll get nice, fine crumbs. Add the oil and massage the bag until the crumbs are coated (they'll still be kind of dry). Pat down the crumbs into a 10 inch pie dish and gently pour in the pie mixture. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for 55 minutes, or until a knife in the center comes out clean. Cool thoroughly before serving (longer cooling results in better flavor and a firmer consistency).

I've included a picture of the MimicCreme and S'moreables for those who haven't tried them before. The creme is great in main course dishes as well, and it takes on the flavor of whatever your cooking. As for smores...need I say more?

My kids beg for this pie on a daily basis...and Thanksgiving isn't even here yet! Mmmm...nothing like pie therapy.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Chop for the best deal

I just chopped three inches off my hair.

Just. Like. That.

No hairdresser, mind you. Nope. I stood in front of the mirror with sharp sissors and thought about how much I love having long hair. Then I looked more closely and saw the thinning, the split ends, and the lifelessness. What's the point in loving long hair if it's in crappy shape? I cut it without a second thought.

Now, you know you're a writer when you're chopping your hair off and all you can think of is manuscript editing. I kid you not. I stood there comparing cutting my hair to manuscript editing. No matter how much  you love your words (or hair), if they're unhealthy for the manuscript, if they're not doing anything to give it life or to propel the scene, they need to be chopped.

Just. Like. That.

I know it'll feel like you're getting rid of a part of yourself, but it's for the better. My hair will grow back...just like new, healthier, more powerful passages can be added back into the story. It's a great deal - a little chop with huge returns. What makes it a tad easier is that your words don't have to go into the trash can. I cut and paste them into a 'scraps' file where I can use ideas, sentences, or words at a later time. I know many writers who use programs like Scrivener or OneNote, where all those cuts can be kept just a click away (I have yet to try a writing program).

What's harder for you...chopping off your hair or chopping out sections of your manuscript?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

In the news...

First up, great news for all aspiring category authors. Check out Harlequin's So You Think You Can Write ? They have an awesome schedule planned (including editor podcasts, chats, and more) the week of November 1st. You can't miss it!

For those who love curling up with a sweltering hot read on a cold, fall night, author Kaily Hart's second novella, Pay Up, releases tomorrow at Ellora's Cave. Hot fireman. Need I say more? Kaily just returned from the RomantiCon conference where she got an Ellora's Cave 2010 Rising Star Award. Way to go my friend, and well deserved!

And movie lover that I am, I couldn't resist checking out the soon-to-be-released list. A few that caught my eye are:

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 releasing 11/19/10. Romance? Hey, there's plenty of romance in there. Go Ron and Hermione!

The Tourist releasing 12/10/10. Sounds like a thriller/romance. Who can resist Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie paired up?

Little Fockers releasing 12/22/10. I was so excited when I saw this! I could watch Meet the Parents and Meet the Fockers over and over and still laugh.

Well, that's all folks! Have a great weekend.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Golden Heart and RITA

Anyone entering? The 2011 GH and RITA are two of the most prestigious contests in the romance world, and their deadlines are fast approaching. Mark your calendars...

GH deadlines: November 15 - entry forms and fees are due
                       December 2 - entered manuscripts are due

RITA deadlines: December 1 - entry forms and fees are due
                          January 4 - entered books are due

For details, go to

I'm planning on entering (GH) the completed manuscript that I pitched at RWA Nationals in Orlando. What about you?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Eco-friendly Reasons To Avoid Head-hopping

Ah, yes. That good 'ol point-of-view ping pong. Most of us are guilty of having played the game at some point in our writing careers, and even experienced writers can still slip-up in those fast, first drafts. Like my kids, I'm more likely to follow a rule if I understand why it exists (my kids love that word), and the reasons have to be ones that I can identify with. I think most of us can identify with environmentally friendly reasons for doing things. And that brings us to three, eco-friendly reasons not to head-hop.

1. Energy conservation: Imagine a reader curled up on the sofa or lying in bed after an exhausting day. They plan on using whatever energy they have left to relax and enjoy a good book. Suddenly, their eyeballs start flicking left and right. That's right. Just like ping-pong balls. Pretty soon the book slams shut and they're rubbing their temples. Okay. I'm exaggerating a little, but mentally, head-hopping can exhaust a reader. It takes extra energy for them to keep up with POV changes mid-scene. That little bit of wasted mental energy can make the difference between them putting the book down or reading to the end. Don't drain your reader's fuel!

When a reader is kept  in a single POV for a scene, they're getting the time and chance to really explore that character's mind, emotions, and motivations. They begin to sympathize with that character and possibly even 'become' that character in their own minds. The reader is investing their time and energy in bonding. If you yank them out of that POV prematurely and start head-hopping, they won't form as tight a bond with the main characters. If the reader doesn't care, what reason is left for them to read on or to buy your future books?

2. Drought prevention: If the watering hole dries up, there's no reason to stick around or return. No insults intended. I'm not calling readers animals (although technically we are part of the animal kingdom). It's just an analogy, one in which the watering hole hold's part of the book's micro-suspense...the suspense created by the reader wondering what the hero or heroine is thinking and how they'll act on it.

By sticking with one POV (either the hero or heroine), you force the reader to read on to the next scene in order to find out what the other character is thinking, or how they will react to what happened in the current scene. Think of how TV soap operas rotate scenes. They keep viewers hanging on by ending each scene with a hook, and then make viewers watch several other scenes before returning to the one they're itching for. It's the same concept. Stick to one POV in a scene, end it on a hook, then switch POV for the entire next scene. The reader stays in suspense, turning those pages until they can get into that particular character's head again. With head-hopping, too much is divulged too soon, leading to micro-suspense drought.

3. Clean air: Things look a lot clearer through clean air. Avoiding head-hopping helps to clear the air. It prevents confusion. By sticking to one POV per scene, we're in essence sorting the hero and heroine's thoughts for the reader. This makes for more streamlined, efficient reading. Why should we expect the reader to flip back and forth or read a paragraph twice because their eyes collided mid-ping pong match? Respect the reader's time and effort. They want to relax, not work. When selling a house, agents recommend that the seller do all the grunt work (fresh paint, wood rot repairs, kitchen and bath updates...) because buyers are more likely to stick around with interest if the house is move-in ready. Keep things clean and clear.

In conclusion, I do have to say that I've read stories by well known authors where the POV is smoothly and skillfully switched mid-scene and it worked. But in their defense, they didn't head-hop through the entire scene. They switched POV altogether. The times that I've seen this, where it didn't bother me, were during sex scenes. There's something about the heat of the moment that helps distract from the switch. Perhaps, symbolicallly, the hero and heroine are 'joined as one' so there's not as far to hop. Okay, that was cheesy, but I couldn't resist (grinning). You get the idea. There are always exceptions, but as a rule of thumb:

Go green. One POV per scene.