Guest Blog: Author Melissa McClone

I’m pleased to welcome best selling author Melissa McClone to my blog. Melissa has published over forty romance novels with Harlequin and Tule Publishing Group and has been nominated for Romance Writers of America’s RITA® award. When she’s not writing, Melissa can usually be found driving her children to various activities. (I can relate!) Her latest novel is The Valentine Quest (Love at the Chocolate Shop Book 5). You can find links to all Melissa’s books on her website. I like her idea of writing the last chapter near the beginning of her writing process. I may try that myself just to see what happens. Anyway, welcome, Melissa!

Knowing the End by Melissa McClone

When I decided to try writing a romance novel, I was a die-hard romance reader who was working full-time during the day as a mechanical engineer and taking classes toward an MBA at night. I was left-brained to the max. This, however, served me well with plotting those first stories.

Forty-odd published works later, I’m still a plotter, but over the past two decades (my “call” from Harlequin to buy my first book came in November 1997 when I was pregnant with my first child who is now a freshman in college), my process has changed a little.

What’s the same?

I like to have an outline or synopsis to get a general feel for the story. I use this to make sure I don’t forget anything I should have. That means when I’m ready to outline, I pull out one of my plot/structure books/worksheets and decide which one I’d like to use. I wish I could say I found the perfect plotting tool or method that I use with each project, but I haven’t. These, however, are my go to resources:

My outline/synopsis is never set in stone. It’s just so I know where to start and have an idea of where I’m going. Next, I write the first three chapters. This is where I get to know my characters. Often there’s too much internalization and backstory in the first draft, but I don’t worry about that. That’s what revisions are for.

What’s different about my process now?

With a couple published novels to my name, I decided to try something different with how I wrote. After I’d drafted the first three chapters, I wrote the last chapter of the story. When I did that, something clicked in my brain. Something good, so that’s what I started doing and have been doing. I used to write only the last chapter, but lately (I forgot exactly when), I’ve been writing from the black moment to the end.

During the revision passes (I’m a draft writer), I’ll add more detail and description, and of course, clean up the writing, but the scenes don’t change much. The only significant rewrites have happened when I changed a character’s internal conflict, but I can’t remember ever changing the actual setting of an end scene.

Some of my writer friends don’t get this at all. We’ve had some interesting discussions about my process. I don’t know if it’s my left brain or what, but I need to know the ending to know how to get there. Writing the end first doesn’t take away from my enjoyment of writing the rest of the story. If anything, I can breathe easier and enjoy the journey to get there.

A friend once encouraged me to write the story linearly just to see what that was like. She felt I was missing the discovery that happens as you write from start to finish. I’m always up for experimenting, so I gave it a try with a novella.

The result?

A total mess and lots of tears.

D-I-A-S-A-T-E-R!

The bright side of the experiment, however, led me to completely embrace my process. When others tell me that they could never write the way do what I do or they’d never need to write the book if they knew the end, I just smile and continue doing as I’ve done. The way I write works for me, so why switch things up?

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Melissa’s uncredited coauthor.

Julieann Dove Blog Tour

I’m pleased to feature Julieann Dove‘s new contemporary romance The Secret He Keeps on my blog today. I’m doubly impressed by her work because she’s managed to juggle writing five books this year with raising five children. Read my Q and A with Julieann below along with a excerpt from the book. Then go out and buy it so you can curl up with a good romance on a cold winter’s night.

julieann-dove

What the genesis of The Secret He Keeps? How did you come up with the story idea?

The story came from an idea of what would happen if a shut-in, grieving woman was saved by an electric repairman. I was driving down the highway and passed a cherry picker repair truck, and poof, there was the idea! I never know where I’ll find my next idea.

You’re a prolific author, publishing five books in 2016. How do you keep up the momentum?

I have to put a lid on my mind sometimes. It wanders to all kinds of places and situations that I could write about for hours. Writing is one of my favorite pastimes! I do have to get up from the computer and come out to the light of day, though, or my family might forget what I look like.

You say you like to write about messy people encountering love. Why are messy people so interesting?

I try never to write in a box. People are more complicated than boy meets girl and falls in love after overcoming a hardship. I include the hardship, but spotlight the imperfections of people, too. We all have them, and the more I include in my books, the more relatable my characters are to readers. Waking Amy astounded me with the reviews by women who identified with Amy’s insecurities. I feel my job as a writer is to take the reader on a journey of self-discovery through my characters. The problems they encounter are only a part of the story. Messiness makes it more believable.

Where do you find inspiration for the characters you create?

A lot of my characters have pieces of me in them. Elise, in A Reason to Stay, represented my inability to commit to a guy, and the hardship of not having a relationship with my father. Amy, in Waking Amy became a little reflective of my best friend, who, after the first book was published, was left by her husband. In the third book, she was someone I used as inspiration. It was very important to give her a happily ever after—even if it was in fiction.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received as a writer?

From other authors telling me I can’t possibly please everyone. Reading poor reviews hits me in my soft spot. I realize what I write is not the taste of every reader. Not everyone is going to agree that the heroine is imperfect. “The Secret He Keeps” has made a few readers a bit upset with me. Reading is subjective, and I have to keep that in mind!

the-secret-he-keeps-cover

Her neck was flawless, almost angelic. Soft and white, with tiny curls at the nape. His hands began to shake and he couldn’t fit the clasp together. He moved in for a closer smell while she was unable to see what he was doing. It was faint, but it drew him in for a better whiff. He closed his eyes, imagining he was able to do more than just inhale her.

“Are you having trouble?” She turned her head sideways to ask him.

“No, I got it.”

She turned back around and showed it off. “How does it look?”

His eyes never left hers when he answered. “Simply beautiful.”

He must have said something wrong because she kept quiet and walked to the mirror. “Thank you again. I really love it.”

He shouldn’t wear his emotions on his sleeve. He never used to have a problem with that. In his younger days, he rotated women—he didn’t even know their last names or occupations. But Rachel was different. A different class of her own. She didn’t let him get by with anything. He grew to like it. By the time he knew he loved it, along with her, she was engaged to his best friend.

“Well, I’m glad. I guess I’ll get going. Do you have any plans for tomorrow? It’s Christmas, Rach.”

She put her hand in her back pocket and leaned against the wall. “I know that, Dane. I don’t have anything pressing, no. I’m sure Mom will call and put me on speakerphone for the family to all wish me Merry Christmas.” She raised one of her fingers. “Which brings me to a favor.”

“We are all caught up on favors, Rachel. No more dates.” He was at the door, pulling up his boots. He figured she still felt uncomfortable with him hanging around, and the snow was coming down pretty hard.

“No, it isn’t a date. It’s a mission of mercy. I have to go home for New Year’s and Mom is planning to parade all the single men in the fifty-square-mile radius to our house. She promises she’s not, but I’ve been fooled before by her.”

“How could I help?”

“You could fly with me, all expenses paid, to Savannah, Georgia and pretend to be interested in me.” She quickly added, “Not like wildly interested, just like smile at me and seem fond. No, that’s a better word. Fond of me.

Nasty Women Read Erotic Romance

I try to separate my writing life from my politics, but recently I’ve felt like our presidential election has taken too many unprecedented turns to ignore it.  When a video was released where Donald Trump boasted about forcibly kissing and grabbing the pussies of women he found attractive, many people of all political stripes condemned him, but there were also those who dismissed his words as “locker room talk.”

I shouldn’t have been surprised that some men-and women-leapt to Trump’s defense. For me, one of the most surprising and confusing counterattacks was that women shouldn’t be disturbed by Trump’s words because they bought so many copies of 50 Shades of Grey. This goes back to the idea that when women express their sexuality, through reading erotica, wearing a revealing top, or perhaps even admitting they enjoy sex, they’re inviting rape and deserve what they get.

Julia Nelson, the heroine of my erotic romance Goddess, enjoys having power in a sexual relationship. That’s what I generally like writing. But that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with portraying BDSM, or enjoying it in real life. It doesn’t mean you’re inviting strangers to tie you up and rape you, or even kiss you. If a woman wants to relinquish control in a relationship, that’s her choice. When a man demands control regardless of what a woman wants, that’s assault.

So, please, let’s continue to enjoy erotic romance, and let’s speak up for the rights of women everywhere to control their bodies however they choose.

Best wishes,

Kelee

Special Guest Post: Author Dianne Duvall

I’m pleased to welcome New York Times bestselling author Dianne Duvall (A Sorceress of His OwnPhantom Embrace) to my blog today. Dianne is on tour promoting her second novel set in the Gifted Ones world, Rendezvous With YesterdayThe book will be released October 17. If you preorder it, you can win some awesome prizes. Just fill out this form. Go to Dianne’s website for more details.

I asked Dianne how she goes about the always difficult challenge of blending genres. (In Rendezvous‘s case, romance, fantasy and action.) Welcome, Dianne!

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Dianne Duvall

Thank you, Kelee, for letting me visit and for helping me celebrate the upcoming release of RENDEZVOUS WITH YESTERDAY.   And thank you, readers, for joining us.

One thing I have always liked about the romance genre is that it contains all of the other fiction genres as subgenres. (This, by the way, is something I frequently point out whenever someone tries to look down his or her nose at romance, because no other fiction genre can make that claim.) And romance has expanded so much in recent years that even its subgenres have subgenres now. This gives writers the exhilarating freedom to weave multiple genres together in their tales in whatever combination they desire. So how can they do this with success?

My answer, I fear, is not very groundbreaking. I think if a writer loves the genres she or he combines, blending them together is something that will just come naturally. I have always loved the romance genre. I loved it when I was a child and sighed over the happily-ever-afters in Disney movies. I loved it when I discovered young adult romance novels. And graduating to adult romance novels just solidified my addiction.

But I also can never resist a good (or bad, or even a so-bad-it’s-good) horror movie. Old. New. Big budget. Low budget. It doesn’t matter. I’ll give just about any horror movie a chance. And action-packed films are no different. So it’s only natural that some of the elements I love so much in horror and action films always manage to work their way into my novels and novellas.

It may surprise some to learn that when I sat down to write A SORCERESS OF HIS OWN, the first book in The Gifted Ones series, I actually intended to write a traditional medieval romance novel. But my love of fantasy, the paranormal, and action wound its way into the pages until the romance between the hero and heroine grew amidst action-packed battles and the shadows spawned by a despicable enemy. It was the same with my time travel romance RENDEZVOUS WITH YESTERDAY, but Bethany’s bold, teasing nature and lively sense of humor enabled me to throw more comedy into the mix. And in my Immortal Guardians books, my love of horror tends to creep in a bit more, adding a darkness that provides a nice contrast to what readers often call the laugh-out-loud moments.

If anything, the challenge of combining multiple genres—like romance, fantasy and action—is finding the right balance. Too many action scenes can leave little room for the development of the romance and disappoint readers who really wanted to watch the hero and heroine get to know each other and fall in love. And too few action scenes may bore readers who are less interested in the romance and more interested in high-octane battle scenes. (Not interested in the romance? What? Tell me it isn’t so!) But a balance can be found. And when it is, the resulting story will give readers an entertaining and exhilarating ride. J

So what genres do you like to see combined in your romance novels? I’d love to hear some of your favorites.dianneduvall_rendezvousteaser_imagine

 

Reading Deals Book Reviews: An Update

Back in April I wrote about Reading Deals book review program. I’ve now received all 10 of my reviews on Amazon for Goddess so I can give other authors who need more Amazon reviews an honest review of their services. Here’s my take:

  1. The reviews take a long time to come in. I placed my order for 10 reviews on February 16. I received an email today that my 10th review has finally been posted. Six months sounds like a long time and was more than I expected, but in retrospect, I don’t think it was unreasonable. The reviewers aren’t paid (which is a good thing), so their only incentive to finish a review is so they can get another free book.
  2. The reviews varied a great deal in quality. I never expected NY Times quality reviews. A few of mine were thoughtful, others were barely more than a sentence. It would be good if Reading Deals required reviewers to write a minimum number of words.
  3. The reviews were almost all positive. I don’t necessarily see this as a plus for the service. I’d prefer a thoughtful negative review to a slapdash positive one. The people who didn’t like the book were turned off by the adultery theme. But they still admired the writing, which is just fine by me. I knew the book would be controversial.
  4. They keep you apprised of the reviews coming in. Each week I received an automated email telling me how many reviewers had downloaded the book and how many reviews I’d received. I really appreciated this.
  5. The price seems reasonable. I don’t remember what I paid but the current price is $79. The $129 for premium placement might speed up how fast the reviews come in. Frankly, I’ve spent more and got back less advertising Goddess, so I thought it was worth it.

The bottom line is, if you need more reviews for your book, I think Reading Deals is worth it. It’s certainly more ethical than paying for positive reviews, and I think it’s also more honest than getting your friends and family to review your book.

If you’re considering this service and want to do more research, here are links to all my Reading Deal reviews:

https://www.amazon.com/review/R6824R97NTNEE/ref=pe_1098610_137716200_cm_rv_eml_rv0_rv

http://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R2NYAVSJWZTH32/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_rvw_ttl?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B015JVAF54

http://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R3GGMJUWASAUQN/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_rvw_ttl?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B015JVAF54

https://www.amazon.com/review/REKD0MGHHLX3K/ref=pe_1098610_137716200_cm_rv_eml_rv0_rv

https://www.amazon.com/review/R103U1Z0RQG4SA/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm

http://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R1Z8AR8DPTR10N/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_rvw_ttl?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B015JVAF54

https://www.amazon.com/review/R1HICLJJZ7R2CY/ref=pe_1098610_137716200_cm_rv_eml_rv0_rv

https://www.amazon.com/review/R1BOMBCN672018/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B015JVAF54

https://www.amazon.com/review/R2LFOYWO9PS696/ref=pe_1098610_137716200_cm_rv_eml_rv0_rv

https://www.amazon.com/review/R158GIRCS30I6R/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm

Happy writing!

Kelee

The Importance of Setting in Your Scenes

I recently saw the very funny and imaginative Israeli movie Footnote, about the rivalry between father and son academics. There’s a wonderful scene where the son is called to a meeting of the awards committee for the Israel Prize, the highest honor in the country. Uriel is told that his father was mistakenly (or perhaps intentionally) told he would receive the prize. Instead, the prize is going to son, not father.

It’s a dramatic scene, and one that could have been set in many locations: a large conference room, the auditorium where the ceremony will eventually be held, or perhaps in Uriel’s or someone else’s home. But the filmmakers chose to set the scene in what appears to be a small research room, where the committee is crammed around the table. Uriel has to bring in a large office chair from another room just to sit, which makes it even more crowded.

The result is comic; when Uriel wants to go into the hallway to absorb the information, there’s a struggle to move chairs and people before he can leave. The same occurs when the committee chairman angrily tries to walk out of the meeting.

But the setting also makes the scene more dramatic. Uriel is nose-to-nose with the committee members, raising the tension. When the committee chair bolts, he has to squeeze by Uriel, which ends up in a physical confrontation.

Would this scene be as effective on the page? Probably not. But it did make me think about the important of choosing where I set each scene in my novel. My first instinct is to go with the obvious choice: a sex scene in a bedroom, a romantic dinner scene in the dining room or at a restaurant, two people falling in love while enjoying a pastoral landscape. But it’s important to think outside the box and consider how the dynamics of a scene would change in another location. What if the two lovers had sex on a dining room table set for an elaborate dinner? Or the romanic dinner was served on a picnic blanket while surrounded by a litter of doberman puppies? Or the couple fell in love while waiting in an interminable line at the DMV?

All these ideas are comic, but there are many other settings that would give very different dynamics to the scene. All of them sound much more fun to write, and to read, than the cliche choices.

Think about this next time you’re setting your scene. It might just fire your imagination.

Happy writing!

Kelee

Killing Your Babies

I loved the opening scene of the new romance novel I’m working on, Anywhere’s Better Than Here. It was funny, with great dialogue, intriguing characters, and page-turning thrills. Best of all, I’d given it what I thought was an interesting twist. We first see our heroine, Julina Trevers, through the eyes of her caddish ex-boyfriend. I was so proud of myself.

There was just one problem.

My first-round readers hated the scene.

If this was a Kindle sample, one wrote, I would never download itI was confused, wrote another. Who’s the protagonist? They went on: Too long. The boyfriend never reappears. Why focus so much on a dislikable character?

I wanted to rail, to tell them they didn’t know what they were talking about. They couldn’t see clever writing if it hit them over the head. But these were all experienced writers and readers, and it wasn’t just two or three of them who didn’t like the scene, as is usually the case. They all hated it equally.

I had invested so much time and energy into this opening. I couldn’t bare to throw it out. Instead, I put aside the manuscript and spent several weeks working on my other book-in-progress. Now I’ve returned to it, and it’s still painful to change, but I’m doing it.

Killing your babies (or darlings for the more sensitive among you) is such an apt metaphor for what a writer has to go through. We’ve birthed these characters, scenes, plot lines, and sometimes, whole books. It’s agony to have to take a butcher knife to them, to slash them apart and resemble them. Sometimes they end up in the compost heap like yesterday’s dinner.

But as writers, we have to remember, compost isn’t trash. It breaks down and becomes something lovely and new that will eventually nourish our creative garden. Those lines of dialogue or the great character we created may someday end up in another book, right where they belonged all the time.

Writers, feel the pain and agony of killing your babies, but remember, they will live again.

Happy writing,

Kelee