Erotica author, aka Elspeth Potter, on Writing from the Inside

Friday, July 31, 2009

Erotic Journeys and Bodice Rippers

I've been thinking more on the reasons some books are categorized as erotica and some as romance when the number or frequency of sex scenes, and the "heat level" thereof, is very similar. I don't believe the degree of explicit language is always a factor; styles in prose language vary by author and, I think, by what's in style at the moment.

One difference that came to mind is that in erotica, the reader is meant to invest in the main character (usually a woman, at least in the erotica I read). She can have multiple partners, and might or might not end up in a committed relationship. The point of the story isn't finding a perfect relationship, it's the heroine discovering her selfhood and being fulfilled.

Romance novels focus on a single pairing. The reader invests in the pair; even when the two characters are apart, their actions and thoughts tie into the relationship plot. Action plot is secondary to the relationship plot. Their individuality as characters is important because of how their individual traits contribute to or detract from the relationship. The point of the story is the relationship pair being fulfilled.

I also think the two types of journeys aren't mutually exclusive. An erotic novel can also be a romance. A romance novel can include erotica; in fact, I think erotica in romance-marketed-as-romance used to be more common than it is today, perhaps because now there is more freedom to publish erotica for women as erotica.

I am wondering if the earliest epic "bodice ripper" romances of the 1970s might be more tinged with erotica than today's romances. The plot could follow a single heroine through various relationships, for example an unsuitable or abusive marriage that later led to her relationship with the novel's hero; or a relationship with the hero that might begin as unhealthy and gradually become more fulfilling. I recently read Anita Mills' Autumn Rain, published in 1994, which I believe is a later example of this subgenre; though the hero appears in early scenes, and there is a kiss between him and the heroine, there is no emotional connection between them, and he soon goes overseas to fight Napoleon. Until the last third of the book, the story revolves around the heroine alone and her relationships with her controlling, elderly husband and his grandson. The novel is about her rather than her relationship with the hero, and even when their relationship begins, her romantic journey and her erotic journey (the hero takes her virginity) are intertwined.

Opinions? Comments?

Related posts:
Preliminary Thoughts on Two Types of Erotic Novel.

Defining Erotic Romance, Romance, and Erotica.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Research Book Dilemma

My name is Victoria, and I am a book hoarder. If I were still an impecunious graduate student, the lack of funds to buy books would be a constant pain, but as an adult with a job, my struggle is more with not buying books. It's all so interesting, you see. And even if I can't read the books right now, well, what if I broke my leg? And was bedridden? I would need some books to keep my spirits up, right?

Now that I'm a published novelist, I'm even worse about book-buying. The thing is, books can count as research. They can be used to spark ideas and to provide realistic detail for my stories. And they're tax-deductible!

Sometimes, early in a novel, I don't know exactly what research materials I will need. I might realize several chapters in that I need to know, for example, how much a coat would cost in 1914, or what a British grenade looked like. It helps to have books on hand so I don't have to stop writing for a trip to the library or onto the internet (though I also accumulate questions for future internet research). Also, reading the books sparks my thinking on plot and character, in directions that never would have occurred to me if I hadn't encountered a stray historical fact.

But the real reason to buy research books is that I love them. I love having lots of them, and knowing I can take them off the shelf and read them whenever I want, even if that happens to be at three o'clock in the morning when libraries are closed. Not to mention the comfort of being able to read while curled up under a blanket with a cat, something that's generally frowned upon in libraries and even bookstores that feature coffee shops.

Libraries do have their uses. Much as I'd like to, I can't afford all the books I want or need. Libraries have given me priceless experiences like handling books actually published in the period I'm writing, and provide easy access to invaluable material like microfiched newspapers and magazines. Sometimes I only need a single essay from a book, and prefer to borrow it from the library rather than buy it. But I don't think I could function nearly as well as a writer without my own stash of books. Besides the value of what they contain, to me they feel like talismans.

Related posts:
Reading for the Writer.
Synergy in Writing and Research.
WWI: A CBS News Production.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cecilia Tan Guest Post - "Why Writing Romance and Erotica Is Like Being Good in Bed"

Please welcome my guest, Cecilia Tan!


Why Writing Romance and Erotica Is Like Being Good in Bed
by Cecilia Tan

I was debating with a friend recently on what the "real" difference is between "literary" fiction and "commercial" fiction. What's the difference between a literary novel that has a love story in it and a romance novel that is well written in a literary style? We know the publisher markets them differently, but at some inherent level are they different?

It occurred to me that they might be, and that the difference might be exactly the difference between making love with someone like a rock star who is into themselves, and with someone who is into you.

We call literary fiction "high art" whereas genre fiction is seen as pop art at best, hack work at worst. Why? It seems to me that all the things we consider high art are supposed to be "pure" somehow, and free of the influence of the intended audience. A master painter or sculptor or composer is somehow supposed to reach deep inside them for the art that is unique to them and produce a masterpiece without sullying themselves worrying about things like "writing to market." We can argue later about whether this vacuum ever really exists and whether any of the great painters or composers actually produced their greatest work that way. But the impression that literary writers sit alone somewhere thinking deep thoughts (perhaps aided by consumption of alcohol) persists.

Meanwhile we hack writers who bang out romance, fantasy, mystery, et cetera are supposedly trying to please our voracious audience.

Wait a second. Why is that bad? How is it less artful for me to craft a story, characters, and plot that is satisfying for the reader than it is for me to craft one that is satisfying to myself as an artist? Is the endeavor any less creative? Does it take less of my brainpower or less of my craft? I would argue that it doesn't. I can pull off the literary fireworks. I can write a story in backwards chronology. I can create prose poetry. I can use the ten dollar words, the high syntax, and cite the influence of various literary giants in my work.

I can do all that and please my readers, too. Ultimately I do not want people reading my books to be having an experience akin to having sex with a rock star where it is all about me and what a virtuoso I am, but to feel that they are receiving satisfying attention from me. They can trust me to give them what they need, to tease them a little, perhaps with an edge of kink, but to always give them what they want in the end. This applies just as well to my romances as my literary erotica. Whether I adopt the noirish feel of a thriller for Mind Games, the chick-lit tone for The Hot Streak, or provide adult readers with everything that was missing from Harry Potter in Magic University, I'm a very giving author.

And I can't see that being a bad thing.

CECILIA TAN is the author of the newly launched erotic fantasy from Ravenous Romance "The Siren and the Sword," (Book One in the Magic University series), the baseball-themed romance The Hot Streak, and the erotic paranormal suspense novel Mind Games, also from Ravenous. She is the editorial director of Circlet Press, erotic science fiction and fantasy, and also the author of Black Feathers, White Flames, The Velderet, and Telepaths Don't Need Safewords. Visit her at to find out more.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Book of Awesome

Today I bring you The Book of Awesome.

The Book of Awesome is why you should have friends. A short while ago, I was bemoaning the fact that I had read the Hornblower books and the Aubrey-Maturin books, and was writing a sea adventure, but didn't really understand how sailing ships actually worked.

Sherwood Smith, whom I've known online for several years, said, "You need Seamanship in the Age of Sail: An Account of the Shiphandling of the Sailing Man-Of-War 1600-1860, Based on Contemporary Sources by John Harland." Despite having read Sherwood's book Inda when it came out, I had completely forgotten that the book included sea adventure, thus I had not approached her for help with research. However, my complaint about my problem brought her to my rescue, and I was able to obtain The Book of Awesome.

How awesome is The Book of Awesome? So awesome, I cannot tell you. I am speechless in the face of its awesomeness. In fact, it is so awesome and gives such detail that at times I wish I could spend a few months studying it in detail. Or maybe years.

The Book of Awesome tells you the names of all the parts of the ship and the various sails, often in many different European languages. It tells you how those sails can be worked, and what they look like under different conditions, and how they would be adjusted for those conditions, and why this was done. It has diagrams. I cannot stress enough how totally awesome this book is. I particularly love that it was written by a man who lives in a town that is totally landlocked (though the illustrator had experience with working sailing ships).

It's a perfect book for a giant research geek like me. Because actually, The Book of Awesome is way too awesome for my needs. I imagine some readers of my sea adventure/pirate book will enjoy the ship geekery, but some won't notice it at all, and others will wonder why I have to talk about ships so much. I can't include so much detail that the novel starts to be about ships and not about the characters. But it doesn't matter. The research part of it is for me.

I love my Book of Awesome.

Stop by tomorrow for my guest, Cecilia Tan, who'll be posting on "Why Writing Romance and Erotica is Like Being Good in Bed."

Monday, July 27, 2009

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's Ultra-Brother!

Why does the coolest brother in the romance series usually turn out to be such a dud?

I began to make a list of all the series of historical novels featuring brothers as heroes, but then realized that would be an entire essay in itself; also, I didn't really want to put any particular author on the spot. But romance readers know the kind of series I mean.

There are brothers, usually a minimum of three, sometimes up to five or six. All of them are gorgeous and talented and rich. They might look a lot alike, or they might look really different due to taking after different parents or being half-siblings or whatever, but regardless, they're all gorgeous. And they're all unmarried.

Inevitably, one of the brothers is cooler than the rest. Usually, he's the eldest, and also the most stoic or emotionally distant, and often fearfully unpredictable. If there's a title, like Duke or Marquess or whatever, he's the one who holds it. He's almost inevitably the one of the brothers with the most power, and often, that power has opposed him to his brothers and their romantic interests throughout the series, and/or he's served as a deus ex machine in the plots. Usually, he has Angst of some kind, or a Dark Past, possibly Secret, possibly Terrible, and his Angst and Power gives him a glare that could melt titanium.

All quail before the Mighty Ultra-Brother. Everyone's dying to know what sort of woman will Win His Heart and Bring Him To His Knees. And his story is nearly always saved for last.

This makes sense, dramatically. He's done interesting, contrary things throughout the series. The reader wants more of him. The anticipation for his book becomes nearly unbearable. If his book comes out in hardcover, readers agonize over whether they should buy it immediately or suffer until the paperback comes out.

For me, almost inevitably, that book fails to live up to the hype.

Once the Ultra- Brother is the hero of his own book, the reader sees inside him, and his mystery is gone. Now that he's the hero instead of a secondary and possibly antagonistic character, he's required to operate between narrower bounds; often his Dark Past turns out not to be so dark after all, or he overcomes it and is able to hug his brothers and make funny noises at their babies. The advantage of his character is scoured away by his new role.

Also, romance novels are not single-character affairs. The heroine needs space and agency of her own, and she's operating at a disadvantage because often she doesn't have previous appearances in prior books (the more books there are, the worse this can be). She might also be disadvantaged by the reader, who over all that time came up with their own ideas on what the perfect heroine should be. The "real" heroine might not match up. And, really, is anyone good enough for the Ultra-Brother?

Some series begin with the Ultra-Brother, which I think is marginally better—he can then, often, continue to be interesting by maintaining an antagonist role for the rest of the series. I'm beginning to prefer that option.

What do you think?

Related post: Normative Heterosexuality and the Alpha Male Fantasy.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Siegfried Sassoon, "Their Frailty"

Their Frailty

He's got a Blighty wound. He's safe; and then
War's fine and bold and bright.
She can forget the doomed and prisoned men
Who agonize and fight.

He's back in France. She loathes the listless strain
And peril of his plight,
Beseeching Heaven to send him home again,
She prays for peace each night.

Husbands and sons and lovers; everywhere
They die; War bleeds us white
Mothers and wives and sweethearts, --they don't care
So long as He's all right.

--Siegfried Sassoon, Counter-Attack and Other Poems, 1918

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Moonlight Mistress excerpt - the opening

This is the opening section of Moonlight Mistress, out December 2009 from Harlequin Spice.


There were no trains to Strasbourg.

The hand lettered sign on the station wall might be wrong, or something might have changed. Lucilla Daglish clutched her single carpetbag more closely to her skirts, to more efficiently protect her scientific glassware from the anxious crowd, but also for reassurance. People jostled against her on all sides, all of them speaking in high-pitched, anxious tones that blurred into a babble conveying nothing but fear. Two different babies wailed, and a larger child screeched between gulping sobs. A fat man, reeking of stale pipe smoke, elbowed her sharply in the kidney as he pushed his way behind her.

Mentally, Lucilla cursed herself as she tried to explain her problem to the ticket agent. Had the man in the booth needed to know about titration or some other element of practicing chemistry, she could have explained to him at great length. However, her more basic conversational German was lacking. Perhaps she had misunderstood his meaning, or he had misunderstood hers. Perhaps her fear had led her to misspeak.

Summoning different German vocabulary, she phrased her question again. She was an Englishwoman. She wished to travel to Paris via Strasbourg. She had a ticket. Here was her ticket. Here were her papers, proving her nationality.

No, it was the Gnädige Frau who did not understand. There were no trains to Strasbourg. There were no trains at all. Germany had declared war on Russia. There would be no trains until further orders were received.

"I am not at war!" Lucilla exclaimed, in English, knowing the agent would not understand her frustrated outpourings. "Why can I not travel out of this country? Surely you have no use for me here?"

Read more at my website.


c. Victoria Janssen 2009

Pre-order on

More excerpts.

More Snippet Saturday at the following blogs:

Beth Williamson
Cynthia Eden
Elisabeth Naughton
Eliza Gayle
Jaci Burton
Jody Wallace
Kelly Maher
Lacey Savage
Lauren Dane
Marissa Scott
McKenna Jeffries
Michelle Pillow
Moira Rogers
Sasha White
Shelley Munro
Sylvia Day
Taige Crenshaw
TJ Michaels
Vivian Arend

Friday, July 24, 2009

More RWA National Conference 2009

Nifty Hotel Pictures

I couldn't find a place for these in my posts on the conference, so here they are: a few "artsy" snapshots of the Wardman Marriott.

Tomorrow is Snippet Saturday--theme is "openings." I've posted the opening section of Moonlight Mistress.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

RWA National Conference 2009 Report, Part Three

I loved the hotel gardens, which were filled with beds upon beds of bright red salvia and richly golden marigolds.

Friday morning, I got up way too early because I heard one of my roommates saying into the phone, very calmly, that a hose in the toilet tank was shooting water all over the mirror. At least it was clean water...I decided that, if I got cholera, at least I would provide a research opportunity for hundreds of historical romance authors.

Friday at the conference for me was a long list of appointments and scheduled events. I semi-accidentally attended part of the Harlequin spotlight because I had to show someone where the room was, and then got to see my Moonlihgt Mistress cover flash by on the slideshow, which was exciting, a half-second of fame! I attended a group luncheon with my editor and fellow Spice authors Amanda McIntyre, Charlotte Featherstone, and Kristi Astor, where I had a delicious Floating Island for dessert, my first and certainly not my last. Lunch was followed by a reception for Harlequin single-title authors (where I finally managed to run into my last year's roommate, Robin Owens, and fellow Spice author Kayla Perrin). And I got to tell Anne Stuart what I love about her spy books: "It must be love because I can't quite bring myself to kill you." I also met various Harlequin staff, some of whom I'd met before and some whom I hadn't, and was impressed anew by how nice they all are. The reception was followed by an unsuccessful attempt to find and meet Lauren Dane at a signing, but I was too late, and she'd already left. However, I had a chance to chat with Susan Krinard, with whom I was on a Worldcon panel long ago, and Olivia Gates, whom I'd briefly met at last year's Harlequin party.

Colleen Gleason and I had hoped to meet up, but instead we were, repeatedly, ships passing in the night. At least now I know what she looks like in person. Maybe next year!

I had to retreat to my room again after all that face-time and change for the Harlequin party. I ate dinner by myself, not talking to anyone but the waitress, and that helped me recoup my energy for the party.

As last year, the Harlequin Party was one my highlights of the conference. This year, it was held at the Ritz Carlton; I shared a cab there with three other party-goers, one of them Lydia Parks, whom I'd met earlier in the conference. Once there, I met, by chance, Freda Kay, who'd just sold a couple of Spice Briefs. I took off my shoes and danced (badly but enthusiastically), ate too many desserts, had loud conversations, took pictures, and in general found that I had more energy than I thought I did earlier in the evening.

The best part of the party, for me, is seeing lots and lots and lots of women, all ages, dancing and laughing and dancing some more. My three roommates (Cambria Dillon, Emily Ryan-Davis, and Tessa D'Amario) made sure to get a photo of all of us together, and I nabbed some photos of fellow Spice authors and Romance Divas as well. I ran into Robin Owens again, and dragged her over to Tessa D'Amario, who wanted to meet her in person. And I finally ran into Jeri Smith-Ready, another D.C.-area writer I'd met at a CapClave.

I left the party around 11:30 pm; two of my three roommates then arrived back, equally tired, and we talked and talked and talked until I started to lose the middles of sentences. I crashed hard and the only thing that saved me Saturday morning was a very large buffet breakfast in the hotel, calories in place of sleep.

Saturday, I stumbled around in a fog, though I did manage to see Alisa Sheckley, whom I knew from the science fiction world, and later was introduced to Tracy Wolff because Charlotte Featherstone snagged me before I stumbled past them. We had a lovely discussion of erotica and writing and publishing same. I had lunch with a group of Romance Divas in between packing, checking my phone messages, and finally leaving the hotel. The sun felt glorious.

I was too tired to regret the end of the conference too much. I got to Union Station a little early, checked email, in a very perfunctory fashion, with free wireless, and indulged in a twenty-minute chair massage, during which I nearly fell asleep. As soon as I was on the train and had handed over my ticket, I fell asleep.

There's a lot missing from this report, but for me the most important part is getting to meet other writers in person. We spend so much time alone with our computers or notebooks, it's great to know that, in a way, we're part of a community as well.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

RWA National Conference 2009 Report, Part Two

I was most amused to find the hotel had changed one of the mens' bathrooms into a womens' bathroom, and as part of the repurposing, they draped and decorated the urinals with flowers and boxes of tissues, so our maidenly eyes would not be offended.

Thursday at the conference seemed to last for a really long time and involve a lot of wandering around the hotel trying to find things and people. I woke, too early, and realized I'd solved a problem with the current novel; then I fell back asleep. I slept late, very unusual for me, and just barely had a chance to get a latte and a pastry before I was due to help set up for the Keynote Luncheon. I called this being a "books-on-chairs flunky" because I, you guessed it, put books on chairs. A lot of books on a lot of chairs. We ran out of books before we ran out of chairs, and had to move some books from the back tables to the front tables.

After, I decided to stay for the luncheon itself along with roommate Emily Ryan-Davis and some other Divas, and ended up having a nice conversation with historical author Lauren Willig, whom I met for the first time. She writes in the early Napoleonic Wars period, so I'll have to seek out her books. I ran into Lucienne Diver and we had a brief sitdown with coffee to catch up on non-publishing things, then I found...a bunch of folks, in sequence, among them Kate Pearce and Crystal Jordan, and I was able to meet Louise Edwards for the first time.

I went to at least some of the book signings; in line, I got to meet blogger Azteclady, who is fun, and as in San Francisco last year, author Elizabeth K. Mahon and I stalked each other. I was collecting books for the Romance Divas "Not Going to Conference Conference" giveaway. I also got, for my own pleasure, a signed copy of Anna Campbell's Untouched.

My sense of time is rather confused, but at various times I ran into the D.C.-area authors whom I knew already from the local CapClave sf/f convention--Mindy Klasky and Maria Snyder. Mindy gave me a ribbon for her new series, and I put it on my badge holder, but it fell off at some point during the day.

Thursday afternoon, I had a scheduled meeting with my editor, Lara Hyde. We'd never met in person, but I had a description of her. I met the wrong person (who fit the description) first--we were both looking for someone we didn't know! Then Lara and I found each other, and ventured out of the hotel for ice cream and a brief chat. I then left Lara and went down the road for a party held by my RWA chapter, Passionate Ink. By this time, it was pretty hot outside, and I'd made the mistake of wearing a red silk jacket over my shirt. I caught a cab for what normally would have been an easy ten to fifteen minute walk. I was a little late for the party and thus didn't get a chance to talk to very many people, but did get to chat with Meagan Hatfield before the speeches began. I was sitting in a section of the pub that didn't have good air circulation, so I became a little dazed for a while.

After getting back from the PI party, I was hot and tired. I retreated to my room for a bit. There I met up with one of my roommates, Emily Ryan-Davis, and convinced her to accompany me to E-Harlequin's Pajama Party, which featured lots and lots of chocolate on the tables. We ended up having an excellent time there, having a lovely chat with Francis Ray (whom I met last year) and her daughter, and hitting it off with Nocturne Bites author Lydia Parks. The conversation was so good, I ended up eating Kit Kat bars while drinking a whiskey sour, which ought to have been really, really nasty...but I suffered no ill effects.

The next morning, the toilet exploded! Tune in tomorrow!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

RWA National Conference 2009 Report, Part One

I began my trip to D.C. for RWA Nationals on Wednesday morning at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia. I spent the time before my track was announced in snapping pictures of the station's architecture; I'm there often, but rarely with a camera in my hand; the angel statue is especially photogenic. Remember it at the beginning of the film Witness? I took the Amtrak train, which is a comfortable way to travel, especially for such a short trip. My only difficulty was getting my larger-than-usual suitcase into the overhead luggage rack. Once I'd settled into my seat, I dozed on and off all the way to D.C.

The beautiful Union Station was my next stop. I didn't stay there long; I immediately hopped on the Metro and made my way to the conference hotel, which was down the road from the National Zoo. I wish I'd had time to skip out and visit the zoo; it's been several years since my last visit.

At the hotel, there were some difficulties in getting rooms due to a massive checkout from the previous convention, so I registered for the conference, then went to eat lunch in the hotel restaurant, dragging my luggage behind me. I shared a table with a stranger, Sharon, and just like last year when I shared a dinner table with strangers, we had a great conversation about romance writing and publishing, and by the end of lunch weren't strangers any longer. I returned to the front desk and discovered one of my roommates had managed to get us a room, so I was able to drop off my luggage and have an early dinner with Jennifer Stevenson, at an excellent Thai restaurant across the street; I had an excellent fried tofu in a creamy red curry sauce. I'm really glad we did that, since we had trouble meeting up for long during the rest of the conference, due to conflicting schedules and poor cell phone reception in various parts of the hotel.

Wednesday night was the Literacy Signing, my first as a participant. I'd signed up mainly so people could find me, and this worked wonderfully--also, a few strangers came to buy the book or tell me they'd liked it, which was lovely. And I met Wendy the Super Librarian! I sat between Marcia James and Carolyn Jewel, and within sight of Beverly Jenkins and C.S. Harris; I slipped over before the signing to tell her how much I was enjoying her period mysteries. The only scary moment was when the doors first opened and a tidal wave of people swept into the room. I got rid of my bowl of Lindt truffles in a bit over an hour, but that was nothing compared to Marcia James, who handed out seemingly a hundred tiny pairs of handcuffs attached to her business card.

After the signing, I roamed the room meeting a few more authors who were still at their tables, including my friend Christine Merrill, and Victoria Dahl whom I knew from Twitter. I then headed across the street to Medaterra to meet members of the Romance Divas forum. This was a bit overwhelming, as there were a lot of people and the people constantly circulated. By this point, I was far too overstimulated to do much but try to put faces to names, and soon had to reel off to my room and sleep.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Confessions of a Luddite

I have a confession to make.

I don't really like reading e-books.

I spend all day in front of a computer at my day job. On the weekends, I spend at least half of each day in front of my laptop, writing fiction. Despite anti-glare and backlighting, when I read a book I don't want to have to pull out another device. I don't want to carry another device around. I don't want to press buttons and scroll and hold a plastic thing in my hands. I want a book made out of paper.

Also, I have arthritis in my hands, so using an e-reader is physically painful after a while. Maybe when they get lighter....

(If anyone's wondering, yes, I am prepared for the demise of paper books; I have a lovely stash for when the paper book famine comes.)

Some practical concerns of mine include cost of the reader; losing files from the reader; losing the reader itself, full of purchased files; and especially, since I am a worrier, worrying about losing the reader that cost so much, or the files.

It's nothing against the content of e-books. When there's an e-book I want to read, the first thing I do is buy it, then see if I can print it out, usually on scrap paper, and read it that way. I recycle the print copy when I'm done.

If I can't print the book out, I put the book into the e-book folder on my laptop. There are a lot of books in there right now. I mean to read them. I want to read them. But it takes a while. Usually I get to my e-books when I'm on, for instance, a long trip (some Amtrak cars have plugs for laptops, and so does the Bolt Bus). But even then, I might read a paper book instead.

And, if I really enjoy the book, I wait for it to come out in print. Sometimes that happens. Sometimes it doesn't.

My choices end up being self-selecting. I read a lot of books, and I read them quickly, but because I prefer the old-fashioned format, I miss a lot of what's good in the e-book world. Then again, I miss a lot of print books as well. I know that, eventually, I will have to adapt or be left behind. But for the moment, I'm happy as I am.

I haven't run out of things to read yet.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

My thoughts on returning from RWA's National Conference.

Q: How many surrealists does it take to change a lightbulb?

A: Fish.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Siegfried Sassoon, "Twelve Months After"

Twelve Months After

Hullo! here's my platoon, the lot I had last year.
'The war'll be over soon.'
              'What 'opes?'
                      'No bloody fear!'
Then, 'Number Seven, 'shun! All present and correct.'
They're standing in the sun, impassive and erect.
Young Gibson with his grin; and Morgan, tired and white;
Jordan, who's out to win a D.C.M. some night;
And Hughes that's keen on wiring; and Davies ('79),
Who always must be firing at the Boche front line.

    .    .    .    .

'Old soldiers never die; they simply fide a-why!'
That's what they used to sing along the roads last spring;
That's what they used to say before the push began;
That's where they are to-day, knocked over to a man.

--Siegfried Sassoon, Counter-Attack and Other Poems, 1918

Friday, July 17, 2009

Digesting Critique

I have a rule for myself. After I've attended my writers' workshop and had a manuscript critiqued, I don't work on that manuscript for at least a day or so, more sometimes. It might be tempting to go home and immediately page through my notes and the written comments and get started, or to start writing the next section of the novel, or redoing scenes, but I've discovered that just doesn't work for me. I need time to digest.

I do a lot of my thinking beneath the surface. I often make non-writing decisions that way, as well; I look up some information, read it, then go and do something else. Later, the answer will float to the surface of my mind. Writing often works that way for me, too.

This method is in conflict, a little, with my "write a crappy first draft" method of finishing a complete story before I can rewrite, but I've made it work, since no one's method is always the same. It may be an uneasy co-existence, but for me it's been a fruitful one.

After I've left the meeting, I stop thinking about what people said. I don't open my notebook and look at what I've written there, from what they said. I don't examine the marked-up pages I've received back. I don't open the manuscript's electronic file. I something else.

Oh, and angst. I can't forget the angst. This novel is terrible. I can never fix this. If I try to do anything like X suggested, I will fail; maybe she can do it, but I can't. Was all my effort wasted? Will I freeze up and be unable to write anything else, ever?

It helps to know that this happens every single time. And every single time, after a few days, I figure out what to do. And it works. And my profound thanks to my workshop grow even more heartfelt.

Related posts: Resting, Or Not-Writing.

How To Write A Novel (In 72 Easy Steps!).


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Dissecting Critique, Dissecting Manuscripts

Currently, I'm working on my third novel for Harlequin Spice, tentatively titled The Duke and The Pirate Queen. I'm about a third of the way through the first draft. I gave the first few chapters to my longtime writers' workshop, to get some early feedback. It's a little different asking for a critique on a partial manuscript, especially when the novel has already been sold. This time, I did not supply my readers with the novel's synopsis; they were reading it as a reader would, with no idea how the book would end.

It was good. They gave me excellent critiques, all four of the attendees. But after, I felt so emotionally and intellectually wrung out I had to stare out the train window most of the way home, not reading the book I'd brought, barely able to concentrate.

My workshop specializes in science fiction and fantasy. When the group formed, that's what I intended to write. Over the years the members have grown used to reading erotica as well, and since my books for Spice all have fantastic elements (alternate world, werewolves), they're able to nudge my thoughts in the direction they need to go.

We use the Milford model of critiquing for the most part; critiques are given verbally, and the author of the work then addresses specific questions and asks questions of her own. In reality, there's some cross-talk, some commenting from the author during the critique, and stops for eating and chatting. It all makes for a laidback atmosphere, which helps when your work, the thing you've been spending all your time writing, is being dissected.

We joke about it, offering chocolate or wine to the "victim." Because it's a difficult thing, emotionally, to hear that there are issues with your work that are keeping it from being better, and to realize how much work might be involved in rectifying those issues. You have to weigh each comment and suggestion, deciding which to address, and in what order, and how. You wonder how those changes might affect the entire novel and how it's received by your editor and by your readers. You ponder elements of the novel you'd thought were perfect, but in fact might be flaws. You realize there are obvious questions about your characters or plot that you never asked. Questions that you never even thought to ask.

That's what a workshop is for.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

2009 "Readers for Life" Literacy Autographing

Tonight, I'm at the 2009 "Readers for Life" Literacy Autographing at RWA's National Conference.

"More than 500 romance authors participate in this two-hour autographing event, and each year we raise thousands of dollars, which are donated to ProLiteracy Worldwide. Since 1991, RWA has donated more than $600,000 to literacy charities.

The 2009 "Readers for Life" Literacy Autographing takes place on Wednesday, July 15, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, Exhibit Hall. This event is open to the public; there is no admittance charge. Sales of books purchased at the event go to literacy charities, and we ask that you purchase books at the autographing rather than bring copies you already own."

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

My Top Five Conference Tips (RWA 2009)

This year will be only my second RWA National, but I've been attending science fiction and fantasy conventions for over two decades now; these are the main things I try to remember.

1. Get cash beforehand. It's convenient to use a credit card, and then all your expenses are organized when it comes to tax time, but when eating out with a large group at an inexpensive restaurant, it's often easiest to pay cash. Hotels can't be guaranteed to have a bank machine that will not charge a fee, and it might take time to find one. I prefer to spend my conference time doing other things. Plus, cash in small bills is handy for tips to baggage handlers at the hotel, hotel housekeeping, cab drivers, etc..

2. Stay hydrated. Conference hotels are usually extra-cold because they're calibrated for large groups of people wearing wool business suits. The air conditioning, as well as running from event to event, means it's easy to forget to drink anything. Take advantage of those tables with pitchers of water and glasses; carry a refillable water bottle with you. Try not to drink caffeinated beverages unless you really need the caffeine.

3. Sleep. Some people can get by with less than others, but we all need some. I find it difficult to sleep in a strange place, so I help myself out by bringing earplugs and an eyemask. Those things also help when you have roommates who might be coming into and out of the room while you're sleeping.

4. Business cards. Even if you're not a writer, these are the single most valuable item I had at last year's conference. You're going to meet a lot of people in random places. If you want to connect with them in future, it's a lot easier to hand over a business card with your email address than to stop and write it down.

5. Don't overschedule yourself. I go through the events schedules and mark off things I'd like to attend, but I know that I will, in actuality, only attend a fraction of them. I've been to science fiction conventions where I attended not a single panel other than those on which I served. Leave time for hanging out, chatting, and letting your brain rest. Sitting in workshops or talks all day leaves most people sleepy and unable to concentrate on anything else.

See you there!

Not Going To Conference Conference

Not Going To RWA Nationals in DC?

Let Romance Divas bring the conference to you!

Site registration is free – if you aren't already a member of the best free romance writing community on the web, sign up today!

July 14-18, 2009. Workshops from some of the hottest talent in writing will make you glad you stayed home!
Marley Gibson
Joey W. Hill
Steve Hockingsmith
Carrie Jones
Shayla Kersten
Josh Lanyon
Rowan Mcbride
Jet Mykles
Patti O'Shea
Ona Russel
Linnea Sinclair
Sasha White

(Also, prizes!)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Tate Hallaway Guest Post - "If You Built It..."

Please welcome my guest, Tate Hallaway!

If You Built It...

When Victoria asked me to write about world-building, I was stymied. What world-building? I didn't invent Madison, Wisconsin, after all. It's just this place, you know? I was particularly baffled because in my other life as a science fiction writer when people talk about building a world, they mean literally constructing a planet and populating it, inventing culture, economies, religion, politics, and even sometimes an entire language. From scratch.

Meanwhile, most urban fantasy worlds have characters who speaking English, have recognizable job, and come from real places you can find on any map…

…yet not.

Aye, there's the rub.

The world that the urban fantasy author builds is a very subtle one, and no less complex. It's the kind that takes something familiar and asks you to imagine -–no, believe in -- something lurking just under the surface, something some part of you has always sort of suspected might be there. In my opinion, an urban fantasy works precisely because it’s so very anchored in the real world, only the perspective is a little sideways. You suddenly see the shadows more clearly. What was once nebulous gray solidifies into… a vampire? A werewolf? A genie? A ghost? A fairy?

For me, as a reader, I appreciate the author who can make me look up from their novel that I'm reading and start looking suspiciously at all the other riders on the bus. Is that bearded guy reading the stock pages secretly a werewolf? What about that young mother with the stroller? Does she fight demons in her spare time? Is the bus driver really a troll?

Yes, but how is it done? How do you get readers to buy into your fantasy? I don’t really know for sure, because not everything works the same for every reader. However, I can tell you some of the elements that I use and that I've read that seem to me to be successful.

* Don't stray far from the… truth. There are a lot of things out there already that have a lot of what the corporate world calls "buy in." You might not really believe it works, but most people know that leaving milk out attracts fairies, brownies in particular. If you write a story that builds on an idea that already has a lot of mythical power to it, your world automatically feels more "real."

* Remember that the truth is often complicated. You might remember hearing that milk attracts housecleaning fairies, but did you know that brownies have a darker side? It’s been written about in several classic Irish folktales, and, while you don’t have to only use what’s "provable" via earlier legends, when you do there's a kind of "Oh, yeah! That makes sense" that can happen for readers. Even if they're not familiar with the same source material as you, readers have a good sense of what rings true. Plus, as a bonus, after they read your novel and check out brownies on wikipedia they might be pleasantly shocked to see how "like real life" your depictions were. I used this with Mátyás, my dhampyr. I came across an entry on dhampyrs in one of those Vampire Encyclopedias and I thought: Oh, I totally have to use that!

* Truth is always full of the sublime, the ridiculous, and the down-right hilarious. One device I use a lot to make my vampires seem real is to point out the joke. Because life is silly, and when you highlight what’s humorous about a vampire who has to live in a coffin in someone’s storage locker, it seems perversely more true. Humor, when used right, kind of breaks through what actors call the "fifth wall" between player and audience and the experience can resonate as more personal and realistic.

* The devil is in the details. The more you ask yourself what would it really be like to be a [fill in supernatural creature of choice] the more your world begins to flesh out. And thinking beyond the obvious helps too. Sure, vampires are suited for night shift jobs, but which ones? How about a job, like coal mining, that goes from dawn to dusk and effectively takes the vampire out of the sun all day? And then you have to ask, how can I make *that* interesting?

And maybe you can't. The important thing is to consider every possibility, go down every road, and explore the viability of all ideas.... You might not end up using them all, but the more you’ve worked out the questions, the deeper and more rich your world becomes.

Good luck and happy building!

Tate Hallaway is the author of the Garnet Lacey vamire romance series that started with TALL, DARK & DEAD. Her current release is DEAD IF I DO (May 2009). She lives an alternate life as an award-winning science fiction novelist.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Edward Thomas, "Rain"


Rain, midnight rain, nothing but the wild rain
On this bleak hut, and solitude, and me
Remembering again that I shall die
And neither hear the rain nor give it thanks
For washing me cleaner than I have been
Since I was born into this solitude.
Blessed are the dead that the rain rains upon:
But here I pray that none whom once I loved
Is dying to-night or lying still awake
Solitary, listening to the rain,
Either in pain or thus in sympathy
Helpless among the living and the dead,
Like a cold water among broken reeds,
Myriads of broken reeds all still and stiff,
Like me who have no love which this wild rain
Has not dissolved except the love of death,
If love it be towards what is perfect and
Cannot, the tempest tells me, disappoint.

--Edward Thomas
7 January 1916

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Readercon 2009 Schedule

My Readercon Schedule. This is what I'm doing this weekend!

Friday 6:00 PM, VT: Reading (30 min.)

Reading from Moonlight Mistress, forthcoming in December from Spice.

Friday 7:00 PM, ME/ CT: Talk / Discussion (60 min.)

Excellent Foppery: The Use of History in the Fantastic. Graham Sleight with discussion by John Clute, John Crowley, Greer Gilman, Victoria Janssen, Robert Killheffer

Following on from his talk at last year's Readercon (a potted history of the last twenty years in speculative fiction), Sleight now discusses the use of history in the fantastic - from John Crowley's AEgypt sequence to Tim Powers's fantasies of history. Other works discussed include Road Runner cartoons, Harry Potter, slash fiction, and the stories of Elizabeth Hand, Russell T. Davies, and Thomas Pynchon. Overarching theories may be suggested; gratuitous mentions of Shakespeare may also take place.

Friday 8:00 PM, Salon E: Panel: How Do We Choose What We Read?

Michael Bishop, Michael Dirda, Victoria Janssen, Rosemary Kirstein (L), Chuck Rothman, Rick Wilber

Those of us with broad tastes in literature are constantly choosing among many different types of story. What determines these choices? Do our story preferences vary with psychological state? What's behind the phenomena of concentrating on one subgenre or even one author, or acquiring a transient aversion to same?

Saturday 2:00 PM, RI: Workshop (120 minutes), Where Do You Get Your Ideas? Improv for Writers

Ellen Klages with participation by Nick Antosca, Inanna Arthen, Jeffrey A. Carver, Craig Shaw Gardner, Victoria Janssen, Vylar Kaftan, Shira Lipkin, Jennifer Pelland, Chuck Rothman

Remember when writing was fun? If you're stuck, out of ideas, or if your Editor/Critic keeps shutting down your muse-get out of your head and into this class. We're going to improvise, play with our imaginations, and rediscover our creativity. We'll explore characters, settings, plot twists, and dialogue, all using simple theater games. What bubbles up will be the basis for a few short writing exercises. Wear comfortable clothing, and come prepared to laugh. (2 hrs)

Sunday 11:00 AM, Vineyard: Kaffeeklatsch

Drink tea or coffee and chat with me!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Guestblogging at Fiction That Defies Boundaries.

Today I am guestblogging for Michelle Lauren's Fiction That Defies Boundaries Blog. I wrote about some plot-generating worldbuilding techniques I'm using for my novel-in-progress, tentatively titled The Duke and The Pirate Queen.

Hope to see you there!

I'm at Readercon in Burlington, Massachusetts. My program schedule is:

Friday 6:00 PM, VT: Reading (30 min.)

Reading from Moonlight Mistress, forthcoming in December from Spice.

Friday 7:00 PM, ME/ CT: Talk / Discussion (60 min.)

Excellent Foppery: The Use of History in the Fantastic. Graham Sleight with discussion by John Clute, John Crowley, Greer Gilman, Victoria Janssen, Robert Killheffer

Following on from his talk at last year's Readercon (a potted history of the last twenty years in speculative fiction), Sleight now discusses the use of history in the fantastic - from John Crowley's AEgypt sequence to Tim Powers's fantasies of history. Other works discussed include Road Runner cartoons, Harry Potter, slash fiction, and the stories of Elizabeth Hand, Russell T. Davies, and Thomas Pynchon. Overarching theories may be suggested; gratuitous mentions of Shakespeare may also take place.

Friday 8:00 PM, Salon E: Panel

How Do We Choose What We Read? Michael Bishop, Michael Dirda, Victoria
Janssen, Rosemary Kirstein (L), Chuck Rothman, Rick Wilber

Those of us with broad tastes in literature are constantly choosing among many different types of story. What determines these choices? Do our story preferences vary with psychological state? What's behind the phenomena of concentrating on one subgenre or even one author, or acquiring a transient aversion to same?

Saturday 2:00 PM, RI: Workshop (120 minutes), Where Do You Get Your Ideas? Improv for Writers

Ellen Klages with participation by Nick Antosca, Inanna Arthen, Jeffrey A. Carver, Craig Shaw Gardner, Victoria Janssen, Vylar Kaftan, Shira Lipkin, Jennifer Pelland, Chuck Rothman

Remember when writing was fun? If you're stuck, out of ideas, or if your Editor/Critic keeps shutting down your muse-get out of your head and into this class. We're going to improvise, play with our imaginations, and rediscover our creativity. We'll explore characters, settings, plot twists, and dialogue, all using simple theater games. What bubbles up will be the basis for a few short writing exercises. Wear comfortable clothing, and come prepared to laugh. (2 hrs)

Sunday 11:00 AM, Vineyard: Kaffeeklatsch

Drink tea or coffee and chat with me!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Daily Grind of the Writer - The Duchess, Her Maid, The Groom and Their Lover

This might be the most boring blog post ever, but I hope at least a few people find it interesting. This is my writing log for The Duchess, Her Maid, The Groom and Their Lover, in which I tracked how much I wrote each day, and sometimes what I specifically worked on. "Ducal Service" was the original title for the short story, and I referred to it as both that and "The Duchess and the Stableboy" until the final title for the novel was chosen.

When this log begins, I already had a version of what would eventually become the second chapter of the novel. Note that the chapter numbers in the log are no longer accurate, because the new chapter one was added very late in the process.

2/20/06: some notes for possible expansion of "Ducal Service."
2/21/06: 698 in outline for "The Duchess and the Stableboy" proposal.
2/22/06: 592 on proposal outline.
2/23/06: 505 on chapter 2 of proposal.
2/25/06, on plane: 432 on proposal outline.
3/1/06: 514 on chapter 2 of proposal.
3/2/06: 1011 on chap. 3 of proposal, since I'm stuck on 2.
3/4/06: 215 on proposal outline, changing focus of 2 and touching up the rest to match. 1684 on chapter 2, morning and early afternoon. 365 more in the evening.
3/5/06: 942 on chapter 2 (finished draft, 3822; chapter 1 draft, 3163). Edited outline to add more chapters, increased wordcount = 501. In evening, 1277 on chapter 3.
3/6/06: 521 on chapter 3.
3/7/06: 182 on outline. 1018 to finish draft of chapter 3.
3/11/06: 618 on edits.
3/12/06: 526 on proposal, both outline and chapters.
3/19/06: 85 words on chapter 4 of the duchess/stableboy. (Also worked on short story, 381 words.)

Sent proposal to agent.

By June, the proposal had not yet sold, but I was still working on the next chapters, to be ahead of the game should it sell. My enthusiasm for the project waxed and waned. I worked on some other projects, as well (logged separately). I worked on it only twice in July of 2006, four times in August.

6/7/06: 127
6/11/06: 773
6/13/06: 723
6/14/06: 555
6/18/06: 73
7/27/06: 603
7/31/06: 534
8/7/06: 525
8/8/06: 530
8/9/06: 575
8/10/06: 71
4/21/07: 1014
4/22/07: 686 morning; finished chapter 5 draft. 95 evening.
5/15/07: didn't count words; did some edits on chapters 1-4. Didn't finish editing chapter 4 yet. Changed spelling from Duc and Duchesse to Duke and Duchess. Trimmed out a lot of adverbs.
5/18/07: 729 on edits of chapter 4, setting up Maxime chapters.
5/19/07: 1006 morning and early afternoon, finishing major edits to chapter 4 and working on chapter 6. 655 on chapter 6 in evening; 1661 total for day.
5/20/07: 133 in morning. Outlined sex scene that goes in chapter 6; prepared files for chapters 7-12 with notes on what goes in them.
5/22/07: 736 on chapter 6.
5/29/07: 1017 on chapter 7.
5/30/07: 689 on chapter 7.
6/2/07: 1342 to finish chapter 7. 1085 on chapter 8. 35 words and some edits evening.
6/3/07: 735 in the morning on chapter 8. 1202 evening to finish chapter 8 draft. For a set value of "finish."
6/4/07: 542 on chapter 9. First foray into Sylvie pov.
6/5/07: 1238 on chapter 9 morning. 1530 to finish chapter draft evening.
6/6/07: 2001 morning and early afternoon; 2006 evening/night on chapter 10.
6/7/07: 2025 morning on chapter 11. 438 evening, to finish chapter 11. It's a bit under wordcount for other chapters.
6/8/07: 2435 morning/afternoon on chapter 12. 1278 evening.
6/9/07: 548, on chapter 13 and 16.
6/11/07: 500, on chapter 13.
6/12/07: 535 on chapter 17.
6/14/07: 611 on chapter 13.
6/16/07: 581 on chapters 13 and 17.
6/17/07: 532 on chapter 17.
6/19/07: 654 on chapter 17.
8/11/07: 1273 on chapters 13 & 17.
8/26/07: morning 1601, finishing chapters 13 & 17. 409 evening.
8/27/07: 1217 morning, chapter 15.
8/28/07: 1162 morning, chapter 15.
8/29/07: 1572 on chapters 16 and 18.
8/30/07: 1518 morning, on chapter 18. 272 afternoon.
8/31/07: 296 on chapter 18. Notes on 14, 16, and 18.
9/1/07: 330 on chapter 18.
9/5/07: 603 to finish chapters 18 and 15.
9/8/07: 1014 on chapter 16.
9/9/07: 516 on chapter 14.
9/10/07: 841 on chapter 14.
9/11/07: 533 on chapter 14.
9/12/07: 567 on chapter 16.
9/13/07: 529 on chapter 16.
9/15/07: 859, to finish chapter 16.
9/16/07: 353 and 1219, on 16 and 14.
9/17/07: 503 to start chapter 19.
9/18/07: 225 on chapter 19. Seems to be going in the wrong direction.
9/20/07: Cut about 650 from chapter 19. Added to chapter 18, editing it a bit. New start for 19. 1023 total.
9/21/07: 543 on 19.
9/23/07: Brainstormed 3 new proposal ideas. Edited outline for chapters 20-23. 541on chapter 19.
9/24/07: 1062 on 19.
9/25/07: 1012 to finish 19.
9/28/07: 581 on 20. Removed old chapter 20 (Sylvie/Maxime) from outline as unnecessary.
9/29/07: workshop.
9/30/07: 1293 on 20. 146 more in evening, and some notes on 21.

10/4/07: 73 on 20. Still recovering from cold. In the interim, lots of paper edits.
10/16/07: 539 on 20, and more entering edits.
10/20/07: In the interim, finished entering edits. 1029 morning to finish chapter 20 draft. 657 afternoon on 21. Notes in evening.
10/21/07: 1872 on 21.
10/22/07: 1009 on 22.
10/23/07: Added words to compiled document, approximately 1500. 264 on 22.
10/24/07: 925 during day. 1116 handwritten during day, typed up later.
10/25/07: 257 from handwritten from previous day. 1198 on chapter 23.
10/26/07: Approximately 1300 during day. 1032 on 22 and 24, night.
10/27/07: 2366 morning. 1674 evening.
10/28/07: 1335 morning. Done with draft. ending wordcount 89K. Submitted draft to editor.

Revisions on DMGL, based on editor's revision letter: 5/10/08-5/12/08: notes, cuts, trifling edits.
5/13/08: 1005 on new chapter one
5/14/08: 570
5/15/08: 579
5/17/08: 1552
5/18/08: 1002 morning. 87646 total count
5/27/08: 729
5/28/08: 189. 88051 total count
5/29/08, 5/30/08, 5/31/08: writing by hand, about 4 pages each day. 5/31/08: 1678 typed. Wordcount at end of typing, editing: 89703 total.
6/1/08: 91142 total wordcount. 1623 typed and written new.
6/2/08: 91648 total. Cut some. Typed 662.
6/3/08: 93068 total. 1422 typed plus written new.
6/4/08: edited on paper.
6/6/08: entered paper edits. Typed handwritten words, edited, 597 words. 93646 total wordcount.
6/7/08: 483 words. 94034 total.
6/8/08: 1198 words, some new, some typed from earlier.
Final Revision Wordcount: 95193.

Edits after this point were done on paper, so I don't have a count of them.

Related Posts: How To Write a Novel (in 72 Easy Steps!) and Zero Drafting.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Historical and Paranormal: Two Great Tastes That Taste Great Together

For my December 2009 erotic novel for Harlequin Spice, Moonlight Mistress, I combined a historical novel with paranormal elements. The book is set during the early days of World War One, and begins with a romance between Lucilla, an English chemist and nurse, and Pascal, a French scientist. They're trapped in Germany when war is declared and must escape together. I could have proceeded from there to write a perfectly straightforward wartime adventure novel, but I love science fiction as well as romance, so it turns out the reason Pascal is in Germany in the first place is because he's investigating rumors of a werewolf held captive by an amoral scientist. Soon, two werewolf characters are introduced, one a soldier and the other a spy, and their role in the war and their relationship is woven into the novel's main plot.

I love historical romance, but even more I love historical science fiction and fantasy with romance, or romantic elements. There's something about the mix of flavors that draws me in; I get an extra buzz from the story when more than one genre element is present. I loved Colleen Gleason's Regency vampire-slayer novels (The Gardella Chronicles, beginning with The Rest Falls Away: The Gardella Vampire Chronicles) and the time travel aspect of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander. Susan Krinard's werewolf romances (beginning with Touch of the Wolf (Historical Werewolf Series, Book 1) do a wonderful job of fitting paranormal creatures into nineteenth century history. From the fantasy side, Judith Tarr's novels such as Pride of Kings and Caroline Stevermer's When The King Comes Home (A College of Magics) mix magic and romantic elements into history.

I think the main reason I love combined flavors is that mixing genres is a way to avoid the same-old, same-old of historical romance. The plot usually runs like this: hero and heroine meet, family/money/status/scandalous past/amnesia keep them apart, then they are brought together once more. For me, those plot complications become more compelling if the family issue is that a werewolf needs to marry another werewolf or he can't have werewolf children, or if the scandalous past is only because the heroine isn't human and doesn't have human standards of behavior. I don't know what to expect, and the reading experience becomes more exciting as a result.

From a marketing standpoint, cross-genre books can be a problem--how do you market the book? Is it a romance/erotic novel, or is it a paranormal? Should there be a clench on the cover, or a man turning into a wolf? Will the book be shelved in Romance on Science Fiction and Fantasy? Do the readers of the two genres have differing expectations, so in trying to please both, you please neither? For Moonlight Mistress, at least, this was less of an issue. As an "erotic novel" rather than a straightforward romance, I had a little more freedom in how the plot and relationships progressed. Though there are several romances in the novel, they proceed in different ways, and end at different stages: one clearly Happily Ever After, one on the brink of a marriage that's clearly only the beginning of the relationship, and a third, a ménage, still in the formative stages. Adding werewolves merely added a new flavor to the blend.

(This essay originated as a guest appearance at Romance Junkies.)

Related Post: Types of Paranormal Romance.

Romancing the Beast.

Why Werewolves?

Werewolves in Moonlight Mistress.