03-25 - Delsora Lowe, Maine RWA Anthology

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Art of Balancing Light And Dark

As a sensitive person, balancing the positive and negative influences and emotions in my life is extremely important. I’m not talking about situations that arise where I have no control, instead I mean the way I choose to spend my time and channel my energy.

As well as being a romance reader and writer, I’m a true crime junkie—wrongful convictions, serial killers or unsolved murders fascinate me. I listen to true crime podcasts regularly whether it be in the car, washing dishes or hanging clothes on the line.  My star sign is Libra—we crave justice and balance. So while I find these criminal cases fascinating, I also work up a healthy dose of righteous anger as I ponder the injustices of the legal system and life in general.  

Which is why my other passion—reading, watching and writing romance, is so important. Romance novels are referred to as escapism. Some are critical of this—as though something that provides joy and a guaranteed happy ending is somehow a lesser form of art. But I don’t see it this way. Escapism is the appeal. A way to feel good when there’s so much in the world to bring us down.

When I pick up a story I want to laugh, cry and occasionally be so scared I’m hiding under the covers! That’s why I love romance fiction so much. Despite dark and dangerous events, I know I’ll get tummy-flutters from a developing romance and a happy ever after. And if the author can make me laugh—even better.

I’ve always gravitated towards stories that master the intricate balance of both light and dark, which is a difficult task. No matter the medium—be it movie, television or book—making your audience experience emotions at opposite ends of the spectrum is no easy feat. But if you can take them on a journey that makes them laugh-out-loud as well as sob-like-a-baby, it’s well worth the effort.

I’ve discovered how tricky this juggling act can be. I write small town contemporary romance and naturally gravitate towards humour. My characters often take control and come up with some cracking one liners that take me by surprise, but I’m also tackling the seriously non-funny, topic of dog fighting in my novel, Animal Instincts. I almost didn’t write this story, fearing I couldn’t do it justice. How could I have hilarious moments in one chapter and animal abuse in another? Some days I could pull my hair out trying to meld the two. But it is possible. It’s certainly made things difficult, but I couldn’t have told this story any other way.

There are a number of movies, TV shows and books I’ve drawn inspiration from and here are just a few.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

This is my favorite show of all time. The themes explored are often dark, with life and death battles fought in most episodes, but it never fails to make me laugh out loud at the kooky characters and witty dialogue.

Santa Clarita Diet

A suburban mom suddenly craving human flesh and brains should be gross and horrifying, right? Well, it is gross at times, but it’s also hilarious with everyday situations we can all relate to, as well the wackier hijinks that could only arise when living with a zombie in your family.

Stephanie Plum novels by Janet Evanovich

Down on her luck and desperate for cash, Stephanie Plum takes a job as a bounty hunter for her sleazy bail bondsman cousin. She’s completely out of her element tracking down criminals, but it makes for great reading.

There are many funny scenes and lines in these books. I’ve actually only read the first few so far, but there are over twenty books in the series now. Between scenes with car explosions and shoot-outs, the heroine and her wacky family and friends provide plenty of laughs.

“You deserved to get run over. And besides, I barely tapped you. The only reason you broke your leg was because you panicked and tripped over your own feet.”

“When I was six years old I sprinkled sugar on my head, convinced myself it was pixie dust, wished myself invisible, and walked into the boys' bathroom at school.”

Which books, movies or TV shows would recommend for their ability to combine the perfect mix of light and dark? I’d love to hear your recommendations!

Lauren James is a country girl at heart. Raised on a small property surrounded by animals, it's no surprise she writes small town romance with lots of love for creatures great and small.

Having failed fabulously at painting, sewing and playing guitar, she finally found her creative outlet in writing strong, quirky heroines, and tough, handsome heroes with gooey animal-loving centers.

Lauren lives on the outskirts of Melbourne, Australia, with her beloved rescue greyhound, Daisy.

You can contact Lauren via her websiteFacebook or Twitter.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Playing well with others!

by M. L. Buchman

I feel as if this should be a constant theme in my life: playing well with others.

A writer's world is a strange and solitary one...I'm paid to sit in a corner, by myself, and fantasize for a living (a kinder way to say: I sit in a corner and make shit up for a living). I fantasize about what it would be like to fly a helicopter, to destroy a bad guy, to fall in love... Well, I don't have to fantasize about that one, because I did--twenty years ago and still besotted. But I have to think about how it would feel for others, both male and female, from a wide variety of backgrounds.

But occasionally I'm forced to emerge from the depths of the world in my head and interact with those around me. Sometimes just enough, sometimes way too much.

A few weeks ago I attended and assisted at a week-long short-story anthology workshop. Fifty writers, a dozen hours a day for 7 days. OMG! It was fantastically wondrously intensely and deeply fun. (It was also a little mortifying, my inner introvert is still in deep shock.) For 7 days we talked almost nothing except the craft, marketing, and business of short fiction. I did my best to be thoughtful, supportive, and curious. I've spoke to almost no one except my wife in the weeks following. Even at a weekly lunch of local writers (all of whom I've known for years), I still had little to say and am only now returning to normal.

But there is another way that I've been playing with others. In a prior post I discussed doing a world collaboration project with fellow military romantic suspense writer Cristin Harber. This month I've discovered the joys of writing a collaboration project with one of Regency romance's top authors: Grace Burrowes.

Okay, there's the catch...Regency.

Years ago, back when I was a much younger writer (in every sense of the word), I wrote a historical. I was very proud of that book and sent it off and about. A top editor from Mills & Boon sent me back a very kind note: "Thank you for submitting this for my consideration. I'll pass on this manuscript, but absolutely send me your next contemporary title for consideration." A couple of things here: 1) This was a top editor, who was willing to look at my next title. Back in those days this was just one step down from a sale. Fantastically cheering feedback on my level of writing at that time. 2) This was a top historical editor who asked for my next contemporary (and I wasn't the one who added the emphasis, she was). Hmmm...

Wind forward a couple of years, I'm taking a class. One of the assignments was to write a historical short story. The teacher handed it back and said, "Is this your best period?" It was. "Try again." I did. When the teacher, who is always very careful to never give career advice for fear of inhibiting a writer, returned the second draft it was with the whispered words, "Never try to write a historical again." I now understand that I don't have a single historical bone in my writing body.

But I like Grace (and love her writing, I read a fair amount of Regency) and we wanted to do a project together.

Now it was her turn. "Military romantic suspense? Really?"

So, we moved on to other topics, including our own plans for future series, until I said, "I'm about to launch a contemporary series set on a Montana ranch. Two of my key heroes, Emily Beale and Mark Henderson, are finally retiring from the military and from firefighting. They're going to settle on Mark's family horse ranch and mentor a whole new set of love stories."

"Oh! That's good. I have an idea for that."

The result?

So, as unlikely as it seems, a Regency author and a military romantic suspense author found common ground beneath Montana's Big Sky! (If you prefer print, they're available separately.)

We've had a great time going back and forth on this. They are two separate novels (except for a reader cookie here and there), but we were very surprised at all of the similarities in our voices. Maybe that's why I enjoy reading her books so much, because we're so similar in use of dialog, humor, even pacing.

On the collaboration I mentioned above with Cristin Harber, it was a challenge of finding a common voice between two very different sets of military romantic suspense characters. Here it was discovering an easy joy in each other's words.

I'm very proud of both, but for different reasons. The collaboration between my Night Stalkers and Cristin's Team Titan in Target of Mine is a kick-ass tale. Big Sky Ever After is a warm contemporary to get all wrapped up in during a chill Montana night.

Having now done two collaboration projects of this scale, I'm definitely looking forward to whatever next comes my way. Because whatever it is, it's gonna be FUN! And that is the real measure of what project to do next.

M.L. Buchman started the first of over 50 novels while flying from South Korea to ride his bicycle across the Australian Outback. Part of a solo around the world trip that ultimately launched his writing career.

All three of his military romantic suspense series—The Night Stalkers, Firehawks, and Delta Force—have had a title named “Top 10 Romance of the Year” by the American Library Association’s Booklist. NPR and Barnes & Noble have named other titles “Top 5 Romance of the Year.” In 2016 he was a finalist for Romance Writers of America prestigious RITA award. He also writes: contemporary romance, thrillers, and fantasy.

Past lives include: years as a project manager, rebuilding and single-handing a fifty-foot sailboat, both flying and jumping out of airplanes, and he has designed and built two houses. He is now making his living as a full-time writer on the Oregon Coast with his beloved wife and is constantly amazed at what you can do with a degree in Geophysics. You may keep up with his writing and receive a free starter e-library by subscribing to his newsletter at:

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Summer as a Leading Character (because season matters!)

 USA Today Bestselling Author of Sweet Romance set in the Victorian American West

Today is March 21st. Spring Equinox. Halfway between the Winter Solstice (longest night of the year) and Summer Solstice (longest day of the year). The solstices and equinoxes (spring and fall) have been celebrated all over the world since before Christianity, before much written history, simply put: before. The Wikipedia page is so long you'll zone out before you're 1/10th of the way through. Unless you're a history geek like me.

Let's talk about something else.

The SEASON of the year is a strong and valued player in fiction.

I've written dead of winter romances and peak of summer romances. Whether the bitter cold and short days become the vital antagonist, stealing the hero's hope of saving the girl (The Marshal's Surrender) or long, hot summer days bring the hero and heroine together in surprising ways (Courting Miss Cartwright), I tend to ensure the season is a valued player.

Fiction doesn't happen in a vacuum.
1. Fiction doesn't happen in a vacuum. If you've ever read a "Story In Vacuum"--fiction before a green screen--you know readers need a setting, and that setting had better matter.
2. Heat, long days, and short nights lend summertime to one kind of romance (I write only Rated G or PG--and yep, matters to "sweet" too), while numbing cold, limited daylight, and tight quarters (who wants to be out in that blizzard?) suit another.
3. Remember the truth about fiction: No Conflict, No Story. Weather is a natural conflict-producer. Cue storms from delicate spring shower to a monsoon/ tornado/ blizzard.
I've shared why Weather (winter, in this case) can assume the role of villain. Now I'll flip to the light side and share why summer can (and should) assume the role of a leading character...villain, sidekick, friend, instigator.

Summer, as Leading Character:

Every summer does indeed have its own story.

1. Entirely different range of possibilities for out-of-doors scenes than in other seasons. I really hate writing a book with every scene cooped up in the same log cabin. Not good conflict to build a story.
2. In the nineteenth century (my scope), people were on the move in summer. Winter was iffy. Throughout the 1880s alone, winter conspired for ten long years to keep trains from moving, people locked down, and let's not even talk about the flooding that followed. Hot and dry? Vegetation for animals? Let's go!
3. Summertime put nineteenth century folk to work from sunup to sundown with the work of living. Farmers had time to sit and play cards in winter. Maybe. Virtually everything in life revolved around natural sunlight--time to go to bed, time to arise, how much work could be accomplished, what crops were growing and had to be irrigated, keeping the equipment functional, raising and training new animals, and getting enough to eat. Note: this is setting, not story.
4. Summer can just as easily take the starring role of villain: tornado season, killing heat, droughts, crop failure, sun exposure, etc.
5. Because. Summertime equals BEACH READ, in any romance category. Who wants to lay on the beach and read a Christmas story?

We might not be quite ready for a beach, what are you reading this Spring Equinox (March 21st)? Is it important to you to read a book set in the same season as you're personally living?

Please scroll down and comment in the space provided. I'd sincerely like to know!

Hi! I'm Kristin Holt, USA Today Bestselling Author.
I write frequent articles (or view recent posts easily on my Home Page, scroll down) about the nineteenth century American West–every subject of possible interest to readers, amateur historians, authors…as all of these tidbits surfaced while researching for my books. I also blog monthly at Sweet Romance Reads, Sweet Americana Sweethearts, and Romancing the Genres.

I love to hear from readers! Please drop me a note. Or find me on Facebook.

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