09-24 Marcia King-Gamble, Contemporary Romance with a tropical setting

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Way We Were.... Romance has Changed!

 By: Marcia King-Gamble

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 In the background are Locks of Love ...lovers names are engraved and the keys thrown into the ocean!

As a writer of contemporary romance, I’m amazed at just how far we’ve come. I grew up for the most part on St. Vincent; a  small British island, that back then, few people even heard of. We had two book stores on the island, so if you were a reader you read whatever was on those shelves.

At age six, I read Mills and Boon novels and hid them under my mattress. I was an early reader, thanks to my school teacher mom. She would later tell everyone she didn’t even know I was able to read. She’d take me with her to classes and apparently I was catching on. But back to the subject matter at hand.

Contemporary romance at that time consisted of a boy meet girl scenario, some kind of conflict ,(usually a third person vying for the hero’s attention,) and the only hint of  lust were a few chaste kisses. These kisses increased the woman’s heartbeat and made the guy’s manhood throb.

Flash forward several years, and here I am writing the stories that I grew up with, except, oh, my, how much these stories have changed.  Now there is sex! And not implied either.

My first publishing opportunity came with the launching of the multi-cultural market.  Prior to that, few people who looked like me were even on the covers. With the nineties things changed. Kensington Publishing launched their Arabesque and Encanto lines and held their breaths. Other publishing houses quickly followed suit when they realized there was money to be made and the market couldn’t get enough.  They were shortsighted in that, they only marketed these books to the  African American and Latino community, not realizing that a good book is a good book, whether the faces on the cover are yellow, white or black. 

Back then Erotic or Erotica novels were something you did not read in public, or if you did, the book jacket was covered. I remember when books like Lolita and Lady Chatterley’s Lover were considered scandalous and only a 'harlot' read them in private or public.  Now today’s heat level would make even an exotic dancer blush. 

Today’s readers want it hot, hot. Readers for the most part want their sex, raw and explicit, although there has to be some romance driving that sex.  Readers want to read about both parties enjoying sex not women being taken, as had often been portrayed in the romances of the sixties, seventies and even eighties. Readers want to explore and maybe learn about something other than the missionary position.    Look at the success of Fifty Shades of Grey.

Contemporary romance also has hero and heroine meeting in unusual ways, just like people meet today….online... in coffee bars and in Internet cafes.  Heroines also have a multitude of careers. Gone are the days when the heroine was usually a nurse or nanny. Today she is the CEO and the hero might just be working for her. In Come Fall, one of my less known books, the heroine is accused by a subordinate of sexual harassment. How’s that for a flip?

Long gone are the romance novels that are completely vanilla, although the Inspirational Market, which is hugely popular, and very faith based, prefers sex not to happen without benefit of marriage.  But boy still meets girl and conflict happens. 

Romance today can take place on an alternate universe and love can happen between vampires, werewolves and shapeshifters. There are elements of suspense in romances and gruesome mysteries to be solved.  But the one thing that has not changed is that a satisfying ending must happen, and true love will prevail.

Contemporary romance has changed for the better.      

Friday, September 23, 2016

A Mask for Meetings?

By Linda Lovely

I need a mask.

I haven’t worn one since grade school when we went Halloween trick-or-treating, making sure to hit Mrs. Bradley’s house early before she ran out of homemade caramels.

No, I don’t want a mask for Halloween 2016. I need one to wear at certain meetings I force myself to attend—meetings that often leave me too irritated to sleep. 

After contemplating this month’s blog topic—masks—I realized one might come in very handy for mandatory attendance events that force me to interact with (or at least listen to) people I believe to be total hypocrites, bullies, or arrogant buttheads.

My problem is I tend to show exactly what I think in such encounters. I know folks who can smile sweetly while face-to-face with someone they despise and then ridicule or curse that person the minute she’s out of hearing range. Other people can appear as serene and blank-faced as a Buddha while listening to someone tell lies or exaggerate to  make their point.

Not me. I’ve tried. Even when I know it’s in my best interests to mask my feelings, I typically fail. Maybe I’m missing some mystery gene that would let me command my facial muscles to smile when my heart and gut are telling me to narrow my eyes and glare.

For better or worse, one look at my face usually tells people everything they want (or don’t want) to know about my mood—joyful, angry, sad, excited, bored, disgusted. Of course, I do have a neutral expression. It usually indicates I’m napping.

My inability to mask my own feelings leads me to be fascinated by the chameleons I encounter who can change their colors at will and react in whatever manner they think will gain them the best advantage with any audience or situation. I study these individuals in real life for a very good reason—they make exceptional villains in fiction.

Guess that’s another reason to attend those meetings I dread. Great research for characters.

Can you mask your feelings? If so, what’s your secret? 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Masks and Victorian Attitudes

All month, Genre-istas have written about masks: insights, motivations, purposes, self-disclosures, cultural elements, and so much more. I've enjoyed broadening my horizons through the eyes of each contributor.

Several of my fellow Genre-istas mentioned masks as a self-protection of an emotional kind. Masks that safeguard and protect, hide the emotional and internal upheavals that are too private to announce. After all, so many of us have been trained from childhood to politely ask "How are you?"--and also taught that 99%+ of those who ask don't really want to know.

As I considered what, if anything, I might add to this well-developed conversation, I looked at the subject of masks through my own ever-present lens: Victorian Era. I'm forever researching nineteenth century attitudes, prevailing societal norms, etc. to ensure my fiction set in the Victorian American West is accurate. Because I write sweet romance, nineteenth century (American) courtship expectations are an ideal focus. I wasn't all that surprised to see human nature really hasn't changed--nor has the American outlook on proper length of getting-to-know-you before tying the knot. Most of all, we recognize dating/courting couples have a mask of sorts--the "dating face", "putting our best foot forward", on our best behavior and all that good stuff, to ensure we don't sabotage a new relationship before it begins.

The following true-to-history excerpt comes from Marriage and the Duties of the Marriage relations, in a Series of Six Lectures, addressed to Youth, and the Young in Married Life by George W. Quinby, published in 1852.
Beware of hasty engagements and hasty marriages... Many a young man and young woman may appear well outwardly; yea, exceedingly beautiful and captivating--especially on a slight acquaintance--while inwardly they are all rottenness and deception.
When young persons--utter strangers--are thrown together as I have described--fall in love--are hastily engaged and hastily married--how can they reasonably expect to know any thing concerning the real character and disposition of each other? Instead of this, every thing is unfavorable to such knowledge. Their courtship is brief and quite all deception. They present only the favorable side in each other's presence. They listen only to the most captivating tones--to "sweet words of undying affection;" for these only are spoken. Every look and every movement is artificial. Thus is the real character of each hidden from the other--not designedly, perhaps--and the parties are deceived.
...in nearly every instance of marriage under similar circumstances, the match proves unfortunate and very unhappy. The parties become sensible they were deceived--criminations and recriminations pass between them--quarrels ensue, and alienation and wretchedness are the consequences.
Another precaution which must be exercised by both parties, in the choice of a companion, that a correct judgement be formed, is not to rely on ball room and other deceptive appearances.
...A prettily painted "piece of artificial workmanship," elegantly dressed and moving with the grace of a sylph in the merry dance, is very fascinating... but let him be cautious. When he marries he should connect himself with a wife; this is what he needs--not a ball room automaton.
Could he follow this charming creature to the place of her abode, hear her coarse words of complaint if vexed, and witness her in the morning with disheveled hair, disordered dress, and pale, haggard, dissatisfied countenance, the golden hues of his thoughts would vanish, the palpitations of his heart cease, and every idea of matrimony be driven from his head.
The entire text is available online:
  1. Archive.org
  2. Forgotten Books
  3. Google
  4. National Public Library
  5. Amazon

Hi! I'm Kristin Holt.
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 Americana Sweethearts (first Friday of each month) and Romancing the Genres (third Tuesday of each Month).

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

Copyright © 2016 Kristin Holt LC

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Writer And Her Mask

by Michelle Monkou

God hath given you one face, and you make yourselves another. - Hamlet, Shakespeare.

How true is this quote on this day and life of anyone on social media, especially for us, authors. You see, in addition to writing books, we have the marketing side to our business that requires significant amount of time on the Internet, and on just about every major social media site.

We learn to navigate through digital streams of information with the public in a way that fulfills the likability factor but still maintains a level of privacy. At the Romance Book Summit held this summer in San Diego, one of the workshops shared that the reasons for purchases are led by (1) liking the author, (2) then by topic or subject, (3) then for series reading.

Getting readers to like us takes work. And for the introverts like me it's a monumental commitment to  open up. But then here is where the mask becomes a tool to bridge the discomfort. And so for any given day, I'm neutral on most subjects. I'm cheery with my support for authors and their books or endeavors. And I aim for upbeat and hopeful for my writing or personal posts. Occasionally I may have a rant about a mundane topic, but I have no emotional investment to escalate my sarcasm.

It takes effort to keep that mask of likability in place. Doesn't take much for the mask to slip off and then those moments become the viral hit because the less than stellar behavior of an author is revealed. But most of us are generally charming and approachable keeping any crankiness away from public eye.

Thankfully, I can keep my wits together and stay along the center of the lane.

In the world of fiction, I can play with the motif of the mask. In To Charm A Billionaire, Damien--the hero--wears his mask to hide his vulnerability. That need to keep parts of him a secret has consequences and not to his benefit. Taking off the mask sometimes takes courage to trust that the real you will be accepted or faith that eventually you will be accepted. Part of Damien's journey is not to rely on that mask--quite the learning process.

Barnes and Noble

Saturday, September 17, 2016

On Writing Contemporary Romance

Judith Ashley is the author of The Sacred Women's Circle series, romantic fiction that honors spiritual traditions that nurture the soul.

I’ve lived a fairly long and varied life. I’ve had several different careers. The common thread in everything I’ve done is ‘education’ or ‘teaching’. From starting as a classroom teacher in my early twenties to now as an author, my goal is to share something I know about that may assist another person to create a happier life for themselves.

What a great first novel! Just finished reading Lily by Judith Ashley, and loved it. While romance is not a genre I usually read, I found the characters so interesting and well-developed that I was captured by the story, looking forward to what would happen next. As part of a sacred women’s circle myself, it was nice to recognize the supportive bond among the group of women, and to realize how that loving, spiritual bond helped Lily to grow through the difficult challenges of old fears. Now I am looking forward to reading Elizabeth, the next book in the series. G.G.

My time as a child protective service worker was a challenge but through it all, my focus was to support parents in being the best parent they could be. And, when that best wasn’t what the child needed, to find a home that did meet the child’s needs.

As an adoption worker, my goal was to educate the prospective adoptive parents about what to expect when adopting an infant or an older child. Challenges awaited them regardless of their direction. Their decision was to include which challenges would be easiest for them to handle.

Working in law enforcement (there were no corrections officers where I worked, we were all deputy sheriffs), I wanted the women in the jail where I was stationed to learn something that would be a positive in their lives when they got out. I set up and ran a program that allowed the women to make crafts and sell them at the local county courthouse after Thanksgiving. They always sold out!

I am one who finds it difficult to quiet my mind and body long enough to read a chapter or two in a book at one time. Judith Ashley’s Lily caught my attention in the first chapter and held it tight until the last page. I found myself wondering what character I would be in the book and responding as if I was a friend of the characters! Romance, personal growth, and a supportive spiritual circle…how can one not become wrapped into this book? KJ

For two years I worked in Public Welfare. My clients were anyone age 18 and older who was other-abled or over 65 or in a nursing or rehabilitation facility. With limited resources, learning how to use everything available in the best way possible to create the best lifestyle possible was important.

I was educating my clients and I was being educated at the same time. That education helped me establish myself as a case manager and guardian as well as an After Hours Emergency Responder for vulnerable adults.

Being an educator is part of who I am. It may not be in the job description, but I find a way to bring the knowledge I have to support others in creating a better life for themselves.

The characters and essence of Ireland leaped from the pages of this book right into my heart and mind. I could see and hear the characters and picture the surroundings. The author accurately represented the practice and spirituality of those who identify with the Goddess and know She also resides in each of us. Ms. Ashley also emphasizes that the bond of close women friends should not be forsaken because of a bond with a lover. She shows us that there is always a way to compromise to preserve both bonds. As a romantic novel this was delightful. M.M.

And that’s what I do with my stories. Ordinary women who’ve had normal life challenges (domestic violence, infidelity, post-traumatic stress disorder, physical injury, rape, homelessness, etc.) find a way through the dark times into the light of unconditional love.

Is their path easy? No. Their life experiences have taught them to be leery about trusting anyone. But because of the bond created by being part of a Sacred Women’s Circle, they are able to take the leap into the void and find their happily-ever-after.

One of my goals in writing these stories is to pass on to others, ideas about how they might handle difficult situations.

Have you ever gotten an idea that helped you solve a problem by reading a romance novel? Would love to hear your story!

You can learn more about The Sacred Women’s Circle series on my website.

Follow me on Twitter: @JudithAshley19

I’m also on Facebook

© 2016 Judith Ashley

Friday, September 16, 2016

Behind the Mask #amwriting #villains & #superheroes

Hi, I'm Pippa Jay, author of SciFi and supernatural stories to engage your emotions.
And I have a thing about masks. Not a good thing. They freak me out. My sister was an avid collector of painted and decorated porcelain masks, a big thing in the 80s when we were teens. She had them on her walls, her clothing, her notebooks...*shudders*

I don't know why she, or anyone else liked them so much. I guess some find them beautiful, or enjoy the artistry of them, or the anonymity mixed with art they confer. I do know it was their blank, impassive expressions and empty eyeholes that disturbed me. Hollow shells behind which anything or anyone could hide. Expressionless miniature faces whose hollow eyes followed me around the room.
Which is probably why the main antagonist in my debut novel Keir wears a mask. The Emissary begins as a blank, anonymous appearing character, but soon the truth behind the mask emerges to the detriment of all.
He's not my only masked character though. In my superhero romance When Dark Falls, masks are (naturally) the norm. What's a superhero without the trademark mask? Okay, yeah, any fan of the Marvel films will know a mask isn't obligatory, but it's probably one of the first images that leaps to mind at the word superhero. No? Just me then. :-P
My heroes wear them in their superhero guise, while my villain has been described as a 'steampunk Darth Vader' with his 40s inspired gas mask/breathing apparatus and all black clothing hiding a scorched and scarred body. Again, the mask hides a secret as well as enabling a badly burned villain to stay alive and wreak their evil. Bwahahaa!
But all is revealed in the end.
So while I might not like masks myself, I've managed to channel my personal aversion into something constructive that has hopefully both chilled and entertained my readers. I guess it's not such a bad thing after all...
Want to chat? Find me on Twitter as @pippajaygreen or visit me at my website: pippajay.co.uk
(Non-book images courtesy of free images via Pixabay.com)

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Masks: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Hi everyone! I am YA author B A Binns , writer of contemporary and realistic fiction for teens. My tagline tells you what I am about - Stories of Real Boys Growing Into Real Men - and the people who love them. 

This month, I join the genre-istas in talking about Masks.

Many of us wear them, sometimes even me. (And no, that is not me in the picture, just a friend doing cosplay).

But I do put on a mask almost every day of my life.

My mask is not made of paper, or plastic, or even makeup. I put my mask on every day and go out into the world to convince people life is great and that I’m happy to be among them, and yadda-yadda-yadda. Most of the time, I am successful and my mask hides my pain. 

My work-in-progress, one I have tentatively titled Family Reunion, deals with a young girl wearing the same pretend mask. She puts it on so no one will know how scared she is. Not her mother, or her aunt who is also her best friend, or her brother. 
Certainly not the father she adores who is an officer deployed overseas by the Navy.

Then she meets a boy and gets a glimpse inside his mask. Suddenly neither of them is quite as frightened anymore.

If that sounds like a romance—it isn’t. The girl and boy are only ten. She’s a black child whose family just moved into a predominantly white small town struggling to find acceptance in the school’s top girl clique who call themselves the Fabulous Five. She’s willing to do anything the leader wants to be invited in. He’s a White boy with hemiplegia, a lifelong condition that leaves him unable to control his left arm and leg and has him in a wheelchair. He tries to remain invisible to escape the bullying led by his own cousin, the leader of the Fabulous Five. When the two kids finally learn to see each other and remove their masks, it’s magic.

The same kind of thing can happen in the real world. Only last week I read about some police sitting down and having a heart-to-heart with a group of homeless kids. The discussion got off to a rocky start, both sides were defensive and untrusting. Then one cop admitted that his father was in jail, and the ice began to crack. Another cop angrily noted how bad the kids smell, as if he thought the stink was directed at him, or at least at law-abiding citizens. A kid explained that smelling bad was a deliberate strategy for keeping sexual predators away when you are homeless and have to sleep on the streets.

Not an act of rebellion or an attempt to push good people away. Another mask, worn for protection.

After the police absorbed that shock, a lot of honesty came out on both sides. When we look under the masks we usually find our common humanity.

I admit masks and play acting can be fun and entertaining. That’s the appeal of Phantom of the Opera (I loved Gerard Butler in the movie). It’s the joy of cosplay and the love of Halloween (my personal favorite holiday).

But sometimes we need to use masks to help us survive in a hostile world.

And, unfortunately, the way the Internet can be used to mask identity is a large part of the popularity of social media. A screen name and a phony avatar provides users with a level of anonymity, an Internet mask, that lets them call people like Leslie Jones, Serena Williams and Michelle Obama "monkeys." Masks can enable cowards to attack with impunity and write things they would never say if they knew they would be discovered.

The truth is, I have long been a stranger in a strange land. A black student in a predominantly white college - majoring in Biochemistry and Math, no less when people expected me to be in social work or nursing. I needed a mask, and to practice selective deafness as well. Then a Black woman in a field dominated by White faces. Now a Black author attending mainly White writer's conventions and living in a predominantly White neighborhood. So I have indeed perfected the art of putting on my mask every day before stepping outside my doors. But the mask has been slipping lately. Maybe because constantly pretending is infinitely tiring.  I truly admire the young people of today who feel strong enough to eschew the mask and release their true thoughts and feelings.