GUESTS

03-30 - Diana McCollum, Covering the Cover

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Gotta Love a Cowboy!


Barbara White Daille
Thanks to Romancing the Genres for inviting me to chat with you about Western Romance. 

I grew up in a small city on the East Coast, where we never laid eyes on a cowboy except in the old movies my dad watched on television.  Then, what's a city girl like me doing spending most of her time with cowboys? 

Well, let's see...

I'm a reader like you.  If I'm going to write about any hero, he's got to be one I want to read about, too.  One I can fall for.  Because we all know we can't be romance readers without lusting after the hero of a story once in a while, if not with every book we read.  ;) 

Who better to love than a cowboy or rancher?  They work hard, hold high values, and know how to stay on a bull.  Of course, they're sexy.  And they're rough, tough heroes with heart.

Heart. 

That's important to me in all my story people.  Whether I'm reading or writing a book, my focus stays on the character.  No matter how compelling the plot, what keeps my attention is seeing how the characters are impacted by the story—and the impact they make on events themselves. 

A cowboy is as deep and complex as any character we love to read about, but because he's got that rough, tough exterior, we have to work harder to get to know him.  To learn where he draws the line on issues.  To find out what buttons must be pushed before he'll open up.  And best of all, to get closer and closer to the secrets he's keeping that, when finally told, will reveal to us who he truly is.

In other words, we get to the heart of him.

I'd like to introduce you to a couple of my favorite cowboys.  Both come from the tiny town of Flagman's Folly, New Mexico, where folks always want to...shall we say..."stay up-to-date" on everyone else's business and to "help" run their love lives, as well.

Sam Robertson, the hero of A RANCHER'S PRIDE, is a solitary man whose life is turned upside down when his ex-wife leaves him with a four-year-old he's never known existed.  Then he discovers his child is deaf and he has no way to communicate with her.  And then he learns the child's aunt wants to take his daughter away from him.

In my new release, HONORABLE RANCHER, Ben Sawyer has always loved Dana Wright from afar.  But she's the wife of his best friend, a soldier recently killed in combat.  Folks in town want to bestow an honor on their fallen hero.  An honor guaranteed to put Dana out of Ben's reach forever.

He thought of his best buddy often, recalling him as young and full of life.  As part of almost every memory he'd forged since the day he started school.

In all the years since then, nothing had ever come between Paul and Dana.  Ben had always honored that.  Now he had to make doubly sure not to cross the line.  "Today has to be hard for you," he said, keeping his voice low.

"Seeing Tess and Caleb so happy?  Why should that cause me any trouble?  I'm glad they're finally together."

She meant it, he knew, though her words sounded as brittle as the chipped ice in the banquet hall's champagne buckets.  In the moonlight, her eyes glittered.  Had she tried for a lighter tone to keep tears from overflowing?  Or to prove how comfortable she felt around him?

Why did she have to prove anything?  Why the heck couldn't she enjoy his company, the way she always used to?  If she'd just give him that, he'd feel satisfied.

Sure, he would.

She'd grown quiet again, and he gestured toward the fountain.  "What brought you out here?  Wanting to make a wish?"

She shook her head.  "No.  Those are for people who aren't willing to work hard to get what they want."
"I can't argue with you there."  Still, he felt tempted to toss a coin into the water for a wish of his own....


Sam and Ben face problems they’ve never before encountered.  They're plunged into situations that make them vulnerable and let us see into their hearts.  That's why I love these two cowboys.  If you happen to run across either of them, I hope you get to know and love them, too.  ;)

There you have just a few of the reasons I like being a Western writer.

And now, I hope you'll share with us what you like about cowboys—or about any other type of hero who has a place on your must-read list.

Barbara's Bio

Originally from the East Coast, award-winning author Barbara White Daille now lives with her husband in the warm, sunny Southwest, where they love the lizards in the front yard but could do without the scorpions in the bathroom.

From the time she was a toddler, Barbara found herself fascinated by those things her mom called "books."  Once she learned the words between the covers held the magic of storytelling, she wanted to see her words in print so she could weave that spell for others.

Barbara hopes you will enjoy reading her stories and will find your own storytelling magic in them!

You can find her at
her website:  www.barbarawhitedaille.com  and

Friday, August 31, 2012

The Unique Strength of Damaged Heroes

I learned a lot from Brander Hansen.

I first decided to write a deaf hero after reading an article that said women are attracted to men who stare at them like they are the only thing in the room. I thought, who would stare at a woman like that? A deaf man.

I have friends who work in the deaf community, plus I have some limited experience with American Sign Language, so I had a foundation to work with. But I write historical novels and ASL doesn't exist in Europe now, much less in the 1700s. When I began to describe Brander's gestures, I had to forget everything I knew and create motions that would make sense to a seven-year-old.

I also needed to give him a realistic trade, one that a deaf man would not only be able to do, but do well. As a private investigator, Brander can use his deafness and lip-reading as some of his tools. After all, he says, when people find out I'm deaf, they forget I'm in the room.

Here is what I learned/realized along the way:

For the purpose of brevity in this discussion, I'll use the term "physical disability" (PD) to refer to part of a person's body being damaged or missing.

There are two kinds of people who write characters with disabilities. Those who have disabilities, and those who don't. And both kinds tend to make errors which keep their characters from being whole people.

Authors with disabilities who write fiction need to guard against letting their need to educate overshadow their story. There is a difference between realistic and realism. The reader only needs the story to be realistic, to know enough to "get" the character and no more. The PD is only a part of that character's literary development.

If education is the goal, then the author might consider writing non-fiction realism instead. In fiction the plot and characters rule, and information dumps are deadly, no matter who is writing the story.

As for authors without a PD, the tendency can be to go sappy and glorify the PD characters. Make them such angelic martyrs that no one can believe they exist. Because they don't. The other extreme would be the character so overwhelmed with bitterness (based in the PD) that no one wants to be around them - or read about them, honestly.

Another mistake that authors without a PD make is assuming the character would always want the broken or missing part "fixed." That assumption is offensive to a real person with a real PD.

Consider Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius: if he wasn't the "Blade Runner" none of us would know who he was. And he made the semi-finals in the 2012 Summer Olympics by running against men without amputated limbs. I'm pretty sure he feels whole.

I have a scene in the second book, "A Discreet Gentleman of Matrimony" (now available) when a doctor asks to look into Brander's ears. My discreet gentleman experiences a moment of shock and wonders if he could regain his hearing.

He cannot. And when he thinks about it, Brander realizes that he is a better man because he is deaf. To regain his hearing at this stage of his life would be a detriment to his career.

That is a very realistic response. Not heroic. Not bitter. No pounding anyone with a politically correct agenda. Just real.

Others agree, according to this very complimentary reviewer of books & movies with characters with PD: http://paradevo.blogspot.com/2012/08/a-discreet-gentleman-of-discovery.html *smiling*

Of course, the hearing people he encounters are as insensitive and ignorant as humans can be. To write the story otherwise would be a mistake as well.

As I was typing along, I occasionally made those mistakes. When I did, I tried to work them into the narrative. Like this line: "Regin lowered her voice… Oops. Well, go on with the thought: …before she remembered she didn't have to." The hearing spouse is making an adjustment, too.

I even had a line of dialog where Regin points her finger at her deaf and mute husband and shouts, "Don't you ever say that to me again, do you hear me?" Who wouldn’t use words they were accustomed to in the heat of an argument?

Brander looks at her like she's crazy and asks: Do you realize what you just said?

"You know what I mean!" she retorts.

Realistic. Real. And a little humorous, to be honest.

And did I mention sexy? That intense stare, quick intelligence, and the ability to see things others cannot make for a uniquely strong character. I confess: I'm thoroughly smitten.

video


For more information about all 5 of the Discreet Gentleman books (so far) please go to: http://www.KrisTualla.com

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Meet Inspirational Romantic Suspense Author, Terri Reed


Terri Reed
Why did you decide to write Inspirational Romantic Suspense? 

I started writing romance back in the early 90’s.  I thought I wanted to write historical romances because that is my first true love of romance genre.  But I had small children and no computer and research wasn’t easy.  I did eventually sell one historical novella. However, I took the advice of a multi-published author who said, “Write what you know” and switched to contemporary romances, but couldn’t gain any traction. By this time I had discovered category romances and romantic suspense novels.  I had heard in a workshop that you should write what you like to read.  Since I devoured thrillers, mysteries and romantic suspense books, I decided to give the genre of romantic suspense a try.  I gained a bit of traction with some finals in contests, receiving positive feedback from editors but still no sale.  Then I discovered Dee Henderson’s books that combined romance, suspense and faith.  I knew I’d found the right genre for me.  When I rewrote my earlier stories to include faith, they sold.  The first few books were romances but I had a light thread of suspense (not necessarily action or adventure so much as carefully guarded secrets).  Then Love Inspired opened the suspense line and I migrated naturally into the genre.


You do such a wonderful job of braiding your stories together. Which story line is harder for you to write: the romance, the suspense, or the faith journey? 

For me weaving in the romance is the hardest part of writing romantic suspense.  I’m a plotter and I love the action, the adventure of suspense.  I love to build a story, layering in clues, red-herrings, scary moments and action scenes.  I write fast and tight plots with little emotion or romance in the first draft.  Invariably, my critique partners and/or editors will call me on the lack of romance development and I’ll need to go back and layer in the emotional landscape.  The faith element is more organic for me and comes in spits and spurts, intermingled with the plot and the romance.      

 Tell us about your latest release.

The Deputy’s Duty was a June release.  Book six in the Fitzgerald Bay continuity series. 

Fitzgerald Bay: Law enforcement siblings fight for justice and family.

Fitzgerald Family Secret

As the eldest of six siblings and deputy chief of the Fitzgerald Bay police department, Ryan Fitzgerald is a protector.  Of his family.  Of his community.  But staying in control means keeping his distance…until Meghan Henry comes to town.  Seeking justice for her murdered cousin, and safety for an orphaned—and missing—child, the daring journalist is not afraid to face danger head-on.  And when she uncovers a dark Fitzgerald secret, Ryan’s left with a devastating choice.  Which will he protect—his family, or the woman he’s started to love?

When can we order your next book?

I have an upcoming October release titled The Doctor’s Defender.  Book three of my own mini-series Protection Specialists.

Do No Harm

As a trauma surgeon, Dr. Brenda Storm saves lives every day. But someone wants her dead.  It starts with the anonymous delivery of poisoned cupcakes.  Now the hospital has hired a bodyguard to protect her 24/7.  At first, Brenda doesn’t think too-handsome Kyle Martin is the right man for the job.  Then she discovers his harrowing background—and that Kyle will do anything to keep her safe.  With every attempt on her life, she’s more drawn to the strong and silent man who risks his life for hers.  But their growing feelings could put them both in harm’s way.



What are you working on now?

I’m in the plotting stage of my next two Protection Specialists books.   

 

For a chance to win, you must have a snail mail address in North America and include your email address with your comment.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Love's Labors Lost? Not to Worry...


Tragedy strikes every writer’s work-in-progress sooner or later. In spite of all your efforts to be careful and to back up your work daily, you will (take your pick):
  • hit the delete key by accident and the autosave function will save the accidental version before your fingers, paralyzed with shock and horror, can click undo.
  • somehow save your just-revised Act 2 as Act 1, leaving you with two copies of Act 2 (although one copy is named Act 1) and overwriting Act 1 (which you also revised today, or maybe last week and forgot to back it up.) Self-flagellation begins (“I wouldda, couldda, shouldda...”)
  • have no idea what you did, but the chapter you wrote yesterday has totally disappeared. Trying to suppress the panic swarming in your chest like a cloud of angry bees, you look in nearby folders and at the bottom of the document library list, but the whole chapter has gone into a black hole, apparently never to return. The Search function can’t even find it. Doom looms, as inevitable as winter.
  • have no idea why, but your computer tells you your short story file is corrupted and can’t be recovered. You run to the bathroom and throw up the leftover Chinese take-out you had for breakfast.
What’s a heartbroken writer to do? 
Write the paragraph/Act/chapter/story a second time.
 
I hear sobs in Alaska, wails in Australia, sniffles in Alabama—even moans coming from the fourth planet circling Aldereen in the Dragonfly Nebula. (Okay, I invented that last place to make my point.) This is not what a writer mourning her lost labor-of-love wants to be told. 


So go ahead and cry, scream into your pillow, whine to your writer friends, take a walk, dig out some chocolate, shake it off, suck it up. Then don your Super Writer panties and write the passage again

Believe it or not, you can do this. And the end result will be surprisingly similar, if not identical, to the original. I know this from personal experience.

When I lost an entire chapter right after I polished my work of art, I was devastated. I so did not want to write that chapter again! I’d labored over this part of my manuscript for eleven days to make it as close to perfect as I possibly could. How could I create anything that good again?

But what choice did I have? Trash the whole book? Unthinkable! So I wrote my lost chapter again. I was positive this new version was not as good as the one I had lost, but it would have to do.

Three months later, a miracle happened. I found the original chapter. I believe Computer Gremlins stole my chapter, then returned it for reasons unfathomable to mortal men. 

Imagine my shock when I compared the two versions of my chapter side-by-side and discovered they were nearly identical. Word-for-word identical. For most of twenty-three pages, identical.

This didn’t happen because I remembered what I’d written. I didn’t, except in a general, synopsis-like sense. I wrote the chapter the same way the second time because my creative cauldron, Girls in the Basement, Muse, subconscious, or whatever-you-want to call it is a creature of habit. There may be  many roads to Oz, but my mind likes the path of least resistance, be it yellow brick or black asphalt.

 So when something like this happens to you (and it will; it’s as inevitable as human fallibility and bad computer magic), take heart. Chances are, you’ll write your lost words a second time with only very minor changes. Heck, you may even improve on the original version.

Have you lost chunks of your writing? If so, what did you do?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Heart of the Heart of the Matter of the Heart

According to people wiser than me (which means nearly everyone on the planet), the female heart consists of four chambers: family, friends, career goals, and intellectual pursuits.  Young men have a three-chambered heart: food, sports, and sex. As males age, they grow the fourth chamber, where they store the desire for money, necessary to fuel the other three chambers.

Last month, I realized for a third time just how fragile those chambers are.  I was driving down the freeway in Anchorage. That itself is rather unique, since Alaska has less than 100 miles of four-lane.  I was there to pick up my son at the airport and I had several hours to kill. 

Bored, I decided to have a heart attack.

I started to black out, so I pulled into an Urgent Care facility.  The physician told me that if I was having a heart attack, then I would be on the floor.  My EKG and vitals were fine.  He sent me to the hospital for blood work, and later informed me I was fine.  And by then I felt fine.

The problem returned later that evening, and was much more severe.  I convinced myself I wasn’t having a heart attack because (a) the physician said so and (b) there is a distinct possibility that I don’t have a heart.  Eventually the pressure subsided.

The next morning, my mother phoned and insisted I return to the hospital.  I was about to get on a plane and fly home. Our town not only has no cardiologists, you have to fly to get in and out.  The cardiologist at the Anchorage hospital said I’d had a heart attack.  When I was given some meds, my blood pressure dropped from 118/70, which is good, to 35/28, which ain’t.  The two cardiologists in the room turned white.

Half an hour later I was the proud owner of two stents.  Except for occasional angina, I’m doing fine – physically.  And that’s what brings me to the, er, heart of this blog.

When Isaac Asimov was asked what he would do if he found out he only had a few months to live, without a second’s thought he replied, “Type faster!”

Romantic/Idealist that I am, I always thought that if I had a limited time left, I would go to Thailand, my second home, and spend my remaining days under an umbrella on the beach, my wife beside me and a lot of mai tais alongside.  (Actually, since she’s Thai, I would have my Thai on each side; sorry about that.) 

And I would write.

But things aren’t working out that way. I’m not terminally ill, or anything of the sort.  Just aware of my mortality.  I know everyone dies, but until now I’d thought I’d be the exception to the rule.

The upshot: I haven’t felt like writing. I have two novels and two textbooks in the works, but I haven’t written a word since the heart attack over a month ago.  I sit down at the computer every day, but I end up surfing the Net and answering emails.

This isn’t the first time such a thing has happened.   

But one the other two times, my physical heart wasn’t involved.

As professionals we all go through rejections. We have problems with editors, agents, critics, the public.  That’s expected. But twice I had my heart shattered by unusual situations.

When I was in my mid twenties, I met some professional science fiction writers. I had never read any SF but decided to write it..  My seventh story finaled for the Nebula, the RITA of the field.  I asked my editor if he would send my story to the people who vote for the award – (unlike with the RITA, all professional writers in the field vote on the finalists).  He thought it was a good idea, since another editor had done something similar the previous year.  We agreed that we would send the story to the voting writers only if another story from that magazine did not make the finals.  When two other stories made the finals, the editor thought it still was a good idea to send the story to the voting writers; he would offer the same thing to the other two writers who had finaled. I reluctantly agreed.  Later, unknown to me, one of the other writers objected and withdrew from the finals, only to find out later that she had won.  Needless to say, the result was a major controversy.  I was treated like a pariah – for something that is now expected of everyone who finals – and I was so devastated that I stopped writing science fiction.

Years went by.  About five years ago I wrote a book of creative nonfiction, the story of how my Eskimo students won three national championships in academics.  At the beginning of the book I noted that I had changed the chronology a little for the book to read better.  There were two scenes, I specifically pointed out, that did not occur in the book’s two year period.  (These changes were very important, since I wrote it for charity, in the hopes of giving young Native Americans role models and hopefully help curb the skyrocketing suicide rate among that group of young people.)  A reporter for the Anchorage paper conveniently overlooked the frontispiece explanation – and basically called me a liar in print for having “changed things.” A professor then sent a blog all over the world saying that the book is untrue.  She hadn’t bothered to read it.  In fact, she never even saw it  – but good researcher that she was, she assumed that what she had read in the paper was gospel.  As a result, sales plummeted.  Instead of raising what we hoped would be $40,000, enough to build a school for the poor overseas, we only earned $15,000. Moreover, the kids who had won the championships were deeply, deeply hurt. 

My heart again broken, I stopped writing creative nonfiction.

So what happened while I was driving down the Anchorage freeway was a third time.

And not charming.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Overheard on... PBS

“Suppose, suppose….”
These were allegedly the last words spoken by Wyatt Earp to his beloved wife Josephina on his deathbed. Now, considering that we all know who rules the roost in most relationships, I would consider them more of a plea than a statement by Wyatt.

Having lived in New England I've spent some energy reflecting on why personalities differ so much across the country. Ultimately I reached the conclusion that the women who were moved from England to Boston reached those shores and said a categorical ‘no’ to the plea of suppose while westerners, on the other hand, embraced that question and lived by it.
In my monthly Genre-ista blog I am taking the question of tension and applying it to different genres. For September we are highlighting Western Romance, so now is the perfect time to explore where conflict comes from in great western romance stories.

My answer… it is not the men who create the tension… no matter how big their, ahem, guns are. No, it is the women. These women had to be brave and strong, yet civil and nurturing. The very dichotomy of their roles in the western environment necessarily created tension.
So, for our writing exercise this month I am asking readers to consider their favorite western heroines and examine the challenge they face living in opposition:

Feminine -yet- strong
Independent -yet- part of community

Adventurous -yet- civilized

And for our writers, can you give your own heroine, whatever the genre these conflicting traits? Do it and you may be surprised by the level of tension you will get in your writing.
Be courageous yourself and suppose….