Thursday, August 30, 2012

Top Ten Signs You're Reading A Romance: Romancing the Hop Blog Hop

There's no question I absolutely love the romance genre. Love it. Even when I tried to write a mystery the hero and heroine looked over the dead body and there was insta-lust going on. Hence the beginning and the end of my mystery writing career. It lasted shorter than my romantic suspense writing career. 

All that aside, here are some signs that you're reading a romance novel.

1.      The hero describes heroine and you can almost imagine wind blowing through her hair and she's walking slowly, even if she's standing still. His loins are filled with lust despite everything he should be feeling.

2.      The heroine describes the hero and you can almost imagine him shirtless pouring water down his body, even if it's winter. Her loins are filled with lust despite everything she should be feeling.

3.      If one and two weren't dead giveaways...boy meets girl. Or boy meets boy. Girl meets girl. Or boy, girl and girl...Ok. You get the picture.

4.      Either one, or both, of the characters have a deep, dark secret that keeps them from loving on anyone.

5.      Speaking of which… secrets, there's a secret baby. Now how exactly a baby could be a secret still confounds me. A secret is only a secret if NO ONE knows.

6.      A friend looks over at a friend and thinks I would so totally be more than friends.

7.      12 hearts-a-leaping. Or two if you want to be technical about it. And then there's...

8.      2 loins-a-burning. Yes, I know how wrong that sounds but I'm totally leaving it.

9.      The hero, at some point in the story kidnaps the heroine to make sweet, aching lurve.

10.  I love you doesn't need to be said but they both better say it.

Ok. This list is by no means complete. There are many, many more signs. You can tell me some in the comments. 

Don't forget to leave a comment with your email to get your name thrown into the Grand Prize hat for the Romancing the Hop Blog Hop. Here are the grand prizes:

*1st Grand Prize: A Kindle Fire or Nook Tablet*

*2nd Grand Prize: A $130 Amazon or B&N Gift Card*

*3rd Grand Prize: A Large Swag Pack*

*Out of the comments left only on my blog I'll pick a winner to get my upcoming release Weekend Lover.*

The weekend that started it all... 

Sebastian Clark's and Nicole Harrison's boundaries are clear—no last names, no shared details. One single night of giving into temptation. One night turns into three, and their naughty little weekend becomes more than just sex. 

One night of consenting pleasure sets Sebastian Clark and Nicole Harrison on a course that could ultimately destroy them both, or bring them a love for all time...

You can read excerpts here.


To find out more about this blog hop, the grand prizeyou can go here to Carrie Ann's blog for the full list.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Excerpt City: Weekend Lover and Down With Cupid

There will be new releases next month. First up will be Weekend Lover. It's a prequel to Down With Cupid. Both of these books are part of my shorts series--Down With Cupid Shorts, which include Talk Nerdy to Me and The Sixteen Year Itch. It was months after the fact that I thought about how Down With Cupid Shorts sounded. Who is taking off Cupid's shorts? But since I have a dirty sense of humor anyway...)

I digress. I've got excerpts for both of these shorts. Yes, shorts. Weekend Lover comes in at 11k and Down With Cupid rolls around 17k. Check 'em out. If you'd like an ARC to review you can email me at melissab dot author at gmail dot com.       
Down with Cupid Excerpt: First Two Chapters
Weekend Lover Excerpt: First Two Chapters

Thursday, August 09, 2012

News and Updates

I'll be in several places during the next two months. There will be releases (Weekend Lover Sept. 7th) and such. I will keep ya updated, but here's the tentative list:

All Romance Ebooks has made See Lynne Chased and See Megan Run a recommended read for the month of August.  So in honor of that I've put the See Her Fall Boxed Set on sale until Saturday, August  on ARe, B & N, and Amazon.

I'll be participating in Romancing the Blog Hop a blog hop on August 31st to September 3rd. I'll be doing a giveaway for Weekend Lover.

Beautiful Trouble Publishing Blog Talk : Sept 17 @ 5:30

Trindie Books: August 20th  How Much You Want to Bet? will be the book of the day.  Sept. 5 See Lynne Chased will be the book of the day.

Ooook. I believe that is all so far. Like I said, I'll keep ya updated.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Brick by Brick: Three Act Structure, part two

Yesterday I talked about how telephone in essence screwed up a perfectly, foolproof understanding of Hauge's structure. What follows is my version. It's not special or unique. It's the bastardized version of something that is foolproof in my eyes. Yet I use it again and again without fail:

Catalyst: The point in the story where the introduction ends and the story’s core conflict is presented.

The best examples are what you read on the back of every book–the blurb.

Paige Darlington is finally free of the literal boss from hell–Satan. There’s just one hitch: she’s cursed and will soon lose her soul. The only way to reverse this ultimate buzz kill is to skinny dip in one of Heaven’s cleansing moats. But Heaven has defense against girls like Paige...and they typically involve being charred to a crisp.

~Sex and the Immortal Bad Boy by Stephanie Rowe

The bolded portion is the core conflict of the story. Paige has to figure out a way to get there. If she can’t get there, she had to figure out a way to make herself less evil. If all else fails what will she have to do in order to save the world from herself?

Another example:

Secrets she (Emma Corrigan) wouldn’t share with anyone in the world....Until she spills them all to a handsome stranger on a plan. At least she thought he was a stranger...

But come Monday morning, Emma’s office is abuzz about the arrival of Jack Harper, the company’s elusive CEO. Suddenly Emma is face to face with the stranger on the plane, a man who knows every single humiliating detail about her. Things couldn’t possibly get worse. Or could they?

~ Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella

Yes, Paige in Sex and the Immortal Bad Boy had a huge problem already by being Satan’s ex-minion, but then the heroine finds out that she’s a ticking bomb of evil. At this point in the story we've gotten to know the heroine. We want her to succeed.

Can You Keep a Secret? starts off with the heroine sitting in a meeting where she’s only supposed to be there as a bobble-head. Yes, yes, whatever you say. Things go off-course and she ends up making a complete, excuse my language, ass of herself.

All this leads to a hilarious scene where she makes an even bigger ass of herself. That builds up to the moment when Emma realizes the stranger is really her boss. Her boss knows all her secrets. You cringe with the character.

Now imagine for a moment someone knows all of your darkest secrets. The stuff you won’t even tell your best friend, especially if that secret is she knits horribly. It makes your friend happy to give you the things she has made with her hands.

Or that your cousin, who lost her parents at a young age, is the golden child in your family. What if someone knew when you were in desperate need of a job she refused to give you one?  What would you say or do to keep those secrets, well, secret? What would happen if those secrets came out?

So, yes, the core conflict is a narrowed focus on the novel, but that doesn’t mean it can’t act like a crack in a window shield. If you ever had a crack in your windshield you know that small crack, eventually, starts to grow. It gets worse and worse.

The Difference

The Catalyst isn’t any different from a combination of The Opportunity and the New Situation. Emma has to learn to live with what she’s said to her boss. Paige now knows what she needs to do in order to not end mankind. A snafu in understanding that a Catalyst could be broken down in two stages led me to a simplified version, but I still had the same problem. What did it mean to start where the story starts? Wouldn’t that automatically be the Catalyst? It’s where the core conflict is presented, but what about Stage 1: The Set Up?

The Conundrum

A novel is not a movie. You won’t have the benefit of a montage to show who your character is and what their life is like before the Catalyst.

By now I’m sure you’ve been scared to death by the knowledge of an agent or editor deciding your fate by the end of page one. If not by the end of the first paragraph. One page, and the agent/editor has already decided to ask for more or reject you. (Yes, really, go check out some agent and editor blogs if you don't believe me.)

 This knowledge has caused many a writer to pass out. It’s okay to take a moment to breathe into a brown paper bag. It’s a lot of pressure for 250 or so words.

It could tempt even the most secure writer to put their Catalyst on the first page or believe the Catalyst is the first page. If putting the Catalyst on page one fits your story, then go for it. If not, then it can kill the urgency that a proper build-up brings to your novel. Most people don’t keep reading because the plot is interesting. They keep reading to see what happens to the character.

Anyway, below are some examples:

gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson

Part of Blurb: When Arlene Fleet heads up north for college, she promises God that she’ll stop fornicating and lying, and never, ever go back to her hometown in Alabama. All she wants from Him is one miracle: make sure the body is never found. Now, ten years later, God breaks the deal when a dark secret from her past lands on her Chicago doorstep.

“There are Gods in Alabama: Jack Daniel’s, high school quarterbacks, trucks, big tits, and also Jesus. I left one back there myself, back in Possett. I kicked it under the kudzu and left it to the roaches.

I made a deal with God two years before I left there. At the time, I thought He made out pretty well. I offered Him a three-for-one–deal: All He had to do was perform a miracle. He fulfilled His end of the bargain, so I kept my three promises faithfully, no matter what cost. I held our deal as sacred for twelve solid years. But that was before God let Rose Mae Lolly show up on my doorstep, dragging my ghosts and her own considerable baggage.”


     The Catalyst is right there on the first page. God breaks his promise to Arlene by allowing Rose Mae Lolly to stand on her doorstep. It works for the novel because the past and the present are told in a way that blends the NOW with the past. The NOW isn’t the prologue and it isn’t the backstory or flashback. It’s what’s happening right at that moment in the character’s life.

Jackson creates a sense of NOW when she goes over the events that made her make that deal with God. She creates a sense of urgency to keep reading. Yet when you look at that first paragraph you can see the character, and it takes you for one hell of a spin. I mean, who would say big tits and Jesus in the same breath?

     Evermore by Alyson Noël

Part of Blurb: After a horrible accident claims the lives of her family, sixteen-year-old Ever Bloom can see people’s auras, her their thoughts and know someone’s entire life story by touching them. Going out of her way to avoid human contact and suppress her abilities, she has been branded a freak at her new high school-but everything changes when she meets Damen Auguste...He’s the only one who can silence the noise and random energy in her head...

     “Guess who?”

     Haven’s warm, clammy palms press hard against my cheeks as the tarnished edge of her silver skull ring leaves a smudge on my skin...”

     This sort of set-up goes on for pages and pages. No catalyst to speak of. Ever doesn’t find out Damen can silence the “noise” until page 25.

The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella

Part of Blurb: Workaholic attorney Samantha Sweeting has just done the unthinkable. She’s made a mistake so huge, it’ll wreck any chance of a partnership.

     Would you consider yourself stressed?

     No. I’m not stressed.

     I’m...busy. Plenty of people are busy. I have a high-powered job, my career is important to me, and I enjoy it.

OK. So sometimes I do feel a bit tense. But I’m a lawyer in the City, for God’s sake. What do you expect?


By the time the big mistake happens (page 47), I want to take a vacation for Samantha.

When Does the Catalyst Happen?

From the examples the Catalyst occurs on page 1, 25, and 47. There’s no pattern to speak of, so it would be easier to pin down at what point it doesn’t happen. If you have made it to page 100 and the Catalyst hasn’t occurred, you might have a problem. Unless you are Nora Roberts and can make 150+ pages of backstory work.

Why is it likely to happen in 100 pages or less? It’s the chicken or the egg theory. Partials sent to agents/editors are usually 100 pages or less. Most places that sell books have a sample and it will be, maybe, the first chapter and part of the second. Maybe more, but never 100 pages. (At least none I've read.) The answer: There’s no exact science to where the Catalyst should fall. Put it where it feels most natural.


By now, if you're still actually reading, you're eyeballs have dried out. You might be slumped over half-dead, I'm going to stop now and pick up in the next installment. It's going to continue on with my jacked up version of the Three Act Structure.

 As usual I'm more than open to questions or outright disagreement. Do so in the comments.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Brick by Brick: Three Act Structure, Part One

(Three Act Structure will be the epic posts that will seem to have no end in sight. Settle in and bring snacks.)

Have you ever played telephone as a kid? I did. I loved to see how distorted the message ended up by the time the last person heard it. Great game. Unfortunately, this is the way I learned the Three Act Structure.

I’d successfully completed and written three novels using the “wrong” method of the three acts before I realized I was doing it wrong. Thankfully, by then my newbie author status had worn off and I wasn’t afraid to do things in a way that worked for me.

I had also learned one other valuable lesson, but first I’m going to walk you through the “right” way. The Michael Hauge’s way (Turning Points and How To Use Them In Fiction), because it’s a brilliant breakdown of the ebb and flow in movies that also can be applied to the structure of novels. It involves six stages, and five turning points.

Summary of Michael Hauge’s Three Act Structure

Stage 1: The Set Up

Here the hero/heroine is seen in their natural habitat. It’s the handshake. Hi, my name is Susie and let’s look at my world as I know it now. The purpose of the Set Up is to create attachments to the character. It’s to make you care enough to keep watching. Or pluck down your hard-earned cash and walk out the store with the book.

Turning Point 1: The Opportunity

Something in the character’s mundane world changes. This is the chance the character has been waiting for or didn’t know they were looking for.

Stage 2: The New Situation

You will see the character react to the opportunity. That choice brings about a whole set of other avenues, and the character must choose one road for their journey.

Turning Point 2: Change of Plans

In a sense it’s self-explanatory, but let’s use See Megan Run as the example. Megan has decided to stay for her mother’s wedding. The carrot at the end of the stick is getting the deed for her father’s home. Should be simple, right?

Yet, Megan has to deal with the emotional landmine that is the relationship with her mother. Also, she needs to deal with the ex-boyfriend she left behind. So the plan to keep her head down and wait leisurely for the wedding date to roll around is shot to hell.

Stage 3: Progress

In which the character deludes themselves to believe she has a handle on the situation. She might have a handle but just barely. If anything else comes along in their path that hold will become unsteady. Of course....

Turning Point 3: The Point of No Return

Something else is thrown in their path, and the character will have to make a choice that will forever change them. Hauge’s says this happens exactly midway through the movie.

Stage 4: Higher Stakes and Complications

If this is a 5-mile marathon, your character has just reached mile 3.5. So what’s 1.5 more? Except that small hitch in her side has turned into a full-blown muscle cramp and that healthy, fruit-only breakfast isn’t feeling so good in her stomach.

Turning Point 4: The Major Setback

All hope seems to be lost. There is no way she will get what she wants. In the romance world we call this the black moment. The hero is found out to be a liar. The heroine can’t seem to trust the hero no matter what he does. Cue the Angela Basset scene where she burns her ex-husband’s car, or at least the heroine feels like she wants to do the same.

Stage 5: The Final Push

Despite the odds not being in her favor, the heroine pushes through. She has reached .5 left in the final mile. The finish line is in sight. Even if she has to crawl bloodied-soldier style across it. She will do it dammit.

Turning Point 5: The Climax

Remember that locked door? The character breaks out the key they would have never used.

Stage 6: The Aftermath

The resolution, the happily ever after, or if it’s a mystery novel, a huge info dump that explains everything in a nice neat bow. This happens at this point of the movie. Roll the credits and outtakes.

This structure is foolproof. Hauge even gives you percentages on when the stages and turning points are supposed to happen and for how long. You can use it again and again and come up with different scenarios.

How did Telephone distort something so simple?

Easily enough. I spent the first year of being a serious writer learning as much as I could. I did my best to incorporate everything I learned at the same time. Bad idea. If you’ve been on this hamster wheel long enough you know that information can conflict with each other, bleed together and make you dizzy. You can end up with a novel that you’d rather burn than edit if you followed every rule.

So, at the same time I was trying to take in the Three Act Structure, I was learning a new rule of thumb: Start where the story starts. I needed to apply this knowledge, because I had fallen in love with a writer’s worst friend–backstory.

Susie received a red letter in the mail that would change her life forever. Holding the thin parchment in her sweaty palm made, Susie remembered the first letter she received. It was 1992 and her once A cup breasts had finally turned into solid a B. It hadn’t mattered to Bobby Macky as long as he...

On and on and on it went until I circled back around to the red letter. But, by following that advice off the edge of a writing cliff I ended up smashing together The Set Up, The Opportunity, and The New Situation. I went from one extreme to the next. I did not give myself or the character breathing room, for fear it was really backstory. Eventually, I swung to the middle. (Refer to the spreadsheet to see the layout of my version.)


Today's post was brought to you by why my way is so totally jacked up. Next up is a hard look at my jacked up way.

As usual I'm more than open to questions or outright disagreement. Do so in the comments.