Archive for July, 2012

Be My BabyToday’s post is from Be My Baby, which won the EPIC award in 2011. Lars and Jess, my hero and heroine, go through a pretty harrowing experience–Jess’s baby son is almost kidnapped by her villainous in-laws, but Lars and his brothers save the day. In this scene, Lars has just come up with a way to save Jess and her son.

Tears pricked her eyes. “You’re a good man, Lars Toleffson, a very good man.”

“Don’t make me out to be some kind of hero; I expect to be rewarded.” He braced his elbows on the table, leaning toward her.

“With what?”

“I expect to get laid at least.”



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booksAs I’ve said before, I used to be a college teacher, which meant I used to go to lots of conferences since I had to give presentations as part of my job. Believe it or not, there’s a dress code for these conferences—nothing written out, of course, but a code nonetheless. We wore suits, for the most part. Frequently black, but occasionally gray or perhaps dark blue. A few brave souls wore silk scarves or even jewelry (back in the eighties I had some of those big flashy pins), but you didn’t want to go too far. We were Serious People after all.

But in my heart, I wanted a gypsy shawl.

I really did. Also velvet and satin tops. And dangling earrings with rhinestones. Every time I saw something like this in a shop window, I longed for it, but my practical side kept muttering “You have no place to wear that.” And I didn’t. So I never bought them simply because I knew damn well I’d never have the courage to wear them to any of my conferences, even the Popular Culture Association, which was a little more relaxed than some of the others.

Flash forward a few years to the present. I still go to conferences, but now they’re conferences for romance writers. And I now own a lot of things I’d never have been able to wear to the National Council of Teachers of English, let alone the Modern Language Association.

The Romance Writer Conference Look, you see, is all over the map. Some writers wear pretty much what they wear every day. Some writers wear costumes—literally. One historical writer at RT dressed as Marie Antoinette. J. R. Ward didn’t wear a costume, but she definitely had a Look: black leather pants and jacket, worn with sunglasses (indoors). I’ve begun to think that writers dress according to their mental image of themselves. And I’ve discovered that my mental image is a bit more flamboyant than my workaday self.

But now I’m attending RWA and I’m in a quandary again. I’m not sure RWA is as flamboyant as RT, but I’m not willing to fade back into the woodwork again either. I have a beautiful hand-dyed ruana that I got in Pagosa Springs a couple of months ago. I have a gorgeous silk shawl I got years ago at the San Diego Art Museum. And I have my WabiSabi Wear vest made from vintage kimono fabric. I’ll probably wear all three at some point.

But I’m not sure what other things I’ll be throwing into the mix this year. Maybe a new shawl or scarf. Definitely my spangled “diva jacket” for the big Samhain cocktail party Saturday night. The main thing is, I’ll be there and I’ll be my more flamboyant Romance Writer self. So if you’re around Anaheim from July 25-28, be sure to look me up at the Marriott Anaheim. I’ll be the one in the flashy clothes and the blissful smile.

I’m still looking for that gypsy shawl, though.

RWA Literacy Signing – Wednesday, July 25, 5-8 p.m. Table 300

Samhain Publishing Signing – Friday, July 27, 3-4:30 p.m.

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Wedding Bell BluesThis is a continuation of last week’s six: Pete and Janie have just seen Janie’s ex having very public sex with another woman. Pete is finally taking Janie to bed himself. Janie wants to make sure it’s not just because he feels sorry for her.

Pete took a deep breath, closing his eyes. If only he could get enough blood back to his brain to form a sentence. “I don’t believe in pity sex, Ms. Dupree; among other things, pity doesn’t really do much to get me in the right mood.”

She grinned up at him. “Are you in the right mood?”

Too much talking, entirely too much talking was going on right now. “Lady, I’ve been in the right mood since I saw you walk into the Dew Drop my first night in town.”

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booksThere have been several plagiarism scandals in the online writing community lately—from lifting somebody’s free story and offering it under your own name to (I’m not kidding) lifting Dracula from the Bartleby Project and offering it as a new book under an assumed name. Now all of this pretty straightforward. You steal somebody’s words and you’re plagiarizing, QED. But lately I’ve been wondering about those gray areas in writing that aren’t entirely clear. It’s not so much a question of what plagiarism consists of as it is a question of what originality consists of.

Take plot, for example. Shakespeare’s plots are notoriously borrowed. He used stories from Plutarch, Boccaccio, Plautus and a number of other sources. In fact, Shakespearean texts usually begin by describing just where Shakespeare appropriated this particular story. But no one claims that Shakespeare is a plagiarist. Plots are fair game, although readers may well point out that Book A is pretty similar to Book B, which perhaps did a better job with that particular twist.

So plots are free for the taking. But what about other things? Suppose an author, let’s call him Willy S., has a really cool love scene that takes place on a balcony, and I decide I want to do the same thing. Maybe I even go a step further and have my heroine on said balcony and my hero down below, ready to climb the ivy to be near her, just like Willy S. did. Am I plagiarizing? No, not by most contemporary standards. However, I’m not exactly original either. I’m borrowing and I’ll probably get called for it.

Now for the trickiest thing of all—using research. One of my favorite books of all time, Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand Of Darkness, includes an epic journey across a series of glaciers taken by the book’s two heroes (it’s on a planet that’s in a perpetual ice age). The first time I read the book I was convinced that Le Guin herself must be a mountain climber or backpacker because her details were so vivid. But it turned out, according to Le Guin herself, that she based all of these details on firsthand accounts of Arctic and Antarctic adventures. In other words, the facts she presented were real because they were taken from others’ experiences. In this case, I’d argue that Le Guin’s unique perspective creates an original narrative. But for those of us who study others’ work in order to understand what happens when you do something like skiing a downhill course, are we really writing our own stuff or are we simply repeating what we’ve heard?

If we not only repeat what we’ve heard but repeat it in the words of the original source (as happened a couple of years ago with historical author Cassie Edwards) then we’ve clearly crossed the line. But what if the words are changed? If I’m writing a novel about mountain climbing and I choose to base part of it on Jon Krakauer’s Everest account in Into Thin Air, is that plagiarism? I doubt that Krakauer could take me to court, but others could claim that I’m not exactly original.

And yet few of us write only about what we’ve experienced personally. If I stuck to that, my books would have a somewhat limited appeal. I’ve never run a bookstore or managed a winery. It goes without saying that I’ve never been a cop. For all of those things I’ve used my imagination, but I’ve also used the experiences of people who have, in fact, done those things. The best I can do is to acknowledge and thank those people. And hope that nobody thinks I’m stealing.

Originality is a rare commodity. I’m wondering now if it’s possible at all.

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Wedding Bell bluesThis Sunday it’s Wedding Bell Blues, the story of a wedding disaster. In this scene Pete and Janie, who’ve been circling each other for several days, are finally going to get it on. Of course, they’ve had a little push from Janie’s ex-boyfriend. And this, in turn, makes Janie a little nervous.

“Tell me the truth, Pete Toleffson—are you doing this because you feel sorry for me?”

“Sorry?” He was having trouble focusing—what exactly was she talking about, and why had she stopped kissing him?

Her jaw firmed. “Are you sorry for me because Otto dumped me so publicly?”

Good Lord, she was serious!

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Venus In Blue JeansVenus In Blue Jeans, my first Konigsburg book, is pretty lighthearted. Cal and Docia’s love affair is mutual and enthusiastic. But every romance has its bumps and they have a big one. In fact, there’s a point where it’s not clear they’ll make it. Here’s a little bit of that bump. But don’t worry–this is a romance, after all. HEA all the way.

“Y’all better give my baby some space now,” the woman murmured. “She’s had a rough couple of days.”

Docia’s father moved to her other side, wrapping one arm around her waist as her mother patted her on the shoulder. Cal watched as her parents walked her toward the waiting SUV without a backward glance.

He stood frozen for a long moment, aware of a score of curious gazes around the parking lot. “So long, babe,” he murmured and walked toward his truck again.

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