Saturday, August 15, 2009

Sneaking in Historical Detail by Victoria Janssen

Sneaking in Historical Detail
by Victoria Janssen

Detail is one of the keys to writing fiction in a historical setting. It's a way to show the reader that she's traveled in time. Things are different in the world she's reading about. Even simple differences spawn more and more changes. For example, the heroine of the story doesn't drive a car; instead, a male relative must drive her in a horse-drawn carriage. Instead of worrying about the cost of gasoline, she has to avoid stepping in horse dung and dirtying her silken dance slipper. All these details have to appear normal to the reader because they are normal to the characters in the book.

You don't need to include every single detail you've researched; in fact, you need less than you think you do, though sometimes that depends on your period; for example, romance readers are more likely to have a working knowledge of social mores in Regency England than in Moldavia during the same period. Still, a few telling details can reinforce the sense of time travel.

I use a few tricks to sneak in the details. Most of my tricks are used in tandem with story elements like characterization, so every detail does at least double duty. The thing I try to keep in mind is contrast. The historical detail contrasts with the present day.

First, if there's an opportunity to use a historical detail rather than a general detail, I do it. Especially if the detail involves something that's different now from then; for example, in my upcoming novel Moonlight Mistress (December 2009), which is set during World War One, a nurse is caring for a wound. She cleans the wound with Lysol, common in 1914 but surprising now, when Lysol is most often used to clean bathroom tile.

Second, it's easier for the reader to absorb details if they're included along with action and are meaningful to the point of view character, thus giving depth to characterization. An example from Moonlight Mistress, in which things have changed: "This hamlet reminded him of the ones they'd seen on their way into France, full of cheering people who gave them cigarettes and flowers and loaves of bread. Now it was devastated, all the people gone, gardens trampled, animal corpses bloating in the streets, houses and churches shot to pieces by the guns."

Third, if a character is visiting a new place, or visiting a place that has changed since they were last there, details are a necessary part of transition between scenes or locales. Another example from Moonlight Mistress: "Even in the dark, the hot, dusty streets were mobbed, three times as crowded as a normal night. Compared to that morning, the whole town felt alien to her. Boys hawked newspapers on every corner. Men stood and read the papers under streetlights and in the street itself, arguing vociferously, blocking wagons whose drivers cursed. Singing and pipe smoke, drunken cheers and angry shouts billowed from the open door of a beer garden."

And my last trick? Don't research it to death. As much fun as research is, eventually you have to write the book.


You can check out my blog here.

Excerpts from my books.

Purchase link for The Duchess, Her Maid, The Groom & Their Lover. Moonlight Mistress is available for pre-order on

Friday, August 7, 2009

Beg For It *Virtual* Release Party

Welcome to the Beg For It Release Party! Thanks for stopping by to help me celebrate my very first release with Ellora's Cave. Everyone who leaves me a comment below will be entered in a drawing to win one of three prizes:

(1) $25 Amazon gift card
(2) A download of any of my books
(3) An Ellora's Cave playing card deck

In Beg For It, Milo and Mya are best friends, co-workers and rivals. They are also secretly in love with each other.

The only thing ad executive Mya Taylor loves more than winning is her best friend Milo Hamilton. Nothing has ever come between them until she finds out Milo is her chief rival for a new account.

Milo’s not sure when it happened but his secret crush has morphed into an obsession. He wants Mya in his bed, screaming his name, and he knows just how to make it happen.
When he proposes a friendly wager on the account, he knows the ultra-competitive Mya won’t be able to resist. She’s more than ready to lay it all on the line until she finds out how high the stakes are—the two of them. Skin to skin.
Suddenly, all bets are off…

When I was younger I always had a lot of platonic male friends. Guys seemed to be infinitely less difficult than girls, more relaxed, just more fun.

Fun without all the drama.

However as I've gotten older, even the idea of having close male friends has become something I can't really imagine. I find myself wondering if my husband will be jealous or if people at work will start to talk. It's no longer the relaxed, simple thing it used to be. When did things get so complicated?

As I was writing Beg For It, I couldn't help thinking back on some of those long ago friendships I used to have. Was I fooling myself in believing we were really just friends?

So I'm interested to get some other people's opinions. Do you think men and women can truly be just friends if they're also attracted to each other? Or do you think the attraction would always be in the way, even if you never acknowledged it, like the proverbial "elephant in the room"?


Friday, June 26, 2009

Never, Ever Throw Anything Away

Okay, you can throw some things away especially if they get smelly; but I’m thinking about all those journals and diaries you kept as a kid. Come on, I’m sure there are a few readers out there who still have that locked diary containing an entry of that first kiss. Perhaps, many of you keep a journal currently.

Hello, I'm Mary Quast, I'm a romance author and I keep a journal.

I started writing a journal and keeping a diary way back in third grade. Yes, I still have it too. As I grew older, my mom encouraged me to write in a journal. She always stressed the fact my great-great-grandpa kept a journal at the end of the civil war and for many years afterward. His journal has been published and treated as a piece of history. If I had a dime for every time she said, “You never know…” I’d be rich.

Anyways, I kept a journal. I would write poetry, short stories, paste pictures or other’s works I found inspiring into my books. When I became an artist, I kept a journal just for recording ideas and drawings into. I’d even record special lyrics of songs. Some ideas were drawn or written on paper bags or napkins and I would paste the item into the book or rewrite it.

I also enjoyed writing love stories. In high school, my friends would ask me to write a little romantic tale of them with their latest squeeze. Funny, it got to the point where even guys were coming up to me and asking me to write a story for them. (Maybe that’s how I learned to write erotic.) Now my focus in this blog post is to tell you about the journal I kept when I was 16 yrs old and I dragged my best pal with me to spend a summer in England with friends of my parents.

The Godfrey family lived in Leicestershire. Peter was a poet/writer and Audrey was a school teacher. During “down times” when traveling, we’d see people and make up stories about them on the spot. It was a great game! Then we went to London. Keeping in mind this was back in the ‘80’s and Punk was THE thing; I kept my camera ready to capture some photos of London Punks.

Lo and behold, while traveling on the Underground a tasty young punk dressed in black leather stepped onboard. He was a portrait of black and white. Black pants, black jacket, white shirt, black eyeliner, black hair with a stark white stripe like a skunk. I was too busy drooling to take a photo, but he seemed aware of our gaze. When he left the subway, he spoke to us but we couldn’t make out his words. So he gave us a jaunty a salute before disappearing into the crowd.

We spent the rest of our stay working on a story about an American girl falling in love with a London Punk. In my journal I recorded the importance of names, places, industry, and thoughts of the English landscape. Upon returning to Michigan, our memories were soon packed into a box and eventually forgotten. I went to college to be an artist and writer; my friend went to college for media fields and ended up being an editor.

Now, in 1999 my dear hubby purchased a gift set of 80’s music on CD. When I listened to the tunes, recollections of being in England flooded my mind. I quickly retrieved the box of memories and the journal. I laughed as I read the wonderful romance story, but then ideas popped into my head. What if I changed this; did that? I called my friend and she said to run with my ideas. I then called her back at midnight to read the thirty pages I had written longhand in a new journal. She told me to keep running. So I did.

By 2003 I had a 122,283 word manuscript I called “Painted Soul”. At the end of writing this contemporary romance, I fell in love with the secondary characters and decided to give each his own story; thus the birth of the Soul Series.

Vanilla Heart Publishing offered me a contract in 2007. Painted Soul was released May, 2008, Tormented Soul, Feb. 2009 and Lonely Soul, May, 2009.
I’m currently working on two more in the series with ideas for four more. During my first book signing event at Barnes & Noble and seeing my books on the shelves, I took a moment to thank my mom for telling me to never throw a journal away.

My advice to you… never throw a diary or journal away, you just never know.

Now for a little treat, maybe even better than chocolate..
send me an email with "Tasty Sample" in the subject and I will send you the cover and first chapter from the first three Soul Series books. Feel free to check out my blog or website.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Author As Matchmaker

Hi, my name is Cassandra Curtis, and I am an incurable matchmaker. If my friends aren't available, I will happily latch onto acquaintances and try to fix them up. The matchmaker gene runs rampant within my family. A victim of my mum's, sisters’, and aunts’ machinations throughout most of my twenties, I do have sympathy for those singles who catch my attention.

Lucky for all concerned, I started writing fiction so I could pursue my genetic disposition, playing creator, and matchmaker with my characters.

I start out very low-tech and use an organic approach. My heroes and heroines develop using profile sheets that I keep in giant 3-ring binders. The basic information is filled out. Age, weight, height, hair, and eye color, married, divorced, if they have children, etc. I may or may not have a name for the character at this point. But when I close my eyes, I see them quite clearly.

The profile sheet helps me keep track of various physical attributes, but it also helps me dig deeper into the character. I become an investigator sifting through facts about my character's life, all in an attempt to answer a seemingly simple yet actually complex question. What makes this hero or heroine worth writing about? What makes them intriguing to a potential reader?

Often as I develop the hero or heroine, their complimentary match appears when I close my eyes and imagine the perfect foil for him or her. More questions crowd my brain. What are the two characters basic beliefs? Are they opposing in some way, creating the possibility for conflict? What things do they have in common? Did the hero come from a big family? Or was he an only child? How does his early childhood and teenage experiences play out in his adult life and how do those formative years impact his relationship with the heroine?

Has the heroine experienced the death of a loved one? A painful divorce? What are his or her core character traits? Do they have a sense of humor? What makes them different from the antagonist (if the story has an antagonist)? What do they use as a coping mechanism against the difficulties in life?

Friendships are important relationships in reality and when we place flesh on the bones of our character, we also should ask who he or she hangs with, if they hold any influence or sway over the main character.

As we continue to build the layers, we might take note of the hero or heroine's hobbies, likes, dislikes, and especially fears.

Another thing I do to delve deeper into my characters is play a game I call Writer's Duel. A few of my fellow romance writing friends and I challenge each other to a duel with scenarios we create. The person challenged must use the main characters from their current work in progress. The rules are 750 words or less, within 48 hours, and keep it PG13. Sometimes we include objects, like a trench coat, a jar of peanut butter, and a ladder. Those items must be incorporated into the scene.

Not only does the Writer's Duel reveal surprises about our heroes and heroines, it also forces writer's block back into the shadows.

Once the character is fleshed out, it's time to take them on a date. I play it out in my mind and take notes. Is he attentive? Does he fumble and act nervous? Does he show his attitude and make like a player? What is her body language during their date? Does she hold his eye contact? Or look shyly away?

Now, sometimes as I flesh out the hero, no heroine steps up and figuratively taps me on the shoulder. So then I have to make my hero do the catwalk. :wink:

I take all the sheets that pertain to the hero and I parade him in front of the heroines already in my binder marked Female Protagonists. Basically—I match make.

Sometimes it is the heroine who must take the parade route past an assortment of my heroes.

I'll actually pair them up and they go on a virtual date. When I say virtual date, what I mean by that is I sit down, write a few paragraphs, and see how the conversation flows, if certain traits come to the fore. I look for chemistry on paper. There are missteps. Like in real life, not every date is a winner. Some heroines go on several 'dates' before they find their hero.

So, the next time you decide to play fictional matchmaker, take your characters on a virtual date first. You might be surprised at what they have to say.

~ About the author ~

A former fine artist, journalist, and instructor, Cassandra Curtis writes paranormal, fantasy, and contemporary erotic romances. Ms. Curtis is also a founding member of the Midnight Moon Café and a member of both the World Romance Writers and Romance Divas.

The third and final installment in her bestselling Shifting Tides ebook series, entitled Soul of The Sea, will be available August 23, 2009 from Amber Heat, an imprint of Amber Quill Press. The complete Shifting Tides trilogy is slated for print release September 2009.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Odd Moments in Collaboration - and a Contest!

Let me tell you a short story. Very short.

Once upon a time, there was a baby writer who wanted a critique partner. After numerous failed attempts, she found one. Hooray! The relationship between the two writers grew, with each coming to appreciate the unique perspective the other brought to the work. For simplicity, we'll call the baby writer Elise (hey! that's me!) and the fantabulous CP Emily (hey! that's my crit partner!) [side note: this is not to say that I haven't had other writers read specific works and make valuable comments and provide excellent feedback - I have. But Em is my go-to gal].

In any case, over the course of a working relationship, Emily and Elise learned to appreciate the specific and unique perspective each brought to the work. And they discovered that they had similar responses to other people's writing, and to ideas about writing. Mostly. So the germ of an idea manifested - hey! Let's do a joint website. That'd be cool. We can each have our own areas, but a joint blog that spreads the work out a bit. Awesome! And so Scorched Sheets was born.

While discussing what we wanted on the site, we hatched a plan (have you noticed I gave up trying to convince you it isn't me? I switched to first person. Bad writer.). Our plan was simple: let's create a new universe and populate it with characters we create together. Then we can set episodic stories in our little universe and make a kind of serial free read. Thus was born our idea for, well, not exactly a Space Opera. More like a Space Soap Opera.

It's an odd thing, sharing your mental space with someone in a collaboration. Odd, but good. Em is much more precise, more terse with her prose than I am. She helps tone my purple prose down to a liveable lavender. I, on the other hand, am a freak about world building. I mean spreadsheets and diagrams and powerpoint presentations kind of freak. It's a little scary. But, it does keep us from making mondo inconsistency errors.

We each write episodes in real time on google documents, so the other can read, make suggestions, and point out any issues. Some entries are truly joint efforts, so we had to make a joint signature tag for that (okay - plug for Celia Kyle, who designed scorchedsheets. She did a great job and was really nice about going back and fixing things we broke after the site went live).

Anyway, you probably want me to get to the good part. You know, the contest part. So, I'll skip to the end of this little story. The GMS Mercy serial on our site is the product of all this collaboration and mucking about in each other's writing. We think it's pretty darned spiffy. And we want you to read it. So.... here's the contest: Go to Read the Mercy stuff (by the way, some episodes are NOT work safe, so be aware of that). Come back here and tell me what your favorite episode of Mercy is and why. On Monday (I want you to have plenty of time to read and enjoy our little universe), I'll come back and pick a winner from the comments. The winner will be chosen randomly from all valid entries (i.e., those who name their fave and why it's most coolio), likely by my five year old daughter (random!). What will you win? A copy of my release Dining In and the winner's choice of an e-book by Emily Ryan-Davis (her releases are listed on the site under her section). Good luck, and I look forward to seeing what you think of Mercy.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Guilty Pleasures

Anyway, when I was growing up, we had an old black and white television with a pair of rabbit ears that could pull in two stations. Less if there was a lot bad weather in the area. So I buried myself in books. I loved fantasies like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. As I grew up, while I continued my love of fantasies, I fell in love with Victoria Holt’s dark and gothic novels. My mother didn’t really approve of them, she’d rather I read something more … literary. But I loved how the heroine had to overcome obstacles like her faithful nanny poisoning her. Or the possibility that the hero was trying to kill her.

When I moved out from home and could indulge in my love of romances without feeling like I had to hide my books from my mom, I discovered Kathleen Woodiwiss. I read everything of hers I could get my hands on. Then I haunted bookstores and libraries and found other authors that wrote similar stories. That's when romances began opening the bedroom door just a crack.

About three or four years ago, I bought my first e-book – Kate Pearce’s Antonia’s Bargain, which led me to buy her Eden’s Pleasure. (They were written and released in the reverse order, but it didn’t matter to me.) I was hooked. I loved that the bedroom door was left wide open. That the heroine wasn’t stuck to the normal sexual standards of keeping both feet firmly on the floor. That she could be sexually adventurous, and yet still virtuous. (I know, it sounds weird, but Kate manages it spectacularly in Antonia’s Bargain, and it’s what I try to emulate in my own writing.)

I love how romances can create flawed characters, with great internal conflicts, and still have a happy-ever-after ending. It’s not a pie-in-the-sky idea, I’ve been married for 31 years to a man I adore. But there’s something satisfying about curling up with a book at the end of the day and losing yourself in the story, reading how someone else overcomes adversity and finds true love. It gives me that little push when I’m having a bad day of my own, let's me forget my own troubles. And if there’s great sex involved? Well, that doesn’t hurt either. As my hubby can testify. ;)

That's why writing a character like Sam Watson, from my latest release Personal Protection, was so fun to play with. He had such a past that I could torture him with. You see, Sam's a big strong bodyguard who has built up his company from the ground up and turned it in one of the most successful ones on the eastern seaboard. He's one of those guys that everyone knows, everyone envies, who is surrounded by friends, and yet, there's a part of him that is incredibly lonely. He doesn't show it to many people, but when the heroine, Rosie, discovers it, and discovers why, she has to make a decision. Actually, she forces him to make a decision. One he doesn't want to face.

If you'd like to read an excerpt, you can find one here. You can also find outtakes and more excerpts on my blog.

Oh, and I'll give you special advance notice - join my mailing list, and you'll get an extra chance to win goodies during next month's Birthday Bash. Check back on my blog for details on June 25th - first contest will be held on June 26th when Jaci Burton visits.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Funny bones and stuff

Everyone does not have a funny bone. It's true. There are people who are not funny at all.

So where does funny come from? There is not a milestone on a child's growth chart saying YOU ARE NOW FUNNY. There isn't a class you can take. There is no Humor Masters degree or PhD. You can't buy it. There is no bar code for humor. Funny parents can have unfunny kids. Boring parents can have funny kids. It is not genetic. So, where do you get funny from?

I have no freaking idea.

I don't. I didn't have some horrible childhood I needed to escape from(I am the only girl and had to clean the bathroom after boys, does that count?). There is no deep tragedy in my past that would warp my brain patterns just so(there is that Oscar Mayer hot dog thing, hmmm). I don't even have six fingers or weird ears that made me the laughing stock(So I made my husband propose before he saw my feet, big deal!!). I wasn't a class clown (I never ever imitated Ms. Shaffer's duck walk *quack*).

*sigh* Comedic failure.

Or not.

I am a wee bit funny little bit. At least, sometimes. I had this funny little thought. It grew. Like a seed that sprouted and grew massive honking leaves! I think it was all the bullsh*t I fertilized it with myself. Anyway, I wrote this tale down. A looooooooooooong time ago. Like, long time. Like Neon sweatshirts slopping over one shoulder long time ago.

And like any good writer... I stuck it in a box and forgot about it.


So anyway, I kept writing bcause, honestly, I talk enough that most people stop listening and I needed someone to converse with. So I made people up. Grown up imaginary friends. (please, don't sit there, that is Freida's seat, she is standing right there, for gawd's sake!!)

My husband, poor brave man that he is, asked me one day why I never did anything with them. Well duh!! They are INVISIBLE!! But he meant the stories.


I dunno, I just thought it was me being... me. Goofy. But he started me thinking about something, a dream I had a long time ago, shoved in that box with that story. I wanted to be a writer. So I dug it out. And decided to type it up. But it needed polishing. And well, it is not that boxed up tale anymore. In fact, It is so different it is like mayo compared to... uhm... chocolate. There that works as a comparison.

I wasn't sure I could do anything with it but what the hell, falling on my face never stopped me before, right?

I sent it to Samhain Publishing. Well, not really. I meant to. But I attached the wrong damn file to the email. *faceplant* Did I mention I am computer illiterate? I am.

So I tucked tail (tale?hmmm) and begged for a reprieve, to sent the correct file and pleasepleaseplease DO NOT look at that mess attached. You know, the uhm, christmas wish lish for my kids, yeah, that one.

They were very nice and let me send THE RIGHT DAMN FILE.

And OMG, they laughed. They liked it. They wanted to make it into a *gulp* real book.

And they did.

I puked. Mulitple times, by the way.

But it is a real book and I hope it makes YOU laugh!!

Wanna see it? Sure you do. Look!! Up there! (Pretend with me, I am like that annoying Aunt who makes you sit through slides of her Yosemite Trip. See? It's me on a donkey!)

Let me tell you about JINXED. (Here is where you have to go to the bathroom during the slide show and hide out in the kitchen with creepy Uncle Phil until I am done)

JINXED - When opposites attract, they are screwed three ways from Sunday.

Frannie learned the hard way that a McHottie doesn’t always equal marriage material. Besides, she’s happy with her vanilla life. She has friends, a career and a double-D-powered vibrator. Then Fate shoves her, literally, into Prince Charming’s lap. His declaration of love at first sight is cute—and spikes her bullcrap meter into the red zone.

She’s more than willing to give in with her body. But she’s barricaded her heart behind castle walls—and permanently welded the gates shut.

Tragedy taught Jinx that time is too precious to waste, so when a series of uncanny coincidences thrusts Frannie into his life, he holds on tight. He knows she thinks he’s several fries short of a Happy Meal, but he’s determined to breach the fortress around her heart and give her a Happily Ever After.

Even if he has to carry her fanny-first into his kingdom.

WARNING: Includes jelly shoes, a narcoleptic cat, and meatloaf. The steamy sex scenes may lead to fogged windows and wet panties, so proceed at your own risk. Do not attempt to read without the following items: tissues, napkins for spewed beverages, and a booty call on speed dial.

So, there it is, out of the box and polished to a pink frothy goodness. It is funny. It is sad. It is sexy and mostly, it is all mine.

Er, unless you want to buy it. Then it can be all yours, too.

You can visit me here and buy it here and read an excerpt here and Look!! ELVIS here.

Want to win a free copy?(duh Inez, of course they do) Leave me a comment below and I will come back tonight and pick a random commenter for a free download of JINXED!


Thursday, June 4, 2009

In the Mind of a Medieval Warrior

Greetings unto the readers of The Naughty Girls Next Door!

When I began to write Seeking Truth, I knew there would be at least one sword fight and that fight would take place between an honorable knight and baron (my hero, Eaduin) who is in service to King Stephen and a rogue knight with no honor and everything to lose – in short – a villain.

I fretted and worried about this. How could a man of honor fight someone treacherous and not get himself killed due to his sense of chivalry. As I grew closer to the end of the book, I still had no clue how to make this a realistic fight where my villain fights dirty but my hero survives - which is as it should be. This is a romance novel after all.

In order to figure out how to handle this, I went to a group of people I was sure could help me – fighters in the SCA. What’s the SCA you ask? Let me explain.

The acronym SCA stands for Society for Creative Anachronism. The organization has been around since the 1960s and I’ve been a member for about twelve years. I am not a fighter, but I know quite a few. Some are men-at-arms, some are members of fighting orders, while some are knights. Granted these gentles are modern “knights” but part of their fascination with the Middle Ages is their interest in historical fighting styles, fealty, and the rules of chivalry. I decided if anyone could help me with this dilemma, it was them. So I sent out a call to the group email list of my local barony (a group within the SCA) and I asked them this:

“I'm writing a critical wager of battel/trial by combat between my hero and the villain. The setting is England in 1146 during the reign of King Stephen. I'd like to write this pivotal scene at the climax of the book from the point of view of my hero. This means being inside his helm, but I've never put on armor in my life. I can write this scene from my imagination, but I'd prefer to have insights from fighters.

In the midst of a fight, do you focus only on the other fighter? Do stray thoughts about why you're fighting float through? Are you conscious of the weight of your armor and weapons, or is the adrenaline rush so high you don't notice? Is there anything I haven't asked about that I should know?

This is a fight to the death between a man with nothing to lose (the villain) and everything to lose (the hero). The villain has no honor and will be fighting dirty. My hero must counter the dirty fighting and survive."

With no more information than this, I began to receive private emails from fighters. I can never thank them enough for the wisdom they shared. I appreciate their aid so very much. To get into specifics, they told me how they viewed their opponents, dealt with their armor and so on. I received some very useful information. I learned that a trained fighter doesn’t feel the weight of his armor and weapons. It is a part of him and he’s trained to the weight.

I also learned that if a fighter is tired or wounded you see it in his shield, not his sword. His shield drops below the “proper” location. The more tired he is or the more blood he loses, the more the shield falls, leaving an opening for his opponent to kill him. Blocks get slower and footwork gets sloppy. Fine motor skills for throwing controlled shots is lost and fighters begin to try for powerful simple shots to end things quickly. I read all of this and thought…WOW. I can use this! Until it was explained to me, I didn’t really get it or understand how combat worked. Because of these sage words, I was able to use this in the fight scene I wrote to make it more authentic.

Absolutely everything I learned from the fighters helped me write a stronger scene, but most of the responses addressed the logistics of the fighting. I was still stymied about how a man of honor could face a man without honor. Other than the typical, kill or be killed thing, I didn’t know how to handle this. I needed to hear about a knight’s “world view,” so I genuinely understood how Eaduin would behave. One SCA gentle, Sir Angus, addressed exactly what I needed to hear in a way that I could really understand in his missive to me. He said:

“A knight swears to defend the innocent and protect the defenseless. We do not swear to be kind and merciful to our foe. At least during the fight when he is armed and dangerous. When he is helpless and injured that would be different. The sword has two edges. One delivers the kings justice, one edge cuts to the truth of the matter. The scabbard counsels mercy. Counsels, not requires or demands, or even promises. In other words, if the dog must be killed, a knight is the man to put it down. So when the fighting gets dirty, your hero should feel free to end the fight as quickly and as deadly as possible. Depending on what you are planning on having as a dirty technique, my responses might differ. If you want to run some of the techniques by me, I would love to ponder how I would honorably deal with them.”

I thanked him for his words of wisdom via email and when I next had the chance to see him in person I thanked him again. Finally I got it. I understood how Eaduin would view this critical fight. I felt my mind fit with his. It’s the knight’s job to put down a rabid animal and Eaduin was the knight for the job. Sir Angus, your words made such a difference. I was able to employ what I learned from your fellows to make the fight feel “real” but what I learned from YOU allowed me to make my hero real, not only to me but to my readers. In modern parlance, you totally rock!

So if you, my fellow writers, need to get into the mind of your hero then look for others who can help get you there. Books are great, but talking to real people is even better.

If you write historical romance set during the Middle Ages or Renaissance, seek out your local SCA. They can help you get inside the time period. But for those of you who focus your work on other time periods, you aren’t out of luck. By all means, use books but there are many groups of real people out there who re-create the past. Civil War re-enactors are enthusiastic about their time period and devoted to detail. To learn about living on the prairie, find a group known as The Buckskinners who can help you bring the Prairie to life. Visit “Living History” museums like Colonial Williamsburg. Visit battlefields like Gettysburg. Want to bring the World War I or World War II era to life in your books? There are re-enactors for those time periods too.

Anything you can do to make your characters more real to you will make your writing stronger. If your characters are real to you, they’ll live for your readers too.

Useful Links:

Society for Creative Anachronism: – a clearinghouse of information – all time periods:


I'm running a contest today. All commenters will be put into a drawing to win a copy of my book, Seeking Truth. To titillate all of you to encourage you to comment, here's a blurb...

Baron Eaduin Kempe, a man of intense passions, seeks a healer at a nearby abbey. When the abbess introduces convent-raised Lady Vérité de Sauigni, he knows he’s hellbound for desiring her. He wants to tie her to his bed until she sobs with the pleasure of his touch.

Eaduin offers Vérité marriage in exchange for easing the pain of his dying foster mother. Years ago, Vérité secretly watched Baron Eaduin arouse a lover and has dreamed of his touch ever since. She desires him enough to risk exchanging the imprisonment of convent life for that of marriage. On their wedding night, Eaduin craves dominance and Vérité submits with enthusiasm. Each heated encounter thereafter binds them closer together.

When Vérité’s father accuses her of witchcraft because she won’t use her psychic gift of seeing truth to aid him, she begs Eaduin to kill her so she doesn’t suffer. Instead, Eaduin challenges her father to trial by combat, determined to save the woman who owns both his passion and his heart.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Chains of Desire Winner

Thanks for everyone who took the time to comment the other day. I'm thrilled to announce that the winner of a free download of Chains of Desire is....

Congratulations! Send me an e-mail at and let me know what format you would like and I'll send it on to you :)

And for all you disappointed commenters, you can buy your very own copy here:

Thanks again to those Naughty Girls for inviting me this week!

Romance with more...sizzle

Friday, May 29, 2009

Workin' It!

When I was a teenager, I was something of a goody two shoes. One of those perfect attendance, straight A, President of the French club type girls. All I did was study, study and occasionally study really hard. Then one day I decided I needed to see what things were like in the real world.
I decided I needed to get a job.
I realize this is not groundbreaking. Lots of people had jobs as teenagers. And my plan would have probably worked out well if I hadn't chosen to work at a well known chicken joint.
Now I like chicken as much as the next girl. I didn't even mind the ugly uniform. What I did mind were the horrible customers. From the harried woman with the gaggle of kids who decided to pay entirely in nickels to the mean older man who yelled at me because I couldn't keep his ridiculously long order straight. I hated working there and didn't feel even an ounce of regret when I quit a week later.
Needless to say after that experience I appreciate a great work environment. But I've never had a job anyplace like the setting of my newest series...
Desire Incorporated - The Temp debuts TODAY!

Ava Kincaid took the temporary job at Desire Incorporated because she desperately needed the money, not because she was secretly hoping to see her ex-boyfriend Gavin Sloan again. She’s already been there, done that and gotten kicked in the teeth. She just wants to do her job and go home.

But when they meet up in the halls of Desire, the chemistry between them is as strong as ever. Suddenly she’s doing way more than filing…

Temping has never been this good and Ava finds herself wondering if perhaps this position could lead to something more…permanent?

Read an Excerpt

If only going to work could be this much fun for the rest of us! Stop by my website to check out more about this exciting new series. If you sign up for my newsletter you'll be entered to win a copy of the book and other great prizes!

And just for kicks - I'm going to host a special contest here that's exclusive to the Naughty Girls blog. Everyone who follows this blog by June 15th will be entered to win a copy of The Temp. So hit that follow button and join the Naughty Girls for regular updates about the mischief we get into :)


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Menage is the Word

First of all, I want to thank Minx and the other Naughty Girls for inviting me to talk about one of my favorite subjects – writing sex scenes. More specifically today – writing ménage.

Chains of Desire, a futuristic BDSM novel, which will be released by Ellora’s Cave this Friday, the 29th, includes my first ménage. I admit I was a little nervous about my first time, but in the end I was pretty darn satisfied.

I’ve heard many writers say they’ve gotten ideas for stories from dreams and I always though that would be so cool to have happen. But I never had until a year or so ago, when I woke up with the image of a petite blonde, bound and on her knees between two large hunks, servicing them front and rear. That image stuck with me and I was finally able to give life to those people in Chains of Desire.

There are certain challenges to write a ménage – and not just keeping track of all the limbs. There are all those extra sensations and emotions to deal with when three people come together intimately. That’s really important. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the choreography that you can forget about the people, forget about their desires and fears, their actions and reactions to everything that’s going on.

I admit my favorite part of writing (and reading) a ménage scene is experiencing with the heroine the intense sensations she feels when two men focus all their attention on her. Two pairs of hands on her body, coaxing the tingles and quivers and throbs from her that can be nearly overwhelming. Two mouths on her, teasing her with lips and tongues and teeth in two places at once. Two cocks filling her, driving her arousal even higher. I want to give myself over to the sensations as well.

Sensations began to overwhelm her. The sharp pain in her nipples alternated with the spears of pleasure shooting between her legs. She had to remember to breathe when Micah pulled back from her throat, before he thrust again. His moans gave her pleasure. Jarrod’s fingers and cock continued to slide in and out of her body, making her nearly spiral out of control. His groans of pleasure sang to her. Her body rocked wildly between them.

But then there are the emotions – and they can often be confusing to the characters dealing with a threesome. Some ménages are a one-time thing, but that still doesn’t mean there can’t be jealousy as the hero shares the woman he feels strongly about with someone else. And the woman may feel conflicted if the second man arouses her as much as the hero does. And if this is a committed threesome, or you have some male on male action going on too, don’t neglect the realistic emotions the characters may try to ignore, because sooner or later they have to deal with those emotions if the readers are going to believe in your happy ending.

Micah had circled around behind her and was clearly admiring her ass. A stab of jealousy pierced Jarrod’s chest. He knew he had to get over it this time. If this didn’t work, he’d spend the rest of his life haunted by the images of hundreds of men enjoying her body. The thought burned his stomach like acid.

When you get right down to it, writing a ménage scene is really no different that writing any other sex scene. The choreography is the minor detail, the sensations and emotions your characters are feeling is what really matters. With ménage there’s just a little bit more.

I will be giving away a free download of Chains of Desire to one lucky commenter. I’ll be soon working on another ménage, an erotic short for Red Sage, so I’ll ask this question of all the readers today. What do you look for in a ménage? Why do you enjoy reading them? I'll hold the contest open until the end of the month. Be sure to stop back to here on May 31st to find out if you're the winner!

Romance with more…sizzle

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Making characters come alive

Thanks for letting me have the opportunity to blog here girls!

So, how to create characters that aren't just cardboard cutouts? Well it's different for every author of course, but for me it comes down to two things. Get them right and the rest follows.

Those two things are character assets that are also flaws, and fear.

We all have them. That part of us that is an asset sometimes but also a serious flaw at other times. For me it's impulsiveness. If I decide to do something I have a burning need to do it NOW! Now, impulsiveness can be good - I get things done lickety split, I love trying new things and I'm always up for spontaneity. In my writing it comes out as plot twists that just turn up in my head and I go with them. This trait of mine has led to some great things in my life - the time I just took off and spent a year working in the Mediterranean, the day I woke up and decided wouldn't it be fun to have a motorbike? It also led me to the Old Man, but that's another story :D

But it constantly gets me into trouble too. I've never learned to think before I speak for example. My Old Man calls it my Foot In Mouth disease. I open my mouth and the words just fall out. Normally the wrong ones, or at the wrong time. It causes my friends no end of amusement when I unintentionally offend random people. And this post for example. I was going to post something quite different. I saw Crystal's post and thought 'Ah, I could type mine up and schedule it to post on the proper day. Do it NOW!' So I typed it all out and popped in the proper date for posting. Only I didn't, not quite. No, I posted the bloody thing straight on the blog ( because I didn't waste time checking did I? No, that wouldn't be impulsive enough for me!) MORTIFICATION! I've just posted right over Crystal! I've usurped her blog. Nooooooo! And somehow I couldn't get to edit / delete it. It took twenty minutes of logging in and out, swearing all the while, till I managed to delete it. Phew.

So an asset that is also a flaw. For every positive aspect of any trait, if you take it far enough ( and in fiction, the best characters never do things by halves do they?) it can become an equal and opposite flaw.

And secondly - fear. This, as far as I'm concerned, can often be the biggest thing to think about for a character and, most importantly, one that drives the plot. What is your character afraid of most? What is the worst possible thing that could happen to them? It's often linked the asset / flaw. For instance, at very formal do's I clam up - afraid of looking like a complete idiot when I say the wrong thing ( and I will). Your character might be afraid of falling in love, of failing someone they are close to, of breaking a promise.

And once you know what it is that makes them wake up sweaty and screaming in the small hours, then you have it. Conflict. And quite often a whole plot. Because then you can make that thing happen to them, or threaten it. Yes, I love to put my characters through the wringer. Bless.

That fear drives what happens in my stories. The events that would be nothing to any other character become momentous purely because of who they are and what drives them. And once that fear is there on the page, either overtly or disguised, once you know what is driving them even if it's only hinted at in your prose, then that's when they come alive on the page.

Win an ebook and jewellery! See the contest on Julia's website.
Julia Knight's first book, Ilfayne's Bane, is published with Samhain Publishing. You can find out more about her at


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Smut - Why I Don’t Like The Word

Hello Naughty Girls Next Door ~ thanks for inviting me to your blog. At the risk of inflaming other authors, I’ll gently explain why I don’t like the word smut.

I’m an erotic romance writer. I write titillating fiction designed to thrill and excite and make you sweat, and always with a happy ending. But don’t call what I write smut, because I won’t stand for it. And here’s why:

The dictionary’s description of “Smut” as a noun is
-A particle of dirt. (Okay)
-A smudge made by soot, smoke, or dirt. (Still acceptable.)
-Obscenity in speech or writing. (Whoa. Stop right there.)
-Pornography. (Now that’s just clueless)

And also describes “Obscene” as
Offensive to accepted standards of decency or modesty (Accepted standards? Bite me.)
Inciting lustful feelings; lewd (How are lustful feelings obscene?)
Repulsive or disgusting (Excuse me?)
So large in amount as to be objectionable or outrageous. (Hmmm....)

Okay folks, none of these describes erotic romance fiction. Sex is not dirty! Human genitalia is not repulsive or disgusting. (Though in my books, it might be so large as to be objectionable or outrageous :] )

Some writers, such as the wonderful Morgan Hawke who is much more established and experienced than I, proudly boast they write smut. I say, power to them. These writers stand up against common, narrow-minded preconceptions with greater courage than I. But when it comes to my own books, I strongly declare, romantic erotic fiction is not pornography. It is not dirty. It is not repulsive or disgusting. So don’t call it smut.

The reading of a book is a very private thing. You could say it’s as private as masturbation. You read a book by yourself, silently, in your own head. A reader’s experience with my books is singular and intimate. Calling romantic erotic fiction smut, is, in my opinion, as arrogant as someone else passing judgment on another person’s bedroom activity. Simply said; if you don’t like it, get outta my bedroom. But don’t criticize me for it.

My goal is to write heroines you want to be. My goal is to write heroes you want to be with. My goal is to write happy endings that make you tingle. And my goal is to write engaging sex scenes that make you hot. And hopefully, for my readers’ sakes, I succeed.

Crystal Kauffman recently celebrated the debut of her very first -not smutty- book with Loose-Id. The Combat is the first in a trilogy about gargoyles who protect humankind from vampires. If you haven’t read it, you still have a chance to win a free copy at the Get Hooked On A New Series contest, drawing held June 1. Or download a copy today and enter Crystal’s personal contest running through May 31st, to win a brand new Sony eBook reader.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Alpha or Asshole?

One of the most popular heros in romance novels today seems to be the Alpha male. Whether it's the literal alpha of a werewolf pack or the laird of a Scottish clan, this particular hero crosses all genres. I'm willing to admit that I love them. There's something about a take charge, confident, warrior hero that makes my inner damsel in distress swoon.

Now I'm not pointing fingers or overanalyzing here but I've started to notice a disturbing trend. Some of these heros aren't so much alphas as they are assholes. Even worse the heroine seems to just go along with it and responds as if his attitude is sexy instead of insulting. I'm not sure what annoys me more, the hero being a butthead or the heroine not putting him in his place. Then I started to wonder - What if it's just me? Maybe no one else sees this as irritating and you're just reading too much into it?

So where do we draw the line? When does confidence turn into arrogance? How far can a guy go before dominant becomes domineering?



Thursday, May 14, 2009

Things Better Left Unsaid...

With texting and twitter so popular, there are a lot of messages floating in cyberspace that people probably wish they could take back. I just heard about a site called "Texts from Last Night" which is hilarious. Here's a peek:

(570): why did i make a hit list last night containing only McDonalds?
(1-570): you tried to order a magarita mcflurry and when they said they didnt make those you tried to call 911

(617): yo I sort of want to f**k rachel maddow. but I'm not a lesbian. actually I reaally want to so maybe I am a lesbian. at least on weekdays at 9.

(510): I got a call from 999 999 9999. I didn't answer it because I was too busy freaking out about the number.
(1-510): It was probably Jesus.
(510): I feel like he would have left a message.

(206): She punched me in the face after i pulled it out and grabbed my cell phone. Ill be the one hiding in the bushes with one shoe.

(207): using no condom is gross. my vagina has a dress code.

(609): ive been sending my husband naked pics of my whole body from my phone..its a work phone. do you think our boss can see? if so, im either getting fired, or a raise.

(305): He's not gay. He just has bad gaydar and he gaydared himself and was wrong.

This is why some people shouldn't drink. This is also why some people shouldn't use twitter. And there are some people who really shouldn't do them at the same time!


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

To all the hardworking mother's out there take this day to rest. To those who aren't - take a rest too! Believe me, it's best to get all the rest you can while you can.

I plan to take some time today and just do something completely frivolous. Shop for something I don't really need. Read a book, paint my toenails or SOMETHING that isn't laundry, work or childcare. Sometimes I have to remind myself that even though I'm a mom, I'm also a woman too. I cherish the quiet times when I can renew that part of me as well.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Happy Cinco de Mayo!!

Optimist that I am I love any excuse to celebrate so I find myself saying "Happy this" or "Merry that" for holidays that I don't even normally celebrate. Even so it's hard not to get infected with Cinco de Mayo fever since everyone around me is having a fiesta!

What is Cinco de Mayo? If you ask the average person they would probably say it's a great excuse to drink Corona but the proper definition is:

Cinco de Mayo
A national celebration in Mexico, commemorating the victory of Mexican forces led by General Ignacio Zaragoza over the French expeditionary forces in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.

So that's a shot of history to go with your beer.



Thursday, April 30, 2009

I've Invaded BookWenches

Today the Ravenous Romance Ornery 11 Blog Tour Stops at the BookWenches place. I'm the featured author at today's stop. Come join me as I talk about the one genre I would like to be well known for and tease you with an excerpt from Special Delivery.


Bestselling Author Of Romance & Erotica

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Home from Romantic Times Convention

Orlando was a blast, but like they say, there is no place like home. Not only did I catch up with friends, but I met wonderful wonderful readers and writers from across the globe.

While I loved the parties, the beautiful cover models, and the fun, I was truly humbled at the book signings. Romance readers rock. I want to thank everyone who stopped by to say hello and thank you for making my convention unforgettable. I'd attended the RT convention in Houston, but at that time I hadn't published with Ellora's Cave, Samhain, or The Wilder Roses. I only had a few stories with a now bankrupt publisher.

So now I've come home tired, but happy and I'm ready to write.

I also wanted to let you know that I have a new story, Wanderlust, coming out this Friday from Samhain Publishing.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Stroke of Midnight finalist!!

I am so excited! I just found out that my contemporary novella Milo's Revenge is a finalist in Passionate Ink's Stroke of Midnight contest!

Hopefully I'll have more good news to share concerning this manuscript soon... Cross your fingers for me!


Friday, April 3, 2009

Fangirl Friday - Anya Bast

My fave pick on my blog for the week is Anya Bast.

I have been reading her books for a while now and I STILL go back and re-read the first two books that made me a fan.

Check out my blog

I'm always looking to find new favorite authors. Leave me a comment and let me know who you're reading.


Tuesday, March 31, 2009

What Keeps You Coming Back For More?

Have you ever been reading a book only to surface hours later amazed at how much time has passed? Most of the great storytellers affect me this way (J.R. Ward, Nora Roberts, J.K. Rowling, J.R.R. Tolkien as a few examples) but WHAT is it exactly they're doing? How can words on a page transport me to a different country, time or universe? You know, "that place" where you're so absorbed in the story that it almost becomes more real to you than your "real" life.

If I had the answer to that I suppose I would rule the writing world :)>

Some of my faves are the entire Harry Potter series, The Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J.R. Ward and Nora Roberts "Irish Trilogy".

What are some books that have taken you to "that place"?


Friday, March 27, 2009

Fangirl Friday - Amel Larrieux

Come on over to my blog and let me know what you think of my newest Fangirl Friday pick, a neo-soul/jazz artist named Amel Larrieux.
Fangirl Friday with Minx

I think her music is awesome and I've been listening to her for years. Let me know what you think.


Friday, March 20, 2009

Fangirl Friday - Maya Banks

Come check out my latest Fangirl Friday pick at my blog - erotic romance author, Maya Banks. I love her books but especially some of her backlist titles from Samhain Publishing.

Who are some of your favorite erotic romance authors?


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Considering that Friday the 13th has fallen two months in a row now, I think we can all use a little good luck.

In honor of St. Patrick's Day - pick up a book by an Irish author. I particularly like "The Picture of Dorian Grey" by Oscar Wilde.

» James Joyce
» George Bernard Shaw
» Samuel Beckett
» William Butler Yeats
» Jonathan Swift
» Seamus Heaney
» Oscar Wilde
» Elizabeth Bowen

~ An Irish Toast~

May your blessings outnumber
The shamrocks that grow,
And may trouble avoid you
Wherever you go.


Monday, March 9, 2009

Do you Tweet?

I’ve finally been sucked into this new phenomenon called “Twitter”. I’ve been tweeting (twitting?) for about 14 hours now. I tried to resist for as long as I could but when word got out that editors and agents were putting out requests and discussing all the reasons they reject (google: #queryfail if you’re interested) I KNEW I had to join.

Now I am addicted.

Why do I care what someone else had for breakfast, cooked for dinner last night or plans to do this evening? I’m not entirely sure I do. Maybe it’s just the novelty of a new medium that has me enthralled for now. This is an interesting thing to ponder though. It has to say something about the human psyche that we’re so interested in the minutiae of each other’s everyday lives. Are we that starved for personal contact? Is this the information age’s way of making us feel more connected? Who knows…

Whatever the case, you’re welcome to follow me on Twitter if you have an account. I’m under the name Minx_Malone.

I’ll try not to be too boring!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

March Coming-Like-A-Lion Contest

March Coming-Like-A-Lion Contest

Is spring coming in like a lion or a lamb website scavenger hunt. Enter a drawing for a $50.00 online Gift Certificate to (Adult Content- 18+)

To Enter:

Visit my website and find the image of either a lion or a lamb. Then visit the other 5 participating authors websites/blogs and find the image on their websites. Make a list of the websites and whether you found a lion or a lamb. Email your answers to

Contest runs from March 1st through March 31st. Winner will be drawn the first week of April.

Here is a list of Participating Authors

KyAnn Waters -

Ann Campbell -

Helen Hardt -

Janna Lee Hayes -

Sara York -

Liza James -

2009 EPPIE Finalist!
WanderLust Coming May 5, 2009 to Samhain Publishing!

Monday, March 2, 2009

How Naughty are you?

I was talking to some girlfriends the other day and we somehow *grin* got on the topic of naughty things we've done.

Now this conversation ranged a wide variety of TMI topics but suffice it to say I was completely surprised to find that I am not as naughty as I thought.

I know right - SH0CKING -

Maybe I just know a bunch of dirty gals but their naughty list spans everything from making their own dirty videos, to getting it on in public, to threesomes with friends. I have some serious catching up to do!

I think the naughtiest thing I can remember doing was in college when I sent a guy one of my bras. Pretty tame but damn, those were good times.

So my question to you is - how naughty are you? Vote in the poll to the right. It's completely anonymous. I'm just curious to see what all of you have been up to ;)


Sunday, March 1, 2009

Pimping a fellow Romance Diva today!

Crystal Jordan's newest Spice Brief is out now!


Marra's body burned with desire. It was Wild time, the first week of spring, when Lynx from all over North America gathered in the Sierra Nevada foothills to mate. The time when every Lynx female went into heat.But Wild is bittersweet for Marra. She's past the age when most Lynx find their mate. She only comes to Wild for sex and always leaves as she came: alone.Yet this year is different. A new male Lynx has come to Wild, a foreigner who will claim her in ways she only imagined...

Buy it here.

Read an excerpt here.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Kristan Higgans @ Romance Divas

From the Call to the Bookstore

February 25th-26th at Romance Divas



Want to know what it takes to get from “the call” to the bookstore in New York publishing? Romance Divas is hosting a 2-day workshop with RITA award winning author Kristan Higgins, who can answer that question and many more! It will take place at the Romance Diva Forum. All are welcome. To get access to the forum you will need to register.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

I totally love my new cover art!

Cobblestone always has great art but I REALLY love the cover for my next release. Click for more info about my new series, Desire Incorporated.

In case you couldn't tell by the business suit, this one is about hot sexy office lurve...


Thursday, January 29, 2009


I'm so psyched that Harlequin is celebrating their 60 year anniversary by making 16 full ebooks available FREE!

Credit to Meaghan for posting about it otherwise I would have never known!