Sunday, February 27, 2011

The words we choose...

Recently, I sat over a glass of wine with a new friend as we discussed another friend of hers who'd also had a book published.

Our conversation didn't focus on how to write, how to get published, why I write or anything like was about how hard it was for her to read her other friend's book because of the use of words that offended her. Not profanity or poorly written sentences, but words that were insensitive and politically incorrect.

I asked her a lot of questions: was it a "good" guy, "bad" guy, were they angry, what was of the role of the person who was referred to disparagingly, she didn't know the answer to any of them because she closed the book, and refused too keep reading.

As we talked it made me wonder, how often do we as authors stray away from character POV and slip into the story ourselves...using words more for shock than using words that would truly fit the character and situation?

What role does an understanding of your reader, characters, and your editor play in this development?

As a reader, I've closed a lot of books because of so many different reasons. I remember one book that actually had me running to the store. I couldn't wait to get home and read it, but as I flipped the pages, it became increasingly obvious that I would not be able to finish it. It was a truly awful feeling.

Now, I try to read as a writer, so if that happened again, I'd continue the book to the end just as a learning experience. But, what do you do if it's your friend's book?

Have any of you ever been so offended by something that you were reading that you put the book down, and didn't think about it again?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Oh, those bourbon slings (and arrows of outrageous fortune?)

Once again, life is handing me what might be lemons but which might also become a marvelous Bourbon Sling.

I can't remember if I mentioned this or not, but my web site vanished around Christmas time. It's a long story (best told in a bar at a writing conference), but suffice it to say, I had to come up with a new hosting service, new web site, and new, well, everything. I flailed around for a few weeks, then I designed a new web site, or a web slog: a web site/blog that I can easily update. I'm rather proud of it. Check it here:

I've got a "landing" site, a home site for my mysteries, one for my time travel books (which will be a blog about self-publishing since I'm taking the books that were returned to me and launching them myself), and a site for my paranormal thrillers (one of which got a 4-star RT review. I am STILL pumped about that!)

So there's a BIG Bourbon Sling: a new web site that will be easy to maintain. Whew.

Just when I thought it was safe to relax, I had a book release on me that I didn't plan for. Lie to Me is a cross-country blind date from hell...which turns into a little bit of heaven for Grace Jamison. It's fun, it's sexy, and it released when I least expected it! But I got a rockin' cool cover, it's out there, so hey, life is good, right?

So now I can relax, right?

Nope. My husband and I were contemplating a move to a new state. I've lived here for 20 years, and that's a LONG time for me. We thought we might move. I started to browse for new houses, etc., and WHAM, found one that might just be perfect.

So now: scramble? Prep our house for sale? Put in an offer? Move? Not move? Oh, and my husband is job-hunting and just got a short-term contract our current town. Prep the new house, let him stay here and sell the old house?

Nope. That idea fell through when we investigated a bit more. So now it's back to the drawing board--literally. We may be building a home. 

That sound you hear? It's me, screaming as Life once again piles ... maybe lemons ... on my plate.

But that's okay. I'm somewhat confident there's a bourbon sling at the end of the tunnel...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Why and When of Setting

When it comes to setting I love to take snapshots galore as references before I begin writing a new story. I like my settings to stand as an additional character. My current WIP takes place in a rural location forty miles from my home, in the northern hemisphere. Sounds like a simple choice and one easy to research.

But no setting is static. I came up with the premise and I needed to decide what season the story would open with. A secondary character is a four-year-old girl and the plot centers on family. I considered each season and the effect on the area and my characters. Only one suited the story opening. It’s November with dry grapevines, brown hills and a gray sky overhead. Thanksgiving is two days away.

Here are the dry grapevines and the brown hills.
Unfortunately I had blue sky instead of overcast on this shooting day.

Take a little girl raised in the southern hemisphere and plop her into a pastoral environment totally different from the high-rise city life she’s known. The major holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas now offer plenty of opportunities for action and reaction. To her Christmastime means swimsuits and beach outings. This timeframe works perfect in conjunction with the heroine’s plight. It highlights her dysfunctional family and her own dreams.

One month later heavy December rains greened the slopes. Workers have pruned the vines.

I place my stories in small towns or rural locations. They interest me and I vividly “see” my characters there, living their lives. Perhaps my own small town is a primary factor. Small details are telling.
I spotted a simple outdoor Christmas snowman with a cowboy hat and knew I could use it as a device in my story.

There are as many settings as authors in the world. What are your thoughts on setting? Do you have a favorite one?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Blame the Name

Several months ago, a friend and I were discussing her new group of chickens and options for names. She despaired of finding the right name for the supposed leader of the coop. "She's a bossy redhead," Trisha told me. Ummm...hello? Did you really have to look any farther for the perfect name? After gales of laughter, Gina the Chicken was christened. There isn't anyone I know who doesn't immediately connect "bossy redhead" with me and by extension, the name Gina. But honestly? Fate had it in for me from the start. Let's pull out the baby books and analyze my real name, shall we?

First name: Victoria, means conqueror, victorious
Middle name: Regina, means queen
Now, ain't that a lot of name to live up to? What were my parents thinking? But let's continue.
My maiden name: Rean, means spear
And I married into the name: Ardito, which (according to my late father-in-law) means harsh warrior.

I ask you: Do you really expect someone whose name means victorious harsh warrior queen with a spear (or however you want to splice them together) to be timid, reserved, and mousy?

One of my favorite research books is called The Secret Universe of Names. This book takes me a few steps deeper into the realms of "bossy redhead." Victoria is "...the champion of right, the first to point out shortcomings in others but also the first to give support when it's needed." And Regina has a "...well-deserved reputation for her strong sense of moral direction and a superior attitude to boot."

Yep. That's me. Think I'm making this up? Read through the comments as the day progresses. I'll be pointing people who know me over here. They'll vouch for me.

But, hey! It's not my fault. Blame the Name.

What does your name say about you?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Office Humor

Are you working in company or a day job?
Here is a collection of office humor to ease the pressures and speed up the nine- to-five clock.
1. To err is human. To forgive is not company policy.

2. Say no , then negotiate
3- If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again… Then give up. There’s no use being a damn fool about it.~ W.C. Fields
4. If you don’t agree with me, it means you haven’t been listening. ! Sam Markewitch
5. If you can’t convince them, confuse them.
6. An honest executive is one who shares the credit with the man who did all the work.
7. Before you have an argument with your boss, take a good look at both sides—his side and the outside.
8. Nothing is more embarrassing than watching your boss do something you assure him couldn’t be done.
9. The mark of a true educated man is that he is often wrong but seldom in doubt.
10. There is no job so simple that it cannot be done wrong
11. If it’s difficult we do it immediately, if it’s impossible it takes longer.
12. Bless are the young, for they shall inherit the national debt.~ Herbert Hoover
13. It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you place the blame.

Glory may be fleeting, but obscurity is forever.

If you like to travel and love to read, come and enjoy my international romances. I will take you around the world through stories that simmer with emotion and sizzle with heat.

BABIES IN THE BARGAIN winner of 2009 Best Romance Novel at Preditors & Editors and winner of 2009 Best Contemporary Romance at Readers Favorite.
Rx FOR TRUST, winner of 2010 Best Contemporary Romance at Readers Favorite and 2011 EPICON.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Valentine's Day Proposals

I love Valentine’s Day. Besides being a romance writer, I’m a romantic at heart. I love the chocolate, the flowers, the special candle lit dinner, you name it, and I’m there.

Did you know that Valentine’s Day is also the most popular day of the year for proposals? And some absolutely unique. So, in honor of this special day, I decided to share three unique proposals I know about.

I have a friend who went out to dinner to a Chinese restaurant. Having made the reservations a week in advance, he asked the owner if they would make a fortune cookie with his proposal written inside. They agreed.

When the night finally arrived, dinner was all finished and the fortune cookies came out on a plate. He wasn’t sure which one had the proposal and was actually worried he might choose the wrong one. I guess that was something he’d forgotten to ask the owner. He let his girlfriend choose first hoping she’d choose the right one. As it turned out, none of the cookies had a proposal. He gracefully left the table using the excuse of the men’s room and spoke to the owner. Much to his chagrin the fortune cookie was inadvertently given to another table, and the woman gave a resounding yes to her boyfriend who had no interest in getting married. He later sued the restaurant. But not all was lost on my friend. He ultimately got down on bended knee in front of all the patrons and proposed. She said ‘yes’.

On another occasion at Thornton Winery in California, hubby and I attended a weekly jazz concert. After awhile, the same people attended and we all became quite friendly. On one such evening, just before Hiroshima took a break, the singer came out into the audience and walked up to the groom to be and handed him the microphone. No one knew what he was going to do, but we watched every move that he made. Suddenly he was down on one knee proposing to his girlfriend. She said ‘yes’ of course, because seriously, what else could she say?

On a shopping trip to the supermarket where I worked, my supervisor had been involved with her boyfriend for over a year. She used to tell me he was a romantic, but she didn’t know if they were ever going to get married. Sure, she’d hinted, but he wasn’t biting.

Valentine’s Day arrived and we’re all at work. Her boyfriend has come into the store at least four times throughout the day, each time leaving a small gift for her at the front of the store. We were so busy she never got a chance to open them. Finally, on his fifth visit, he was extremely frustrated she hadn’t opened the boxes and decided this time he’d get her attention. He walked to the front of the store with a huge bouquet of roses and over to the manager and asks to use the PA system. With microphone in had, he calls her to the front of the store. She dropped what she was doing and walked to the front of the store. While the microphone is still in his hand, he hands her the bouquet and an envelope containing the ring. When she discovers the ring he proposes over the PA system so everyone could hear.

Do you have a unique story about a proposal you can share?

Monday, February 14, 2011


I think we writers need sports. We can sit at a computer just so long, building characters and plotting, crafting worlds and words for ourselves…and for readers who aren’t even in the room. The sport should pull us out of our chairs, get us outside, involve real people and provide a more tangible goal than writing does. I’m pretty pleased with my choice: golf. I play eighteen holes at least once a week and I’m active in my local women’s golf group. With my club, I’ll whack (with all my might) a small, dimpled ball, ninety to one hundred times in five hours. Note two more beneficial elements of golf…getting rid of pent-up aggressions and seeing a goal met immediately: getting the damn ball in the hole in the least strikes possible. (I didn’t say the sport you have to pick is easy, did I?)

Sure there are similarities between golf and writing. Both are challenging. I pick a club, align the ball and calibrate my swing as carefully as I choose words for my novels. I love playing with great golfers as much as I’m inspired when I read novels by fabulous writers. Practice? Vital to a golfer as it is to an author. Have I written a novel about golfing? Absolutely. And here’s the cool part…my heroine (in BAD LIES, a novel I haven’t released yet) plays great golf. Now you see the advantage of being a writer who also golfs…through my character, I can be the outstanding golfer I want to be!

Happy Valentines Day

Hi all,

First of all I am so thrilled to be posting on Valentine's Day this year. For a romance writer this is a great thing. You see, I write romance because I believe in love and this is the day to celebrate the existance of love in our lives. I love love stories, like most people do. Love helps in so many ways.

I have a friend in the hospital right now and I know one of the reasons she's going to recover is that her husband of a ridiculous number of years is with her most of the time, helping her to get better.

I watched a really cute video today about a couple just getting married whose "dream beach wedding" was a fiasco of amazing porportions. And yet you can tell from how they are reacting in the video that they are going to be able to weather pretty much anything life throws at them.

Early on in my relationship with my husband of another ridiculous number of years I knew we'd be good for each other because we spent a long weekend in a woodworking shop making a floor-to-ceiling bookcase out of planks of wood, dowels, and two-by-fours. Hours of cutting, drilling, smoothing, sanding, staining and varnishing. It was our pride and joy for years but a pain in the bottom to have made. And yet neither of us exploded in the process. Instead we kept our sense of humor about the whole thing by joking about it.

Love is good for people. It is more than a matter of keeping loneliness at bay. It keeps our souls alive.

So Happy Valentines Day everyone.

Janet Miller/Cricket Starr

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A little while ago I announced I had received "the email". It's official now. The contract has been signed and in between writing I am redesigning my web page, thinking about promoting and just enjoying the high of my first sale.

So on the wave of the sale, I would like to share with you a little bit about CRASHING HEARTS, my first contemporary romance.

Can love conquer all and break down the barriers we build to protect our fragile hearts?

Having suffered the tragic loss of her first husband, Kira Nichols now raises her autistic son alone. She is fiercely protective of him, and her heart. Kira fights the guilt she has lived with for years surrounding her husband’s death and struggles to keep Grant Rutledge at arm’s length. It becomes harder and harder as their unfailing love deepens and encompasses her son. When Kira discovers Grant abandoned his son by his ex-fiancee, she second-guesses her heart. She must break through her suspicions and doubts and put to rest past ghosts to get to what she truly wants--if it’s not too late.

Grant Rutledge returns to his hometown to help take over the family business and to repair the spiked heel to his broken heart. Falling in love is not what he planned after a broken engagement. He no longer trusts women. When he runs into an over-protective mother and her non-verbal son, sparks fly and his opportunity for a family seems a possibility again. Looking for excuses to spend more and more time with Kira, Grant educates himself about autism. Just when he thinks he has gotten past her protective walls, Kira confronts him with proof of a son he never knew he had. To get the family he has always wanted, Grant has to learn to follow his heart.

I hope you enjoyed the brief blurb and look forward to being able to share the release date. Enjoy the Valentine's Day.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Reviews - Love them or Hate them?

"From my close observation of writers... they fall into two groups: 1) those who bleed copiously and visibly at any bad review, and 2) those who bleed copiously and secretly at any bad review." Isaac Asimov

It would be not a far stretch to say writers as a whole are a bit schizophrenic in how they react to a review. On one hand, you have those copious bleeders who splatter one and all when they get a bad review. Or you get those who glow so blindingly over a good review that it's hard to believe.

My favorite quote about negative reviews is by Max Reger, German composer, who pithily offers, "I am sitting in the smallest room of my house. I have your review before me. In a moment it will be behind me." It might take a minute or two to register, but you may agree with me that his sarcastic response to a bad review is quite funny. We're probably fortunate that he wrote music and not books.

Even Danielle Steel has this to say about reviews, "A bad review is like baking a cake with all the best ingredients and having someone sit on it." You can probably guess that she was having a bad reaction to a less-than-warm review. Let's face it. Some reviewers seem to look only for what's wrong in a story or they're taking out some personal vendetta against the author. They appear to think their role is to rip to shreds all books except for the crème de la crème. Walter Kaufman, German philosopher, offers that "The first function of a book review should be, I believe, to give some idea of the contents and character of the book." I wonder what he might have made of all the review sites popping up on the Internet

People like to offer their opinions. It's almost as if there is some monetary value in being able to tell someone what you like and having them buy into you enough to believe that your opinion is what they should believe as well. If you find a reviewer who consistently likes what you like as well as consistently dislikes what you dislike, then you've found a match made in heaven. But how often is that? I know I go to movies that professional reviewers trash simply because I, like so many others, want to determine if I like something for myself.

Still, I do agree with Kenneth Koch. "It's enormously cheering to get a good review by someone who seems to understand your work." When I get a good review, I want the entire universe to know. I've had reviewers who saw into the hearts of my characters. They seemed to know my characters as well as I did. And I loved it. When a reviewer tells me that I've moved them to tears, it does my heart good. My job is to tell the best story that I can as consistently as I can. I am trying to touch my readers on several levels, especially on an emotional level. So to hear that a reviewer has been touched? Oh yes, it makes me a glowingly happy author.

How do you deal with bad reviews? What about good ones? And if you review someone else's work, how to you approach it? Do you rip the books you don't care for to shreds or do you try really hard to find something, anything that you can talk positively about, even in books you don't want to read again?

I like to put links to reviews I’ve received up on my website – curious? Check some of them out on my

Friday, February 11, 2011

Can You Afford to Attend RWA® Nationals? A Sample Budget

Registration is open for RWA’s® 2011 National Conference to be held in New York City, June 28-July 2nd. For romance writers, this is a wonderful opportunity to attend workshops, pitch to editors and agents, and meet their fellow authors. Yet, this year more than ever, all my writer friends seem to be shaking their heads. “Nope. Not going. Too expensive.”

So how much will it really cost to go to RWA Nationals this year?

Ask five people, and you will get five different answers. That’s because there are so many different ways to approach the conference. Will you go with the bare-bones-business-only minimum or do you want to add on extra days and make the most of every single sightseeing opportunity while you’re in New York?

In reality, there is really only one fixed cost, and that’s the conference fee. For members, it’s $525 if you register by May 13th, $575 if you register before June 10th, and $675 if you register on-site. Non-member fees are $75 higher.

Once you’re registered, anything goes. For the sake of this sample budget, I’m going to try to estimate ‘normal’ expenses. I’ll assume that you’re traveling some distance, staying at the conference hotel only for the days of the actual conference, and eating the meals included in the conference fee. This is just my best guess based on information culled from the websites of the RWA and the Marriot Marquis Hotel. Your actual costs will vary depending on your personal choices and circumstances.

Conference fee (early registration-RWA member) $525

Air Fare (round trip from Boise) $500

Airport Shuttle (From La Guardia roundtrip) $50

Hotel (4 nights double occupancy w/tax) $500

Meals not provided by RWA $150

Basic Total $1725


Chapter events (receptions, field trips, etc) $100

Sightseeing (estimate based on tour rates) $200

Estimate of total cost: $2025

So, $2000 is probably a reasonable estimate of the actual cost of going to conference.

Is it possible to go for less? Writers have told me they plan to pack Pop Tarts and protein bars in order to save money. But the big savings will come from travel and hotel expenses. This is the perfect time to cash in those frequent flyer miles or take advantage of credit card reward programs. Sharing four to a room will cut the above hotel costs in half. Whether it’s sharing cab fare or a pizza, sticking with friends can be a fun way to cut expenses.

Beware of hidden costs. Probably the biggest hidden cost of going to conference is the lost income from days not worked, or vacation days spent. But there are plenty of other extra charges you might not expect.

Flying? Be sure to check for extra airline fees before you book your flight. That special fare may seem quite ordinary once you add in $50 to get your suitcase there and back, and $30 for in-flight meals.

Parking: If you decide to drive, be aware that it will cost you $55 a day to park a standard size car at the Marriot. A SUV or minivan will run you $10 more per day, or $325 for 5 days.

Shipping: Chances are you will get too many free books to carry back in your suitcase. Be prepared to pay around $30 in shipping and handling fees or bring pre-paid flat rate boxes to save time and money. And bring a roll of tape if you don’t want to spend hours standing in line.

Clothing: If you have a day job, you probably already have appropriate clothing for pitching and receptions. But if you’re a member of the stay-at-home-and-write-in-pajamas crew, you may need to budget for conference wear. Comfortable shoes are a necessity.

Golden Heart® Finalists: If you’re a Golden Heart finalist, your costs will be significantly higher. In addition to the award ceremony dress, you may want to visit the hotel salon. Finalists are often invited to participate in additional events which have their own costs. And most finalists will pay to have a professional photo made for publicity purposes.

So there you have my best guess on what it really costs to go to RWA Nationals, along with a few tips on how to cut that price tag. The good news is that you don’t have to pay all this money up front. It’s possible to pay for registration and air fare in advance, thereby spreading the expenses out over a period of four months.

What do you think? Are my numbers off? Have I left anything out? I would love to hear your tips and experiences on what to expect, and how to make Nationals affordable.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Joanne--Are Women ruled by their emotions?--Dave Barry

I’m sharing another great blog by Dave Barry, because this month he comments on a woman’s emotions. Are we ruled by our emotions? Or--What does a man know? 

Here goes:

“Every man knows he needs a bigger TV. But you-know-who is standing in his way. The same “Negative Nelly” who always tried to hold him back when he has a visionary household idea, such as washing underwear in the dishwasher or installing a urinal in the bedroom

His wife.

The instant he tells her he needs a new TV, she’s going to start coming up with nitpicky legalistic arguments like: ‘But our current TV works fine!’ Or: ‘But we bought a new TV yesterday!’ Or: ‘But we’re broke and we live in a homeless shelter!’

Women! Always ruled by their emotions.”

Me again. Hah! Do you agree?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Midwinter Distraction

I ease into my reading chair determined to edit a recently completed chapter of my manuscript, and hesitate. Pages drop to my lap as I glimpse movement outside the sliding door. A handful of Juncos, little birds that look like eggs dipped in artist's ink with slate gray back and head and breast sharply contrasting a white belly, flash their white outer tail feathers as they flit from the pines at the tree line to dine at my feeders.

My second floor balcony teems with life year round. While the tangles of plants sleep, the bird feeders remain lively. Shades of gray blend with the misty winter sky. A Seagull flies in the distance—a reminder of the nearby Chesapeake Bay.

With a call of chick-a-dee-dee-dee, a couple of Carolina Chickadees sporting black cap and bib and white cheeks flick in, grab a sunflower seed, and head for the trees. A loud peter-peter-peter signals the arrival of a couple of Tufted Titmice. They also take a seed to dine-out.

Small Field Sparrows and their larger cousins, speckled brown Song Sparrows, dine-in at the balcony buffet. A Red-breasted Nuthatch arrives with a flash of its russet belly. Lady Cardinal joins the activity only to be chased away by her brilliant red lord. My lips curl into a smile at the blaze of color.

The call and arrival of a Blue Jay scatters the smaller birds. The Jay dines at a railing feeder, nothing more than the nailed-down plastic lids of leftovers from our favorite Italian restaurant. After he leaves only silence remains.

Much later, I raise my gaze. It's not the crafted scene on the page in my hand that has me holding my breath but a small hawk perched on the balcony railing. The slightest movement on my part sends the predator on its way. I release the air from my lungs. My favorite guests can once again visit in safety.

Dawn Marie Hamilton

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Superbowl! Steelers vs Packers

For someone who isn’t a sports fan, I find it bizarre that my first two posts on this blog are about sports. I just can’t let this one go by without posting about Pittsburgh, PA. Okay, I’m not from Pittsburgh but it was the closest largest city to me when I was growing up so that meant we followed the sports teams from there.

I remember saving the bread wrappers when I was a kid to attend a Pittsburgh Pirates game for free. Who can forget the loss of Robert Clemente in an airplane crash? Angels in the Outfield premiered at Three Rivers Stadium and I had tickets for my kids, nieces, and nephews. We made it a big family evening.

However, nothing compared to watching The Team of the 70s, or the Steel Curtain, consisting of a few players that I (a non sports fan) can remember, Terry Bradshaw, Lynn Swann, Rocky Bleier, Mean Joe Greene, and Franco Harris, head to the Super Bowls. Pittsburgh was always the underdog. Back then, nobody liked them but their hometown fans. We loved them. We booed Bradshaw so many times I don’t know how the poor guy doesn’t have a major complex but those leaps Lynn Swann made to catch Bradshaw’s passes--the stuff of dreams.

However, as much as we booed Bradshaw we loved him. I don’t like Ben Roethlisberger. I didn’t like him the first time I saw him on TV being introduced as the Steelers new quarterback. Then he put Pat Tillman’s number on his game shoes and got in trouble for it. I thought his “show of support” was phony. I still do. Even though we only ever hear about Roethlisberger, he has a good team behind him, just like Bradshaw did. Not that I know many of them since I’m not allowed to watch the games, except for Troy Polamalu, and Hines Ward.

Roethlisberger is leading the Steelers to another Superbowl--and I’m not allowed to watch it. WHAAA! My husband, son, son-in-law, daughter, and daughter-in-law consider me bad luck. Every time I walk into the room, flip channels on my own TV, or even walk on the casino sports floor--the other team gets a touchdown.

My daughter-in-law, Rhonda, and I were shopping during the AFC championship game. We had dinner at one of the casino restaurants before the game was over. I could see eight TVs from my seat--all tuned to the Game. Rhonda kept hollering at me to quit looking at the TV. Sure enough, the Jets got a touchdown within seconds of me looking up at one of the TVs. Hey, the Steelers managed to win!

Anyway, I’ll be cheering for the Steelers even though I won’t be allowed to watch the game. Who will you be hollering and stomping for during the game? The Steelers or the Packers?

By the way, don’t tell my family I wrote this blog because if the Steelers lose, it will be my fault for writing about them.

As a final note about Bradshaw--I love his work and thought he was hysterical in Failure to Launch with Matthew McConaughey, Kathy Bates, and Sarah Jessica Parker.

Here’s a link about Pittsburgh you might enjoy.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Art of Kissing

I recently picked up an unread book I have on my bookshelf called The Art of Kissing. This small book by William Cane came from a neighbor’s yard sale where I snagged it for only fifty cents. It may have been the same yard sale I bought the Relationships for Dummies book too. Thank goodness it wasn’t a close neighbor.

My intention at least on the surface was to use it for writing purposes (read research.) After all a good romance novel is nothing without toe curling kisses. I especially appreciate when an author brings a new dimension to kissing. Anyone who ever sat through Twelve Steps to Intimacy workshop knows there are all kinds of kisses. Despite my vow to use the book for research it kept company with other books I meant to read. Then I started dating again and the thought of kissing suddenly appear foremost in my mind. It was time to read the book.

The author starts out the book by reminding us of our first magical kiss. Think back, what was your first kiss like? Mine happened at church camp. Fourteen years old with braces, naturally I attracted another fourteen year old with braces. The other campers teased us that our braces would lock if we kissed. I guess we both gave a great deal of thought to that notion and decided to try it out. The end result was my first kiss. While our braces didn’t lock, there may have been some bruising from the braces. I can laugh at myself now because I know we were horrible kissers because we were clueless. Still young people are supposed to start somewhere. But what if you’re an adult and don’t know how to kiss?

That’s where The Art of Kissing comes in handy. Did you know smiling and laughing will garner you more kisses than looking sultry or sad. People are attracted to happy people…and apparently they tend to kiss them too. Don’t know how to kiss? The author suggests placing your lips gently on your date's lips and wait a few seconds seeing if your sweetie will respond. Most will and then you simply follow their movements.

Different kisses mean different things. I went out on a second date with a guy I was unsure if he liked me, but I liked him. At the end of the date, I received the sister kiss on the hair. As he drove away, I thought what was that? What did it mean? I may have waved my hands in the air yelled something about not being his sister. Still it was sweet. It left me intrigued and willing to go out with him again. He later admitted that had been his intention to let me know he was fond of me, but not to press too hard too fast. It worked well since we are still seeing each other.:)

William Cane reveals in his book that women love kissing. In fact, many women report they could do it for hours. The majority of women described kissing as being more intimate than sex. Most prostitutes refused to kiss their clients because it is too personal. What makes kissing so special?

It brings a special intimacy and warmness to a couple. You kiss people you both love and care about. It cements relationships. There is a very funny scene in the movie, Leap Year where all the older couples at the table are telling the "newlyweds” the secret to a good marriage is to kiss passionately every day, then they demonstrate. They wait for the young couple to kiss. Their first kiss is an awkward peck because they don’t really know each other. Then at the older couples’ scoffing, they try again and really get into it. They discovered each other through kissing.

You can really tell a lot about a man from a simple kiss. This is so important to know when crafting our heroes. Who wants a bad kisser as a hero? To go from a kissing zero to hero he has to be creative. Men who kiss you in an unexpected location such as an escalator are bound to get a reaction. Then of course there are men who kiss you on unexpected places. The number one place women like to be kissed besides the lips according to Internet survey is…the neck. Now, I know that is what you were thinking too.

What if a man is absolutely horrible at kissing? Could be he’s a shy guy who hasn’t had much experience, but might be willing to learn. Then there are men who are rather rigid with their lips who just lean over and peck at you as if they were a chicken and you were a kernel of feed corn. That’s not overly appealing. If a man has been married and is over thirty-five and he is still pecking at you like a chicken…well, you may have to decide how much you like kissing compared to the guy’s company. This is not someone who enjoys kissing and would want to learn to do better. At best, he sees kissing as a way to warm up the woman for the main event. If he only knew he wasn’t warming her up.

In Cane’s book, both men and women were surveyed to see how Americans fared on the kissing scale. Okay, ladies, I think you might know the answer. Europeans, especially Italian, French and Spanish kissed more frequently and kissed well. They also kissed in public more and kissed for the sake of kissing. Sadly, even the Germans scored higher than Americans. We can take heart that our British cousins scored rather low. The complaints against American men included that they usually don’t know how to kiss, they’re too forceful and they see it as only a prelude to sex. American women were not open to public kissing as much as their European cousins and didn’t open their mouths as much. We can tell ourselves that was only the opinion of people answering the survey or start our next novel with a European hero.

A man who loves to kiss is willing to learn and experiment is priceless. He’ll feather delicate kisses over his lover’s closed eyes. Playful Eskimo nose rubs and puppy dog lick kisses are in his repertoire along with lip sucking and French kissing. He’s tried them all at some time and is willing to try more if it is what his partner wants. Think back to all the romances you’ve read, do you remember a hero who was a terrible kisser?

Probably not, I know I can’t think of one. The reason behind this is women want men who can kiss well. A kiss epitomizes romance. A man who kisses well and times his kisses appropriately can usually have his pick of women. A recent article on the Life Gems for Marriage website touts the ability of a single kiss to not only increase your bond, but also relieve your stress level. After a hard day, a simple hug and kiss can make you feel SO much better. On the flip side, couples who divorce usually haven’t kissed for a very long time. The lack of kissing helps break down their initial bond. They no long feel close because they’re not.

What’s your take on the importance of kissing?

The Finer Points of Characterization

Every once in a while as I’m working on a manuscript, something makes me recognize a writing craft detail that turns into a light-bulb moment. In recent blogs, I’ve talked about characterization and dialog, because dialog is one of the richest ways of developing a character. Then, of course, there’s action—what the character actually does. Not to mention the character’s interpretation of events around him or her.

Those are the major tools a writer has. Ironically, a lot of writers spend far too much time on something else: physical description. That, my friend, is a double-edged sword. You can actually drive readers away from descriptions of characters. Yes. It’s true. In fact, there are novels out there that have virtually no descriptions of the main characters at all. Readers build up their own picture of the characters and prefer not to be distracted with details that don’t match their perception of the heroine or hero.

That was one of those a-ha moments for me that got me thinking of other less well-known ways to shine the light on your characters. So many writers overlook the more subtle ramifications of point of view. If we’re in the heroine’s point of view (POV) then when she stares at the twisting road ahead of her, leading up into the mountains, the description of that road and the scenery must be her description—not yours. And certainly not just a dry catalog of the black tarmac, pine trees, and mountains. Descriptions mean nothing and are frankly boring unless they provide a glimpse into the character’s soul and emotions.

If your heroine is on her way to a meeting she’s nervous about, she’s not a great driver, and has never been out of the city in her life, she may see the mountainous terrain as more ominous than beautiful. Describing it then becomes a way of revealing her inner life.

The steering wheel felt slippery under her damp palms as she stared at the twisting road ahead. On one side was a sheer drop off that made her stomach clench. One small mistake, a blown tire, a skid, and the car would crash through the flimsy metal barrier and crash through the dark trees that clung precariously to the slopes. But the other side was no better. The mountainside rose sharply away from the edge of the road and small cascades of rocks lay just off the pavement. Rock slides appeared to be common. It would be just her luck if the grumble of her car set one off.

She jerked at the sudden screeching wail of some animal or bird from the depths of the forest. The sound made the hair on the back of her neck prickle.

And so on. It’s less about a plain description than the heroine who is letting her nervous emotions color what others might find to be a gorgeous view. It’s never really about the mountain. It’s about the emotions it evokes.

That’s it. Another arrow for your writing quiver.

Amy Corwin

Mysteries and Romance…what could be better?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Launch of an Author

Once in an writer's life they get to call themselves a debut author. This month is my turn. Tempting Adam comes out February 16th from The Wild Rose Press. This story was just my second completed novel. I sent it everywhere. It could not find a home. So it sat on my computer for a few years.

Four years ago January 31st my mom died. My writing enthusiasm died with her. For a good two years I did nothing with my writing. I tried, but I completed nothing. Then I was on a loop with Candace Havens. She spoke and it was like a light bulb went off in my head. "Editors and agents are not going to drive up your street and knock on your door. You have to put yourself out there to be found." I had spent two years saying I was going to submit to TWRP. I got off my duff, looked up the guidelines and submitted before I could get cold feet again.

Within days I went from the query letter, to three chapters, to a full, a wonderful detailed revise and resubmit to a contract and a welcome to The Garden. :)

It has been a whirlwind, but my story of love, lies, betrayal, and redemption at a Hollywood movie studio (a setting I was told would never sell) is going to be out in the world for readers to find.

Tempting Adam blurb:

They both want the same thing – St. Eden Studios.

Corporate raider Yvette Giardino intends to bring St. Eden Studios to its knees. It’s a job. One her grandmother’s health depends on. That Adam St. Eden will suffer isn’t personal. Until he awakens her sympathy and stirs her body in ways she can’t explain.

Adam wants one thing and one thing only – to protect the dream his grandfather began. But when the board demands he work with stunning Yvette, a woman he’d mistakenly indulged with in a little after-hours play, his world turns upside down. Missed meetings, unhappy clients, and nights of intense pleasure – he can blame one person. Yvette.

With his corporation crumbling around him, can Adam rise above the fallout and see his sexy temptress for what she really is – a victim of manipulation and a woman who desperately needs his love?

Please check out the awesome book video as well at: