CANDY HEARTS VERSUS BOW-CHICK-A-WOW-WOW guest post by Jami Gray

I’m excited to welcome Jami Gray to my humble abode. Congratulations are in order for her recently released tenth novel, MARKED BY OBSESSION (I’m in thrall with it right now). Today she’s come to talk about the heat level in romance, which is perfect for the month of February and because she’s got it down.

CANDY HEARTS VERSUS BOW-CHICK-A-WOW-WOW

In the romance genre stories run the gamut from sweet-handholding-blushes-demure-glances to wild-raunchy-OMG-can-a-body-really-do-that and everything in between. There is a huge variety in romance because our reading audience is composed of, well, a huge variety of humans.

When I first started my writing journey, I approached the daunting world of publishing with an Urban Fantasy series where romance played a secondary role. Of course, the majority of publishers wanted ROMANCE (yes, in all caps). So no surprise I received a plethora of rejection letters that shared a common theme: There’s not enough romance.

Some even went so far as to suggest I add a few heavy breathing scenes to up that elusive romance quotient. When you’re trying to get published, it’s very difficult not to buckle under the pressure, but I gritted my teeth, declaring my characters weren’t at that particular stage in their relationship, and kept going.  As a writer of UF and Paranormal Romantic Suspense, romance plays a crucial part in all my stories, but that romantic connection needs to come about naturally, not be forced through the bedroom door.

Long story short, I did get my UF series picked up, and yes, in the second book there is required ROMANCE. Not because that’s what my publisher wanted (they loved my story just the way it was), but because that is where my couple naturally ended up.

So why am I sharing this? Well, writers are victim to the “sex sells” mentality as much as any other artist. In fact, if you read a ton of romance you’ve witnessed it firsthand. There are those titles that are all about the sex with thin plots and even thinner character development. Then there are those stories where sex plays understudy to the relationship.

And then there are those that nail it. It’s like they find the perfect recipe of intriguing-heart-attack-inducing-story, suck-you-in-until-you’re-drowning depth of characters, and the breath-stealing-fantasy-inducing sex. These books aren’t always labeled erotica (though there are some really great series out there), but they are labeled romance. This is because the emotion behind why the characters we love fall into each other’s arms is something we can connect to and the evolution of their relationship feels real.

Romance readers read their genre because we are fascinated by the emotional aspect of human connections—how does the cynical heroine overcome past betrayals to take a chance on happiness with the hero she feels is out of reach, or how does the weary hero find peace in the arms of a strong woman. We want to see our flawed characters get their happy ever after. There is something so beautiful about two people finding each other despite what life’s thrown at them, that gives us, the readers, hope for the same out here in our crazy, everyday world.  And there’s not a darn thing wrong with that.

So the next time you encounter that person who rolls their eyes because you read romance, remember there is a depth to romance that goes beyond the bow-chick-a-wow-wow, and dives into the heart of what love really means.

MARKED BY OBSESSION

markedbyobsession_m

 

Some betrayals hide behind love, others obsession…

The loss of her beloved brother and a series of unexplained events plunges Meli Dwyer into a dangerously unfamiliar reality. Alone and floundering, she turns to the sexy and unsettling Wolf Kincaid, PSY-IV Team’s skilled telepath, for help even as her battered heart whispers to steer clear of a man more dangerous than what hunts her.

Will Meli find the answers to her personal nightmare before one man’s obsession costs her the heart of another?

Pick up your copy here:

MuseItUp Publishing: https://museituppublishing.com/bookstore/index.php/print-books/romance-print-books/romantic-suspense/marked-by-obsession-detail

Amazon: http://a.co/9WVE4Yw

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/marked-by-obsession-jami-gray/1125298655?ean=2940153541624

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/marked-by-obsession/id1184185022?mt=11

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/marked-by-obsession

 

Want a sneak peak?

“That’s it angel. Keep going.” He watched, offering quiet encouragement until I was breathing normally. His hand stopped its gentle movements, but didn’t move away.

“Better?”

I nodded. “I’m sor—”

“Stop,” he growled, literally growled, as a fierce light made his eyes bright. “There is nothing to apologize for.”

Logically I knew that, but logic didn’t stand a chance against old habits.

He released my wrists and turned his hand to tangle his fingers with mine, giving me an anchor. “You up for continuing?”

He asked the question like I had a choice. Despite the evidence to the contrary, I wasn’t blind to the fact that I needed to share what had happened. If I could do that with Wolf, maybe it would dull the jagged edges of the memories. What worried me was sharing and then watching Wolf realize I wasn’t the type of woman he needed or wanted. Broken and barely mended didn’t hold a candle to strong and sure. Unable to look away, I slowly nodded.

“Okay.” The hand under my breasts disappeared and he rose to his feet, still holding my other hand. “You’re going to come sit with me on the couch. That way, we’ll both be more comfortable.”

Meli the Milquetoast I may be, but there was no way I was turning down a chance to be close to him while I could. Part of me warned to hoard the experience while I could because he wouldn’t be staying. Too battered emotionally, I chose to ignore the pessimistic voice. For now. He tugged on my hand, and I uncurled my legs and stood shakily, waiting for the pins and needles to fade. Wolf stood patient and quiet, waiting for me.

We moved to the couch. He sat down, reached up, and pulled me into his lap. His warmth was better than any blanket and being held in his arms against his solid chest gave me the illusion of protection. Nothing could touch me, so long as he held me. I tucked my head in the hollow of his shoulder. When his chin brushed my temple, I closed my eyes, gripped his wrist at my waist, and sank into him.

 

jami-gray

Jami Gray is the award winning, multi-published author of the Urban Fantasy series, The Kyn Kronicles, and the Paranormal Romantic Suspense series, PSY-IV Teams. She can be soothed with coffee and chocolate. Surrounded by Star Wars obsessed males and two female labs moonlighting as the Fur Minxes, she escapes by playing with the voices in her head.

 

Hunt her down at:

Website: www.JamiGray.com

Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.com/e/B006HU3HJI

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/JamiGray

Facebook Author Page:  https://www.facebook.com/JamiGrayUFWriter

Twitter:   https://twitter.com/JamiGrayAuthor

Google+:  https://google.com/+JamiGray

 

Thankful for Authors

‘Tis the season of thanks, and I thought I’d expound my list of gratitude by adding some of my favorite authors to it. Some of these books have gotten me through hard times, comforting me like an old friend. Many have inspired me with their well-crafted words. Whatever the case, I am grateful to these wonderful authors for their gifts.

patricia-briggs

 

Patricia Briggs – Her urban-fantasy Mercy Thompson Series and Alpha & Omega Series will keep you flipping the pages. I love her main characters. This is a world, I never want to leave. Moon Called is the first book. Thank you Patricia!

these-is-my-words

 

Nancy E. Turner – One of my favorite love stories is These is my Words: A Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine. It’s a sweet story based of the author’s grandmother as she settled with some of the earlier pioneers in Southern Arizona. It’s one that I’ll always remember.

John Steinbeck – While Steinbeck isn’t on my binge list, I find a comfort in his beautifully crafted words. They inspire me to be a better author and have changed me for the better. Grab any one of his books and savor his prose.

I hope peace and gratitude find you this Thanksgiving Holiday, and of course, a good book too.

~DeAnna

be-thankful

Brainstorming: Finding Ideas That Work

At a recent write-in, a couple of us needed to work on world building. In my case, I was working on names for magic ceremonies, events in the past, that sort of thing. One technique that worked well for us was what I call idea dumping (aka brainstorming).

I’m not talking about the old style of brainstorming: grabbing a pen and staring at a blank page for an hour until the perfect idea comes. I’m talking about dumping all the ideas out of your mind−good, bad and ugly—until you find what fits. We pulled up a thesaurus, and I wrote down everything that was said. My paper was a mess, cramped and full of notes.

I can’t lie and say magic poured out of our mouths, but as we batted around ideas they morphed into something great. So when you’re searching for that perfect name for your next goblin or handsome hunk remember a couple of things:

*Write every idea that comes to mind, even the crappy ones.

*Write at least ten if not twenty. I find my first three ideas are generic, and middle five to ten suck. The other day, it was not until at least twenty or more names had floated around until I found one I loved.

*Keep the list for a little bit, percolation helps sometimes. One writer thought she had a name, but it wasn’t until we moved on and were talking about something else did she realize the perfect one hit.

Idea Dumping can be used for book names, magic systems, upcoming plot twists, and more. Sometimes our creativity is laying on the service and other times we have to dig a little for that golden nugget.

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Digging for Characters

I recently read Cannery Row by John Steinbeck. I’m a fan of Steinbeck, but have to admit I struggled with the beginning of this book. It was full of description: describing places, houses, people and even a couple pages on the Model T truck. By page 34, I wasn’t sure what the plot was. Halfway through the novel, I realized how this Nobel Peace Prize Winning Author continues to draw me in—characters.

There are over two handfuls of unique, interesting characters in this book. While writing, I often want to reach for clique or average, especially in secondary characters. I want to challenge myself to dig deeper for those unique personalities that we love to read about.

Here’s an example of a secondary character, Gay, in Cannery Row that only participates for thirty five pages. While I don’t remember the color of his hair or body type, I won’t forget this story anytime soon.

 

Doc asked, “How are things going up at the Palace?”

Hazel ran his fingers through his dark hair and he peered into the clutter of his mind.          “Pretty good,” he said. “That fellow Gay is moving in with us I guess. His wife hits him        pretty bad. He don’t mind that when he’s awake but she waits ‘til he gets to sleep and          then hits him. He hates that. He has to wake up and beat her up and then when he goes      back to sleep she hits him again. He don’t get any rest so he’s moving in with us.”

“That’s a new one,” said Doc. “She used to swear out a warrant and put him in jail.”

“Yeah!” said Hazel. “But that was before they built the new jail in Salinas. Used to be           thirty days and Gay was pretty hot to get out, but this new jail—radio in the tank and             good bunks and the sheriff’s a nice fellow. Gay gets in there and he don’t want to come         out. He likes it so much his wife won’t get him arrested any more. So she figured out this     hitting him while he’s asleep.  It’s nerve racking, he says. And you know as good as me         —Gay never did take any pleasure beating her up. He only done it to keep his self-                respect. But he gets tired of it. I guess he’ll be with us now.”

 

Steinbeck paints gritty characters that stick with us. Two dimensional characters are easy, like neighbors that we wave to while our garage shuts. There is more out there, let’s tip over their trash and see who they really are. Let’s keep digging.

The Brothers Grimm

 

Every now and again, I like to dip into history and non-fiction. I find the change of pace welcoming and what I learn always intriguing. My most recent read was The Brothers Grimm: Two Lives, One Legacy by Donald R. Hettinga.

Jacob and Wilhem Grimm are most popular for combing the German countryside for fables and legends and publishing them. Disney has made a mint on several of their stories such as Snow White or Sleeping Beauty. But the story behind their lives was a true and interesting tale woven with kings, queens, and even revolution. The brothers Grimm preserved these ancient tales and also the German language with their books on linguistics.

My favorite part was when a critic of their first published book of stories complained that they were too graphic and disturbing for children. Jacob (the elder brother) responded that grew him up with his mother telling him the tale of How Some Children Played at Slaughtering, to show him the dangers of playing, and it worked for him. The story is about children who pretended to play slaughtering pigs and ended up killing their playmates. Fantastically morbid, I know, but part of me is still intrigued enough to read it. Wilhem Grimm’s take in response to the critics was also noteworthy: “You can fool yourself into thinking that what can be removed from a book can also be removed from real life.”

The Grimm brothers survived many political regimes and Napoleon’s conquests that sent soldiers into the streets outside their house. They dealt with poverty and death. By the end of their lives, their work and contributions were celebrated and revered. They spent their last days together, as a family.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from the book: “In a grain of sand we may see the sense and significance of large globes of which our world is one of the smallest.” Jacob Grimm

Ten Commandments of Reading

The other day while my son was reading book four of the Michael Vay series, skipping book two and three since we’re waiting for them from our library, I decided he needed to learn some very basic rules of reading. So in my horrific English accent, I proceeded to the commandments of reading.

  The Ten Commandments of Reading

  1. Never tell the end of a good book to a friend.
  2. Read the book before the movie, except if the movie is Princess Bride.
  3. If you’re in a used bookstore, you must buy a book. Unless you’re dead broke, then go to the library.
  4. You should always have a library card.
  5. Always read a series in order, unless there are too many to keep count. Then go crazy.
  6. If a friend lends you a book and you accidentally damage it, replace it.
  7. Don’t break the binding of a book or damage a book, no matter how you detest it. Get a bookmark people, even a sock will do.
  8. If you interrupt someone during a good part of a book you must recite the alphabet backwards, while standing on your head. (Parents are the only exception for underage children, and a fire because the safety of a book comes first.)
  9. No skipping to the end of a book. Yes, you know who you are.
  10. When reciting the commandments, please use your best snooty English accent.

library card

When my daughter broke rule one as my son was reading Harry Potter, I thought she’d catch on fire with that blasphemy. And I recommend two library cards, in case of emergencies.

What is your pet peeve when reading?  Let me know. While these may be etched in stone, like every writer knows, the edits never stop.

Undiscovered Gems

A while back, I discovered a book at the library. Published twenty years ago, this novel had a title that caught my attention: The Parable of the Sower.  I started it on a sunny afternoon, but Octavia E. Butler soon had a tight grip on me, and I kept reading late into the night.parable of the sower

This post apocalyptic novel follows a sixteen year old girl through California in 2025, amid rampant war, drugs, gangs, unemployment, and an unlawfulness that staggers the mind. The realism was nothing I’d experienced in today’s young adult commercial fiction.

This older, under appreciated book struck true and left me thinking about it for days, months, and even years later. There is joy in finding a new book or new author that speaks to you in a language that can’t be contained on paper.

I can’t wait to find my next undiscovered gem. Do you have an undiscovered or under appreciated novel hidden away in your book shelf?

 

2016 Writing Conferences

Spring is upon us with new anticipated books hitting the shelves (cough, cough Anne Bishop). Also, it means writing conferences starting. From April to September writers congregate to hone their craft and pitch their stories. I’ve shifted through the various conferences, and thought I’d share some reputable conferences to attend. I’d love to hear from you, if you have a favorite, and I can add it to the list.

 

Desert Dreams, April 7-10, 2016, Scottsdale, AZ  http://desertroserwa.org/desertdreams

The Scottsdale Romance Writers’ organization puts on a fabulous four day conference full of workshops, and pitches to agents. I know several who have attended and it comes highly recommended, especially for the price.

 

Las Vegas Writers’ Conference, April 28-30, 2016 http://lasvegaswritersconference.com/

I would love to hear the keynote speaker, Larry Brooks.

 

National Romance Writers Association Conference, July 13-16 2016, San Diego, CA

https://www.rwa.org/conference

Great conference and great location. Who doesn’t love San Diego in July?

 

Pikes Peak Writers’ Conference, April 15-17, 2016, Colorado Springs, CO

http://www.pikespeakwriters.com/ppwc/

 

And if you really feel like going all out, you can even go on a writing cruise

Out of Excuses Writing Conference, September 14-17, 2016, Caribbean

http://www.writingexcuses.com/out-of-excuses-2016/

Cruising around the Caribbean with Brandon Sanderson and a host of very accomplished writers sounds epic.

 

 

 

 

LIFE AFTER NANO

By guest blogger, author, editor, and extraordinaire Jami Gray

You survived Nanowrimo, the hellish month of November, where you churned out words by the bucketful. You even made it to the final two—THE END, so now what? Do you drag battered fingers to the keyboard to carve out a synopsis and query letter, then attach both to your story and send the entire package winging off to a publisher or agent?

No! (Slapping at your sore, beleaguered digits) Step away from the keyboard, dear writer friend, exhaustion is playing tricks on your poor brain. You can’t forgo an important part of your creative process—the honing of your story.

You wouldn’t present a semi-cooked egg for consumption just because your caffeine fix hasn’t kicked in, right? Then don’t serve the same to a prospective agent or publisher.

The point of presenting your pretty package of story, query, and synopsis to the alters of publishers or agents, is to share your polished gem of beautiful craftsmanship when it’s at its best. This will elicit “ohhs” and “awws” of stunned amazement from said alter deities, and, if the fates are kind, culminate with a blessing of a contract.

This is not to say your story treasure isn’t beautiful, but if you set it aside during the merry month of wintery celebration, revisit it during the dawning of the new year, and then humbly offer it to your support group of choice (critique, beta readers, editors), you may discover that what appeared beautifully concocted in November, could bypass “beautiful” and rocket to “brilliant” with a little polishing here and there.

Take the time to let your story mature, let others sample it, and gauge the reactions. Did your plot twist sneak up on your test readers, or were they faced with it straight out of the gate? Was the emotional journey of your main character fraught with realistic peril, or were the challenges faced not cruel enough to bring them to their knees before raising them higher than before? Did you add an extra arm in that fight scene? Did a character change hair color or personality without explanation?

When we spend a month snuggled up to our story, it’s hard to see the little things, like the fact it prefers to stay in PJs all day long and eat chocolate bonbons, while expecting you to clean the house for impending company.  Taking a step back and a deep breath will ensure your darlings won’t need your constant support to shine. In fact, giving them space is necessary for them to find their inner core of brilliance and shine their creative light upon unsuspecting agents and publishers, luring them into a long-lasting relationship.

Nanowrimo isn’t the end, my writer friends, it’s simply the beginning of an exciting new journey, so like all good adventurers, be sure you’ve prepared accordingly.

Wicked Dragon Writer Solutions, where you get two editing beasts for one smokin’ price.

Edits that live beyond your story…

As editors who strive to teach, your Wicked Dragons supply high quality edits that can help your future writing endeavors.

Wicked Dragon Writing SolutionsEmail:   wickeedragonsolutions@gmail.com

Website:  http://wickeddragonsolutions.com

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/WickedDragonWS

Twitter:   https://twitter.com/WickedDragonWS  Or @WickedDragonWS

LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/pub/wicked-dragon-writer-solutions/b5/318/795

Google+:  https://plus.google.com/+WickedDragon

 

Gift Ideas for Young Readers

Most of my friends know of my obsession with books, so I’m often asked for book recommendations. I’ve already bought many books for my family this year, and even worked on some theme related shirts.  But if you’re stuck on ideas, here are a few. I tried to list a few popular ones you can’t go wrong with, and others if your kids are looking the next book after finishing a great series. If I’ve missed your favorite, please add it below.

Middle Grade Books

Rick Rordian is still huge.

Camp_Half-Blood_T-shirt

One shirt on my son’s list

If your kids have already devoured his books you can try his special compilations Percy Jackson’s Greek God and Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes.

Still want more mythology? Try out the Goddess Girls or Heroes in Training by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams. There are geared for a younger audience but my kids love them.

Illustrated_Harry_Potter_book_coverPotter fans? You have a new illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s stone that is very popular right now.

Or try the Iron Trials by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. Two great authors that give their own spin to the wizarding world, with action and adventure that will keep you or your kids flipping the pages.

harry potter bracelet

HP bracelet on Amazon

My kids also love the Spirit Animals, which showcase a variety of NY Times bestselling authors.

Young Adult

There are so many great young adult books right now this list could go on forever. I’ll start with some new releases that are climbing the charts on goodreads.com

For the sci-fi fan, you can never go wrong with Brandon Sanderson who had the second installment in his Reckoners series, Firefight, out this year.

The-5th-Wave_612x612For fans of Hunger Games, try the 5th Wave. It is a captivating about an alien invasion written  by New York Times best seller Rick Yancey, and will soon be on the big screen.

One on my list for Santa (hint, hint) is  An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir . It’s inspired by ancient Rome, and has the action, loyalty and love which draws me in.

Here are some of my favorites that I can pick up more than once:

*Sci-Fi: Scott Westerfield’s Uglies Series or Airborn by Kenneth Opal for a steam punk twist.

*Fantasy: Melissa Marr has a great fairy series, Wicked Lovely. Shannon Hale has so many clean, fun almost fairy tale like fantasy for any age, especially The Books of Bayern. I also love Grace Mercy by Robin LeFever which intertwines intertwines the history of medieval France with a coven of young assassins.

*Historical Fiction: Blood Red Horse by KM Grant is an exciting adventure as it goes through the Crusades with multiple points of view.

*Fiction: John Green captures the heart and soul of teenage years so well. You can’t go wrong with The Fault in our Stars, or Paper Towns.

This list could go on and on-I haven’t even touched adult fiction- but I have some Christmas shopping to get to. If all else fails, a gift card to a book store is always a treat for any bibliophile. I want to wish everyone a Happy Holiday Season and hope it is filled with love and peace.