Category Archives: Writing

Where’s the Spice? Romance Novels with a Wholesome Flair

Note: This blog post is one I wrote exactly four years ago, prompted by a reviewer who complained about the lack of “heat” in my work. I thought it was worth a quick update and a re-run…

“Show me the money!” screams Cuba Gooding, Jr. in the film Jerry Maguire.  In porn parlance, it’s called “the money shot.” Yes, romance novels are often associated with sex—an image promoted by torrid covers of shirtless men clutching panting heroines in the throes of passion.

Is there anything wrong with that? No, of course not. It’s all good fun; escapism had for less than the price of a movie ticket. I used to gobble up bodice-rippers when I was a hormonal teen. White lines would appear on the spine of the paperbacks where the particularly juicy scenes could be found. Sometimes, with historical romances, I would actually learn something other than intimate details of procreation.

In this topsy-turvy world, writing romance novels without “money shots” has actually become controversial.  Unless the book specifies it’s Amish or Christian, some people expect a little friction between the sheets.  Even if the story is categorized as Young Adult, readers often look for the spice…and get annoyed when it fails to materialize.

In traditional Regency romance (romance set during the British Regency from 1811-1820), no explicit sex occurs. The last few years have seen the rise of a more modern Regency romance; romances of a non-traditional sensual variety (ie: more “marketable”).

So why on Earth would an author swim against the tide of filthy lucre (money) and write what might be termed “clean” or “sweet” romance…especially considering reader expectations?  Call me crazy, but personally I think readers should have choices. I don’t think novels and stories without explicit sex scenes need be antiseptic or anemic.  In my romances, for example, my characters have physical feelings and thoughts. For me, the money shot is the kiss!  I also tend to put  exciting adventure in my stories…fisticuffs, sword fights, and escapes from death.

If you’re looking for a good time that doesn’t involve *ahem* “biology,” check out Clean Indie Reads. The blog features “flinch-free” fiction in a variety of genres. (Psst: several of the CIR authors are having an upcoming Valentine’s Day promo, February 11 – 14, 2018).  Clean Reads (slogan All Story. No Guilt) is also a publisher I’ve working with in the past, which specializes in sweet romance and fiction in various genres.

I guess you could say “clean” fiction is now edgy.  And I guess I can call myself a maverick.

~ Suzanne

 

Historical Research • Grace Unmasked

Krakatoa_east_of_javaWhen I was writing Grace Unmasked, I did some research on what historical events had taken place in 1883. I was hoping to incorporate something of interest, of course, to add to the historical ambiance. The eruption of the volcano on Krakatoa caught my eye, and triggered a childhood memory. My parents had taken the family to see a disaster movie entitled Krakatoa, East of Java, and I’d been riveted. The plot of the movie didn’t stand out to me as much as the special effects at the end, when the filmmakers sought to portray the explosive eruption and the resulting tsunami. I found a copy of the movie and watched it again. Considering what was available in terms of special effects in 1969, I was still impressed.

I did a little more research on the eruption itself, purchasing a used copy of Simkin and51lwTNmqYPL._SX381_BO1,204,203,200_ Fiske’s Krakatau 1883. In it, there are many fascinating eyewitness accounts of the event, and facts about the aftereffects. For example, the violent eruption destroyed most of the island of Krakatau. The explosion could be heard over 1/13th of the earth’s surface. The resulting ash cast the Sunda Strait (which connects the Java Sea to the Indian Ocean) into darkness for almost 24 hours, and giant waves over 40 meters (appx. 131 feet) above sea level destroyed everything in their path. In addition, over 36,000 people were killed. The volcanic dust veil created spectacular atmospheric effects over a vast distance and lowered global temperatures as much as 1/2 degree Celsius in the following year. In fact, temperatures didn’t return to normal until five years later.

Sunda_strait_map_v3News of the disaster traveled quickly because of the telegraph system, and papers around the world carried the story the day after the massive eruption had occurred.

Now, Grace Unmasked is set in England, which is nowhere near Krakatau. So how did this event find its way–albeit indirectly–into the narrative? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

~ Suzanne

MANNEQUINTWOFINALCOVER

On the heels of an unjust accusation, Grace flees from her country village to the anonymity of London. Although she intends to seek sanctuary with her cousin Joe Fiddick, she discovers he’s also suffered a setback and needs more help than she can offer. Desperate, she solicits assistance from Joe’s friend–the notorious rake, Lord Henley. Will the price of the handsome baron’s help be more than she’s willing to pay?

Grace Unmasked is available for the Kindle HEREScreen Shot 2016-01-09 at 12.22.20 PM

 

Eating Elephants and Writing Grace Unmasked

“When eating an elephant take one bite at a time.”

– U.S. Army General Creighton W. Abrams, Jr.

sgrmannequin6x9How do you write a sequel to a popular book that’s sure to please everyone? You can’t, of course. When I planned the sequel to my bestselling book The Mannequin, however, I re-read the reviews to get an idea what readers enjoyed most. Ultimately, I concluded that lightning rarely strikes twice in the same place. I didn’t want to tell the same story a slightly different way, so I vowed to begin fresh. Easier said than done!

1920px-Château_de_Versailles,_salon_des_nobles,_Pygmalion_priant_Vénus_d'animer_sa_statue,_Jean-Baptiste_Regnault
Pygmalion by Jean-Baptiste Regnault, 1786

You see, when I wrote The Mannequin, I didn’t start out to write a novel based on Cendrillon (Cinderella), La Belle et la Bête (Beauty and the Beast), or Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden. As the story unfolded, however, I wove in some familiar elements, hoping to strike an emotional chord. In the development of Grace Unmasked, however, I wanted to draw on other inspiration. I chose the mythological figure of Pygmalion, a sculptor who falls in love with his creation. Many 20th Century plays, musicals, and movies have been written about Pygmalion, most notably George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, the musical My Fair Lady, and even Gigi.

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Actress Mary Anderson as Galatea (1883)

Since Grace Unmasked is set in 1883, I had to find a version of Pygmalion written early enough to warrant a mention in the narrative. I chose Pygmalion and Galatea, a play written by W.S. Gilbert. (Download a .pdf copy from Boise State University website HERE). The three-act blank verse production opened at the Haymarket Theatre in December, 1871, was quite popular, and sparked many imitations. Although Grace Unmasked is not a retelling of the myth, I touch upon a similar theme.

One other interesting aspect of Grace Unmasked is its length. I’d wanted it to be longer than The Mannequin (over 64,000 words), but I hadn’t planned for it to exceed 96,000 words!  As Abe Lincoln said, when asked how long a man’s legs should be, “Long enough to reach the ground.” I wrote until the story was done…for the most part. That is to say, there are a few characters who might warrant a third book in the series. 😀

~ Suzanne

MANNEQUINTWOFINALCOVER

Blurb: On the heels of an unjust accusation, Grace flees from her country village to the anonymity of London. Although she intends to seek sanctuary with her cousin Joe Fiddick, she discovers he’s also suffered a setback and needs more help than she can offer. Desperate, she solicits assistance from Joe’s friend–the notorious rake, Lord Henley. Will the price of the handsome baron’s help be more than she’s willing to pay?

Grace Unmasked is available for pre-order at a special price HERE. Release date Tuesday, May 31, 2016.

Writing a Series

dreamstime_xs_12523211I’d just finished writing a sequel to Ruse & Romance (Rake & Romance) when I began to get requests for a sequel to The Mannequin. I had plenty of story material to go on, and so broke ground. As I was writing, I was turning over in my mind a subject for my blog. I decided a post about writing sequels and series might be interesting, and how I keep track of all the characters. In a television series, the creators keep what’s called a show bible. This bible contains information about the characters that’s already been established. That way, if the staff writers want to bring in a brother for “Rachel,” and she’s already mentioned in Episode Two she’s an only child, the writers would have to bring in the character as someone else…a cousin perhaps.

For me, I keep a character list, with names, physical descriptions, and any other established information about the players in a manuscript. Keeping a character list is a good idea, even in a standalone manuscript, because writers often change things like names and hair or eye color as they write. If a hero has blond hair and blue eyes in Chapter One, by Chapter Fifteen, his eyes shouldn’t magically change to hazel just because the author either forgot what he or she wrote, or neglected to revise what had come before.

So, around 10,000 words into “Mannequin Two,” I began to compose a post about sequels. Idreamstime_xs_13228376 pulled up my character list for The Mannequin, opened the manuscript to make sure the list was up-to-date, and low and behold, I discovered a critical problem. An offhanded mention in book one that a certain character only had younger brothers threw a wrench in the motor of my sequel. I’d neglected to put that information into my character list, and so began to write the sequel with three sisters and one brother.

What to do? A rapid sex change for the siblings was in order, but I needed the female character to remain. So, she became a cousin. Problem solved, but what if I hadn’t caught the casual reference? My mistake cost me a great deal of time, since I had to greatly revise what I’d written, and annoyed me to boot.

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(c) Stockman21|Dreamstime.com

So, now I keep my character list document open as I write, revise it as I go, and make notations of any information (even offhanded) about the players. With a sequel, I begin with my character list for book one, rename it for book two, and continue to add new information. Live and learn, I suppose.

Happy reading.

~ Suzanne

Rake & Romance will be released on Friday, January 29th! To pre-order your copy at the pre-release price, go HERE.

RAKE&ROMANCE

Blurb: Juliet’s plans to wed Lord Elbourne come to naught when she discovers he’s obliged to wed an heiress instead. To salvage her dignity, she enters into a ruse with the heiress’s brother, whom she views as a rake. Unfortunately, he’s also the most attractive man she’s ever met.

Cody Gryphon will do anything to see his sister Stephanie wed to Lord Elbourne, including entering into a temporary engagement with her romantic rival. Although he intends to return to Texas as soon as his sister is wed, he finds it increasingly difficult to resist Juliet’s charms.

Can a rake and a debutante find their happily ever after?

 

 

 

New Year Resolution • Must. Write. Faster

Got Resolutions? It’s that time of year to assess goals and set new ones. Want to hear mine? One of my favorite moments in Jurassic Park is the scene where Jeff Goldblum is sitting in the back of a Jeep, being chased by a T-Rex.

These days, I’m in the back of the Jeep, being chased by a huge bipedal monster telling me I must write faster. Why? My statistics show a distinct drop-off in new release interest at about six weeks. I suppose you could call the hungry carnivore Six Weeks, and I’m the tender morsel behind the keyboard.

Scared kitten

Unfortunately, unless I’m seized with inspiration, the story ideas don’t flow on schedule. Maybe that’s why the creature chasing me is a monster and not an adorable kitten.

RAKE&ROMANCE

Nevertheless, my goal is to write faster this year. I’d like to have an engaging new release every two months. First up (January 29th) is a sequel to Ruse & Romance, entitled Rake & Romance.

Blurb: Juliet’s plans to wed Lord Elbourne come to naught when she discovers he’s obliged to wed an heiress instead. To salvage her dignity, she enters into a ruse with the heiress’s brother, whom she views as a rake. Unfortunately, he’s also the most attractive man she’s ever met.

Cody Gryphon will do anything to see his sister Stephanie wed to Lord Elbourne, including entering into a temporary engagement with her romantic rival. Although he intends to return to Texas as soon as his sister is wed, he finds it increasingly difficult to resist Juliet’s charms.

Can a Texas rake and an English debutante ever have their happily ever after?flourish

Next, onDCOYCOVERSGRFinal4 March 29th, will be the re-release of Children of Yden, with a new cover and title (Dragon Clan of Yden)…but a re-release doesn’t really count, does it?

I’m also working on the third book in the Graceling Hall series, featuring Josie Wilkes and her HEA. After that, I’ll have to see what floats to the top of the pile.

So, my resolution is to tame the beast next year. How about you?

Have a wonderful New Year’s Eve.  ~ Suzanne

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Officially Me

It was a lot of hard work, but I’ve made my author name change official on Amazon. All the new files and covers are live and I hope I didn’t leave any readers on the sidelines! For those who are wondering why I made the change, there was another author with the same pen name and I discovered many people had thought I’d written her books. Therefore, I updated my pen name to my actual name and we’ll hopefully have smooth sailing from now on.

I also took the opportunity to update the cover for Duke of a Gilded Age.DOGAsgrBlurb: When American-born Wesley Parker inherits a dukedom in 1890, he must learn to be an aristocrat. Assigned to the task is his attorney’s daughter, prim Belle Oakhurst. As they travel to England together on a luxurious ocean liner, their tempestuous relationship encounters more than rough seas. Although Wesley is increasingly attracted to Belle, she is already engaged. While Belle begins to regret her hasty promise to marry, she is bound by honor and duty to keep her pledge. Furthermore, a thoughtless fabrication on her part threatens to expose her as a liar. Neither Wesley nor Belle can foresee that their voyage across the Atlantic will be fraught with peril, and will cost more than one man his life.

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Thank you for sticking with me during this transition, and I hope to release many more titles as Suzanne G. Rogers in the future!

~ Suzanne