Posted in books, creative writing, memory's edge, new release, reading, romance, writing

Excerpt: Memory’s Edge Part 2

Before I move on to the next themed blog series, now that I’ve finished the Marketing Primer series, I thought I’d share an excerpt from Memory’s Edge: Part 2. This is the book I’m currently working on hoping to finish in the next month.

By the time lunch finally arrived, Gretchen was exhausted on every level. She only dragged herself out of her chair to lock the door. Before she could accomplish the task, she saw Desi sprinting down the hall and opened the door for her. Her friend crashed into her, throwing her arms around her and squeezing her hard enough to hurt.

“I am so mad at you! You know that, right?” Desi demanded when she finally pulled back. “I called and called and called!”

Yanking her friend into the classroom, Gretchen locked the door behind her and headed for her desk. Desi plopped down on top of a nearby student desk and glared at her friend. Gretchen collapsed in her seat. “I want to say I’m sorry, but I just couldn’t face talking to anyone.”

“I was so worried about you! John too! It was like I suddenly lost you both!” Her hands flew up dramatically. “How could you do that to me?”

Seeing the tears in her friend’s eyes broke Gretchen down. “I’m sorry, Desi. I know it wasn’t fair, but I just couldn’t. I still haven’t talked to my parents, either. I couldn’t even go home.”

Desi huffed. “Thank goodness Carl at least had sense enough to let everyone know you hadn’t gone off the deep end. I would have banged down your door if he hadn’t texted to say you were alive and as emotionally stable as could be expected.”

“If you had tried to bang down my door, you still wouldn’t have found me.”

Seeming a little surprised by that, Desi asked, “You’re still staying at Carl’s?”

Gretchen looked away from her friend. “Do you remember what the inside of my house looked like before we left for New York?”

Desi sighed as realization set in. “Oh, honey, I’m sorry. I hadn’t considered all the wedding prep scattered everywhere. Of course you didn’t want to go home to that.” She reached forward and squeezed Gretchen’s hand. “Have you heard from John yet?”

Looking up at her, Gretchen stared in confusion. “Why would I? He’s not coming back. He has his old life back now.”

“Yeah,” Desi said, “but what about all the wedding stuff, the catering business, his clothes and things, everything he left behind.”

Blinking away tears, Gretchen said, “It’s not like he needs any of it now, and I’ll deal with the wedding stuff eventually on my own. It’s not his problem anymore.”

Wincing, Desi asked, “So you looked him up too?”

She didn’t want to admit it, but Gretchen nodded. “I can’t even comprehend how much money he and Corey have. There’s nothing he left behind that he can’t buy again.”

“Except you.”

Gretchen glared at her friend. “It was the right choice.”

Propping her elbow on the desk, Desi dropped her chin into her palm. “I know, honey, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be hurt by his choice.”

“It was my choice as much as his. I’m the one who said goodbye and left the stage.”

“Because you knew what choice he had to make and did it for him so he didn’t have to.”

“It was the right choice,” Gretchen whispered as tears spilled down her cheeks.

Practically laying herself out across the desk, Desi ignored the fact that she was wearing a skirt and hugged her friend fiercely. “Sometimes right choices hurt worse than wrong ones.”

Gretchen clung to her friend for several long minutes before finding enough strength to pull back. “Thank you.”

She smiled and sat back up. They were quiet for a long time before Desi spoke again. “It’s going to be so weird without him here. Jake was so upset when he realized John wasn’t coming back.”

Gretchen instantly felt bad for not considering the impact of John’s leaving on anyone else in their life. Desi had gone through several boyfriends while John lived with Gretchen, but he and Jake had become very close over the last several months. Desi cared about him like a brother as well. And her parents…despite Gretchen’s mother warning her about the potential heartbreak loving John would cause, they both adored him and loved him like a son. They must have been as heartbroken over losing him as they were knowing she was hurting over the loss.

“I need to call my parents when I get home,” Gretchen said tearfully.

Desi smiled sadly. “We’re all going to miss him. I know it’s not the same for us as it is for you, but we do understand some of what you’re going through. Stay with Carl as long as you need to, but know we’re all here for you, okay? Whatever help you need to sort things out, all you have to do is call.”

Gretchen reached over the desk and hugged her again. “Thank you.”

They pulled back from each other and Desi sighed. “I better get going. I have to prep for my next class. Pottery week…” She shook her head at the impending mess and stood. “Call me later, okay?”

Gretchen nodded and watched her walk out. Another half a day to go. Then two more days until the weekend. Then one more week until spring break. She could last that long. Maybe by then she’d be ready to start putting her life back together.

Posted in delsheree gladden, free book, romance

Happy holidays!

I’ll be back with more of the Marketing Primer series after the holidays. Best wishes to all my readers this holiday season!

Be safe and well and enjoy time with your friends and family this year, even if it can only be via Zoom for a while yet!

If you need some books to read over the holidasy, all my books are either on sale or free over at Smashwords!

Posted in books, contemporary romance, date shark, date shark series, delsheree gladden, ebooks, new release, reading, romance

The Final Date Shark Book has arrived!

Ending a series is always a tough thing for me, but I’m so excited to wrap up The Date Shark Series with Leo Bailey’s story in “Repelling the Shark!”

Repelling the Shark

the Date Shark series, book 5

Repelling the Shark

Simple and easy falls apart when secrets revealed require making promises and opening up to the possibilities of hurt and hope.

Leo Bailey has so far escaped the curse of the date shark business. He fills in when needed, but has held onto his casual relationships and family emergency-free existence. hover

Marriage and family are a vague idea for the future, but he’s not ready to give up the freedom of being single and answering only to himself.

When Piper Moretti witnesses the demise of yet another of Leo’s friends-with-benefits relationship, she doesn’t think much of it. She has a long list of more pressing responsibilities and headaches to occupy her mind.

Friends, and the strings that go with them, are at the bottom of her priority list.

When a date shark client who tops the list of bizarre behavior Leo has seen, his half-joking request for rescue drags Piper into the chaos and into Leo’s life.

Neither one wants more than a simple, no-stress friendship. Secrets and surprises force them to admit neither one is nearly as in control of their futures as they think they are.

Helping each other means getting involved, making promises, and opening themselves up to the hurt and hope they’re both terrified to face.

Posted in books, characters, reading, romance, writing, writing advice, writing thoughts, writing tips

Creating memorable Meet-Cutes

One of my favorite meet-cutes is from You’ve Got Mail when the main characters meet Meg Ryan’s bookstore and Tom Hanks is explaining his complicated family situation. It leads so well into Meg Ryan realizing who he is and that his mega chain bookstore is going to put her out of business.

What is a Meet-Cute and how they can best be developed and utilized in romance?

The meet-cute is when a future romantic couple meets for the first time.

The purpose of a meet-cute is to set up a burgeoning relationship.

Meet-cutes often use awkwardness, embarrassment, or hostility and should hint at potential conflicts or barriers to the relationship as well as show the nature of the relationship. The meet-cute should also set the tone for the story.

Forms of meet-cutes include:

Bad first impression: sparks embarrassment, hostility, misunderstanding, etc. This provides immediate conflict, dislike, or intrigue.

The twist: gives one character the upper hand and presents a conflict.

The odd couple: presents differences that could be either complimentary or antagonistic depending on the situation.

While it’s okay to use a tried-and-true meet-cute (i.e. literally bumping into each other), it’s important to make it unique.

Try a unique location (car accident, painting class, etc.)

Have one character do something unexpected (doesn’t help the other up after a fall)

Involve a unique item (onions cascade off a grocery store display and hit the other’s foot)

Force the characters to interact in an unusual way (assigned seating at a movie separates one from a group due to buying tickets too late)

Bring them together during an emergency (fire alarm, witnessing a mugging, etc.)

For a little meet-cute inspiration for future projects, check out these real life stories!

Posted in books, characters, reading, romance, writing, writing advice, writing thoughts, writing tips

Crafting scenes that stick with your readers

What is a scene from a book or movie that has stuck with you? Why did it connect with you? For writers, recognizing and evaluating these scenes is a great learning experience!

There are several important elements to crafting an impactful scene:

concept-1868728_1920Purpose

Every scene should have a purpose (advance the plot, reveal something about the character, or provide information about the overall plot). The purpose should be able to be condensed into a one sentence summary. Scenes with no clear purpose are filler and should be cut or rewritten.

Point of View

A scene needs to be told from the most impactful point of view. Usually this is whoever is most impacted by the events of the scene. If emotion isn’t coming through in the scene, reevaluate whose POV it’s being told from. POV is often tied to the purpose of the scene: Who will learn the most? Who will change the most? Who will react more strongly? Who has the most to lose?

The High Moment

Scenes within a story should mimic the overall story structure: beginning, middle, climax, end. The high moment uses elevated emotion, action, or revelation to impact the character(s). The high moment should come at or near the end of the scene and it should be something that produces a reaction. The high moment reveals the purpose of the scene. The character should learn something, either about his or her self or the other characters, that affects their perception or choices.

Emphasizing Conflict

Every scene needs some form of conflict: inner, outer, or both. The conflict needs to have meaning, not be pointless arguing. Conflict should get progressively worse throughout the story, increasing the stakes. Keep this in mind while planning scenes and make sure there is an overall progression. Scenes with mostly inner conflict won’t be as explosive, but should increase the overall tension.

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Showing Character Development and Change

Every scene should demonstrate some form of character change. The change may be subtle, but it needs to show development and growth of the character, or show backsliding behavior. Whatever happens in the scene should have an impact on the character, eliciting change on some level. Change should match the character and the event. One character may see an event as not a big deal, while the other sees it as a huge problem. They need to react and change according to their perceptions.

Staying on Point

Scenes should leave out all the boring and non-important details. Life may be filled with the mundane, but scenes should not be. If the info, actions, or dialogue doesn’t pertain to the purpose of the scene, cut it. Start in the middle of a scene, with action of some kind, and leave out the movements in and out of the scene. Only insert backstory when it doesn’t slow the present scene.

Strong Beginning and Endings

The beginning and ending should not only be strong, but should be related in some way. This may be theme, symbolism, situational, a specific action or piece of information, etc. Tie the beginning and the end together in a meaningful way that relates to the purpose of the scene.

Adding Details

Find the right balance of details to create a full scene without bogging it down. Descriptive details should be pertinent to the action, help create mood and tone, or accentuate the dialogue. Details should use all relevant senses to create a full picture of the setting, the characters, and the emotion. Details should reveal something. A clenched fist shows anger, fidgeting conveys unease, food and clothing choices set the stage and reveal preferences, etc.

Evaluating Scenes

Whether you’ve watched Dead Poet’s Society or not (if you haven’t, you should!), this scene is a powerful one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j64SctPKmqk

What is one thing about this scene that sticks out to you? What impression does it leave and why?

Posted in books, characters, romance, writing, writing advice, writing thoughts, writing tips

Why chemistry between characters is key to connecting with readers

An important aspect of building story readers can connect with is developing great chemistry between characters.

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Chemistry is the emotional connection between characters, and it helps create a connection with the reader. It isn’t just about romances. All characters need to have some level of chemistry with the other characters in order to bring them to life.

Essential elements of creating chemistry include:

  1. A strong first meeting
  2. Bonding moments
  3. Conflict and dislike

Common romance chemistry tropes include:

  1. Opposites attract: provides instant conflict and a logical path of progression
  2. Forbidden love: may be true or perceived barriers; creates tension, desire, and conflict
  3. Love/Hate relationship: less realistic, but provides tension and a logical path to the climax; plays on the idea that love and hate are very similar emotions

Creating chemistry involves a balance between bonding and dislike

The balance between the two depends on the type of relationship (friends to lovers, enemies to lovers, star-crossed lovers, friends, family, estranged family or friends, etc.).

Bonding moments bring characters closer together and deepen their connection. Finding common interests, opportunities to help each other, moments of understanding, doing something unexpected for the other person, opening up about personal topics, etc.

Dislike is built with conflict (light and heavy). Competition, intellectual or moral disagreements, misunderstandings, lashing out, etc.

Bonding and dislike should escalate over the course of the story, with bonding generally having more progress (until the dark moment when dealing with main characters). Dislike will take over during crises, but a chance for bonding remains.

Creating realistic attraction develops more profound chemistry

This doesn’t mean no insta-love ever, especially if that’s going to be a source of conflict later when the character realize love at first sight doesn’t mean no problems, but the reason for their attraction should be believable.

Good looks aren’t enough. Being hot doesn’t prevent a person from being an asshole. Draw from personality, compatibility, intrigue, uniqueness…something that will last and create conflict later in the story.

Build realistic tension to increase chemistry

Tension can come in a variety of ways, including miscommunication, lies, secrets, arguments, moving too fast/slow, etc. The key is for these to be realistic and fit with the overall story. One rumor that’s never fact-checked or confronted and causes the MC to run away without looking back and fall into utter despair isn’t realistic and tends to frustrate readers. Especially if the MC is an otherwise strong and intelligent person.

If a point of tension can be fixed in less than a paragraph, it probably isn’t complex enough to be believable.

Create high stakes to build chemistry even higher

There should always be something that can completely ruin a relationship. This may be developed from page one or be a surprise two-thirds of the way through.

The risk that everything could fall apart, and both or one of the characters knows this, will affect everything they do and act as a constant reminder to the reader that they shouldn’t assume everything will turn out all right.

Movie vs. written chemistry

Working with video can have advantages over the written word, but sometimes the opposite is true. Consider how much more you can convey about a character’s internal thoughts and motivations through writing that is difficult to capture on film.

Here’s a funny example of how sharing a character’s internal thoughts on film makes for a really awkward romance scene: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIlHR2SWW9E

Can you think of any other movie relationship scenes that would have been better in writing?

Posted in books, publishing, reading, romance, writing, writing advice, writing thoughts, writing tips

What exactly does “steamy” mean when it comes to romance?

When a reader says they want a “steamy” book, what does that mean? What does “sweet” or “clean” mean? Well, these often means a lot of different things to different people.

When trying to find the line between steam levels in different romance subgenres, it’s helpful to break down what each level means and which subgenres use each most often. Of course, there are books that cross, blur, or nudge the lines, but it’s good to have a firm basis to start with.

Hands Holding HeartsSweet

Low-level sexual tension, focused more on emotional elements than physical, limited to kissing and embraces. Stories often end with a proposal or strong HEA. Think G-rated movie.

Most often used in Regencies and some historicals, middle and younger YA, religious/spiritual/inspirational fiction, and sweet/clean contemporary romances.

Subtle

8a7998ee-211a-4316-9e7f-999a6df97905No explicit sensuality, kissing and touching is okay but physical descriptions are limited to general terms or are only implied. Physical acts should be focused on the emotional elements rather than explicit description. Off-screen sex is alluded to and left to the reader’s imagination. Think PG-rated movie.

Most often used in YA, mild contemporary romance, some historical romances, and spiritual/religious/inspirational.

Warm/Medium

sunset-691995_1920Moderate explicit content and sensuality. Sex is described, but not in graphic detail. The emphasis stays on the “lovemaking” and emotions, not the act. Euphemisms are more common and many details are left to the reader’s imagination. Sexual tension is used throughout, with more touching and some undressing involved, and there are usually only one or two sexual scenes in the whole book. Think PG-13 rated movie.

Common in single-title romances, upper YA, mild NA, some historicals, milder/teen paranormal/fantasy/sci-fi, and some romantic suspense/thriller/mysteries where the focus is more on the crime than the relationship.

Hot

Romantic couple in a hotel roomVery explicit sensuality and a deeper focus on sexual feelings, desire, and physical sensations. Sex scenes are longer and may have 2-3 in the book. Character thoughts are focused more on sexual urges and desires and sex is graphically described with specific body part words used and strong euphamisms. There may be light exploration of less-traditional sexual activities. The emotional aspect of sex is still important and should be balanced with the physical sensations. Sex scenes should further the story, not overtake it. Think R-rated movie.

Includes the majority of contemporary romances today, romantic suspense, most NA, some Apha/mafia subgenres, and most paranormal/fantasy/sci-fi.

Erotic

Marriage couple in the hotelExtremely explicit sensuality and descriptions with a strong focus on sexual thoughts, desires, and needs. Sex may be the primary focus of the story, but it still has a full-arc storyline and strong emotional elements. Sex often includes non-traditional elements such as light BDSM, use of sex toys, ménage or other forms of “kink.” Profanity is more common and graphic language is used in descriptions. There are usually multiple sex scenes throughout the book. These stories can’t be told adequately without the sexual content. Think NC-17-rated movies.

Erotic romance

***Always consider consent and the line between abuse and dominance. Characters must retain a choice on whether to participate and there needs to be a minimum level of respect between partners to keep it out of the realm of an abusive relationship.

Posted in books, characters, creative writing, reading, romance, writing, writing advice, writing thoughts, writing tips

Writing strong females characters: behaviors vs. personality traits

Strong female characters have not only been a topic of discussion quite frequently over the last few years, they’ve been steadily becoming better as readers and writers both recognize what that phrase means to them and why it’s being talked about.

Beautiful bright makeup woman with long curly hair looking sexyOne of the key elements in writing strong female characters (and this applies to writing strong characters of any gender), is understanding the difference between behaviors and personality traits. Behaviors are things a character does (what we do), while a personality trait is how a character behaves, thinks, and feels (what we are). Personality traits are difficult or impossible to alter, while behaviors can be changed.

For too long, “strong female characters” were based on behaviors such as fighting, sarcasm, sexual activity, shunning femininity, using her body for manipulation of others, etc. The personality traits behind these behaviors are much different than the behaviors themselves and are what readers will connect with on a deeper level when they are fully brought into the story.

Consider the list of behaviors above and what personality traits caused or impact the behaviors, and what the sources of the behaviors might be:

MMA Fighter PunchFighting: perhaps the character grew up in a rough home life and had to defend herself from a family member, bully, gangs, etc. Perhaps she was a victim and learned to fight for protection.

Sarcasm: sarcasm may come from insecurities about self, status, a pessimistic worldview, or a sense of humor. It may limit their ability to make friends or have deep relationships.

Sexual activity: This may come from a place of confidence and freedom or a need to please and fill emotional holes. Is it self-destructive or empowering? Does this this affect relationships or self-image?

Shunning femininity: Consider what caused this shunning. It my come from sexual orientation or gender issues, having been victimized and made to feel vulnerable, growing up with masculine role models, insecurity about being seen as feminine or weak, or a genuine dislike for typically feminine activities or looks.

Using the body to manipulate: This may speak to the time/setting and the character’s status in her community or social structure. I may be a learned behavior from a role model, or developed out of survival instinct. A woman could also see this type of a manipulation as a useful tool she sees no problem in utilizing, and possibly even see it as a equalizer with men.

These are only a few considerations, examples, and questions brought up by these behaviors, but they highlight how much more interesting and engaging the personality trait is than the behavior. Readers want to uncover why a character says, does, and thinks the way they do. Developing personality traits rather than only behaviors leads to opportunities for deep backstories and character growth and development.

Any time a character does something, ask why, and integrate the answer into the story and character arc.

Posted in books, contemporary romance, ebooks, free book, giveaway, new adult, paranormal, romance, the arcane wielders series, the handbook series, what had to be done, ya fiction, young adult

Off to enjoy the holidays!

warm-and-cozy-1975215_1280

I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season and getting a little time off to spend with friends and family! I’m off most of the week to spend time with my hubby and kids, so no other blogs this week, but thank you to all my readers for your support!

If reading is in your holiday plans, I have a gift for all my readers! Grab a FREE copy of one of the books below on Smashwords using the promo code paired with each one.

What Had to be Done: ZN49G

WHTBD front

The Oblivious Girl’s Handbook: BX93D

Oblivious Girls Handbook

Life & Being: NA84Z

Life and Being

Posted in characters, contemporary romance, creative writing, romance, writing, writing advice, writing thoughts, writing tips

HEA, HFN, and Realism

In most romance subgenres, happily ever after endings are a requirement. What exactly is an HEA ending, and how does it differ from an HFN or happy for now ending?

HEA and HFN both end happily. The main differences between them are for how long and on what terms will the characters be or remain happy?

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HEA’s simplest definition is that everything turns out for the best for the protagonists and any side characters. If there is an antagonist, they get what they deserved. HEA leaves the reader confident the happiness will continue long term with no major roadblocks or disasters.

HFN is often consider a more realistic type of ending. Not everything is perfect, but it’s pretty good for the moment and the circumstances. The protagonists’ lives have improved to a satisfying level, even if it isn’t the end goal and may not be permanent.

Now, let’s discuss making HEAs a little less predictable and, let’s admit it, less cheesy.

Make the characters work HARD for their HEA.

No quick resolutions or easy forgiveness. Leave the reader doubting it will happen right up to the last second. The “work” may be external or internal.

External work might be distance, others who keep them apart, lies or mistrust, etc. Internal work is a character overcoming internal issues, such as past hurts, commitment phobias, or held secrets.

Whatever type of work a character must do to reach their HEA, give them roadblocks and roller coaster ups and downs. Any time it starts to feel like things are getting to easy for them, hit them with another one that pushes them back a few steps.

Put a twist on a trope.

Romance has plenty of tropes to chose from. The difficulty is often making them unique and not just another Disney ending. HEA doesn’t always have to end with a kiss, sex, or a proposal.

What else signifies commitment? Exchanging house/apartment keys, adopting a pet, meeting family, etc.

The important thing to remember here is that the twist has to make sense and be relevant to the character’s arc. If a character is open and welcoming by nature, introducing her new love to her family at the end isn’t much of a twist, or very exciting. However, for a character who’s had to work through major issues with her domineering mother and has trouble opening her private life to people, introducing a new love to her mother would be a big step that showed trust and commitment.

Try unique situation and settings.

Very few real relationships reach the HEA moment over a candle-lit dinner or during a grand romantic gesture. Take a page out of reality and spice up a conversation over pizza or taking a walk and falling in love with a house listed for sale. Look for everyday moments that can be made special.

I love the scene from The Office when Jim proposes to Pam at a gas station. It’s a powerful moment, not only because it’s unexpected, but because his previous attempts at a grand gesture kept getting messed up and he simply couldn’t wait to start his life with her any longer.

Make the reader wait.

Whether this is a planned meeting that gets held up and makes a character doubt, a tough decision that is held off until the last moment, a sacrifice the reader isn’t sure a character will make, or something else, a pause before the HEA can up the reader’s anticipation.

In most romances, the reader knows there will be an HEA, but they don’t know how it will happen. If you’ve developed a strong story arc, every time the MCs get close, they’re pushed back apart, making the reader doubt their ideas of how it will all play out. Keep this up until the big moment. Then you can follow it up with a glimpse of what their HEA looks like long term.

One last note…

Make sure each character has their OWN happy ending before their relationship gets a happy ending. HEAs are even more unrealistic when the characters haven’t shown enough development for a reader to believe “true love” will last forever.

This doesn’t mean they have to be perfect, but they DO have to be capable of sustaining a long-term, committed relationship. Each character should have their own development arc and need to reach the climax of that arc before the story/relationship arc can reach it’s own climax.

Sensual attractive couple