Friday, December 28, 2012

A Year in IntREVIEW

Good Friday,

Often it is said just before New Years that it is a time to think back on the previous year.

As 2012 draws to a close, I intend to do a variant of just that.

A Year in IntREVIEW

Since creating the Lockbox back in May, I’ve interviewed several writers. This being the last Fiction Friday of the year, I’d like to take the opportunity to revisit all of those interviews. They are listed below.

I recommend, when you have the time, that you read through these. They are well-thought out responses about interesting people and works of fiction and non-fiction.

Amarilys Acosta: Young adult adventure/romance

Matt O’Dwyer: Fantasy

Tiffany Avery: Fantasy

Heather Sedlak: science fiction and fantasy

Rachell Nichole: Erotic Romance

Natalie Duvall: Regency romance

Stephanie Wytovich: Horror/dark fantasy

Jennifer Loring: Horror/dark fantasy

Craig Grossman: Neo-noir suspense

Sally Bosco: Young adult dark fantasy

Erin Bales: Epic fantasy

Joe Borrelli: Horror

Lori Pollard-Johnson: Mystery and other

Samantha Holloway: Fantasy

David Wilbanks: Humor

Sandra I. Bordenca: Memoir

Ethan Nahte: Speculative fiction

Rachel Robins: Urban fantasy


Jason Blatt: Comic fantasy

Anna Zabo: Paranormal and fantasy romance

It was a pleasure interviewing these writers, many of whom I know personally.

Expect to see more about authors in the future. I enjoy this type of thing so much that I’ve partnered with Goddess Fish Promotions. Come back on Monday for my first post with them.

For now, since this is my final free post of 2012, it’s been a great year. In terms of writing, I made great progress on my Seton Hill thesis, and I finished my urban fantasy. Looking ahead, the querying of the urban fantasy begins when I return from my January residency at SHU.

It’s been fun, 2012.

See you out of the box.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Guest Post--Rachell Nichole - Writing a Good Erotic Romance

Good Wednesday,

We have a guest today. Please give a warm welcome to erotic romance author Rachell Nichole. She’s here today to talk both about her recently released novel, “Spicy with a Side of Cranberry Sauce,” and the nuts and bolts of writing an erotic romance.

Welcome, Rach.

Hey Mary,

Thanks so much for having me stop by today. And hello readers, I’m glad you tuned in to hear what I have to say about writing a good Erotic Romance.

Writing a good erotic romance is equal parts really easy and really hard to do. First let’s chat a bit about the erotic romance industry in a post-Fifty Shades world. After the book blew up all over the place – hitting best-seller charts, spotlighting at many a book club, and being talked about everywhere – there was a huge change in the way erotic romance was shelved in bookstores, at least the ones I’ve encountered since then. Erotic romance was suddenly front and center in the middle of the romance section, right alongside paranormal, Harlequin’s lines, and sweet romances. That’s a big deal. But as many readers will tell you, the Fifty Shades books are not the best books ever written. So now, we turn to how to enjoy this surge in the industry and produce excellent books!

This is the easy part… and the hard part. To write a good erotic romance, you have to do everything you have to do when you write a good book, no matter its genre or subject matter. That’s it folks – write a good book, with lots of hot sex and a happy ending.

Of course, that’s much easier said than done, so I want to share a few specifics. I’ll give some examples from my current book, Spicy with a Side of Cranberry Sauce since I know the book inside and out and I want to share a bit about the book with you all.

1 – Plot – the book has to have a plot line. It can’t just be a bunch of love scenes connected by a few pages of dialogue and characters walking down the street for absolutely no reason. In my book, the plot revolves around a couple, Amy and Mason, who meet in a grocery store and feel an instant affinity for one another. They quickly realize though that their parents are dating and Mason’s defensive attitude and Amy’s determination to make things perfect lead them on a wild rollercoaster ride that lasts from Thanksgiving through Christmas. When Mason’s mom realizes he’s been sleeping with Amy, she calls off her relationship with Amy’s dad and it’s up to Amy and Mason to work together to fix it. See? Plot. Things happening, for a reason, outside of the sex scenes, of which there are many.

2 – Characterization – the book’s hero and heroine, or heroine and heroine, or hero and hero, or whatever, must be likable and they also must not be perfect. No one wants to follow along on the shoulder or in the head of someone who is perfect. Perfect people are annoying. Perfect characters even more so. Amy and Mason are seriously damaged characters. Amy lost her mom when she was a kid and hasn’t celebrated or planned ahead for pretty much anything else since then. Mason’s been carrying the guilt of his father’s affairs on his shoulders for over a decade and is convinced that he’s just like his father.

3 – Conflict – this kind of goes along with plot (what happens in the book) but it takes that concept a step further. Without conflict, everyone can be happy right from the start of the book. As a professor of mine says, “Only conflict is interesting.” Who wants to watch a football game in which nothing happens, or where one team is so far out of the realm of the other that we all know what is coming next. For Amy and Mason – the conflict is almost as instantaneous as the attraction. Mason doesn’t want Amy and her Dad spending the holidays with his mom. He knows she’s been hurt enough and fears the new man in her life is taking advantage of her frail emotional state. Amy is determined to win Mason over, even when he’s rude to her. She wants her dad and Martha (Mason’s mom) to be together. And she wants to celebrate a perfect holiday with this family.

4 - Love – the book MUST have a love story, an emotional element even among the hottest of scenes. It also must have a happy ending. This is where the line is drawn between erotica and erotic romance. An erotic romance must be a romance first and erotic second. If the people don’t get together in the end and stay together, the book is not a romance. The book starts with attraction, with love scenes, but there’s a steady building of admiration and love between Amy and Mason, until neither can deny their feelings for the other and decide to stick together despite their own damage and fears that it won’t work.

Those are really the big ones that every book needs, no matter the genre. Love is the only requirement added for romance. And sex is the only additional aspect for erotic romance, and while these scenes may have a lot of page time, they’re not the main part of the book. Past that, the book has to be well-written in terms of grammar, consistency, concision and all of that jazz, but all of those things happen during revisions and editing.

Thanks again Mary. And thanks readers. Do you think I missed anything?

Thank you, Rach. Looks good to me, and it’s so nice to actually see it said that there’s more to an erotic romance than sex, sex, and more sex. 

Spicy with a Side of Cranberry Sauce is on sale at Loose Id, All Romance Ebook, and Amazon.

You may recognize Rach’s name from an interview she did with me back in August about her book “An Affair Across Times Square.” Check that out here.

Monday, December 24, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Rant

Seasons Greetings from the Lockbox!

I’m taking a break from fiction today. I need to rant.

I celebrate Christmas. It’s not out of any religious obligation that I do this, but rather it is because Christmas is the holiday with the most lights. A born and bred New Englander, pine trees are a staple. Plus, this time of year wouldn’t be complete without “Carol of the Bells” in its various forms.

In fact, I really love most Christmas songs. There are a few I learned about via my college choir that I could live without, but, for the most part, Christmas songs are either beautiful or fun. As a true music lover, that means quite a bit to me. And so it is with warm regards that I give the majority of Christmas music two thumbs up.

All that aside, today’s rant is about one Christmas song in particular, and it’s not about one of those previously mentioned ones I could live without. No, it’s a song that I don’t actually dislike. It’s about a song that drives me something south of crazy. You’ve heard of the Pachelbel Rant (and if you haven’t, you have now). Well, this is the “12 Days of Christmas Rant.”

Writers—you, better than anyone, understand the importance of being paid by the word. Writers and readers, is there or is there not anything worse than too many words? You know what I mean. When you open a book and are met with “The brown, dappled fox pranced lightly through the snow-dusted forest, flicking his tale in a completely ordinary side to side sequence and puffing out a feather-like breath with every….” Make. It. Stop!

Wikipedia offers a nicely written article about the history and lyrics of “The 12 Days of Christmas,” stating up front that the lyrics are cumulative. Yes, that means what you think it means. It means that on the fourth day of Christmas, the poor person not only got the 4 calling birds but also three more French hens, another couple of turtledoves, and a brand spanking new partridge in a fresh pear tree.

So not only is that a ton of gifts, but it’s the longest freaking song ever!!!

Truth be told, I didn’t used to have this issue. In high school, I loved “The 12 Days of Christmas.” In advanced choir (chorale) my junior and senior years, we had a great 4-part harmony version of the song to which we would add visual aids. Day 1 was a single female mimicking a bird. Day two was two people (usually men) being all cutesy. Day three was three people (usually men) shouting in French accents and so on. Ten lords a-leaping was all the girls. Nine ladies dancing was all the men. It was the most fun I’ve ever had with that song.

And then I sang it in college.

“On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…a partridge in a pair tree.
On the second day of Christmas…*snore*”

Despite my attempts, the director would not agree to let us act it out, and we were stuck standing on the risers, rather pathetically (there wasn’t a lot of us) singing this extremely repetitive song.

I endured this, as painful as it was, and live to tell the tale. But my feelings for “The 12 Days of Christmas” have not been the same since.

And then this Christmas season, I discovered a version with instrumental interludes.

That crosses a line.

I am now forced to return to my college years and explain the solution to the problem of the repetitive song. As a practical upshot, this doubles as a warning to writers everywhere about being paid by the word.

One of my fellow sopranos turned to me during rehearsal one day and said, “Mary, I figured it out. We don’t need to sing the entire song.” She proceeded to sing her new version.

“Over 12 days of Christmas, my true love gave to me…
12 drummers drumming
22 pipers piping
30 lords a-leaping
36 ladies dancing
40 maids a-milking
42 swans a-swimming
42 geese a-laying
40 golden rings
36 calling birds
30 French hens
22 turtledoves
And 12 partridges in pair trees”


Alas, the director wouldn’t approve that change either despite our arguments that it was shorter, more to the point, more economically friendly, better for the audiences’ attention span, containing the same message as the original, less likely to insight mass rioting on the part of the choir, and showing in the soprano section’s creative skills.

My personal issues with singing the longer version in choir, can we return to the poor giftee in this situation? When you sing the entire song out, the damage seems less intense. “Oh, another 3 hens. That’s not bad.” Not so, those hens add up. Thirty hens are much more intimidating.

It’s not just the hens, either. That’s a lot of birds—184 birds to be exact. Now, where is she going to keep all those birds? And what “true love” didn’t think to include birdfeed?

And how is the giftee going to afford to keep all these birds? For our purposes, let’s assume that the giftee is a woman (because the prospect of a woman courting a man with 40 golden rings is a bit odd). Back in the day, women could not amass wealth independently without considerable questioning.

But let’s say she can. If she’s not already independently wealthy—which would help quite a bit—she’ll need to sell the 40 golden rings. Assuming that the rings (in keeping with the time) are 24-carat gold, all forty would sell for roughly 66k dollars in today’s market. That’s not a lot by today’s standards. Thus, it stands to reason that its equivalent back then would not have been a lot for the time.

There are still 184 birds to feed.

And that’s just the birds. What about all those extraneous people? Counting up the drummers, pipers, lords, ladies, and maids gives her 140 more creatures to provide for. Oh and there’s still the 40 cows that came with the maids.

Clearly, the profit from the 40 golden rings is not going to be enough.

Well, the 42 geese are “a-laying,” which means eggs. And the 40 cows and their maids are “milking,” which means (duh) milk. Using these two, she could sell homemade ice cream.

Then she’s got 36 hens. On their own, they’re quite useless, but if she invests (wisely in my opinion) in a single rooster, those hens could increase her egg production.

All this work and its still, most likely, not enough.

Well, she’s got 12 drummers and 22 pipers at her disposal. Those make for excellent street performers. Once her capital has grown enough, she could invest in a few different instrument players and form an orchestra. She could then host real concerts and earn a more steady income.

But alas, the numbers keep growing, and, let’s face it, the partridges, turtledoves, calling birds, and swans are pretty much useless. The pear trees on the other hand could bring a profit. And since the pairs contain seeds, she could plant more trees. That would, inevitably, lead to hiring people to tend the trees, which would, in turn, lead to more expenses.

“Hey, all you dancing and leaping weirdos! What do you do?”

“We leap…and dance.”

“Awesome. Do that in front of people and ask for cash.”

And if times got really hard, she could always retire the dancers and leapers in their current roles and use them to open a brothel. You wanna live on the farm, earn your keep.

At this point, she should have amassed a good amount of money. So there’s only one thing left to do.

-1. Purchase falsified documents
-2. Leave the country
-3. Change her name
-4. Never have contact with her idiotic “true love” again.

Writer’s Lockbox

What can be taken away from “The 12 Days of Christmas?”

-For the love of all that’s holy, when they say “paid by the word,” that is not an invitation to write as many words as possible at the expense of kindness to the reader and/or characters.

If you’d like to hear a sung version of “The Condense 12 Days of Christmas,” head on over to my YouTube and have a listen here.

Below is a list of parodies of “The 12 Days of Christmas.” Enjoy and Happy Holidays.

-12 Pains of Christmas
It’s called the most joyous time of year. With great joy, however, comes great stress.

-12 Drunken Days of Christmas
This lady had “a little” too much to drink.

-Bob and Doug McKenzie’s 12 Days of Christmas
A bit one-track minded, but they know what they want.

-Chipmunks 12 Days of Christmas
The fun starts around day 6.

-Jeff Foxworthy 12 Redneck Days of Christmas
Just your average presents….

-Shrek 12 Days of Christmas
Presents from the swamp

-12 Days of Christmas – Hunger Games
Just some friendly advice

-12 Days of Christmas – The Clone Wars
Star Wars gifts—always a plus

-12 Wizarding Days of Christmas
Fred and George just love what everyone got them

-12 Disney Princess Days of Christmas
Not really a parody, but you know my thing about Disney.

-Muppet 12 Days of Christmas
The fun starts on day 8