Friday, August 5, 2011

Romancing the Hone

Alligators? Nobody could survive that!
Er...that is: Honing the Romance. Cue silly picture.

Anywho, I wanted to highlight a few things about the Romance genre, because it ties together a few Writing article concepts that would otherwise be rather short for a weekly post.

How I buy eBooks

If I see a book amongst friends on Twitter, Goodreads or, sometimes, their website, I’ll look at it, hence the importance of word-of-mouth referrals (first-order). I also follow Smart Bitches, Trashy Books (amongst others) for my romance reading, highlighting the importance of word-of-link referrals (second-order). But a lot of the time it’s just me stumbling across a book in the Amazon search (third-order), thus requiring a good blurb and cover. Finally, of course, all these require a good preview (money-shot!)

This time I searched Amazon for ‘domestic romance’--because for some reason I decided that day that I shall buy my romance books like I do beer (presumably an import romance would have more body)--and found a neat series.

Romeo, Romeo
Too Hot to Handle
Breakfast in Bed

Rosalie Ronaldi is never getting married, no way, no how! But convincing her Italian mother and family is easier said than done for this financial executive. After leaving another hectic Sunday dinner at her parents’ in Brooklyn, Rosalie gets a flat tire and curses her brother, who borrowed the car, in three different languages, impressing Good Samaritan Nick Romeo. Nick is considered Brooklyn’s equivalent of Donald Trump: he owns several car dealerships and dates beautiful gold diggers. Driving a tow truck and wearing overalls, he decides to help Rosalie, who he thinks is crazy and very attractive in a Sophia Loren style. As they start a relationship, Rosalie has no idea that this Nick is the Nick Romeo. She lays down her ground rules, including nothing serious and no marriage talk, and Nick agrees until their relationship heats up. Now he must work up the nerve to tell Rosalie who he really is. Kaye’s debut is a delightfully fun, witty romance, making her a writer to watch.

From that blurb (actually a review, I guess...), the hook-word was ‘witty’ (somehow overcoming 'Donald Trump'), so I looked at the preview and saw that it was written from both perspectives. That's a good sign, because

What I Like in Books

First and foremost, Dialogue. Word-play, wit, wisdom, clevertude, attitude, scathing, simmering, rolling off the tongue, read-out-loud-and-laugh exchanges. In romance, this usually takes the form of ‘banter’, scaling up from playful, flirty, romantic and finally culminating in sexy. This is the province of Christopher Moore, Terry Pratchett, A Confederacy of Dunces, Catch-22, (Shakespeare!) and is the reason I enjoy The Hobbit and hate The Lord of the Rings. And why I like A Song of Ice and Fire almost exclusively for Tyrion and Littlefinger (and sometimes Jaime). Thus,

Second but still foremost, Characters. You can’t have good dialogue without good characters, and the best dialogue is two strong characters (or more! in a tightly written scene) duking it out with words. It’s the book equivalent of an exciting action sequence with colorful explosions, and it should be enshrined accordingly. This is the reason why I don’t really care for (most) Victorian romances, because women are assumed to be submissive (or so brazenly unsubmissive as to render dialogue moot by sheer physicality). Inner thoughts aren’t dialogue! At least not when I’m writing them, which leads us to...

Romance Hones My Writing

SciFaR? (sounds like ‘Cypher’)
As I’ve previously indicated, I write in the Science Fantasy Romance genre, a delightful fusion of all the things I like to read. In my opinion, my best (stand-alone) genre example thus far is my short story “The Moors of Venus” (which you can find most conveniently in my Fantasy collection “To Another Shore”). To craft that genre, I read three genres and steal the good parts.

To make a useful generalization, Science Fiction = Plot and Fantasy = Setting while,
Romance = Relationships
The main strength of Romance is that it focuses on relationships (and hence, to my tastes: ‘dialogue’, a verbal relationship) and,
Relationships = Characters.
Relationships define characters, and show without telling. You could declare “Timmy was a good person. Alice knew it.” or you could more effectively describe Timmy taking care of his sick girlfriend Alice. Likewise with plot and setting. It’s just there for the characters to react to, and, by reacting, to reveal character. Thus,
Characters = Story.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Two New Collections

I put together and released two short story collections for your reading convenience.

To Another Shore
eight fantasy stories

Dear sir or madam: please find attached eight short stories of a most fantastic nature. But, lo, I beg to inform you that it is a most mixed bag of fantasies. “The Witch of Amber City” is a parable. “Sorcerer’s Hire” is a coming-of-age story set amidst a magical-industrial war. “Timpani the Ostrich Rancher” posits a preemptive Great War sparked by the independent Kingdom of Kenya. “An Aesop Amidst the Fairy Dust” is a humorous urban fantasy of pizza. “The Moors of Venus” is my favorite short story of all I’ve written, and once you’ve read it, you’ll agree. “New Sodom Takes Her Chances”, starring Satan, is just plain weird. “The Ambassador’s Lady” chronicles the break-up of an Imperial Russia. Last but not least, “Ostracon” is a fast-paced tale of Mesolithic errantry. Is there a theme amidst this delightful madness? Sure. But you’ll only find it out once you’ve gone To Another Shore.

More of the Sun
The Jeremiad Monologues

He’s forcing me to publish this: Jeremiad, the lounge lizard turned revolutionary. He just appeared in my office—seriously, he can teleport—he’s holding my whisky hostage. He keeps talking and talking, some day he’ll get to the point. He’s promised me one beer for each book sold. ...I’m so thirsty.

This one is the three Jeremiad monologues in one convenient package, with much better cover art. If you previously purchased one of the single stories, e-mail me and I'll send you this one gratis

I'm putting these on Amazon first, and will make the Smashwords editions later. Thanks to my eBook Formatting Workflow and macros, it takes five minutes to format a book for MOBI and EPUB. Whereas I have to do all the formatting by hand in a word processor for Smashwords.

I'm also going to use this opportunity to see if LibreOffice 3.4 will suffice to do Smashwords DOC formatting. That would make my life a lot easier. Results to follow.
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