Wednesday, September 20, 2017

My Head Explodes with Story Ideas


I will not live long enough to write all the story ideas I have. And it’s not like this is a fixed set. Every day I get at least one more new idea. Remember the expression “ripped from today’s headlines”? I often think of that expression when people who don’t write fiction ask me where I get my ideas for stories.

Where don’t I get ideas? They beat me about the head until I capture the idea in a computer file for later examination. I have hundreds of tickler files!

On the other hand, this frequently asked question pushed me to consider explicitly where my story ideas originate. Of course, I quickly realized the sources are as many and varied as the stories I write.

The stories push themselves into my consciousness as I notice a mom and recalcitrant toddler at the grocery store, when I see the woman facing away from the man in the car at the traffic light beside me, when I read a “Dear Abby” column. I am unable to escape the stories. I often respond to those who ask about story ideas that I feel as if I am downloading life into my computer and won’t come close to living long enough to complete the task.

To those who don’t write fiction professionally, it must seem like magic of some sort that we see stories all around us. That the hard part of writing is not the story idea, but in bringing life to the idea with characters will readers care about.

But, for those who might be reading this who are not bombarded with stories, let me share some other things I do on a regular basis to keep the story well filled with water. My sons would say that saving this stuff is just further evidence of my OCD problem, but, in the interest of art, I’ll put up with their abuse.

Decades ago I began collecting Chinese fortune cookies slips. Sometimes these are fortunes, sometimes they are aphorisms, but either way, they are story topics. I have hundreds of these, and have even strung some of them together in a story outline about my best friend, Pat, in which we meet together every year for Chinese food and then the intervening chapters tell how our cookie fortunes played out between our yearly dinners. 

Another source is the newspaper/online articles. I have stacks of news and feature articles (typically feel-good stories about locals who overcome obstacles) and piles of advice columns. These provide a structure for your story way beyond the kernel of cookie fortunes. I have a whole folder on articles and story plotting about the mummified babies found in a storage room in California. I create a now-what story for the girl who beat cancer. Who hasn’t imagined what the letter writer did after getting the professional’s advice to dump the chump she wrote in about? 

I practice describing settings and characters while traveling. It’s something to do to while away the time. The airport and plane are filled with opportunities to bring what you see to life. Sometimes you need a background character for a scene and having a set of character or setting sketches handy can help. Even if you don’t ever use them, just paying attention and describing is a good writing exercise.

I collect overheard conversation bits as I am walking down the street, in a meeting, or buying pickles. People talk on their phones as if they are in the phone booths of long ago. Hello! We all can hear that conversation! Another great source of conversation bits is restaurants. Again, people carry on the most intimate of conversations in the most crowded locations! Always keep a notebook (file cards, fast food receipt) at the ready.

I sit on a swing and notice the plane overhead, and a novel of the passengers and crew who face an emergency landing in a remote location pops into my head. The odd-shaped passageway into a tree’s core calls forth the little people who live under it and their struggles with another race. The unexpected chill on my neck brings forth the tale of an unhappy spirit seeking peace and release.

I seem to have the knack to convert a kernel into a creamed corn casserole. It takes but a spark to get me doing my “what ifs” to unravel a tale. Isn’t it great to be paid to lie? That no one will chastise you ever again for a runaway imagination? That in fact your ability to expand and develop characters and situations is admired by many?

The world is stories. Keep an eye and ear out for all those you happen upon every hour of every day. And please share your sources below in the comments so we all learn more.

Bloggers count of readers finding them. Could you help? Please share this post with others. Here are some copy/paste messages ready to use.

Facebook: Writers, story ideas are everywhere so aren’t you surprised when readers ask where you get your ideas? Have them read this post by Angelica French http://bit.ly/2wN2Bpi

Twitter: #Writers, story ideas abound & @RomanceRighter gives ideas to share when asked where your ideas come from http://bit.ly/2wN2Bpi

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Romancing the Genre


I, Angelica French, write romances of varying degrees of heat. Unapologetically. Other nom de plumes accompany other genres I write. Why have alter egos? Why don’t I write all my books under a single name?

Well, I think it could be awkward for someone who enjoys my culinary mysteries to pick up Streetwalker and go hunting for non-existent recipes but while hunting find explicit sex scenes that simply never occur in a cozy mystery. Sharon Arthur Moore, Angelica French, Caroline Adams, and River Glynn can have their own audiences.

Angelica enjoys romance of various types depending upon her mood. Romances are quite as variable as my panoply of pen names. Do you read romances? Do you wonder why people read romances if you do not?

When discussing the romance genre, several questions arise:
1) What are the various romance genre? Why so many?
2) Who reads romance?
3) Why do they read romance?
4) What makes a romance “good”?

1) What are the various romance genre? Why so many?

Romance genres heat levels range from sweet to erotica. By the way, pornography is not a romance, since romance requires more than sexual acrobatics. By definition a romance has to have, well, romance.

“Sweet” romances depict love with yearnings not backed up by action (certainly not outside of marriage), whereas, some accuse “erotica” of not having any subtlety at all--it’s all about “the act.” Erotic romance, on the other hand, does keep a relationship as a central component.

There are multiple levels of heat along this continuum and when authors submit to a publisher, they must identify the heat level according to each publisher’s guidelines. Even the erotica publishers have their limits, however. No pedophilia, bestiality, and other acts generally deemed offensive or illegal.

Within the heat levels, there are categories of romance genres. These include historical, contemporary, inspirational, paranormal, suspense, mystery, and so on, as in general fiction categories. And, as with general fiction categories, historical romances might be the Old West, Regency, Civil War, Pre-World War I, Post World War II, and so on.

It’s pretty obvious why there are so many categories and heat levels. If there weren’t readers, there wouldn’t be books produced. That simple. Lots of folks like romances, men and women.

2) Who reads romance?

There’s been a good bit of research to identify the demographic for romance readers. In a study by Romance Writers of America (RWA) a few years ago, 42% of romance readers had at least a bachelor’s degree, and 15% earned or were working on post-graduate degrees. While still mostly women, nearly one-quarter of romance readers are male.

In the RWA study, half of romance readers were married, four percent were divorced, thirty-seen percent were single, one percent were separated, and eight percent were widowed.

Most romance novels readers in the study were ages 35-44. The next largest group was 25-34. The third highest age group of romance readers were ages 45-54. Only seven percent were 17 or younger.

After I (Angelica) finish the trilogy for my “Sex Sells” series, I am going after crone lit. There are LOTS of older women looking for romance and titillation in their reading. Old folks can have and enjoy romance and sex, too!

3) Why do they read romance?

People read romances, I think, for the same reasons they read anything. A peek into how and where others live. An escape from their own reality. An examination of how others solve a problem they have. A chance to live in another world for a while. Maybe a bit of titillation and fantasizing.

4) What makes a romance “good”?

A good romance shares the same things that make any fiction book good--interesting characters you care about (Gone Girl is a notable exception), unpredictable twists and turns that still make sense, authenticity of setting/characters/events, or learning about another place/time/event.

Romance, more than most genres, has been criticized for being clichéd and formulaic. I admit to boredom with those overtly predictable stories as well. The best romances, as in any genre, provide surprises that weren’t foreseen but were still logical in the story. I also am weary of the women who must have a man in their lives to define them and solve their problems. Give me a romance with a woman who takes charge of her own life, and then, oh, by the way, falls in love with a fellow (or gal).

Chick Lit, one of the categories in romance, is characterized by the growth of the woman (apart from a partner) who with humor and good will stumbles around in life and relationships before finally getting it all together.

The Romance Writers Report, journal of the Romance Writers of America, published an article about the canon of romance books. The author took on a critic of romance genres who was critical that there was no set of generally agreed upon representative books.  

According to the author, a canon is not necessarily those books that are the best in the genre so much as game-changers, books that initiated a change of direction in format or content. It was a pretty compelling article. “Is There a Romance Canon?” By Wendy Crutcher, June 2014, 34 (6), Romance Writers Report.

It’s interesting to me how romance genres are more likely than any other genre I know to be denigrated. And, on the other side, hotly defended. Do you read romances? Are they one of your guilty little secrets? Or do you disdain romance readers as unsophisticated and naïve?

Help more people find this article. I’d be very appreciative if you’d share this on your social media. Here are some copy/paste messages to post. Thanks!

Facebook: What are romances, who reads them, and why? Angelica French has all the answers (well, a lot anyway). http://bit.ly/2f8nqla

Twitter: What are #romances, who reads them, and why? @RomanceRighter has all the answers (well, a lot anyway). http://bit.ly/2f8nqla

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Book Review: Somewhere in Time



Richard Matheson wrote one of the most appealing stories I’ve ever read/seen. It’s a story that floats into my mind over the years. For me, the endurance of the tale is tied to several things other than the romance it describes. But that’s very well done as well.

Somewhere in Time (1975; original book title is Bid Time Return) is the story of a dying man who falls in love with a woman he has never met, in fact cannot meet, since she is a portrait of a famous actress from the previous century. He is drawn again and again to her picture. He seeks additional information and pictures of her. An obsession takes hold. The movie omits the brain tumor.

The biggest hook, for me, is time travel. What does one do if one falls in love with a woman long dead? If you’re an accomplished modern fantasy writer, you figure out a credible strategy for bridging the decades, and let your hero make the trip. I’m not giving anything away here, because surely from the early pages it’s pretty obvious Richard has to meet Elise.

The setting for most of the book is the very real, luxurious, and classic hotel, the Hotel del Coronado, in San Diego, a place I have spent many days. It is elegance personified, even in the modernization the Del has had. The setting for the movie is the fictional The Grand Hotel in Illinois? Michigan? Wisconsin?

The book was made into a 1979 movie starring Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeve. I was surprised to learn that the movie I saw IRT (in real time) is now considered a cult classic. Feeling your age, anyone? Apparently, like The Rocky Horror Picture Show, fans gather yearly to honor the wonderful movie they love.

The differences between the book and the movie (I stopped counting after a dozen) ranged from small (room number, lake vs ocean, added Arthur character) to huge (no brain tumor, Elise giving young Richard a watch, timeline forwarded 16 years). Whereas I preferred the book to the movie (as I typically do), the movie has its own charm and niche. And Elise’s dresses are worth watching, if nothing else!

Elise is an acclaimed actress who is performing at the Del in 1896. Richard plots out how he can arrive on time to see her performance and to declare his love. Of course, there are a few impediments, his brain tumor, for one, that make the planning and execution difficult. His time travel method almost makes you think you could do that-almost. Also, what does one say to a woman who doesn’t know you exist and wonders why you are being so forward in contradiction of 19th century etiquette? Will he remain in her time or will he bring her back to his? Did he even cross the timeline or is it a delusion from his sick brain.

This love story across the decades resonates with us because we all want to believe in eternal love, right? That there is one person we’ll love above all others. That one would do anything for someone heesh loves. That nothing can keep true love from consummation.

How does it end? Does their love endure across the decades? Can this star-crossed couple achieve happiness? I’m not telling. Read Somewhere in Time and see the movie. They are both well worth your time. (Okay, the movie is a little sappy. DH left off watching.)

Caution: There is another book with the same title, also a time travel romance, but I haven’t read it. Look for the Matheson title and let me know what you thought of it. Does it haunt you, too?

Bloggers love it when readers share the post with others. If you would do that, I’d be most appreciative. Here are some copy/paste messages you can use.

Facebook: One of the most poignant loves stories of all time is SOMEWHERE IN TIME, both the book and the movie. Learn more from Angelica French at http://bit.ly/2wSxzMu

Twitter: A #lovestory for the ages. Review of SOMEWHERE IN TIME from @RomanceRighter http://bit.ly/2wSxzMu

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Happiness is . . .


I have a necklace that I like to wear. In fact, I wear it a lot. But when I put it on today, I thought of its words in a whole different context, the context of our current atmosphere in America.

The words on the mobius strip necklace are from Gandhi: “Happiness is when what you think and what you say and what you do are in harmony.”

Imagine that congruence. That happiness results from the congruence, according to Gandhi, is an interesting thought. Is that an Eastern religion thing or is it TRUTH?

I do think in my case, and the friends around me, that the intersection, like the common strip in a Venn diagram, is where happiness lies. I certainly know that I have less anxiety, less stress if I am in congruence. In balance. In sync.

And isn’t the assumption that the congruence is good thought, good words, and good deeds converging on happiness? But what if there are bad thoughts, bad words, and bad deeds? Is that person happy, too?

Gandhi doesn’t qualify (in this quote) that these are to be good actions and thoughts—only that the confluence of thought, words, and deeds must be aligned. Take Oscar Wilde's Dorian Gray, for example. Was he happy?

Given the current political divide, no matter which side you favor, surely we should all be wondering how to achieve the balance in a positive way. What if all of America’s people were in a state of happiness, but for some the happiness stems from a congruence of negativity and for others the happiness results from positivity?

What kind of a world are we talking about? Everyone is happy. But for opposite reasons. Can we compromise with one another from these states of happiness (given our individual sources of happiness) or would Americans be even more entrenched in the belief that each is right? What kind of America would we have is everyone were happy?

Can we hold onto happiness from a positive stance? I’m going to say yes. But, like marriage, one would have to work at it. But, going out on a limb here, I posit that happiness from an alignment of bad thoughts, bad words, and bad deeds would be transitory.

I expect that negative happiness, if it even can exist, would be in flux. Always something nastier to think, say, and do. Always comparing one person’s nastiness with others. Who can be “happier” through negativity, they might ask themselves?

But what a great premise for a novel, eh? Probably one of the futuristic dystopian variety. Everyone is happy. How do you keep them happy? And what are the consequences, foreseen and not, of a “happy” populace, particularly if happiness stems from negativity for some and positivity from others? Would negativity ultimately defeat positivity? Or would, in the end, the love you take equal the love you make?


If you found this an intriguing post, please share with others. Here are some copy/paste posts to use. Or make up your own!

Facebook: Gandhi said, “Happiness is when what you think and what you say and what you do are in harmony.” Does that mean evil people can be happy? Angelica French cogitates on the conundrum. http://bit.ly/2vt4BOX

Twitter: What’s the source of #happiness & can we work with others who have opposite sources? See @RomanceRighter’s post http://bit.ly/2vt4BOX

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Persistence and Resilience



Related research strands a number of years ago in my previous life was about schools that beat the odds and kids who did well in school despite the odds. These kids and schools not only survived but thrived. How did it happen that some kids/schools succeed and others have fewer options.

Out of the studies, two things emerged that really caught my attention. Kids who were successful despite everything stacked against them were described (in part) as persistent and resilient. That resonated with me. We educators could be part of helping that be realized in their lives. We couldn’t change home. We couldn’t change the way society viewed them. But we could work toward imbuing them with a strong sense of self.

A quote that I tried to live my life by was stated by Haim Ginott: Treat every child as if he already is the person he is capable of becoming.

Of course, it was not that simple. But since I had spent my entire 39 years as an educator, I had to try. It was important that we try to intervene and develop at least those two life skills. I wish I could report that we saved every kid we worked with. But that wasn’t the case. It does not make our attempts futile, however.

In that spirit, let me share some quotes that I feel attached to. Do you know someone who needs to be more persistent and/or resilient? A sense of identity and self-efficacy will provide the extra strength needed to keep at it. Try to help that person live like this:


Perseverance and audacity generally win.  Madame Dorothée De Luzy

It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer. Albert Einstein


There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.  Beverly Sills

Failure after long perseverance is much grander than never to have a striving good enough to be called a failure. George Eliot



I was taught to strive not because there were any guarantees of success but because the act of striving is in itself the only way to keep faith with life.  Madeleine K. Albright, Madam Secretary: A Memoir

Hardships make or break people.  Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind

The only courage that matters is the kind that gets you from one moment to the next. Mignon McLaughlin

Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.  Martin Luther

By perseverance the snail reached the ark. Charles Spurgeon

When you have a great and difficult task, something perhaps almost impossible, if you only work a little at a time, every day a little, suddenly the work will finish itself. Isak Dinesen

The difference between perseverance and obstinacy is that one comes from a strong will, and the other from a strong won’t. Henry Ward Beecher

If you are going through hell, keep going. Winston Churchill


Success is a little like wrestling a gorilla. You don’t quit when you’re tired. You quit when the gorilla is tired.  Robert Strauss



Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained. Marie Curie

You don’t have to be strong to survive a bad situation; you simply need a plan.  Shannon L. Alder

We will either find a way or make one. Hannibal

Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.  Catherine of Siena


Did you find a quote that spoke to you? If so, share this post with others in your circle. Here are some copy/paste ways to do that.

Facebook: Self-efficacy and identity. Persistence and resilience. These are tools we all need in our toolbox. Read the post by Angelica French to find your pertinent quote to live by.http://bit.ly/2uVrFFP

Twitter: Use these quotes to remind yourself how to be more persistent and resilient from @romancerighter.  http://bit.ly/2uVrFFP

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Safety Pin Nation: The Movement


As one who truly cares about human relationships, I immediately adopted the practice of wearing a safety pin to signal that I’m against bullying, hate speech, and discrimination in any form. My safety pin places me with the larger Safety Pin Nation Movement.

My pin also signals that I will intervene if I see/hear bullying, hate speech, or discrimination. I will not tolerate it and I will stand with those being so treated. For example, I have told people I don’t appreciate a deprecating joke and point to my pin. If someone is being bullied, you can place yourself between the bully and the bullied and ignore the bully while engaging the bullied in neutral conversation about the weather or what a sports team is doing.

I introduced the movement to my Unitarian Universalist Church last winter. I provided a container of safety pins for congregants, and a small dish of others remains at the back of the church for others to pick up and wear. Some of us wear our pins every day as a reminder to ourselves and others how we can live what we profess to believe.

This is an excerpt from Safety Pin Nation-AZ (http://www.strongertogetheraz.com/)
Not sure about the significance of the safety pin? Here is our take on it: The safety pin first presented itself after the "Brexit" vote as a symbol of solidarity representing those who stand with immigrants, those who are against racism and the hate crimes that surged after the decision to leave the E.U. The safety pin later became a symbol of unity among the anti-Trump movement, continuing the idea that those who wear safety pins are considered "safe places". In Spanish, the words "safety pin" translate to "los imperdibles", or, "those which cannot be lost".

And this from the same source:
Safety Pin Nation™ AZ is a movement of individuals that believe in the power of unity and community-based action. Safety Pin Nation™ AZ is composed of bully blockers, embracers of diversity, advocates for the environment and its wildlife, supporters of women’s rights, Arizona Dream Act Coalition backers, troops for better veteran care, champions for the disabled and mentally ill, defenders of black lives matter, fighters for healthcare as a human right, LGBTQ allies, helpers of the homeless and hungry, supporters of sensible gun control, supporters of refugees, defenders of children's rights, fighters against human trafficking, leaders in comprehensive immigration reform, backers of religious freedom, front-runners for equal pay and paid maternity leave, supporters of prison reform,  cohorts for properly compensated teachers and quality preK-12 education, Native American allies, believers in higher education access for all and much more.

You can come together on Facebook with others who are embracing the movement to ensure everyone is safe from discrimination, hate speech, and bullying. Go to the Facebook page and “like” and “follow” to be part of something larger. Here’s the link:
https://www.facebook.com/safetypinnation/

There are strategies about how we can respond if we observe inappropriate language or behaviors. We don’t want to put ourselves at risk, but we can’t stand idly by when we notice wrong doing.

I am asking my church members to help produce a list of pacifist strategies to put in our newsletter so everyone could have the resources they need to spread love and acceptance while combating hate and intolerance.

If you found this post interesting, please share with others. I’ve even prepared some messages you can copy/paste.

Facebook: Have you heard of Safety Pin Nation? Sharon Arthur Moore tells you why she wears a safety pin on her clothes every day. If you’re against bullying, hate speech and discrimination in any form, maybe you’ll wear one, too. http://bit.ly/2uyB9M4

Twitter: Wear a safety pin to signal you are against bullying, hate speech, and discrimination. Learn more: http://bit.ly/2uyB9M4

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Book Review: The Haunting of Thores-Cross


Maybe this is not an overtly romance novel, and the relationships displayed in the book are often not the healthy kind given the pedophilia, possession, and rape, but I really got caught up in the tale and wanted to share it with you. Besides, this blog is about relationships, not just romance writing.

I left this review on Amazon for The Haunting of Thores-Cross: A Yorkshire Ghost Story by Karen Perkins:
This book had a lot going for it that I already liked: ghost story, two time periods, alternating entwined stories, well-researched historical fiction, triggered by a true circumstance. Then you add in the engaging ghost story across centuries, and I couldn't put it down. Such empathetic characters and wonderful villains. My first book by this author, but I'm sure it won't be the last.

This story was inspired by the author finding, as a child, an old ink pot in a stone wall at her family’s frequent vacation area. She has her protag in the novel find an ink pot, too, but the protag, Emma and her husband, Dave built her dream house by the stone wall and awakened Jennet, the 230-year-old ghost owner of the ink pot.

Perkins said she felt compelled as a child to tell a story about the inkpot and this is it. She has Emma feeling compelled to write Jennet’s story. But it is even more than a compulsion. Emma is driven and possessed. The book is handwritten in ink from the old ink pot and in a handwriting that is not Emma’s. Vengeful Jennet wreaks havoc on the present-day ancestors of her adversaries in the 1770s. Two marriages are jeopardized and death has to happen before Jennet is put to rest. Or is she?


I’d love it if you’d share this post on social media. I even made a FB post and tweet for you to share easily. Thanks for spreading the word.

Facebook post: Angelica French reviews Karen Perkin‘s book, THE HAUNTING OF THORES-CROSS: A YORKSHIRE GHOST STORY, a tale across centuries told in two voices http://bit.ly/2uVQ2b5

Twitter: @romancerighter reviews @LionHeartG’s book THE HAUNTING OF THORES-CROSS http://bit.ly/2uVQ2b5