Sunday, February 28, 2010
Saturday, February 27, 2010
Our Guest today is NYT bestseller and Rita award winner, Laura Lee Guhrke. Laura Lee is the author of fifteen highly acclaimed historical romances. Her latest book, With Seduction is Mind, is the fourth in her girl-bachelor series, set in Victorian England.
Welcome to The Lady Scribes. We really appreciate your taking the time to visit us. Your girl-bachelor series is unique in that it features older, single heroines who work for a living. Can you tell us what inspired you to write this series?
I had a story idea for a heroine who writes etiquette books, and in doing research for it, I came across a Victorian etiquette book that devoted a whole chapter to the “girl-bachelor.” The girl-bachelor was advised not to feel sorry for herself because she hadn’t been able to secure a husband. Instead she should make the best of her “unfortunate situation.” Even though she probably lived in a dismal little flat and was on the verge of destitution without a man, she should be cheerful and try to be useful in society anyway. I knew there was a story or two in there!
Can you tell us what your research process looks like? Do you do all of your research up front, or do you research as you go?
It all depends on the needs of the novel. I usually do some work up front, but the details that make a certain book special are things I never know I’m going to need, and then, when I do need them, I have to frantically search for those details, usually while I’m way behind on my deadline!
As writers, we spend enormous amounts of time seated and physically inactive. What do you do to relieve deadline stress, and how do you maintain your svelte figure? I know you live in Idaho, which is known for its outdoor recreation. Do you ski?
I appreciate being called svelte! That makes my day. I do ski, actually. Idaho has some awesome skiing, and we ski nearly every weekend in the winter. In the summer, we wakeboard and do some fly fishing, too. I also try to get an hour of exercise every day—walks, weights, something every day. I don’t always succeed, but it’s a lot nicer when I do because I can have ice cream and pie, two serious weaknesses of mine.
As for the actual writing, are you a plotter or a pantster? Have you found any tricks that make the process smoother?
I’m a panster for sure. I can’t outline. I’ve tried, but it never works. The only way I write a book is by figuring out who my characters are, and the only way I can do that is to write them. It’s a conundrum, of course, because I can’t write them if I don’t know them, and I don’t get to know them without writing them. So I get stuck a lot, and it’s hard work, but it’s that process of discovering my characters as I go that makes the work interesting and rewarding for me.
Yes, I have learned a few tricks over the years. I now do a story-board for each book. It’s a 24” x 36” bulletin board next to my desk covered with index cards, one card for each scene. Whenever I think of something I think I can use, a line of dialogue or an idea for a scene, I jot it on the card in the place where I think it might go. When I start, the only things on the board are things like, “First kiss”, “Love Scene”, “Dark Moment” and “The End”. I do that because it’s very depressing to look at a sea of blank cards and know all the work I have to do to fill them in! But as I write each scene, I fill out the next card, putting down (in pencil!) the chapter, page numbers, what happened, whose point of view I was in, timeline date, etc. I use these big thumbtacks that are different colors—red for a kiss or love scene and green for neutral scenes, that sort of thing. What this story-boarding does for me is show me at a glance what’s happening, the pace of the sexual tension in my book, and the progress I’m making to the end. It also reminds me without thumbing through pages of manuscript what’s happened up to the point I’m at. Writing an entire book can seem like such a daunting task, it’s nice to know I can see the whole thing on one board. It makes it seem more achievable somehow, when I can see cards for the 36-46 scenes that on average make up one of my books. And it’s very gratifying to watch those blank cards get filled in!
Another trick I have is to talk out a scene out loud. I have a Dictaphone and when I’m stuck, I turn it on, and just start talking about the story and what’s happening and why I might be stuck. Pretty soon, I start adding bits of dialogue to my narrative by pretending I’m the characters talking. I get great lines this way, and it often helps me get unstuck. There’s something about saying a character’s words and then the other character response out loud that just gets the creative juices flowing. I’ve been able to dictate huge chunks of dialogue, then transcribe them via Dragonfly into my computer, and find I have the basis for a whole scene just by doing this exercise. I’m the only author I know who does it, but it really works. It’s a great technique, and I recommend it to any writer, but only do it when you’re alone! Otherwise the people who live with you will think you’re really weird, or that you’re a drama queen with imaginary friends.
So what are you working on now? Can you give us a hint of what your next book will be?
I’m in the middle of a trilogy with the theme, “Abandoned At the Altar,” and it’s about characters who find true love after they’ve been dumped. It’s a sort of spin-off from the Girl-Bachelor Chronicles, with some characters from that series stopping by, but these books take place about ten years later. I don’t have definite titles yet, but the books are set to come out in 2011. The first two are supposed to be out back to back in January and February, with the third probably around October. You can always check my website for futher details.
Thanks Lady Scribes, and happy writing!
Friday, February 26, 2010
I cannot stress the importance of such organizations, and not just because I’m now the President of my local chapter; but because I wouldn’t be where I am today without it. When I first joined my chapter in Raleigh, NC, I had yet to finish a manuscript. I had dozens of ideas floating around in my head, and I had several stories started on paper, but I really didn’t have a clue about the industry. I’m one of those Henry David Thoreau-types. I just want to sit in my lonely cabin by Walden Pond, live in my own little fantasy world, and write.
But writing the manuscript is just the tip of the iceberg. You have to know so many things these days – “Show, don’t Tell,” POV, GMC, etc. And that is just to make your manuscript submittable. Some people reading this might not even know what I mean by these terms. Then you need to know how to query an agent/editor. What should you say? How do you know who to submit to? How long should you wait before getting panicky? Then - and for me this is worst - how to write the dreaded synopsis. And all of that is before you get “the call”. Then you need to have suddenly earned a degree in Marketing. How do you get book signings set up? Do promo bookmarks really work? Does anyone know any good website designers? Trust me, the list is endless.
We have some amazing members at my local chapter and they treat us to some equally amazing programs each month. At our meetings, speakers present a variety of topics from finding your voice to characterization to navigating the treacherous waters of publishing. I have learned SO much from my chapter-mates and guest speakers. There isn’t enough time or space for me to list it all. They are wonderful mentors, indeed. And I would not be where I am today without them or their selfless guidance.
But the most important reason to join a chapter, in my opinion, is the opportunity to meet face-to-face with other writers. In a word – camaraderie. We writers see the world a bit differently than a lot of people, and it is so rejuvenating to spend time with other people who speak the same language we do. This business is tough enough. Talking to someone else who gets it is a precious thing.
Are you a member of a local or online chapter?
If so, do you find the organization as helpful as I do?
And if you're not a member, what is keeping you from joining?
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Sure, anyone can write a tough heroine. But not everyone can do it effectively and make it believable. That’s the key. Writing a tough heroine isn’t as easy as you’d like to think especially in a historical, number one because women simply didn’t act like that back then. And number two, women have certain disadvantages that we must overcome. Not that it can’t be done, we just simply have to work harder at it.
There are always exceptions throughout history and often these women were ridiculed and made outcasts. Let’s look at some examples that most people don’t know about: Freydis Eiriksdottir who took part in an expedition to Vinland, defended herself from Skraelings using a sword while heavily pregnant is described in Eirik the Red's Saga. In 1297 the Countess of Ross, led her own troops during William Wallace and Andrew de Moray's battles with the English. Dr "James" Barry did a degree at Edinburgh Medical School. She joined the British Army in 1813 and became the Surgeon General. Her gender was not discovered until after her death in 1865.
So let’s take a look at what makes a tough heroine and how to make her believable.
First off, everything you put into your story has to have a reason. The same is true with having a tough heroine. You can’t just make her tough because you want her to be. For instance, in my western, The Devil’s Daughter, my heroine was forced to be a criminal at the tender age of four years old. She grew up amongst her father’s gang and that’s all she ever knew. So give them a reason to be who they are.
Second, whether we want to admit it or not, women have certain disadvantages when it comes to fight scenes. We’re smaller, our upper body strength is lacking and as such we need to overcome this in other ways. I’ve taken a few defense courses and I recommend that every woman do so. The first thing they teach you is a woman’s strengths are in her mind and her legs. Use them.
A woman simply cannot go one on one in combat with a man unless she’s China from WWE, which honestly, isn’t the type of heroine I’d like to imagine. Due to this, we need to make up the difference in other ways. Put something in your heroines hand and it’ll even the odds a little. You’d be surprised how much strength you can have with a stick against an assailant.
It doesn’t take that much strength to pull a trigger. That being said, if you’ve never done so before, I recommend going to a shooting range at least once. It’s difficult to write about guns without having ever fired one. Another thing to remember when writing about historical guns is our technology is far more advanced than it was a hundred years ago. Firing a weapon in the west would’ve had a little more kick back than we do now. It’s a unique experience and it’ll put a little realism in your work. You’ll learn that you don’t pull the trigger, you squeeze it. It’s a slow gentle movement because aiming needs to be done carefully.
Hefting a sword is an experience as well. On average a broad sword can weigh approximately three to ten pounds. While that doesn’t seem heavy at all, try picking up a cricket bat or a baseball bat which is approximately two pounds and wield it like a sword for twenty minutes. Another thing to remember when writing historical swords, some were slashing and hacking weapons and other’s were designed to pierce instead. I plan to write a blog soon on the differences of historical weapons, I hope you’ll join me for that one as well.
Being tough isn’t always physical either. It’s a mental achievement. It’s surviving a crisis and remaining calm. It’s a confidence in yourself that you never knew existed until you were forced to see yourself through different eyes. These are the traits that make a woman tough.
So remember these few things when crafting your intriguing historical heroine and remember there were exceptions to every rule in history. So what else have you noticed in stories with strong heroines and thought, that just doesn’t sound realistic? And what stories have you loved and why?
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
If you are like me, you have another job, or several, which supplement your income and keep your dream afloat until the big call comes from the NY firms telling you they want to offer you a movie deal. I maintain two jobs, am a full time mother of two young children, and blog on this blog as well as my local critique group's blog and a personal blog. Sometimes it is a feat in mind gymnastics to keep up with all my commitments, and eking out time actually to write can be incredibly challenging.
I have been trying to set aside one hour every afternoon and one hour every night to writing. On a rare weekend, I sometimes get to write for four or five hours straight, and in these times, I feel as if I have won the lottery. As my commitments seem to keep piling up, and my time to write dwindles before my eyes, I was reminded today of a NYT bestseller that I heard speak at Nationals. She said the most important thing you can do as a writer is write your stories. Everything else is secondary and takes away from getting your first book published or the next book published.
Obviously, a job to put food on the table is not secondary, but I do have a few things I can pull back from like judging contest, surfing the web, and too many extra curricular "fun" clubs. It's a choice, and I chose to write and make my dream come true.
Do you manage all your commitments without being taken away from writing, or do you need to pull back and look at what you can wipe from your screen so you can once again see the path to your dream?
Julie Johnstone, Marchioness of Mayhem
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
I am not going to give you advice – well, not too much anyway.
Since I write historical, I like to do my research before I start putting words on the page. Doing the research early prevents the internet and research books from becoming too big a distraction during my writing time. Seriously, I have to set limits on this because there is so much information waiting to lure me to a quiet reading corner. I also find plotting very helpful for goal setting: Write three chapters this week – glance at storyboard and I know what I have to do. Simple right?
While I was optimistic at the beginning, the experience has also taken an odd turn. My heroine has shown a very dark and twisty side that isn’t particularly loveable and I’ve realised she wasn’t really my heroine after all - she was just the loudest female voice in my head. I have wondered whether I might have noticed my mistake if I had outlined the novel in the first place. But I don’t wish to stop and map out the rest or my story could grind to a halt. After spending a day reading and tweaking the beginning to add notes for a third POV, the story is moving forward again. Whew!
FINDING YOUR GROOVE
No matter what anyone tells you, how you write is your own choice. There is no right way to create your story except to get the words on the page. Seriously, you can plot down to the minute details of their childhood, but all that pre-work means nothing if you do not make a commitment to write the story down, not in an outline, but in a document another can read.
I know how lucky I am to be able to write full time and my family has adapted to ignore my ignoring them. They understand how important writing is to me. It’s hard work and often uncomfortable if you sit for too long a stretch. So, I scale back my writing to three days on new work (3000 words per day goal), two days of edits and critiques where I can leave my desk a bit more and not stiffen up. I’m striving to find a balance.
Adapting to suit your time, suit your goals, and suit your limits is your decision. You just have to want to stick with it. What sacrifices have you made, or are prepared to make to reach your goal?
Monday, February 22, 2010
Friday, February 19, 2010
(First kiss scene between David and Holly. Story is a cellphone novel -- poetically speaking. Hopefully that's okay. And hopefully I'm not too late. It's already Monday, but any critic is fine with me. :D This is awesomely cool, btw. Thanks.)
I don’t love you.
I can’t love you.
I twist my fingers behind my back, watching his hand bring the pen across my paper.
The red ink leaves blotches in the numbers – eager, expanding spots eating his writing.
His lips are moving.
I don’t hear a word.
I stare at his lips – the empty room clammy and suffocating.
I can hear students outside the door.
I can hear the whole world awake, around me.
Just out of earshot.
Just out of reach.
This was a moment they couldn’t see me.
He turns to look at me, hard green eyes staring up at me from his seat.
His perfect brown curls cut short to his head.
His scruffle – he forgot to shave again.
My stomach drops so low.
My heart thunders in my ears.
But it’s like everything is taking over.
Every moment I’ve taken to watching him.
Every moment I’d wasted dreaming of him.
Every moment I’d wished he were mine not hers.
She’s hurt him.
They’ve had a fight.
I’ve seen someone like this before –
I knew this look.
I knew it so well.
He says my name.
All I can see is his mouth move – I read it.
And then, I can’t help it anymore.
I can’t shake it anymore.
I’m about to explode.
I’m about to expand.
I’m about to implode.
I’m about to die at such a young age.
My hand on the wood of the desk, I lean forward.
My eyes are closed.
The darkness is all I want to see.
This is the end.
I can feel it rush.
I lean close, I can feel his breath on my lips and I kiss him.
I press my lips to his.
His so warm.
I don’t touch him any other way.
Just one connection.
My lips to his.
A message in a kiss.
I love you.
I want you.
I need you.
You barely know my name.
I can’t get yours out of my head.
The whole world collapses, exchanges, fries itself alive.
And I’m kissing him.
I’m kissing him.
And the whole world doesn’t matter anymore.
I’m kissing David Landon.
And the consequences don’t seem so bad.
I’m kissing my teacher.
And I know.
In the moment.
My lips on his.
An innocent, childish kiss.
In the moment.
I was digging my own grave.
And I wasn’t even afraid.
GAIL: This is really neat. I will confess that I have never read a cellphone novel before, but I really like the format. You've got great conflict here and we are deep in the heroine's POV. Generally, I found the use of repetition very effective. I did, however, stumble a bit over the "His tired, His lonely, His sad" . Still, this format is very poetic, so I was willing to grant you poetic license on that part. Reading this was a delightful new experience. Thank you for letting us critique it.
HEATHER: Wow. I have not read anything like this before but I loved your work. I did stumble over "His tired. His lonely. His sad." too.
JULIE: I also have never read a cellphone novel, but I certainly will now. You have great tension! I stumbled over the "His sad," "His lonely" lines as well. Did you mean 'He's sad." Love the twist at the end! In the two lines preceding the last one to keep the dialogue present and moving you might consider saying, In this moment, I dug my own grave. Great job!
SAMANTHA: I loved it. I loved the intensity, the pacing and the surprise ending. What fantastic conflict. I took the lines, "His tired", "His lonely", and "His sad" to mean this other woman was these things in his life. I may be totally off base. The only part that threw me a bit was starting off speaking directly to him ("you"), but then switching to third person ("him"/"his") and then back again ("you"). I wonder what it might look like staying with one. Maybe the way you have it works best. Excellent job. Thank you very much for sharing.
JERRICA: WoW! This is super cool! I've never even heard of a cellphone novel, but I love it! I have nothing bad to say. I agree with Samantha in how she took the "His tired, his lonely..." lines, so those didn't really bother me at all. The scene is sexy and intriguing, and I love the twist that it's her teacher. Very hot! Thanks for posting and introducing all of us to this new genre!
She pushed the door and entered, peering around the hotel room. Nick stood near a small conference table, perusing a Services menu, his lean fingers tapping a column container filled with ice and a bottle of White Zinfandel.
“Another five minutes and I would have assumed a no-show.” He sipped a Scotch on the rocks.
“I brought money.” Heart hammering, she licked her lips. Nerves constricted her throat. “Twelve hundred. My savings. I’m looking into a bank loan. And to do some freelance work.”
“Freelance work.” He laughed. “That’s one way of putting it.” White shirt loose at the collar, Nick lazily stretched his legs. He separated his tie, tossing it on the table. “Money isn’t what I want, Jordan.”
“I won’t do this. I can’t do it to Jack or to myself.”
Sans tie, buttons loose, muscular furry chest exposed, he stood, sexy and dangerous. “Don’t give me that ‘I can’t break my vows’ crap.” He exhaled impatiently. “That’s for nuns. I was very specific as to my expectations.”
“And I was very specific.” She blinked, curling her fingers into fists. “I can’t – oblige you.”
“Tragic thing to happen, a pretty marshmallow like you in a cold, dark cell. But I’ll come visit you.” His dark eyes glittered and his teeth flashed. “Maybe they’ll grant us conjugal visits.”
“Not you,” she said low in her throat. “You don’t give a rat’s ass about Jack, do you?”
“He’s your husband.” He shrugged. “Just another client to me.”
“You’re just another greedy lawyer to me.”
“Aww. C’mon,” he taunted. “You can do better than that.”
“How about ‘go to hell?’”
“Tell me.” His brazen confidence outraged her. “Why did you come here today?”
“To give you what money I have.”
“You could have sent it over to the office. Instead, you meet the big bad wolf in a hotel room. Pretty risky, wouldn’t you say, knowing the way I feel about you?”
“You won’t lose control and jump me,” she jeered.
“If you’re so sure, why do you keep backing away?”
Her heart pounded heavily. “I won’t sleep with you.”
“You like when I chase you, don’t you? I will, if you get any closer to that door.”
“The twelve hundred. Do you want it?”
“F*ck the money. You know what I want.”
Jordan bolted. Nick ran faster, pinning her against the door, yanking her purse from around her shoulder. His raw masculinity and musky scent began to weave the familiar dizzying spell. Jack was more like a brother. Nick Carlotta was Hades. He’d scoop her up into his clutches and drag her down into the darkness.
“We’ll skip the flowers and holding hands part,” he said, breathing just as hard as her. “Now, this comes off.” He tugged at the belt around her trench coat, wrenching it from her shoulders. She managed to yank her wrists from his hands, only to have them snatched again.
He cradled her jaw and lowered his dark head, lips brushing hers, softly at first, deepening the sensual onslaught until she unraveled. His greedy mouth opened over hers, persisting until she kissed him back, gasping, her entire body trembling.
Hearing his triumphant soft laugh galvanized her. In Nick’s collection of conquests, she refused to be a statistic.
Jordan twisted violently. Using the spike of one heel, she bore into his bare foot.
“I hope I burst a damned blood vessel!” she shrieked.
MELISSA: Wow, I need a cold shower now. That was pretty intense! I have just a few suggestions for you. First in sentences like this one: In Nick’s collection of conquests, she refused to be a statistic. It kind of reminds me of Yoda, so I would just switch it around. I realize you're trying to switch up how you start your sentences but if you go back through and really read, you'll see that you do just fine with it as it is and don't really need to do that.
You use strong verbs, great pacing and excellent dialogue. Over all, I think you've done well. I am wondering though if maybe you might want to slip in some kind of dialogue from Nick where he's not being the a**hole simply to make the reader better relate to him more. He comes across as a smart a**, which I get is exactly what you want but... it might give us an insight into a different side of him. As well as let Jordan see a softer side and hence increase her attraction for him. I've had this problem before and my crit partners told me to slip in a surprising piece of dialogue that might surprise the reader from him to make him almost likable. For instance have him look into her eyes to give her a poetic compliment. It would probably surprise Jordan as well and might give her more to be confused over. Just a thought though. It's a wonderful scene and I thoroughly enjoyed it!
GAIL: This was a very interesting excerpt. I liked the high stakes and tension. The writing flows smoothly. My only real criticism is that Nick does not seem heroic in this scene. I hesitated to mention that because it's always hard to judge a character from a short excerpt taken out of context. Just be sure he has shown some kindness early on in the book, so we know he has his redeeming qualities. He also needs really good motivation for his behavior here. Thanks for letting us critique this piece. I enjoyed it.
HEATHER: Very powerful and intense scene. I'm not quite certain I like your Nick, but this is only a very short extract from your work and perhaps his motivations are better described elsewhere. The "furry chest" doesn't really attract me, but everything else was great.
SAMANTHA: Now for me, a furry chest seems to fit. He's animalistic, compared to a wolf. It doesn't bother me. The drama is great and the dialog natural. The disadvantage to not seeing the whole story comes in trying to form an opinion based on a small snapshot, so please don't take this as me believing myself to be all knowing. There's a good chance I'm completely wrong and would know that if I had access to key information. My concern is that this scene comes across as if Nick is attacking her rather than them sharing a kiss. Maybe that is the way it is supposed to read, but then I'm wondering is he's the hero? How would they overcome this conflict? However, this concern aside, I really enjoyed the scene.
LYDIA: I was wondering too if he was the hero, until she equated her husband to more of a brother. So, that leaves me thinking Nick is the hero, but he doesn't particularly come off as heroic in this scene. Still, I am partial to the reformed bad boy, so that's not necessarily a bad thing, at least not for me. I hope the situation with her marriage is resolved soon, because infidelity is a real hot button issue for me.
I don't have anything to say about your writing, I think it flowed well. I wish I knew more about the story so I could gauge my comments better. But since I want to know more, that's a good thing. Good luck!
JERRICA: I loved this scene! Well done! I'm not going to make assumptions about whether or not he's the hero, I'm just going to critique the scene, out of context, and all I really have to say is well done. Your writing is strong, your voice is strong, your characters are VERY strong. All the makings for a page-turner. I do have one nit-picky thing and that is that it should be "...breathing just as hard as SHE." Otherwise, I loved it!
“I believe you take fencing a little too seriously,” he said. “After all, it’s not a proper sport for a young woman. You don’t need to learn such skills…”
“If you will not teach me, I will find someone else,” she announced. Without adding a word, she promptly turned to leave his study.
In quick steps, he went around his desk. She had just opened the door when he closed it with an arm extended over her head. He kept her there, trapped between the door and his body. Her head barely reached his shoulders. Leaning close, the intimate scent of her skin pleasantly drifting up his nose, he whispered in her ear.
“Who has no honor?”
She remained silent but he noticed her breathing quickened. She slowly turned to face him, head back to look up at him. “It could be anyone. It could be you.”
He wondered what she’d do if she knew how dishonorable his thoughts were right this moment. He marveled at her audacity. Not even his brothers dared to provoke him as she was doing now.
Angelstoke leaned closer, until his mouth brushed against her cheek. “I should trash you for implying I have no honor. Were you a man…”
She turned her head and pressed her lips against his. Her kiss was artless, without experience. If only she had pulled away at that moment, when he was still frozen by surprise. But she pressed on, her breath brushing lightly over his face.
Her hands took hold of his coat’s lapels and she rose on her toes. I will regret this, he thought as he tried to find a reason to push her away.
And reasons abounded. His oath to Westbridge to protect her. Her reputation, her age, her innocence.
Yet he framed her face in his hands. He kissed her like he would a courtesan, not a young lady. Her lips were soft and opened like a flower under his. He heard her utter a small cry. Good, maybe now she was afraid. She would pull away and give him the slap he deserved.
Instead she leaned into him. Opened her mouth and gave him full access. Her hands slipped under his coat and fisted on his sides.
This time he was the one to groan.
His arm snaked around her waist. His hand crushed the ribbon in her hair and locked her head in place. He plundered her mouth, looting her softness, her breath, her warmth.
He pulled her body up against the door so her mouth was at his level. He held her captive in his arms, needlessly, as if she were of a size to fight him off, as if she were quick enough to outrun him.
It was when her feet left the floor that she started to push against him. Bent on her like the brute he was, he didn’t feel her resistance at first. She turned her head away, ending the kiss. Sensing her sudden rigidity, his nose buried in the tempting flesh just below her ear, he breathed heavily.
GAIL: I liked the characters in this scene. We immediately get the sense of a determined and feisty heroine and a conflicted hero. I think you could make this better by going deeper into his POV. Words like "he wondered" and "he marveled" filter his thoughts and put a certain distance between the hero and the reader. It would be better if you could tell us directly what he's thinking, exactly as he's thinking it, in his own words. This was a nice entry. Thanks for letting us critique it.
HEATHER: Great scene - you've portrayed their respective social status very well. “I should trash you" - I assume you mean thrash you. I thought you had a few too many sentences starting with he or his and very few mentions of their first names. By the end I had forgotten who they were, but that is an easy fix.
JULIE: Very good scene. I got an immediate sense of their positions. I agree with Gail in that you have certain filter words such as "he wondered" and "he thought" which will put distance between the reader and your hero. Try finding away to show his wonder without actually saying it. I like the details you use such as her grasping his coat lapels, but I think you could add more. First sentence, "She shrugged one slender shoulder." Now we have an image of her structure in our head. Good job!
SAMANTHA: I like the phrase, "Her kiss was artless." It grabbed my attention. I agree with my writing partners about going into deeper POV. I think it could make a great scene spectacular. Thank you for sharing your work with us.
MELISSA: I have to agree with the deeper pov but I love the characters. I am extremely intrigued by your heroine. Of course, I write heroine's just like her and love to read about women unafraid to pick up a sword! Your pacing in wonderful, very quick and strong. I'd like to point out the part in the scene where he closes the door and is standing behind her, is a perfect oppertunity to really get into his head and build major sexual tension. I could almost feel the awareness strumming between them but I really think you should expand on that section and make it explode. Great job!
She looked intently at his face. “Mr. Delaney. You’re forgiven. I’ve certainly said and made comments as intemperate, as you know.” She smiled at him.
He returned her smile, a wide, relaxed, warm grin that dazzled her. She felt terribly drawn to him, and seemed to possess no power to raise herself from the step. He took her hands in his and she tried to cover them. They were not particularly attractive, the bitten nails and paint stains saw to that. He held them face up, and examined them closely.
“I think you have beautiful hands, Lady Isabel,” he said as he began to trace the paint stains with his finger.
“You must be joking,” Isabel said in a whisper. His fingers were doing their magic. She wanted to stay here forever.
Adam regarded her. “No, they’re a worker’s hands. Extremely capable. And the paints stains are charming.”
He began stroking the loose bits of hair around her face with a soft touch. Isabel felt she had no defense. Oh my. He was going to kiss her! She could smell his sweat, the earthy smell of him. She found herself leaning towards him.
He feathered light kisses around her face, and took her face in his hands, gazing at her. “You have the most extraordinary eyes, Izzy.” He ran his thumbs across her eyelids and she felt a deeper shiver, and leaned into him.
He gave her a soft, light kiss that quickly turned into an invasion. With her last coherent thought, she told herself to push him away, but instead she put her arms on his waist and pulled him closer. He opened her mouth with his tongue; in the background, she could hear herself gasping, and seeking more. The only time she’d ever been kissed before it had been harmless pecks on the cheek; nothing to compare with this! She wanted more, and Adam seemed to also. The kiss deepened, and she molded herself against Adam’s body and allowed her fingers to roam along his chest. Her hair had somehow become untethered. She heard moans and realized they were hers. She felt like a wanton. They seem to excite Adam to further attentions. His hands began massaging her back and pulling her closer to him.
Adam pulled away abruptly, standing up quickly and adjusting his trousers. He looked around wildly, running his fingers through his hair until it stood up on end. “I heard something, but I don’t see anyone!” He put his hands on his thighs and leaned over, “Oh God,” he looked at Isabel, shamefaced. “I’m sorry. I usually have better control than that. It won’t happen again.”
Isabel was ashamed; she hadn’t felt this badly since she was a child and her father rejected her. She reverted to what felt comfortable, her pride. She slowly began replaiting her hair. “That’s quite all right, Mr. Delaney. I know I’m not one of your usual trollops. You’re not comfortable with a respectable woman, don’t know how to treat her.” She looked him directly in the eye as she picked up her crutches, putting them under her arms and swinging into the house. She closed and locked the door behind her, letting the tears come. When she looked out the window, he’d gone.
LYDIA: This was a nice scene. It has definitely left me with questions. Which is good. I'm sure if I was reading from the beginning, I'd know whatever it was he had to apologize for. This snippet made me really want to know. :) My suggestions would be: (1) You've used shamefaced and ashamed in a couple of places in this submission and, for me, they have the same feel/sound to them. See if there's another word or two you can use instead just for variance. (2) At the end, I'm having a hard time imagining this image - She looked him directly in the eye as she picked up her crutches, putting them under her arms and swinging into the house. I think it's the "swinging" that is throwing me off. Does she swing the crutches into the house, or are you using the word to indicate that she herself goes into the house? Swinging has a cheerful feel for me, and Isabel doesn't seem cheerful in this scene at this point. If you meant she went into the house, my suggestion - She looked him directly in the eye as she picked up her crutches, putting them under her arms and stalked into the house.
Ok - my last suggestion is to change the order of this...She heard moans and realized they were hers. She felt like a wanton. They seem to excite Adam to further attentions. His hands began massaging her back and pulling her closer to him. ... I think the She felt like a wanton should go to the very end of that paragraph. That way she's continuing her thought about the moans, notices they excite Adam, and THEN realizes she feels wanton.
As I tell everyone in my crit group - This is YOUR story, so you have to do what feels right to you. You can take any of my suggestions or none of them. Good luck with your story.
MELISSA: Interesting scene. I'm wondering why she has crutches now lol. You've intrigued me for sure. My few suggestions are this, go through this scene and pick up anyplace you've used the same or similar words. You use face in the same sentence where her cheeks might have worked a little better. Also go through and omit any phrases like: He bagan to or she began to. The reason is they either do it or they don't, there's no real in between. Strengthen those sentences with stronger verbs and you'll find the pacing will improve incredibly. For instance you wrote: He began stroking the loose bits of hair around her face with a soft touch. My suggestion would be this: He stroked the loose strands of hair around her face with a soft touch.
Other than that, you did a great job. I think you could bring in more of the five senses in but it was well done as is. Good luck!
HEATHER: Very intriguing story. One thing I couldn't quite put my finger on is the place and period the piece is set. You mention Lady Isabel, yet there were no other details that placed it in an historical setting. If this is from a historical novel be sure to feather in little details.
SAMANTHA: I liked the tenderness of the scene, and the crutches at the end caught me off guard in a good way. One thing I would suggest is looking at some of the -ly words. I have nothing against adverbs, but they seem to have more impact when used like a spice applied sparingly. Nice job. Thank you for sharing your work with us. :)
JERRICA: Several of the points I was going to bring up have already been mentioned - swapping the line about being wanton, and the -ly words in the paragraph where he starts getting dressed again should be looked at. I was also taken aback by this line: "He took her hands in his and she tried to cover them." This made me think she was trying to cover HIS hands - I had to read it a few times, so you may consider revising. Otherwise, I'm very intrigued by the scene and I think you have a great voice. Thanks for submitting!
A tear fell from her eye and Drake watched it hit her coat.
“He struck me once.”
“Struck you?” He stepped toward her, wanting to envelop her in his arms and take away the memories. But he remembered when Elizabeth told him about a particular horrifying event of her childhood, afterward she’d somehow been free of the pain.
“Yes. I had let the horses out of the stable. I deserved it.”
“Don’t justify his actions. Not even to yourself.” He inched closer until he stood right in front of her and tipped her chin with his fingers. He rubbed the scar on her right cheek with his thumb. It was tiny, almost imperceptible, but he’d noticed it. “Did he do this to you?”
She blinked her beautiful eyes and tears tracked down her cheeks. “He never touched me afterward, too afraid to leave another mark, I guess. All he cared about was my appearance and accomplishments.”
Drake wanted to kill the bastard. But he tamped down his anger. His fury wouldn’t help Emma. He held her face in his hands and leaned closer. She closed her eyes and he kissed the scar. As he tenderly moved his lips to her cheek, he softly said, “I will never let him near you again.”
“Thank you,” she whispered.
Still with her eyes closed, Drake kissed her other cheek, her forehead, her eyelids.
What was he doing?
She needed him and he wanted to be there for her. Her lips parted. Pink, wet, and luscious, he couldn’t take his eyes from them. He had to know, would they be cool against his? Warm?
He breathed her name against her lips, then simply pressed his lips to hers. An innocent, comforting kiss.
At least he hoped so.
For a few seconds it was awkward. He wasn’t sure whether Emma wanted him to kiss her or not, because there was no response. He pulled away, just a hair, and grasped her nape. “Emma?”
Her heavy lids lifted and her sparkling emerald eyes smiled. “Would you mind doing that again?”
He grinned. “With pleasure.”
And suddenly everything between them changed. Drake wasn’t just kissing her, she was kissing him back—although innocently—she hit all the marks to spark his desire.
He pulled her body closer and tugged off his gloves, throwing them fall to the ground. Again he held her face in his hands and this time he devoured her mouth. Taking her secrets, stealing her breath, asking for all she could give.
And give she did, with inexperienced enthusiasm.
Voices from outside the barn startled them both.
They broke apart, both breathing hard. Emma’s lips were slightly puffy and he’d freed some of her locks at the nape of her neck. She darted back to the stable hall and he followed, swiping his gloves from the dirt floor. She handed him a couple of sugar cubes and they began feeding the horses.
GAIL: Thanks for posting this excellent excerpt for us to critique. I am afraid I'm not going to be much help here because this looks perfect to me. You did a great job balancing the action with the deep POV. We get a good sense of who these characters are from just this short snippet. I love the interruption, which leaves the reader hooked and wanting to read more.
SAMANTHA: Fantastic! I loved when he kissed her scar. A tender man melts my heart. I thought you did an excellent job of addressing the different senses. This kiss was chaste but very sensual. The only thing I saw was a typo, which is truly no big deal. "...tugged off his gloves, throwing them fall to the ground." I would love to read more.
HEATHER: Beautiful, just beautiful. "And give she did, with inexperienced enthusiasm.
Voices from outside the barn startled them both." The transition from the first sentence to second feels a little abrupt. I would add a little more of her reaction before the second sentence begins.
MELISSA: Well done. I don't have more to add other than and this is just preference but I hated to see her say that she deserved it. And having been in her place before, I'd like to see more women say I never deserved it so we teach our little girls that. But that's just me. Again great scene, gentle kiss, loved the deep pov you've got that down pat, and very visual. And agian, it's just my own
LYDIA: I have to second Heather's comment. The transition was a little abrupt for me too. After they break apart and before they pick up the sugar cubes, can you give us a bit of deeo POV. What is the emotion or thoughts racing through his mind. Otherwise, I thought it was a very nice scene. Thanks for sharing it with us.
“I thought you wanted Griff to catch you.”
Cordelia swung around to face Tyson. He stood so close that they came nose to nose. Aqua eyes met hazel eyes. Cordelia’s mouth went dry and her pulse thundered in her veins. Her body flushed in response to the nearness of this man she had known less than a day. Lowering her eyes Cordelia broke the connection between them. She tried to turn her back on Tyson, but he grabbed her shoulders to keep her facing him. He tipped her head back so that their eyes once again met. Butterflies flutter inside her as Tyson leaned forward and kissed her. His lips felt sun dried and cracked from his time in the outdoors, but gentle against her mouth. The tenderness of Tyson’s kiss belied the passion that emanated from it and filled Cordelia with pleasure and heat. By the time Tyson released her, Cordelia could neither breathe nor move. Tyson quickly turned from her and when he turned back the skin above his full beard was flushed and his eyes cast downward.
“I’m sorry Cordelia. I don’t usually accost women like that.”
“How do you usually accost them?”
“I, um, I don’t. I mean…I’m sorry. Do you need an escort back to town? I can’t do it myself, but we do have a trustworthy man or two in camp.”
LYDIA: First let me say, one of my most favorite things in the world is characters' names. And I LOVE Cordelia. Great name. :) OK, on to the critique. I am not Her Grace of Grammar, but I did notice several places where you're missing a comma. Just as an example - Somewhere in her panic[,]. So, something to keep an eye on. And there was one POV slip... Aqua eyes met hazel eyes. We're in Cordelia's POV. I'm not sure her eye color, but she wouldn't be able to see her own eyes. Otherwise I think it's a great submission. Loved the line - "How do you usually accost them?" Hilarious!
JERRICA: I have to second Lydia on the name thing: Cordelia is one of my favorites, too. It reminds me of Anne of Green Gables :) Lydia is also right about the grammar - there are lots of missing commas and a good amount of typos (missing apostrophes, misspelled or missing words, etc...), so maybe go through with a fine-toothed comb and make sure you got everything, or have someone with a good eye go through your ms before submitting. I know it's only 500 words, and it seems we're coming out of some major action, but I found the first paragraph to be a sort of laundry list of things that are happening with very little emotional involvement from the heroine. Again, this could just be because it might be an awkward place to start, but I would go through and make sure that's exactly how you want it to read - you may find that you can give it deeper POV, if that makes any sense. Other than that, I think it's a great scene. I'd love to see more of your dialog, because I have a feeling that's where you shine. Even in the few lines above, I can tell you give your characters a fun sense of humor and sarcasm :)
GAIL: Thank you for posting and letting us critique your story. I thought the kiss portion of this scene was very well done, but the lead-up to it needs a bit more development. For example with this sentence: "She stopped struggling and looked up to see Tyson Leopold’s face. Tyson suddenly lifted Cordelia off the grass and disappeared into the grove of trees." When she sees his face, she should have a visceral reaction. And then when he puts his hands on her to lift her up, that reaction should intensify. Also, if he "disappeared into the grove of trees" that presents a POV problem. He's carrying her, so she's disappearing with him. So he's not really going to disappear from her sight. All in all, a wonderful scene. I enjoyed the humorous banter.
SAMANTHA: I loved the humor, as some of my partners have mentioned. I also liked the description of his lips being dry and cracked. So not what I was expecting, but what a great image. It made the kiss seem very real. One thing I noticed that distracted me a little was the reptition of certain words, such as ravine, eyes and your characters' names. Maybe take a look and see if you can substitute other words in their place. Thanks for sharing your work with us. I really enjoyed it.
HEATHER: This piece has a rushed feel so perhaps its an early draft of the scene. I would suggest slowing the pace. You move from ravine, to grove, to kiss, to done, far too quickly for me. Lengthen out your descriptions, describe Tysons expression, the sounds and scents. Show me what she sees. Not all and not all at once though. Witty dialogue!
Carly pushed gently against him and he released her. They faced each other at arm’s length.
His blue eyes were tender. It startled and confused her. She could almost believe he was earnest, resplendent in a suit of armor… dragon dead, royal nemesis defeated, happy ending.
But fairy tales weren’t real.
“What happened in the barn?”
“Nothing,” she said.
His gaze darted between her eyes and mouth. “Trust me.”
She sensed the instant his interest became more carnal and felt strangely hurt by it. Her anger flared. “When a man says ‘trust me’ the opposite usually happens.”
“We’re not all bastards, Carly.” He looked beyond hungry. Ravenous. A muscled arm wove around her waist, his hand applied light yet firm pressure. “Sweet Jesus, you are beautiful.”
“Let go.” She tried to wrench away.
Desire overrode chivalry. Now he pulled her forcefully toward him, pressing her close. She felt a rock-like ridge along her abdomen. “Tell me what happened.” He lowered his head, lips hovering over hers, sensual and tantalizing. “Tell me and I’ll let you go.”
“No.” She could scarcely breathe.
“Zones,” she said sarcastically, relishing she could use his own words against him.
“F*ck zones.” His mouth came down on hers roughly.
His big hand curled around the base of her skull, long fingers splayed, mobilizing her head. His other arm snaked around her waist, moving up her back. He wasn’t crushing her, but she couldn’t squirm and escape.
The pressure of his lips lessened. Now, his kissing became slower, deeper, more passionate. When he stopped, her eyes fluttered open, to see those arresting blue eyes up close, like two aquamarine gemstones on fire. His lips curled into a smile before he resumed kissing her, this time, even more slowly.
Her brain warned her. He knows he’s got you. But her body didn’t care. In a haze, she realized a sound formed in her throat, something between a hum and a moan.
She threaded her fingers through his short, coarse hair, returning each kiss. His hands and arms tightened around her. A roar ebbed in and out of her ears. Her fingers encountered taut muscle, pectorals, a six pack, corded arms. Against her tummy, his erection was even harder, longer, and she was sorely tempted to stroke him. When he bent over again, he folded her lower lip between his teeth, tugging and sucking until she groaned.
Oh, God, had anyone else ever kissed her like this? Before, it had been perfunctory, clumsy, slobbering, a maneuver to grope her breasts.
He tried to slide his tongue between her clenched teeth.
No. Too soon. Stop. Her head twisted against his upper arm, her hair crackling with static against his sleeve.
“Open your mouth,” he demanded, low and guttural. His lips drifted across her face, his hot breath fanning her cheek.
The second her lips parted, his tongue plunged deep, swirling hers. All five of her senses whirled like on a wild amusement ride.
JERRICA: Very nice! You've used all the 5 senses very well, and the sexual tension is palpable. I love the line about her hair crackling with static. You have a very distinct voice, too, which is what's most important. Well done!
SAMANTHA: Ooh, one line I really like. "Before, it had been perfunctory, clumsy, slobbering, a maneuver to grope her breast." I could really connect with your heroine on this one. This is her first real kiss. The bad part about only have a section to critique is not having the backstory. I'd like to know what the zones mean. Because I don't know the nature of their relationship up to this point, it is hard to feel certain about feedback given. However, I had a little uneasiness with feeling he was a bit aggressive, almost forcing her to kiss him. Again, I don't know what led up to this kiss, so I may be completely off base. Great descriptions.
HEATHER: Fantastic first kiss - very smooth. Question: If he has her so tight against his chest how could she feel his six pack with her fingers? The sentence before said he drew her closer.
JULIE: Excellent first kiss scent. I hear your voice as a writer right away. I would try to delete several of the inactive verbs such as "was" and make them active to draw your reader right into the scene with you. I love the line "Before, it had been perfunctory, clumsy, slobbering, a maneuver to grope her breast." This is great deep pov which will connect a good many people to your heroine. The hero does seem a bit aggressive, but this may be cleared up prior to this scene or after it. Anywy, I really enjoyed your writing.
LYDIA: Great scene. I'm fanning myself. I loved the opening, likening him to a knight in shining armor and all that goes with that. You have wonderful chemistry between the two and the conflict, from what I can see, looks intense.
“Twenty-four.” She could manage no more than a whisper.
“And you’ve reached that age without ever having been kissed?”
He raised his other hand, bringing it to rest at the nape of her neck. She caught her breath as his eyes focused on her lips. “Then let me remedy that.”
The first brush of his lips was no more than a simple, warm push against hers. Then he tightened his grip on her nape, angled his head and drew her in.
Rachel could do no more than attempt to mimic the sensual slide of his mouth. Her hands fluttered with the need to grasp hold of something. One of them ended up wrapped about his forearm, while the other entangled itself in the loose fabric at the front of his shirt.
She gasped as something hot and moist darted between her lips. His tongue. She pulled back for a moment, hesitant. No one had ever told her that kissing involved anything other than lips.
He followed her, his fingers spearing into her hair, the better to hold her steady. His body pressed closer to hers, all of its heat and strength branding themselves into her skin through the thin linen of her nightdress.
He coaxed her lips apart once more, and his tongue made another foray into her mouth. Tentatively, she raised her tongue to fend him off. Something like a groan rose in his throat and became trapped between her lips.
His embrace emboldened until it became nearly desperate in its intensity. His arms tightened about her, even as he pushed her back. Conscious thought ceased, and Rachel could only respond to the onslaught. She was no longer fending him off. Her tongue twined with his. She was actively encouraging him now in response to the strange hunger that had awoken deep in the pit of her stomach.
It drove her to pull him closer, to push her fingers into his hair. It conjured wicked images in her mind of the two of them with no barriers between them. In her mind, she explored his lithe body without reservation and he returned the favor. Their joining was every bit as delicious and sinful as Sarah had claimed.
And it would be.
Only Rachel knew she’d never find the words to describe it adequately. She could barely pin down how his mere kiss made her feel. It was equal parts light and shadow, elation and pain, joy and sorrow. It was…
A metallic clatter broke them apart. They stared at each other for a long moment, their breathing harsh and ragged. Jonas’ eyes had gone black with need. Her body recognized it if her mind did not.
If he’s been without a woman for that long, he won’t be able to keep his hands off you!
Sarah had been right about that. She’d only awoken that morning, and already he was after her. A tremor passed through her as she thought of what might have happened if she hadn’t passed out at their wedding. He might have claimed his marital rights that very night. He could still demand them. Tonight.
JERRICA: I really enjoyed this! Very well written and very sensual. I'm already interested in these characters and their story, so I hope to see it published one day! The only thing I might change is the term "passed out". Is this an historical? I get the feeling that it is, in which case, "passed out" is too modern (circa 1915). Otherwise, well done!
LYDIA: Congrats, this was a great scene. Very sensual.
My suggestion would only be word choice. In three different places in your submission, you describe things similarly: (1) She could manage no more than a whisper. (2)Rachel could do no more than attempt to mimic the sensual slide of his mouth. (3) and Rachel could only respond to the onslaught.
I'm not necessarily saying you should change anything, but they jumped out at me as feeling the same.
AMY: This was an enjoyable and descriptive read and I only have a few suggestions.
This phrase seemed out of place in her POV "the better to hold her steady".
Also, a short bit later "His arms tightened about her, even as he pushed her back." You need to take his hand from her head for this to happen.
Then you have her "to push her fingers into his hair". I wouldn't repeat the action. What she is going is fine without it.
I love this description "It was equal parts light and shadow, elation and pain, joy and sorrow."
GAIL: I agree with the others. This scene is very well done. I especially liked the clattering interruption and "if she hadn't passed out at the wedding." Those are both great hooks that made me want to read the rest of the book. Thanks for sharing this with us.
JULIE: Good job with this first kiss scene. Here are a few suggestions. Try to make everything active. This scene is pact with emotion and the more active the scene the better. Try to avoid words like "thought" for the most part in your character's pov. Usually when they say they "think" something the action has already happened. Here is an example of changing a line to exclude the word "thought." A tremor passed through her. What might have happened if she hadn't passed out on their wedding night?