Tuesday, April 30, 2013

WWC Workshop: Writing Sexual Tension

I will be co-leading a hands-on workshop with one of my fab critique partners, Sarah Kades, at Calgary's When Words Collide Conference and it has just been announced on their website! 

Here is the blurb:

Writing Sexual Tension, Heightening Your Readers' Satisfaction
In this three-hour workshop, ARWA's Sarah Kades and Lorraine Paton introduce techniques for creating believable sexual tension between characters by exploring the use of sensuality, emotions, and more. Come, learn how to satisfy your readers, and be emboldened.

The workshop will take place on Friday, August 9th at the Carriage House Inn from 9 AM - 12 PM, just prior to the festival.

It is only $10!!!  (We're cheap!) And, you can register now!!! (Click here to register.)

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And, on an unrelated note, I just thought I mention that my debut book, DEVIN'S SECOND CHANCE, will released soon!  My cover is just about to be revealed!  I'm so excited about this!

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Are you going to any conferences this summer?  Or, better yet, will you be attending the When Words Collide conference?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Alberta - Chinooks Winds

Over the last few months I've been featuring posts on Alberta, the province where I set most of my stories.  If you want to check out earlier posts, click here.

Today, I'm talking about weather. 

The Rocky Mountains line the western boundary of Alberta.  On the other side of the mountain range is the province of British Columbia and beyond that, the Pacific Ocean.  This environment is ripe for creating unique weather patterns.  One of these is called chinooks (aka chinook winds, chinook arches or snow eater), the word is pronounced with a "sh" instead of a "ch" sound.

Chinooks are very active in southern Alberta (approximately 20-30 per year). (I expect this phenominum extends into Montana, but you should look that up for yourself to confirm).  These are warming winds that can change the temperature by an incredible amount.  In the middle of winter, a chinook could raise the temperature as much as 20 degrees celius in an hour!  Snow banks dissolve in its path, which is a great thing to see in winter, but some people experience headaches as a result of the rapid temperature change, which isn't so great for them. 

These winds can be incredibly strong, gusting up to 100 km/hr! On those occasions, roads have to be shut down because they can blow trucks off the road and property is damaged.  This is particularly problematic on the southern highway that winds along the foothills through the Claresholm area.  Calgary has been hit with more severe winds in the last few years too, and has had to close downtown streets due to falling debris from the high rises.

Still, most southern Albertans enjoy chinooks as a warm respite.  The melting snow makes it seem that there will be an eventual end to the cold prairie winter.  Many Calgary based businesses have "chinook" in their names, such as Chinook Centre, a large shopping mall, which I think shows the good feelings associated with the winds.

A chinook arch over the Calgary skyline. (Lorraine's Photo)
Live in southern Alberta for a few months and you'll hear people wistfully talk about the chinook arch on the western horizon.  This is the first visible sign of a chinook wind arriving.  The warm winds shoot over the mountains and seem to sweep the clouds across the sky.  The arch is a steady line across the sky, with clouds on the eastern side and clear sky on the west.

Do you have regular or unusual weather events where you live?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Humor in Writing

Yesterday at my writing group meeting (ARWA), we took the afternoon to share our writing with one another.  We were to bring in two pages from the beginning of any scene.  Although the idea was originally conceived as an opportunity to give and receive feedback, I think the most enjoyable outcome was getting a small glimpse into everyone's current works-in-progress. 

I submitted two pages from a project that I've had outlined and partially written for years.  It has no name, but I know this story, better than any other story I've written or thought about writing.  The last time I worked on it, I ended up setting it aside because
Image: © Jana Guothova |
Dreamstime.com
I felt my writing skills weren't at an adequate level to execute my expectations for the story.  Yes, this one is my baby.

So, I was happy to hear people enjoyed my pages. 

After our meeting, I went out with a couple of fellow ARWAnians and one mentioned she'd seen a strong element of humor in my pages. 

That got me thinking. 

You see, when I'm in conversation, my mind and my mouth often don't keep the same pace.  I will think things are funny, at times, for rather obscure reasons.  I don't think I always express clearly why I find things funny in those situations.  And, often trying to explain why I'm laughing at something kills the reason for finding something funny.  There have been times when I suspect people have thought I'm weird and my funny bone is misaligned.  So, it is interesting to me, then, that other people see humor in my pages, which have to exist on their own without explanations.

Maybe it is because when I write I do so at a different pace than when I speak, allowing my characters the opportunity to express their opinions with clarity.  Or, maybe it is the benefit of editing. 

I wonder too if humor has to do with the characters who come to me.  When I am in their point of view in my writing, they see things in very specific ways and my goal as a writer is to try to capture that.  I don't purposely say: "Hey, this page needs some humor" then set out to write humor there.  I don't even know how one would go about doing that. 

Or, perhaps it is also a product of what I read.  Some people say they want a book that makes them cry.  Not me.  To me, that sounds horrible.  Not that the books I read are all laugh-out-loud, cheeks-aching funny, but they are not heart-wrenching, needing-a-box-of-tissues-handy reads either.  I am an escapist reader.  I don't want the desolute realities of the real world crowding my reading pleasure.  So, maybe this is a case of writing what I enjoy reading. 

Oddly enough, though, I often write about topics that don't inherently include humor.  I've written about betrayal, grief, broken hearts, cancer, etc. And yet, my characters will usually have quirky or, at times, wry ways of seeing the world.  Maybe that is just the balance I need in my own life that comes through in my writing.  The real world exists and it isn't always roses, but one way or another my stories will always have happy endings.

Maybe my characters, on some level, know that going in.  ;)

Is there humor in your writing?  If so, do you include it consciously?

Authors in ARWA, My Writing Group

I joined the Alberta Romance Writers' Association approximately 10 years ago.  Since then, I've met a bunch of fabulous writers, some of whom have published.  (Hopefully I haven't missed anyone with books currently available!)
 
The following are a few current ARWA members who have books available on Kindle (some have more titles than what I've shown)!  You should check them out!

Sarah Kades



CLAIMING LOVE: As an archaeologist, Elle loves her job. She just does not love all the airplanes she has to take. Before her latest flight, she says a quick prayer and as an afterthought throws in a request to meet her Mr. Perfect.

Roxy Boroughs
 


A STRANGER'S TOUCH: Single mom, MAGGIE HOLMES, is a by-the-book Calgary cop, until her seven-year-old asthmatic son, Davie, is kidnapped. Frantically grasping at any hope, she turns to STAFFORD WEBB, a former FBI psychic who retrieves information through his sense of touch.

Judith Duncan



IF WISHES WERE HORSES: The cry for help came at night, during final roundup. But nothing could prevent Conner Calhoun from rescuing his brother’s widow and her two children. From the moment he’d laid eyes on Abigail, he’d wanted her, but she wasn’t his to have. And now he’ d moved his forbidden love onto his ranch, where the secret between them had nowhere to hide…

Suzanne Stengl



ANGEL WINGS: A rejected lover and an ambivalent angel-in-training teach each other that love is possible when you find the right person.

Sandy Anderson



OPEN SPACES OPEN HEARTS: Kenna Maguire is knocked down but not out, she quits her job and moves to her aunt's ranch in Alberta, where she meets a neighbouring rancher, Cole Burgess. As their attraction to one another grows, they find that their relationship is jeopardized by their fear of being hurt again.

Jessica Jackson



WHEN I FIRST MET YOU: Sally is a teacher living in Southern Alberta. She opens a cracker after midnight on Christmas Eve, not realizing there’s something extraordinary about the beautiful bauble. The next morning, she awakens to find herself over a hundred years in the past—in 1899! Everyone in the small town believes her to be the new schoolteacher—and her contract with the town promises to provide a husband! How can she possibly choose a complete stranger to marry?

Mary Forbes



ONE DANCE WITH A STRANGER: Wade is a country music superstar with a tragic past and an obsession he is determined to fill. Orphaned young, living on the streets, Emily is determined to keep her new stable life at whatever cost. Throughout each page of this book, share the up and down journey of an exciting love story; and in the end, it is evident that opposites really do attract.

Billie Milholland



WOMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE: (Billie is one of four contributors) Four women. Four shooters. Four destinies to save the world... The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are coming. And four Archangels must find the perfect champions to save the world: fighters, warriors, soldiers, and brave men, all ready to fight for humanity against end times. All they have to do is drink a shooter -- a caustic mix of alcohol and divinity that will imbue them with the conviction to battle the Four. The only problem is these warriors don't drink the shooters. Call it fate, chance, or what you will, but four women drink the divine concoction. Alexandra Carlton, Julia Wolfe, Emily Keller and Dinah Medrano must all take up the mantles of champions ... whether they want to or not. Four writers, four horsemen, four Women of the Apocalypse. The world will never be the same again.

 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Beta Readers

This week I sent one of my manuscripts to "beta readers" aka "first readers" aka people I know who read romance and are willing to give me feedback.  This is the same manuscript I've worked through with my critique group, who had very mixed reactions to it, so I'm curious to see what my readers think. 
I can't wait to see
what my readers write
in my m/s!
© Photoroller |
Dreamstime.com


This is the first time I've asked non-writers for feedback, so I did some research and found that asking questions was helpful.  I found these sites useful:

I borrowed heavily from those resources and I also added a few questions of my own:
  • Did the main characters' attraction / love make sense?
  • Did the love scenes make sense for the characters?
  • Were there any parts that made you laugh?
  • Before you read the story, do you find the title interesting / intriguing?
  • After you've read the story, do you think the title is appropriate? (Yes, I have title paranoia.)

And, my last question I adapted from my writing friend Mahrie G. Reid (although I think hers was worded more concisely):
  • When you got to the end, if you'd paid for the book, do you think you would have been satisfied with your purchase?

Then, because I know this is a commitment and I don't know if they'll like what they read, I included a thank you note and gift card to express my appreciation. 


I'm actually more excited than nervous (right now, anyway) to have this story in my readers' hands.  It feels like a step forward, a step in the right direction. 


Do you have any "must ask" questions for beta readers?  Or, other helpful resources? 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sly Thoughts

I'm sad to admit this, but I may have lost a few brain cells last week at work.  We were scrambling to meet a deadline, incorporating some big last minute changes, and coordinating with other consultants. 

I usually think I hold myself together pretty well in those situations, but when I look back on my email correspondence last week I cringe.  At one point, I had to retract an
My poetry book is a little
battered around the edges. That just
means it was well loved, right?
earlier email with something as eloquent as "I thought you thought I'd suggested..." Luckily that was a personal email and not something I sent to a client.

But, on the upside, that email reminded me of a poem I enjoy, but haven't read for a long long time.

When I was a teenager, my aunt gave me a book of poetry, Library of World Poetry: Complete and Unabridged, edited by William Cullen Bryant.  I spend hours reading the poems, particularly those in the "Poems of Affection" section.

The following poem from that section always made me smile (and it still does):

     Sly Thoughts
     Coventry Patmore (1823-1896)
     "I SAW him kiss your cheek!" - " 'T is true."
     "O Modesty!" - " 'T was strictly kept:
     He thought me asleep; at least, I knew
     He thought I thought he thought I slept."


Isn't it charming?  And doesn't it say so much of the era within which it was written? 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Alberta - Rat-Free Zone

The first time I saw a rat roaming about freely in the world, I was in Ontario and I was about 30 years old.  The little guy was running in circles - I'm still not sure if it was a wild rat that had been poisoned or one that had escaped from a lab at the university - but it was still a memorable experience.  To some people, I expect this seems odd - Why would a rat sighting be notable? And, how could you be 30 and not have seen a rat? - but, you see, there are no rats in Alberta and there haven't been since the 1950's. 

Yes, you read that correctly - no rats.
Not an actual sign at the border...
Image: © Kathy Gold | Dreamstime.com

Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development even has a Rat Patrol - no, I'm not kidding. One of the recent skirmishes between Albertans and rats even had a military-esque name: "Operation Haystack." 

I suspect we are the only place in the world where a rat found in someone's garage or in the local landfill would make headlines, but it does.  When rats try to invade (they usually stage their attacks from the east), it makes headline news.  The papers and TV news broadcasts show footage, sending out reporters to cover the breaking news and everything.  A lot of news folks have covered the stories, including the National Post, Yahoo!News, CBC News, Globe and Mail, CTV news, The Wall Street Journal and Huffington Post.

I haven't seen the animated film Ratatouille, but I have it on good authority that even they mention Alberta and its rat-free status. 

I guess if you are going to be known internationally for something, being a rat-free zone isn't so bad. 

News Flash for Writers

If you write a book set in Alberta, you need to know this quirky little rat fact.  You see, a few years ago, I started reading a book, which was set in Edmonton, the capital city of Alberta.  On the first page, the character saw a rat in an alley and reacted like that was a normal thing.  I couldn't make myself read past the first scene because that rat sighting kept haunting me.  Perhaps that was a stupid reason to put down a book, but it made me question whether the author knew anything at all about their setting.  My irritation, I realize, may have been unfair - this rat-free status is apparently a bit of a novelty, so perhaps it is unreasonable for me to expect someone to fact check whether or not a rat would live in an Edmonton alley - but I still couldn't make myself continue reading.  Perhaps the rest of the scene wasn't well-written enough to get me over that inaccuracy, I can't remember now ... I only remember the rat. 

*****

Have you ever stopped reading a book because the author got a fact or detail wrong?