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The first romance novel I ever bought

Asking me to pick a favorite romance novel is like asking me to pick which of my dogs I love the most. Im-fricking-possible. So here’s the story of the first romance novel I ever bought.

When I was about eleven years old, it was an odd thing for me to have money. I’m not sure where I’d come up with the few dollars that I was going to use to buy my mother’s birthday present, but I was excited about it.

I went into the tiny bookstore in our tiny mall. B. Dalton Booksellers. I was a little embarrassed when I walked into the Romance novel section. After all, I was eleven. I blushed when I saw people kissing. But I’d read several of my mother’s collection of them, and I knew that she’d love whatever book I could find for her. And also, that eventually, I might be able to read it too. (She kept the spicy ones on a bookshelf that my big sister and I weren’t supposed to read.)

There were several thicker books that I wouldn’t have money for. I looked for her favorite authors, but they all had the thick books. I’d only have enough for one of the skinnier ones.

I picked up a slim volume with a purple spine. The cover, edged in the same purple, had a swarthy, tanned, shirtless man standing behind a pale blonde woman with short curls. She was dressed only in a white towel. A massive ship stood behind them both.

SCARLET BUTTERFLY by Sandra Chastain.

With burning cheeks and a sweaty palm gripping my wad of dollars, I went up to the counter. I put the book face-down, and looked at my feet while the woman rang it up. She drew me out in conversation, and when she found out it was my mother’s birthday, she let me select from a pile of free books too. I got my mother two books with my few meager dollars. I was over the moon.

Me and my first romance purchase.

Mom was delighted with the gift, both the free book and SCARLET BUTTERFLY. As time went on, and I plowed through my mother’s entire collection of Romance novels, I finally read that very first Romance I’d purchased. It became one of my favorites, and I re-read it several times. When I moved out of the house, and my sisters, mother’s, and my reading collections had become muddled and mixed, SCARLET BUTTERFLY came with me.

In October of 2011 I had the pleasure of attending my first writer’s conference. I met several very interesting women, made some life-long friends, and learned so much. One of the coolest people I spoke to just in passing, was a white-haired, elderly lady with a walker. She wasn’t physically strong, but she was sharp and clever. I laughed with her a couple of times over the weekend. I don’t think she wore a nametag, so I didn’t catch who she was.

At the Maggie Ceremony, the GRW chapter presented their awards. They gave several to their chapter members. I clapped, smiled, and tweeted the winners. But then they got to the Nancy Knight Mentorship award. They described the winner’s willingness to help other writers, how sweet, caring, and wonderful this person was, and then they announced her name.

I looked up as my heart skipped a beat. Across the giant white screen at the front of the room was printed the name:

SANDRA CHASTAIN

It took a long time for her to reach the stage. After all, a lady with a walker can only move so quickly. But it was her. The person who’d written the very first romance that I’d ever bought.

I wanted so badly another chance to speak with her. To tell her how much I’d enjoyed SCARLET BUTTERFLY. To get her autograph, to tell her how inspiring it was to me to meet her. But I didn’t see her again after that. We had to leave the awards ceremony before it was over, and she wasn’t at the workshop on the following morning.

I may never get to meet her, but I saw her. I put a face to the name on the cover of my dog-eared, read-to-shreds copy of SCARLET BUTTERFLY.

The world may be small, but sometimes it’s freaking incredible.

Bookaholic!

Hi, my name is Tina and I am a bookaholic.

Indeed, my biggest time suck are books. My TBR piles are taller than I am. But those aren’t my only problem.

I re-read! Indeed, I am one of those people who re-reads a book she has enjoyed. Over and over and over again. And I will read it cover to cover, not just the good parts.

The other week I was lucky enough to receive a proof copy of Battle Magic, a book by well-known and fabulous YA author Tamora Pierce. I gulped it down and then checked my book shelf for other books set in that world. I promptly re-read one and then ordered eight more books I read years ago, but didn’t own. They were quick reads, but they still kept me occupied for a whole evening.

Obviously there is no way I can put these books down and write myself. The world would come to an end if I don’t finish this particular book in my hands;).

Another example is Relentless by Lauren Dane. As soon as I finished the book I once again walked straight to my shelf and pulled down the rest of her series.

Once in a while I manage to restrain myself and actually make it to my desk, but it can be a vicious battle.

As an author I need to read books inside and outside of my writing genre. But sometimes I go just a tad overboard…

What about you? Do you have a book series that makes you drop everything or an author who sucks you into their writing and doesn’t let go?

My favorite sidekick… Donna Noble

It’s sidekick time, so we get to talk about our favorites! I know that Sabrina just talked about Doctor Who, but while Martha is her favorite companion, I’ve got to give that particular crown to my favorite companion…

Donna Noble

 

Donna Noble.

 

She’s not the youngest companion, or the prettiest. But I’ve got several big reasons why she is the PERFECT companion for the Doctor.

1. Zero Romantic Entanglement.

She’s a woman, he’s a Time Lord shaped like a man. But Donna NEVER had any particular attraction for him. That made their relationship as a team SO much more enjoyable. With Rose, I was always waiting for him to admit how he felt about her. With Martha, I was waiting for her to get over him. But Donna was his friend. His BEST friend. The only companion I’ve seen who could interact with him without giving a shit about how SHE felt. It was such a relief after the angst of Rose and Martha.

2. Backbone

“I just want a mate,” he said, an earnestly worried expression on his face.

“You want… TO MATE?” She dropped her jaw in protest while her eyebrows winged to her hairline. “Oi, you’re not mating with ME, space man!”

She walloped him, she corrected him, she said NO. She did things that no other companion would, or could. She was tough and she didn’t mind standing up to what amounts to the most feared being in the Universe. I LOVED that about her.

3. Empathy

In “Forest of the Dead” (which is the second part of “Silence in the Library”… Vashta Nerata anyone?) Donna was saved and provided a family by CAL. She had a husband, and children, and while she KNEW something was off about the whole situation, she couldn’t help falling in love with the whole idea. And then, all that was ripped away from her. After that episode, you got the sense that Donna knew a little bit about how the Doctor must feel, having lost so much. They comforted each other, not as potential lovers, but as FRIENDS.

 

It’s entirely possible for women and Time Lords to just be FRIENDS. And I think that the series is really missing that now. I never bought that Amy Pond lost her hero-worship type love of the Doctor, and I spent so much time wondering if Clara was some kind of regeneration of River or somehow one of the Doctor’s children that I never got a good sense that they were friends, either.

Like Sabrina, I love romance. Heck, I’m trying to make my living off just that! But Doctor Who works better when it’s an adventure between mates, not a soap opera.

So, Mr. Moffat, if you can hear me, BRING ME THE ONE THEY CALL NOBLE!

Rhino Hide, Little Darlings and Time

Good Wednesday, my fellow MANhandlers! I’m here to provide you with another delish photo to get you through your day. Take a moment, enjoy and then let’s do this Male model in bedthang!

As a published author, two questions I regularly receive are, “What’s the best writing advice you can give me?” and “What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?” There are three pieces of advice that have stuck with me through thick and thin, and they’re the ones I’m going to share with you today.

1. Rhino Hide: This is like Thick Skin, Safari Style. If you ever want a sincere critique from a crit partner or agent, you’re going to need thick skin. No one wants to hear her manuscript, her beloved baby, isn’t as ridiculously beautiful as she thought. Reading comments about cliches, overused words, trite lines and more can truly rattle self-esteem, but these things are absolutely critical to truly hear if your goal is to improve. But if you sell? You’re going to need rhino hide. Period. See, editors are there to make your manuscript the best it can be. Feelings can be bruised very easily if a writer doesn’t learn to take in critique/editorial comments with objectivity and turn those comments into productive revisions. This was, honestly, a difficult thing to master. Now? Not even professional moisturizers can help. I’m like leather, baby!

2. Little Darlings: Stephen King wrote a book titled On Writing. If you haven’t read it? Do. Now. Abandon this blog post and go. It’s absolutely the most helpful book on writing I’ve ever read. Did it give me hardline craft notes and methods and fundamental outlines to follow? What it takes to be a guaranteed success? Recipes for lemon poundcake? Nope. None of that. What it taught me was much more valuable: sometimes you have to kill your darlings. This means that sometimes, when you find a line you’re head over heels in love with but your crit partner(s) advice is to ditch it, your agent says the humor is misplaced or your editor says to strike it, you do. Yes, you read that right. You kill it. Hold a memorial service if you must, but let that bastard go. It’s unwise to become so wedded to a word, sentence, phrase or section that you can’t accept feedback regarding changes, or deletions, that make your story better.

3. Time: This is a two-fold tidbit. First, make time to write. If you want it bad enough, the time will be available. I’ve known people who get up two hours early each day in order to get their words in before the day job. I also know people who have given up things that came second to their desire to write (sports, TV time, clubs, etc.). You can carve out time, even if it’s only 30 minutes a day, if it’s what you really, truly want.

The second have of this is to advise you to make time to read. Yes, read. So torturous, my suggestions! Seriously, though, reading is critical. Read across any genre in which you want to write. Read outside your preferred genres. Read books your friends recommend. I guarantee you won’t like everything you read, but two things will happen. First, you’re going to find authors whose voices you admire. They will help shape your own sound. Second, your vocabulary is going to improve. Neither of these things are bad things. So make the investment in your local bookstore or favorite online retailer and stock up on reading material. 

4. Best Advice: This came from my agent very recently. She said, “Get out of your own way and write.” It’s hard to do because my internal editor is loud, obnoxious and rather bitchy. But Super Agent was right. Sometimes it’s a matter of setting all the advice and others’ best intentions aside and doing what you do.

So there you have it. My three little tidbits and the best advice I’ve ever received. What’s the best advice you’ve been given? And what questions would you like to ask that I might be able to answer? Feel free to drop me a comment here or shout out on my website or Twitter.

Following the King

Becoming a writer isn’t easy. SURPRISE!!! I know you’re stunned. I was!

Reading is so simple, so wonderful, so engrossing, that I thought writing should be exactly the same. I should be able to lose myself in the world I created just as easily as I do those of my favorite authors. BUT, it doesn’t work that way. Writing isn’t just fun. It’s honest-to-god, back breaking, agonizing, sweat inducing WORK.

Finding the perfect words are hard. Creating the right characters is tough. Building a story is like building a multi-trillion dollar skyscraper–screw up your inner structure, and it’s going to come tumbling down like Jenga blocks.

When it comes to who my writing idols are, I wish I could make it look as easy as they do.

Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, Catherine Coulter, Susan Donovan, all these women create stories that read so easily! They’re my favorite books to read, they’re fun, full of love, life and laughter.

But my all-time idol, the man who has inspired me over and over again since I was just a teenager, is the master of horror himself.

Stephen King got me interested in books other than my usual fare. Someone gave my grandmother a big box of books, and she gave them to me one day when I was staying with her for the weekend. There were lots of different genres in there–thrillers, contemporary novels, love stories. But the book that kept sticking out to me was DOLORES CLAIBORNE.

I read the first page countless times. The whole story was narrated! It was in first person! The story was told so deeply from her point of view, because she was telling the story as she remembered it. It was odd. Frightening at first, a little off-putting. But eventually, I got it. I realized how I was supposed to read it. And since that day, I’ve read that book a billion times. I worked my way through some of his other classics. CARRIE, PET SEMATARY, THE GREEN MILE, and MISERY, to name a few. God, I loved MISERY.

 

His book ON WRITING: A MEMOIR OF THE CRAFT inspired me to write my first mainstream novel (as Gina Lamm). And since then, his advice to write what you love, not what you know, has permeated my books, making them (I hope) much more driven and appealing.

So yeah. Stephen King is my writing idol. He writes 2,000 words a day, every day, no matter what. I need that kind of drive, that kind of persistence. And I know I can do it. He’s my inspiration.

Who’s yours?

Hot to the Third Power

For my fellow MANhandlers, I offer the following deliciousness:  MANhandler

Today’s post is about our favorite love scene…specifically, mine. This topic actually made me squirm in my seat because I’m a little shy, believe it or not. 🙂  So I’m going to dive in and just get the blushing over with.

I have two and a half favorites, actually. The first one is, predictably, from Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander. It’s the first time Jamie and Claire have sex, and it just kills me every time I read it. He’s a virgin. Everything that leads up to this moment lets your know how important it is to him and how awkward it is for her. They talk, marking the time passing by a ringed candle (one ring burned away for each hour). Then Jamie begins to touch her. He talks about gentling her, not sure what he’s supposed to do. It’s the sweetest love scene. It’s poignant in a way that, knowing their story, just kills me.

The “half” is actually from the same story. Jamie and Claire are in an underground cavern with a pool, sort of a warm spring. They’re rediscovering each other, finding their way back to what they were. I absolutely love, love, love Diana’s description of this love scene. It’s passionate and emotionally deep. The connection is so far from physical. I absolutely get chills thinking about it. If you haven’t read this book, go forth and do so. Now.

Alright. Here’s the other favorite. It’s hands down my very favorite erotic scene in the entire world. Ever. Without exception. It’s written by Denise Rossetti. The book? Gift of the Goddess (Phoenix Rising, Book One)The main hero, Brin…just thinking about him makes the seams of my jammies begin to unravel. He’s hawt to the millionth degree, folks. I’m talking spontaneous-panty-combusting hawt. He’s absolutely everything that flips my switch, from alpha to compassionate to smart to self-sacrificing. I want to eat him up, one slow bite at a time. So which scene is my favorite? I’m going to be honest and tell you that if he’s in the scene, it’s my favorite. I’ve never been a fan of straight fantasy (which this book is), but this book made me learn to look twice.

Brin is a shaman of Lufra’s, the goddess of pleasure (basic summary). He’s been trained to pleasure a woman beyond her wildest dreams, and he’s really, really…gifted. (fans self) I’d offer myself up as a sacrifice. Let’s just leave it at that.

If you haven’t read either of these books, you should give them a shot. I love them both for entirely different reasons.

What’s your favorite love scene? Is it passionate or emotional? Subtle or graphic? In one book or ten? I love to hear from readers, so feel free to chime in!

Hot Guy, Hot Car

This time around we’re talking about the best love scene we’ve ever read and why it worked.

The only one that instantly comes to mind for me was from one of my favorite Kresley Cole books, Dark Desires After Dusk. I don’t want to get into the whole story because if you haven’t read it, you MUST, but needless to say the hero is doing a bad thing by leading our unwitting heroine to her doom. Oh I love Holly and Cadeon. They’re my favorite characters, I think. Probably because Holly starts out as this shy, repressed person who turns into this kick ass heroine with one of the sexiest bad boys in the Lore.

Sorry, didn’t mean to get all excited. I just love this book. Anyway, to set the scene, Cade is bringing Holly to a bad man in order to regain his brother’s lost kingdom. He’s torn because he knows Holly is his mate. Knows it. And she’s destined to become the mother of the bad man’s babies, so he has to keep his mitts off her on their long road trip from New Orleans to Alaska. Hello? He’s sexy as hell and she’s this little vixen of a woman. Can we say impossible situation? Toss in her curiosity about him, sex and her burgeoning powers and we have a volatile, doomed affair.

So here we are to my scene. They’ve been playing with each other, bringing each other pleasure with their hands and mouths, but no full on penetration. And Cade offers to let Holly drive his brothers McLaren.

And driving this beast of a car turns her on. He can tell as the speedometer climbs up and up. She grows aroused, he grows aroused and he tells her to pull over. She does and next thing we know, Holly is perched on the fender of this fine ass car, her pants around her ankles and Cade between her legs.

It’s funny really. I’ve read a lot of books, some with sex scenes so hot I’ve had to fan myself. But the only one I remember is this one because it’s painted in my mind. He’s there, pleasuring her with his mouth and he tells her to play with her nipples, that he’s busy. When she looks down at him kneeling in front of her, it’s to see his hand moving in a tell-tale jerking motion. I can see this scene and it’s sexy as all hell. That he’s so hungry for her, he doesn’t care if cars pass. The restraint he shows when he knows flat-out fucking her will bring him more pleasure than anything is…just mind-blowing. But he wants to bring her pleasure and for a selfish man (as we learn he is through the other books and the start of this one), is sexy as hell.

There are books out there that probably have hotter scenes, but none of them were so memorable I can almost remember the exact wording, the exact sequence of events that led to it. That’s powerful writing and one day, when I grow up, I’ll do the same.

Kresley Cole, if you’re reading this, you’re my hero! I HEART you!

By the way, I’m leaving for Romantic Times Convention 2013 tomorrow. If you’re going, be sure to look for me at Ellora’s Cave’s Disco Inferno party on Wednesday night, the big ebook expo on Thursday, and the FAN-tastic Day Author Event on Saturday from 6:30 to 7:00.

My favorite books from childhood

So I’m going to skew the subject a bit. Instead of my favorite literary classics, I’m going to show you my favorite books from when I was a kid. This is a very visual post, ya’ll. I’m not so much with the words today.

Okay, apparently I had a thing for animal books. 🙂

The Human Condition

I love to read and most of the time, I stick with what I adore the most: romance. However, when I was thirteen, I decided to turn my attention to classic literature. From 9th grade to graduation from high school, I devoured every book my sister and brother-in-law (both at least 8 years older than me) had been forced to read for English.

As a result, I read Tess of the d’Ubervilles, To Kill A Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, and a cold war novel I can’t recall at the moment. And really, To Kill A Mockingbird is one of my all-time favorite works of literature. I guess because I saw myself a little as Scout with a younger brother, but that isn’t what book I’ve chosen to talk about today. No, there was one other book I read as a teenager that had a huge impact on me and still does.

I first read Lord of the Flies for my senior English class. I had a well-developed love for the written word by then and enjoyed reading. Unfortunately, our teachers were so focused on making us read that they spent little time on making us write, but in this one instance, the class was required to write an essay based on Lord of the Flies. Talk about intimidating! I would be attending college in less than five months and I was writing my first essay now? Thanks a lot. And to toss a book at me as well? Sheesh.

But the minute I cracked the spine on my tattered copy of Lord of the Flies, inherited from my older sister, I was caught. The story of Ralph, Jack and Piggy captured my imagination. I suppose all “natural born” writers are people watchers. We can’t help ourselves. By the way, that’s probably a great way to tag a writer. If they spend more time just sitting back and watching the world around them with a thoughtful expression, they’re either plotting a story or trying to figure out what that person is doing and why. Oh, why, why, why? Why do we do what we do? Why is that person walking with a limp? The list goes on and on and that’s why writers are people watchers.

Lord of the Flies dumps the reader right into chaos where the rules of society, the great unspoken things we know are taboo and try to avoid are thrown out the window. Rules don’t matter when you’re stranded, do they? Who’s going to enforce them? When you strip down the civilized human to animal instinct, it’s amazing what comes out. At least that’s what my seventeen-year-old mind was fascinated by. Were humans really so close to their animal sides? Was it just the powers that be keeping us from becoming uncivilized beasts satisfying our id?

This book inspired me to want to become a psychologist, to study the human brain even more.

Yeah, that didn’t happen, by the way. As with the human condition, put a sheltered teenager in a college setting, give them the legal right to drink and they turn into a party animal. So yeah, I guess our animals are closer to the surface than we as a civilization would like to think. However, I did get a degree in History, which is another type of study of the human condition, isn’t it? I’m still fascinated by the way people think and react and try to incorporate the lessons learned from reading books like Lord of the Flies into my work. Not in the same way, but as a way to demonstrate why people do the crazy things they do.

It also didn’t hurt that I’d watched the movie a few years before and had a horrible crush on Balthazar Getty. Rar. And no, it wasn’t disgusting because he’s actually a year older than I am 😛 And he grew up real nice.

Bulletproof Kink? Nu-uh…

Okay, so I get it. I’m being asked to delve into the darkest heart of my psyche and reveal to you the one thing that gets my engine revving, no matter what…

It doesn’t exist.

Sorry!

Come on…that’s like asking a foodie what’s the one dish he or she’d eat no matter the circumstances. I bet that no matter how much you love lobster, spaghetti marinara or whatever, if it’s burnt, bastardized in some weird way or just plain unpalatable You. Will. Not. Finish. It.

The reality is, I like sex. I like reading about sex. I like writing about people having hot, smexy encounters. I enjoy reading about all KINDS of sex, as long as it’s written well. No matter what the scenario, if it’s done with grace, finesse and a heaping helping of jalapeno-hot hotness, I’m in.

But…

If I’m picking at the editing (or lack thereof), wondering how the freakin’ freaky-deak the woman’s leg is in that position without her snapping in two, or flipping back to figure out if the hero was wearing two pairs of pants…you’ve lost me. And I don’t care if it’s a threesome on a tightrope over the Grand Canyon, if I yawn, even once, it’s all over.

Okay, so maybe I’m just crabby, but it would be easier for me to tell you what I DON’T like to read than pick one favorite act or arc I find bulletproof. So make it hot. Make it sexy. Make me wanna push the heroine (or one of the heroes) off the hood of that car and get it on with the other participant, and I’m all in. Suck me in (no pun intended!) and I’m as happy as a woman with two hung husbands.

I’m all yours…

Anya
Journeys Through Seduction

Anya Richards/Anya Delvay books available from Samhain Publishing, Ellora’s Cave, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Chapters Indigo.

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