Wednesday, August 27, 2014

PARSING THE ROMANCE HERO: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Omega, And On And On. Which one is for you?

by Darcy Lundeen


In the well-known pantheon of Greek letters, the Alpha hero has usually been the type favored by romance writers. You know the kind of guy I mean. He’s big, brawny, in-your-face fierce, brave, resourceful, successful, emotionally distant and, yeah, he always gets the girl. In short, he’s the acknowledged leader of the pack in every way.

Back in the day, his type was the hero of choice, the one almost every romance writer used. The touchstone, so to speak, of all things heroic and desirable in a male. Think some early Alphas. Kathleen Woodiwiss’s Wulfgar in THE WOLF AND THE DOVE or Rosemary Rogers’s Steve Morgan in SWEET SAVAGE LOVE.

Then somewhere along the line, some writers and readers began to want something a little gentler and more flexible. And, voilà, Mr. Beta was born. So the guy usually dubbed “best friend of the hero” started to emerge from Alpha Man’s shadow. But, hey, could Beta Boy really carry the heavy weight of a romance novel on his nice-guy shoulders? Or would he be so dang accommodating that he failed to generate any heat in either the heroine or the reader?

Maybe most folks didn’t want a hero who was hard as nails, but they also didn’t fancy one who constantly assumed the role of human doormat. Goldilocks certainly didn’t crave either of those extremes. When she invaded the home of the three bears, she chose the comfy bed, the one that didn’t either dislocate her vertebrae with its rigidity or smother her in its deep folds. And no way would she abide porridge that either burned her mouth or turned it into an icicle. She wanted something vaguely approaching the golden mean.

In some sense that’s what happened to our Alpha and Beta heroes: a sneaky semi-merging of the two, with some of us slightly emphasizing one and some the other. It means that those traditionally fierce Alphas now willingly demonstrate their gentle side, while more laidback types (like Harry Braxton in Connie Brockway’s AS YOU DESIRE or Carter Maguire in Nora Roberts’ VISION IN WHITE) always become take-no-prisoner protectors when the situation demands it.

So in this new incarnation exactly what do you call the hero? Alpha-Beta or Beta-Alpha depending on which type you emphasize? Or does the man deserve a completely different designation? Well, it seems that romance writers, usually being well ahead of the curve, have already coined a special word to describe the guy. This modern male mashup is now referred to as—ta-da!—what else but Gamma.

So take your place in the spotlight, Gamma Guy—in my humble opinion almost the perfect type of hero. A little more like real men than the usual models because their personalities contain some of everything that would make them good hero material (strength, resourcefulness, intelligence, tenderness and humor), but not too much of anything that would make them either too boring or too abrasive for the heroine to love and keep around long after the author writes “The End.”♥



Darcy Lundeen prefers writing heroes who veer toward the beta side of the spectrum. Smart, handsome guys with a great sense of humor, a lot of sex appeal and a basically caring nature. The latest example, Matt Pollard, hero of her novel, SIZZLE, isn’t an intrepid hunter of evil vampires. Nor does he preside with iron-fisted control over a multi-billion dollar international corporation. But the silly neon condoms he sometimes uses do give the heroine a much-needed chuckle, and his willingness to engage in cuddling sessions makes her feel deliciously warm and wanted. And in the end she decides that’s the perfect kind of guy to share her happily-ever-after with.

Monday, August 25, 2014

THE GIDDY GRAMMARIAN: The Fault is in Ourselves

by Lisbeth Eng

 
 I
It always galls me when someone corrects my grammar, but then I remind myself that I am not perfect, despite the ceramic plaque in my kitchen, which reads, “I may have my faults, but being wrong is not one of them.”

A few years ago, I sent an email to my team at work to inform them that I might be a little late the next morning: “I have a dentist appointment tomorrow. Hopefully, I will be in by 10:00.” One of my bosses, whose father happened to be a college professor, corrected me. Apparently, I should have written, “I hope that I will be in by 10:00.” My boss explained that the way my sentence was written implied that I would walk into the office at 9:55 am brimming with hope. In other words, the adverb “hopefully” modified the verb phrase “will be in” and described the manner of my entrance. She then threw down the gauntlet by adding that I, as a writer, should be aware of this common grammatical pitfall. Now the gloves were off!

I immediately grabbed my dictionary and looked up the word “hopefully,” to see if somehow I could counter her argument. I had a reputation to defend. Imagine my relief when I read in Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary that the definitions for the word “hopefully” were: in a hopeful manner, it is hoped, I hope, we hope.

The dictionary goes on to explain in a long but fascinating paragraph the roots of the controversy. (Please refer to your own Merriam-Webster’s to read it in its entirety, as it is too long to include in this column.) In a nutshell, it said that words such as interestingly, clearly, unfortunately, and hopefully can be used not only to modify a verb, but also to modify a sentence. It even gives a name to this type of adverb: disjuncts. My sense of vindication was complete when the dictionary declared that the usage in my email was “entirely standard.”

Here are a few examples of disjuncts:

“Frankly, she should have investigated the matter before correcting others.”

“Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to remain silent, until my accusations could be confirmed.”

“Clearly, one should avoid antagonizing one’s boss, lest one risk vindictive reprisals, which may affect one’s employment.”


Despite the overwhelming impulse to point out the error of my boss’s ways, I decided to let the matter drop, but made sure that any future emails addressed to her would be free of disjuncts. I will have to be satisfied in my own rectitude, and with the opportunity to share this with you, dear reader.♥


Lisbeth Eng works as a Compliance Officer in the financial industry by day and writes historical romance by night. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English, and speaks a smattering of German, Italian and French. Please visit her at www.lisbetheng.com.

 

 

Friday, August 22, 2014

BOOK COVER FRIDAYS: SHINE YOUR LOVE ON ME by Jean C. Joachim


WELCOME TO BOOK COVER FRIDAYS!
Every week we bring you an exciting hot book cover from one of
New York's Leading Romance Authors. Enjoy!



 
SHINE YOUR LOVE ON ME
Manhattan Dinner Club Series
by Jean C. Joachim
Secret Cravings Publisher
 
 
 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

BUSINESS TALK: Self-Publishing an Anthology


by Isabo Kelly
 
 
At the request of our lovely new Keynotes editor, because I’ve handled the money end of a self-published anthology, I’m taking a step away from the craft-focused articles to talk a little business. This is specifically geared toward self-publishing box sets or anthologies, and I’m going to go through what I and my co-authors have done as well as touch on what other groups have done. I’ll also provide a couple of references that I’ve found helpful.
 
BUT PLEASE NOTE: I am NOT an accountant, a lawyer, or anything like that, so please always consult a qualified professional for tax or legal questions.
 
The anthology I’m a part of, GOING ALL IN, was put together with fellow chapter member (and our bookseller of the year for 2013!) Stacey Agdern and Cassandra Carr. I took on the money management end of the anthology and have had to learn a bit about tax requirements as a consequence.
 
Now, some groups who put together multi-author box sets or anthologies set up a separate business entity like an LLC, get their own tax ID number for that business (an EIN), sometimes even set up a business bank account, and publish via specific vendor accounts dedicated to that separate business.
 
We weren’t that organized for our anthology.
 
Since I already had two of the necessary three vendor accounts through which we wanted to publish the book, and because I was the one who felt comfortable handling the money, we published using my accounts. This means my personal Social Security Number is registered with the vendors, and so all the money that comes in is recorded to my SSN. This has tax implications, so all the necessary paperwork has to be in place at the end of the year.
 
For book distribution, we used KDP (Amazon), Smashwords (for distribution to iBookstore, Nook, Kobo, etc…), and All Romance eBooks. Both KDP and ARe provide great accounting statements which allow me to separate out income for the anthology from my personal books quite easily. Smashwords’ statements are a bit more convoluted, but it’s still easy enough to separate out the various sales.
 
Once I’ve got all our monthly royalties added up, I split it three ways and send each coauthor their payment via PayPal. This has the duel effect of being both an easy way to send money, and it provides me with a record of every payment I make to them. (As far as I’m concerned, a paper trail is always a good thing in case of an audit.) I keep track of the payments and royalties paid out in an Excel spreadsheet and (try) to send my co-authors an updated version of that spreadsheet every month so they can see our actual numbers.
 
For TAXES, because the total royalties are recorded to my personal SSN, I receive a 1099-MISC from the various vendors in January with the total amount of money I received for the previous year. In turn, I have to issue 1099-MISC forms to my two co-authors for the portion of royalties I’ve paid to them. I have to keep on file their W9s, which is a tax form giving me permission to use their SSNs for the information filings (the 1099s).
 
For ROYALTIES a 1099-MISC has to be provided for earnings over $10. A $600 minimum is required for issuing a 1099 to other consultants and contractors—for example a cover artist you’ve hired and spent more than $600 on over the year—but because the limit is much much lower for royalties, you will almost always have to issue 1099-MISCs for royalty payouts.
 
AGAIN, I’m NOT an accountant; please consult a tax professional for specifics and to verify this information each year—tax rules change frequently.
 
For those groups that form their own businesses to publish anthologies or box sets, most of this work is done by a professional tax accountant hired by the group.
 
For more of the basics on tax information for self-publishing, a book I’ve found very helpful is TAX TIPS FOR AUTHORS 2014 by NS Smith, EM Lynley. She is an accountant, a self-published author, and updates her book annually (or has up to this point) to accommodate new regulations. You can also contact the IRS directly for information (though I’ve heard reports that it might take several phone calls to get someone who understands your questions as they aren’t all versed in the specifics of self-publishing/small business regulations.)
 
Again, it’s always best to get the help of a qualified tax accountant—one who is versed in small business taxes—for tax issues and questions. (I’m just gonna keep repeating that.) Another book I’ve found very helpful with both tax and other self-publishing information is THE NAKED TRUTH ABOUT SELF-PUBLISHING by The Indie Voices. The book has articles by 10 NYTs bestselling self-published authors and covers a variety of topics, including box set publishing.
 
Would I do this again? I will for another anthology with Stacey and Cassandra, but I would hesitate to go this route with any larger group. For a full box set with 8 to 10 authors in it, I would consult with an attorney and consider forming a small business specifically for that venture. (I’d also pass the money management on to someone else *g*). However, for a small anthology with just us few authors, this way of doing things worked just fine.
 
The business choices you make will depend entirely on your comfort level, the qualifications of the authors involved, and the magnitude of the project you’re taking on. For those who want to embark on this adventure, I wish you all the best luck and success. (And consult tax and legal professionals! *g*) Good luck!♥
 
 
 
Isabo Kelly is the author of multiple fantasy and science fiction romance books. Her self-published anthology, GOING ALL IN, is her first foray into sports romance (though her story still has a paranormal element because that’s just what she does). Her next release WARRIOR’S DAWN (July 29, 2014) is the third book in her Fire and Tears fantasy romance series from Samhain Publishing. For more on Isabo and her books, visit her at www.isabokelly.com , follow her on Twitter @IsaboKelly, or friend her on Facebook
www.facebook.com/IsaboKelly.
 

Monday, August 18, 2014

RAINBOW ROMANCE: LGBT Historical Romance

by Kate McMurray


I love historical romance.

You can tell me all you want that it’s dying, or that its popularity is ebbing, or that nobody reads anymore. It hasn’t been very prominent at the last few conventions I’ve attended, that’s true. But there’s still a solid audience for it. My particular frothy confection of choice are light Regency romances, and I’ll consume eight of those in a row like they’re candy. But I love all manner of historicals: medieval, antebellum American, Civil War, Ancient Rome, etc. If I see a Jazz Age book, it’s pretty much an autobuy.

But I’m also a big history nerd. I guess that’s part of the appeal for me; I love the historical detail and being transported into a part of the past. This is good and bad; it makes the genre appealing, but I’m well-read enough that serious historical errors will pull me right out of a book. But, regardless, I would like for there to be more LGBT historical romance novels because I would read all of them.

LGBT historicals are tricky, though. There are a few traps that don’t really exist in traditional heterosexual historical romance. The fundamental issue is that prior to World War II, the way homosexuality was conceived of was completely different. It’s not so much that being gay was condemned as certain sex acts were. Gay was not yet an identity, but sodomy was referred to as a crime against nature prior to the twentieth century. Homosexual romantic relationships certainly existed but were more rare; many men who we might label as gay now married women and fathered children but had affairs with men on the side. There were codes for finding each other, including red scarves, perhaps the precursor to the twentieth century hankie code.

Even as late as the 1920s, if homosexuality was acknowledged at all, it wasn’t as widely condemned as it was by the 1940s; New York even had pick-up spots. (There was a section of the bar at the Hotel Astor in Times Square which was basically reserved for men seeking other men for sex, and the ownership of the bar was complicit.)

What’s interesting to me is that men were arrested and tried for so-called crimes against nature starting at the very beginning of the American republic, but these suits weren’t very common until the late nineteenth century, when all of the sudden, men were put on trial for sodomy far more frequently, as if the very moral code of the United States and Europe was shifting to be more conservative and punitive. (Think of Oscar Wilde, for example.) Interestingly, female homosexuality was hardly even conceived of and so mostly overlooked, though there is ample evidence that there were women carrying on sexual affairs with each other.

(If you want some further reading, I highly recommend GAY NEW YORK by George Chauncey; LOVE STORIES: SEX BETWEEN MEN BEFORE HOMOSEXUALITY by Jonathan Ned Katz; and STRANGERS: HOMOSEXUAL LOVE IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY by Graham Robb.)

So attitudes were different. I recently wrote a story about a dandy living in New York in the 1770s, an era in which being a fashionable or even effeminate man did not necessarily translate into being perceived as being gay. The people of the era didn’t think that way. I suspect, and there is historical evidence to support, that the effeminate men of the eighteenth century—referred to as macaronis by their contemporaries—were experimenting with gender presentation and were likely having sex with other men, but again, “gay” as a concept is something no one conceived of until the twentieth century.

So it makes writing about affairs between men prior to the 1940s a bit difficult. Men were having sex with each other and very likely falling in love—I’d like to think so, anyway, and it’s part of why I find the genre appealing—but they would have talked about their desires differently.

The other tricky thing is that because of all this, and because sodomy in particular was a crime for so long, happy endings can be elusive. LGBT historical romances are unlikely to have a marriage-and-babies epilogue, for instance; many end ambiguously or with some kind of subterfuge committed on the part of the heroes or heroines so that they can be together. I’ve read a few with sham marriages, for example, or with the protagonists living somewhere remote, or with elaborate lies concocted so that the relationship can carry on in secret. It makes those endings feel a little bittersweet instead of happily ever after.

I think that’s why a lot of LGBT romance readers say they don’t like historicals—the happy endings are tough to believe in some cases—but I think a case can be made for those characters who do end up making everything work out in the end. What a triumph for those characters.

(And, as an aside, it’s one of the amazing things romance as a genre can do: for a long time almost all fiction with LGBT characters ended tragically, but now we can tell stories of hope, in which these characters, and perhaps our readers, can see how bright the future is.)

Still, I’d like to see authors write more historical LGBT stories because they’re about characters who are largely underrepresented both in the romance genre and in historical narratives generally. I think also that my theory on “barrier to entry” applies here; I’ve long thought that writers of LGBT romance can get away with writing books that are outside the standard romance box because the readers already have overcome the “two characters of the same gender fall in love” barrier. So, too, with historicals; once you’re asking your reader to believe two people of the same gender fall in love (or whatever; let’s not leave B, T, or Q out of the equation, and maybe it’s more than two people—we’re equal opportunity here in the Rainbow Romance column) you can pursue some darker themes. And not just LGBT-related themes; you hardly ever see poverty in a Regency romance even though London in this period was experiencing rampant and horrific poverty—maybe that can be explored in a historical novel.

Maybe I’ll take this on. Maybe a few other enterprising writers will. I’ll be first in line to buy those books.♥



Kate McMurray is an award-winning author of gay romance and an unabashed romance fan. When she’s not writing, she works as a nonfiction editor, dabbles in various crafts, and is maybe a tiny bit obsessed with baseball. She’s currently serving as President of Rainbow Romance Writers, the LGBT romance chapter of Romance Writers of America. She lives in Brooklyn, NY. Visit her at www.katemcmurray.com.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

BOOMPSY DAISY: AN UNTOLD LOVE STORY by Mac Perry


WELCOME TO OUR MILITARY HERO BLOG TOUR
August 9 – 16
 
 
 
Boompsy Daisy: An Untold Love Story
by Mac Perry
 
 
My grandfather, Bill McLaughlin, lied about his age and enlisted in the army when he was sixteen. He was tall, and we were at war, so they didn’t ask too many questions before putting a gun in his hand and telling him to go kill some Japanese. By the time he came back, he’d collected a silver star and an untranslatable silk flag off a dead Japanese soldier (post-war, McArthur eliminated 4,000 characters from the Japanese alphabet). He also contracted malaria and had lost most of his hair, body weight, and hearing.
 
Growing up, Bill always entertained me with stories from his time in the Philippines. While I would slay him at gin rummy, my grandmother, Patricia, would chide him from her perch by the stove. Slowly sipping his red wine, he’d chuckle at her admonishments, wondering out loud what I had in my hand. “I know you like those aces,” he would say, “So I’m not giving you any.” Still, I would manage to work at least one ace into a run and lay down my cards at a choice moment, usually as a grand finale at the end of one of his stories. Crystal blue eyes rung with cataracts sparkled with pride, as he’d raise his shaggy eyebrows, causing his big ears to wiggle on either side of a bald, patchy head. Then his mouth would open wide on a wheezing exhalation, before laughter finally escaped with a deep resonating sound.
 
“She’s done it again, Pat! The Queen of Rummy reigns.” Pat would reply, “Of course, she did. What were you expecting from a granddaughter of mine?” Inevitably, the night would wrap up with a tipsy argument about the accurate definition of a word, before one of them gave in and pulled out the old, oversized, leather bound Webster’s Dictionary.
 
There are a lot of stories I could tell you about my grandfather. But the one I want to share, is the story of how he met my grandmother, a woman he would remain happily married to for over fifty years.
 
When my grandfather came back from the war, he went home with his buddy, Francis; “Red,” they called him, because of the color of his hair. According to Bill, it was late afternoon when they arrived at Red’s house, his sisters and his parents waiting on them. As Bill crossed the threshold of the front door, he looked up the staircase to see my grandmother, Red’s oldest sibling, standing on the landing.
 
“She was a vision,” he’d tell me, selecting a card from the discard pile. “Raven black hair, dark brown eyes, tall…She was an exotic beauty.”  Without a word of introduction, Pat descended the stairs, threw her arms around his neck, and kissed him on the lips. “The tips of his ears turned red” Pat would add, clanging pots over the stove. “He just looked so skinny and pathetic standing in the door like that. I felt sorry for him.”
 
Later that night, they went to a dance. They grooved to a song called “Boompsy Daisy,” which required bumping hip to hip. Bill said Pat “boomped” him across the room, and he was officially smitten after that.
 
My grandmother, on the other hand, eased into their love. She’d graduated with honors from Girl’s Latin School and was debating college when she became an office manager at the Navy shipyard, standing in for a man off fighting the war. Being the oldest, her wages went to paying for the college tuition of her younger brother and sister instead.
 
According to Bill, Pat was never short on admirers, and he had steep competition. Pat would roll her eyes and claim he was exaggerating, then shoot him a jealous remark about a blond girl with “big beautiful doe eyes,” as Bill described them.
 
“More like big dumb cow eyes,” Pat would mutter, sipping her chardonnay. Then she’d lean back against the kitchen counter in her orange apron, the words, “Leave me alone, I’m having a crisis,” printed across the front. The look she would give Bill over the rim of her glass would be one of both reproach and adoration; she never quite forgave him for making her love him so much.
 
Bill worked second shift on the railroad while he applied to colleges on the G.I. Bill. Pat would wait for him in the living room with tea and cookies, watching the tall grandfather clock tick the hours away until midnight, when he would come visit her after work. Then they’d talk until two in the morning about everything from politics to religion.
 
“But mostly, we argued about words,” Bill would say, as he tapped the leather bound volume in front of him. They would get into especially spirited debates about the definition of “wind-sucker.”
 
Pat realized she was in love with Bill, when he had to go out of town for little over a week. “I don’t know how it happened exactly,” she’d say, “but midnight rolled around, and I would be pacing back and forth, watching the clock. One of the days he was gone, I’d even gone so far as to prepare the tea before I remembered he wasn’t coming. I guess I just realized I missed him. And that must have meant I loved him.”
 
Bill’s proposal was as romantic as my grandmother’s revelations. Walking her to the door after a date, he said in passing, “Well, I guess we can address that once we are married.”
 
“Married?”
“We are getting married, aren’t we?”
“Oh, oh, oh, well…I guess so.”
 
At this point in the story, Pat would slam her glass on the counter-top and wipe her hands on her apron. “I never, in all my life, have said, ‘Oh, oh, oh.’ You made that up. I said, ‘I guess so.’” Then she’d gesture at me, “Can you imagine me saying such a thing? Like a fainting lady; ‘Oh, oh, oh.’ In your dreams pal.”
 
Bill’s nose and cheeks would be red with intoxication at this point, his face alight with amusement. He’d raise his hand to his mouth and lean into me, “She said, ‘oh, oh, oh.”’
 
Pat wore a white business suit to their wedding with a small, pinned hat. She was two years older than Bill. They had eight healthy children. On his deathbed, (to paraphrase) Bill swore to Pat it had always been her, only her, and he still loved her as much as he ever had.
 
After Bill died, and Pat had descended into Alzheimer’s/dementia, I was her caretaker for a period of time. Every night, I’d lay awake listening to her cry for him, “How could you have left me alone like this? Why did you leave me? I’m so alone. You could have at least had the decency to take me with you. I love you, you bastard. I love you so much.”
 
Before that, I’d had my doubts. I’d wondered if she’d been roped into marriage as a result of circumstances. I wondered if Bill had ever had affairs, having ended up a traveling salesman for most their marriage. I don’t think either of those things anymore.
 
I was with my grandmother the night she died, on Halloween. It was me and my aunt, Mary. Before we accepted the night shift, the room had been filled with family members including children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. My grandmother struggled to yank out the morphine drip, her eyes half open and unseeing, her mind all but gone. My aunt, Tricia, started singing, “Bye Bye Blackbird,” Pat’s favorite song. We all chimed in. The sound resonated down the hallway, and nurses and orderlies crowded the door to watch us sing goodbye.
 
After everyone left, and Mary went to the bathroom for a minute, I whispered in my grandmother’s ear. “Everyone will be fine,” I said. “You can go to him now. It’s okay to let go.” She died shortly thereafter.
 
The next morning, at the break of dawn, a swarm of ladybugs nearly curtained the windows, to the point where nurses and family members commented on the oddity. I looked up Ladybugs as an animal totem. They represent an opportunity to release your fears and return to feeling trusting and happy. They also indicate that something you thought you lost, would be making its way back into your life. I like to think the ladybugs were humming a tune to “Boompsy Daisy.”♥
 
 
 
Mac Perry is a Creative Arts Therapist, adjunct professor, and aspiring author of urban fantasy. When she is not corralling her three-year-old son, she is blogging and working on her passion’s pursuit. To learn more, check out her web site at www.macperry.com, or her blog at www.macperrysblog.blogspot.com.  This article first appeared on Mac’s blog on October 4th, 2013.
 
 

Friday, August 15, 2014

BOOK COVER FRIDAYS: SWEET SECRETS by Rhonda Eason


WELCOME TO BOOK COVER FRIDAYS!
Every week we bring you an exciting hot book cover from one of
New York's Leading Romance Authors. Enjoy!


 
SWEET SECRETS
by Rhonda Eason
The Wild Rose Press