Friday, March 27, 2009

 

Baking a Romance…A Recipe for Success Part 2 of 2



By Christie Walker Bos


Continued from Baking a Romance...A Recipe for Success Part 1 of 2

There's no secret recipe for creating a romance, although there are some basic ingredients. If you want more than "white bread" you'll need to spice up the elements of your story and make it your own. In Part 1, we talked about: The Type of Bread…Determining the Genre; The Basic Ingredients…Characters are the Flour and Water of Romance; Don't Forget Yeast…Getting a Rise Out of Your Characters; and Adding Spices to Create Flavor with Your Setting. Now it's time to crank up the heat and bake your story.

Pop It In the Oven…Cranking up the Heat

Once you've assembled and mixed all the ingredients, you pop it into the oven to bake. For your romance, this means turning up the heat. Ask yourself what's at stake for your characters? The higher the stakes the more important the results will be to both your characters and your readers.

There are several ways of raising the stakes. Giving a character a history that is in direct conflict with what they must do to succeed is one sure way of creating tension. In the movie, Independence Day, Jeff Goldblum's character gets sick on airplanes and yet he must fly in an alien space ship in order to save the world. Putting your characters in unfamiliar locations or strange situations will help them develop and grow as they overcome the obstacles you put in their way.

Ding…Letting It Cool

You pull the bread out of the oven and it looks amazing. But before you cut into the loaf, it needs time to cool down. Once you have written your first draft, it's time to let your excitement cool down. Put the work aside for a week and then come back to it. I print out an entire copy of the book, sit in a nice comfy chair and read it all the way through as if seeing it for the first time. Pen in hand I make corrections to glaring spelling and grammar errors, jot down notes on new ideas, sometimes adding new twists and turns to the plot. I've found flaws in the plot that weren't obvious as I was writing but became glaring when I read the entire manuscript in one sitting, just a reader. Now that the excitement of finishing has cooled, I can look at my work more objectively, which helps me make that second, third and final draft the best it can be.

Time to Eat…Your Story is Ready

In the end, when the bread comes out of the oven and your friends take their first bite, if it makes them go, "mmmmm" then no one is going to ask about the ingredients or how you made the bread. All that matters is that it tastes great. When someone finishes reading a great romance novel, it should make them go, "ahhhh" and just like with your loaf of bread, most people aren't going to be dissecting the book's plot, setting, or character development. All they care about was whether or not you told an engaging story with memorable characters.

Making bread from scratch and writing a novel both involve a lot of hard work but the rewards can be delicious.

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Christie Walker Bos is the editor of a trade journal for the optical industry. In her "spare time" she writes romantic comedy novels. Excerpts, reviews and links to her three published novels can be found on her Web site at http://www.ChristieWalkerBos.com

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

 

The Write Man for Her: (A Great Read) and Interview with Christie Walker Bos

The Write Man For Her by Christie Walker Bos is a great read for a spring afternoon at the park with a picnic and blanket, for a summer day at the beach, or for a winter night curled up in front of a fire. This contemporary romance novel is laugh-out loud funny while also setting your heart on fire and bringing faith in love back to even the worst doubter. With a good mix of romance, love-making in the bedroom, and good-old fashioned girl time, The Write Man For Her, published by Cerridwen Press, will leave you wanting more because you fall in love with the main character, Jessica Anne Singer, and hope her love life will finally work out.

Jessica has a successful advertising career, but she longs to be a full-time writer. She enrolls in an on-line creative writing class for help with her romance novel, and there she meets dreamy and mysterious Professor Brant Wilson. Jessica finds her professor attractive during his teleconference lectures, but she doesn't dream of trying to meet him in person until she is strongly encouraged, actually pushed, into action by her fast-talking, hysterical friend, Cath. Jessica feels a little down on her luck since her terrible divorce and hasn't had a date in years. When Jessica and Cath's plan to meet Brant face-to-face finally works, Jessica makes an unbelievable discovery that might change her mind about Brant being a possible love interest.

Make sure to check out The Write Man For Her by Christie Walker Bos (published by Cerridwen Press ) in hard copy or e-book today.

About the Author: Christie Walker Bos is a hopeful romantic living in Big Bear Lake, California, with her soul mate Robbie Bos, who fulfilled 63 out of 65 items on her very own Man List. Having found her soul mate using a magical man list, Christie fictionalized the story and came up with her first romantic comedy, Magical Man List. In addition to writing novels, Christie has a full-time job as an editor/writer for the optical industry, is a professional photographer, and jewelry maker. She’s an activist in the areas of the environment and women’s issues, volunteering for both the Sierra Club and at a local women’s shelter. A mother of two—Erica and Brian—Christie enjoys life in the mountains, camping, music festivals and anything involving friends, family and her kids. She has had three non-fiction books published for kids on the topics of hot air ballooning, volleyball and understanding male and female roles for young adults.


MUFFIN READERS: To have a chance to win a free autographed copy of THE WRITE MAN FOR HER, leave a comment on this blog post today!

WOW: Christie, thank you for taking the time to talk with us today. Why did you choose to become a romance writer?

Christie: I’ve been a writer all my life, and since I’ve just turned 54, that’s a good long time. I started in 7th grade by writing essays for various contests, and when I actually won a couple, it really sparked my interest in writing. I began writing contemporary romance back in 2000 after taking a rather unusual route to finding my soul mate. After telling the story over and over again to friends and watching them double over with laughter, I figured I had a pretty good story to tell. I turned my real life experience of making a “man list” and creating a sacred ceremony into my first fictional novel, The Magical Man List.

WOW: What a great way to get started as a writer--using your own magical man list as a basis. I think many of us would actually like to check out that list! So, besides your own life experiences, what draws you to the genre?

Christie: When I think about what movies I like the best, my favorites are always quirky romantic comedies like Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, No Reservations, and one of my favorites…Only You with Robert Downey, Jr. and Marisa Tomei. This type of story has always captured my imagination; so when it came to writing novels, I gravitated to this genre. When it comes to reading, I love the smart-ass romantic comedies, humorous murder mysteries if you can call them that. I like my characters to be witty and have that snappy come back, not slapstick falling down laughter.

WOW: Your book definitely reminds me of that movie genre. Wouldn't it be absolutely fantastic if some (or all!) of your books could be made into movies? Every writer's dream, right? With working a "real job" too, what is your writing routine like?

Christie: Since I spend the day at the computer for my “real job”—a journalist for a trade publication in the eye wear industry—when I want to be creative I need to be anywhere other than in front of a computer. So I’ve worked out this crazy way of writing my novels. I start by writing my first draft using a pen and pad of yellow paper (easier on the eyes than white). When you are writing a 90,000 plus word novel, that will give you quite the writer’s bump. Then I put on my typist hat and type each chapter (usually as I complete each one) into the computer. Then I print out a hard copy and let it cool off like a cake. When I return to the hard copy, I find a comfortable chair and a red pen. Wearing my editor hat, I mark up the copy with corrections, additions and deletions. Back to the computer once more, I enter all the corrections and make another print out. This copy goes to three trusted readers who then mark up the manuscript again. Back to the computer once more to input corrections and make more changes. After all of this, I finally have a manuscript I can send to my editor at Cerridwen Press. If she accepts the manuscript for publication—and I’ve had three accepted and published through Cerridwen so far—then she will mark up my manuscript one more time. More corrections, more re-writes and then finally, it is done; and I have a glass, no, a bottle of wine to celebrate! The celebration is short-lived though, since by then, I’m already working on the next novel.

WOW: Obviously that system works for you, and it sounds like you have been very successful with it so far! Plus, every writer needs to celebrate with a good bottle of wine. What are some of the benefits to having your books in e-book format?

Christie: One benefit to me as an author is my novels see the light of day much faster than if they went through a print publisher, which has an extremely long wait time from the signing of the contract to the book being on the shelf. Another thing I like is my novels reach a whole new market and group of people on-line. Cerridwen actually publishes my novels twice—first as an e-book and then as a print trade paperback. This allows my novels to reach two different markets. I must say, most of the people who read my novels prefer to wait for the print version, stating that they like cuddling up with “a good book.” Of the three novels currently published by Cerridwen Press, three are available as e-books and one, The Write Man for Her, is now available in print. Another benefit of an e-book over a print book is the price. The Write Man for Her in print is $9.99 while it only costs $6.99 as an e-book.

WOW: It's really nice that your company publishes all your novels in e-book and as a hard copy! That's a great idea and nice for you to appeal to all types of readers. So, let me ask you, what makes contemporary romance different than other romance genres?

Christie: I believe contemporary novels are more grounded in reality. There are no witches, shape shifters, space ships, or knights in shining armor, not that I have anything against those types of romances, but in a contemporary romance you are dealing with the here and now. When I’m writing a contemporary novel, I am mindful of what is going on in the world right now and keep the dialogue and situations very real. I do a lot of research on the location, so I can shape my characters based not only on when they live but where they live as well. I treat the location as a silent character that shapes and impacts the novel in subtle ways.

WOW: You bring up a very interesting point about the setting of your book. Since I have read one of your books, I can definitely see how setting is almost like another character for you. Your story could not happen just anywhere. In your book, The Write Man For Her, your main character, Jessica, is attracted to her creative writing professor. How much of you is in this book since you are a successful author?

Christie: Sometimes it’s hard to separate reality from fiction. I would say there is a part of me in every one of my characters, even my heroes. I’ve had friends and family read my novels and comment that a particular line was “so you.” But they also recognize themselves in certain characters as well. I borrow liberally from everyone I meet—personalities, mannerisms, ways of speaking, quirks, and even funny phases—no one is safe. I saw this wonderful t-shirt that said, “Beware, you could end up in my next novel.” That is so true.

WOW: I've seen that t-shirt before, too, and I thought I should get one of those. I'm always using my friends' names in my creative work. So, not only do you have the hero and heroine in your book, you've also got the antagonist. Simon! UGH! He's such a jerk. Is it easier for you to write about the villain or the hero in your books?

Christie: I must admit, I love a good bad guy. You meet so many jerks in life that it’s easy to come up with plenty of examples of what you don’t want in a man. I find it far more difficult to come up with a realistic hero…someone who is basically good but not a saint. I married one of those heroes, but he was one out of the 50 jerks I dated before I found him. So I find there is plenty of “material” out there to create believable male villains and not as many examples of wonderful men. I have to be more creative in that department and rely on wishful thinking.

WOW: Another great point, which I think all women can relate to who are reading this blog post. We've all met the jerks, and I think many of them creep into our creative writing--EASILY! Every leading lady needs a sidekick, and in this book, it is the delightful best friend, Cath, and Jessica's bird, Merlin! What made you give Jessica a bird as a pet?

Christie: My kids had birds for pets when they were young. We had finches and a parakeet but our favorite was a cockatiel that we hand raised. Of all the characters in the book, Merlin the bird is the only one who is portrayed exactly feather for feather. No worries there about being sued or anything. All the other characters are composites of people, personalities, and my overactive imagination.

WOW: I'm glad to hear that Merlin is based on a real bird. I loved him in the book! So, then how much fun did you have writing about Cath?

Christie: Cath is that kind of person who says what other people only think. She’s always out there, in your face, making you do the very thing she’s afraid to do herself. Cath is my inner voice before my conscious mind takes over and makes me say and do the right thing. I liked her so much that I wrote a short story starring Cath. "Stakeout for Love" is a new FREE read available from Cerridwen Press, starring the aforementioned Cath. The idea of the free read is to give readers a taste of an author’s style with the hope being that they will like what they read and go onto buy one of the author’s other novels. "Stakeout for Love" debuted on March 23rd. Hopefully your readers will check it out along with my other novels at ChristieWalkerBos.com .

WOW: Christie, thank you so much for taking the time to share so much wonderful information with The Muffin today. We'll definitely have to check out your short story, "Stakeout for Love." And I hope all readers will take my advice and read The Write Man For Her. You won't be disappointed!

Happy reading!
Margo Dill
http://www.margodill.com/
http://margodill.com/blog/

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

 

Baking a Romance…A Recipe for Success Part 1 of 2

By Christie Walker Bos

Some people think all romance novels follow a secret recipe or formula and are therefore all the same. Crafting the modern romance is like baking a loaf of bread. While there are the standard ingredients that will give you a presentable finished loaf, it's what's added to the basics that can make enough types of breads to fill a bakery.

For basic white bread you need flour, yeast, butter, salt and water. For the basic romance novel you need two people who eventually fall in love, a plot/conflict that keeps them apart for most of the novel, and then a resolution that brings them together for the happy ending. Just like with baking, if you want your story to be more than just "white bread" you'll need to add to the basic ingredients to stand out on the shelf.

Type of Bread…Determining the Genre

When you set out to bake a loaf of bread, you first need to determine what type of bread you're making in order to assemble all the necessary ingredients. With a romance novel, your first order of business will be to decide what type of romance you want to write. Romance novels come in as many varieties as bread. There's the murder mystery romance in which there will be dead bodies and the paranormal romance in which the lovers are not necessarily even alive. There are historical, contemporary and science fiction romances, suspense, fantasy and inspirational love stories. Books that cross over and back again from one genre to another are making it more difficult to pigeon hole a romance novel with a specific, limiting set of ingredients.

The Basic Ingredients…Characters are the Flour and Water of Romance

In traditional romances, boy meets girl, they fall in love and they live happily ever after. Today, you might have boy meets vampire, girl meets werewolf, boy meets boy or girl meets girl. The possibilities are as boundless as your imagination. Today's romances could involve a ghost in love with a living person (Think Patrick Swayze in Ghost) or a time traveler in love with someone from the past (Think Christopher Reeve in Somewhere in Time). Add spice to the recipe by creating characters from different ethic backgrounds, different classes, different centuries, and different worlds. These differences will cause issues to arise between the characters, which brings us to our next ingredient…yeast!

Don't Forget the Yeast…Getting a Rise Out of Your Characters

When making bread, yeast is the active ingredient that makes the bread rise. When writing a story, conflict is the active ingredient that gives rise to problems that demand a solution. Without conflict, two people meet, fall in love and live happily ever after…The End. Boring. The conflict or the reason they can’t be together is what makes "the bread rise" and the story develops around how they resolve the problems that are keeping them apart.

In my romantic comedy, Getting Back to Delaney, there are two types of conflict, internal and external. Delaney, the owner of a struggling art gallery finds herself attracted to Tyler, who turns out to be helping his brother open a competing art gallery across the street. A classic conflict arises as Delaney views Tyler as the competition out to destroy her. Think You’ve Got Mail with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. Delaney's internal conflict--a deep distrust of anything in a "male package" brought on by repeated betrayals--causes her to ignore Tyler's offers of help even though she desperately needs it, causing her gallery to teeter on the brink of bankruptcy.

Add Spices…Create Flavor with Your Setting

Think of the setting of your book as more than the actual location where events take place. The setting has a personality, it provides conflict, and it adds flavor to your book like cinnamon changes white bread into a cinnamon roll. In my novel, The Write Man for Her, the story takes place in and around Santa Monica and Marina Del Rey, California. One of the characters lives on a houseboat at the marina, which provides for sunsets on the water, love scenes in rhythm with the gentle rocking of the boat, and sets the stage for the books grand finale.

The love story Slumdog Millionaire set in the slums of India has a desperate, dangerous feeling that permeates the film like the pungent smell of curry. While in The Bridges of Madison County, the pace of the film is slow and quiet like the dust caught in a beam of light coming through the farm house window. Take care when choosing your setting, understanding that the location can enrich the plot, influence the characters and increase or decrease the tension of your story.

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In Part Two…Learn how to crank up the heat, let your story cool, and then enjoy the delicious results. (Come back for Part 2 on Friday, March 27th!)


Christie Walker Bos is the editor of a trade journal for the optical industry. In her "spare time" she writes romantic comedy novels. Excerpts, reviews and links to her three published novels can be found on her Web site at http://www.ChristieWalkerBos.com

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