Thursday, January 19, 2012

Catching Thoughts

It's occurred to me that I spend a lot of my time trying to crawl into my characters heads. Their minds are a mystery to me and it's my job to figure them out so that I can put them on the page for my readers enjoyment and entertainment. Like any skill or repetitive action it's best to employ this aspect of writing great romance on a regular basis. For example, look at my dog Misha in the photo. What do you guess he's thinking about? I can tell you that quite often on this very walk we run into a herd of deer--10-12, minimum. Misha is Russian-born and loves the cold, so the below-freezing temps are a joy to him.
Some characters are easier to dissect than others. If I've had the same profession or lived through the same or similar situation, I can draw on my own experience to add to my hero or heroine's authenticity. Come to think of it, I've almost always had a similar experience--emotionally. I may not have faced all the conflicts that my characters have but I've certainly at least known someone who has. And it's my observation that emotions are universal--we all have them, we all share them. Hence why I love writing romance and relationship books. I get to delve deeply into my heroine's heart--and her hero's. I get to see what connects all of us at the most basic level.
The romantic in me believes that Misha intuitively connects to what's important. Spending time with my dog helps me stay grounded and keep my stories and characters on track, too.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Are You an Ellen or a Jeannie?

Girl Ellen liked basketball,
tube socks, and pony tails
Girl Jeannie liked hanging
around on the uneven bars
with no socks
Please take the following quiz to determine if you are more like Superromance author Ellen Hartman or Jeannie Watt.
Why? 
Because there's a prize involved. Keep track of your answers, then follow the scoring directions at the end. If you're a writer, you might get ideas for a character inventory. 

1) When I’m writing/reading/studying I prefer:
a) silence

b) music


2) In the morning, I’m:

a) out of bed as early as possible, eager to face the day, even on the weekends
b) often out of bed early enough, but always reluctantly and with much regret


3) In the evening, I’m:

a) in bed by nine—if I can stay up that late.

b) just hitting my stride. Who wants to play some Twister?


4) When I hit the big city, I like to:

a) find a bar and have a pint of local beer.

b) find the nearest Macy’s and go shopping and then have a pint of local beer.


5) I tend to collect and feed many animals.

a) true
b) true but only if they weigh less than 30 pounds and are unlikely to procreate.

c) false


6) I______ Gallipoli-like endings:

a) avoid at all costs

b) embrace


7) I work best under pressure.

a)
True. But I hate this about myself and fantasize about being ahead of schedule.
b) True. But I create that pressure by putting things off or taking on too many projects.

(c) False. 


8) When faced with a computer challenge, I:

a) eat something sweet and then locate a teen to fix the problem.

b) roll up my sleeves and fire up Google to solve it myself.


9) The best dancing song ever is:

a) Abba’s Dancing Queen

b) Abba’s Dancing Queen


10) I prefer my exercise to come in the form of:
a) walking the dog, preferably if it's warm and light so I can read a book while we amble.

b) running down a country road (on purpose--not being chased by a wild bull)


11) When I see barbecued goat on the menu, I am reminded of:

a) my wedding  (nothing like cabrito to celebrate a union)

b) how much I enjoy pasta

12) Pick one of the following. (We leave it up to you to decide what to do with him once you pick him.) 

a) Dean Winchester

b) Raylan Givens

(c) who are these guys?


 

13) High heels:

a) Absolutely not

b) Have their uses


14) All-time greatest movie musical:

a) The Sound of Music

b) Singing in the Rain


15) The hero type I can’t resist:

a) single dad

b) stoic cowboy


Bonus. The last song/album I bought is most like:
(a) Baby, by Justin Bieber

(b) Anything at all by Eric Clapton
SCORING
Each answer selection is followed by a J or an E. If you have more J’s, you’re more like Jeannie. If you have more E’s, you’re more like Ellen.
1. (a) J (b) E;  2. (a) J (b) E;  3. (a) J (b) E;  4. (a) E (b) J;  5. (a) J (b) E (C) no points;  6. (a) J (b) E;  7. (a) E (b) J; (c) no points;  8 (a) J (b) E;   9. (a) J (b) E;  10. (a) E (b) J;  11. (a) J (b) E; 12. (a) E (b) J (c) no points;  13. (a) E (b) J; 14. (a) E (b) J;  15. (a) E (b) J;  Bonus: (a) E (b) J

ANALYSIS:
 
If you are a Jeannie, you are energetic—until late afternoon, at which time you need to recharge or you slowly fade. Your creativity is most active during the morning hours. You are easily distracted and need silence in order to focus, unless you’re doing housework, when you need music or TV to help you survive the ordeal.

Your nature is contradictory—you like to dress up and wear high heels, but are equally comfortable in disreputable jeans and a flannel shirt working on a barbed wire fence.  You enjoy being physically active, but your favorite pastimes are sedentary. You like hiking and shopping equally well.

Your tastes run toward classic rock, classic television and classic movies. You love a good cowboy story especially ones with a modern twist, such as Justified. You like stoic, sometimes unpredictable heroes with a sense of humor.

You are not super comfortable with technology, but find the internet an excellent way to procrastinate.  You work best under pressure and if you have just enough to do, you take on one extra project to create pressure.

You like your beer dark and your endings happy.
------------------------

If you are an Ellen, you're more familiar with brunch than you are with dawn and you're most energetic after dark. You're a natural multi-tasker so you need to occupy part of your brain with music to get the focus you need for writing or studying. On the rare occasion that you pick up the dust cloth or window cleaner, you turn the music up louder to drown out your internal protest that you were meant for the pampered life.

You like life comfortable and uncomplicated. A good beer, a bowl of homemade ravioli, your favorite jeans, and a ramble with your best four-legged friend are all right in your comfort zone. That's not to say you don't like exploring new cities or a night on the town, you're just likely to seek out the local hang outs and wear a reliable favorite when you go.

High-tech is a comfortable tool and you enjoy the puzzle of working out new ways to accomplish tasks. Pressure helps you focus and sparks your energy and creativity, but you can't help thinking there must be a more efficient way to get things done.

Your taste in music runs to pop, your favorite movies include wounded men (even Captain Von Trapp was sad before Maria came along), and you prefer your heroes (romance and television) to be care takers, even if they drive muscle cars and shoot pool (or shotguns loaded with rock salt).

SHARING 

Please share in the comment section whether you are a Jeannie or an Ellen. We have a bet, you see, and the winner gets a pint of local beer in the pub of their choice the next time we’re together in the same city. And you, my  friends, have a chance to win a $20 Amazon gift card. We're looking forward to hearing from you.

Feel free to add your own defining question or description of your "character." We love getting to know everyone better.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Perseverance (in something you love)

Hello, everyone! My name is Cathryn Parry, and I'm a new Harlequin Superromance author. My first book, Something to Prove, is out this month. I'm very much looking forward to seeing it on the shelves at my local Walmart and Barnes & Noble stores. To say that this will be a dream come true is an understatement.

Let me back up. Several weeks ago, a friend met me and asked why I was grinning from ear to ear. (Answer: My author copies had arrived in the mail. Isn't the cover art beautiful?)

When I told my friend the news, she reminded me that the year she'd met me, here in my small town in central Massachusetts, was the year that I’d first started submitting my stories to publishers. This was (Gulp!) more years ago than I care to admit--I have selective amnesia when asked how long it took me to get published--because the important thing to me is not the amount of time (or even the number of stories) that it took, but the fact that I didn't give up. I couldn’t give up, because I love writing romance.

It is not that I’ve never given up before: on diets, on exercise programs, on difficult jobs. Many times I’ve tossed in the towel, admitted defeat, and sometimes even thought terribly of myself for doing so. But maybe I shouldn’t have.

I’ve grown through many changes during my journey to becoming a Superromance author—lessons about having faith and believing in myself, mainly. I think that the difference in reaching this goal, versus not reaching it, is that it was truly important to me, heart and soul. There is power in story, and love is the most important quality of all.

A few weeks ago a friend of mine, a Mary Kay sales manager, asked me to talk with her team about my experiences. After meeting them, I was amazed that we had so much in common. I guess it really is all about finding something you truly want to do. For me it’s to be a writer. For them it’s helping people look and be their best by selling a product they believe in. Perseverance, not in anything, but in something you love.

Thanks for reading. Do you have any thoughts about perseverance? Please leave a comment to be entered for the drawing to win a copy of Something to Prove.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Superromance Covers Through the Years

By Jeannie Watt

Pop Quiz!
In what year was the first Superromance published?
a) 1980
b) 1985
c) 1990
d) 1995

How many Superromances were published that year?
a)  1
b)  2      
c)  6
d) 12

What was the occupation of the very first Superromance hero?
a) treasure hunter
b) millionaire
c) military pilot
d) bullfighter

And the answers are: 1) a; 2) b; 3) d.

Superromance #1
Yes, the very first Superromance hero was a bullfighter. The shout line of that first book, End of Innocence, by Abra Taylor, read “The shadow of the bullring turned their love to hate. “  I don’t know about you, but I was a bit surprised by the hero’s occupation, and that just goes to show how much…well…everything has changed since the 1980s. Our heroes no longer have to be alpha males, our heroines no longer have to be single with no children, and our hair no longer has to be big.

As I was looking into the history of Superromance, I was captivated by the evolution of the covers, which is what this blog is really about. You'll have to bear with me on this journey through time, because this blog has  a lot of pictures and requires a lot of scrolling.  

I realized as I collected cover images, that even  if I only posted one cover for each of Superromance’s 31 years, that would be a lot of covers, so instead I chose one cover for each distinctive Superromance banner. When the banner changed, I tried to choose a representative cover. Sometimes I had to choose two. There were just so many...

So let us begin with 1982.  As you can see, the cover style is very similar to the epic romance novels that were so popular in the 1980s. That cover style continued through 1983.


In 1984 the titles leveled out to horizontal and the embraces became more mutual, if you know what I mean.


From 1985 to 1991, the Superromance banner didn’t change. Here are covers (clockwise) from 1985, 1989 and 1991:




In 1992, things started to get interesting. There were many traditional covers during that year, but I  like this one because it's different:

In 1993 the cover artists started experimenting with some even less traditional covers.


And as you can see, in 1994 the first cover of that year doesn’t even look like a romance.


But there were still some classic covers offered that year.



In 1995, it was back to tradition and it remained that way for almost ten years with the focus on couples or families. Here are 1995, 1996 and 1997:

Here are some covers from 1999 and 2000. I particularly like the bold 2000 banner:

                         

From 2002 through 2004 the banner remained the same. Here are covers from 2002 and 2004:

                                                                  
In 2004 and 2005, there were a few covers with multiple images. This one is from 2005:


In 2006 some fascinating things started happening. Covers appeared without people on them.  I bought this book because of the cover. I loved it. 


Some covers had parts of people. Here is one of my all time favorite Superromance covers, from 2006:


In 2007, the banner changed again and the covers became more people/couple oriented and remained that way through 2010. Here’s another of my favorites:


In 2011 the banner began to sport a blue stripe which indicates that Superromance is a Heart and Home line. (Ahem—yet another of my favorite covers…)


And now, as we head into 2012, more changes are afoot. Here are two April 2012 covers and as you see there’s a pull back, which I believe indicates the longer, more complex stories Superromance provides. I like the new look very much.


I hope you’ve enjoyed this march through Superromance time as much as I have.  I spent two long evenings happily researching covers. It was difficult narrowing the choices down to only a few representative examples--especially for the years 1993 and 1994 when the cover artists did such interesting work and offered such a variety of styles. I may have to do a blog later in the year dedicated to just to ’93 and ’94.

I'm giving away a three-book set of my Too Many Cooks? release to a randomly chosen respondent. Please let me know what you think about the Superromance cover evolution.

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