Archive for November, 2009


We’re all going to the same place

Everyone’s writing process is different. We have plotters and pantsers and into-the-misters, brainstormers and hang-around-waiting-for-the-muse-to-strikers, technicians and I-dreamed-the-ending-ers, disciplinarians and my-characters-talk-to-me-ers. And no one can (or should!) force their method on any one else — if it works for you, then it works for you.

But look at any published romance book, and you’ll see (I hope!) that a finished romance manuscript has structure. It has character arcs and turning points and goal-motivation-conflicts. It has acts, black moments, crises and climaxes (yeah, those too!). And if it’s a well-written book, you won’t be able to tell which methods the author used.

My point being: some of us take the train, some fly, some walk around in circles — but we’re all getting to the same place.

The other day at my local romance writing group, I was chatting with a writer who was a self-identified pantser. ‘I just get an idea and start writing,’ she said.

Those of you who know me will understand that the very thought of doing this breaks me out in hives 🙂

I shuddered, and thrust my latest outlining notebook in her face — I routinely fill up a 120-pager with handwritten notes before I even start typing the outline, let alone the manuscript — and stammered, ‘But… but… but what about character arcs, and conflicts, and GMCs, and… y’know, the story!!’

She shrugged, and said, ‘Oh, I just fix that when I’m finished.’

After further discussion, we ascertained that we’re actually doing the very same things when we structure a book — I just do it before I begin, while she does it by playing with a completed first draft.

So yeah, everyone’s process is different — but we all go through the same steps, somehow. And I’m a firm believer that no matter what method you choose, or when you choose to do them, there are some structuring steps that just can’t be left out. Eventually, you have to analyse your character arcs/GMCs and romantic turning points, whatever you like to call them, to make sure the romance is realistic and means something to the characters. You have to make sure something is happening in every scene. You have to pay attention to where the manuscript begins, and so forth.

I’m cooking up a brand new book from scratch as we speak, so in true Erica style, I’m up to my neck in spiral-bound notebooks and system cards. Good old outlining. I’ll drop by next week and let you know how it’s going.


Interview and Giveaway with Erotic Paranormal Writer Kiki Howell

Today we welcome Kiki Howell, whose book A Modern Day Witch Hunt was released last month.

Kamillia is an author of paranormal romances living in an upscale suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. Accused of being an actual witch herself by an ambitious group of businessmen with a dark agenda, she is surprised to find a man who resembles one of her fictional, alpha male heroes at her door offering her protection.

Luca is an immortal Watcher from the River of Light. Sent to Earth to help Kamillia, whose true heritage has yet to be revealed to her, Luca is caught off guard by the fighting spirit of the woman and the way his human body betrays him in her presence.

When research for her next novel requires Kamillia to travel to Italy, she and Luca are forced to join together despite numerous obstacles to overcome the evil of many centuries blocking a portal there. Only then, can she return to the problems awaiting her in her own city, with or without this stranger who has captured her heart but cannot share her future.

Watch the trailer or read more about the book. Find out more about Kiki at her website. And read more about the contest after the interview.

Romantic Journey: Thanks for joining us here today, Kiki. I’ll dig right into the interview and ask our first question. How did you first get published?


Kiki Howell: That is a story! After two high-risk pregnancies, I stopped teaching and writing for almost a decade when I had the privilege of being a stay-at-home mother two my two little miracles.

When I did try to get back into it, it was really hard. My husband bought me a book of writing exercises hoping it would get the creative juices flowing again. About the same time, I learned of a local publisher one city away from me called Ellora’s Cave, and read my first erotic romances.

Also, my husband went on a trip to Israel for two weeks. During one of his first phone calls home I heard an explosion in the background, and thus had trouble sleeping for the remainder of the time he was gone.

So, I started the writing exercises, and came across one that said write in a genre you are not comfortable writing in, one you are unfamiliar with. I had also been reading calls for submissions and seen that Whiskey Creek Press Torrid had a Celtic Love Knots line that released monthly two stories.

So, for the exercise I mixed my love of the paranormal with erotic romance. Once my husband got home safely and read the stories, he encouraged me to send them out to see what the publisher would say. They sent me a contract for both stories!

RJ: Do you have another job? If so, what is it?

KH: I am still that stay-at-home mom, yet the kids are in school all day, and I have a really dirty house.

RJ: How would a typical workday unfold? Do you clean first or write first?

KH: Based on the last question, I write first. Per my husband’s suggestion and constant support, I treat the time my kids are at school like a workday and write the whole time. Well, most of the time!

RJ: How do you let your family know when you are in serious writing mode?

KH: They are great in supporting me and knowing what story I am working on, etc. So, all I have to say is I need to get this done, and they help me find the extra time to work.

RJ: What is the biggest blooper you’ve written?

KH: I guess no one has pointed out any bloopers yet, crossing my fingers here now!

But, long story short, I was accused of actually being a witch once I had my first stories about witches published! A few short-sighted men couldn’t separate me from my fantasy characters. It was one of those life bloopers that made living in the neighborhood fun for a while!

RJ: That is so funny. It sounds as if that experience might have inspired the premise behind Witch Hunt?

KH: Ah, you caught me! During the experience, my husband said the phrase that became the title and noted that at least I should get a book idea out of it. That is all it took for my imagination to take off!

I did get the chance to spout off a bit in the novel through Kamillia, as well! I enjoyed more than I should have choosing the image for the Mastema (bad guys) in my youtube video, too!

RJ: And what line that you’ve written continues to amaze you?

KH: Sorry, this is longer than a line, but what comes to mind is the beginning lines in a story I wrote called, “The Stone Hex” in my Mystic Stones anthology.

Having come to the end of the trail she followed, Rachael paused where the full green of the tree line gave way to an open expanse of land. The remains of a field, long unattended, rolled out before her until the sun-drenched colors of the landscape took on the blackness of shadow. From where she stood it seemed as if the long-abandoned house had burned the earth with its mere presence. The symmetry of the two-story square made it appear intimidating, despite it’s aged wood and cracking paint, as if the house was smirking at her in a domineering stance. Furthermore, the large fallen tree whose weight the house now sustained seemed an elaboration of contorted fingers grappling for possession of the sky itself. Dead twigs of brown held onto its foundation as if paying homage to their master. Once she left the protection of the trees, the house, black with the soot of neglect, chilled her even as the sun burned upon her shoulders. Nevertheless, this was how the house had greeted her for years. As a few clouds rolled in muting the sun, the light-play of shadows gave the illusion of specters in the windows.

RJ: What are your five favorite books?

KH: Again, I think I am cheating here, but I have a couple that are series.

  • Teresa Medeiros, Cabot Series: After Midnight and The Vampire Who Loved Me
  • Denise Lynn, Dragon’s Lair
  • Alice Hoffman, Practical Magic
  • Nora Roberts, Three Sisters Island Trilogy: Dance Upon the Air, Heaven and Earth, and Face the Fire
  • Linda Winstead Jones, Fyne Witches Series: The Sun Witch, The Moon Witch, and The Star Witch

RJ: What lessons have you applied from them to your own writing?

KH: I just aspire to someday write a book that will sweep away a reader as those ones did me.

RJ: If your ship were sinking and you could grab one thing on the way to the lifeboat, what would it be? Go on instinct here; don’t let common sense interfere with you as you grab your hairdryer or laptop instead of food to take to the desert island.

KH: Oh, definitely my laptop! I could read ebooks, write stories and email everyone I love! Of course, what are the odds that island would be connected? Should have thought that one out better! LOL! Now, I am starving with a dead battery in my computer!

RJ: You’d be surprised how many of us would grab our laptops! Again, Kiki, thanks for stopping by today.

Kiki is giving away a very cool book bracelet with a witches hat for one of our lucky readers. Enter the random drawing by:


  • Commenting on this post.
  • Tweeting a link to this post in Twitter. You’ll need to comment letting us know that you tweeted. Include your Twitter username for verification.
  • Posting a link on Facebook. Again, comment letting us know that you posted the link.
  • Following The Romantic Journey in the Facebook Networked Blogs application. The link appears in our right-hand sidebar.
  • Adding The Romantic Journey to your blogroll. Comment that you did that and include a link for verification.
  • Posting something about The Romantic Journey on your blog. Comment that you did it and include a link for verification.
  • Subscribing to the RSS feed or email feed. Comment that you did it to be entered.
  • Following The Romantic Journey on Twitter. Again, comment with your Twitter username for verification.

You receive one entry for each action, so you can potentially receive eight entries.

The winner will be announced 4 December. Entry deadline is 11:59 p.m. UTC on 3 December, 2009.

No transfers or substitutions.


Cherry Spit Pitting Contests Or, Where Do Writers Get Their Ideas From?

cherriesNo, I haven’t lost the plot, these two subjects are related – kinda. Next month, I’m off to Cromwell in the South Island of New Zealand to research two new books and attend the Annual Cherry Pit Spitting Competition. The winner of the Cromwell CPSC gets free entry to an even bigger CPSC held near Perth, Australia.  Cromwell and the surrounding area is one of the most beautiful parts of New Zealand. It gets very hot in summer and very cold in winter which attracts lots of skiers to the area. Cromwell  produces alot of  fruit, in particular cherries and grapes which explains why there’s vineyards and cherry orchards there.

Long drives on my own are times when I often think up ideas for stories, although to be fair, one of them had been percolating in my head for awhile. On the car ride north it suddenly became STUNNINGLY CLEAR – at least to me, it did – that this was not one, but two books. Sigh. I do love those moments. One book was set in a cherry orchard and the other in a vineyard. When I told my husband about them he said, “You do realise I know somebody who’s mother owns a cherry orchard in Cromwell, don’t you?” He did? Bless him!

So I got in touch with the friend and I’m off. In December. To Cromwell! I read up on the rules for the Cherry Spit Competition. There’s four categories, best man spitter, woman spitter, boy spitter and girl spitter. They each get three pits the same size. They must spit down the course that is marked out with orange cones and each spit is measured. Can’t wait. I would give it a try. But I’m more likely to inhale and choke myself than spit and win. Anyway, I promise to report back and let you know.

If you’d like to see more about the Cromwell CPSC – and to prove that I’m not making this up follow this link



Upcoming Guest Interviews

We’ve got quite a few visitors coming by in the next few weeks.

Next Friday, we will be hosting Kiki Howell and finding out a little more about her recent release A Modern Day Witch Hunt. Kiki is also holding a fun giveaway, so check back on 27 November.

On 4 December, Gail Roarke is stopping by to tell us about her book, Bound by Convention.

Finally, mark your calendar for 11 December, when Roxanne Rhoads visits to tell us about her upcoming release Insatiable. Insatiable is due out 7 December, and Roxanne will be giving away a free PDF copy as part of her interview.


Classic Love Stories

When did you first realize the power of love?

As a young girl, I spent a lot of time listening to the Muppets Frog Prince on vinyl. Every time, I cheered when the Princess Melora kissed Robin the Frog, because I knew he would turn back into a prince and they would spend their lives together, happily ever after.

After I learned to read, I was a big fan of all of the Grimms Fairy Tales and the Arabian Nights because even though the characters went through horrible things, they always got their happy ending.

When I got a little older, Gone With the Wind became my favorite love story. Mom and I watched it every year when it came on network television. (Yes, these were the days before HBO and VCRs.) Even though Margaret Mitchell left the ending up in the air, I think we all know that Scarlett and Rhett got their happy ending, too.

What is it about falling in love and ending up together that is so timeless?

We know that many relationships don’t end with us walking happily into the sunset, flushed with the knowledge that we have found a life partner who will never hurt us, never forsake us, and never forget to put the toilet seat down or put his dirty socks in the hamper. We know that the ending of our favorite stories is often just the beginning of a whole new set of trials and tribulations that doesn’t always have a happy ending. But we eat up our happy endings all the same.

Is it a matter of escapism? Are romances an outlet for our unflappable idealism? Do we sometimes need a reminder of what unconditional, happy love feels like?

For me, it’s all of the above. I love to escape to a world where the end result of a romantic encounter is happiness. I love to be reminded of my deep-seated idealism and belief that not only can we all be happy but that we deserve it.  What about you? What do you feel when you read a good love story?


Poll Results

Thanks for all of your great feedback on the types of posts you want.

The overwhelming responses were for book recommendations, so we’ll be looking at ways to give you some ideas of new books to read. We’re also going to begin posting our author interviews soon, and we will be getting their favorite books as part of the interview, so you can see what your favorite writers like to read.

Here are the poll results:

  • Book recommendations: 38%
  • Contests/giveaways: 25%
  • Guests interviews with other bloggers/authors: 13%
  • Background on characters and settings in our books: 13%
  • Information about the writing process: 13%
  • Beefcake shots: 0% (so we’ll hold off on posting all of the dude photos until you tell us you can’t live without them!)

Again, thank you for the great feedback and ideas. Keep telling us what you like!



Kyle’s Redemption by Ari Thatcher

The countdown is on until my newest release, Kyle’s Redemption, from Ellora’s Cave! This contemporary erotic romance novella features Lily, Cait’s best friend in Celtic Rhythm. Watch for it to become available on 11/18/09.

The blurb:
Six years ago, Lily Astor looked forward to establishing herself in the Los Angeles art world. In one painfully public moment, those dreams were shattered. Now she has the chance to try again, but the invitation to exhibit comes from a gallery owned by Kyle Ventura. The man who should have cleared her name.

After a night of eyebrow-singeing sex, Kyle realizes who Lily is and his role in her downfall. Now, as his heart falls deeper for Lily, he needs to make amends. But Lily doesn’t want his help, just his body.

For the first time in his life, sex isn’t enough for Kyle. He wants to show Lily he’s not the man he was six years ago. But first, he has to prove it to himself.


Here’s the book trailer video:

Watch for contest news!


November 2009
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