Blog by VONNIE DAVIS -- International, Award-Winning Romance Author: Adventurous...Humorous...Amorous.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Friday Friends

I've got a dashing visitor from the past on Vintage Vonnie today. More than four years ago, he'd been very important in my life. His name is Niko Reynard, hero of a Romantic Suspense released under the name of Mona Lisa's Room. His first meeting with Alyson, the heroine went like this...

 When the door to the interrogation room opened and two men walked in, the testosterone level rose by a factor of five. Even though the first man, middle-aged with graying temples and silver-framed glasses riding low on his nose, was handsome in his own right, it was the second male who commanded her attention—and her fascination.

He was striking. Or, as Brooke, her free-spirited sister, would say, “Oh my God, he’s make-my-panties-damp gorgeous.”

While the young man wasn’t blatantly tall, he was excessively male. Sex appeal oozed from every pore on his skin. Alyson’s body responded, which surprised her.

She judged him to be around thirty, with the firm and muscled, yet slender build of many European men. He had an olive complexion and short, wavy black hair styled like that of a GQ model. His eyes were dark and angry.

What’s his problem? I’m the one held here against my will, hungry and thirsty. And, dammit, I have to pee.

The older man sat while Macho Male prowled the room like a tightly-reigned panther.

“Ms. Moore, I’m Field Supervisor Henri Moreau. I head the French task force on counterterrorism. The irritated man behind me is my second in command, Niko Reynard.”

The young man deigned to spare her a nod in greeting. Oh, she knew the type.

She nodded once in return with a dose of her own attitude. After all, she hadn’t been a teacher all these years without perfecting a piercing glare. One of his eyebrows quirked in response and a corner of his mouth quivered for an instant as if he were a heartbeat away from laughing at her. She hiked her chin and held eye contact with him for a few seconds.


Okay, so she was being bitchy, but after all she’d been through today, frankly she didn’t give a shit.

This book was the first of three under the series title "The Red Hand Conspiracy." All were set mainly in Paris, my favorite city. Writing them was a blast, like walking back in time, retaking a vacation, if you will.

The series never sold well. Yet, the crazy thing is the books hold the highest ratings of all my books at Goodreads and Amazon. Go figure! Mona Lisa's Room won the HOLT Medallion of Merit for Best Romantic Suspense. But for some reason, it just didn't sell.

Now that I have the rights back for the series, I'm planning to self-publish them. So my Street Team and I have been examining things; looking for what could have caused its failure. Was it the titles? In addition to Mona Lisa's Room, I had Rain is a Love Song and the final book, only two-third's written, called Jazzbeat of Surrender. Can we all agree I suck at titles? Is it no wonder my publishers give me a list of titles and say, "Here are the names of the books you're going to write"? 

Was it the covers? I'd loved them. Each had elements germane to the story within, but since they belong to my previous publisher I'm no longer allowed to use them. Gosh, I hoped it wasn't the writing; not with all the 5-stars they garnered from the few who'd taken a chance on buying them. Perhaps the publisher's lack of distribution? Or my scarcely known name at the time? Not that I'm so well known now. ACK! We could go round and round on all the possible "whys", couldn't we. 

Obviously, I have a lot to do to prepare this series for the Indie market where no one knows me at all.

I've changed the title of book one to--

Love and The Red Hand Conspiracy, Book One

I'm having a new cover designed with a picture of Niko on the front along with the bloody handprint, the macabre calling card of an International band of terrorists who call themselves The Red Hand. In each stand-alone book, a segment of The Red Hand is eliminated at the end of the story. By the end of book three, the reader learns the identity of The Architect, the shadowy, demonic leader of this band of deadly radicals.

Book two will be named for its hero: JEAN-LUC. BASTIEN is book three's hero.

I'm part way through NIKO, improving my prose and laying strong, yet hidden hints for identity of The Architect so when he appears, the reader will think I'm not surprised rather than No, freaking way!

The book is longer than I like so I'm trying to tighten the writing and delete some things yet still retain the charm, the suspense, and the passion of the original story.

Dressed, Alyson stood beside the bed as if frozen to the spot. Her face was pale, her blue eyes wide with fright. Being scared was one thing, but being immobilized with terror would not help her. She had to be able to move, to run, if necessary. He had to make her angry, hoping to tap into her passion. What could he say to piss her off again?

“Well, Mrs. Moore, you no longer resemble a sloppy American.” Fact was she looked good in that low-cut sundress. Damned good. While he’d always been a leg man, he had a healthy appreciation for the breast portion of the female anatomy, and her breasts were quite eye-catching. The wide skirt that emphasized her trim waist skimmed shapely calves. The woman was trouble in a sexy little package.

His calling her Mrs. was evidently like a cold slap to her face. She gave the desired response. “Let me give you a lesson in life, Niko. Never call a woman who endured twelve years of a cold marriage to a cheating husband by the title Mrs.” She grabbed her hellacious ugly baby-shit-colored purse and slung it over her shoulder.

He fought back a smile. “Yes, ma’am.”

She fisted her hands on her hips and glared at him. “Lesson number two. Never call a woman, who is one day shy of turning forty, ma’am. My first name, Alyson, will do nicely.”

He retrieved her carry-on from the bed and opened the door a crack. After checking the hallway and finding it empty, he glanced back over his shoulder, winked, and purposely lowered his voice to a sensual purr. “Anything else you’d like to teach me, Aly?”

Niko is watching me very closely as I edit and update, don't think he isn't. He's second in command of the French Counterterrorism Unit. Mr. Alpha is used to giving orders. And I'm not the best at following them. We've knocked heads before and I suppose we'll be eyeball to eyeball, yelling at each other again. I can't wait for the fun to begin!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Wednesday Writerly Wisdom

During a phone call, my editor at Loveswept told me she wished I'd teach a seminar on pacing. I laughed. Teach a seminar to whom? Cats lined up on a sofa? I mean, what do I know about pacing? Well, as a mother of 3, I will admit to pacing the floor until the kids got home during those teenaged years, but I don't think that's what she had in mind.

Pacing is continually moving the story forward and not getting bogged down in the woe-is-me emotional repetition of romances of years ago. You know the type. In fact, many still exist. Some writers get so into the sharing of emotions, the rehashing of past feelings, the angst of "gee, I feel this way, but I really shouldn't" that--although their prose is lovely--it's dragged on for two or more pages and the story's pacing  has come to a screeching halt.

Meanwhile the reader is thinking make something happen!!!

There must be a blend of dialog, action, character's inner thought or narration, character's reactions, and inner dialog. I'm sure there's a formula somewhere. But I'm individualistic enough to think we all use our own blend. The difficult task is finding that perfect blend that our readers want.

I'm strong on dialog and reactions. In fact, I usually write that first. One person says something and another reacts. This is my first step in crafting a scene. Then I add in movement, both large and small. Walking across a room, for example. Pouring a drink and sipping from the cup or glass.

I add those all-important signature movements for a character. We've all got little physical habits we do when we're talking or thinking something over. Right? Cracking our knuckles...pushing our glasses up if we wear them...fiddling with our hair...pinching the bridge of our nose...staring off. Small movements like this make the flat character more dimensional, because we're giving them typical human traits. Traits the reader might see in themselves, smile, nod, and think gee, I do the same thing. And that magic connection is made between the reader and the fictional character.

I add in narration and/or internal thoughts. While I strive for deeper emotion, I do this through word choice not by several paragraphs of character self-examination or recollections. These paragraphs are hardest for me to write. And they get written and rewritten many, many times until I can show and express whatever the emotion is in roughly four paragraphs.

I'm slowly learning to remember to include the physical reactions to narrative, too. The skin crawling, the heartbeat hammering in the ears, the mouth suddenly gone dry. So to make this part powerful, I might spend a couple days on this tiny section. Days spent consuming mass quantities of coffee and chocolate.

Because, here's the thing...when you stop the action, the moving forward of your story to tell the reader how the character is feeling or struggling, your story STOPS!

It's not going anywhere.

But your reader might.

Keep the pace moving or you're going to lose your reader's interest. And they might not give you the chance to get it back.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Monday Musings and Mumblings

I haven't blogged for a couple of weeks now. There was a book to finish and a publisher to keep happy by turning it in in a timely manner, which for me was eight days late. I'm telling you, my editor is so, so good to me. I had more shots in my retina, a major reason for being late submitting my manuscript and for not blogging. In addition, to my utter surprise, Microsoft gave me Windows 10 one night while I was sleeping. Imagine the screaming and swearing and storming at the Davis household when I turned on my laptop to find that mess!

AND I became a great-grandmother for the first time. Now, how that can happen when I'm barely thirty-nine is beyond me. Meet Benjamin, weighing in at 5lb. 11oz. Though he be small, he be brave and darling and kissable and strong beyond measure. He already holds Daddy's heart in his little hand.

I'll meet him in June when we travel to Ohio for our granddaughter's wedding. Eleni graduates from college a few weeks earlier and then marries a young man she's been dating for three years. Life keeps moving, doesn't it? Sometimes I'd like for it to stand still for a while...just so I could catch up.

Meanwhile, flowers need planted, the house needs cleaned, winter clothes need put away and spring and summer ones brought out. And I must keep writing. Book one of Black Eagle Ops--HER SURVIVOR--releases in July. I've just turned in the manuscript for book two of the series--HERS TO HEAL for a November release. And I've written chapter one of book three--HER FOREVER HERO--for the publisher to include in the back of book two. It was a great chapter to write.

A former SEAL attends a small cattlemen's convention at the same hotel as RWA's annual shindig. He's clueless, of course. I mean, what would a rancher, former SEAL commander, and leader of a black ops team know about those magic initials romance writers recognize in an instant? He thinks they stand for Regional Women Accountants or, after his wild experience in an elevator with several romance writers, Rowdy Women Accountants.

Until next time, here's a meme the fabulous Kelly Moran made me...

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Wednesday Writerly Wisdom

Wasn't it just Wednesday a couple days ago? Writing like mad to meet a deadline has me so mind-numb I don't know what day it is, if it's morning or night, or if I've eaten yet today. Since the chocolate wrapper next to me is empty, I'm pretty sure I've consumed something.

Let's twist things us a bit today and talk about ideas from the perspective of a reader. Like most of you, I've always read a lot. I recall my first steps onto a mobile library back in the fifties.

Since then, I've gone from library books to book clubs to mass market paperbacks to my beloved Kindle. I love to read. Take me away to a different place, a different era, a different lifestyle and I'm yours. I love books I can fall into. Books that make me one of the side characters who feels the emotion, the action, the pain, the passion of the story.

With a busy writing schedule, the only time I have for reading anymore is an hour after I crawl into bed while Calvin showers and does all he likes to do before he hits the sheets. Even so, I have pet peeves as a reader. I'm sure you do, too.

Like "a smile spread across her face." opposed to it spreading across her elbow or her knee? I mean what was the writer thinking? That the reader was too dumb to know where a smile would be?

Drives me bonkers. Like a person giving a speech and saying, "I'd like to thank each and every one of you for coming out today." I want to thunk my forehead. Doesn't each one mean every one? Think people!  Yeah, I'm picky. But if I'm giving up my time to hear you speak or read your book, you better make my lost time worth it. Give me your best. Not clichés like each and every one. My gawd!

If you've been to my blog often you know another pet peeve I have as a reader. The question mark. A question mark only has one function. One. It indicates to the reader the previous word or string of words are asked, either in narration or dialogue. So when a question mark is used at the end of a dialogue question, we know what it means--because it only has one usage. Why, do some writers insult our intelligence by slapping on he/she asked? I mean, really? Are they implying we're too dumb to know what a "?" means?

What I'm getting at here with all my kvetching is write the way you like to read. If habits or styles of another author drive you bananas, identify them and get to know them so you can avoid the suckers. I'll be honest--and you'll laugh--twice in the book I'm trying to finish I wrote "she asked" after a question mark. I spied it as if it were flashing neon-green on my computer screen and hit the delete button. See, how easy it is to do the thing you despise?

That's why we have to reread and edit in small sections. Edit our stories as a whole. Change the font. You'll be surprised how a book written in Times Roman, one you're sure is error free quickly shows you mistakes when changed to Arial. It's a trick for your eyes. Suddenly they see things differently, spot "bad" for "bag" or a comma in place of a period or sentence that's difficult to read.

Write on, my friends!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Moday Musings and Mumblings

I'm a child of the sixties, more correctly a teenager of the sixties. A flower child. An aging hippy who is excessively hippy in a different way now, sad to say. But truth is truth. Having grown up in the era I did, I don't easily trust the government or the press. I recall how my generation was manipulated by both. Manipulated AND wrongly portrayed.

For example, we've all heard history books are written by the winners. Right? So we have to research beyond what's spoon-fed to us in those history books.

We're told health care systems in other countries, classified as a form of socialism, are poor with slow available care. Speak to a Frenchman or German and their opinion and personal experiences are vastly different than what the government and news outlets tell us.

I've got this wonderful step-son so like his father--intelligent, humorous, gentle, and great to talk to. Kelly lives in Berlin, working as head product developer for Mozilla. His wife is a native Berliner, having grown up in the Communist sector of Berlin. The part we'd heard was so horribly bad people died trying to escape across or under the wall.

Katrin told us she loved living in Eastern Berlin. She had a legal job, an apartment, security, good medical care. Then the wall was torn down. Gone was her job, the roof over her head, her currency or security, and care provided by the government. But that was Communism, thinks I in surprise. She talked about how hard it was for her and her relatives to find work and housing. She explained communism did not provide everything. What is provided was the opportunity to have everything for those who worked.

I asked if they weren't happy after the wall was torn down. That's what we were told. She scoffed and said she'd gone from a legal clerk on her way to being an attorney to a shampoo person in a beauty shoppe. She and her relatives crammed into a dingy apartment instead of the beautiful apartments they each had before the sides came together.

Calvin and I listened to her talk about her experiences. Frankly, we were in shock. We'd always been told differently by the government and media. Had we been lied to or was her experience an anomaly? Were her memories jumbled bits of truth and fiction? She now owns her own business, a benefit from her knowledge of laws. Our Katrin is an intelligent, hard-working woman. In fact, she's recently had her company go totally "green" to benefit the environment.

I think the best thing Calvin and I have learned from her is a throwback to the sixties and seventies. Don't trust blindly. Ask. Always question. News outlets and news entertainment centers that taint their broadcasts with an inflection of voice or a raised eyebrow or downright shouting should be believed with half a grain of salt. Be your own truth advocate. Read. Research. Question. Heck, question me! Who am I? A 67-year old romance writer with mush for brains as I madly write toward deadline. Have a great week, everyone!