New Year’s Eve-A Time of Endings and Beginnings

It’s hard for me to believe that 2013 is almost behind us. It’s been an eventful year for us here at Teatime to be sure. Blog sister Erica released her self-published debut A Dangerous Invitation (Woot!),  we welcomed Kim and Jessica to Teatime and bid a fond farewell to Cora and Katherine. Amy, Erica, and I were able to meet in person at the RWA conference in Atlanta last July, and all of us have made strides in our road to publication.  As we say goodbye to 2013 and get ready to greet  New Year, there is a lot for us to be proud of, and a lot for us to look forward to.

But New Year’s Eve is also a time to say goodbye to the old. It is my sad duty to report that Teatime Romance is disbanding and today is our last posting. Believe me when I tell you that we did not come to this decision lightly. We have all become so busy with our work, real lives, and our writing, and realized we could not devote the time and attention to Teatime that it deserved. Therefore, we wanted to quit while we were ahead, and leave on a high note instead of sadly petering away.

Fear not, dear readers. While Teatime is ending, this won’t be the last you see of us. You can still connect with all of us on Facebook, Twitter, and other various social media venues. It is our hope that the friendships and ties we’ve developed during our time here will continue on. Here are all of our Twitter handles:

Amy Pfaff: @amypfaffauthor
Erica Monroe: @ericajmonroe
Jennelle Holland: @authorjennelle
Jessica Grey @_jessicagrey
Kim Truesdale @playsthetart
Lisa Lin: @Laforesta1

We are also planning on keeping the blog up so you can peruse the archives whenever you want, and guest authors can still link to the blog posts if you wish.

On behalf of Erica, Jennelle, Amy, Jess, and Kim, we appreciate every one of you that has supported us during our time here. We are grateful to all of the authors who graciously agreed to guest blog and visit with us. And a huge heartfelt thank you to all  lovely people in the romance community who came by and commented, retweeted us, and help spread the word about our blog.

From all of us at Teatime, we wish you a Happy New Year and a wonderful 2014!

Precious Prose: A New Year’s Resolution

It’s about that time that we all start loudly announcing new goals for the year, letting as many people know what we intend so that we feel guilty if we don’t follow through (at least for a little while). This year I’m not promising to eat less chocolate (who would do something so silly?!) or work out more or spend more time with my family (though both of these would be nice). I have enough of those things, thanks. Instead, this is the year I will write more! I’m saying this loudly so the people in the back can hear me… In the next 365 days I am going to try and write as much as I possibly can. I’m also going to try and publish as much as I can.

To say I have big plans for this year is underestimating it by a thousand. I have huge plans; ginormous, great big dinosaur-sized plans.

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And maybe I’ll discover that I only have tiny T-Rex arms to accomplish these monster-sized plans, but I will try anyway.

I am lucky this year because I have the luxury of taking some time off of “work” and devoting myself to writing. I put “work” in quotation marks because I think writing is just as much work as any other job. Yes, it looks different from the outside. I won’t be going to an office. I won’t be sitting down to grade papers or plan lessons. I won’t be meeting with students or other professors. But I will still be working. Just like with teaching, there will be times I procrastinate, times I phone it in, times I’m unsatisfied with my product or wish I had more time to spend on one thing or the other.

But the point of taking time off from my “day job” is to WRITE. And, like I said, I have big plans. I want to train myself to produce prose that is good as well as fast. I want to write drafts in a matter of days or weeks rather than months or years. I want to write a helluva lot of words this year and publish as many of them as I can.

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And this is all in an effort to make my prose less precious to me.

Let me ‘splain.

As writers, we get attached to our words. We often get caught up in word count (see my previous post) and in getting things just right. We can linger over one word for a long time, wondering if it truly expresses all that we mean to say, and terrified that there’s another word out there that might do the job better than the one we have. We can linger the same way over sentences, paragraphs, chapters, worrying them until they are unrecognizable.

But lately I have been thinking a lot about improv, and procrastination, and the idea of splashing words on a page and handing them in. (Can you tell I’ve just finished a semester where I graded many many papers written at the last minute?) I’ve been thinking of deadlines and just getting things done, no matter how good or bad I think they are. I have a notebook full of ideas to think and write about. All genres, all styles, all lengths, all formats. Nothing is off limits this year. This time around, it’s all about volume.

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It’s not going to be easy. And I’m sure you’ll hear more from me as I push myself to achieve these big goals. But for the moment I’m excited and ready to take on a new year and a lot of new words.

What are your New Year’s goals, writing or otherwise? What do you hope to accomplish in the next twelve months?

Erica’s Dark and Dangerous Rogues

Amy here.  This is my last post with Teatime Romance. I thought I would write about what an amazing experience it’s been or all the great friends I’ve made, but that’s sappy. Instead I’m going out the same way I came in with a kick-ass great debut author: Erica Monroe.

I’ll still be around on my own blog and haunting Facebook and Twitter. Now, check out Erica and her amazing book. I’m not saying that because she’s my friend an critique partner, either. It’s truly a great read. Enjoy and stay in touch.

erica-monroeWhen we first launched Teatime Romance in September 2012, I had just started drafting what would become A Dangerous Invitation, the first book in my Rookery Rogues series. A little over a year later, I’m proud to be the final entry into Amy’s debut author series.

How did you start writing?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve told stories. I was blessed with teachers who not only realized that I had talent, but who nurtured me and helped me grow as a writer. In college, I started out as an English major but quickly switched to focusing on writing. (And ended up with an English minor anyhow, due to my love of Brit lit and Shakespeare!) I wasn’t sure what I really wanted to do with my major, so I ended up in the secretarial field. About three years ago, I started to really read Regency romances when a friend introduced me to them. I was hooked. Previously, I’d dabbled in contemporary short stories and sci-fi, but the historical genre fit both my voice (all those years of reading Dickens, Eliot, Austen, etc.) and my love to research.

When did you realize you wanted to be a romance author?

 

RWA Together

RWA Together

I started seriously pursuing romance almost two years ago, when I moved to North Carolina. In January of 2012, I joined the Romance Writers of America and that really changed everything for me. I had joined Twitter the prior year, and through Twitter I’d started to talk to other authors with an interest in history. I queried them for advice, and they suggested I join RWA. Being part of RWA has given me access to such amazing resources and people.

Through Twitter, I met some members of the Heart of Carolina chapter, the Raleigh-Durham chapter of RWA. My husband and I were both trapped in jobs where we couldn’t move higher on the ladder. Raleigh promised growth for both of us. Because of HCRW, I suddenly had a bunch of people wanting to help me. I learned how to edit, when previously I’d just been free drafting. I learned to stick with a project.

But I think everything really started to click when I found about the rookeries in London. Those poorer areas seized hold of my imagination and wouldn’t let go. I read romances that had a darker voice—Meredith Duran, Cecilia Grant, Maire Claremont—and I realized hey! I could do that! I didn’t have to be completely traditional in my approach. I could show the emotional angst of a relationship.

That sold me.

Why did you decide to self-publish the Rookery Rogues?

As regular Teatime readers know, I am a control freak. I have a little trouble—okay, a lot of trouble, shut up MrMonroe—with the idea of other people handling things for me. It also makes me crazy to wait on things. Because of that, self-publishing appealed to me. I wanted to be the one in the driver’s seat, making the decisions about my craft. I also don’t like the idea of anyone telling me I can’t do something, so having to bend someone else’s will really annoyed me. I wanted to write the stories that I’M passionate about without having to consider if my agent or publisher would like it.

With Vanessa Riley at the Beau Monde Conference

With Vanessa Riley at the Beau Monde Conference

In that vein, when I started to plan out the Rookery Rogues, I realized this was going to be a series that would be a drastically hard sell to publishers. Not that it wasn’t good enough, or that it wouldn’t have a market—but the combination of suspense, darker elements, grit, and the lower class setting make it anything but your usual fare for historical romances. I could wait a long time, trying to convince people to take a chance on what is the very definition of a niche romance, or I could seize the opportunity and publish it myself.

So far, so good! I had a lot of help. I got a great photo from Jenn LeBlanc at Studio Smexy, and Rachel Rivera at Parajunkee Designs worked with me on my cover. Isobel Carr did my print layout, George from Dead River Books was amazing at formatting, Deb Marlowe advised me. Emma Locke and Darcy Burke have fielded all my self-pub questions and been invaluable to me.

What’s next for you?

I’m working on putting a short prequel to A Dangerous Invitation, which is called A Wayward Man. I want it to be available for free to readers as an introduction to the series. Then, I’m working on a novella called Secrets in Scarlet, which is Poppy O’Reilly and Thaddeus Knight’s story.
What kind of tea do you like?

Normally, I’m far more of a coffee drinker. But in the wintertime, there’s just something about hot tea. I’m drinking a lot of black teas lately. I have a soft spot for Bigelow because that’s what I grew up drinking. Raspberry Royale, Constant Comment, Lemon Lift, English Breakfast…all favorites.

About Erica..

Erica Monroe writes dark, suspenseful historical romance. Her debut novel, A Dangerous Invitation, Book 1 of the Rookery Rogues series, released in December 2013. She is a member of the Romance Writers of America, Heart of Carolina, and the Beau Monde Regency Romance chapter. Erica can also be found blogging every other Saturday at Teatime Romance. When not writing, she is a chronic TV watcher, sci-fi junkie, lover of pit bulls, and shoe fashionista. She lives in the suburbs of North Carolina with her husband, two dogs, and a cat.  Connect with her on her website.

You can purchase the e-book for A Dangerous Invitation at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooksAll Romance E-Books,
or Smashwords.  Paperback is available through CreateSpace and Amazon.

A Dangerous Invitation

One fatal mistake cost Daniel O’Reilly the woman he loved, spiraling him toward drunken self-destruction. Now sober, he’ll have to prove he’s innocent of the murder he was accused of three years ago. But pistol-wielding Kate Morgan hasn’t forgiven his Rookery_eBOOK_Smsins.

Torn from her privileged existence by her father’s death, Kate Morgan has carved out a new independent life in the Ratcliffe rookery as a fence for stolen goods. Daniel’s invitation to assist him jeopardizes her structured existence. Yet Kate can’t resist his touch, or the wicked desires he stirs within her.

As their renewed passions grow reckless, their investigation takes them through the darkest and most depraved areas of the City. To catch a killer, they’ll have to put secrets behind them and trust only their hearts.

Excerpt

“What part of ‘I shall make you bleed’ did you not understand?” Kate kept her hands hidden behind the solid wood of the banister, preferring him to think she might be armed.

He rounded the last step, coming to a stop in front of her.

Kate retreated against the bannister, which came up to her hips. “Why are you here, Daniel? I already told you I wouldn’t help you.”

“I need to know.” Daniel took another step forward, effectively boxing her up against the bannister.

She leaned back further, unbalanced. What did he need to know? Who had killed Dalton? If she believed him? Or worse, if she still loved him?

Cold air swept in through a broken window on the first floor, ruffled the knotted ribbon of her straw hat underneath her chin. Her fingers clenched around the worn wood of the railing, gripped so tightly her knuckles became white.

She might never feel sure of her footing again.

“You let it pass for three years,” she charged. His urgency made no sense.

“I shouldn’t have. I won’t this time. Dalton deserves justice, and so do I. I’m going to investigate Dalton’s murder whether or not you help me.” Daniel brought his hand to rest on her arm, heat penetrating through her greatcoat. “But truly, I came back for you.”

He leaned his head down, so that their eyes met. His gaze pulled at her. Her body longed for his touch, craved it, as if he was the answer to every question she’d had in the past three years. He could not love a woman so wrecked.

She retreated back again. Bent against the bannister, it sagged against her weight and a threatening groan echoed from the wood. She didn’t move, knowing that if she did she’d be back in his arms within seconds.

He took one look at the bannister, then at her, and tugged her closer to him. His hold was strong, but not unrelenting. She was flush against him, so close she could feel the beating of his heart. Warmth replaced brisk wind, and his presence blotted out loneliness until she was part of something greater, something powerful beyond herself.

She feared that heady sensation. Passion didn’t stick to predetermined routes and checklists.

When he spoke, his breath tickled her skin. His voice rumbled in her ear. “I don’t want to lose you again.”

A tremble tore through her. In those few months after he left, she’d woken with those words on her lips, whispers from dreams wherein he’d fulfilled his promise to return for her. He was here, and she forgot the reasons why she should loathe him.

Everything but the smell of bergamot and cloves disappeared. An altogether familiar aroma, one intrinsically locked in her mind as his, yet different this time without the overlay of pine needles. It enveloped her, clouded her senses. She lifted her head from his chest.

She looked him in the eye. But that was a mistake, for his eyes shone with the same desire she kept trapped.

“If I didn’t know better, I might believe you.” She forced herself to step away from him. “I can’t be with you again.”

“Kiss me.”

Why My Writing is Like My Holiday Baking

Old Fashioned Spiced Apple Chews

Old Fashioned Spiced Apple Chews, 2013

By the time you read this I will be elbow deep in flour, running pell-mell from table to counter to stove, and bemoaning the fact that my slippers are making that schwick schwick schwick noise of plastic soles sticking to the floor of my kitchen because I haven’t had time to scrub the tiles.

Sadly, this is not an uncommon holiday occurrence.

I always start the holiday baking season with the best of intentions but invariably I end up getting caught up in the stress of the day job. The baking gets set aside for laundry, for dishes, for sleeping. Needful things happen, yes, but the baking gets put off always until the very last minute and then I end up rushing right through it.

What’s really horrible about all this is that when it comes to cooking full meals for family and friends or multi-course medieval feasts, something I think I personally excel at, nothing even remotely resembling this kind of rushing around happens. I’m usually prepared months in advance and I have multiple backup plans in case anything goes awry.

I should probably point out that I cook all the time. ALL the time. I’m always coming up with something new and tasty. Dishes gets created purely for the joy of it, sometimes simply because something falls out of the fridge when I’d intended to go and make something completely different. (Remind me to tell you the story of how I once went into the kitchen to make chocolate chip cookies and came out with a crown roast.) Sure I make cooking mistakes and stuff gets relegated to the compost heap on occasion. Some of the things I cook though? So yummy. Friends and coworkers comment constantly that it’s a wonder MrMr doesn’t weigh a ton for all the cooking that I do that he happily eats (he’s actually quite svelte, by the way).

Now let’s swing this around to my writing. (I know you were wondering. Don’t deny it.)

I go through these stages where I write fiction like mad (as evidenced by last year’s NaNoWriMo participation in particular) and then things begin to taper off until the next big rush. I don’t think it’s any big secret that I wait until the last minute most of the time to find a topic to blog about. While I know that’s not an uncommon way of going about blogging or writing fiction, I’m just completely struck by how it’s so very much unlike my writing process for my day job. I’ve mentioned before that I write for a living in my day job. And much like my cooking abilities, I think I’m actually dab hand at it. The simple fact that my bosses seem to like my work well enough to send me gifts addressed to “Jennelle Is Awesome Holland” should be evidence at least that I don’t completely suck at my chosen profession, right?

Yet when it comes to writing the fiction, I hesitate. I delay. I find excuses. And then there’s this mad rush near whatever self-imposed deadline I’ve set where I actually sweat out the words and get something written that, for the most part, works well and doesn’t suck.

So why is it that this fiction writing, like the holiday baking extravaganza that happens, something that causes such panic and angst?

Ego. Ego, plain and simple.

The problem here, both for the baking and the fiction writing is that I need to figure out these transferable skills I should have. For my baking, it’s clearly my ability to plan ahead. I just need to do it for baking too. Realistically I don’t suck at baking. I have failures just the same as my cooking. MrMr loves the treats I make him and not just in that “awh honey you shouldn’t have” sort of way. I can work with that and make it happen. I know I can.

TIME

I think the same thing is true for my writing. I have the ability to affect people in profound ways with my writing. I’ve felt it. I’ve seen it happen. I know I can do this. I have the mad organizational skills to take a software documentation project from idea to birth. I have the skills to know when to abandon plan A and move on to plan B or C or whatever letter comes next at the stage I’m working on.

It just needs doing and that’s going to take time, so this is going to be my Yule gift to myself: time. Time to write.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, all. May you all gift yourself with time.

Chatting about Romantic Suspense

One of the questions I get asked the most when talking about the Rookery Rogues with readers is how I’m able to work in stories of suspense alongside the romance. I dabble in reading contemporary romantic suspense, but in truth my love for the grittier elements came from my intense love for Agatha Christie. Growing up, I read every one of Christie’s Poirot mysteries, often times more than once. Of course, my favorite is Murder on the Links, in which Captain Hastings falls in love. I love the way Christie was able to paint a picture of every secondary character, so insightfully that you knew who they were in just a few sentences.

Of course, as a romance writer, I’m more concerned nowadays with the relationships between characters than I am with the “whodunit.” I’m not a particularly clever person at solving mysteries, and I’ll admit I’m often along for the ride instead of actively detective solving. I never pursued a career in criminology because of this, despite my extreme affinity for crime shows. When I work on the suspense elements for The Rookery Rogues, what I want to create is a perilous situation—or a series of situations—that either furthers the bond between hero and heroine, or does something to estrange it. In A Dangerous Invitation, I use a combination of this. There’s a scene where Kate and Daniel are running from the villain and they’re trapped in a wool warehouse. A closeness grows between them, for they’re forced to depend on each other. This startles Kate, who isn’t willing to deal with her reemerging feelings for Daniel. So in a sense, not only has the chase brought in an element of action, but it has increased the conflict.

One of the books I read when drafting A Dangerous Invitation is Conflict and Suspense, which I’ve talked about before. I loved this book because not only does it give you exercises to work on, but it also examines different techniques. For me, I like to approach a book with both proverbial guns blaring. I don’t pull puns in the first draft—I’m going to throw everything I can at the book and see what sticks. Sometimes this means awesome scenes get cut, and sometimes it means I move things around so that I can include this new fight or mystery.

But what I really have to remember when I outline a book is that yes, this guns blasting approach is great, but you need to give your readers time to rest. There needs to be a break between the tense moments. I love emotional angst (no one is surprised) and that’s obviously one of my favorite things to write. Last Saturday at my chapter’s holiday party, I was talking to fellow author Kianna Alexander, and she mentioned that often the sex scenes in a book are the “rest period” for the reader. This is especially true in romantic suspense, when the stakes really are often life or death. The reader needs that time to breathe and recharge for the next crazy explosion.

Rookery_eBOOK_SmWhat I recommend to other romantic suspense authors is finding a critique partner who is as equally interested in all your action-centric elements as you are. I found that when I met Jennelle Holland through Teatime. As many of you know, Jennelle also writes romantic suspense and she’s a martial artist. I’m so fortunate to have Jennelle because not only does she correct the fight scenes I write but then she tests them out with her husband to make sure they’re feasible. Because I have no actual fighting training, this is so helpful to me. I run into a lot of problems visualizing just how a fight should go. I see the movements in my head, but I don’t always know the best punches or kicks to insert to get the right effect.

But mostly, I just love to write things that go boom.

 

A Dangerous Invitation is out in the wild! Get your e-copy today at the following vendors: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Smashwords |