Thursday, February 23, 2012

Look who I saw at SCWC*SD26

I Am So Busted.  The number one rule in every book, every online article, every podcast I've saved to my smartphone playlist, and every Romance Writers of America National Conference workshop I've ever listened to on the topic of blogging is the same:  content is king.  Posts to a blog need to be timely and frequent.  Two or three posts a week is the minimum for new material - if the goal is to attract and keep readers.  

Which is exactly why I didn't need to take a hiatus of more than a week.  But I did.  But before you  stop reading, drop me from your email feed, or cancel your follow, allow me to plead guilty with an explanation.  

I still haven't recovered from the awesome Southern California Writers' Conference in San Diego this past weekend.  I urge you to check out the highlights and award winners, and make plans to join us next year (or this September in Newport Beach!) Thank you, MSG, Wes, Chrissie, Cricket, Jeremy, Janis, Linda, Jean, Laura, Drusilla, Mark, Matt, Andrew and all the workshop leaders for making this a very special time!

I plan to go into more detail about SCWC in the coming weeks and months, but for now I want to share one major highlight:  

This was Saturday evening just after introducing agent Paul Fedorko and best-selling author T. Jefferson Parker prior to the banquet.  I'd be hard-pressed to name two finer gentlemen in the world of contemporary publishing.  It was my pleasure to spend a few quality minutes with both of them during the weekend.  

I hope I didn't freak them out too much, gushing my appreciation of the works they've brought to me as a reader over the years.  But how else could I react?  This SCWC felt like the literary equivalent of the World Series and these two men are on the all-time All Star team!  Thank you guys for your kindness and understanding. 

I'll give you a hint of which book I bought at the conference that I've already started reading. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Christmas Story Perfect for Valentine’s Day

Before anyone asks, I’ll answer the question first – yes, I know Suzanne Brockmann’s book All Through the Night is made up.  Just being make believe doesn’t diminish the powerful emotional honesty of this romance.  In some ways, the fact that this story of love is a work of fiction makes it more compelling.  And even though the plot centers on a Christmas-time wedding, I suggest this book is the perfect read for Valentine’s Day. 

One reason this book resonates so strongly is that the issue of marriage equality and same sex weddings is in the news again, courtesy of the recent Appeals Court decision upholding an earlier federal court ruling finding California’s Proposition 8 unconstitutional.  That decision would no doubt hearten Jules Cassidy and Robin Chadwick, the male protagonists of Brockmann’s book, because it should allow other couples just like them to have their passionate and caring relationships publicly affirmed by the state.  

An important strength of Brockmann’s work is that these two characters are so well developed, a reader easily identifies with their desire for legal acceptance.  Brockmann presents on the page two men with strengths and flaws as compelling as any encountered in fiction.  And yet the love they have, the sense of mutual sharing, trust, and respect they strive for with each other, inspired me to be a better man in my own relationship before I’d even finished the book. 

This, I think, is a great representation of one of most powerful tools of fiction in our society – we can begin to create a better world if we only imagine we can.  I sincerely hope you’ll read All Through the Night.  And then, I hope it inspires you to promote positive changes in our law and culture so we all have the chance to celebrate more couples like Jules and Robin experiencing happily ever after. 

Happy Valentine’s Day! 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Intimate Strangers - A Sensual Delight

Intimate Strangers, by acclaimed romance and mystery writer Laura Taylor, is a sensual delight for the appreciative reader.  With beautifully rendered prose, Taylor takes the reader inside body, mind and heart of her main characters as they at first resist, and then ultimately succumb, to the intense attraction each feels for the other.  In passages sizzling with heat, the reader is happily swept up in the passion connecting protagonist Hannah Cassidy to her apparent antagonist and reluctant admirer Nicholas Benteen.  In this short novel, Taylor demonstrates her mastery of the most satisfying elements of romantic fiction. 

This story’s great strength is the concentrated focus on the relationship between Hannah and Nicholas.  From the moment Hannah appears on Nicholas’s remote Nevada property, it is clear that she is woman not easily prevented from achieving her goals.  What she doesn’t understand is that her success on this particular mission threatens the fragile sanctuary Nicholas has created, not just for himself, but for wounded comrades-in-arms he shelters on his property.    

Taylor puts her considerable talent on display as the interaction between Hannah and Nicholas reveals ever more compelling layers of character.  The initial antagonism between the two warms into grudging respect, followed by unacknowledged attraction, before finally erupting into fully-heated passion.   Taylor employs her writing skill so the reader experiences all of the sensory stimulation of the main characters, whether that is Hannah surrendering herself to Nicholas despite her inexperience and modesty, or Nicholas struggling to restrain his surging desire for her.  The richly rendered love scenes serve the overall story by demonstrating in vibrant language the true nature of Hannah, Nicholas and the love that bonds them. 

A compelling theme of contemporary romance is that love conquers all.  Taylor tests this thesis in her story by weaving the plot around the question as to how two very different and very strong-willed characters can both get what they most want.    The uplifting conclusion delivers on the implicit romance reader-writer bargain as Taylor ends her book with a wonderful scene of intimacy entirely consistent with the characters she has created and shared.     

Intimate Strangers is available as a free downloadable eBook for Kindle . A free pdf can be found on Taylor's websiteThe nook version is available for purchase here.

Laura Taylor will be at the Southern California Writers Conference beginning next Friday in San Diego.  She is an Advance Submission reader, will be leading workshops during the conference, and serving as facilitator of a Friday evening rogue read and critique.   

Monday, February 6, 2012

Writing Classes and Reader Events

With a blog called Joy of Reading it won’t surprise anyone that I like to read.  As a novelist and writer of creative nonfiction, it makes sense that I like to write.  What may be a secret, now-revealed, is that I love to read more than I like to write.  In fact, one of the rewards I give myself for diligent writing is undisturbed reading time.    

Because I’m both a voracious reader and an extroverted writer, I get invited to participate in more cool events than my schedule allows.  Now that I’ve got this forum, I can do something more than offer reluctant regrets when a fun reader event is scheduled or when my inability to break free of a prior commitment gets in the way of a useful writing class.  With your indulgence, I’ll occasionally pass along tips about events I wish I was attending.

First on the calendar is I Love You Silly:  Crafting the Perfect Romance taught by Zoe Archer at the Los Angeles-based Writing Pad on Sunday, February 12.  When I last checked, there were still two spots available in the class.   Zoe is a RITA award-nominated romance author, a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and a fellow member of LARA.  When you see her, be sure to tell her that Rick said "hi".

There’s still time to register for this year’s Southern California Writers’ Conference in San Diego AND get an early-bard discount.  While I will be at the conference, I'll be working most of the time and so won't be able to attend many workshops.  If you check the schedule of workshops you can see what a hardship that is.  If you're a writer looking to improve your manuscript and connect with other writers, I urge you to attend SCWC.  

Finally later this month, the inaugural Passion and Prose will be held in Long Beach. This "daylong conference specially designed for romance readers and  the writers who love them" will be held Saturday, February 25th.  Bestselling authors Meg Cabot, Christina Dodd, and Gail Carriger headline a group of 50 writers representing the width and breadth of the romance genre.  

Even if you can’t make all of these events, I hope you’ll spread the word to book lovers or writers you know.  Thank you for your time and attention.  And thank you for visiting Joy of Reading.