Click Here!

Be sure to visit Shellie's site at to find photos, information about events, giveaways, and books in the works!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Adjusting the Thermostat for Romance Part 3: A Kiss is Still a Kiss

Sometime or another their lips have to meet. You're going to have to write it and it's going to have to be believable and satisfying while still creating in your heroine and your reader a longing for more. After all, isn't that what kissing is for?

If I was describing my first "grown up kiss" it would have to be said that it was much like finding my lips stuck in a plate of cold mashed potatoes. Therefore, my heroes will always have firm lips. Kisses on the page should be all the things kisses in real life should be - tender, passionate, thrilling. But, let's face it, sometimes in real life kisses are . . . well, humorous. Within the realm of romance we all could learn a thing or two about genuine laughter.

Ever clashed noses when going for a kiss? Closed your eyes too soon and wound up off-center? Been within a hair's breadth of his lips when the answering machine announced a reminder of your dental appointment the next morning? I'm sure you've got some stories to tell. Why shouldn't your romantic couple as well?

Whether in public or in private, a kiss is still a kiss. Variations on it are up to you. Just remember, the path to romantic love is often established in that first kiss and you, as the author, are the one charting the course.

In the last part of this series, we'll talk about the necessity of the author's determination of what will and will not take place between her characters on the page.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Holding in my hand an acutal copy of my first published book: No Penalty for Love. The author copies arrived unexpectedly at my door today and what a moment of awe it was to open the box and see them there. I've never had a baby, but now I have this! I've wanted to be a writer since I was nine years old and in Mrs. Pyle's 4th grade class. Now I am. I hadn't really thought about what it would feel like - or at least hadn't settled on what I thought it would feel like. I laughed. I stared. I teared up. Wow. I mean this is so just beyond . . . wow.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


This is the last weekend before back-to-school meetings start. It's funny to me that no matter how much I determine I will savor the moments, live in the now, I will suddenly find myself in the middle of planning the future or even dreading it sometimes. I think what I dread most is that once school starts the whole dynamic of life changes. The rhythms I've been comfortable with, the ones which seem to suit me best, are altered and the good things about summer seem irretrievable. Swallowed up in business and busy-ness. The demands of learning a new schedule, of professional development and faculty meetings, of lesson planning and dealing with behavior issues, of planning meals in advance and grocery shopping on the way home - they all seem to suck the life right out of living.

I start new writing projects right before school begins with the thought that I'll have some momentum built up in the story before time is shorter for writing and it'll be easier for me to keep up with the story that way. It works for a while. I cut myself some slack in the first month, but then when October and November roll around I get back into it. My writing time diminishes significantly between Thanksgiving and Christmas which I deem normal and then when Christmas Break comes I find myself trying to recapture enthusiasm for the project. When second semester comes it will likely be Spring Break before I return to it for more than a brief visit. Over Spring Break I become frustrated and think it will never be done or maybe even consider throwing it out altogether and starting fresh with a new idea. It will set dormant until summer vacation when I will set some sort of personal deadline for mid-July and push, push, push to finish and submit.

What I hate most about this is that I don't get to enjoy it along the way nearly as much as I should. I love writing. It is my favored way of spending time. I love being so lost in a story, so interested in my characters' lives that they become a part of my own reality until the story is resolved and I can release it to a publisher. I'd so much rather write every day, but not as a scheduled part of an already fully scheduled day. As a joyful personal pursuit which doesn't come last because it is personal.

It's August 15th and I'm facing all again. The countdown to school has begun. There's a three-page start of a third novel on the laptop, a 120-page start from last year at this time, and a headful of questions as to whether I'm interested enough in either idea to see it through. If not, what other ideas are brewing that might be worth spending hours on the next few days just to get that jump start on the school year?

Without any solution to the problem of altered rhythms, I'm maintaining.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Adjusting the Thermostat for Romance Part 2: Warming Up Slowly

I'm incredibly annoyed by banter on morning radio. I'm also annoyed by it on news shows. It just seems unprofessional. I actually quit listening to one local radio station because the man and woman they had paired up for the morning show made me feel like I was always on the outside of an inside joke. Having said that, I do have to admit that playful banter is a great flirtation device and very appropriate in a romance.

I had a crush on a boy in high school. A secret crush. He was as annoying as could be. He tormented me. It was awful. I found the thought of being in his presence delightfully nauseating. I loved him. I hated him. I thought he hated me. Now, years later, I'm confident enough to look back at it and believe that it is possible he may have actually had a secret crush on me, too! Don't we torture the people we love most?

But, this is not high school we're talking about. We grow up. We learn to flirt with more finesse. We can be subtle, bright and alluring. We can use our intelligence to gain the interest of someone we want to get to know. We can use our words to make them laugh, make them gasp, or just leave them breathless. It's all a matter of degrees.

It's important to establish mutual attraction early in your story. It doesn't always have to be about physical attraction. It can be a cerebral attraction. What is they say in Sleepless in Seattle? "Your subconscience was attracted to his subconscience subconsciously." You're reader can get a real giggle out of a war of words knowing both hearts will ultimately succumb. Initial disagreements cast in a playful light can become the essence of necessary conflicts later in the story. What a challenge to write two people who spar and spark at the same time! How joyous when they finally get together in spite of the raging battle!

Think Scarlet and Rhett. Think Harry and Sally. Think Wesley and Princess Buttercup. Think Beauty and the Beast. And, if all else fails, turn on a morning radio show for a few pointers.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Sunday Morning

Michael Franks has to be hands down the best jazz lyricist. Just thinking this morning before I go upstairs to get ready for worship about the line from a song about lazy Sunday mornings: "your kiss is made with orange marmalade, apple blossoms, toast and tea. . ." . Favorite Franks album: The Art of Tea. Probably because it was my first. Although, the Watching the Snow album is perfect for that Christmas feeling year-round. I love that on his site he asks people to join him in support of a no-kill shelter and the humane society and even advertises a CafePress item which will benefit the shelter.

If you haven't surmised by looking at my must-reads, I'm very interested in animal-welfare. I am a vegetarian since my 2006 reading of Lisa Graham McMinn's The Contented Soul (which isn't a book about becoming vegetarian, by the way). It is a life-changing book and I highly recommend it to everyone. My copy is all marked up - margins are filled with notes-to-self and epiphanies along the way. Anyway, in reading the book I had one of those moments when I realized that I had to make a decision. So, I did (after forcing myself to read all the information about factory farms that I'd been avoiding reading for years). I'd played around with vegetarianism as a teenager and through my early twenties; but I was 38 when I finally made the commitment and I'm very glad I did. I'm not living against my conscience (or avoiding my conscience) in that area anymore. It's a relief.

So, anyway, as I finished the preceeding paragraph my husband came to tell me it was time for me to go get ready. The poor man has to constantly be reminding me that it's time to do something because I get so lost in whatever project I'm working on. And I'm always working on a project of some sort. Now it's getting close to 4:00 a.m. MONDAY morning. Sunday was good. Our pastor is back in the pulpit after recovering from a major heart attack and I enjoyed breakfast with my mother and brother before going to church. Spent the afternoon with the computer on my lap and the dog at my feet. I was dreaming of a third novel and she was dreaming, I suppose, of treats and snuggles from her people - those are the only two things she seems to get very excited over.

Monday has not started out so great, though. I was having trouble falling asleep - probably too much Mudhouse coffee and the intensity with which I watched two Doctor Who episodes right before bed (The Sound of Drums and Last of the Time Lords - I like the quirky fun ones best, but those which delve into the heart -pardon me, hearts - of the Time Lord, his solitude in the vast universe, make me cry. Honestly.) When I finally did fall asleep after seeing the time 1:37 on the clock, I woke from a horrible dream and repeated it to my husband before noticing the time was 1:40. Talk about fast-tracking the REMS! After that, though, I had that nagging worried feeling that you can't really explain and I still felt like I was sleepwalking or sleeptalking or something, so, after praying for the people I love - which I often wake up and do in the night - I came downstairs and turned on lots of lights, the TV and the computer. I'm feeling quite tired and my eyes feel like they have gravel in them. In just a few hours I'll be working on lesson plans and reminding myself that these are EXTENDED contract days and school doesn't actually start for a couple more weeks.

In the meantime, though, I'll post this rambling blog entry covering far too close to 24 hours of my life.

Sweet dreams. . .


Friday, August 7, 2009

Living the Romantic Life in August

Remember the philosophy of Life as a Great Romance: Romance is for everyone. It is born in the mind which is open to experiencing beauty and love. A romantic person is one who recognizes and appreciates subtleties; encourages and admires creation; and chooses to be vulnerable without forfeiting strength or personhood.

You don't have to be in a romance to live a romantic life. With that in mind, here are a few suggestions for things you can do this month to feed the romantic in you:

1. Count the fireflies in your yard before they're all gone for the summer.

2. Attend an outdoor concert. Take along a furry friend on a leash, some sparkling water, and some strawberries. Oh, and maybe a bite of chocolate.

3. Speaking of furry friends, take an online assessment to determine whether or not you're ready for the responsibility of pet ownership. If you are, start visiting the shelters and rescues. Someone there wants to love you!

4. Read one of the classics before summer ends. My personal favorites are Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice.

5. Memorize a poem.

6. Dig out some of your old vinyl record albums, sing at the top of your lungs and dance.

7. Shop for school supplies. Buy all you want and then, if you don't need them yourself, donate them.

8. Notice the smell of the mimosa trees.

9. Really savor some of the favorite flavors of summer: ice cream, melon, berries, home grown tomatoes, a snow cone.

10. Attend a baseball game.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Adjusting the Thermostat for Romance Part 1: When First We Met

Creating the potential for romantic interest right off the bat is essential. Let's face it, if your readers found your book in the section headed ROMANCE, they have certain expectations. That doesn't mean smooth sailing for your heroine and your hero. In fact, readers would be largely disappointed if they found that final proclamation of love came too easily. That being said, your starring couple need to either spark or spar fairly early in the story.

When I wrote my first play, Welcome to Joe's, Joe and Jane (there was a reason for their names, trust me) met very early in Act I. When Jane entered Joe's she was just one of the clamoring coffee crowd. The audience couldn't spot anything unique about her to single her out as the love interest until she placed her order. To this point in the story Joe had revealed quite a bit about himself in the opening monologue, so when Jane ordered a plain cup of coffee the audience knew immediately that these two were headed for romance. Because this play was written with a Christian theatre in mind, the natural conflict between them was a matter of faith and, because I'm a sucker for a happy ending and personally motivated to express the message and joy of the Christian faith, that issue was resolved so that romance could bloom.

The same conflict presented in my second play, Related Spaces. Here Renee and Will meet and immediately knock heads. A romantic interest in one another seems unlikely from the start, but the more the two are on stage and the more we hear what each has to say about himself or herself and each other, the more we know they are destined to be together.

Whether your hero and heroine meet on sweet or sour terms, your reader must believe that they will ultimately end up together. Creating the tension in the romance will best be achieved through character development. The best character conflicts stem from the challenge to personal value systems. This is why you have to know your characters well and why it is so necessary to spend time letting your reader get to know them. The little things count: it was important that Joe drank his coffee black; knowing that Renee was raised in a family of strong, forward thinking women was essential to the conflict which was ultimately happily resolved.

A point of departure for me is always letting my characters talk first - at least in draft form. I listen to what they have to say, let them rant a bit on the page and then decide who will be the love interest and how they will first meet. Usually, since I am a career person myself, it is easiest if my hero and heroine meet through contact in the business setting. Joe and Jane met when she came to his shop for coffee; Renee met Will when he came along with a friend to inspect the property she'd purchased; and Patricia and Josh met when. . . well, you'll have to read the the novel to find out. Business settings provide an abundance of fodder for a cornucopia of conflict and ample opportunity to find out what the characters really stand for. Are they philanthropic? Friendly? Hard-workers? Money minded? Strong-willed? Easy to get along with? Problem solvers? Anything that can be a conflict at work can certainly be a conflict at home.

Creating a back story for each of your main characters is so important. How many of you have discovered just how alive your own past really is when it collides with the living past of someone else in your life? We all bring our stuff into relationships and our characters should, too. Back story can easily be revealed through conversations between characters. Think about how you got to know the personal histories of the people in your life. You talked, reminisced, ranted, compared notes. Just make sure that when you put it on paper it is natural and conversational; your readers shouldn't be subjected to a transcript of a therapy session just so they can figure out what makes your characters tick.

Establishing romantic tension early in the story is foundational for a successful romance. The next two parts of the Adjusting the Thermostat for Romance series will deal with degrees of tension.

Happy writing!


Sunday, August 2, 2009

August: Adjusting the Thermostat for Romance

One of the most frightening things to me when I set out on the road to writing my romances - both the plays and the novels - was the idea of creating appropriate romantic tension in the stories. Under the umbrella of "appropriate", one has to consider the characters and their value systems, the potential market for the manuscript, and how the characters' choices will change the direction of the story.

Most importantly, before even beginning a romantic writing project, the author must answer this question: What degree of romantic tension will my own value system allow me to create? If the author has not answered this question with certainty in his or her own mind before beginning to write, the story line will meander and the characters will not be fully developed. Rewriting once you've let your characters get the better of you that way is a real chore.

In August, I have planned a four part series on Adjusting the Thermostat for Romance. Part One will address the delicate prospect of creating romantic interest early in the story. Parts Two and Three will explore creating increasing tension from playful banter to that inevitable first kiss. Finally, in Part Four I will revisit the question of author values.

Because this blog is not just about writing the romance, but living it, I will also include some suggestions for living life as a great romance in August. So, be sure to check back often!

Oh, and for those of you who are wondering - Vacation Bible School was just great, but I'm glad to be through with rubber chicken flinging.