Mmmrrh … Book Boyfriends. For most of my life, I have been dreaming about boys and men who’ve reached right out from the pages and stolen my heart. It all started with Jim Frayne from the Trixie Belden Mysteries. Then came the unforgettable Nat Eaton from Elizabeth George Speare’s The Witch of Blackbird Pond. And Rapheal Sabatini’s Dr. Peter Blood (Some call him Captain). Agatha Christie’s Anthony Cade from The Secret of Chimneys. Mary Stewart’s Rob Granger from Touch Not the Cat. Mmmrrh … the list goes on.
I’m still falling in love with book boyfriends. And even better, I’m creating heroes that readers tell me they adore. This May, Arlen Black, the hero of my romantic comedy Queen of the Universe, is one of 30 candidates up for Chick Lit Book Boyfriend 2017. Meet Arlen …
attraction, too. Seriously? After that “audition” kiss on the very first day … and then everything that happened on her patio? Man, it’s a good thing I walked out – well, stormed out – when I did.
But I came back. Just to do the show. Nothing else. Because now I know that Lola is a liar and a manipulator and … God, why can’t I stop thinking about her? And why does it keep happening? Every time I’m near her, she makes me feel … God! Even knowing what I know about her – even after everything I lost … Damn it!
She makes me feel alive again.
Oh, what fun! It has been ages since I’ve written a blog on A Slice of Orange, but I could not pass up the opportunity to get in on this wonderful site’s relaunch. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Geralyn Corcillo and I write romantic comedy about women who try not to trip as they valiantly march to their own bongo beat. I write to amuse and delight readers, and in this column, I will write about what makes me happy – what in entertainment, literature, and life makes me go mmmrrh and fuels my zany fires. What makes me curl my toes in squeeful delight and what makes me well up with tears of utterly verklempt happiness and what makes me laugh my head off.
For instance, one day a few months ago as I was switching channels, I happened across the very first episode of Little House on the Prairie, titled “A Harvest of Friends,” which originally aired in 1974. The Ingalls family had just moved to Walnut Grove, and no one in town would take a chance on an unknown farmer and give him the seed he could not pay for until he harvested his crop in the fall. No one, that is, except O’Neil, the hard-nosed, flinty merchant, who trades seed for Pa agreeing to stack bags of grain when it arrives in two days. If Pa does not stack the grain by midnight of the day it arrives, O’Neil will take his team of plow horses, and thus his livelihood as a farmer. And then the day before the grain arrives, Pa falls out of a tree and breaks his arm and some ribs. And O’Neil will not give Pa an extension on the deal. So Pa stalks into town, broken arm and ribs, and starts to stack the grain. Concerned for their Pa’s health and safety, little Mary and Laura follow him but stay hidden. Pa stacks grain until the pain becomes too much to bear and he passes out, most of the grain still unstacked. So little Mary and Laura run from their hiding spot and try to stack the huge bags of grain themselves. O’Neil smugly watches all, not lifting a finger to help.
And then it happens.
Men from all over the town – the bank, the doctor’s office, the mill, the church, the General Store – walk into the street, all heading toward O’Neil’s, where Pa is passed out and the girls struggle to move just one huge bag of grain. The men form a line and all the grain is stacked within the hour. O’Neil’s name is now mud in the town and Pa gets to keep the seed and horses. And all the townsmen ask in return is that they can use Pa’s land to hold the church picnic on Sunday.
Gosh, I started crying like you wouldn’t believe as all the men, this harvest of friends, moved as one toward O’Neil’s in common purpose to come to the aid of a fallen man and his little girls.
Well, that is what I hope A Slice of Orange turns out to be – A Harvest of Friends, all moving in unison toward the common purpose of loving good stories – whether we are reading them, creating them, marketing them, or all of the above. I write to make readers happy, and I adore finding pockets in life where generosity, delight, and laughter abound. In my writing, I try to capture the essence of such pockets of beauty and sparkle in everyday life. A Slice of Orange is one such pocket.
Watch for my column on the 27th of every month and drop by to see my daily posts on Facebook and Twitter. Wherever I am posting, please feel free to comment away and we can dish – I love to connect with other lovers of good stories! And you can find all of my books on Amazon.
First and foremost, Geralyn Corcillo loves reader reviews! In other news…When she was a kid in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Geralyn Vivian Ruane Corcillo dreamed of one day becoming the superhero Dyna Girl. So, she did her best and grew up to constantly pick up litter and rescue animals. At home, she loves watching black & white movies, British mysteries, and the NY Giants. Corcillo lives in a drafty old house in Hollywood with her husband Ron, a guy who’s even cooler than Kip Dynamite.
For years, my all-time favorite movie was Sleepless in Seattle. Even when my screenwriting teacher in a professional program gave me the stink-eye, I wouldn’t change my answer. I have watched that movie so many times, I’m surprised the DVD hasn’t worn out. (I’ve owned it so long, I used to have the VHS tape, too!)
Then Richard Curtis wrote some big blockbuster romantic comedies that I love. Love Actually and Notting Hill are my two favorites. Even my husband, John, likes all three of these movies because they are smart and funny and have great lines of dialogue that you can’t help quoting later.
I love these movies so much that I’ll even watch them on Netflix, even though we own all three on DVD. And oh, Netflix, how I love you. Let me count the ways. That’s where I first watched The Decoy Bride with the hilarious Kelly Macdonald and the awesome David Tennant. I’ve watched that movie sooo many times! I bought it on Blu-ray because I wanted to make sure I could watch it in high quality forever. But then I had to buy it on DVD, too, because that’s the only way I could watch it on my computer. I’ve never done that before, buying more than one copy!
And what’s my go-to movie for sick days? The Family Man. Tea Leoni and Nicolas Cage are absolutely adorable, and those kids! And the best friends! The movie makes me laugh every single time I watch it.
I love romantic comedies. I love reading them, watching them, writing them, talking about them. Like I said, they’re my medicine for bad days. And lately, I’ve had truckloads of bad days.
Thank God for romantic comedy writers because I found some new medicine two weeks ago. I’d seen on Facebook that my friend Sean Gaffney (same screenwriting program I was in) had written a new movie called In-Lawfully Yours. I guess I’m a bad friend for not paying very good attention because I thought it was coming out in the theater this fall, but it came out on Netflix!
I was scrolling through the New Releases and saw the title and thought, how funny, Sean’s movie has that same title. And hey, the movie poster looks kind of – hey, that is Sean’s movie! LOL! I was having a bad day so I watched it during lunch. It is soooo adorable! The hero and heroine really played off each other so well! And the characters seemed like people I’d probably know, people I’d want to be friends with if they were real, not like pretend movie characters.
I felt so much better after watching it, just like medicine. I wanted to watch it again right away, but I controlled myself. I waited until lunch the following day. Aw, wow, it was just as funny the second time. It had been a stressful week, so I turned it on again at lunch for the third day in a row. Still had me laughing and smiling! If you like rom-com’s, you’ve got to watch this movie!
In addition to feeling better, watching a movie several times helps you consciously and unconsciously work through what you like about it, and why. You start thinking about what you don’t like and why. And if you’re a writer, you start going over your own characters and asking yourself how they can become better after seeing some other amazing fictional characters on screen or in a book.
One thing about the writing in In-Lawfully Yours. If they hadn’t gotten the right actors, it could’ve been a little dopey. That’s the risk with humor – it’s got to be the right kind, in the right amount, for the right audience. Of course, that’s the risk with movies in general. Wrong actor, bad movie. Right group of actors, amazing movie!
So when I watched this movie for the third time in three days, I had to stop thinking about these actors who had such good chemistry, and I had to think about the characters I write who will ever and only play out in people’s heads. And that’s when I remembered…
When I wrote Little Miss Lovesick, the first several drafts were aimed at Silhouette Romance (kind of like Harlequin, if you don’t know) and the humor was mild, the kind of humor they’d already published. But when I took a risk and wrote the kind of humor that had me laughing as I was typing, a whole new level of fun story developed! It was no longer the kind of book Silhouette or Harlequin or several other houses were buying. (That was a problem for me until self-publishing came along.)
But the readers who enjoyed Little Miss Lovesick really loved it! My risk paid off and I found my writer voice. Since then I’ve had to push myself to get to the edge of my comfort zone and see what else I can do. I can’t let fear or complacency take hold because I’ll lose what it turns out my readers want. (Plus, it’ll be way less fun for me!)
What stories do you read or watch over and over again? What are you learning from them? Are you letting those favorites push you to become a better writer? Give it some thought.
Meanwhile, I’m going to go watch In-Lawfully Yours again. Thanks for writing such a fun story, Sean! And thanks, Chelsey Crisp and Joe Williamson, for making me laugh with and fall in love with a new favorite couple! I’m such a happy Kitty! 😀
Kitty Bucholtz decided to combine her undergraduate degree in business, her years of experience in accounting and finance, and her graduate degree in creative writing to become a writer-turned-independent-publisher. Her novels, Little Miss Lovesick, A Very Merry Superhero Wedding, and Unexpected Superhero are currently available on Amazon . The free short story Superhero in Disguise and the new short story Welcome to Loon Lake are available wherever ebooks are sold. You can find out about her courses on self-publishing, marketing, and time management for writers at her website Writer Entrepreneur Guides.
Kitty Bucholtz is the author of the romantic comedy Little Miss Lovesick and the light urban fantasy Unexpected Superhero. Though she grew up in Northern Michigan, the setting for many of her stories, she followed her husband to Australia twice. While he made a penguin named Mumble dance, she earned her MA in Creative Writing in Sydney. When she’s not unpacking or repacking, she’s working on her next book or chatting with readers on Facebook.
Kitty was interview by long time OCC/RWA member Marianne H. Donley.
Marianne: First question, do you find yourself returning to certain themes in your stories? What? Why?
Kitty: Itâ€™s funny you should ask because I discovered one theme a couple years ago, but I discovered a secondary theme while writing my book, Unexpected Superhero. After several years of writing, I finally realized that I write about women who are finding out that they have more â€œpowerâ€ than they think they have. Mostly, it comes down to personal strength, inner resolve, and the character to think through how to change a situation theyâ€™re not happy with, though in Unexpected Superhero, she literally discovers a power she didnâ€™t know she had. That theme comes directly from me and my life experience. Iâ€™ve never wanted to just accept a bad situation; Iâ€™m always trying to make things better.
But writing this new book, I realized that several of my stories have a â€œprotecting children in dangerâ€ element. Itâ€™s a little weird to me because I donâ€™t have children. Where did this theme come from? I could guess, but I donâ€™t really know. The fun part about not knowing is that I get to find out more about it as I write!
Kitty: The best advice Iâ€™ve gotten is â€œtrust yourself.â€ It takes a lot of writing for that advice to be useful, but thereâ€™s a point at which trusting yourself is the best thing you can do.
The worst advice Iâ€™ve gotten is â€œreal writers write every day.â€ That doesnâ€™t work for me. I work best in bursts. That may mean writing 5-8 hours a day for weeks to finish a book, then 10-14 hours a day doing what I call the book build, creating the files that will become the ebook and print book. Then I may read all day every day for a week, and half a day every day for another couple weeks, researching and ingesting material that will eventually find its way into another book. The only way I overcame the worst advice for me was by taking the best advice for me – I trusted that I had figured out how I worked best.
Marianne: Do you ever run out of ideas? If so, how do you get past that?
Kitty: Iâ€™m laughing! Run out of ideas? No! I get tangled up in my ideas and get stuck when I donâ€™t realize Iâ€™ve got two or more ideas working against each other. Thatâ€™s been happening a bit with my next release, Love at the Fluff and Fold. But thatâ€™s been untangling more as I finish the current book and spend more time on the new book.
An example to show you why the question made me laugh – when I was hired at E! Entertainment, the cable TV network, I had to sign a standard contract. In it was a clause that any creative ideas I came up with, at work or away from work, while employed there would be the property of E! Entertainment. I made a polite but assertive fuss about it and wouldnâ€™t sign the contract. The network attorney finally said that I should provide a list of all the titles of projects Iâ€™d already thought of and those would be exempt. My agent suggested I write down everything Iâ€™d ever thought of, ever. I took her advice and the addendum was two pages long, single-spaced. I think there were fifty or more ideas listed!
Marianne: What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
Kitty: I get really excited about people discussing ideas with passion. Once at a party, I got all fired up talking to a friendâ€™s uncle about economics because he was passionate and I knew a bit about the subject and was really interested in what he had to say. I love talking about God and how everything works together, from personal situations to the fact that we are on the only planet in the known universe that provides the exact mix of elements for us to live freely. I cry over commercials and TV shows, even though I know itâ€™s pretend, because Iâ€™m thinking, â€œSomewhere, thereâ€™s a real person this is happening to, and I feel for them.â€ Thereâ€™s just something about passion and energy coming together in the form of ideas that makes me crazy excited!
Marianne: What are you dying to try next?
Kitty: Ooo, good one! Well, itâ€™s something Iâ€™ve been interested in for a long time, but itâ€™s going to require a ton of research and Iâ€™m inherently lazy, so… LOL! During a class in my masterâ€™s degree program, we had to write one scene in each of eight different categories from romance to detective to thriller, etc. One assignment was to write a scene with â€œmagicâ€ in it. That led to my masterâ€™s degree final project – a spiritual warfare, angels vs. demons story set in modern New York City with a teenage girl as the main player for both sides. Kind of a Joan of Arcadia meets Supernatural story laced with the kinds of humor that are in both of those TV shows.
This is kind of a â€œbook of my heartâ€ story, inasmuch as I have some really strong spiritual beliefs that I want to use without disrespecting them. I need to research what we think we know about angels and demons, what we think we know about what is happening outside of our five senses, and I need to research New York, its tunnel systems, the political climate, the financial district, and more. Yikes! So Iâ€™m slightly terrified! But Iâ€™m hoping to have at least a strong first draft done in the next 12-15 months.
Kitty: Iâ€™m really glad I made you, Kitty. You really crack me up!
By Sandra Paul
I used to lack emotional depth.
Hey, don’t pity me. You probably still do. You just might not know it yet.
After all, I wasn’t aware of my own deficiency until about my fifth book. But when my editor returned my manuscript for revisions there it was, right in the margin next to my dramatic, climatic resolution. Plain as day, my editor had written, Lacks E.D.
Okay, maybe it wasn’t plain as day at first–because I had no idea what, or possibly who, E.D. might be.
So I called my editor to find out.
“E.D. stands for emotional depth,” she told me. “The book needs more of it.”
“C’mon,” I said, trying not whine at the thought of doing more work. “My word count is only 50,000 words. This isn”t War and Peace here.”
“No, it certainly isn’t,” she agreed, much too readily. “But even in a short contemporary romance with, I might add, extra wide margins, the reader needs to come away emotionally satisfied. I don’t even know what your characters are feeling there at the end.”
I honestly didn’t understand how she could say that. I’d written it plain as day (really!) right there on the page. “The heroine feels sad,” I said, quoting directly from the manuscript, “That the hero has found out what she’s done. He feels betrayed and angry.”
“I need more.”
I sighed. “Okay. How ’bout I say she’s very sad and he’s very angry?”
She sighed louder. “I’m not looking for adjectives here,” she replied, very heartlessly. “What I want is to feel something. To feel what your characters are feeling. Go deeper, Sandy. I know you can do it.”
I hung up the phone feeling (in case it isn’t plain as day) very resentful. Easy for her to say. She was just an editor with a stable at the time of over thirty writers, with a slush pile higher than her head next to her desk, who merely spent ten to twelve hours a day editing, writing copy, proofing, and other stuff like that. Obviously, she was much too busy to understand the stress that I, a one-book-a-year (more or less) writer, was under.
Brooding on my editor’s lack of empathy, I went and had a leisurely lunch, then took a three hour nap. When I awoke, I went and did what I should have done in the first place.
I called my critique partners.
“I think it’s fine,” Angie told me after I’d read the last chapter to her five times. “In fact, if anything, there’s too much emotion. I suggest you delete the whole thing.”
She slammed down the phone. Gingerly, I hung up, too. O-kaaay. Apparently I wasn’t the only one dog-paddling in the shallow end of the emotional pool. I then moved on to Barbara J.
“This isn’t just your typical sweet traditional,” Barbara J. informed me. “This is a transformation story about a woman who, after doing something on impulse, learns from that experience to quit being afraid of life. To start going after what she wants.”
I have to admit, I liked the sound of that. But it wasn’t much help for my E.D. problem. So I called Barbara B.
“The universal appeal of this book is that it’s about anyone who’s ever done something stupid, and had to move past it,” she told me. “You need to explore that emotional reaction for the reader. Use the five senses.”
“But I’ve never done what the heroine did. And I never would.”
“No, but you’ve done other stupid things. Use those.”
Totally inspired, I hung up the phone. As usual, Barbara B. was right. I had done stupid thing—lots of them. I’d use the pain and embarrassment I’d lived through to make this book come alive for the reader.
So, after discussing the problem once more with my Artist’s Way group, a dozen people at OCC, and a paunchy, bald guy who happened to be pumping gas at the same time as me at the nearby 7-Eleven, I got down to work.
I thought of all the times I’d humiliated myself and I wrote—and rewrote—until I could smell the heroine’s fear when the hero discovers she’s the one who’d mooned him from the company van. Until I could see the horror on his handsome (yet rugged) face, when he realizes it was her, his trusted secretary (not to mention the woman he’s learned to love) that committed the dreadful deed. I wrote until I could hear the anguish in her soft voice as she struggles to explain, until I could taste their despair as they realize—Mooner and Moonee both—that the memory of what she did will forever be there between them. A big, white blot on their love.
I sank to emotional depths so deep that even those little, jelly-like fluorescent fishes from National Geographic couldn’t survive there. Then I made the hero and heroine both very, very happy when they somehow (cause I don’t want to give the story away here!) manage to overcome all that to live happily ever after.
And when I finally turned the book in—just one month past deadline—I knew I’d done a good job. In fact, my editor told me it was one of the best—if not the best—mooning book she’d ever read.
So, emotional depth? You betcha I’ve got it now.
Step aside, Leo Tolstoy.
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