Monday, 25 June 2012

"Remove the love triangle...".

A question of genre...

I'm a huge fan of George Takei, both as Mr. Sulu (yes, I'll admit it, I'm a not-so-closet Trekkie!) but more recently as a follower of his fan-fed humour feed on his Facebook page.

That being said, I have a teensy bone to pick with one of his recently posted memes:

Okay, so we all like to join in on a little Twilight-bashing from time to time. It's popular, it's riddled with teenage angst and did I mention that it's incredibly popular. I will be among the first to start listing the elements about the series (the books or the films) that irritate me, but in this case, I'm stepping up. I'm standing up for Twilight. Perhaps not as an entry into the great writing of Western culture. Perhaps not as a generation-defining masterpiece. What I want to defend here is the genre.

Let's have a look...

The Hunger Games

This story is set in a futuristic, dystopian society. The central plot focuses on the fight-to-the-death survival story. Genres we could easily assign would be Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Young Adult. Is there a romantic element in the story? Yes. But it's a sub-plot.


In my mind, Twilight fits into several genres if you consider the series as a whole. Fantasy, Young Adult, Vampire. Some might say even Urban Fantasy due to the concentration on Forks, Washington and the supernatural elements. But if we're looking at the first book particularly, the most important genre categorisation here has to be Romance.

My evidence? Vampire-boy meets human-girl. They fall in love. The competing character of Jacob gets in the way, along with that tiny issue of Edward being a vampire and Bella a human and how it means they can never be together (perfect plot device!). Love prevails. Yup. That's a romance.

Just to double-check myself I went onto and checked up on the genre categories that each book was listed in, as they're usually pretty accurate:

The Hunger Games:


Oh hey! Look...they pretty much match what I thought. Fancy that.

"So get to the point already!" you say...

Okay, it's simple really, and you've probably already sorted this out. But just to be clear.

A. Remove a romantic sub-plot from The Hunger Games, and yes, you will still have an intact plot.

B. Remove the central plot from Twilight, and of course you have nothing left but setting!

I rest my case. And I shake my pompoms for romance. Because, after is important. And it's still pretty damn popular, even if there isn't always a fight-to-the-death-survival story included. Oh wait...wasn't there one of those in Twilight...?

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

'Blue Dalton' - A quick analysis

Some months ago I made a promise to start doing some analysis reviews of the romantic fiction I was reading. I suppose I should make good on that promise! I did some detailed analysis of a book I was reading at the time, taking notes and everything (very studious of me, don't you think?). But that was when I was in the middle of jury duty, stuck in the juror 'tank' waiting to be called up for a case (which never did materialise). Long story short, I'd better start with something a little fresher in my mind. Not that I have a short attention span, salad.

So what's the most recent romantic fiction I've read? Well, like zillions of other people I'm a recent Kindle adopter, and I'm slowly making my way through the FREE books, putting off that moment when I actually have to pay money for them. It's okay. I'm a few chapters into Crime & Punishment, which I probably wouldn't have started without a certain level of desperation. Being cheap can actually lead you to the classics! Who knew., don't leave yet. I'm not going to analyse Fyodor Dostoyevsky book! That would require actual understanding of it, not quite there yet...


Okay, so let's start with (what felt like) a somewhat short novel called Blue Dalton by Tara Janzen, a New York Times bestselling author. From what I can see from Amazon, this is among the many (many) works of fiction that went out of print several decades ago and has had a rebirth as an eBook. So, I will try to keep that in mind as times have changed a little since then (let's not mention 50 Shades).

Okay, so here's the structure:

1. Chapter 1 Exposition - basically - what do we find out and how?
By the time you're done the first few pages, you find out a fair deal about Blue (the lead female character), in that she's on a mission to find something, is convinced she's just killed a man, and isn't about to stick around for the long arm of the law to coop her up before she has a chance to complete her mission.

We get a first glimpse of Walker Evans (love interest, and general all-round Adonis), who has been enlisted by said long arm of the law to track Blue down, if not for murder then at least for shooting someone and leaving them for dead. It's pretty clear from the beginning that Walker intends to play his own long-game.

2. First meeting - when do they first clap eyes on each other?
Nice start to a romance, I thought, when he looks her in the eye for the first time down the barrel of her rifle. In terms of where, Kindle makes this a little tricky, definitely chapter 1 (well, you do need to have your inciting incident early on, right?) and approximately 9% of the way in.

3. Key kiss - Robert McKee's term for that point-of-no-return intimate moment
Plenty of build-up to this, mainly from Walker's point of view, as Blue is somewhat out for the count for some time. Nice way to get into his head. Ch 3 gives us the key kiss, and I have to say, the memory of it does keep surfacing throughout the book for both characters, so Tara has deliberately set it into stone, which is rather interesting.

4. What’s to keep them apart?
Do the words 'family feud' suffice? 'Nuff said without super-duper spoilers (I should be encouraging reading of these books, not ruining the endings for you!).

But of course, that is only the surface reason. How about Blue, not having experienced real love before, and not trusting it from Walker. And Walker, rebelling against the attraction he has to a type of woman he's never been with before?

5. What key turning points bring them together?
Walker is there for her when she needs to be bailed out of jail, emotionally and physically. The intimacy of his ranch house also pushes them closer and forces them to examine themselves. Walker's emotional hand is forced when she puts herself in danger, and as a result, puts things in perspective for him.

6. Which key turning points push/pull them apart?
Walker's competing need for the family treasure definitely stands between them, aggravating any attempts at building trust. Blue makes a hurtful discovery at the very end which threatens to have her running away completely from their attraction.

7. When are they fully committed?
Walker is more aware of the point of no return than Blue, but the complete trust doesn't come until nearly the last pages.

8. Sub-plots!
I have to say, other than the romance and the family feud/treasure, there are no sub-plots here. This might account for the shortness or short-feel of the book. But it's a sweet romance, with very well-written descriptions and Blue and Walker did come alive for me as I read it. A nice simple read.

9. What is her major flaw and how does she overcome this?
Inability to trust anyone, really. In the end, she needs a great deal of help from Walker, but you have to give it to her...she gives it up, and leaves it in the past.

10. Any other notes...
While I don't expect epic Lord of the Rings type storylines from any romance novel, this does show that if you want the full-length feel, there have to be some additional layers of plot to buoy up the central story if you want a really satisfying 'long' read.

P.S. Can I just say that the photo on the cover really didn't match what I had in my mind from reading the book at all. Sometimes Kindle books are great that way  - you just read it and don't even see the cover!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Searching for a Heart of Gold...

So the finalists for the 2012 RITA and Golden Heart Awards have been announced by RWA (Romance Writers of America). If you're not familiar with these awards, the RITAs are for works of romantic fiction published in the previous year (2011 in this case), and the Golden Heart Awards are for us so-far unpublished authors. These truly are the Oscars of the romantic fiction world!

I think it's fantastic that there is a platform with such visibility for those of us who aren't with publishers yet (or perhaps don't even plan to be).  I've hovered around the RWA website on numerous occasions, scrolling through the scarlet and gold annals of past winners and the already-successful, wondering what it would be like to enter.

So then comes the dilemma. Call for entries will open again come September for the first 1,200 hopefuls. Final deadlines are mid-November, going by past years. My first (ever) story is in its final draft stage, and the temptation is there to do some quick editing as well as work on the synopsis that is required.

I wanted to find out...what was it actually like to enter? What were the pitfalls? What were the pros and cons of entering? The RWA website, while thorough, obviously didn't contain the 'real-world' advice I was after. After some furious Googling, I did locate a few websites that I found helpful, and thought I'd share:

The Ruby Slippered Sisterhood -

From what I've read, this site and group-blog was started by the Golden Heart Finalists of 2009. Just like a graduating class, they've created an 'alumni' site to track their respective journeys in the romance writing world, provide support for each other and some useful information for the rest of us wannabes! So far I've found:

  • Interviews with current and past Golden Heart Finalists
  • Success stories
  • Self-publishing and publishing advice

The Golden Network -

This is an online chapter of the RWA, and while to actually fully join the group you must already be a Golden Heart Finalist, they do run an annual writing contest of their own call The Golden Pen. This contest is modeled very closely to the Golden Heart Awards, but the bonus is that you get feedback, and I have read that it is a great way to test your work before submitting to the more daunting (and expensive) Golden Heart Awards.

I'd be very interested to hear from anyone else who is contemplating submitting this year! Leave a comment or email me...