Thanks, Alison, for having me as a guest on your blog! Today I’m going to talk a little bit about how and where I come up with story ideas. The short answer is…I get my ideas everywhere. My “writer’s antennae” is up all the time. Every juicy bit of news, gossip, current event, personal drama , interesting historical reference, natural disaster, etc., etc. that the antennae picks up eventually ends up in the writing corner of my mind. There it gets filtered and sorted into one of three categories: A. Yes! This would make a great stand-alone story hook. B. Meh, this could make a great kernel or sub-plot to weave into a different story. C. Junk, mental delete.
I write down the ones I want to keep on an index card and put them in what I’ve come to refer to as my idea box. It’s an old, oval-shaped wooden box that sits on a shelf. I’ve been doing this for years and the box is currently overflowing with ideas. It would take me multiple lifetimes to flesh them all out into finished stories.
Sometimes when the mood strikes me I’ll get the box out and play mad scientist with the ideas. I’ll take one idea and see what would happen if I added an element of another. Or two others. Or somehow turn the idea on its head. A word of caution, though, this method could lead to a super-story discovery that will have you up writing for nights because you’re too excited about the idea to sleep. On the other hand, it may lead straight to a horrific “Franken-story.” Beware!
This is partly how I came up with my idea for “Dangerous Charade.” I love James Bond stories. The idea of an elite, larger-than-life, (and oh-so-sexy) agent working for a mysterious boss named “M” to solve a mystery, catch a bad guy and not get killed at the same time draws me in every time. Plus, he gets to use high-tech, top-secret weapons and gadgets and go toe-to-toe with some of the world’s worst criminal minds.
But what if James Bond was a young female? Living in England in the 1880’s? What if instead of wearing a fashionable watch that’s also a Geiger counter this female James Bond carries a fashionable black-fringed parasol that’s also a gun? It’s been a lot of fun dreaming up gadgets for my Victorian era heroine.
I hope my idea process has inspired you. I find the initial, conceptual phase of a writing project to be the one that makes me the giddiest with excitement and anticipation of what’s to come. I strive to enjoy it to the fullest because after it comes the business of writing. Then re-writing. And that’s a completely different animal!
BLURB: Dangerous Charade
To escape an arranged marriage Gabrielle Broussard flees her home to become an undercover investigator with an elite, all-female investigative agency. Her first assignment, as governess at Westford castle to investigate the suspicious death of the Countess of Westford, quickly becomes complicated when she finds herself attracted to her number one suspect.
Lord Julian Blackwell is a survivor. After his father’s bankruptcy, he becomes a self-made man in Victorian England’s booming industrial era. Trapped into a loveless marriage, he has survived the shock of his wife’s sudden death. But now he must survive rumors and outright accusations. Hiring a private agency to investigate and prove his innocence seems like a good idea…until desire threatens to compromise both the case and the life of the investigator.
EXCERPT: Dangerous Charade
Gabrielle raced across the lawn toward a side entrance most often used by the servants at Westford. Dawn was breaking and she needed to move fast. If anyone saw her, she would be hard-pressed to explain why she was returning from a ride at this time of day, in the dark. And carrying a fancy parasol, no less.
She’d almost reached the door when Julian’s voice cut through the still morning air like a knife.
“Oh!” Her free hand flew to her mouth as she whirled toward the sound of his voice. He stood close to the building, hidden in the shadows. “My lord, you nearly scared me to death! I didn’t see you there.”
“Just what are you doing out here, lurking about in the shadows?” she demanded, adrenaline pumping.
“What am I doing?” He stared at her incredulously. “Not that I owe you any explanation for my actions while on my own estate, but I came out to watch the sunrise. What the devil are you doing?”
“I was…checking on Buttercup. I’m told she’s been acting strangely.” Gabrielle took a few more steps toward the building. “But—good news—it appears she’s doing fine.”
In a flash Julian was between her and the door. He regarded her closely. “That doesn’t explain why you’re lugging a parasol around in the dark.”
Gabrielle swallowed hard. She saw his green eyes narrow. “One never knows what one might encounter lurking about in the shadows. I may have needed it to defend myself from something. Or someone,” she added pointedly.
Julian stepped closer to her; they were less than an arm’s length apart. “Do you think you need it now?” The suggestive tone in his voice was unmistakable.
Her breathing quickened, and she averted her gaze. “What I think is that you are most unnerving.”
Julian reached out and tilted her chin up with his fingers. “What kind of game are you playing, Gabrielle?”
She didn’t answer. And he didn’t ask again. Instead he brought his head down very slowly and claimed her mouth with his own.
Buy Link: Now available from the Wild Rose Press!
Good luck with your new release Elizabeth, sounds very exciting. PS, I love your 'what-if?' It sounds like a winner! Writers take note: turning an idea on its head is a great gateway to success! Next week: The Importance of Bad Reviews
What Makes a Best-Seller, The Masses or the Media?
Suddenly a book or movie catapults to life, seemingly out of nowhere, an instant success. What fueled this sudden rise to prominence? The media posting good reviews, the author or its stars appearing on talk shows touting its excellence? Or is the success independent of its reviews? Are the people flocking to it first or are they only flocking to it because the media told them to? Which came first: the masses or the media? From Jacqueline Mitchard’s Deep End of the Ocean, getting a huge boost from Oprah’s endorsement or more recently, the critics heaping praise on Like Water for Elephants and The Help, these books became tremendously successful at both the box office and the bookstore because of a positive media spin.
While I’m not sure, all I can say is that they all came to my attention because of what I’d read in the news media first. My first thought is ‘well it must be good, it’s getting good reviews. I have to read it or I have to see it.” Sometimes the praise is justified, some not. And conversely, some books and movies that are a huge hit with audiences are a flop with critics. National Treasure and The DaVinci Code are two examples that come to mind.
Like with any good or bad review, ‘caveat emptor,’ the buyer needs to be beware. In the case of Deep End of the Ocean, I didn’t think the praise was warranted, but that’s just me. I don’t care for those type of stories and I didn’t think it was terribly original, kind of a paper tiger at the end. Too much inner angst. Not my thing, just like Jodi Picault or Joyce Carol Oates. Too maudlin and too sad. But that’s my opinion. Other people love it. I don’t like vampire stories either. Other people eat them up, pardon the pun. Then again, I loved The Help and thought Like Water for Elephants was good, but not great. So reviews must be in the eye of the beholder. Everybody sees things differently. And that’s OK. But does the media have too much power in making or breaking an artist’s work? Are we slaves to what they like and don’t like? Or can we rise above it and make our own choices, come what may? I think we can and do, whether it comes to the arts or choosing a political candidate. Public opinion can be a very powerful force. But who shapes it: the masses or the media? Next week: Elizabeth Means is my Guest
One hero, one heroine. Once the hero meets the heroine and vice-versa, he/she can’t look at, drool, or otherwise be attracted to anyone else, much less make love with anyone else. The Romantic Template. Can we break, bend, tweak, or fiddle with or if we do, do we do so at our own peril? The romance novel is a highly successful genre. Is it heresy to deviate from this established tried and true formula? Would it be a fatal mistake to introduce a third party to compete for the hero or heroine’s attention? I think the addition of a third party, known as the eternal triangle, adds the possibility of vengeance and my favorite—jealousy—to the equation. Both aspects can heighten conflict, spice up suspense, add mystery and sexual tension, etc. Who is the villain, which one is the knight in shining armor? Isn’t that what we do in our everyday lives when we date people and choose which one to marry? Plus it could even evoke sympathy for the main character. Nothing is more heartbreaking than watching the hero or heroine think that the love of his/her life has just been lost to a romantic rival. It pulls at my heartstrings every time. And when the tide turns and he/she gets him/her back, nothing makes me happier when I reach the ending of the story. Justice has been done!
The eternal triangle has been around for centuries, playing a central role in both real and fictional life. Many wars have been fought for love. Think Lancelot and King Arthur. Helen of Troy. Many crimes have been committed in the heat of passion, all because of a third party’s unwelcome intrusion. In my stories, I like to either have two women lusting after the hero or two men chasing after the heroine. Their motives can either be good or bad. The trick is to guess which one is doing what and a mystery unfolds as to who the real hero is. I’m not suggesting anything illicit, just good old-fashioned competition. In The Secret Sentinel, Savannah Rutledge is kidnapped by the mysterious Antonio Desada, but still carries a torch for Eric Gale. In The Montezuma Secret, TV star Erica Kingsley is still in love with handsome survivalist Trey Zacco, but must compete for his attentions with his lovely producer, Morgana Montez. One of my favorite authors, Sandra Brown, writes in Envy about a book editor who is married, but has a strange attraction to a mysterious writer. In Brown’s Chill Factor, the main character has an ex-husband who wants her back, but instead falls for a guy who might or might not be a serial killer. It’s so much fun to figure out who she’ll end up with and why.
I remember reading once that romances are usually about “two dogs fighting over the same bone.” Kind of an unattractive analogy, but true. The two main characters are usually squabbling over something they both desperately want: the family business, the ranch, the country estate, a treasure, etc. as well as fighting for each other’s love. The end, we know, will be a happy one. Thank goodness! They get what they want in love and resolve their ultimate quest. And doesn’t it add something spicy and complicate things if they’re also competing with a third party to win the love of their life?
Here's an excerpt from my latest book The Montezuma Secret:
Reappearing ten minutes later, dressed in a tiny gold lame bikini with a fresh layer of lip gloss applied, Erica stopped short at the sight of a half-naked Trey astride his Harley, a pair of sleek wraparound Rayban sunglasses perched atop his head.
Without his shirt and his shoulders buffed to a bronzy glow, he looked like a young Adonis. He fixed her with a mesmerizing gaze, his peacock blue eyes piercing hers, an obvious sexual come-on, she was sure of it. A shock of thick wiry hair flopped forward onto his forehead, adding a charming touch of boyishness that only added to his alluring all-male appeal.
And the way he ogled her in that bikini, she knew he liked what he saw. It hugged every curve, accentuated her ample cleavage and made her legs look as long as an Amazon’s. She felt like one too, brazen, aggressive and totally lacking in inhibitions.
She got on the motorcycle behind him, riding it sidesaddle. This time she needed no encouragement. Her arms flew around his naked waist and she let her long legs dangle so they made contact with his thigh. She leaned forward so her breasts caressed his bare back and when the photographer turned on the wind machine, her long hair flew behind her in the breeze. His body heat and strong muscles acted like an instant aphrodisiac.
The photographer handed them each a glass of champagne in tall crystal flutes and began snapping. Trey could not keep his eyes off her legs, she noted with pride, as the photographer had to keep reminding him to stare into the camera. Finally, he asked them to clink glasses and stare into each other’s eyes. She knew she had him then. She’d apologize to her father later for reneging on her promise not to fall prey to Trey’s charms again.
After a few more shots, the photographer motioned them off the cycle, then removed the vehicle and the backdrop, leaving them awkwardly standing next to one another, half-dressed, champagne glasses still clutched in their hands.
Trey broke the stalemate first and grinned mischievously before downing his champagne in one gulp. Erica copied him and they both laughed. Trey walked over to the food cart next, slathered some caviar on a cracker and popped it into his mouth before pouring himself more champagne and re-filling Erica’s glass.
Suddenly feeling wanton and not the least bit self-conscious, Erica picked up one of the sinfully rich pastries loaded with whipped cream and fed it to him. When some of the cream landed on the corners of his mouth, she wiped off the excess with her index finger and made him lick it off. She watched his tongue slowly swirl off the cream and take her finger in his mouth until he stopped at her knuckle.
“Mmmm,” she purred in approval.
“All right, you two. I don’t want to get out the fire hose,” the photographer joked.
He’d changed the scenery again. An oversized wing chair, one big enough for giants, sat where the motorcycle once stood. The Paris skyline, complete with the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, now served as the new backdrop.
“All right, Trey. Climb up into that chair and Erica, you sit on his lap. Get it? ‘Lap of Luxury.’ And fill those glasses again.”
After pouring them more champagne, Trey clambered up onto the huge chair while Erica held the glasses for him. He gave Erica a careful boost so as not to spill any of the champagne and then she maneuvered herself onto his lap, throwing an arm around his bare shoulder. The liquor had loosened his inhibitions and that was just the way she wanted it. Getting him back again was going to be easier than she’d planned.
“Feel free to ad lib some dialogue, guys,” the photographer instructed, zeroing in on both of them with his lens. “So far, it’s looking great.”
“Contrary to public opinion,” Erica began, a little giddy, as she downed another glass of champagne, “Trey and I do get along. Even though we’re from opposite sides of the program guide. As a matter of fact, I like wild things and I think wild things like me. Tune in to see the fur fly.”
Trey laughed uproariously at the pun.
“Cut!” the photographer yelled.
Erica inched up higher on his lap, feeling Trey’s swelling erection poking her bottom.
“Do you like it wild, Trey?”
He shifted uncomfortably, suddenly eager to remove her from his lap. He shimmied off the chair, leaving her sitting alone and feeling foolish perched atop the gargantuan thing, still wearing the tiny bikini. She wondered what she’d done to cause such a strange transformation.
Straining to see what was behind Trey’s agitation, she scooted off the chair seat and leapt down, then followed him to the doorway, her high heels clacking on the slick hardwood floor.
Morgana Montez, Trey’s beautiful producer and his most recent ex, stood in the door way. And behind her lurked the threatening hulk of Gordon Gosich.
The Montezuma Secret available from Amazon.com
Click on the cover at right to purchase.
Also available on Smashwords
FIVE STARS on Amazon and Goodreads Next Week: Who makes the bestsellers? You and me or the news media?
My current release Quick Silver Ranch: Saddle Up wasn't a book I had planned to write. I'm sure you're all wonder how it happened. Well, I had turned in Quick Silver Ranch, which later turned out to be titled Quick Silver Ranch: Roped & Ready, my editor sent me an email and asked me if I was willing to write the secondary characters book and we could put out the two books as a series keeping Quick Silver Ranch.
I sat at my desk reading the email going back between yes and no, yes and no, but I wasn't going to let opportunity pass me by, I told my editor yes. And two seconds after I sent the email my head hit the desk. What was I thinking? I had no plot, no conflict, no idea of who these characters were or what I was going to do with them.
Luckily for me, my critique partner met me on Sunday for lunch and we brainstormed the book and the following week I started writing it. I had done 15,000 works when I realized, my hero Jared was a very different person than how I was trying to write him. Head hits desk again.
Back to the beginning, but this time, I knew my hero, I just started writing. Six weeks later I had a rough draft, another month after that I had a polished manuscript and I sent it to my editor praying she would like it.
She did and she bought it. So this was the book that I never thought I write, but it was a great experience to write it and learn from writing it. I've learned never to say never to anything, and just when you don't expect opportunity is dropped into your lap.
So have you ever had an opportunity drop into your lap? Did you take advantage of it or not? I want to hear, it can be about anything.
Quick Silver Ranch: Saddle Up
Angie Davidson finds herself at loose ends after
her best friend's wedding and in need of a vacation,
so when sexy yet aloof co-owner of the Quick Silver
Ranch, Jared Turner, insists she stay to explore
their sexual attraction, she agrees. Though she loves
being a submissive in the bedroom, Jared's distant
air after lovemaking brings back bad memories. Can
she show this strong sexy man he has nothing to
fear from her, or will he abandon her like everyone
else in her life has?
Sexy yet aloof Jared, co-owner of the Quick
Silver Ranch is eager to explore Angie's submissive
side with two weeks of toys and other naughty play.
However, the last time he was this attracted to a
woman—mentally and phyiscally—she wasn't able
to put up with his Dominant streak. Can Angie see
that her vacation with him can be the perfect way of
Angie drank in the feeling of his body against hers. His hardness to her softness, and part of her wanted to melt in a puddle at his feet, another part wanted to be bold and daring.
“Becca mentioned that you're closing down the ranch for a while.” Maybe a little flirting would work.
“Two weeks. There needs to be some renovations done, and the staff needs some downtime. It was a good time to do it with Tyler gone.”
“How much can be done in two weeks?” She thought back to when they were renovating the offices she now worked in, it seemed like it took months and with every little problem the workmen came to her.
“A lot, if you know how to motivate people.”
“Really?” Angie tilted her head up and fluttered her eyelashes. “And how would you do that?”
The corners of Jared's lips tilted up. “Lots of money.”
Okay, subtle flirting wasn't working with him. Her fingers trailed over his broad shoulder, to his neck, where she stroked his dark brown hair. His hand tightened on her lower back, bringing their hips together. And Angie swore she could feel his hard erection. Good, he wasn't immune to her.
She let her fingers skim from his neck, down over his shoulder blade, down his spine, over his well-defined ass, until she could rest her palm over his butt cheek. Then she squeezed it.
“Behave.” His breath brushed her ear and he swatted her ass.
“You hit me.” She couldn't believe it; he actually smacked her on the ass. Not that it hurt, but heat flowed through her body making her nipples grow harder. She’d never realized a little swat could make her so hot.
“I'll do worse if you don't behave yourself, Angie.”
“Promise?” The word was out of her mouth before she even realized it. The music ended, Jared escorted her back to the table and pulled out her chair.
His palms cupped her cheeks, tilting her face up to his. “We'll talk later.” He dropped a hard brief kiss on her lips before striding away.
Angie's heart skipped several beats while she observed Jared cross the room. She put her fingers to her lips and sank down onto the chair with her core pulsing with need and her panties wet. If he met her later, they wouldn't be talking if she had anything to say about it.
You can buy Quick Silver Ranch at any of your favorite e-tailers (Amazon, B&N, Bookstrand, Fictionwise) Or you can buy directly from The Wild Rose Press http://tinyurl.com/6jcwda5
You can find Marie at number of places:
Facebook: Marie Tuhart – I'm the only one
Group blog: www.wildandwickedcowboys.wordpress.com
Thanks, Marie. Hot excerpt and hot cover. Good thing you didn't pass up this opportunity and good luck with these two exciting books!
Next week: Bending the Romantic Template: The Eternal Triangle, a No- No in Romance?
FIVE STARS: "Excellent writing! Enjoyable hero and heroine! Great romance! Fast pace! I read it straight through! Author thorough in research! I lived the experience!"--A reader on Amazon.com
FIVE STARS: "Erica Kingsley, a twenty-nine year old spoiled woman had to be taught a lesson and her CEO father planned with the help of her ex-lover to do just that! The Holiday Channel needed a huge cash flow shot in the arm or it was at the mercy of his enemy. Erica hosted "The Lap of Luxury Show" and her ex hosted "The Wildman Show." Both shows could not survive and he got the idea of filming Erica as she tried to survive in the Belize jungle while they searched for Montezuma's Treasure!
Trey Zacco was told not to give the pampered Erica any help and he rode her hard! His crew was being picked off one by one and all eyes were on Erica as the culprit, but would she go as far as murder to get back to Miami?
Does Ms. Chambers hold her readers captive with a book that you just can't put down and gives her opinion on where the king's daughter buried his gold! From the descriptions of the jungle, the visions fairly leaped off the pages and I can't wait to read her next!"--A Reader on Goodreads.com
FIVE STARS: "A Wild Sultry Ride! Wonderful, action-packed story! I was completely lost in the author's words. Ms. Chambers created quite a world for us to lose ourself in. The chemistry between Trey and Erica is fantastic. With curves, twist, romance and action. Take the chance, The Montezuma Secret is well worth your time."--A reader on Amazon.com
The Secret Sentinel
Available from The Wild Rose Press
Reviews for The Secret Sentinel
FIVE STARS AND A TOP PICK FROM NIGHT OWL REVIEWS--" The Secret Sentinel is a wonderful read and I highly recommend it. Look out Nora Roberts...there's a new author on the horizon."
FOUR STARS FROM THE ROMANCE STUDIO--"The constant action and adventure made this a very enjoyable read. If you loved the movie 'Romancing the Stone' this book will be a treat for you."
RT Reviews--"Deception is the watchword in Chambers' thriller. The action is fast moving and the characters intriguing."
NIGHTS AND WEEKEND REVIEWS--"A wild mixture of National Treasure and Indiana Jones."
FIVE STARS--GOODREADS--"Savannah Rutledge Unlocks Pandora's Box When She Takes Her Father's Secret Map and Loans It To Her Boss For Display For A Southwest Fest And To Save Her Job, But Instead of Crowing With Delight She Was Running For Her Life With Murder Charges, Her Disabled Father Murdered, And A Zorro Stranger Kidnapping Her! A One Hundred Year Old Secret Has Been Released And It Refuses To Get Back In The Box!"
Time of The Eleven
Now Available on Amazon!
The Time of the Eleven
A daring prison escape in Mexico. An explosion in the Hague. Tourists disappearing in Scotland and the Sahara. Reporters murdered or reported missing. Seemingly unrelated incidents. Or parts of an ingenious terrorist plot? After her fiance mysteriously disappears, Kiley Prescott has a chance encounter with a seductive stranger in Mexico. But who is this man? FBI agent Peter Rushing is sure her new lover, handsome Armand Rachet, is really the notorious international terrorist, Gabriel Roca, suspected in a series of devastating bombings overseas. After Kiley learns Rushing was fired from the FBI, she fears he is hiding something even more sinister. The chase for the truth takes her cross country, from Washington to Chicago, Las Vegas, and finally San Diego, where Kiley learns the deadliest secret of all--everything is timed to happen at eleven. Eleven men. The eleventh hourof the eleventh day of November, 2011. It is "The Time of the Eleven."