Thursday, August 21, 2014

Read a Romance Month: August 2104

This month is Read a Romance Month.  I'm excited and I'll tell you why. I've been reading romances for many years. I started young, around 20 years of age. I was swept up in the grandeur of the historical romance genre. 

Back then, I read Georgette Heyer, Kathleen Woodiwiss and Jennifer Blake. Kathleen Woodiwiss was my all time favorite, because she gave me such rich stories of lovers in another time. I not only got swept up in the romance, but also in the historical backdrop, the time in history the story was set in. I loved that most of her stories were in the late 18th century or early 19th.

My favorite read in 1982

I devoured romances.  Why, because it spoke to my heart. Amid the dirty dishes, dirty diapers of not one but two babies, and the daily grind of making a living, I could escape for a few hours each night in a book, be swept away, as they say, to another world. 

It was glamorous to read about beautiful heroines marrying rich lords, having lovely gowns, and servants to clean the house and empty the chamber pot. What's more, the heroes always seemed to come to some realization about their relationship to the heroine in a way my own young husband---and yours, never would!  Romance gave me hope, hope that it all would work out in the end. Hope that romance can endure, and be rekindled . . .

I kept reading romances, through the years. I read contemporary, gothic, paranormal, but my favorite stories today, some thirty years later, remain as historcial romance.  I'm proud to say, "Yes, I do read those kind of books!" when people turn up their noses at 'just romance' and cite reading something more literary as their normal fair. Go for it, Literary is usually dry and boring, and most of it is just stuff we were forced to read in High School or College and is touted as 'classic'. I'll take passion, love, emotion, humor and drama any time. I'm enjoying myself, immensely. It used to be that one had to hide their taste for romances because those were considered so cheesy, so empty and silly. 

Well, then came Nora Roberts.  Betcha those people who scoff at the romance genre don't make as much as that author, and guess what, her bread and butter that made her millions is ROMANCE! Yes, she's got a ton of books out, and voracious readers. So, somebody's buying those things. Hey, I'm one of them.  Romance reader and proud, how about you? 

Romance gives us hope. It uplifts us. The story of two people coming togther against all odds, choosing each other despite the dictates of family, job social position or a nation's history  (read my post on this)  Can True Love Change History?  is inspiring.

Today, I still read romance the most. Once in a while I'll read the latest horror or a historical fiction story. I always return to romance, because there is just something about that Happily Ever After at the end fo the book that satisfies me. Sure there is conflict, but in the end, I know that all will be right with the world, at least in the book I'm reading. There's hope in that.

My favorite authors today are Lisa Kleypas---absolutely love her Wallflower Series, and Her Hathaway Series. In the Wallflowers, we meet four unwed women in the 1840's. There is Annabelle, an English woman with no dowry, Evie, an Englishwoman with a dowry and interfering relations and a speech impediment. Then there are the Bowman sisters, American girls from New York: Lillian and Daisy. These girls are all sitting on the sidelines of every ball, watching as other young women are chosen by dance partners. They are rivals, as most women are in this time period when husband hunting. Nevertheless, these witty, fun, exuberant girls form an alliance, and embrace the title Wallflowers as a sort of secret club. They plan to help each other, one by one, find husbands.  So, there are four books in the series, one about each woman's quest to marry and find happily ever after. But the most wonderul part of this is the friendship of the four women, and how in each story, we get to see the other girls, not just the one featured. There is also a bonus story, see left, a Christmas story where the now married ladies try to help the Bowman sister's brother, Rafe, find true love. Magical. I love these stories. Thank you Lisa Kleypas for creating these characters. For more info on this delicious series, see post A Wallflower Christmas

Elizabeth Hoyt is another favorite. Her Maiden Lane series set in the Georgian ere England, and her Prince series.
The Maiden Lane series gives us a historical glimpse of characters that are not all lords and ladies. It starts with the first book, poor siblings trying to hold together an orphanage in the Gin Lane section of London, (the Slum area) in the early 18th century. The siblings are carrying on their parent's tradition, but barely scrapping along. There are six books in the series. And the most interesting part is that this series has a mix of classes, the rich do marry the poor, and that gives us hope. It's not all snooty balls and grand ladies, there are gritty scenes of street violence that are historically accurate and bring a different vision of London in the 18th century, that of the common folk. Gin distilleries, river pirates, theives, and the like. But there is also romance, that special spark that makes two people of very diverse backgrounds fall in love and come together against all odds. Love triumphs in the end. That is what makes romance such an uplifting read.
For more on Elizabeth Hoyt and her unusal series, read my post An interview with Elizabeth Hoyt

  These books have given me hours and hours of entertainment, and the stories stay with me long after I've finished them. We come to love the characters. So, go ahead, read a romance! It's Read a Romance Month, and we, as men and women, thrive on romance. It's part of our emotional make up to seek out love, to pair off and become a couple.

Over the years, romance, historical romance, has affected me deeply. I credit Kathleen Woodiwiss with giving me the love for history I have today, and that love of history made me go to college as an adult and earn a degree in history. I love the romance genre. It's given me warm memories and happy moments through my life. Read a Romance, you just might find the world is a brighter place when you finish that love story! 

Here's another dirty little secret. I not only read romance novels, I've dedicated my life to writing them!  Yes, I'm a historical romance author and a member of Romance Writers of America (RWA) and WisRWA, Wisconsin Romance Writers of America. If you are an a romance author seeking other writers to connect with, I highly suggest joining these writing groups.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Cover Story: Why so many changes?



Book covers are like clothing, they go out of style. They are subjective. What one person likes, another hates.  What is popular in one year fades in the next. Or one decade to the next. 

This one is from 1982


                                             This cover  is from 2012

Book cover ideas change with time, just like fashions.   Recently, you may have noticed I have updated my covers on two novels in my series.  There are many reasons for this.  The most popular one is, as a writer, my tastes change.  Just as I am a writer who likes a certain book cover in one season over another cover, as a romance reader, I have certain likes and dislikes.  


My writing, for the most part, is historical romance. It's about two people in a place in history who are attracted to one another, but are unable to have a full meeting of the minds (hearts) for what ever reason.  As a historical romance author, I try to keep up on trends, and yes, I do browse the covers on the online bookstore to see what is popular, what is good, bad or ugly. Its subjective, based on a person's tastes.  Not everyone likes covers plastered with shirtless men with overdeveloped biceps. Yes, they do sell romance books, but so do images of couples embracing, with or without clothing, and images of women in fancy dresses and wistful faces. 



Romance is an affair of the heart. It's two people in a relationship, or trying to have a relationship. So, as my newest book in the Reluctant Heroes Series is getting ready for a fall release, I have had to re-evaluate the covers on the two previous books, and make certain there is a continuity in the series. I have had covers with a couple, and covers with just a solitary person. Seems my covers with a couple on the front sells best, so I have decided to return to that format.








 The many faces of Dark Hero, my first novel.



Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, Jane Austen's Hero

In history, it has been said that the clothes make the man. Yes, a well dressed dandy or rake will bring a certain visceral reaction to a woman's heart, whether it's in this generation of bikers with leather jackets vs. a handsome man in formal tails--or a man in a pirate costume or formal court suit of the regency era. 

Two covers on same book, but they give different impressions:    
Irish Romp
Irish Mystery?

  As historical romance readers, we love the dresses, the suits, the frock coats and cloaks that our characters wear, it's part of the appeal of the historical, or costume drama. A woman in a long flowing gown is irrestistable. A man whether bare chested with a sly smirk, like the first cover above with Kieran O'Flaherty in Bright Scoundrel, is appealing. And so is a man wielding a sword, ready to do battle for the woman he loves. All these images speak of romance. As an Indie Author, I have to choose my own covers. It's tough, as you often want the characters on the cover to convey not only the era and mood of the book, but also the correct likeness of the hero and heroine. Not always possible to get every detail right, not with a historical. So, I've tried different recipes and different designers.  I have loved my covers thus far. 


But, as I am releasing a third in the series, I wanted the three books to have the same design and basic branding. So, without further ado, here is the unveiling of my newest covers for my trilogy.  I think they are the best of all, as they do have a brand and continuity, and they do speak of the overwhelming power of romance in our lives. It takes two, baby . . .a couple . . . to make a romance. . . . 


The great unveiling, new covers to make ready for the coming debut of book three .......

Books  1, 2 and 3 Reluctant Heroes         

So, there you have it, the trio of books that are part of the Reluctant Heroes Series.  A trio, and so I wanted the covers to have an appeal and a brand. Keeping with the times, and changing the images to appeal to reader tastes.  I love my first cover. My son, a graphic designer made it for me.  It was an attempt to convey romance and a gothic undertone.  

Created by J.D. Stuttgen Designs

                                                      My first book cover

Many people loved the murky shadowed background with the trees. Particularly in print form it does look very stunning.  This is a gothic romance, so the theme fits.  However, an equal amount of people did not like the shirtless hero.  So, we're updating the product cover again, to convey the theme of historical romance. 

 As an Indie Author, it is possible to change a cover on a book without having to wait for a decision from a board of editors and art directors in New York to get things rolling.  J.A. Konrath has said that he changes his covers regularly to keep up with changes in taste, and also to just put the best product out there, cover included.  As we progress in our careers as Indie Authors, we hopefully are getting better at choosing a cover designer and a concept for a cover.  At least we're proud of our products and attempt to refine them for reader's enjoyment.  

 Thanks for being here, gentle readers!  And fellow authors, too. I will continue to refine my work and put out the best possible product for readers to enjoy. 

 Lily Silver 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Princess Bride: A Modern Classic


 This summer, it seems my writing theme for this blog has been romantic movies, Summer Love movies.  I've talked about the appeal of Grease and Dirty Dancing. So, in keeping with that theme, I wanted to share an all time classic romance movie with you that has become a family favorite. I talk about Timeless Lovers on this blog: Westley and Buttercup fit that mold.


When I think of good love stories that have heart, humor, suspense and adventure, all wrapped up in a good costume drama with fantasy elements, one of my all time favorite romance movies is The Princess Bride.  

Made in the 1980's, it's directed by Rob Reiner, and has that certain quirky appeal of a Mel Brooks Movie. If you consider our unlikely hero in our medieval fantasy storyline, Westley, a poor young man who works as a farm hand for a woman named . . . . BUTTERCUP! 

Well, if you aren't smiling already at the silly name of our 'princess', it's your own fault.  Imagine being forced to go through your life being called Buttercup, it's almost as bad as a boy named Sue.  So, laughing aside, Buttercup has come to realize that poor stable hand Westley is in love with her. She realizes this because whenever she asks him to do something, no matter how stupid or trivial, he does it, and not only does he do it quickly and with a smile on his face, but he also says a certain phrase to her every time he does what she asks. If you don't know that magical phrase that makes Buttercup swoon, here it is:  

"As You Wish."

It seems simple, and if you are shaking your head at this simple phrase that actually makes her heart melt, there's a reason. We're told that Buttercup realizes every time he says those three words, he's actually saying three very different words to her:  "I Love You." 


It's something that every woman would swoon to hear, and that is part of the appeal in romantic writer's circles. Westley is the consummate hero in this story. He loves her, he'll do anything for her, including chasing after the bad guys who abduct her. He'll face Monsters (R.E.O.S.) and torture, come back from the dead if need be, to save his darling Buttercup. He's faithful, determined, and willing to please her. 

"As You Wish!"  


Okay, so these kids are off to a roaring start, they both love each other, story over, right? Not so fast. Because this is set in a medieval backdrop, the problem arises in that Westley has no money, and therefore cannot support Buttercup as his wife. He decides to go off on a grand adventure at sea, to become a sailor to make enough money to support his lady love and the family they will have. So, we have a weepy short scene where he leaves.  Then tragedy strikes, as she receives word that his ship was taken at sea by the Dread Pirate Roberts, and all of the crew were killed. Buttercup is heartbroken. She sinks into depression. She mourns Westley for five long years. 

Then, to her surprise, she's betrothed to a prince, Prince Humperdink. (Yes, the names are deliberate, quirky humor at work here, so smile).  The Prince has chosen to take a bride of common blood to connect with the common people. Buttercup just happens to be the loveliest of the land. She agrees to marry him, but still mourns Westley and feels she can never love again. 

In the mean time, this prince has an agenda behind the wedding. He intends to have his bride kidnapped, killed and then blame the neighboring country for the crime so he can start a war. He hires mob boss called Vinzini. Vinzini is a short guy (played by Shawn Wallace) with a lisp. This short guy who talks funny believes himself a genius, so he's always telling people how he's figured out their moves before they make them . . . going into long descriptions of how 'you thought this and that and then you'll do this and . . ." Always ending his monologue with INCONCEIVABLE! 

Fezzick, Inigo & Vinzzeni



The other players in this delightful romantic comedy are Inigo Montoya, a sword fighter from Spain who is searching for the six fingered man who killed his father. He's hired by Vinzini to kidnap the princess bride. He goes about drawing his sword on everyone, asking to see their hand. He's prepared a speech for when he meets that six fingered man. "My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die!"  

Inigo's sidekick is a giant, from Greenland, named Fezzik. (played by Andre the Giant). Together, Fezzik and Inigo Montoya kidnap the princess, and take her away in a boat at Vinzinni's orders.  These two side kicks are loveable villians. They don't want to hurt the girl. They are just down on their luck and need a paycheck. They resist when Vinzinni orders them to kill her. Meanwhile, they are pursued by two different would be rescuers. Prince Humperdink is following them. He is trying to pretend outrage over the kidnapping but he has secretly arranged this entire episode.  

The other pursuer  is a mysterious man in black. 


 The man in black keeps following them, through the worst of the landscape. He follows them through the sea of shrieking eels and up the cliffs of insanity. He never gives up. The man in black, with a mask to hide his features, takes down first Inigo and then Fezzick. He doesn't kill them, he merely knocks them out. He wins a sword fight against the celebrated swordsman Inigo Montoya, and wins in hand to hand combat against the giant, both being almost impossible victories. Next, he must conquer the mastermind behind this plot, Vinzini. This is a battle of wits, and of course our mysterious man in black vanquishes the bad guy and saves the lady. He seems the hero of the day, winning against all odds as he pursues the abucted princess. 


But wait, there's more. Buttercup, learning he is the man who killed her love, is angry. She shoves her would be rescuer down a ravine in her anger, saying "You killed my only love, you can die for all I care!" As he falls, he says, "As You Wish.. . .". Buttercup realizes it's Westley come back from the dead to rescue her. Turns out The Dread Pirate Roberts didn't kill Westley after all, but instead the DPR retired, and gave Westley his ship, his men and his title of Dread Pirate Roberts. Turns out our fair haired farm boy Westley has become a Pirate!  Okay, if it werent' romantic enough with the separated lovers, the kidnapping, the forced marriage to the bad guy and the hero coming back seemingly from the dead to rescue his darling, the pirate hero with a mask is a done deal, at least for me! I'm a sucker for a man in a mask. 

 The reunited lovers are being pursued by the Prince's men. They hide in the fire swamps, which have Rats Of Enormous Size rumored to live there. Everyone in the movie refers to them as the R.O. E. S.. In one line, Buttercup mentions to Westley the dangers of hiding in the fire swamps. "Oh, you mean the R.O.E.S.?" Westley asks in a wry voice. "I dont' believe they exist." He says this as he's eyeing one up that is slinking behind her, but of course he's so gallant he does not wish to frighten his lady love with the news that the fearful creatures exist.  Later, one attacks, and he saves her, but is bitten himself in the scuffle.

Billy Crystal as Miracle Max, and his wife. They wave and say "Have fun storming the Castle, Boys!"

The storyline is like a fractured fairytale. The dialogue is to die for. So many great one liners come from this movie. After they leave the fire swamp, the lovers are captured. The princess is taken back to the castle to marry Humperdink, and Westley is taken to the dungeon, tortured and killed. Humperdink decides to have his bride strangled on her wedding night instead, and blame the neighboring country for the crime, to get his war going. The good/bad guys, Kind hearted Inigo Montoya and Fezzick, want to help the princess. Fezzick  finds Westley's body in the dungeon. He calls on Montoya to help him with Westley. In order to stop the wedding and save the princess bride, the pair need a master planner, they need Westley's master mind to plan the rescue. But, he's dead. They need a miracle, so they go to a wizard named Miracle Max. Miracle Max is played by Billy Crystal. You'll love him in this. After examining the body, Max proclaims that Westley is not truly dead, only mostly dead, and there is a big difference.  Max shoves a pill down his throat. It takes several hours to undo the dead part, so Westley slowly comes around, but is paralyzed. He can talk, he can plan but he can't move to carry out his plan. So, Fezzick carries him on his back.

Storming the castle, Fezzick drags paralyzed Westley Behind him

The three unlikely heroes plan to storm the castle together, Fezzick, Montoya and Westley. Of course, the six fingered man is there, and Inigo faces him at last. The prince seems to have won, as Buttercup is married to him. She arrives in her chamber, and well . . . guess who is lying in her bed, unable ot move? Westley! He's come to rescue her from the Evil Prince. It's a classic, you'll love the clever, sarcastic dialogue, and the romance, and the sword-fighting, the scheming, and the kissing.   

The story is bracketed by another storyline, a sick little boy is visited by his grandfather. The grandfather is reading him the story of The Princess Bride. The kid is upset when grandpa reads about Westley and Buttercup kissing. He tells grandpa he doesn't like this story, he doesn't want to read a kissing book. Grandpa reads further. The kid says. "Okay, being captured by pirates is good!" When he learns Westley's demise and the events that follow.  By the end of the story, the kid is hooked. He cares about Buttercup, Westley, Inigo and Fezzick. He wants Westley to prevail against the evil prince and get the girl!

 Isn't that what romance is all about, getting togther. Yes, the kissing scenes, but it's overcoming adversity and conflict so that two people can be together. This story, like every love story, has it's moments of misunderstanding, of quarrels, anger, and yet, in the end, the boy gets the girl. They kiss, they run away together, they have a happily ever after. To Buttercup & Westley (AKA The Dread Pirate Roberts!) our timeless lovers this week. 


The story is told with such brilliance, such quirky, loveable characters, that you can't help but love them all by the end of the movie. Inigo gets revenge, Westley gets Buttercup, Fezzik obtains friends in Inigo and Westley, and Prince Humperdink is punished by Westley for his crimes. Its a fairy tale, a classic tale retold for modern audiences. William Goldman is the author of this story, not Rob Reiner. Rob Reiner seems to get the most credit for the storyline, but it was a book that was made into a movie, a movie that endures thiry years later as a romantic classic.  So, as summer wanes, and you are looking for something different to watch, check out The Princess Bride. If you've seen it before, you'll love it. If not, you'll be hooked on an instant classic.