Castles and Romance and Sex, oh, my!

 

B/W photo of author Linda Needham as a 5 year old girl in the foreground, Sleeping Beauty's Castle, Disneyland, Anaheim, CA, in the background.

Linda at Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, January 1956

Mine was a storybook childhood, spent just a few leagues from an Enchanted Castle set in a Magical Kingdom that was ruled by a benevolent wizard whose powerful spells captured my imagination every time my parents took me for a visit.

The moment I walked through the gates of this magical land, I would be greeted by beautiful princesses and their handsome princes, despicable villains and terrifying dragons, fairies and pirates and a talking mouse named Mickey.  Yes, I grew up 10 miles from Disneyland, the original Magic Kingdom.

The photo above is my almost 5-year old self on the draw-bridge of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle in January,1956. 

Cover of Her Secret Guardian, by Linda Needham

 

The seeds of my passion for writing stories of powerful lords contending with their fierce-hearted ladies were planted in that enchanted soil long before I even knew how to read, let alone, write.  The magic is plain: that little girl on the castle drawbridge grew up believing in Happily Ever After, because Romance is Timeless, Storytelling has No Age and True Love is Forever.

 

 

Escalating Emotion Workshop Handout

Escalating Emotion in Commercial Fiction Writing

One of the first rules we learn as romance writers is that the Emotional Conflict between the hero and the herEscalating emotion workshop, Waterhouse painting of woman sleeping in a chair with a book in her lap.oine must not only be compelling enough to carry the relationship to its inevitable story conclusion, but that the Emotional Conflict must also escalate exponentially.

This is actually true of all Commercial Fiction.   Whether you’re writing Science Fiction or Westerns or Paranormal, the conflict between the Protagonist and the Antagonist (whether Godzilla, Mom or the Ghost of Christmas Past) must be emotion-based in order to drive the story.

Escalating Emotion Workshop Handout

Below you’ll find a pdf of the handout for the Escalating Emotions workshop I gave at the 2014 Willamette Writers Conference.  Along with an annotated example story, the chart lists the steps of Christopher Vogler’s Writer’s JourneyMichael Hague’s Screenplay Structure and James Scott Bell’s Writing from the Middle.

Use the chart as a reference for structuring your story — not as a bible.

WW2014 Escalating Relationship Workshop Handout

Home Library Bookshelves — Ideas and Tips

Bookshelves for Your Print Library Collection

Too-tall tomes!  The most clever thing we did when we had bookcases built into our 20-bay home library was to have the cabinet designer make eight adjustable bookshelves for each bay instead of the usual six.

Author Linda Needham's curly, medium sized black dog in the foreground with wall of filled bookshelves in Linda Needham's home library in the background.

Pippa the Portuguese Library Dog

As you see in the photo, the two extra shelves allow room for those tall books or magazines to lay sideways, spine out. That way we don’t waste vertical shelf space with a few tall books sitting on the same shelf as standard height books.
Pippa of the Library Chair agrees!
She’s not alone in her opinion!  The gob-smacking, amazing Trinity College Library in Dublin catalogs its priceless collection by . . . height!

Trinity College Library 02.JPG
Trinity College Library 02” by SuperchilumOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Surprising New Tools for the Working Romance Writer

I never would have guessed, back in the dark ages of the mid-1990s when my first romance was published, that the list of tools for the 21st Century working romance writer would include a Canon Rebel T3i DSLR camera with all the bells and whistles.

But, here’s the new truth: working writers are no longer allowed to hide out behind their screens and bang out stories.  We gotta get out there and engage our romance readers with images and adventures.  And that’s all good, by my lights.
Extreme Close Up

New Tools, New Lessons

New tools, new camera, new lessons in how to work all those buttons and gears. Remembering what f-stop means, how to read the exposure meter, which lens does what, shooting video and timed photos, etc.  Above is an image from my homework in preparation of my research trip to the UK — trying out a lens extension tube.

Funky results and soooo much fun to see the world through a new set of lenses!

Better Images

Since I base all of my historical romance novels in the UK, castles and manor houses are my bread and butter–uhm, make that my tea and crumpets.  I’ve used digital point-and-shoot cameras during my previous research trips, snapping tons and tons of photos of details of door hinges and landscapes and mine shafts and rugged coastlines.  Good, but not great.

Smart phones and P&S cameras capture lovely memories, but in this new Age of the Image, as a working romance writer I need more sophisticated tools for sharing my experiences with my readers.

Legal Landscape

A working romance writer can’t just grab any old image off the net and share it on the web or slap it onto their indy cover.  Someone owns the copyright on that image and might (should) object.  With that threat uppermost in my mind, my camera becomes another surprising tool of the trade, allowing me to snap my own images — after first receiving permission from the “snap-ee” — making my work legal and above-board.

Working Romance Writer

I keeping thinking there’s no more room in my writer’s toolbox.  But there’s always something new and exciting coming at me around the corner.  Next time, I won’t be surprised; I’ll be ready with my DSLR camera!  Snap!  Right.

 

 

The Romance of Editorial Time Travel

Late last year, I had great fun editing the OCR copies of two of my old print romances —Ever His Bride and Her Secret Guardian — and shepherding them onto the Amazon KDP, iTunes, Nook, etc. eTailer sites.

Confession: though I created my own e-book covers (for better or worse) I merely edited my old books then handed off the Word doc, the front & back matter and retailer info to a paid professional.

Winchester Cathedral interior, looking up into the north side Romanesque Transept, heavy stone blocks and two stories of thick arches, with tiled and coffered ceiling

Winchester Cathedral, north transept; a glorious example of the earliest English Romanesque cathedral architecture.

This year I’m working on the third and final of my old print books before releasing a brand new series of medieval historical mystery romance (Avon Books/HarperCollins still has all the rights to my other 7 historical romances.) Continue reading

Write What You

One of the first rules we are taught when we who have been writing since we first realized that words could be strung together to produce beauty and despair, is that we should “write what we know.” Even non-writers doubtless heard the old saw in school.

WWII advert; write what amazes you!

I’ve come to believe that “write what you know” doesn’t do it by half.

Write what you want to know is a little closer.

But I prefer something more intimate, more driving:

I write what I feel.

I write who I am.

I write who I want to be. Continue reading

Romancing the Beast-the Heroine’s Journey

The following is from the speech by Linda Needham for Rose City Romance Writers Literacy Luncheon in Portland, Oregon, called “The Heroine’s Journey, or The Scandalous Truth about Dangerous Men and Their Feisty, Persistent Women.”

Edmund Blair Leighton; the AccoladeKathleen Woodiwiss’ The Flame and the Flower was not a fluke.

Romance is all about romancing the beast.

Romance is about redemption

Romance is about love that accepts and embraces. That doesn’t hit or shame. Continue reading

Linda’s Writing Career

Linda’s Writing Career, or The Night the Turkey Burned; Achieving the –You Can’t Seriously Mean Me–Impossible Dream.

The Death of Mr. Decay was my 1st stage play. I wrote, produced, costumed, propped, directed and starred in this classic for my 6th-grade class. That same year a 1-page writing assignment went screaming out of control; Alvin and the Chipmunks Go West just kept going and going. Still haven’t finished it.

RWA Conference 2000, Literacy BooksigningJr. & Sr. high school–in the 1960s–a time of private musings: gothic, angsty, mind-twisting poems about death and flowers and the Beatles.

If you’d told me then that I’d end up writing novels for a major publisher, I’d have fainted. As would have my 11th grade English teacher, who was driven mad because I earned As on all my in-class tests and Fs on each of my projects (because I didn’t turn them in.) Average grade=C. Continue reading