Smart Girls Read Romance

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Friday, June 14, 2013

PROBING THE DEPTHS...



I so appreciate being invited to be a part of this blog. For those of you who don’t know me, I write steamy contemporary romance. Not quite erotica, just steamy.

As writers, it’s hammered into us soon after we first log on to a computer that the skeleton of story is character. Heart-wrenching dramas, cozy mysteries, horrible crimes in need of solving, assorted thrills and suspense—all rise and fall on the backs of well-developed characters.

As readers, you might not give much thought to exactly what it is that makes you love or hate a book. But if you delve deeply enough, I’m betting you'll discover that the answer is how well the author has handled the character of the protagonist or the villain or the nosy neighbor.

Have you ever read a book in which you didn’t like the main character, but you kept reading anyway? For me, “Deep End of the Ocean” was like that. This powerful book was an Oprah pick that stayed at #1 on the New York Times list for more than a year. I hated the main character, but I kept reading the book. Why? Because her characterization was so well done, I felt as if I came to know her and her screwed-up relationship with her family as I would know a crazy neighbor. And even though I didn’t like her much, she was still my neighbor.

The controversial “Fifty Shades of Grey” is a little like that. Though the writing is sort of clunky and redundant, the character development is rich and deep and lures a reader to look past everything else, even the BDSM relationship. I couldn't help but feel for the kinky male protagonist, Christian. I came to like him and I wanted to know how and why he got to be the way he is. And the author succeeds in titillating the curiosity with just enough of Christian’s past life...all the way to the end of the book....and on into the second book.

Perhaps no series detective has been better developed and captured more loyalty than Harry Bosch in Michael Connelly’s books. I’m fascinated by Harry, though he’s a flawed, tortured character, for sure. He’s the reason I’m a Michael Connelly fan. I’m not the only one fascinated. Harry has so much appeal to readers, blogs are being written about him as if he were a real person. Debates are taking place about how he became the way he is and what will happen to him in the future. And yada, yada, yada…..

I strive for this kind of awesomeness in characters every day in my writing of relationship stories, though I don’t know if I ever succeed. My books don’t have action-adventure, chills and thrills or other plot devices. They rely solely on the people I create and the messes they make for themselves. The premise is how ordinary people act and react when unexpected and extraordinary events are suddenly thrust upon them. The theme is always self-reliance and trust.

I don’t know other authors' processes, but I do it in stages. First, I write events in simple declarative sentences. After I let that digest, I return to the draft and play with surface emotions that are more readily understood by both me and the story people. Next, I seek the  emotion that comes from the depths of a character’s soul, the part of the subconscious that’s autonomic, where motivation lies in all of us. The profound “why.” Sometimes I don't succeed in digging that out until the 5th or 6th pass. And I don't doubt there are times when I never find it at all.

Behavior comes next, conscious and unconscious, active and reactive. And finally, dialogue. That might be the easiest part.… Did I say it’s a process? 

I want my stories to ring true. I want my story people to be authentic. I'm sure accomplishing that comes easier to other authors. They probably don't suffer the angst and chest-beating that I do. I probably make it harder than it should be. But that's what I do.

So having blathered about all of that, below is the scene from Chapter 6 of my latest book, THE TYCOON, where the hero and heroine spot each other for the first time. Let me know if you think I’ve succeeded or failed in hooking your curiosity.

By the way, I'm giving away a free book. If you comment or subscribe to the blog, your name will be put in the hat for the drawing. If you comment and subscribe both, your name will be in twice. Thank for stopping by. 



Excerpt

…And at that moment, glancing over the rim of her glass and across the room, as if the mob had parted just for her, a tall man some forty feet away caught Shannon’s eye. Her first thought was how different he looked from the others in the room, like a nineteenth century throwback who might walk outside, mount his horse and ride away.
        He was wearing a Texas tux, as were many of the men in the room—starched and ironed jeans, Wranglers, perhaps, or possibly Cinch—with a black tuxedo coat. The well-tailored jacket stretched across wide shoulders and emphasized a narrow waist. No tie. Instead, he wore one of those old-fashioned-looking collarless shirts. And cowboy boots. If he wasn’t in Texas—and Fort Worth, Texas, at that—he would look glaringly out of place.
        An odd quiver shimmied through her stomach and as if a magnet held her eyes, she couldn’t keep from staring.
        He was too far away for her to see his face clearly, but his hair was a rich shade of brown, slightly sun-streaked. He had one of those sexy haircuts. Neither short nor long. Skillfully layered to appear unruly and orderly at the same time.
        He looked familiar, but Shannon came in contact with so many people, she often saw those who looked familiar but weren’t. Celebrity sightings occurred frequently in North Texas. At this moment, the NCHA World Finals were happening, populated by a horse culture rife with big name celebrity horse owners. Was he someone famous? For a moment she speculated—cutting horse breeder, rodeo or country music star, professional athlete. Too young to be an oilman.
        This is silly, her alter ego said. You have no idea who he is and you’ll never know.
     Engaged in what appeared to be a serious conversation with a shorter, animated man, one of his hands clasped the bowl of a champagne glass. The other was stuffed into his jeans pocket, pushing back his coattail. He looked to be as relaxed as if he were having a drink in his den at the ranch as opposed to a fancy hotel ballroom.
        Among the many things Shannon had learned in real estate sales was that she had an uncanny knack for reading people. Whoever and whatever this guy was, just watching his body language, she could tell he was a total alpha male. He had it—that maxed-out testosterone level, that arcane male grace and confidence that had always caused her brain to short circuit.
        Instinct told her that underneath his clothing was a well-structured mass of powerful masculine energy. He would be a hunter, a fisherman, a poker-player—one of the boys. His credo would be lead, follow or get out of my way. That same instinct told her he was a man who went after what he wanted and got it—including women. Oh, he was bad all right. Bad to the bone.
        As if all of those attributes weren’t enough, that same instinct told her something else. He would be good in bed. The thought set off a warm tingle in her most secret regions and she felt a flush crawl up her neck. Lust. Raw and pure. Recognizing it, she fought it. She had to. She was a different woman now.
        Though her good sense took control and determined the wisest thing was to give him a wide berth, the part of her she had never quite been able to control when it came to bad boys, the part that had driven her into regrettable associations in the past, wouldn’t let her to stop watching him.
        Watch your step, her alter ego warned.
        She argued back. Looking in a candy store window does no harm, does it?
        “You look flushed,” Jordan said. “You okay?”
        Trying to will her erratic pulse to calm, she gave a silly titter. “This crowd must be making me nervous.” She nodded toward the man who had seized her attention. “Who is that?”
        “Who, the tall guy in jeans or the other guy?”
        “The tall one.”
        “You don’t recognize one of Texas Monthly’s most eligible bachelors?”
Shannon detected a sneer in Jordan’s comment. She didn’t subscribe to Texas Monthly. The only place she ever read it was in her dentist’s office. “No, I guess I don’t.”
        “They did a feature two or three years ago. That’s his highness, Drake Lockhart.”
        She suppressed a gasp. If one was a part of the real estate world, one would have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to know of the cosmic Drake Lockhart. Articles about him appeared often in newspapers and trade journals. If he was still a bachelor, she had no doubt he had been deemed most eligible by any woman who ever met him.
        She cocked her head to the side, still not taking her eyes off him. “I’ve read about him.”
        Jordan swallowed a sip of champagne. “Well, that’s him. In the flesh. But don’t get too excited.   He isn't someone whose acquaintance you’d enjoy. He’s a real asshole. A big feeler.”
        “You know him? Why do you call him that?”
        “He’s so damned full of himself. I’m surprised his ego fits in this room. And he’s one slick dude, I’ll tell you. He aced me out of a sweet deal on a skyscraper in Dallas.”
        Shannon’s opinion of one of the most successful young businessmen in the city was not negatively impacted by Jordan’s remarks. If anything, she was more intrigued. And since Jordan’s words sounded small-minded and catty, she chose not to reply to them. Instead, she said, “I know of the Lockhart family. They’re big ranchers in Drinkwell.”
        “Drinkwell? Is that a town?” Jordan gave a condescending laugh Shannon often heard from city people when discussing small rural towns.
        “You’re such an urbanite, Jordan. It’s thirty-five miles from Camden. When I was in high school, we played their sports teams. The Lockhart family owns the old Double-Barrel Ranch. And has forever. It takes up most of Treadway County.”
        Just then, a model-thin blonde joined the subject of the conversation and possessively slid her arm around his. Tanned, tall and svelte like him, they were a magazine layout couple. The flutter in Shannon’s stomach died as she compared her own milky-white skin that never tanned, her disorderly hair and her more voluptuous shape. Not that she was overweight, but she wasn’t pencil-thin like the woman who was now hanging onto his arm. “Oh. He has a girlfriend.”
        “That’s Donna Schoonover,” Jordan said. “Donna Stafford-Schoonover to be precise. You know Don Stafford, the oilman? The guy who owns a Cadillac dealership for a hobby? He’s her daddy. Schoonover’s the name she got from a Dutch soccer pro she was married to for a while. People are saying Drake’s going to be her fourth husband.” Jordan followed up with one of those knowing “men” laughs.
        “Who in North Texas doesn’t know of Don Stafford and his millions?" Shannon said. "Why do you laugh?”
        “Because she hasn’t landed him yet and my money says she won’t. Too many have tried before her. Drake’s a lone wolf. Her family’s bucks aren’t a temptation to a high-roller like him. And if she hasn’t figured that out, she’s dumber than I think.”
        Lone wolf. High-roller. The words stuck in Shannon’s brain as if they had been thumb-tacked. The guy was even more dangerous than she had first thought and that idea sent another potent surge through her. “How is it you know him so well?”
        “I just do.”
        As Shannon puzzled over that non-answer, the beautiful couple and the short man were joined by a striking middle-aged woman with silver shoulder-length hair. She, too, was tall and slender and draped in silver lame that fell to the tops of silver cowboy boots. She wore chunky Southwest style jewelry. Boots and turquoise were not choices Shannon would have worn with that particular dress, but the look had an old-world panache and screamed I’m-from-Texas-and-proud-of-it.
        “And there’s his mommy,” Jordan said snidely. “Drake Lockhart’s a mama’s boy and everybody knows it.”
        Shannon gave Jordan a look. “You really don’t like him, do you?”
        “Like I said, he’s an asshole.”
The silver-haired woman and the blonde walked away together, but Drake continued in conversation with the shorter man, seemingly unaware that half the women in the room must surely be drooling over him. Then, he raised his head and for absolutely no reason, turned Shannon’s way. Their gazes locked for the briefest moment and her heartbeat stuttered. It happened in a matter of seconds, but she felt as if she had been undressed and thoroughly examined and her whole body grew warm.
        She turned quickly toward a server and exchanged her empty champagne glass for a full one.
       
        ****
        Drake was taken aback. He had to make himself stop staring at the red-haired woman. She was wearing one of those glittery dresses and in the room’s special lighting, she looked like an exquisite emerald. The eyes of every hard-leg in the room had to be glued to that centerfold body. For sure, she had the attention of that bastard, Jordan Palmer, who practically had his tongue in her ear. An uncharacteristic pang of possessiveness dinged him, which made him wonder about his own sanity.
        But it was more than her looks or the momentary envy of a man Drake disliked immensely that captured him. Like chain lightning, something he couldn’t define or explain sizzled straight from her to him, clear across the room. His thoughts instantly turned to how fine it would be to slowly remove that dress from such a delectable body.
        He had come here with no interest or intention of anything other than doing his duty by making a purchase, getting through the evening and returning to his condo. Alone. But suddenly the idea of this beautiful stranger’s company was downright enticing. At the very least, he had to know who she was.
        “Anson,” he said to his friend, “see the redhead over there in the green dress?”
        “Sure do,” his friend said, looking toward her with an unabashed leer on his face.
        “Who is she? Do you know?”
        Anson gave a lascivious chuckle. “No, but I’d like to.”
        Drake glared with resentment at the man’s profile, then checked himself, lest he reveal his own wicked thoughts. He sipped from his champagne glass, plotting the best approach to meet her, given that he was with a date and Jordan Palmer didn’t appear to be going away. But before he could devise a plan, Donna returned and dragged him off to the silent auction.

 





7 comments:

  1. Anna, that was a great scene and full of depth of the characters. Wishing you many sales.

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  2. Great post, Anna. Very informative!
    Geri

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  3. Anna, Whatever you do certainly works. Your books held my interest from the first page. Loved THE TYCOON.

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  4. Very nice excerpt

    I follow via email

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

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  5. Anna, that's quite a process--all your hard work definitely paid off in a great scene! Thanks for sharing it with us.

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  6. Since I'm married to a Texan, you had me at Texas Tux. Yum!

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  7. I understand the angst, totally get that. Thanks for sharing that and a super scene. Enjoyed your post, Anna.

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