So it's Christmas, and my dog is sick. Now, let me say first, there's no one in this world that loves animals more than I. This is an important statement, because I'm sure someone will accuse me of being heartless in the following complaint.

But as much as I love my animals, they are what they were intended to be -- pets. They are not my children. They might sleep on the bed, they might utilize pillows as human being would. They might sleep on my kids' beds, and they might fly off the deep end when someone breaks in, ready to defend their family. They might enjoy a treat slipped beneath the table at meal-time, and most years they get something to unwrap under the Christmas tree.

In the end, however, as loved as they are, they are dogs. Not fuzzy little humans that I will put myself into the poorhouse and 2nd mortgage the house when severe medical issues arise.

So that said, most people who know me understand I have a pretty solid understanding of animal medicine, for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which is I've dealt with about everything having run a farm. Yes, there's more grounds for me to have the following opinions, but that delves into too much personal life I'm not willing to disclose personally.

Anyway. The dog is ill. Not falling over ill. But ill enough he won't eat, however, his spirits are bright.

So, after making sure it wasn't just a case of 24 hour "I ate something from the pasture I shouldn't have", I took him to the vet. A new vet to me, used only because it's close to my work. A vet, who I fondly refer to as a "city vet" -- meaning there's a distinctly different approach between those city vets who treat "Fuzzy humans" and the country vets who treat "pets and livestock."

I like the vet, don't get me wrong. His medicine is spot on.

However, when I inform him I don't intend to break the bank on treating my 8 year old dog that, and if it is critical, we will euthanise him, I do expect that to be listened to.

I do not expect to have a phone call telling me that there's a chance the dog has cancer, but we'll know in 24 hours. In the meantime, his recommendation is to hospitalize him for 400.00. (So I can put him down within 24 hours? WHAT?)

Now... if said pooch were stumbling over half-comatose, lethargic, whining over pain, dehydrated, or vomiting, or any number of other critical conditions, I wouldn't object. I wouldn't even lift an eyebrow.

Here, however, we have a dog who, visibily, everything is all systems go, except he's got no appetite.

I'm not hospitalizing a mostly-healthy dog who has no problem drinking water right now. Especially not if I'm going to have to euthanise him to keep him from an unfair deterioration, within the next few days. Not to mention, in this case, this dog is in good enough spirits he would suffer more from being away from his family. He's a people lover. He has not, ever, spent a day away from his family. Not even when he was neutered -- performed on my kitchen table, recovery in the bathroom, and a nice cushy dog-bed set up in the bedroom for after-anesthesia recovery. Which he used for all of two hours.

At any rate. I'm cranky about this. It's the week before Christmas, for jimmanie's sake. I did not need to get the hesitant, tinged with disapproval, "yes we can give him a dose of antibiotics and send him home with you tonight" speech over my pet. (I should note here, that there is a small chance that the only thing wrong with the dog is a major case of gas and the vet is concerned his bloodwork will come back normal.)

He's MY pet. I don't need to be judged for what I choose to do, or not do, with him, unless I am bringing about his suffering. And I assure you, the pup isn't suffering.

On top of it, the vet informs me the pup's hips are shot. Not surprising since as an 8 month old puppy he got nailed by a car and spent one night in critical care. (Again, even then, not performed in the hospital, in fact the vet wanted the dog to go home with me then.)

So I have an 8 year old big dog, not a little foot-warmer, who's got severe arthritis in his hips and possible cancer. And my new city vet wants 400.00 for an unnecessary overnight stay. Hm. Somewhere I missed the logic in this statement, at least any logic that doesn't sound like "We can make your mind feel like you're doing something for this, and meanwhile we'll line our clinic pockets because you're supposed to be super-worried about your fuzzy little human."

I think I'll worry with the dog curled up on my pillow. He likes it there, even if I have to lift him onto the bed. I like him there -- I know exactly what's going on with him at any given point in the middle of the night.

And in the meantime, I think I'll say a few more prayers that I don't have to lose yet another dog in the holiday season. Last year, going into December, I dealt with senior-issues in my 15 year old Cocker Spaniel. I nursed my 13 year old Lab with bone cancer through the holidays, to part ways with him in late January. The year before, I lost my 15 year old border collie two weeks before Christmas to senior issues.

No more of this Christmas gloom stuff.

So if you'd like to offer a few kinds words of hope for my pup, I'd appreciate it! We'll be curled up at home tonight, watching telivision while I hand him little bites of whatever I can come up with so he's not completely hungry. Last night it was chicken and noodles, and vanilla ice cream. Chuckle.

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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Well all, I received word this morning that Timeless Valentine is now available for pre-order.

Officially released on January 6, 2010, Olivia and Lucas return from spending Christmas with Josh and Amanda to discover being roommates comes with complications well beyond their childhood rivalry. Forbidden desire challenges their tenacious truce, and when Lucas sets out to prove Valentine's isn't just a fools' holiday, Olivia's confronted with a terrifying truth. The boy who once cut off her hair while she slept, has become a tender, selfless man. One who's crashing through the walls around her heart, even though she knows he belongs to another woman.


You can read the full blurb here, or check out the excerpt!


Pre-Order your copy now, and make this year a Timeless Valentine.




Don't forget, All I Want For Christmas... Is Big Blue Eyes is out now! While Josh and Amanda's romance is hot enough to melt the snow, Lucas and Olivia make their first appearance in this holiday story available through The Wild Rose Press in both paperback and electronic format.








Last but not least, I'm happy to announce a fourth sale -- Waiting For Yes.

In this steamy contemporary, I return to the world of horses with ambitious breeder, Gabrielle Warrenton, and guilt-laden trainer, Jake Lindsey-Sullivan. The pair encounter a consuming passion even as one breathtaking Arabian stallion challenges every fear they've ever known. Gabrielle's desire for success conflicts with Jake's need to escape, and Bahadur Mamoon stands between what they most want... each other.


More to come on this title in the coming months. For now, read more here!



~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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Just in time for Christmas!!

All I Want For Christmas... Is Big Blue Eyes releases today from The Wild Rose Press.


Some dreams were never
meant to be...




Renowned architect, Josh McDaniels, spent ten years avoiding his hometown and the unforgettable memories of his youth. But when a former classmate phones him before Christmas with a proposal he can’t refuse, he finds himself back in small-town, Lexington, Missouri, surrounded by holiday festivities and engulfed in memories of a blue-eyed girl.


Amanda Masterson knows three things about Josh. She loves him, he loves her, and he’ll walk out when those feelings terrify him, as he always does. Ten years ago, he abandoned their dreams. Eight years ago, he returned to break her heart again. Now, he’s back once more, and this time, he’s jeopardizing not only her heart but her daughter’s as well.


Can the spirit of Christmas overcome a past riddled with mistakes? Or will fears and doubts destroy the greatest gift of all?


Available in both electronic format and print format.

I hope you enjoy this heartwarming tale set in historic Lexington, Missouri. If you'd like to receive a signed copy, I will be at Hastings in Warrensburg, Missouri on Saturday, December 12, from 1-3pm. Drop in. Or, if you're out of town, give the store manager a call, and ask if you can arrange to have a copy shipped!


~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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It doesn't seem possible that December is here. The year has gone by so incredibly fast, and half the things I idealized I would get done, lay at the top of my to-do stack. Things like "Fix wallpaper" -- a task I've said diligiently I will accomplish at the start of every month. I'm not even going to say it this month. Bah.

Well, everywhere I look, Christmas is cropping up all over. I can tolerate it now -- seeing it before Thanksgiving is a bit rough, to say the least.

My second book, All I Want For Christmas... Is Big Blue Eyes will be making it's appearance on December 4.


I'm super excited. Josh and Amanda's story really touches me.

I hope you'll stop in and take a peek. If you're interested in the early bird special -- you can preorder a copy here.

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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Tomorrow, I get to hold my second book -- All I Want For Christmas... Is Big Blue Eyes.

It is presently available for pre-order here.

And until I post about how nice it is to have the book in-hand, here's my newest trailer. (Music courtesy of Doug Hammer)





~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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For every person who's had a voice in the whole RWA versus Eligibility in e-pub, yesterday RWA made a bold move that impressed the membership like I've not witnessed before.

In response to Harlequin's venture, Harlequin Horizons, RWA killed the number one romance publisher's eligibility within the national organization.

Bold. Impressive. And while I was a bit miffed about the whole 'e-issue' stuff, I must say yesterday I was very proud to be a member of RWA.

I feel for the HQ authors who are probably caught in the middle of something that feels more like a landslide than anything else. Questions have come up through loops and blogs about how this will affect the author's direct membership, after they've already achieved status like PAN. I don't foresee too much fall-out there, frankly. It's going to hit the newer HQ authors, the authors still waiting in the wings, and the aspiring hopefuls harder than anything.

That said. Whether it be for the better or for the worse, I have to admire the RWA Board for not waivering on their position about vanity presses. It takes a strong backbone to stand up to a giant like Harlequin.

We'll have to see who shot who in the foot. Right now too many things are up in the air and it's way too early to tell.

But the ensuing carnival ride ought to be amazing.

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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I've been waiting since I opened this blog to have a topic come up that really felt important to talk about. And now, it's been handed on a silver-platter, by non-other than Harlequin.

I have endeavored to keep things very flat and even-keeled here on my blog, because I am mindful of my career goals and don't particularly want to jeopardize them. However, when something affects so many areas of publication, it's hard to just sit back and stay silent.

As aspiring authors who work with critique partners and work with RWA, we are 'taught' (for lack of a better term) that we should not settle for self-publishing and/or vanity publishing. We should take our rejections as they come, we should keep our noses to the grindstone and we deserve to be rewarded, financially, for a book written well. Not to mention, within RWA anything self/vanity published won't be recognized.

Now, the number one publishing house for Romance, the granddaddy of them all, is opening a self/vanity branch. Which, on the surface might not be so terrible IF they didn't brand it with the big name, HARLEQUIN.

By sticking that brand name on there -- as opposed to having a branch named just Horizons, who traces back fiscally to the parent company HQN -- several things happen:

a. Authors are being encouraged to use this service -- good business practice. But in return, they have to pay fees they will likely never make back, and particularly not when they only see 50% of the royalties on rights they supposedly own in full. Not good. This fails the author.

b. Books that go through this process are released into the market wearing the HQ name. On the site, it even makes references to people who couldn't get their books published in other means. Translation -- the quality wasn't up to industry standard for one reason or the other. HQ carried the belief of quality in their market. Only, the uninformed aren't ever going to realize the difference. We have people paying to put a brand on a book, that does not meet qualifications. This fails the industry, particularly in a genre where authors already struggle to be taking seriously.

c. Authors who have already worked hard and attained the right to say "I'm a Harlequin author" or "My book was published by Harlequin" now face the immediate question "Self pub or...?"
Shame on you HQ for shaming your authors.

d. And then there's the whole issue of their fees. Frankly, I can think of a four letter word that begins with 'R' for them.

Carina Press I could endorse. But Horizons? The whole concept makes me quite literally sick to my stomach. I don't want aspiring authors falling into well-written promotional traps invetned to pad a bottom line. I want pre-published authors to succeed. To know the respect that comes with having a legitimate publishing house buy your book.

And for all the editors that work for HQ who might stumble on this... know that nothing here is any sort of reflection on your work or my feelings for you personally. I have a sneaking suspicion there's a whole bunch of HQ editors who would like to see this Horizons venture go away -- though they aren't in any kind of position to likely discuss any of it.

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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Seduction's Stakes saw a wonderful week of reviews. YAY! For the first reviews on my first book, I can't ask for better responses!



Highest praise came from Long And Short Reviews, reviewer Larkspur, where it received Best Book -- the rating reserved for only a select few! "Claire Ashgrove wins a Triple Crown with Seduction's Stakes, a wonderful story, unforgettable characters, and an amazing love story."

At Long and Short Reviews, Seduction's Stakes was nominated for Best Book of the Week, and votes are being gathered this weekend. I would dearly love your vote!
On top of that, Night Owl Romance reviewer, Diana Coyle, rated it 5 Stars, saying among other praises, "I absolutely adored this story. I was immediately drawn into it not only because of the horse storyline, but also how well each of the characters played off each other."


To read the full reviews, please go to the following links:


~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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It's Here!

My Christmas tale, set in charming, Lexington, Missouri is now available for Pre-Order at The Wild Rose Press.

Order Here!


Some dreams were never
meant to be...

Renowned architect, Josh McDaniels, spent ten years avoiding his hometown and the unforgettable memories of his youth. But when a former classmate phones him before Christmas with a proposal he can’t refuse, he finds himself back in small-town, Lexington, Missouri, surrounded by holiday festivities and engulfed in memories of a blue-eyed girl.


Amanda Masterson knows three things about Josh. She loves him, he loves her, and he’ll walk out when those feelings terrify him, as he always does. Ten years ago, he abandoned their dreams. Eight years ago, he returned to break her heart again. Now, he’s back once more, and this time, he’s jeopardizing not only her heart but her daughter’s as well.


Can the spirit of Christmas overcome a past riddled with mistakes? Or will fears and doubts destroy the greatest gift of all?

Read an Excerpt

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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Heh. Okay that's a terrible title, and a terrible joke, but I'm keeping it for lack creativity today.

So, Seduction's Stakes is out, All I Want For Christmas... Is Big Blue Eyes is on its way, I have a book signing at Hastings on December 12, 2009 in Warrensburg, MO, and I have been super busy.

Super busy with a paranormal endeavor that grabbed a hold of me and refused to let go. It is about ready to meet the terrible fates of The Critique Group, but we'll see if they are struck with kindness or if they feel the need to slaughter.

Actually, I think it will be only mildly bloody, not a full out blood bath.

At any rate, I've been writing outside of my contemporary little world and enjoy it. Which leads me to something I wanted to touch on.

In a recent Washington Post article, Laura Lippman said (paraphrasing) that to write in more than one genre successfully, writers have to be strong in each.

And I believe that is true. While she wasn't speaking cross-genre in romance, I think that applies equally. To write historical romance, you must be strong in your knowledge of the era, your ability to put words together and give it a historical feel. To write contemporary you need to have some grasp of slang, of modern places. Paranormal you have to understand the ... well... the paranormal. If you don't, the endeavor will come off flat. Key elements that are not solely related to plot, characterization, and GMC, will be missing -- in short, the color of your writing will stay in shades of black and grey.

Ms. Lippman also made a reference to feeling unbalanced if she spends too much time writing in one genre or the other. I can 110% agree with her in that. When I spend too much time in contemporary I have to go into a historical for a while. There's a different "voice" I use with historical and it forces me to think about my words, to abandon the comfortable phrases I know as a 30-some-odd-year old adult and my audience understands. It forces me to think about different ways to express myself. Make my writing richer.

I don't believe I'll ever be able to focus completely on one genre or the other. Detriment to my career? No, I don't think so. Not when both genres have different strengths.

Anyway -- enough for today! Back to editing the paranormal that's possessed me.

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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Who was the most expensive Thoroughbred in a non-private sale, and why is this horse such an oddity?

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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In celebration of my new release, Seduction's Stakes, this week I am running a series of contests. It's a week-long game, and the person with the most correct answers at the end of the week will receive an autographed copy of the book. Some of these require actual reading of the book.

You may comment at any time -- the questions are open for the duration of the contest.

Please leave your answers in the comments section.

So first up!

Which Thoroughbred Legends rivalry does the rivalry in Seduction’s Stakes parallel?

Have fun!

Claire

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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So, today is October 2, and my first book, Seduction's Stakes, is available!

It's been on pre-order, yes, but today you can purchase the digital version as well.

A bit about the story:

Never make a wager you can’t afford to lose...


A member of horse racing’s elite, Maddie McCleery’s got her eye on the Triple Crown and her heart set on her rival’s unraced colt. Owned by the one man she can’t conquer on the track, the same man who humiliated her in a youthful game of Truth or Dare, the colt promises sweet victory. When he refuses her purchase offer, and outruns her at the Kentucky Derby, Maddie sets out to seduce Riley into selling. In the process, she’s seduced, and agrees to a shocking bet. The odds aren’t in her favor, and she’s desperate for the win.


Riley Jennings wants Maddie almost more than the Triple Crown. In his bed, in his shower – wherever he can have her. For two years she’s eluded him and he’s refused her offer on his horse out of spite. Enraptured by her post-Derby game, he learns the lengths she’ll go to for his colt, and sees sure-fire victory. His proposed wager stacks the odds in his favor – if her horse wins the Preakness, he’ll accept her terms. If his horse comes in first, they’ll negotiate his way.

But when the dust settles on the wire just how deep is the winning purse?


Available now at: The Wild Rose Press (digital and print format) and Amazon.com

Watch the blog in the next few days for a contest!

While you're waiting, if you want to know Riley a little more, hop on over to author Linda Kage's blog -- she interviewed him this morning!


~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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Oh happy dance time!

Seduction's Stakes is available for Pre-order through The Wild Rose Press.

According to the UPS Site I should have my copies in my hot little hands today, and I'm so excited I can't sit still. Just wish that doorbell would ring a little faster.

I'm planning a few contests out, and am now scrounging for different types of prizes. It's going to be a fun next couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, pounding away at a paranormal series and trying to keep busy until The Big Release Day.


~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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Well, it's almost October 2nd, which means Seduction's Stakes is almost here!

This week it finally hit me ... my first book is going to come out. And wow, that's kinda scary when I stopped to think about it. I planned for September to be a month of different marketing strategies locally, but now that I'm getting started, I'm realizing: "Wow, I need to do this. I ought to do that. If I could, I'd love to do this too!"

From updating websites, to redesigning pages so the book can be purchased from my site, to passing out promotional materials, to ordering different materials (and wishing I could order still others), to talking to store managers about different launches, to xyz... I'm a bit in a whirlwind.

Linda Kage sent a request for an interview, and I think that's what drove it home. I've been an author. But now I'm about to be an author.

From here, I'm going to have to keep rolling with All I Want For Christmas... Is Big Blue Eyes around the corner in December, and Timeless Valentine coming out the day after my son's birthday in January -- sheesh! If the holiday months are this busy, I think I'm going to miss the holiday itself.

Anyway. It's almost time. Here's the excerpt if you want a sneek peak. Excerpt:

~Claire

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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Last evening, on Twitter, Literary Agent Colleen Lindsay had a brief Ask an Agent session, and I posed the question to her, "If a client wants to write something you don't represent, do you collaborate in-house or part ways?"

Her response wasn't exactly what I expected. But it did make me stop and think. She said it depends, because sometimes shifting may not be in the client's best interests career-wise.

Many of us, myself included, dabble with more than one genre. Some assume other pen names to accomplish writing in different areas of interest. You'll see a lot of this when authors write erotica -- they like to keep their identities separate, and this makes sense to me since so much of erotica carries an unfortunate stigma amongst other non-erotic readers.

But Ms. Lindsay made me think about how it might be detrimental to a career, and I must confess I hadn't quite ever considered that side of the coin.

Now, I am just musing at this point -- we discussed nothing further so don't run off thinking she said anything along these lines:

I wonder if the same impact applies to writing different genres of Romance? I can't see that being as large of a factor as say writing romance and then leaping into say, horror. In romance, there are basic essentials across all genres. You master them, then switching a genre becomes a matter of understanding the audience's desires, the specifics related to the new genre, and satisfying all those factors along with a plot, period.

I also have to wonder if the career impact becomes more of a factor not necessarily with the desire to switch, and perhaps successfully selling the new genre to a publishing house, but when the final numbers come in. If sales are poor in the new genre -- bad career move. Might impact sales on your first genre from that point forward. If sales are good in the new genre -- successful career move? Or would you then, if your sales were better in the second genre than the first, be pigeon-holed in an area and expected to write what may not be your primary passion?

It's an interesting subject, and one I would urge everyone considering writing more than one "flavor" to give thought. It sure gives me a new perspective on some of the ideas I was tinkering with long-term wise.

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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Well, as I finish up the final round edits for Timeless Valentine, I'm left thinking about the author/editor relationship. I've heard several true horror stories from people in my RWA Chapter, about friends of theirs who are true divas. It makes me wonder, what propensity of the author population actually carries on in this fashion?

My relationships with my editors are smooth. If I have a question, I ask. They don't hesitate to answer. If they want me to change something, I consider what they are asking and weigh the question: "Do I want to be published, or do I want to be picky?"

Rarely does that take much considering. Therefore, when my editor asks me to change something, nine times out of ten I do so unquestioningly. If I have a hesitation, I try to discover what the editor is looking for, see if there's a middle ground without blowing it up into an issue. (Shoot! I get nervous even asking for further details, I'm certainly not going to bicker with someone who holds my book's fate in their hands.)

More often than not, the comment ends up being a moot point and either I change it without pause, or my editor decides it's not worth messing with.

I cannot imagine the relationship between author and editor being drastically different. Editors are here to help our books become better than what we already feel is "perfect". I can't imagine rooting my heels in and having trivial arguements just for the sake of maintaining every actual word I put in.

But I guess some folks don't feel that way. They feel the editor should be grateful to them, I suppose. Or something equally as full of drivel.

So, note to authors...

Folks, its in our best opinions to do what our editors want of us. We have to trust that our editors came to hold their position because of their knowledge. Questioning everything they want isn't the best way to make you look easy to work with. Pick your battles. Find out what is most important to you, and know what about your book you're unwilling to compromise on. If you can make every other correction the editor desires, and you politely challenge one issue, they are more likely to work with you than if you complain and groan about everything.

Edits aren't fun. Even editors know this. But folks, these folks aren't out to ruin your book. They are out to make it the best book the market can support. And in so doing, hopefully, bring in your dollars.

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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My favorite. I am so at home with complex sub-plotting it gets me into trouble. How so? Because that throws me into series plotting... and series sells, but not for a first-time sale. (Easily).

A complex subplot is just what it says. You take the simple subplot and complicate it. This can involve a multitude of different tactics. My favorite, however, is adding in a story-line that can open up for a second book.

So, let's look at Amy, Paul, Edward and Eleanor, and let's back up before there's a conflict that ends our story. Let's add on to Eleanor's quest to save the servants.

Enter James and Julie. James and Julie died in the house as relatively young, and they were newly wedded. Let's make Edward very bad. Let's say Julie was his sister. She married James without his permission. Edward found out, he killed them both.

James and Julie are aware of each other in ghostly-form, and they long to have back the life that was taken from them. We'll make them very gut-wrenching characters that you want to cry over because of their lost love and their longing to be back together. We'll so this, so our sub-plot becomes interesting, not just nonsense going on.

In Eleanor's plan to free the souls, we will have a resolution (hopefully) for James and Julie.

We accomplish this by adding in additional scenes yet. We show the ghostly pair perhaps trying to hold hands. Wanting to touch, aching for a hug, a kiss. And Julie's ghostly sobs when she cannot.

James and Julie do not need to be aware of Eleanor's plan to free the souls. And, as far as the reader needs to know, the plan to free the souls, only frees them to find the light.

But James and Julie are searching for a means to be able to experience each other physically, even if they are still ghosts. We incorporate scenes to build this, and give them 'action' in working toward this goal.

So your story has gone from Paul and Amy need to admit love, to Paul and Amy need to admit love while Eleanor frees the souls, to Paul and Amy need to admit love while Eleanor frees the souls while James and Julie must find a way to have a real kiss.

Two separate plots that go on around the central plot. To tie this into series, perhaps close to the resolution of Paul and Amy, and Eleanor and Edward, we have EITHER James or Julie find physical form, but the other does not. Book2 becomes putting James and Julie together. (Which of course, must involve something entirely different than Paul and Amy.)

And that is what I personally find easiest to build.

Comments? Questions?

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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The Simple Subplot

1 Comment Posted by Claire Ashgrove at 2:06 AM

Alrighty,

Basic definitions first. A sub plot is a plot that runs contiguously with the plot. It is a story within a story.

It cannot over-run your main plot, but it works in conjunction with what is going on. In romance, the main plot is always how the hero and heroine end up in a Happily Ever After. But there can be all kinds of sub plot issues.

A grand example of sub-plotting would be Tolkein (although that's really more epic plotting.) But using it as an example, you had several different factions all struggling with their own issues, that contributed to the greater whole.

So let's go back to the simple story we created yesterday.

We're going to take our poor heroine who doesn't have a belief in the supernatural, and our ghost hero and add in a little twist.

Yesterday all she had to do was admit her love, and he admit his, and they'd get their happy ever after. Not so tonight. That's not good enough.

To our heroine's frustration, not all the things that go bump in the night are the hero. And little does our heroine know... she's reincarnated and was our hero's love of his life, and he was taken captive for his love. She was also, however, married to a brutal man who killed her when he discovered he only owned her body, not her heart. Her aunt lived with them as well.

So let's give these folks some names now. Let's call our Heroine Amy, our Hero Paul, the crazy husband/ghost Edward, and the aunt Eleanor. There's also a whole passel of other souls trapped in here of servants Edward killed for various reasons.

Edward, upon seeing Amy return to this house has decided that she belongs to him. Paul... due to a lack of some disassociative issues... knows he is bound to his ghostly form by some power he cannot see. Nor does he understand.

Eleanor was attempting to do... something... so that the ill-fated lovers could be together way back when. Presently, she is aware of the fact that Edward binds Paul to his ghostly form because of his power over the souls he's held captive. Edward must be defeated, not only so that Paul can have Amy, but so that the souls can find "the light". Eleanor is trying to finegle events in the ghostly realm, to see that this happens.

So the sub plot becomes "Free the souls".

Now Amy and Paul have something affecting their plot, running simultaneously with their plot, that they cannot necessarily control. Yet, they are a part of it.

This is played out by creating a few scenes in the manuscript strictly from Eleanor and/or Edward's point of view, focusing on the plight of the souls. Separate, but equal. Good theme to apply to sub-plotting.

And in the end, as our hero and heroine are deciding they are in love, some battle (and it can be between any of the players/characters) defeats Edward and the souls are released. Both plots are resolved. Eleanor and her flock of souls go to the light. Paul joins Amy in the mortal realm as a modern, alive, man. Edward is chained/confined/dead/in hell wherever you want to put him just so he's not able to interact with the storyline at this point.

Simple Sub Plot.

But OH! How much fun it is to weave something more complex. Which we will talk about tomorrow. And this more complex can also lead into series plotting.

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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This is the simplest aspect of plotting. And one, oddly, I have great difficulty with.

Essentially, the elements are (for romance):
1. Hero
2. Heroine
3. A scenario that puts them together, that also drives them apart.
4. Goals, conflict and motivation -- which is not relevant to what I'm trying to talk about right now.

Let's look at a simple plot. Because I want to expand on this while I talk about the other two plotting aspects, I'm going to go with a paranormal plot.

So. Let's create our characters.

1. Our heroine is a thrill-seeker, but has absolutely no belief in anything paranormal.
2. Our hero is a ghost, killed in the victorian era by his wife.

And our setting: A group of friends have dared our heroine to join them in an attempt to stay in a haunted house overnight.

And the little details necessary to accomplish the storyline:
a. Our heroine has been having dreams about a handsome man who -- let's just say he has a body and knows how to use it.
b. Our hero has major trust issues (obviously) with women. But he wants to escape his damnation and confinement to this house where he died.

So. The simple plot is:
Our heroine must overcome her disbelief in the supernatural. Our hero must overcome his trust issues. When they can do this, and they admit to being in love, he will have his freedom -- to live again. Thus our Happy Ever After, a necessary romance element.

Simple. All one has to do is craft encounters in the haunted house and walah! The simple plot is achieved.

There are authors (like me) who find the simple plot far too boring to go that route. So tomorrow, we'll complicate it a bit.

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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I know I said we'd discuss heroines, but... well... that was a month ago. Much to my chagrin, I have been otherwise engaged. Namely in exploring and developing a plot line.

And that is where my brain is tonight.

As I wrapped up the last of a new paranormal romance, (very yummy), it occured to me I was short words. Which put me back into the scope of developing a sub-plot, only I have a resistance right now to extensive sub-plotting.

Don't get me wrong, I love sub-plots. But, I've been engrossed in completing a fantasy series with an epic sub-plot/plot and the last book is killing me. Not the romance part, but here's the part where the series ends. Therefore all the outstanding issues MUST be resolved. And they are so specific, that there's not a lot of room for letting the muse take over and just "going with the flow".

So, confronted with the need for words that didn't exist, I delved back into plotting. Plot-lines are tricky little buggers. You can't just insert things as you feel the need. In this case, I needed four additional scenes, but didn't want to get into anything that left too much hanging. Something mild is what I was after. But how?

Well, I discovered a nifty little trick that I -- the woman who gets out Excel spreadsheets and plots down to minute details -- am fascinated with. :Gasp: A sub-plot does not have to be complex!

It just has to exist.

Which means, when one is short on words, as long as the overall scope is touched on, there doesn't have to be significant name-dropping. Just enough "curiosity".

Which also led to my first attempt at creating a sub-plot that didn't particularly look like a sub-plot. Meaning, its entirely possible to create a sub-plot that no one knows about, adds character to the story, opens the possibility there may be more, but doesn't cement the book into later sequels.

For this week, I'm going to delve into this more. My plans are to cover basic plot approach, simple sub-plot, and complex sub-plot.

Come and join in on the fun! If you have comments or questions, I'd love to hear them.

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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What makes a heroine likeable?

We spend so much time developing heroes, taking classes on developing heroes, making sure our heroes are not just likeable, but loveable, that it often seems the heroine is secondary to the story-writing process.

I think in many ways this is because the majority of romance authors are women, and we all have a set of predetermined ideals of what we, as women, would like to be. A utopian vision, so to speak.

This isn't to say that every one of our heroine's is some great metamorphasis of what we see ourselves as, or how we'd like to see ourselves. It can be aspects of our personalities.

For instance. There are days I wish I had the grace and poise of Miss Melly from Gone With the Wind. Normally when I recognize I'm on a particularly Scarlett day.

Other days I'd like to have the drive and determination of Renee Zelwiger's (oh I can't spell her name) character from Cold Mountain.

On still other days I'd like to have the hardened, "I can handle anything", approach of Diva from NCIS.

And every once in a while I'd like to possess the sultry attitude and mannerisms of Catherine Zeta-Jones in Entrapment.

It's fairly easy to look at these characters and see where we, the author, lack those personality types. Because we don't have to change our total way of thinking, writing female characters often comes easier. If you are a natural Miss Melly, you know how you need to react to be Diva. If you're Bridget Jones, you know what you'd need to do to become Rose from Titanic. If the author is a natural Elizabeth (Queen), perhaps the author has even, at some point in life, wished "Man, I wish I could come up with witty things to say on the fly like that gal in Cold Mountain but my position forbids it."

Where one might get tongue-tied and or held up by propriety or circumstance in the real world, on paper you can take as many hours as you want to come up with the right, witty comment. You don't have 2 seconds to have a natural smart retort. If you're inclined the opposite way, on paper you can take days to temper your character into a Miss Melly when you think your hero has cheated.

Anyway... this is a start. We'll look at heroine's this week, and we'll start with the Miss Melly personality -- what makes her a success, how her faults can be detrimental to a plot, and how to overcome what many might say are weaknesses, to make her a loveable, unforgettable, character.

~Claire

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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Well, so far this year, I have accomplished:

a. Release date for Seduction's Stakes
b. Wrote and Sold All I Want For Christmas... Is Big Blue Eyes
c. Finished book5 in my Fantasy Series, which I don't tend to mention much as it is not a sold series yet, but it too shall be soon. I just need to choose which way to pursue it.

d. Critiques. Critiques. Critiques.

Anyway, I came in here tonight to discuss said Fantasy book that I've labored over this month.

For the first time since I can remember, I chose to write about a virginal heroine in this book. And let me tell you... I never realized they could be so much FUN! Combine that with a completely alpha male, and whoo-boy. Sparks were flying from the get go. While I struggled with this book, because of some personal things, I had a blast writing it. However, I have to wonder if I can recreate the "atmosphere" in a contemporary work. Largely because, in the fantasy setting it's historical and my alpha hero can get away with some things that a modern man couldn't, or wouldn't choose to do when faced with certain circumstances.

As I move forward, in March I start my next contemporary. I am going to have to give this some thought, because some of those interactions were things that really impressed me. I need to see if I can work through some of these things and incorporate it in my contemporary writing too.

Anyway -- hence the silence. I realized I was running behind schedule and dropped all things to finish up the book.

Claire

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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Drifting away from heros for a moment, I'm feeling introspective and sentimental tonight. I'd like to offer a quote from The Trailer Choir's What Would You Say?

"What if the moment came and
you knew your life was down to minutes
ladders flame was all you had to see
and you found a pen and torn up piece of paper
and a note was all you could leave"

"What would you say
in the lines on a page from the life that you made
could you write it with no regrets
would you know in yourself you gave somebody else
all the love that you had inside
right down to your last prayer"

As authors, our jobs are to make impacts on our readers. When I read these stanzas, I'm left with a significant emotional impact. It's not the words, it's the implication behind them. I know how I would answer, I know how each of my characters would answer -- both before the story begins, and when the story concludes. I know who has the "better" response too.

But if 2 verses from a song can leave a listener with an emotional impact, when a reader closes your book after that last sentence, have you left them with the same feeling? Have you made your story unforgettable? Do you know what they would say if they listened to this song? Did they give all the love they have inside? Would they die without regrets?

Make sure, when you type in that last chapter, you leave your reader with an unforgettable, emotional experience and a love that no one could ever feel regret over.

And so I turn the question to you...

What would you say?

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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The goal is to create an enticing and believable hero which can sometimes seems like an impossible combination. If you make them too believable, you push aside the fantasy component. If you make them too enticing, you nix the believable. Balance is the art.

And baggage contributes to this immensely.

Every hero has some sort of baggage, and this baggage contributes to his inner conflict. The *really* good heroes are almost controlled by this baggage. (Classic vampire, classic war vet, classic divorcee) A hero without baggage, and full of niavety can give us warm fuzzies for the simple fact that it'd be real darn nice to find a guy without baggage in real life -- but it isn't realistic. Even hot single guy next door who's never gotten a traffic ticket, never been married, never had kids... had his heart broken once.

Your hero has to acknowledge this baggage more often than not. If the hero does not acknowledge it, it is the author's job to make the reader aware of it. (Which usually comes from seeing his POV, and therefore he's acknowledging it). He knows why he's in an internal conflict. The question becomes: Is he willing to let the baggage win, or overcome it? In romance, he has to overcome it.

If you ignore the baggage, you create a major pitfall in your story.

This does not mean you have to reveal the baggage immediately. In Seduction's Stakes, Riley's baggage doesn't come out until the couple sails smooth waters for a while. An event triggers it, and he must decide which is more important: Maddie, or his flaws.

However, in All I Want for Christmas... Is Big Blue Eyes, Josh knows right off the bat (as does the reader) what his baggage is. He knows from the moment he makes the decision to return to Lexington, Missouri he must face his weaknesses.

How you choose to weave the baggage in, is author perogative and usually plot-driven. But don't forget, a good hero has baggage. Without it, he's little more than a boy. With it... as with real life... he becomes a man.

Claire

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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Seduction's Stakes is scheduled for release in October, 2009

And here's my new book cover. Pay attention to the book cover. After release, contests will relate to the cover.



Further, I received word that my holiday romance, All I Want for Christmas... Is Big Blue Eyes has been accepted. It is tentatively titled, and scheduled for a Christmas, 2010 release.

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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We've all had it drilled into our heads alpha male is the best hero for a romance novel.

Not true.

Beta Heroes have their place as well and can often be a very refreshing read.

I tend to think of Beta Heroes as 'real'. In today's day and age, rare is the man who embodies 'alpha' "I'll take what I want, and if she doesn't want to kiss me, or sleep with me... well she doesn't have much choice."

Beta Heroes still have to be strong men. They can't roll over when your heroine has a tantrum about something, or in their arguements. They can't be weeping buckets over everything all the time. Passive isn't really a good idea either.

Beta Heroes are best employed when you have a very dominant female, in my opinion. Think about it -- If your heroine is headstrong, stubborn, and demanding, pairing her with her equal isn't going to lead to much peace. Paired with a man who is able to push the gas pedals while she steers the car, however, keeps the balance of control equal, and offers a nice opportunity for having softer moments together.

Beta heroes know what buttons to push to navigate their lady the way they want them, without being obvious about it. Beta heroes know when to take the lead, and when to allow the heroine to have the limelight.

As I write this, I think of one actor who plays beta heroes frequently -- Kevin Costner.

The Bodyguard -- he knew how and when to get things done. Whitney had the limelight.
Message In A Bottle -- he was a little too good at backing off here.
Dances With Wolves -- he HAD to be beta to relate to his heroine. She had to teach and educate
Robinhood -- Yes, I know he was alpha when it came to accomplishing his duties. In relationship to Marion -- he backed off and let her do her own thing, silently supporting her goals, motives, and aiding her conflict resolution.

Beta heroes can have a bit more human qualities too, which I find enjoyable. You can get away with empathetic qualities -- great for triggering the 'fantasy' aspect of romance. Your handsome-as-sin, knows-what-he-wants, man can, if done tastefully, actually shed tears. And while men hate to admit they do this, they DO. Just privately, and with people they don't think will ridcule them.

The trick to an effective beta hero is knowing when to emphasize his beta qualities, while also giving him a few alpha moments. To not become a pushover wuss, he must stand up for himself in situations that would compromise his ethics, his ideals, and his goals. Just like most red-blooded American men would.

Some ideas:
- Your beta hero can be an alpha lover, directing your sexual encounters while your heroine willingly hands over the lead.
- Your beta hero can show alpha qualities when your heroine's world falls apart and she doesn't know which way to turn. She welcomes his assistance to help her through and guide her to resolving her own issue.
- Your beta hero can be alpha in his career, and other instances outside the actual relationship
- Your beta hero can compliment your heroine's weaknesses by exhibiting alpha qualities in those key areas.

More on beta's tomorrow. I am fascinated with them presently.

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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Romance Heros Part II

0 Comments Posted by Claire Ashgrove at 9:35 AM

So your hero has a commanding presence. Perhaps he's even a borderline dominant jerk depending on the situation. How do you make sure he's likeable?

You give him a soft spot. Or a way the author can relate to what drives him. This doesn't necessarily have to be obvious. It can be layered in too.

For instance, in Seduction's Stakes, one of the immediate things Riley does, is give his horse a kiss on the neck. This sets him up as having a tender spot of some sort. You see right away that although there are aspects of his character that might be a detractor given you see him FIRST through someone else's eyes.

You know when you meet him, the impression the other person has of him isn't right. This man has a heart. In his first scene of his own, there's a whole lot more to like about him. He's not just a over-confident jerk. No, in fact, he stumbles over his tongue, he reacts impulsively, and he admits to being somewhat foolish over Maddie. He becomes real. The man that likes the girl, knows pursuing her is stupid, and just can't stop himself. How many of you can echo that same scenario?

Another example I'm taking from one of my unpublished works in my fantasy series. In this particular book, our hero is a thief/rogue. The first several appearances he makes, he jumps out of the pages. He's cold, indifferent, and harboring some secret about what he does. But despite the fact the first scene he's in, he's killing a man... you immediately learn why. And the why justifies his actions completely. However, he's very crude and rough. When his book rolls around, from the start of it, you know he's battling something deep that relates to his heart on the very first page. By chapter three you know exactly what, exactly why, and the real man is so vastly different than the impressions others carry. He cannot forgive himself for what he did to the woman of his dreams -- destroy their love. He cannot forget her. When he runs right into her... his heart bleeds. Which justifies all the crude, rude, borderline inappropriate behavior a bit like my Hero of the week, House.


Going back to House -- while it may be argued that House does what he does for success or his own personal gain, as the stories go on, you see that he does it for deeper reasons. He hides all his soft spots under rude words and crude actions. But when it boils down to the root of the matter, House is a softie. That's what makes us like him.

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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I said I was going to try and pick a topic to make this more useful or entertaining. Here goes nothing. This is my topic of the week.

Defining the Hero -- What makes a good Hero?

When creating a hero for a romance novel one of the key things I look at is a larger than life presence. For instance, when the hero walks into the book for the first time, there must be something magnetic about him. Is it his speech? Is it a mannerism? Is it his physique? In Seduction's Stakes Riley's immediate draw is based on physique, as seen from the heronine's point of view. When he has his own first few minutes of fame, it's the little things that make him stand out of the pages. Little mannerisms, a couple glimpses into his psyche.

Well, that's good, Claire, but that doesn't help me. What do you mean? My hero is hot and I start out with the heroine seeing him that way, but folks aren't falling for him immediately.

It goes beyond being physically attractive. We all expect that from romance heros. Give your hero one immediate unique quality. Don't tell us his hair is blond. Tell us what makes that blond hair so special. Don't tell us his eyes are blue. Tell us how those blue eyes should make us feel.

Next, he must have a commanding presence. Usually this is most effective with either speech, or the first glimpse into his POV. He must exhibit control, without being domineering. Think of all the historicals where the heroine is kidnapped. All the lawyer heros you've read about take command of the courtroom. All the doctor heros who perform life-saving surgery.

A great hero here is House. He's not the most physically attractive man in my opinion, but it's what he does. He is after one thing -- the cure. It doesn't matter how he gets there, or what it takes to get it done, or who he steps on in the process. He is commanding. His merits are the good that he does. And as you go along, you learn a little about the heart beneath the shell.

So, when you introduce your hero, make him leap out of the pages. Give him the same power you might give a villian, only in a positive light. Where you put hard work into making folks hate your villians, put the same work into making your hero equally good.

Anyway, more on the topic tomorrow.

Claire

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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Well, it has been too darn long since I've put anything up here.

I've been busy, busy, busy.

Seduction's Stakes is now in final production and we should have a release date soon. Please watch for more news!

The last month has been devoted to putting together a holiday romance for The Wild Rose Press. I'm happy to say that it is finished, and currently under review. This coming weekend I will look at updating my website to reflect this book as well. It's a charming story set in Lexington, Missouri. Two high school sweethearts come together again over Christmas, after ten years apart and must navigate through broken promises and shattered dreams. More on that at a later date.

Right now, I have the first real down time I have had in ages and am going to put a little time into critiquing and relaxing a little.

But I've been thinking how best to go forward with this blog. I am going to attempt to steer it into something a little more than just a book discussion blog. I'm looking at finding one writing-related article a day and blogging on it. Tomorrow I'll kick off that new idea.

Anyway. Happy Belated New Year and look for more activity in the months to come.

Claire

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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"Victorians used the term 'limbs' as a euphenism for legs, which were thought to be so sexually exciting to a man, even a glimpse of a table leg could incite him to sexual frenzy. Table skirts were invented to prevent any unnatural unions between men and furniture."
~
(History Channel International)

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