Love vs. Romance & February Writing Prompts

Heart Knocks CoverIt’s February, which means hearts and flowers all over the place, whether you’re into that sort of thing or not. It also generally means that if you’re in love, you’re thinking about Valentine’s Day and whether or not to celebrate, based on your personal preference. If you’re not in love, you’re probably looking at everyone else with a mixture of contempt and for some, maybe that’s mixed with a teensy bit of jealousy. Especially if you’re in love with someone who’s in love with someone else, or otherwise unable to be with the one you love.

Regardless, love almost always means conflict of some sort, which is why it makes such a great topic to read and write about.

Then there’s romance. Romance is what happens when we’re falling in love, as well as when we’re in the thick of it. Romance is that dramatic, heart-pounding place that we love and hate and dread and anticipate, often all at the same time, because it’s exhilarating and exhausting and for many of us, it makes us feel more alive than just about anything else. Romance can be actions, or words, or any number of little things that tell us someone else is attracted to and/or thinking about us, or it can be a grand gesture that declares that attraction to the world. It’s that intricate dance between two people trying to navigate feelings and decide whether it’s love, or just lust, and where to go once the determination is made.

Those of us who read and/or write romance experience those feelings over and over again, through the stories we immerse ourselves in, and the characters we fall in love with over and over again. It keeps those feelings fresh, even when the romance in our own lives might not be quite so new and dramatic.

I was thinking about love and indirect, romantic ways of expressing love while I was watching TV this weekend. I’ve always been a huge sucker for Wesley’s way of telling Buttercup he loved her in The Princess Bride, by responding to her requests with “As you wish.” Those three words, even moreso than “I Love You”, make my heart skip a beat every time I hear them. There’s so much more meaning there than a direct declaration. And the same with the now-cliche (sadly), “You complete me.” In the Jill Shalvis book I just finished (Chasing Christmas Eve, is the title, I think), there’s another great indirect declaration that is so romantic it just makes me swoon (I won’t put it here in case you want to go read it for yourself in context).

It’s been awhile since I’ve written a romance – I had to take a break for awhile and get my head out of those emotions for various reasons, but I’m working on a couple of short romances now that I want to remember this for. I want my characters to experience the same “swoon” I get when I hear one of those oh-so-personal indirect declarations, and I want readers to experience that too.

Think of how you’d like someone to indirectly declare their love for you. Would it be a certain phrase? A certain action? A combination of the two? What romantic phrase or gesture would make your heart swoon in return? Have you read any books with a good swoon-worthy declaration lately?


Monthly Writing Prompts:

  • Prose Prompt: Write a story about something quirky a character does only on rainy afternoons.
  • Poetry Prompt: Write a poem about rain, water-based or otherwise.

Stories and poems for each month should be submitted by the last day of that month to brazensnake@brazensnakebooks.com. The following month, one poem and one story from the previous month will be chosen for publication here on the blog, and also in our monthly newsletter. Authors will receive a flat fee of $10 per poem or story we choose to publish. Items submitted must be original, unpublished works, however we only ask for non-exclusive rights to post the work here on our blog for one year, and in one monthly newsletter.

The Library

I grew up using the library, and the bookmobile that stopped outside our apartment complex once every few weeks or so. I’d check out as many books as they’d let me, and then make sure to get them all back on time so I could borrow some more. I was an avid reader even as a child, and I went through books like water. Days when we could go to the library and just browse were always my favorites. We were very poor for a good chunk of my childhood, so buying books wasn’t an option. I loved and was grateful for the books I got as Christmas and birthday presents.

When I got to be old enough to work, I started buying books. I still used the library some, but my schedule wasn’t always conducive to getting books back on time, and increasingly, the library didn’t have what I wanted to read. I hate to say I outgrew it, but that’s really kind of what happened. Aside from making extensive use of several libraries for research papers in college, I pretty much stopped checking out fiction as soon as I was making enough money to buy books for myself. I spent a lot of time in used bookstores in college, buying stacks of books for fifty cents a piece, sometimes less, occasionally splurging for more. And then when I could afford to buy paperbacks new, that was always my preference. I’m not fond of hardbacks – they’re impossible to hold with one hand in bed.

Needless to say, the last time I was at the library, it was to attend an event. And given our propensity to buy new paperbacks as soon as they’re out (or ebooks, in some cases), I don’t see myself making good use of the library anytime soon. But I’m glad it’s there, should I ever need to use it, and for countless other kids going through that manic reading phase that would be far too expensive to support with actual purchases.

When was the last time you visited your local library? Was it to check out books or were you attending an event of some sort?


January Writing Prompts

Prose Prompt (1000 word max for submissions): At the end of a certain rainbow, there is a door, and beside it a black pot full of gold keys. The person guarding it is most definitely not a leprechaun…or is he/she?

Poetry Prompt (500 word max for submissions): In like a lion, out like a lamb? In like a lamb, out like a lion? Write a poem about a lion, a lamb, and a magical kind of breeze.

Submit your work to brazensnake@brazensnakebooks.com by January 31st, and your story or poem could be published right here on the Snake Bites blog and in our February newsletter! Flat fee of $10 paid to the author for non-exclusive publishing rights.

Reader’s Report & Weekly Writing Prompts

An Elemental Earth CoverReaders Report – Watcha Reading?

On my nightstand, I’m deep into the paperback of The Seventh Plague by James Rollins at the moment. And undecided about whether I’m enjoying it a little more than I should be, given the subject matter and general state of things (as in, everyone in the world could die, in very short order). It’s rather thrilling, as all of his are, and I’m anxious to see who makes it to the end and who might not. Anxious and just a smidge worried, that is.

On the kindle app, I’m working on Neanderthal Seeks Human (Knitting in the City Book 1) by Penny Reid. It’s a first person romance that took me awhile to get into, but the main character is just quirky enough that I’m still reading just to see how it’s all going to play out. Not my favorite book, or narrative style for romance by any means, and I have some issues with…things, but not enough to quit on it. We’ll see how it ends, eventually.

And in comic books, I’m finally all caught up with I Hate Fairyland, and this week while I’m off work from the day job, I’m going to catch up on Scooby Apocalypse and see how far I can get caught up on the various Harley Quinn series’ as well. I need to hit the comic shop again next weekend too.

Inquiring minds want to know – what are you reading this month? Doesn’t have to be a BSB book (obviously), just whatever’s keeping you occupied these days.


Wanna write? Grab a prompt!

  • Weekly Prose Prompt: Two strangers bump into each other on a busy street, and both apologize before moving on. Later, one finds a note in their coat pocket – addressed specifically to them. What does it say?
  • Weekly Poetry Prompt: Write a poem about your favorite pen, pencil or keyboard.

Bookish Gifts & Weekly Writing Prompts

The Holiday Pact CoverI think we can safely say the holiday season is well upon us now, and many of us are probably trying to figure out what to wrap up for our loved ones (or the office gift exchange). It’s not always easy to get readers a book, especially if they’re the sort (like myself) who buys books year-round. But there are lots of great book-related items out there that readers will appreciate, depending on their individual tastes.

Mugs, teacups and coffee or tea are pretty much a sure bet for a reader. Find a nice book-themed mug and fill it with the reader’s favorite bean or leaf (or cocoa, even), and you can’t go wrong.

Bookmarks are always fun for those who still read print books (which quite a few of us do). Something funny, witty or just aesthetically pleasing will be a very useful hit.

Blankets, slippers and fingerless gloves are all great choices for the cooler or cool-weather reader in your life. Cozy warmth with the ability to still turn pages easily? No brainer. When paired with a “day off” coupon so they have some time to snuggle in and read, even better!

Print book readers might appreciate a beautifully designed pack of bookplates, while digital readers might like a new cover for their ereader or phone. Speaking of e-reading, who wouldn’t like a gift certificate from their preferred online store?

Is the book always better? Almost, but no harm in seeing the movie anyway – who doesn’t like something to compare and complain about? Gift a reader the movie version of a book they like or have been meaning to see/read. Maybe even both the book and a DVD, so they can easily compare.

And of course time to read is at the top of every reader’s wish-list, so if you can figure out how to give them some of that, well, that will certainly be the best gift your reader could ever hope to receive.

There’s still plenty of time to shop, and I’ve bought several of these items as gifts for this year. What will you buy the readers in your life this Christmas?


Want to write? Pick a prompt!

  • Weekly Prose Prompt: Pick one of the ornaments on your tree (or another object, for those who don’t celebrate Christmas), and write a story about how it changed hands at one point. Was it handed down? Stolen? Gifted? Re-gifted? Found? Be creative.
  • Weekly Poetry Prompt: Write a poem about an ornament or object that reminds you of someone now gone.

Movies First & Weekly Writing Prompts

An Elemental Wind CoverMovies First

I think most readers will agree that it’s rare when a movie based on a book is better than the book. It’s because a movie has to condense so much story into such a relatively short amount of time that scenes have to be cut or abridged, and a lot of the detail that is spelled out (so to speak) in the book has to be shown as background or mood music in the film. It’s too bad, of course, but if directors didn’t do that, movies based on books would be epic films many hours long. I know a lot of people don’t mind sitting through longer movies like The Titanic and the Lord of the Rings films, but I don’t like to sit for that long, especially not in a theater where there’s no pausing the movie for a restroom/pop refill break.

But, I’ve discovered that if I read the book first, I’m almost always disappointed in the movie, because I come into it with a set of pre-determined expectations. If I watch the movie first, however, I almost always enjoy both the book and the movie, because the movie sets expectations that are always exceeded by the book. A little trick of the mind, so to speak.

When you know there’s a movie coming out based on a book you haven’t read yet, do you read the book first, or see the film first? Does the order influence your enjoyment of either story medium?


Wanna write? Pick a prompt! 

Prose Prompt: A character walks into a movie theater where only one other person is waiting to see that particular film. The other person is reading a book of the movie about to be shown, and the first person strikes up a conversation with the question, “Why?”

Poetry prompt: Write a poem about your favorite or least favorite part of going to the movies.

Reading Westerns & Weekly Writing Prompts

The Biker's Wench Cover BSB News

I know the quarterly newsletter is late – my apologies. What with NaNoWriMo and trying to get things organized for potential holiday releases, I kind of got a little behind. Look for this quarter’s newsletter sometime in December, and hopefully there will be some fun announcements included!

Reading Westerns with Grandpa

When I was a kid, my parents would send my sister and I to my grandparent’s house for a week or two every summer. We also spent a lot of Thanksgivings and Christmases there and Grandma & Gramps were early-to-bed/early-to-rise rural sorts, which meant a lot of reading time for moi after they were sleeping. Still being young and not having my own money yet, I often didn’t pack enough books to get me through my whole time there.

Which is how I discovered Westerns. My grandpa was an avid reader, and his favorites were old western dime-store style novels. I worked my way through most of the books on his shelf, and became intimately acquainted with the likes of Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour. I’m still not all that fond of L’Amour – he’s a bit too wordy/descriptive for my taste, but I can still pick up a Zane Grey and enjoy reading about small-town drama and romance in the romanticized old west.

Gramps died just recently, and I’ve been thinking a lot about how best to honor him and my memories of what he shared with me. I think it might be fun to write a story or series of Westerns that draw loosely from his own life experiences, or the ones I know about, anyway. Not old west stories, but modern stories to share the lifestyle and values he loved – modern westerns, as it were, with a bit of added flair (he would have liked that).

Have you read a western, old or new? What kind of books did your grandparents share with you – anything you wouldn’t normally have read?


Wanna write? Pick a prompt!

Weekly Prose Prompt: It’s high-noon in your fictional town, and there’s gonna be a duel over the boundary line between two nearby ranches. The town has outlawed traditional weapons like guns/knives, so what will your characters duel with? And who wins?

Weekly Poetry Prompt: Write a poem about a cowboy on a cattle drive.

Reading Habits & Weekly Writing Prompts

Listen to the Leaves CoverDon’t you just love fall? I just love to see the yellows and browns and reds take over, flittering to the ground and then crunching so deliciously underfoot as you wade through them on your way to…wherever. The crisp autumn air, the cooler nights and moderate days, the hint of snow on the breeze if you sniff in just the right direction…it’s easily my favorite season.

Any weather is good reading weather, but there’s something about looking out the window at a pile of leaves (or sitting under a tree and letting them rain around you) that puts me in the mood for a good suspense novel. Of course we’ve had snow here lately (though it’s melting off as I type), but white is just as good a backdrop for a story or two (or more), in my opinion. But I really wouldn’t want to sit under a tree and try to read while it’s snowing on me. Wet glasses and cold fingers are quite a bit less romantic than falling leaves, sadly enough.

But rarely as I get to do so these days, being snuggled under a lovely afghan with a warm cup of tea and say…a collection of short stories by some excellent authors, like the ones contained in our “Listen to the Leaves” anthology is definitely a favorite way to spend a few hours.

Do you have a place you love to read? A blanket you always read with? A chair or couch that is just perfect for your bookwormy proclivities? Let us know!


Prose prompt: A woman stops under a tree to marvel at the changing leaves, and hears a voice. No one else is around but a squirrel on a branch overhead, and she realizes it’s the squirrel talking to her. What does the squirrel say?

Poetry Prompt: Write an ode to your favorite reading spot.

Discussing Books & Weekly Writing Prompts

Lucky Dog CoverDiscussing Books

Do you talk about the books you read with other people? There are only a couple of people I discuss books with on a regular basis, but my mom is in a couple different book clubs she seems to enjoy. I’ve been in book clubs before, but I don’t typically read all that much “literature”, which is what those clubs tend to discuss.

I’ve only been in a couple of clubs that discussed genre fiction, and they fizzled fairly quickly. I wonder if it’s because there just isn’t that much to discuss with genre fiction, or if it’s just that it’s sometimes harder to identify the main themes and potential discussion topics in a piece of genre fiction than it is in a more literary novel.

My husband and I discuss the books we both read, which is always interesting and sometimes turns into a much longer and more involved discussion than one might expect with a suspense/thriller type novel. It’s those discussions that really make me think that maybe more of us should try harder to share our thoughts on the stories we read, even the stories where the discussion points aren’t terribly obvious. I think most authors discover something (and subsequently reveal something) about both human nature and society in every book they write. Maybe if we looked a little deeper, we’d even discover truths that the author didn’t mean to include, but that were made apparent through the story all the same.

I’d like to see readers dive deeper into our stories, and I’m considering launching some discussion questions for the books we have out now, and every book we publish in the future. Those who want to just read the whole story at face value can, certainly, but for those who want to delve deeper, it seems like a discussion guide of sorts might be helpful.

What do you think of the idea of discussion questions/guides for genre books? Is it something you’d be interested in, or something you’d just skim over? Let us know in the comments, or wherever you’re reading on social media!


Wanna write? Here are a couple of prompts to get you started!

Prose Prompt: A book club has discovered that one of their members wrote the murder mystery they’re reading, and that they’re all victims in the story. They figure out which member is the author…does he/she get arrested, or do the members end up actual victims?

Poetry Prompt: Write a poem about your favorite or least favorite day of the week.

Free for Halloween, NaNoWriMo, & Weekly Writing Prompts

Jack CoverBSB News

Happy Halloween! Yes, the post is a day late this week, but it’s Halloween, and it seemed like a good day to give away a free book! So, if you click on one of the links below, you can download a copy of Jack by Alex Westhaven completely free. A little something to get you in the mood for tonight’s festivities…

Download PDF file  | Download Epub file | Download Mobi file

 

National Novel Writing Month

Of course if you’re inclined to write a book like so many of us are, Halloween doubles as the night to make sure your sugar stocks are filled for the craziest writing challenge of the year, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo – Na-No-rye-mo) that starts on November 1st. Fifty-thousand words in thirty days, it’s the quintessential way to get a novel draft down quickly and in a kind of kamakazie fashion. It’s also a great way to establish a daily writing habit, even if you don’t reach 50k by the end of the month.

I’ve got part of a loose outline done for my NaNo novel this year, and I’m really excited to get started on it. I’ve been planning this book since last fall, letting the story marinate in my head while I worked on other things, and it’s so ready to be written, it’s not even funny. I’m just hoping that putting so much thought/advanced planning into it won’t jinx me, and make it harder to get down on paper.

I don’t often start NaNo with much of a plan though. Normally I just stick a couple of characters in a situation, and start writing. The characters tell me the story as I write. This is the most planning I’ve ever done, so I’m curious to see if it will make it easier or harder to reach “The End”.

Do you participate in NaNo? Ever wanted to write a novel but just couldn’t get moving on it? Check out the web site at nanowrimo.org – maybe this is your year! My username there is “outofwords” – feel free to connect!

 


Wanna write? Pick a prompt!

Prose Prompt of the Week: While walking through the woods, your character stumbles over something hidden under a pile of leaves. What is it, and what does your character do?

Poetry Prompt of the Week: Write a poem about trick-or-treating…from either the trick-or-treater side, or from the perspective of handing out candy.

 

Heroes, Villains, & Weekly Writing Prompts

Lettuce Pray Cover

Heroes vs. Villains: Which Perspective?

Do you have a preference for heroes or villains when it comes to who tells a story? Alex, our featured author for October, often tells a story from the villain’s point of view, exploring the motivations and “humanity” (or lack thereof), of characters who see things from the darker side of the spectrum.

I think it’s far more common to tell stories from the hero’s perspective, where we can really empathize with the main character and put ourselves in their shoes to “relive” the story they’re recounting.

And of course there are books with an ambiguous hero/villain. Often the same person, the hero is plagued with the desire to step outside their mundane life and do things that may not be directly in line with their own moral code.  The struggle comes from within, and the side that wins is anyone’s guess right up until the end.

Personally, I like both approaches. I like trying to see things from the bad guy’s perspective, and learning what motivates him or her, but I also like following the hero through whatever journey he or she took for that particular story/trip.

But I think an ambiguous hero can really be fascinating – the interplay between two halves of of a single personality is really interesting, and the end result is generally quite surprising.

Do you have a favorite perspective to hear from when you read? And if you’re a writer, do you have a favorite perspective to write stories with?


Wanna write? Pick a prompt!

Prose Writing Prompt of the Week: A woman goes into a bar and threatens the bartender with something in her pocket, but she’s stopped by a person having a drink at the time. Write the story from at least two different perspectives.  

Poetry Prompt of the Week: Write a poem from the perspective of a squirrel gathering nuts for the winter.