Tropes and Ideas and Themes, Oh My!

ImageIt’s Day 20 of the A to Z Blog Challenge, and today’s blog is a rewrite of a blog I posted on the Goodreads Misty Matthews Site four months ago. I’ve been waiting for the perfect time to repost it, with a few minor changes, and just knew today was the day. Without further ado, I give you the letter “T”–Tropes and Ideas and Themes, Oh My!

Have you see the movie, The Wizard of Oz?  Picture Dorothy and the scarecrow, arm and arm, going down the yellow brick road. Now, repeat “Tropes and Ideas and Themes, Oh My!”  to the tune of Lions and Tigers and Bears.  Feel the magic? Feel the tension? Feel the excitement? If you do, you’re where  writers  find themselves every time they begin a new book or a sequel to another one.   

Romance Novel Recipe

Writing a romance novel is a lot like baking a cake. You need to gather the ingredients first and then follow the recipe. Every romance novel ever written follows a formula, a recipe, if you like. Image

Step one: Boy meets girl
Step Two: There is mutual attraction
Step Three: something/someone prevents them from acting on their feelings OR something/someone interferes with their first Happily Ever After
Step Four: black moment occurs when all hope of them coming together seems lost
Step Five: somehow they overcome the black moment and love prevails
Step Six: they live happily ever after OR in some cases happily for now 

So, if this is the basic formula, how does a writer follow it and yet create a unique story to grab the attention of the readers? That’s where tropes, ideas, and themes come in. 

ImageA literary trope is the use of figurative language. Since the mid-nineteen seventies, tropes have also come to mean a commonly recurring literary device, motif, or cliché. The most common tropes include: synonyms, antonyms, hyperbole, alliteration, metaphors, euphemisms, metonymy, synecdoche, and the list goes on. (For a complete list with definitions, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Figure_o…)
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In literature, a theme is the central topic of the text. There are two aspects to theme.
The first is basically what the reader thinks the work is about. Every reader approaches a book differently. As surprising as it may sound, a reader can take something away from a book which wasn’t what the writer intended at all–think of those high school English teachers–do you really think Shakespeare wanted people to read all of those things into his plays? Unless you can actually ask William yourself, you’ll never know. 

As a reader, your understanding and appreciation of the story is based on your own personal experiences. That’s why people like some books and not others. That’s why a book can get a one star rating on Amazon or Goodreads from one reader and a five star rating from another. It all boils down to life experience. The saying, “You are what you eat,” is only partly true. “You are the result of absolutely everything that has ever happened to you–good and not so good.” Someone who has been betrayed by the person they loved will understand the pain of betrayal better than someone who hasn’t.  Someone with a hair-trigger temper who reacts badly in emotional situations will empathize with a heroine doing the same, while someone who approacImagehes all situations calmly will be turned off and may never even finish the book. An optimist will see hope where hope seems lost, while a pessimist will say, they never had hope in the first place. 

The second part of theme revolves around the author’s take on it. When a writer pens, or in today’s case keyboards, a novel, the primary point is to entertain–to help the reader escape reality for a short time. Why? We all need a break. Since authors are human, like readers, their life experiences impact their work. Intentional or not, most novels have a message. In romance novels, that message is usually “Love conquers all”, but there are other things to be considered. For example, in a case where one of the characters has been betrayed, the author might be saying: “Trust, once lost can be earned again, but it takes time and effort.” Or in the case where a heroine runs away rather than confront a situation, the author could be saying, “It’s okay to back away and nurse your wounds, but sooner or later, you have to confront the truth.” In a suspense novel, the message might be love and perseverance can overcome evil. In the end, since we’re talking romance, the final message will be, “Love wins every time.”

Bound up in theme is the idea or concept central to the story. This can usually be summed up in one word—love, hate, death, betrayal, fear, regret, loneliness, etc. In our day and age, these themes have come to include things like coming of age (most often seen in YA and NA stories), nostalgia (remembering the good old days of one’s youth, but for many, those memories are tainted by bad ones), humans in conflict with one another (war stories or stories of returning soldiers haunted by what they’ve seen and done, quite common today when so many come home suffering from PTSD, abusive relationships, unwanted or unexpected pregnancies, unbridled ambition, greed, jealousy, envy, stalkers, and the list goes on.), humans in conflict with Mother Nature (surviving tornadoes, snow storms, hurricanes, near drownings, wild animals, fire, etc.), and, since it’s the twenty-first century, we now have humans at the mercy of science and technology (fast cars, motorcycles, computers, engineered viruses, and chemical warfare.) The list grows longer yet if you add paranormal and science fiction to the theme. 

Some themes  look at cross-cultural issues  and historic concepts. When I was teaching English, I was astounded to find so many similarities in the mythos of cultures that couldn’t possibly have exchanged ideas. In the first book of the Bible, we have creation and then the great flood. Look at the myths associated with the Amerindians, and any other culture with a rich mythic history, and you’ll find similarities. Every culture had a great flood. Is it because of something people call a universal consciousness, or was it simply a primitive culture trying to explain the end of the ice age? Sibling rivalry? Look at Cain and Abel, Loki and Thor, the Greek gods—Zeus, Poseidon, Hades. Greed? Look at King Midas. Betrayal? Samson and Delilah. Infidelity? David and Bathsheba. Unexpected pregnancy? Mary and Joseph. You get the picture.

ImageWe trace many of the themes in today’s literature to the works of William Shakespeare, who relied heavily on the Classics for his ideas. Think Romeo and Juliet—two young people whose families are enemies fall in love. In the play, the results were tragic. Now, think of Titanic. Two young people who shouldn’t be together because of the circumstances of their births, fall in love and tragedy separates them in life, but they are together again in death. The theme is basically the same, but how the author uses the ideas, how he or she blends them together is what makes the story. Think of stories of twins switching places and you have Twelfth Night from Shakespeare and The Parent Trap from Disney. The same but different. How many movies deal with the same theme? Armageddon and Deep Impact are movies dealing with an asteroid hitting the earth—same theme different story. Mirror, Mirror, and Snow White and the Huntsman same theme, same story, different approach. I could go on, but you get the point. Themes aren’t new. They’ve been around for eons. No one can copyright them. They are universal. 

Theme, together with a plot, setting, and characters forms the skeleton on which the romance formula is developed, and the tropes brought to life to create voice and style. The romance author must pull all these themes, ideas and tropes together into a well-written plot, with rising action that draws the reader in, crises that have them pulling for the characters, a climax that takes their breath away, and a resolution that makes them sigh. If they start to read and fall in love with the characters, so much the better. 

Don’t forget to check out today’s other  great A to Z Blog Challenge entries.

Look Who Dropped By Today: Kristen Hope Mazzola

 

 

ImageKristen joins me today to talk about the cover reveal for her new book, Falling Back Together. 

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Falling Back Together (Crashing #2)

by Kristen Hope Mazzola

ETA: May 20, 2014

Cover Artist: Cover it! Designs

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“I don’t know if it’s fate, coincidence, or my curse, but I’m still breathing, and my breaths are for you.”

 Mags McManus is far from a normal woman in her mid twenties. Being a war widow, a business professional, and a brokenhearted train wreck only skims the surface of the layers of who Margret McManus truly is. Waking up in a hospital bed, alone and confused, Mags once again has to pick up the pieces of her shattered heart. With her best friends by her side, Mags slowly starts to learn the answers she so desperately longs for. But is everything going to continue to spiral out of control? Or is there a light at the end of this dark, twisting tunnel where all the broken pieces can finally fall back together?

A portion of all royalties from Kristen’s Crashing Series are donated by the author to The Marcie Mazzola Foundation.

 **18+ for sexual situations, cursing, and adult content.***

{{ Please note: this is the second book in the Crashing Series, and should be read after Crashing Back Down }}

 

 Mark to read on Goodreads

 

Also by Kristen Hope Mazzola:

Crashing Back Down (Crashing #1)

Publication: November 4th 2013

 

Crashing Back Down is Kristen Hope Mazzola’s debut into the literary world. It is a New Adult Novel, with hints Imageof contemporary romance and thriller.

About the Book: 

 Mags McManus has just become a war widow in her mid-twenties. Her late husband, Randy, left for the Army right after their wedding. Instead of celebrating his homecoming and living in marital bliss with her soulmate, Mags finds herself living in constant agony. Dealing  with the guilt of still living without Randy, are Randy’s best friends and parents.

 Rising from the ashes of this tragedy, Mags starts to learn how to love and trust again, finally being able to find happiness. But sometimes things really are too good to be true and again Mags learns how cruel the world can be as she crashes back down.

 Buy Links:

 

Goodreads | Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK)Amazon (Canada) Amazon (Australia) | Barnes & NobleCreateSpace | Smashwords

 Click here to read the first chapter of Crashing Back Down!

 

About the author:Image

 Hi! Thanks for dropping in…

You want to know more about me? Well, let’s see…

I am just an average twenty-something following my dreams. I have a full time “day job” and by night I am author. I guess you could say that writing is like my super power (I always wanted one of those). I am the lover of wine, sushi, football and the ocean; that is when I am not wrapped up in the literary world.

Please feel free to contact me to chat about my writing, books you think I’d like or just to shoot the, well you know.

 

Website Amazon Goodreads Facebook Twitter Pinterest Tumblr YouTube Spotify

 

Falling Back TogetherImage

by Kristen Hope Mazzola

Giveaway ends July 01, 2014.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win  a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

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Synonyms: Similar, But Not The Same

Welcome to Day 19 of the A to Z Blog Challenge. So far I’ve managed to think of something to say for each day, and I already have topics picked out fImageor the remaining seven letters. This morning, I had a number of ideas come to mind, not the least of which was sneezing, since my spring allergies are out in full force, and I sneeze, weep, cough by the minute, but I wrote about that in my Spring Blog Hop. If you’d like to pop over and have a read, there are great prizes available. Spring Fling Blog Hop.

This morning I’ve decided to blog about synonyms–words that have similar but not the same meanings. As an author, I’m cautioned not to use the same word all the time and to make sure I use what my editor believes constitutes active voice. My biggest culprit has to be “looked”. Many Canadians express things somewhat differently than our American friends. We have commitment issues. For example, if I say, “He looked upset,” my editor will ask that I change it to what she considers active construction. I might go with “His face reddened and his fists clenched,” but that’s not what I’m trying to say here. I’m looking for something subtle, something open to interpretation. Many of us get upset without being red-faced and having clenched fists–both those actions can denote anger too. Some of us go straight to waterworks and trembling lips. Others are harder to pinpoint–they seem upset, but…

So I went looking for something to say. I found a surprise when I found this. Thesaurus.com has 8 pages of entries for synonyms of “Look”. Eight pages! All done alphabetically according to perceived meaning, and each synonym can have 8 pages of its own.

So I looked at “looked” when it means “appeared”: assumebe suggestive ofconvey the impressioncreate the impressiongive the feeling ofgive the idea ofhave the appearance ofhave the aspects ofhave the earmarks ofhave the features ofhave the qualities ofhintimplyinsinuateintimatemake a show ofpretendresembleshowshow every sign ofstrike one as beingsuggest.

What did I learn? Sometimes what you said in the first place is the only thing that really works. I tried, “His facial features implied he was upset.” Now, there was a “was” in there! Passive construction again. So I tried, ” He struck her as being upset.” That was even worse since being was in there.  In the end, “He looked upset.” 

Remember to check out the other  A to Z Blog Challenge entries.

 

 

 

Spring and Allergy Season, Two Things I Wish Didn’t Go Together!

ImageWelcome to the Spring Fling Blog Hop! Over fifty authors and bloggers have joined together to bring you some amazing posts, great giveaways and lots of fun! Don’t forget to enter the rafflecopter to win a Kindle tablet, gift cards, paperbacks and swag and be sure to check out the other blogs taking part.

 

You can visit other bloggers here. Each visit will increase your chances of winning one of the grand prizes.

Leave your name and email address in the comment box on my blog for your chance to win one of my books—I’m giving away paperback copies of novels The Captain’s Promise, Holiday Magic, The Perfect Choice, and Coming Home, books that will no longer be available due to the publisher closing its doors.  You could win a limited edition signed novel. In addition, I’m giving away an e-book of Just For The Weekend, my latest novel.

 

Spring and Allergy Season, Two Things I Wish Didn’t Go Together!

Don’t they look pretty? These lovely shapes are the bane of my existence. ImageI, and several thousand others, suffer from seasonal allergies—in spring it’s tree pollen, and it moves on through summer and flowers and grasses, culminating in fall with ragweed and more pollen. You’d think winter would give me a break, but mold is everywhere—even on snow, and I have to contend with that too.

 If you suffer from allergies, you know the symptoms—pain in the roof of your mouth because your sinuses are so infected they’re pushing their way through, blocked sinuses, complete with runny nose and sinus pain, and my perennial favorite, the itchy, watery eyes, that make you look like you haven’t slept in months. Thanks to my own allergy hell, I get to add asthma to my long list of things I could do without—that’s right, I hack and cough my way through April into May.

 I have all kinds of medication that supposedly deals with the symptoms, but I don’t want to deal with them I want a cure! Why can’t the billions of dollars focused on researching why guppies mate and eat their young be diverted into figuring out how to eliminate histamines? It would be nice to be able to go out on a warm spring day and breathe deeply without the side effects. Oh, well. Like everything else, this too will pass. The meds will kick in and start to work, and I’ll be almost as good as new. Until they do, I’ll sit inside and blog, with the windows closed, and pray for June.

 Don’t forget to comment and leave your email to win one of my books.

 Enter the Rafflecopter for your chance at other great prizes.

Remember.  You can visit other bloggers here.

Rejected or Revise and Resubmit

ImageOn this beautiful Easter Monday morning, my A to Z Blog Challenge blog entry deals with the letter “R”. Every author knows the anguish caused by the dreaded “R” REJECTED! Sometimes, the “R” comes with a reason, more often than not, it doesn’t. The standard line goes something like this: “Publishing is a very subjective business, and while your manuscript isn’t right for us at this time, it may fit another publisher’s line. Good luck finding it a home.” 

That is probably one of the most useless comments an author can receive. If it didn’t suit you, can you tell me why? Writing etiquette says you don’t have the right to email back and ask WHY? It’s annoying and frustrating. Every writer gets rejections, and every writer curses and complains about them and tries to figure out what they could do differently. Some writers will simply send the manuscript off to another publisher, just as it is; a few will revise it before sending it out again, and some will consign the manuscript to the REJECTED folder on their desktop, and never to let it see the light of day again. Truth be told, I have a few manuscripts  in my Rejection folder, but currently four of them are previously published novels consigned there because the publisher closed its doors. They sit there because I don’t know what I’ll do with them. 

But, a rejection isn’t always a rejection. Fire Angel, the first novel I published, was a Revise and Resubmit. I made the changes suggested, and the publisher bought the book. Recently, I’ve received another “R&R”. This time for a historical romance called, The Price of Honor. The editor has made suggestions she’d like me to implement in the novel, and then she wants to see it again. Well, as soon as I finish the edits on my current manuscript, Echoes Of The Past , due to be released July 14, 2014, that’s exactly what I’ll do. The changes she’s suggesting are meant to tighten the story, and while they’ll eliminate a fair chunk of historical detail, it will focus the story more on the plot and the characters. Since I’m detail oriented and some readers aren’t, we’ll see if I can sell the story. One thing is for certain, I will hold on to the original manuscript, rich in detail and description of early Canada and life in the  seventeenth century, and if the “R&R” doesn’t make it, both manuscripts will go into the rejection folder until I pull them out and try again.

Don’t forget to check out the other A to Z Blog Challenge entries for today.

 

Q is for Query: Here We Go Again

Happy Saturday. I hope it is for all of us since it follows a dismal Friday. Good Friday! There was nothing good about it this year–at least not as far asImage I’m concerned. In terms of my faith, my salvation was purchased in blood, for which I’m grateful, but in terms of my writing career, it suffered a death blow. Madison Connors announced she’s closing Front Porch Romance for health reasons. This comes on the heels of the Entranced Debacle, and that means I now have SEVEN books that need a home. Suddenly, I feel lost and terrified–all my children have moved back home and I don’t know what to do with them! I thank God for Crimson Romance and Sweet/Secret Cravings Publishing which are still vibrant. It wasn’t as if I didn’t know it was in the cards; I’d guessed a couple of months ago when things started to go south that FPR might be in trouble–hell we were warned. We chose to ignore the signs, and that was our stupidity. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, chances are it’s a duck. Or may that word should start with an “F”. Unfortunately, I tend to look at the world through rose-colored lenses. I look for the best in people and situations, but inevitably, I’m disappointed. To paraphrase what P.T. Barnum is said to have claimed, I’m one of the suckers born every minute. Maybe I’ve learned a lesson this time–probably not.  I wonder if I’ll ever recapture the optimism I felt just two days ago.

ImageOn that dismal note, I’ve decided to talk about queries for today’s  A to Z Blog Challenge, For those of you who aren’t authors, a query is a sale’s pitch for a manuscript. It’s sent to an acquisitions editor, either directly or through general submissions, and you wait for a yea or nay. It’s an emotional process followed by weeks of nail biting and waiting. Sometimes the answer is yes; more often it’s no, without any reason given as to why it doesn’t fit the imprint beyond “this isn’t right for us now”. Years ago, once a publisher took your work, you were set. Not so today. Contacts are issued for one book at a time. If I did anything right last year, despite the failure of two of my publishers, it was that I didn’t put all my eggs in the same basket. Maybe that will sustain me now, but then again, maybe it won’t.

When I finish a manuscript and decide it’s ready to go off to a publisher, I’m excited about it and writing the Imagequery is fun and easy to do. I’ve got a tagline picked out for it and a sale’s pitch. I’ve got the dreaded synopsis ready too, so I’m good to go. Since I had a publisher who was eager to see and buy my work, I’d send out the letter and within a week or two, I got my response. Now that’s gone. The publisher has ceased to exist, and I’m back to square one–or worse.

The books scheduled to be released in May aren’t a problem because they’re unedited and unpublished, even if they were sold for a short time. Those I can try to find homes for right away, but I’m not sure where to start looking. After the failure of these two publishers, I have a fear of small publishing houses, and I’m not sure where I want to go with my books. Once bitten, twice shy. Twice bitten, get the hell out of Dodge. 

My greatest problem lies in the published books whose covers adorn this post probably for the last time. Many publishing houses won’t take previously publImageished books even if I have proof that the rights are mine once more. I’ve lost covers I loved, and I’m not even sure I have the rights to the manuscript versions that were published, although I did all the edits myself–the editor suggested some, but most of these were line edits. Content edits were all mine. That leaves me  with  the possibility of self-publishing–scary, but not as scary as the thought once was. I’ve had a number of fellow author go that route recently, and although it involves considerable work in terms of covers, editing, formatting, and may cost money to do, it isn’t impossible–but I have to wait for the reversion of my rights and the books to come down from the vendor sites before I can even consider that. Maybe, it’s my chance to rewrite them and improve the stories? Who knows? At the moment, the light at the end of that tunnel is burned out.

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The closing of FPR also affects the book I co-wrote with Misty Matthews. This one will be harder to decide how to handle. It was part of a series, the second book only just begun. I think this one bothers me almost more than any of the others because I know how devastated my co-author is. While we’ll still have a novella out there, it won’t be the same. I have other books published under my name, but for Misty, this novel was her baby, and no one likes to see baby leave home. Among the things I’ll miss most is our cover, the one we selected together. FPR retains the rights to all covers, but we designed this one. We chose the images and told the cover artist what to do with them, and now, we can’t use it  even if we decide to self-publish it. 

So, for the three books unpublished, the whole selling process starts again. I may query agents first this time, although many agented writers got screwed with Entranced. I may try other publishers or send some to my existing publishers and pray they like them. Either way, the query process begins today. As Daffy Duck in his Duck Dodger persona would say, “To infinity and beyond.”  Where we land is anyone’s guess.

Don’t forget to check out today’s other Q postings on A to Z Blog Challenge

 

 

Look Who Dropped By: Lauren K. Mckellar

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It’s my pleasure this morning to be part of The Problem With Crazy Blog Hop PROMO  By Lauren Mckellar. Follow the link to mark this great NA book to read. GOODREADS

 ImageABOUT THE BOOK:  

 The problem with crazy is that crazy, by itself, has no context. It can be good crazy, bad crazy . . . or crazy crazy—like it was when my ex-boyfriend sung about me on the radio.

 Eighteen-year-old Kate couldn’t be more excited about finishing high school and spending the summer on tour with her boyfriend’s band. Her dad showing up drunk at graduation, however, is not exactly kicking things off on the right foot—and that’s before she finds out about his mystery illness, certain to end in death.

 A mystery illness she is likely to inherit.

 When your whole life goes from adventure and ecstasy to sad and suicidal, what’s the point? Not knowing who to love, and who to trust . . . where does it end?

 The Problem With Crazy is a story about love and life; about overcoming obstacles, choosing to trust, and learning how to make the choices that will change your life forever.

 TEASERS

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You can buy The Problem With Crazy here:

ITUNES

AMAZON US

 

CHARACTER PROFILE: KATE

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Kate is an eighteen-year-old girl from Lakes, a small seaside town about an hour north of Sydney. With d
reams of being a tour manager and a boyfriend, Dave, who is about to tour with America’s hottest new band, Coal, things couldn’t be looking brighter.

That is, until her father shows up drunk at graduation.

And Dave turns out to not be the perfect guy after all.

Kate used to be nice. She used to be relaxed. She used to be happy.

Now Kate is angry. Is that an oncoming car we can see in the distance?

 

BLOG HOP CLUE C

Your blog hop clue is: KATE

 AUTHOR BIO:

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Lauren K. McKellar is an author and editor. Her debut novel, Finding Home, was released through Escape Publishing on October 1, 2013, and her second release, NA Contemporary Romance The Problem With Crazy, is self-published, and is available now. 

 As well as being a magazine editor for a national audited publication on pet care, Lauren works as a freelance editor for independent authors, and was a Runner Up Editor of the Year in the Publishers Australia awards in 2013. 

 Lauren is a member of the Romance Writers of Australia and is obsessed with words–she likes the way they work.

 She lives on the Central Coast of New South Wales with her fiance and their two super-cute puppies.

 

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