Author Voice


Author voice is something many young authors obsess about. In the early days of writing, we search for the “aha moment” of discovering our unique voice. Voice is sometimes even a difficult subject for authors who’ve developed their craft. I’ll raise my hand and admit to being such an author. Although I believed my voice was clear enough for my editors to enjoy my work, I could more easily hear the voices of my co-authors and critique partners, Mechele Armstrong and Maureen Gianinio. They were unique to me and I could describe them in words, unlike my own, which I couldn’t seem to highlight. I wanted to pinpoint my own voice. I needed to be able to describe my voice as easily as I could those of my friends.

 I understood the concept of voice. Voice is everywhere in the entertainment industry with artists, musicians, directors, composers, even guitarists. Ever notice an Ann Geddes photograph? She’s got a brand, a style of her own. What about a Kim Anderson figurine? Do you have a favorite singer you’ll buy or at least recognize on the radio just from the first few strains? What about an actor? Is there an actress whose film you just have to go see? Ever notice movie directors like Alfred Hitchcock, Quentin Tarantino, Tim Burton, and Mel Brooks have a distinct feel to their movies? The placement of cameras, the position of actors, a certain light quality, etc. Who doesn’t recognize the sounds of the late great Jimi Hendrix or Steven Ray Vaughan? What about the drawn-out sultry strum of the fleet-fingered Keith Urban’s guitar playing? That style is their voice, and it’s something that makes them recognizable.

Our voice is something that sets us apart from the next author. Voice is distinctive. Voice is like your personality, or for some (like me), an alter ego personality. Anyone who knows me knows I’m bubbly and easy-going, yet my writing always has a dark quality. Style is a particular way a writer uses words or phrases in their writing. There are certain quirks or traits you take with you no matter what you do. It’s part of your personality, your voice. It’s how people recognize you. Of course, there is another part of voice that will definitely change depending on what is going on at any giving moment in a story. When I write historical romance, my voice becomes formal, while in a contemporary story it will be more laid back. A time or two my voice has been compared to that of Lori Foster and Karen Robards. Voice is something that resonates or doesn’t resonate with a reader.

I’ve heard more than one author say even if you write very different genres or under different pen-names, you carry over your voice throughout your career. So, you’re still “you” and people recognize that. I believe this. My former Ellora’s Cave editor, Nick Conrad, told me time and again that I had one of his very favorite “male” voices. Patti Steel-Perkins stated in a critique that I had a good clear voice. Roberta Brown, my former agent, echoed Patti statement that I’ve a good clear voice. And my Samhain editor, Lindsey McGurk, went a step further by describing my voice as clear, tight and fast-paced. I believe this means readers will find a lot of white space in my stories since I write heavy dialogue. And no matter the genre or theme I’m writing, my muse doesn’t spin a light-hearted romp. Instead, I write a darker atmosphere. I can’t imagine the core of my writing style changing.

The best advice I can give a budding author is to be honest in your writing. Truth is what counts, in character, in plot and everything else. Just write, write and keep writing to develop and tone your voice. Craft can be learned, while our voices just are what they are. There are no shortcuts, no workshops, no easy answers, because your voice is part of you. It’s your attitudes, the way you talk, the way you look at the world. It all comes through in your voice. Eventually, someone will say “I love your voice” and you’ll likely think, “I didn’t know I had one”. Once upon a time I sure didn’t.


Author Voice
© 2011 Melissa Lopez

Heat levels in romance

Romance authors and readers know every romance comprises two basic elements: a central love story, and an emotionally satisfying happily-ever-after (HEA) or a modern optimistic ending of happy-for-now (HFN).

The heat levels of the romance genre is an aspect of writing to be considered before you begin your journey to publication. The heat level refers to the sexual interaction and intensity of those romantically involved.

Aspiring writers need to know what they’re comfortable writing and their own limitations of word use. Moreover, not every publisher’s guidelines are the same. For example, it is possible for an male/male romance to be given an erotic heat level simply because of the gender of the central characters. A strong sexual tension between a couple, even if consummation of the relationship doesn’t come until the last chapter, can earn you an erotic level as well.

Basic heat levels associated with the genre of romance are:

Inspirational romance usually subscribes to certain values and often features a religious or spiritual connection in the romantic relationship. The couple has strong moral restraints preventing pre-marital sex. The story focuses on the affection and developing love between the couple. (PG rating)

Sweet romance closes the door on the love/sex scenes. We know the romantic couple has sex, but besides kisses, the readers aren’t given any details. Most traditional Regencies fit into this heat level. (PG-13 rating)

Sensual romance offers some details, yet is more about euphemisms. Much is left to the imagination of the readers while the author focuses on growth of feelings and emotions. No sexual act is depicted. Since mild descriptions of intimacy and mild use of profanity are allowed, Young Adult fits into this heat level. (PG-17 rating)

Spicy/sizzling romance is sensual, sexual, and edgy. Characters are comfortable with their sexuality. You can push sexual boundaries but never cross them. The sex/love scenes are usually longer and can increase in frequency. The Harlequin imprint Blaze falls into this category of romance. (Comparable to rated-R)

Erotic romance is hot and the content inventive. The love/sex scenes are graphically described with explicit language. Yes, a love story can be both romantic and sexually explicit. If you’re interested in writing this heat level, I recommend reading Passionate Ink: A Guide to Writing Erotic Romance by Angela Knight. (X-rated from X to XXX)

Please note, there is a difference between erotic romance and erotica. Erotica (also X-rated from X to XXX) is a sexual adventure in erotic fiction and not a romance. Erotica doesn’t require a happily-ever-after.

It’s important to review guidelines of any publisher you’re interested in submitting to. While some publishers seek romance with several heat levels not all of them do. You don’t want to submit an erotic romance to a publisher who only wants inspirational or an agent who’s only interested in representing erotica.

I’m an author of romance. My stories have believable, well-developed characters, and strong plots. Physical love is a wonderful thing and deserves as much attention as emotional growth. Since sex is a natural part of any romantic relationship, I allow my characters to decide how much their emotional and physical relationships winds up on the pages.

© 2013 Melissa Lopez

Navy SEALs: Favorite character 7/8/’16

I know, I know my post says character, but it’s actually about an author’s series. Suzanne Brockmann turned me onto Harlequin category series romance with her Tall, Dark and Dangerous SEAL team series. Until I discovered these I’d preferred meatier single title romances. Once I discovered the first TDD story I had to go back for more. I fell in love with ALL the heroes. These well written quickie (50K) romances are each just different enough that they all feel fresh while still connected as a whole, with totally delicious alpha male heroes and just the right amount of sex, suspense, action, and drama.

#1 Joe Cat from “Prince Joe” was my first SEAL romance ever. This SEAL was just arrogant, combat hardened and rough enough around the edges. Yum! Prince Joe is the 1st from Brockmann’s 11 book Tall, Dark, and Dangerous series. For Brockmann’s Troubleshooters fans, TDD are ‘lighter’ and except for a couple of issues it’s an equally fantastic series. Brockman sure can write a delicious hero. Seriously.

#2 “Forever Blue” is about a murder mystery and a couple with some history. I loved Carter “Blue” McCoy and Lucy, too.

#3 My vote for most tortured SEAL hero goes to Alan “Frisco” Francisco from “Frisco’s Kid.” Disabled SEAL hero, anyone? Frisco has a huge chip on his sculpted shoulders. I had never read a book where the hero’s identity and feelings of self-worth were so closely tied to his career.

#4 Sparks fly when hostage Melody Evans is rescued by a SEAL team member, Harlan “Cowboy” Jones in “Everyday Average Jones. “

#5 Any virgin heroine fans? “Harvard’s Education” I’ll admit, Harvard and P.J.’s story made the top of my “this is how to lose your virginity” list. Wonderful read. Oh, be aware of the themes of racism and sexism in this one.

#6 “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” (longest title) is about our brooding, stoic hero. Navy SEAL Billy “Crash” Hawken. Oh, this tale is structured quite differently from the others. And by-the-way, this story contains my favorite line from the whole series, “if you’d die for me, why won’t you live for me?”

#7 “The Admiral’s Bride” was a wonderful read. Although I am, I know not everyone’s a fan of the “May to December” romances. However, it was done in a way that made it an exceptionally enjoyable read for me.

#8 OH! Are you a sucker for an amnesia story? “Identity Unknown” is just the SEAL tale for you…

#9 Lieutenant Luke “Lucky” O’Donlon in “Get Lucky” is simply delicious! Lucky’s a gorgeous blond haired, blue eyed, walking-talking Ken doll, (Syd -our heroine- often refers to him as “Navy Ken”). Seriously! He’s a ladies’ man who’s never wanted to settle down before in his life. That is, until he meets Syd Jameson and his world turns-upside-down.

#10 When it comes to protecting the innocent, Navy SEAL Bobby Taylor is your man. And guess what?  In “Taylor’s Temptation” he gets his girl, only she happens to be the sister of his best friend and SEAL partner Wes.

#11 Night Watch is about Wes a real badass, badboy with some seriously bad habits. But you’ll love him as much as his team mates, if not more!

I just loved this fun, sexy and exciting series. It gives us larger than life Navy SEAL heroes, capable of anything. For full length SEALS check out Suzanne’s Troubleshooter series. It’s awesome, too.  12250139_10153111889276502_3028514639853359831_n (1)


Understanding Men

Males are both a fascination and an aggravation for writers as they try and capture them on the page.

Brace yourself, you’re about to get the basic lowdown on men. How they think and what makes them tick. The following is an attempt to help strengthen male characterization for those of us who need a refresher.

The most important factor in writing a male voice is to understand that they are completely different from women. The differences are much deeper than the clear physical ones.

Men are all about how, what, when, where, and why without all the feelings and details women like to add in their storytelling. A man, unless his profession demands it, will not give any more depth than is needed. Ever listen to men speaking in a group? Ever pay attention to the language they use one on one? Male language is an art form in itself. Unless a man is giving a speech or is a philosopher, he won’t speak using long passages. They use fewer words.

Some men use tag words such as dude, bro, etc. more so than women.

Write a sentence of dialogue that you as a woman might say, then cut the words down to the bare minimum. That’s how men speak.

I know some of you are thinking that’s not true. Men talk. Ah… true. But, for a man to open up, it needs to be with someone who he completely trusts. Someone he wants to open up to.

We, our societies over the centuries, have molded our men to be the reserved ones. Don’t cry. Grow up. Be a man. The Disney movie Mulan even has a song Be a man. These are all lessons men learn in childhood. So remember, while a man will shoot the breeze with a friend, share to a certain point with a brother, it takes that special someone for him to open up about his past and his feelings. Even then, a man will not talk openly about his insecurities the way a woman will.

While the heroine (or significant other) is working on earning that special trust, what is making the hero tick? Sex. Lots of sex.

From the time a male hits puberty until he reaches his middle forties or fifties, sex dominates a great deal of their thought process. Other things — work, their favorite sports, hobbies, gadgets, food, special interests, cars, etc. — momentarily grab their attention, but they are always wondering about the next sexual encounter.

Their sexual drive can’t be helped. The desire to procreate is inbred within their DNA makeup. Not quite true. And not just men. Almost everyone has an innate desire for sex. This is a kind of mental module that we all get as part of our genetic heritage. And with ready birth control, it’s clearly a drive for pleasure instead of reproduction.

Sex for a man, besides being pleasurable, is often used to replace words. He may not say those little words a woman wants to hear, but he is willing to show her with his body how much he cares. In many situations, for many men, it’s a simple case of showing, not telling.

I think it should be made clear that while a man thinks about and wants sex as much as possible, he can think of as many reasons to say no as a woman can. Most importantly, if a sexual encounter will jeopardize a budding relationship… he’ll say no.

Males are conditioned to work hard and play hard. They tend to be territorial, determined to take care of what has become part of their hearts. Characteristics such as protectiveness, arrogance, and aggressiveness are all associated with men.

A man doesn’t play the “girl games” typical to some females, such as attention seeking, drama, and preying on others’ sympathy. The keepers are straightforward men who leave the “playing” to secondary characters.

In conclusion, men keep their emotions bottled up and do it well. They won’t risk their hearts anymore than they’ll risk hurting someone that has caught their interest. Heroes are the protectors who enjoy their downtime as much as they desire food and sex.

Miles. Tuesday 14, ’16

I had a great time at Reader Author Get Together ‘16. This was my 10th, or maybe 11th time attending out of the 12 years Lori Foster has been hosting the event. I love Lori Foster. She’s super. Oh, I love and adore Sam Cheever & Mechele Armstrong too, but they’re my dear friends. My first time meeting the lovely Lora Leigh. IMG_4952

I’ve been back to getting fit for about 4 weeks now. I’ve gained 80 lbs since I had my left eye removed a few years ago. So far I’ve lost 7 lbs. Although, I may have gained them all back at RAGT. I didn’t count calories, or exercise. I’m taking this life change day-by-day.

I go to the corneal specialist Thursday. I’m really looking forward to getting the rest of my stitches out from the corneal transplant I had over a year ago. I don’t think it’s ever going to heal right. And the doctor keeps pushing stitch removal back and back. But maybe he’ll surprise me….

Who’s your favorite secondary character? 5/6/’16

It was in Beth Ciotta’s Friends and Lovers Collection where I discovered the true importance of secondary characters. A light bulb went off as I experienced just how memorable a secondary character’s struggles could be. Sometimes, a supporting character is just a supporting character, and I’m okay with that. But who -among my fellow readers- haven’t fallen in love with a secondary character? Some secondary characters are so strong that their stories beg to be told. I like to think I managed that with Miller Thorn. He appeared in both his brothers stories Boomerang Love & Riptide Love, before his own story played out in True Blue Love.

Often times while reading, I see a secondary character and I think “sequel bait”. Although, this doesn’t always make me excited for the character’s story. I need them to have their own purpose in the story I’m reading rather than walking advertisement for the follow-up story. You know what I mean?

Immediately, Sam and Alyssa from -a favorite author of mine- Suzanne Brockmann’s “Troubleshooters” series came to mind. They are introduced in the first in the series and experience a lot of delicious torture before getting their own book. I just loved them. Sam and Alyssa’s story was 2nd, even 3rd fiddle in several books until they finally came front and center for their own HEA.

But my very favorite secondary character of all time is…“The Simi” Xiamara (Simi) Parthenopaeus, the Barbecue Sauce wielding Charonte demon from the fantastic Dark Hunter Books and Manga series by Sherrilyn Kenyon. Simi is dear-and-near to Acheron Parthenopaeus, (her “Akri”) who’s raised Simi as his daughter for over 11,000 years.

Simi always brightens a story. She always earns a smile. She’ll eat everything except for hooves. We know her favorite food (Barbecued anything,) And we know she loves the Macarena, and we know she shops “like a Demon” Seriously. What’s not to love?