THE. DREADED. BLANK. WHITE. PAGE.

Terror leaps into our hearts, forcing us to crank up the volume on the iPod and reach for the bag of dark chocolate. Several chocolate wrappers later, we drink another cup of espresso and stare into the infamous BLANK, WHITE PAGE! After a few more hours of hair-pulling, eyebrow-rubbing nothingness, we pour ourselves a glass of wine and hope the liquid therapy flows through our fingertips.

These indulgences have provided us with a needed respite at one time or another. But their therapeutic relief is usually short-lived. That’s not to say they haven’t been effective. As we mentioned in a previous blog, music has greatly influenced our writing. And green tea and espresso have certainly provided us with the caffeine we needed to work into the wee hours of the morning. Oh, and the margaritas and wine…these liquid muses have rarely failed us (unless, of course, we have one too many). But some days, they just aren’t enough. When the voices in our heads start tormenting us, making us doubt our “mad” writing skills, we need something much STRONGER. We need a new therapist—a second opinion, if you will.

We are staunch supporters of the B.I.C. method (butt-in-chair); however, after staring at the same four walls and the dreaded white page for days on end, our butts get a little sore. So, in our humble opinion, the best medicine for “B.I.C.itus” is a… WRITERS’ CRAWL.

What is a Writers’ Crawl, you ask? Why, it’s a fantastic opportunity for us to get glammed up, get out of the house, and have a few cocktails while we interact with unknowing strangers who may or may not become part of our novel.

Recently, we have found this form of therapy to be wonderful for character and plot development. One of our favorite parts of a writing crawl is to observe people from afar and play a little Mystery Science Theater 3000, and by that we mean we make horrendous judgments about the innocent bystanders’ based on their behaviors. Sometimes we even include their inner thoughts or a background story based on their appearances. We realize this is an impolite form of writers’ therapy, but it has proven to be most effective. Plus…what they don’t know can’t hurt them, right?

On a recent writers’ crawl, we traveled all the way to Cumming, GA for some good ol’ southern hospitality and writing fodder. We also knew that the “Devil Went Down to Georgia,” so we were ready to encounter some very interesting characters. And we weren’t disappointed! On this particular outing, we dressed like two demon characters from our book and went to work. After visiting four hot spots and observing and interacting with various colorful “characters,” we had enough material to fill that infamous blank, white page! Not to mention we had a stellar time.

At the end of our writing crawl, we were feeling relaxed and absolutely giddy about writing our next scene. Our butts had recovered and those pesky voices were muzzled… for the moment.

We highly recommend this form of therapy to all writers. And to all of those innocent bystanders, we thank you for your contribution to our novel, and we apologize for…aw, never mind, you didn’t know we were doing it anyway.

So the next time you are out for a night on the town, and you notice two attractive ladies staring at you and “texting” on their phones, BEWARE! They probably aren’t trying to get your attention; they may have just turned you into a work of fiction!

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Resolu…

To end, or not to end: that is the question. When reading a great book, how would a person prefer that novel to end? Would the reader want there to be a clearly defined ending? A nice, tidy package all wrapped up and complete? Or would the reader choose to draw his or her own conclusions? Would it be preferable to the reader to extrapolate the story beyond the boundaries the author has determined and create his or her own future for the characters? This very topic has been the center of some heated discussions between the two of us. Coauthoring a novel can be difficult, but factor in our deeply held beliefs on resolution, and it can be downright frightening!

So, one might wonder how two authors with drastically different ideas about how to end a story, actually ENDED a story. Well…it was definitely a compromise. We were both in agreement about how our story would end, but we had different ideas regarding how much information we were going to give our readers.

Cori:  Initially, I wanted our story to end very cryptically, with our main character making a decision only she knew the answer to. I wanted to force the reader into waiting until the second book to discover what choice she actually makes. I enjoy prolonging the pain! Mwahahahaha!

Lissa: I, on the other hand, could not handle Cori’s proposed ending. I am by nature NOT a masochist, thus I do not like to be subjected to mental (or physical) torture. I am a strong proponent of authentic conflict resolution! Nothing irritates me more than when I have invested hours of my precious time reading a book, only to discover that the central conflict is STILL unresolved!! No-resolution resolution is absurd!! Real life has far too many unresolved conflicts. I read to escape this hell!

Cori: Hell? Isn’t that what our book is about?

Lissa: Touché, my sarcastic, masochistic friend.

Cori: In all honesty, I do not want to subject our readers to any kind of torture (mental or physical). I prefer to think of it as giving our readers a creative license. As a reader, I enjoy the control I have when I get to decide the fate of the characters I have invested my precious time reading about. So, as an author, I wanted to give that same gift to our readers. I want our readers to talk about possible endings, debate different scenarios, and have discussions!

Lissa: I wholeheartedly agree with your last statement. However, I prefer those debates to be about the way I/we chose to end the story. I too have issues with control (as you, Cori, well know). Which is precisely why I have to be in control of our characters’ fate. A reader can draw conclusions about a story’s ending all they’d like, but they are not the authors. Therefore, as ingenious as their proposed endings may be, they are only just that…mere hypotheses. We are the creators of these characters and the story’s plot, therefore only we know the true ending. In case you haven’t noticed, I have a bit of a “god complex.” Because of this, I refuse to give our readers that kind of free will.

Cori: Free will? Isn’t our story about free will?

Lissa: Again, touché, my astute, sarcastic, and masochistic friend.

Cori: So, keeping in mind Lissa’s god-complex and my need to give free will (I guess that makes me kind of like a god, too.) we needed a way to blend our two styles of conflict resolution. The problem—how do two authors with different god-like complexes come to a compromise?

Lissa: It was surprisingly easy. We chose to end our book by resolving the central conflict. (Yay, I win!)

Cori: But, the resolution is very short-lived because the secondary conflict is very much unresolved, which sets up the central conflict in book two. (Yay, I win too!)

With the ending we have now, THE ONLY EXCEPTION will work as a stand-alone novel. There is sufficient resolution for the heroine and her love interest. However, THE ONLY EXCEPTION does have series potential. In our minds, the main character has more to accomplish before the story is completely finished.

Lissa: We’d like to know your thoughts. Do you prefer a story with a clearly defined ending or an open-ended, inadequate attempt at an ending? Please leave us a comment and take our poll. We really want to know your thoughts.

Cori: We may or may not get back to you on this topic; it’s completely open-ended at this time!

Lissa: Whatever, you know my need for resolution will compel me to respond to your comments.

(And Cori, you’re not fooling anybody. You’re far too sweet to ignore the comments of our adoring fans!)

Peace out and word to your…

“What is love? Baby, don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more!”

We are two, thirty-something females who have kids and very busy lives. It’s rare for us to break away from our routines and find time for ourselves, but when we do, one could almost always find us snuggled in bed with a book. We read for a number of reasons, but most often we read to escape. We’re sure it has something to do with the amount of estrogen coursing through our bodies, but we adamantly believe that all great novels need some kind of romance in the plot. A book can be beautifully written and have an incredible plot line, but it could have been better if the author added even a subplot of romance. You may disagree with us, but apparently, we’re not alone.

In 2010, The Romance Writers of America published some statistics regarding the sales of books:
•Romance fiction: $1.358 billion in estimated revenue for 2010
Religion/inspirational: $759 million
Mystery: $682 million
Science fiction/fantasy: $559 million
Classic literary fiction: $455 million

Although the 2011 revenue statistics are not presently available, the projected romance fiction revenue was around $1.368 billion. As you can see, this genre is blowing all others away.

We discussed this fact at length one evening, and came to the conclusion that our society’s obsession with romance fiction stems from a deeply rooted void regarding “love.” Today’s media outlets flood our minds with images and ideas about what “true” love is and what it’s supposed to “feel” like. But clearly, this definition is flawed. Divorce rates are at an all-time high and as a result, society’s view of marriage is deteriorating. More and more couples are living together without getting married because everywhere we look we’re told that love is temporary. It’s a feeling capable of waxing and waning, so we just need to enjoy it while it lasts. We believe this tragic reality is precisely what is driving millions of women (and a few good men) to purchase romance fiction.

There’s something captivating about a “written” love story. The characters are often times held to higher standards, they’re better communicators, and their love usually isn’t tainted by some depraved societal norm. At the end of most romance novels, the reader is left with a believable hope that the hero and heroine will be together forever. This “fantasy” is exactly what our “love-starved” society is craving.

Before we set out to write our own “epic” love story, we knew we had some work to do. We wanted our story to redefine society’s definition of love. However, we were fully aware that this task would be no easy feat, for we are only two estrogen-driven females up against a testosterone-driven entertainment business. In less than 500 pages, we wanted our readers to make an emotional connection to our characters, forget about their preconceived notions of love, and believe that “true” love is possible.

We began our research for the perfect definition of love with Wikipedia (the most accurate research tool in existence), Dictionary.com, and Google, and we discovered…NOTHING. Apparently the internet is as ignorant of the definition of love as our society. Because our internet efforts were in vain, we were left with no other choice than to seek the meaning of love from the ultimate love story—The Bible. Regardless of a person’s religious beliefs (or lack thereof), there’s a reason 1 Corinthians 13 is read at almost every wedding, for it is here that we learn the purest definition of love.

“4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

We believe there is no better definition of love than this. We wanted our hero and heroine to embody these principles; we wanted every decision they faced to be governed by these ideals. Because THIS is true love in its purest form, and THAT is what our society is missing and WHAT readers are searching for in books.

Once we found our “true” love definition, our plot began to unfold quickly. We needed only to remember these principles whenever our characters were faced with a choice. When our book was finished, we discovered it had a recurring theme: The opposite of love is not hate but rather—self.

We live in an incredibly self-seeking society. Everyone is looking out for numero uno and, as a result, has very little regard for the feelings of others. It is our hope, however pretentious it may be, that our book will inspire its readers to redefine their personal definition of love. Long after the last page is read, we want our readers to know that our characters’ love will carry on forever, even if the choices they make don’t adhere to society’s definition of what “true” love is.

For your listening pleasure…some “epic” love songs: