About LauraSheehan

Author (romance, suspense, fantasy, paranormal, sci-fi), performer (dancer, actor, singer), animal-lover, chocoholic, happy wife.

Where have I been?

Sorry for the long hiatus, everyone!  My life has been a bit chaotic lately.  Where have I been and what have I been up to, you ask?

In a nutshell, I’ve been busy brewing a small human being for the last nine months, and in a few weeks (plus or minus), Baby Girl should finally be gracing us with her presence!  That’s right, ladies and gents: I’m pregnant!  Very, very, very pregnant.

We went from THIS:

January 2014, our first ultrasound. Baby Girl had been brewing for about 6 weeks here!

January 2014, our first ultrasound. Baby Girl had been brewing for about 6 weeks here!

To THIS:

Look at the size of that belly!  And this photo is from 3 weeks ago!

Early July 2014. Look at the size of that belly! And this photo is from 3 weeks ago!

I’ve been very lucky to have an incredibly supportive husband who has been waiting on me hand and foot since we got the news back in early December.  It’s a good thing, too, because the first five months of pregnancy were pretty hard for me.  I had morning sickness well into my 2nd trimester, and it was the all-day kind.  The kind that eventually landed me in the E.R. and required medication to keep in check.

Luckily that stage of the pregnancy is long gone, and now all I have to deal with is the sore muscles, ache-y back, swollen ankles, fatigue, and the occasional kick to the cervix/ribs/bladder when I’m trying to give a presentation at work.

All kidding aside, though, it’s actually been quite wonderful overall (and I’ll take the occasional kick to the bladder over nausea any day!).

jamba baby

Jamba Juice Mama.

Our friends and family have all been wonderfully supportive as well, and we’ve been lucky to receive a lot of hand-me-downs and baby shower gifts to help prepare our home for the new member of the family.

June 28 baby Shower

We’ve got the crib set up, the stroller and car seat assembled and ready to go, a stash of diapers (both reusable and disposable), and enough baby clothes that Baby Girl probably won’t have to wear anything more than once for the first 6 months of her life!

Now it’s just a matter of waiting until she arrives. As nice as it will be to finally be able to sleep on my belly or back, and to walk across the house without getting out of breath, and see my toes again, I’m not in a huge rush yet.  There is still plenty to do to be better prepared before she arrives. My husband is almost finished installing new hardwood (laminate) flooring in our condo, the kitchen could use a good scrubbing, and I could use all the time I can get to prepare my day-job colleagues for my maternity leave.  But I suppose that will always be the case; one can never actually be 100% prepared for a baby.  That’s half the fun: expecting the unexpected!

Ready or not, baby, here you come!

Ready or not, baby, here you come!

So, thank you for your patience while we finish creating this new life and bringing her into this wonderful world of ours.

And stay tuned for some exciting writing-related news!  Believe it or not, I managed to write a steamy, contemporary romance novella during all of this pregnancy chaos, and it will be hitting e-shelves this autumn as part of the SEDUCTION anthology.  Check back soon for a sneak peek of the cover art and release date!

 

 

Romance Genre Basics

This article originally appeared in the March 2014 issue of LARA Confidential, the newsletter for RWA Chapter 25, Los Angeles Romance Authors.

GENRE BASICS
By Laura Sheehan

The definition of romance as a literary genre is fairly straightforward. Per the RWA website, the two basic elements that define romance are:

A Central Love Story: The main plot centers around individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. A writer can include as many subplots as he/she wants as long as the love story is the main focus of the novel.

An Emotionally Satisfying and Optimistic Ending: In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love.

books

This definition is simple, almost to a fault. So many stories can fall under this definition! And so the subgenres evolved. Still under the umbrella of “romance,” we can find dozens of stories that can be categorized into more specific groups. Some examples include:

Historical Romance: These novels are set in a specific time period in history. Authors strive to create a historically-accurate background for their stories, and will often weave authentic language, characters, dress, politics, and other details into their plots. Historical Romances can be written in any previous time period or location, despite the fact that many of us automatically associate “historical romance” with those stories set in Regency or Victorian England. Other popular settings include Medieval England, Viking Romances, Renaissance, Colonial U.S., and Civil War/Reconstruction U.S., although you can find romances set in almost any period in history.
Inspirational Romance: These novels incorporate religious or spiritual beliefs as an integral part of the romantic relationship. Although non-denominational by its definition, currently most novels written within this genre are Christian-based. Often, one or more of the characters in these stories will need to overcome a crisis of faith during the story’s arc, which must be resolved. Depending on the religious guidelines of the book in question, often there will be restrictions on the type of behavior that characters will be engaged in (e.g., no pre-marital sex). Amish romances would fall into this category.
Paranormal Romance: This subgenre is difficult to define, because it encompasses any romance that incorporates paranormal/fantasy elements or settings. This means that science fiction romances would fall under this category, as well as any story that includes shape-shifters, vampires, fae, witches, magic, ghosts, demons, elves, etc. Romances which take place in a setting other than the current period or known history would also be categorized as paranormal, such as alternate histories or those set in the future, as well as stories which take place on different planes or planets. Time-Travel, Urban Fantasy, and Steampunk are three examples of sub-subgenres that would fall under this category.
Romantic Suspense: Identifying features of this subgenre include elements of danger, action, tension, thrills, adventure, rescue, and/or mystery. In romantic suspense, the hero/heroine may have to traverse a series of nail-biting adventures before they can live happily ever after. Some people define romantic thrillers has having a more wide-reaching sense of danger than romantic suspense novels (e.g., in a romantic suspense the antagonist may be a jilted lover who is bent on revenge; whereas in a romantic thriller the antagonist may be an international crime lord bent on starting a nuclear war). Mysteries are also often categorized under this genre, as they frequently include elements of tension, danger, and action.
Young-Adult Romance: The target audience for books in this genre are adolescents and young adults, although many adults read this genre as well. Often abbreviated as YA, these stories almost always have an adolescent hero/heroine. The internal conflicts in these stories typically are consistent with the age of the protagonist(s), but the external conflicts can vary widely (everything from the normal coming-of-age conflicts to saving the universe from destruction). New Adult is a recently created subgenre that focuses on older adolescents or young adults (18-25 years of age).
LGBT Romance: Like YA, this categorization focuses more on the identifying characteristics of the main characters, rather than the setting, plot, or tone of the novel itself. In LGBT romances, the hero/heroine(s) identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Many LGBT romances can fall under the definition of other subgenres as well.
Erotic Romance: Most of the aforementioned subgenres can sustain a variety of heat levels (from chaste to steamy), with inspirational romance being an exception. However, if the sexual content of the story is the primary focus, it can be considered an erotic romance. In these stories, the sexual interactions are integral to the plot, character growth, and development of the relationship. It should be noted, however, that there is a difference between erotic romance and erotica. The primary goal of erotica is to elicit sexual desire or satisfaction. Unlike erotic romance, erotica novels do not need to focus on the emotion of love and they do not necessarily need to have a happily-ever-after ending.
Contemporary Romance: Often, romance novels that don’t fall under one of the subcategories above will be considered Contemporary Romance. The only defining factor for this subgenre (besides the general factors which define a romance: a primary focus on the romantic relationship and a happy ending) is that they are set in the current time period.

Sometimes a book may fall under more than one subgenre. Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight, for example, can be classified as a contemporary, paranormal, young-adult romance. Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander contains elements of historical romance, paranormal, and suspense.

If you need to choose a single genre under which your novel would primarily be categorized (e.g., in order to choose the correct category for a contest submission), consider where your book would be shelved at a bookstore and which readers you are trying to attract. For example, some readers simply do not like paranormal. If your main character is a psychic with the magical ability to read people’s minds, it doesn’t matter how much danger and adventure your heroine faces, you would be better off classifying it as a paranormal rather than a suspense. The young-adult subgenre also trumps most other genres as the primary classification. For example, even though the Mortal Instruments books (by Cassandra Clare) could be considered paranormal, suspense, and contemporary, their YA distinction overrules the rest as its primary categorization.

There are almost certainly some subgenres that I’ve forgotten to include here, and even more that have yet to be defined. I expect that as the romance genre readership continues to expand, so too will the diversity of its content.

Laura Sheehan writes romantic suspense, paranormal, and fantasy/sci-fi. Her award-winning romantic suspense, Dancing with Danger (published by Red Sage), can be purchased online at Amazon, B&N.com, and the Red Sage website.

Advice on Book Readings, from a Newbie

Book'd in Burbank - July 2013In July I was invited to participate in Book’d in Burbank, a literary event with author readings, bookish entertainment, and social mingling for fans of the written word. It was the first time I’d been asked to read aloud a section of my book (DANCING WITH DANGER), and I was terrified.

Which is sort of funny, because I’ve been performing on stage since I was a kid. I’ve danced for crowds of rowdy sports fans, I’ve sung in theatres that seat hundreds of people, and I’ve undressed down to my bra and panties on screen for a film role. I’ve also given speeches, some rehearsed, some not, to groups of five to 50. Twice a week I stand in front of half a dozen men and women to teach beginning jazz dance.

Sure, I’ve gotten nervous beforehand.  Butterflies in the belly are just part of the game, and I’m no stranger to the shaky-hands, dry mouth, flushed cheeks we all get as a result of the adrenaline rush from being in front of a crowd.

But this was different.

They wanted me to read a selection from my book. My baby.  The manuscript I’d struggled to write for over a year, and then spent another year revising before finally getting published. My precious novel that I secretly stalk on Amazon, and Goodreads, and BarneandNoble.com to see if anyone new has posted a review for it.

Oh, dear lord, what had I gotten myself into?

Questions and doubt and nerves sprung to life in a frenzy, like cats at the sound of a can opening. What section should I read? How many pages? How much background should I provide before starting?  Am I supposed to use voices? What if people can’t understand me? Do I have to start at the beginning of the book? What if I give too much away and no one wants to read the book after? Where’s my chocolate???

I forced myself to take a deep breath.  As the first order of business, I found my chocolate.

chocolateAs the second order of business, I sat down and thought about it from the perspective of the reader: what would I want to hear from an author?

I decided I’d want to hear something that would give me a sense of the characters in the book and a taste of the author’s voice/writing style.  The plot wouldn’t matter as much, since authors could give a quick introduction at the start that would serve as a back-of-book blurb.  I’d want it to be long enough to get a good taste, but not so long as to drag. I made a note to choose a section that would allow listeners to get a feel for who the hero or the heroine (or both) really were, and that would leave the audience wanting more.

I then turned to my RWA sisters and sought their advice. Had any of them done this before? Any words of wisdom to share?

Luckily Dee J. Adams, sister LARA member and multi-published author, answered my call.  “There’s no law that says you have to start at the beginning,” she assured me. In fact, the sample on Audible of her most recent audio book was taken from a later chapter, rather than the opening one.

As an actress and dialogue coach for television, Adams also had some great advice regarding mechanics, and she reminded me to read slowly and enunciate. “Let people take in the words and visualize the picture you are creating,” she advised.

One area I was particularly concerned about was being able to give the characters enough of their own voice to distinguish them.  As any good writer, I didn’t have a tag after each line of dialogue identifying who the speaker was.  Perfectly fine for reading, but when spoken out loud, I’d have to make sure it was obvious which character was speaking. “You can give each [character] their own voice by changing the pace or tonal qualities without having to worry about creating a distinct voice for each character,” Adams assured me. “Don’t do a voice you’re uncomfortable with. All the characters are your voice with subtle differences to denote the change of character.”

This was good advice, but took a lot of practice.  At one point I had narrowed down my book selection to two scenes, the first had two male characters and one female character, and the other had two females and a male. I ended up going with the latter, and this was partially due to the fact that I was having a difficult time creating enough of a difference between the two men’s voices without overdoing it. The scene with the two females was also challenging because one of them was a primarily Spanish-speaking character, but once I managed to speak her dialogue with just the tiniest hint of a Spanish accent, it worked well.

Adams’ advice to stick with what was comfortable was probably the best advice I received.  My novel is steamy, and there are some dance sequences and love scenes that will set your panties on fire. I’m very proud of these chapters and their panty-scorching abilities. But after a bit of practice I determined that there was no way in hell I was going to read any of them aloud. The words in these sections were seductive, but my ultimate goal wasn’t to seduce the audience, I just wanted to engage them.

In the end, I decided on a section from the end of the first chapter.  It was early enough to not ruin any of the plot and allowed the listening audience to get to know the characters in the same way that the reading audience did.  I cut out a few sentences here and there, mostly sections that provided background that are relevant when reading the entire book, but weren’t necessary for the section I was reading at the moment. Since it was from the end of a chapter, it had a finish that deliberately enticed the audience to read/hear more, and yet was still satisfying.

I practiced and practiced and practiced and practiced. I created a cheat sheet with the text printed in large font, line breaks for when I wanted to pause for effect, and italicized words to remind me of the correct emphases. Each character’s dialogue was color-coded so I could know at a glance who was speaking and make sure I was using the right “voice.”  I performed it in front of a mirror, read it for my hubby, and recorded myself.

And all my work paid off!  Aside from a brief moment of panic when I attempted to make eye contact with the audience and subsequently lost my place, the big event went well. People laughed at the jokes, sighed at the sweet moments, and cheered at the end.  At the after-party I received several compliments and was asked how many times I’d done it, and I spent the next half hour basking in the glory of their surprise when I confessed I had been an Author Reading Virgin until that night.

Book'd in Burbank - Laura Sheehan - Dancing with Danger

(photo by Judy Diep)

So now that I’m a successful, experienced, old-hat Author Reading Expert, allow me to pass on the wisdom I’ve learned over the years, er, weeks:

  • Don’t worry if you stumble over a few words. No one is expecting perfection. Be like Dory and just keep swimming.
  • Find a section you are comfortable with, in terms of content as well as the delivery required.
  • Don’t read a section that requires too much backstory.  Your intro should identify the characters, their names, and the general idea of the scene. (E.g., “Lily is a dancer who is working at a coffee shop to make ends meet. Her best friend, Judy, works at the coffee shop along with her.  They are in the middle of their shift when Marc, an L.A.P.D. officer, comes in for a drink.”)
  • Practice. Practice. Practice some more.
  • Record yourself. Yes, I know, I hate the sound of my own voice too. But I guarantee you that no one else thinks you sound weird. The point of the recording is to check for enunciation and slurred words. Be sure you are speaking loudly enough and clearly enough to be understood.
  • If the host of the event doesn’t do so for you, don’t be shy about introducing yourself and your book to the audience in the best light possible. If you’re a NYT bestseller, by Jove, let them know!
  • On the same note, don’t oversell yourself or your book.  The audience is there because they like books and are curious to learn about yours. You don’t need to need to convince them that you are God’s gift to the writing world.  As Han Solo would say, “Don’t get cocky.”
  • Sloooow dooown. Adrenaline makes us want to charge full speed ahead, and that five-minute section you practiced will all of a sudden be finished in three.  Recognize this, and mark sections in your notes where you force yourself to pause.
  • Have fun!  The audience knows you’re a writer, not a speech-giver, they will be forgiving.  If you enjoy yourself, so will they.

Laura Sheehan is a romantic suspense, fantasy, and paranormal romance author.  Her award-winning debut novel, DANCING WITH DANGER, is available online at Amazon, B&N.com, and Red Sage. She can be found online at: ReadLaura.com; Facebook; Twitter (@TimesNewLaura); and Google+.

Performing in Spamalot

If you’re in the Los Angeles area, I welcome you to attend a performance of Spamalot, the fantastically funny musical theatre production that I’m dancing in this summer.

Camelot

The show runs from June 29 to August 3, 2013 at the Morgan-Wixson Theatre at 2627 Pico Blvd. in Santa Monica. Showtimes are at 8pm on Fridays and Saturdays and 2pm on Sunday. You can buy tickets online or at the box office (which is open Wed-Fri, 4-7pm; phone: 310-828-7519).

Lovingly ripped off from the classic film comedy Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Spamalot was the 2005 Tony winner for Best Musical and tells the tale of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table as they embark on their quest for the Holy Grail. Flying cows, killer rabbits, taunting Frenchmen, and show-stopping musical numbers, this production has it all.

Alone

The original 2005 Broadway production, directed by Mike Nichols, won three Tony Awards, including the Tony Award for Best Musical of the 2004–2005 season and received 14 Tony Award nominations. During its initial run of over 1,500 performances it was seen by more than two million people and grossed over $175 million.

Salsa

I’ve been having a blast performing in this production, and would love to see you there.  My husband, Matthew Sheehan is serving as the Stage Manager (which means he gets to “assist” me with my many costume changes, something he’s thoroughly enjoying).

I hope you can come check it out! Remember, what happens in Camelot, stays in Camelot.

Morgan Wixson Spamalot

 

Continue reading

Speaking at Book’d in Burbank

On Thursday, July 18th 2013 I will be speaking at Book’d in Burbank, a fantastic literary event hosted by Liz D at Theatre Banshee in Burbank. Festivities include Young Adult (YA), Mystery, and Romance (that’s me!) author readings, a gift basket raffle and books giveaway, stand-up literary comedy, a dessert & mingling reception, and a charitable book drive to benefit the Los Angeles County affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Tickets are just $10, and gets you a free raffle ticket. I would love to see you there!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

8:00 P.M – 9:30 P.M

Theatre Banshee at 3435 W. Magnolia, Burbank

 

bookd

DANCING WITH DANGER is a 2013 Booksellers Best Award Finalist!

I am absolutely thrilled to announce that my novel, DANCING WITH DANGER, is a double finalist for the 2013 Booksellers Best Award! My book is up for Best Romantic Suspense, as well as Best First Book.  This prestigious contest is hosted by the Greater Detroit Romance Writers of America, and this year I am honored and humbled to find my name listed among some of the best romance writers of today (Brenda Novak! Sabrina Jeffries! Kate St. James! Courtney Milan! Jodi Thomas! ACK – there are just too many too list here).

A full list of the finalists can be found at the GDRWA website.  The wiinners will be announced at the at the RWA National Conference in Atlanta this July.

Thank you to all of my supporters, friends, family, and fans! What a ride.

2013BBAfinalist Dancing with Danger (cover art) - by Laura Sheehan

Guest Blogging at Savvy Authors about Organization for Writers

Join me today at Savvy Authors for “A Pantser’s Guide to Organization.”

Savvy Authors
I’m a pantser, I admit it. Unlike “plotters,” who map out the details of their novel with outlines and character arcs and scene structures before writing, those of us who prefer to “write by the seat of our pants” tend to only have a general direction for our material before we take off.

But although my stories seem to grow organically, sprouting somewhat willy-nilly from the garden of my imagination, I don’t have the luxury of behaving in such a manner when it comes to my career as an author.

I have discovered, sometimes the hard way, that I need to be organized, diligent, and often (gasp!) plan ahead when it comes to managing and advancing my business as an author.

Almost every aspect of being a professional author requires some organizational structure, even if your story development process doesn’t.

So join me at Savvy Authors today to learn how organization can help authors during the writing process, throughout the querying process, and for tax purposes.

Interviewed on Krystal Shannan’s Blog

Krystal Shannan, author of the Pool of Souls and Vegas Mates paranormal romance series, interviewed me on her blog today!  Join us and discover what inspired me to write romantic fiction. Hear my story about how  DANCING WITH DANGER was published, find out if I’m a plotter or a pantser, and learn my answer to the age-old question “boxers or briefs?”

Leave a comment on her blog for a chance to win a free copy of DANCING WITH DANGER!

Krystal_Shannan_Bloghttp://krystalshannan.com/3/post/2013/03/krystal-shannan-interviews-laura-sheehan.html

Five Minute Love Stories by LARA

The first day of spring is just around the corner, and with it will come fresh blooms of flowers and sunshine breezes.  All over the country, nature’s animals are pairing off and becoming twitterpated.

spring

In the spirit of the season, what better way to celebrate than with the new romance anthology “Five Minute Love Stories?” This series of super-short romance stories will sweeten anyone’s day.

Five Minute Love StoriesWritten by Los Angeles’s finest romance authors, there’s a story for everyone in this collection.  For those of you who enjoyed Dancing with Danger, check out my sweet time-travel romance story entitled “Five Years, Five Minutes.”

Other authors in the anthology include: Robin Bielman, Veronica Scott, Christine London, Leigh CourtChellesie B. DancerDebbie Decker, Beverly Diehl, Samanthe Beck, Debra KristiBrenna Johns, Scarlett Llewyllyn, Brenda Scott Royce, Lisa Weseman.Robert Hacker,  Kathleen Cadman,  Kristin Elizabeth, and Janie Emaus.

A Dancer’s Guide to Writing

I began dancing when I was ten years old, and have never stopped.  Ballet, jazz, tap, modern, musical theatre, I love it all. To me, my passion for dance plays perfectly into my passion for writing.

How, you ask?

Dance is communication.  Dancers have the ability to manipulate their body with musicality and form; good dancers can do this while also conveying emotion; and great dancers will make all of that seem inconsequential as they transport you to another world.  And writers do all of this with their words, rather than their bodies.

I firmly believe that everyone can dance.  All you need is the desire to do so, and the courage to get your butt onto the dance floor.  The same is true for writing: Everyone can write, all you need is the desire and courage to do so. But the difference between a dancer and a great dancer is the same difference between that of a writer and a great writer: passion and training.

So in that vein, here is my Dancer’s Guide to Writing:

  • Know your craft. You cannot become a prima ballerina without knowing how to plié. So don’t assume you can write the next bestseller until you understand the importance of grammar, character development, and story pacing.
  • Practice makes perfect.  Even Baryshnikov, one of the most celebrated ballet dancers in history, knows he must take class everyday. Writers are no different.  Your first draft will never be perfect.  Recognize that revisions are just a part of the writing process and be prepared to sweat through them regularly.
  • Merde. Just as actors tell each other to “break a leg” before a performance, ballerinas will wish each other “merde.”  In French (ballet’s mother tongue), merde means “shit.”  Legend says that this tradition began back in the days of the horse-and-carriage, where the success of a show could be measured by the size of the audience (and therefore the number of horse-led carriages).  In short: the more horseshit in front of the theatre, the better.  So what does this have to do with writing?  The more successful you are, the more shit you will have to put up with.  Erroneous reviews, ridiculous criticisms, unfair expectations… shit will happen.  Expect it.  Welcome it. It means you’re doing something right.
  • Dance like no one is watching.  Don’t hold back out of fear of what people might say or think.  As an artist, you must be willing to lay yourself bare.  Don’t cater to an audience, your passion must come from within. How can you inspire others if you do not inspire yourself?
  • Do it full-out.  In dancer terminology, there are two ways of dancing: marking it, and doing it full-out. Typically, dancers only “mark it” when they are learning a new piece of choreography, but once the steps have been committed to memory, dancers are expected to do it “full-out.”  In other (more vulgar) words, “marking it” means half-assing it, whereas “full-out” means balls-to-the-wall.  Marking it might be easier, but you’ll never learn what you’re capable of until you go full-out.
  • The show must go on. The lead has laryngitis, your costume ripped, the stage manager is drunk, someone spilled water on the stage, and there are only eight people in the audience?  Doesn’t matter.  Life is always going to throw roadblocks that may make you feel like there is no chance of success.  Ignore them.  Don’t let anything distract you from your goals.  The page is your stage, and no matter what, the show must go on.
  • Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.  Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers had it right: don’t let mistakes keep you down.  “Work like a soul inspired, ’til the battle of the day is won.”

Ruth St. Denis once said that dance is a form of communication that can “express what is too deep to find for words.”

As authors, let it be your goal to prove St. Denis wrong.

~ Laura Sheehan, author of DANCING WITH DANGER (Red Sage)

Dancing with Danger (cover art) - by Laura Sheehan

[This article was originally published in the December 2012 issue of LARA Confidential, the newsletter of the Los Angeles Romance Authors (LARA) chapter of the Romance Writers of America and may be shared or reprinted with credit to author and chapter.]