Imaginative romance author, Landra Graf, is famed for writing across several genres about intriguing heroes and spunky protagonists. She conveys romance in a broad range of genres while honoring diversity. I’ve followed her writing for years and am thrilled to share her notions on how to maintain story structure in every story-telling flavor.
Question: You advocate for writers to read books based on what they enjoy and not limit their reading list to the genres they write. What elements do you apply to your stories when evaluating a different genre from what you write?
Answer: Everything. Honestly, reading different writers in general opens your mind to more possibilities from conflict and resolution, wounds characters suffer from, and even deep point-of-view and sensory details. There are so many different ways to tell a story as well. Recently I finished Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston and the book left a good mark on me. The story was engaging, but what threw me is that McQuiston wrote the entire thing in 2nd person point-of-view. I’ve never read that before and found the change of pace interesting. I’m not sure if I will attempt it myself, but I’ve been trying to see why this worked for the story and how did it make the story better.
Question: You hook the reader in your Cupid Cafe openings by showing strong protagonists who happen to need rescuing by sensitive heroes. How do you keep the reader engaged in the beginning?
Answer: I try to provide an interesting premise and loads of personality. Though I think my goal is to show protagonists as relatable and human, giving readers something, they can signify with, allowing them to have empathy for the characters and connect in a way that wants to see the protagonists complete their journey.
Question: You write dynamic romances between complex characters with explosive settings in your Bad Boys of Space series. In addition to placing hooks in the beginning, you are celebrated for shock factors. Please share an example of a shock factor from one of your novels.
Answer: Ooh, that’s hard because I don’t want to ruin the story for the reader, but shock factors are always about doing the unexpected or sending a character into the worst place imaginable. One of my shock factors is where the bad guy the protagonists were worried about isn’t the one they should be concerned with, shocking with the reader the realization that the danger isn’t over, the worst is yet to come. It screams, “Turn the page.”
Question: In your Beyond Fairytales series, you engage readers with your compelling setup where your protagonist has lost her brother to a curse. What is the secret for getting readers to remain engaged with your characters?
Answer: Refrain from the info dump and telling vs. showing. Allow the character to drop little bits of them, their past, onto the page like droplets of water. Slowly unfolding their secrets throughout the story. Showing their personality through actions and mannerisms, instead of simply stating a character is one way or another. Both of these tie into deep points-of-view, getting close to those characters so the readers feel close.
Question: You write sci-fi, paranormal, and alternate history romances. All of these show your strong imagination, but they fall under different genres. How important is it for a story to fulfill the elements of a specific genre?
Answer: Fulfilling the elements of a specific genre is super important. Even more so to read within the genre to be able to offer unique takes, fresh ideas, but also still meet the expectations of the readers. While those genres may not be my favorite to read, I find more I can offer when reading them.
Thank you for so very much for sharing your craft. You have graced many lives with your love stories.
You can peruse Landra Graf’s full list of books at https://www.landragraf.com.
Cheerio! Savvy Author’s has graced me with a forum for teaching my course, Adding Funny to Your Romance, beginning May 3, 2021.
I love to laugh. My childhood nickname was “Giggle Box” because my giggle box would tip over and I couldn’t get it back upright. Once I got to laughing, I couldn’t stop.
My closest relationships are with those who make me laugh. When I recall my first memories of meeting people, it is the moment they put a smile on my face, or else I had to rest my head on my desk to hide my overturned giggle box from my teacher. Even those one-liners my friends used to tell me are my most notable recollections during the many years we stay in touch.
Love is bound by laughter. How can you really hold a grudge against someone who brings joy into your life?
I write with a goal to put a smile on the reader’s day. I’d aspire to elevate the reader’s outlook.
Brightening others day with your material will win them over. But why is this significant, because adding funny to your romance connects the reader with your characters?
We identify with others who have similar experiences. This is why family traditions and travel build ties. It’s the sense of survival we get from overcoming challenges we face.
We feel a bond with those who join us in a good laugh. Great minds think alike, right? And what better way to have a mutual mindset than by getting each other, knowing how the other person views life and processes events takes our relationships to a deeper level. We find ourselves being drawn to people who “get us” or understand where we are coming from.
Take a moment each day to spread the funny in your relationships. The little time it takes to put a grin on another’s face pays off ten-fold.
For all you writers interested in adding funny to your stories, please join me in my course, Adding Funny to Your Romance. I hope to see you there!
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Adding Funny to Your Romance
Life goes on. Rockets are being launched for a greater future. And an amazing now!
No matter how bad things get, someone out there is thinking forward. Someone out there is planning for a better tomorrow instead of getting wrapped up with the unpleasantries of today.
Let that someone be you!!
My grandmother would tell me stories of when my family lived through the Depression. She never seemed sad or remorseful.
She’d smile as she described my grandfather uprooting their family of five and relocating to a different state in search of work. He hit the pavement with only one leg. A man asked him why he thought he could find a job at such trying times. My grandfather said, “Because I’ve got three little mouths to feed.”
What resonated about my grandmother’s memories was the fact she told about the good times with the same emotion she gave the bad times. She viewed them as having the same weight.
For every hardship, there is a reward. For all the difficult years, there are prosperous ones.
When I see a rocket launch, I feel respect for the focus and time it took to reach that dynamic moment. Not everyone pauses from life when things don’t go the way a person wishes.
Make a point to launch your rocket today.
Photos taken by Jan Wilder Bill
A modest warehouse off a beaten path in Florida shelters billions of dollars worth of guts and glory. It’s a rare moment in history when a person proves the impossible but CEO, Senior ORCA Scientist, Dr. Edie Widder, can show you a living sea monster.
According to sailor’s superstitions, two fifty-foot-long sea monsters could be summoned by name. They would rise out from the depths, wrap their eight arms and two tentacles around a ship, and drag it to the ocean’s floor. The wake created by the creatures’ stirred into a whirlpool that drown any remaining sailors. Over time, the world became more populated, ships more common, and yet giant squids were never seen —
— until Dr. Widder invented a camera for taking photos 1000s of feet underwater. She can even escort you deep into the ocean in her submersible glass pods. She proved the giant squids in Viking sagas and Scandinavian stories were real.
Dr. Edith Widder founded the Ocean Research & Conservation Association intended to save the marine ecosystem from threats. With deep dive accolades and a specialization in bioluminescent fish, she is famous for surviving hundreds of submersible dives.
I was invited to an unveiling of a line of submersibles and awed to meet the person responsible for world-changing inventions. How does a person become so huge?
Question: Dr. Widder, your marine biology career began with piloting Atmospheric Diving Systems and deep dives in Wasp diving suits. Did you intend to outperform others or did you simply follow your passion and let whatever came of it unfold?
Answer: My first dive in the Wasp changed the course of my career. When I turned out the lights I knew I would see bioluminescence – animals making light – but I was completely unprepared for the astonishing number of light emitters I saw. I wanted to understand more about the phenomenon and what part it played in the open ocean, which is the largest and least explored ecosystem on the planet.
Question: The marine biology field is competitive with scientists vying to make discoveries. What characteristics did you utilize in becoming a leader in such a controversial field?
Answer: Exploring requires optimism and persistence. I have a motto pinned to my wall that has been a guiding principle for me: Success in life depends on how well you handle Plan B. Anyone can handle Plan A.
Question: You established the non-profit organization, ORCA, intended to save marine life and protect our oceans. Was this a situation where you gave up everything to be a pioneer or did you have support before embarking into such a challenging study?
Answer: When I started the Ocean Research & Conservation Association in 2005 it was a very scary undertaking. Up until then I had enjoyed this amazing academic career using submersibles to explore the ocean in new ways. I thought I was giving up that life in order to give back to the ocean. As things turned out I have been able to keep doing the exploration research while also doing the ocean conservation work that ORCA is focused on. This has only been possible because of the amazing team of people that make up TeamORCA.
Question: The images you’ve captured of newly discovered sea-life appeared on postage stamps. Did you seek out opportunities to expand your market or did you stay focused on your ORCA tasks and they found you?
Answer: I’ve been very focused on ORCA. The post office contacted me to ask if I had any images that might be appropriate for a series of 10 new stamps they wanted to release on bioluminescence. I was very honored that the ended up using 7 of my images.
Question: You were the chief scientist to capture images of the Humboldt squid off Chile, and the Architeuthis squid in U.S. waters. Once you reached your goal to show what lives in the deep, did you immediately get inspired to make another world-change?
Answer: I frequently get asked “What’s next?” and one thing I’ve been discussing with a couple of different groups is possibly mounting an expedition to film the Colossal Squid, which is not quite as long as the giant squid, but it’s much heavier and has the added allure for me that it’s bioluminescent.
Question: You have been on Ted Talk, BBC, PBS, the Discovery Channel and National Geographic, received the MacArthur Fellowship, and participated in the Ted Mission Blue Voyage in the Galapagos Islands. As a leader in your field, do you consider recognition to be a reward for your endeavors or do you appreciate notoriety as a means for promoting your ORCA mission?
Answer: The international attention garnered from filming the giant squid has provided a means to communicate important information to a much wider audience about what it means to live on an ocean planet and what we need to be doing to protect our life support systems.
Dr. Edie Widder, it was an honor to meet you in person. Your scientific contributions to everyone on the planet today, and all who will come after us, don’t even hint at your humility and kindness. You are an example of how following your passion can serve others.
Thank you for taking time to share your thoughts on what it takes to become a world leader.
You can find Dr. Edie Widder at http://www.teamorca.org.
Finally, something to look forward to! After months of dreading to leave my house, days of studying new restrictions, hours of reading innovative guidelines, we all have Autumn as motivation to carry on.
My roots come from the South. In the Delta, it was taught for us’ens to avoid anything to do with All Hallow’s Eve. Now, I’m not going to get preaching and share the reasons why. This is about celebrating the fact throughout history we all choose to celebrate.
Some can attach all kinds of gore to a day selected for an excuse to pamper kids with treats. Others can judge about the doomsday Second Coming on a night rejoiced with unbiased creativity. Halloween serves as an inspiration for us as a community to get through whatever crass world events we are facing.
There are those who decorate their yards with flare, and the kind who stick with modest lights in the kitchen. One child grabs a pillowcase and white sheet while another plans his costume down to the brass buttons and rolled socks.
Halloween is what you make of it. Even if you have disdain for those who predeceased us all, it is a time for neighbors to gather and for kids to stay out late on a school night. Adults get to share the joy of breaking free from their routines for one evening.
One neighborhood opens their doors to street parties. The local shopping centers offer freebies and a safe haven. Schools, well, they still give the same amount of homework. But the atmosphere buzzes.
This year, our home feels homier than typical, because, like all of you, we have reached that first hurdle of the holiday season. This is cause for baking and delighting and gathering. If the temperature drops, we will be snuggling under blankets as well. Until then, an extra pecan pie dish is in order.
Let this season inspire you to recall your family roots. Go back to the days where indulgence for a few hours one night was viewed as healthy for your mind and spirit. The focus wasn’t on whether a person broke a rule about one of the thousands of disciplinary topics we are all familiar with. For once, make this festivity about planning a nationwide party everyone is invited to attend.
This season’s challenge: Get Inspired to have Fun!
Fun never left. Merely our focus shifted to the doomsday perspective. But you can dress in whichever costume you want to bring into your life. T’is the season to celebrate.
Break out that fringe to add to your mask. Incorporate a character from history known for wearing a mask. Fulfill your dream to live in another’s shoes for a bit. The key it the anticipation. In anticipation, we are inspired.
This was the goal of the original concept of Hallow’s Eve. To put the hard work over the spring and summer behind, and celebrate the shift into a cooler months, less tension, and festive family time.
Anticipation is what creates inspiration. Give yourself permission to look forward to this upcoming holiday.
When I was a child, my family took laborious trips and, as an adult, I found myself not wanting to travel. Alas, the travels not only increased, but are frequent.
This plant represents how similar the landscape is from country to country. I’ve been throughout the Caribbean where on multiple islands I was told this branch of the mother’s tongue was so unique, it only grew on their isolated territory. I’ve been to islands in the Gulf of Mexico where the locals boasted of it being the only environment where the rare plant was capable of growing. In Belize, I stumbled across it growing on interior rivers. I’ve even seen it on the side of the road in my neighborhood, which does’t fit any of the above landscapes.
Coming across a Medusa’s Head is always a thrill. It tends to wrap around a tree unnoticed until its blooms stretch out from the spiked arms. Nurseries will advise you to water it often, fertilize frequently and plant it in the shade. From what I can tell, this hardy plant thrives in full sunlight.
This intriguing babe shows up everywhere. It prefers palm trees over woody barks. Its unique characteristics include perseverance and giving a big surprise for those days you aren’t expecting dashing blooms set in a furry greenery.
Possibly, the reason each locale claims it only exists in their region is due to it being oftentimes confused with other varieties of similar plants. I’ve seen where Medusa’s Head was labeled as a rat’s tail, and a monkey’s tail. I’ve seen it thrown into a mix of cactus orchards and snake plants.
The official term is Euphorbia caput-medusae, and it was first sighted in South Africa. Medusa’s Head can be recognized by the twisty snake-like stems that curl skyward. Brushy bristles and tiny leaves give it a hairy appearance with the sunlight hits it just so. It appears in sunny spots on trees in Tropical climates.
If you have an issue with breathing or digestion, Euphorbia is said to be the cure. It treats a few illnesses such as dengue fever and dysentery. Yet, it also is said to irritate the stomach and be dangerous during pregnancy.
Keep your eyes on the prize. Nature is calling out to us all the time, sending us encouraging messages of unyielding beauty in the most inhospitable environments. Medusa’s Head is the unrecognized beauty. It goes unnoticed, a reminder that when you feel uneventful, it only takes that one person who is paying attention to appreciate your thorny sides. Being unique adds depth to the value of having endurance, through the rainy seasons as well as the droughts.
Likewise, as much as you might at times feel you are different from all others, know that your characteristics thrive all over the globe. Those thorns in your side might very well be protecting your blossoming contribution to an otherwise typical landscape.
Guest Author, Rebecca Lochlann, shares a description of her historical fiction series. Thank you, Rebecca!
Nestled behind my childhood home lay a wild wooded area we called ‘the lot.’ To the casual observer, it was no more than a tangle, serving as a screen between our house and the street, yet there was so much more to it than unkempt vegetation and rocks. The lot was my own private retreat—a region of enchantment that fed the imagination and initiated my first ideas of writing.
In the simmering heat of summertime, I would slip away into deep green foliage, and disappear from this world into another. Mysterious and quiet, foreign and impenetrable to adults, it sheltered and nurtured me. A well-hidden path I discovered (or created) once led me to a miniature enclosure made by a circle of skinny trees. This became my sanctuary. Here, with stubby pencil and notebook paper, I crafted stories woven from forest whispers, which is a green, amused, softly breezy language one forgets how to understand when grown. (There’s only one place I’ve found as an adult where I can still hear it.) I had not yet read Thoreau or Kipling, but my time in the lot resembled the simple, free existence of Walden or The Jungle Book. Eventually I taught myself how to step without sound through brittle undergrowth—to move against the breeze until I could surprise foraging sparrows. Rather than human intruder, I named myself a creature of this wood, belonging there as much as robins or squirrels.
Here, in this earthy, secret atmosphere, I first read C.S. Lewis’s Narnia Chronicles, and believed. While traversing forest paths, I was always searching for the doorway that would whisk me into that magical land. Charms tingled through my fingertips and Aslan’s golden breath kissed my cheeks.
Though the lot ultimately kept its portals to other worlds hidden, it proved generous in other ways. Once, I happened upon a gray wooden staff, four feet tall, as straight and round as a pole, with even, sanded ends. Worm-sign covered it like druid runes. Perhaps they were druid runes. Another time I unearthed a complete mouse skeleton, airy and fragile, from my enclosure’s moss and leaf-carpeted floor.
One of the lot’s most valuable, long-lasting gifts was a distinct appreciation of solitude. I learned to lie still, watching the changing cloud patterns through a frame of leaves and branches, for hours. Under this fertile canopy, stories crept through my mind like dreams, or voices perhaps, from other lives.
At times, so many years later, I still wonder what happened to my walking stick. The mouse bones crumbled, and my childish stories were tucked into nostalgia’s drawer. Yet the lot remains, after a fashion. When my parents moved, the new owners contained it behind a high cedar fence and chopped down most of the old trees. Landscaped and civilized, the once-wild area now lies obediently prim and suffocated under benches and flowerpots. I wish they had paused to listen first to the elegant, rustling wisdom those trees were so willing to offer. Would they still have wanted to lift the axe?
I wonder what our world would be like if every child had access to a wild, secret place of his or her own. My time in the lot didn’t prepare me for this life—rather it offered seclusion from it. Indeed, it hindered me from taking my place in the cold city forest. Though I became adult in body, the world’s constant blare and metallic essentials has always battered at my sensibilities. I have unconsciously constructed walls to shield myself from the assault. Nonetheless, I will always believe my small plot of land did cultivate something tangible. It wrapped me in a cocoon of poetry that tinges every word I write. Because of the lingering effect of those days, I suspect writers cannot be social beings in the same way other people can. They must thrive in solitude. They must discover how to listen to unseen things, and they must learn to trust what they hear. My voice came to me under a leafy awning, murmuring within the breast of Mother Gaia. The lot actually turned out to be far more supportive than my mortal parents; without it, I doubt I would have ever found my writer’s voice, or the courage to do much of anything.
What the lot gave me didn’t disappear, turn to dust, or molder in a drawer. Graciously it remained, an integral part of my writing and of me.
You know, maybe the lot did allow me through its invisible gateway after all. For now, even in stark adult reality, the fantasy and magic that first befriended me there, on a tiny scrap of wild, isolated land in Kansas, remains vivid and alive, a mere thought away.
Excerpt from The Thinara King
A blanketing mist rolled in from the sea; the caress of water against sand gave off a hushed, tranquil susurration. Themiste’s voice faded away beneath the heightened sound of Aridela’s breathing. It filled her ears, punctuated by the steady thrum of her heartbeat.
Menoetius’s gaze shifted from Chrysaleon to her. As they stared at each other, shocked surprise replaced the frown on his face.
She had never felt so strange, so separated from what was real. Her mind seemed to soar into the mist. She saw Menoetius as he used to be, his youthful beauty restored—Carmanor as she remembered him.
Through some divine visionary gift, Aridela was allowed to see through Menoetius’s eyes everything that happened the morning he carried her out of the shrine, bleeding, near death. She felt his desperate need to save her, the tenderness with which he held her, the kiss he placed on her forehead. She startled along with him when the doves in their cages began their terrified fluttering and the dim torches abruptly blazed. She felt her soul slip away as he raced up the steps, shouting, and saw the beautiful, shining handmaid, smiling at her.
Her eyes stung with tears.
At that moment a voice broke into the memory. Gentle and melodious, it merged with the whisper of the sea. She couldn’t distinguish if it was male or female.
I have lived many lives since the beginning, and so shall thee. I have been given many names and many faces. So shall thee, and thou wilt follow me from reverence and worship into obscurity. In an unbroken line wilt thee return, my daughter. Thou shall be called Eamhair of the sea, who brings them closer, and Shashi, sacrificed to deify man. Thy names are Caparina, Lilith and the sorrowful Morrigan, who drives them far apart. Thou wilt step upon the earth seven times, far into the veiled future. Seven labyrinths shall thee wander, lost, and thou too wilt forget me. Suffering and despair shall be thy nourishment. Misery shall poison thy blood. Thou wilt breathe the air of slavery for as long as thou art blinded. For thou art the earth, blessed and eternal, yet thou shall be pierced, defiled, broken and wounded, even as I have been. Thou wilt generate inexhaustible adoration and contempt. Until these opposites are united, all will strangle within the void.
Aridela couldn’t move. She couldn’t even blink. As she stared at Menoetius, he disintegrated and remolded into his blood brother, with Chrysaleon’s green eyes and honeyed hair, but the cruel expression worn by this phantasm immersed her in dread and anguish.
The voice spoke again.
I have split one into two. Mortal men have burned my shrines and pulled down my statues. Their arrogance has upended the holy ways. I decree that men wilt resurrect me or the earth will die.
My series is called The Child of the Erinyes:
The Year-god’s Daughter, Book One
The Ibis is best known as the last bird to leave before a hurricane is arrives, and the first bird to return when the storm is over. They are associated with Egypt, which makes them seem exotic, however their reputation for predicting the weather came about in the United States.
Their dual association between Northern Africa which is in line with Florida gives the impression they crossed the mighty ocean in strong winds. They have an old world presence. Their slender, long beaks fits with their mysterious myths. They are documented in Egyptian hieroglyphs. Longevity is their key characteristic.
Thank you, Mr. Ibis, for sharing your knowledge with us!
Agapanthus round purple or blue star clusters make me pause. They burst from the stem as if to explode with life and creativity.
They give me a boost for the day. They are modest and humble, yet pack a lot of energy.
Say “Hello” next time you come across a flower ball.
Exploring your neighborhood promises surprises. Set out on foot.
One positive change taking place across the globe is our having extra time to be present in our surroundings. This is a wonderful opportunity for us to appreciate our predecessors’ past.
Whether you are descended from the culture that lived in your area, or you are learning about their lifestyles now that you settled down, you made a choice on a subconscious level to continue their story. What can you bring to the table? How can you contribute to the foundations laid by your predecessors?
Keep in mind that although this is a time where we feel more isolated even if we have family by our sides, we are all here for a community purpose. Our individual paths build together a viable future. Change only takes place when as a community we decide to move in a different direction.
Finding the right choices can be hit or miss. A shortcut comes from connecting with our neighborhood’s past tribulations and resolutions. Each of us is helping one another in this global process for improvement.
Taking time to watch ducks bathing in a lake is therapeutic. The less time we have with human contact opens the door to connecting with nature. Observing animals without an ego or self-consciousness reminds of all of who we are inside.