As Seen In Meg Benjamin’s Head

Meet Meg Benjamin

My newest book for Samhain, Brand New Me (released December 7), takes place largely in a bar owned by the hero. I know just what that bar looks like because it’s based on a restaurant/bar the hubs and I used to frequent in the Hill Country. I also know just what Docia Toleffson’s bookstore looks like as well as the converted barn where she lives with Cal Toleffson. I know all of these places because, of course, I created them and did my best to describe them to my readers. Coming up with mental images of my settings when I write is usually no problem. I write about places like the Hill Country that I know pretty well, so I’ve got a lot of possibilities to choose from.

But what happens when I’m reading somebody else’s book and I have to picture their settings in my mind? I blush to admit it, but it doesn’t matter how well the author describes the place—the mental images I usually end up with are most frequently based on places that are already cluttering up my brain.

Take apartments, for example. The first apartment I ever saw belonged to my grandmother in Wichita, Kansas. Oddly enough, even now when I read a book that’s set in an apartment, my mental image is frequently based on that rather cramped old lady space. Alternatively, it may be the first apartment the hubs and I lived in when we were grad students in Seattle. All the Stephanie Plum novels have taken place there for some reason, which is sort of difficult because it was a lot further off the ground floor than Stephanie’s place in Janet Evanovich’s novels.
Stories set in houses frequently end up in the house where I grew up. Grand dining halls in regency historicals often shrink down to the table for eight and the built-in china cabinet where my mother used to keep her Fiesta ware.

School rooms are relatively easy—they tend to be in one of the places where I taught. Urban settings sometimes draw on cities where I spent some time: Seattle or Philadelphia or San Antonio, for example. But sometimes they get reduced down to Wichita, which has occasionally subbed in my brain for Los Angeles or New York City.

Let me say here that this tendency of my mind to supply familiar settings has nothing to do with the ability of individual authors to describe their settings. The author may do her job quite skillfully, and I love a meticulous description as much as anybody, but my mind is still going to go straight to a setting I recognize as the story progresses.

I have no idea why my mind works this way, or if it’s just me. I’d guess it’s because I’m too busy following the story to take the time to manufacture a totally new mental image to go along with whatever the author is trying to describe. Classic mysteries, with their meticulous descriptions of the locked room where the murder took place, used to drive me crazy because I could never really picture the action as happening anywhere but my standard settings, and in a lot of books by people like John Dickson Carr, the solution to the mystery depended on having a solid mental image of the room where the murder took place.

So hey, you guys who are really great at descriptions, I appreciate the hell out of what you’re trying to do. But the sad fact is, as far as my reader’s imagination is concerned, your story takes place in my granny’s apartment.

So am I the only one who does this? Does everybody else build a new mental image for each book? Or do you find your brain returning to those same old familiar places time after time?

Long Time Gone
by Meg Benjamin

A future with the woman of his dreams is within his grasp…if the past will stay that way.

Konigsburg, Book 4

Erik Toleffson wasn’t looking to become Chief of Police. He’s got enough trouble trying to rebuild his relationship with his three brothers who, until just recently, ran the other way when he approached. He’s not the bully they grew up with, but bad memories are tough to overcome.

Morgan Barrett is as worn out as a vat full of crushed grape skins. She never planned to run Cedar Creek Winery, but there’s no one else to shoulder the load as her father recovers from an injury. All she needs is a little sleep. Just a five-minute nap in the booth at the Dew Drop Inn…if that guy across the bar would stop staring at her as if putting her head down on the table is a crime.

After Morgan yawns in Erik’s face, there’s nowhere to go but up. With time, though, their relationship warms like a perfectly blended Bordeaux. Until the shady mayor digs into Erik’s past and dredges up information that could drive a permanent wedge between him and his brothers—and sour any chance of a future with Morgan.
Warning: Contains hot sex with mango sherbet, crooked politicians, yuppie bikers, Bored Ducks, and a Maine Coon Cat with attitude.

Buy it at My Bookstore and More and other ebook retailers.

More about Meg

Meg Benjamin is the author of the Konigsburg series for Samhain Publishing. Book #4, Long Time Gone, was a Romantic Times Top Pick for Contemporary, and book #5, Brand New Me, will be released by Samhain on December 7. Meg lives in Colorado with her DH and two rather large Maine coon kitties (well, partly anyway).

Meg’s Web site is http://www.MegBenjamin.com. You can follow her on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/meg.benjamin1), MySpace (myspace.com/megbenjamin), and Twitter (http://twitter.com/megbenj1). Meg loves to hear from readers—contact her at meg @ megbenjamin.com.

Contest winner, and four contests yet to win

So much to cover for today’s post, covering both winners and ways to win.

First off, the winner of Meg Benjamin’s Be My Baby is FLCHEN. Fedora, please could email me with your choice of format – PDF, PDF for Sony, HTML, Mobipocket, Rocketbook or LIT, I’ll send you your copy upon its release next Tuesday.

Contests:

I’m the featured author over on my editor’s Kindle contest today.  Remember, you have to leave a relevant comment on the post AND you also have to EMAIL Tera with your answer to the question that’s posed. Do not answer in the comments, and don’t send me your answers. (I have to chuckle – I did that “interview” a while back and I said that it’s warmer in Texas than it is here. NOT. Parts of Texas are getting snow today while we’ve not had any yet this year. Hehehehe!)

I’m also part of the Samhellion Holiday Hunt that starts today at NOON. It’s a scavenger hunt so you’ll have to scour the websites of the participating Samhain authors looking for holiday related icons such as Christmas trees, lights, candles, that type of thing.  The prize for this week is an international Kindle loaded with the participating authors’ books. (I’ve donated a copy of Private Property.)

Don’t forget the Rockin’ the Raven Christmas Tree hunt is open until December 24th – the prize for that is a Sony Reader, a $50 Visa card, or a $25 Amazon gift certificate.  Again, it’s a scavenger hunt – you have to find a black Sony reader hidden on the participating authors pages in order to qualify.

I’m really excited about my “Spot the Differences” contest, which is also still open. There are only about a dozen entrants at the moment, so the chances you may be the winner are pretty darned good.

Oh, and one last note – if you want to save some money (who doesn’t love to save money), head on over to Barnes and Noble where you can pre-order a print copy of my Personal Protection for 32% off. ($10.12 US instead of $15.) You’ll have to wait until March to get it but still, $5 off? What a deal!

Meg Benjamin on H.E.L.P.

Okay, so I admit it, I switched out Meg’s title – it should be Meg Benjamin on P.L.H.E. But doesn’t it read better as H.E.L.P.?  Sorry, Meg …

Meg and I had our first release the same day back in January. Meg’s latest book, Be My Baby, the third book in her Konigsburg series releases next Tuesday. So I’m thrilled to have her back on my blog, talking about …

What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love, and Happy Endings?

The biggest, most frequent complaint against romances that I’ve gotten from non-romance readers (other than all the sex scenes, of course) boils down to this: romances have happy endings. Always. No matter how much angst the hero and heroine of the romance endure in the story, they’ll end up together and it’ll be happily ever after. And this, we’re told, is a Bad Thing.

As to why this is a Bad Thing, well, opinions vary. “It’s unrealistic” (and, of course, all other forms of popular fiction rigidly adhere to realism). “It’s simple-minded” (so apparently only misery is intellectually pure). “It leads to expectations that can’t be fulfilled” (and all readers of romance get their life lessons from fiction).

The only one of these complaints that seems to have any real validity, as far as I’m concerned, is the idea that the required happy ending is limiting to an author. But while it’s true that we romance writers can’t violate this convention, most romance heroes and heroines still go through a lot of anguish to get there. Even writers like me who do comedy still have to work in a Big Black Moment somewhere along the way. And some comic writers, like, say, Susan Elizabeth Phillips or Loretta Chase, can make those moments pretty black indeed.

So what’s really behind this extreme aversion to happy endings, particularly from non-romance readers? I’m going out on a limb here and saying it’s related to the way “happy ending” is defined, or rather the way one of my favorite genders defines it. Because the biggest complainers about the happy ending rule, in my experience, are male. And the problem seems to be what they consider “happy.”

Let’s take an example here—Casablanca, the great forties movie. Now I’m really fond of Casablanca (in fact, I’ve managed to work references to it into several things I’ve written), but there’s no way I’d see it as having a really happy ending since Rick and Ilsa can’t possibly end up together. That can’t actually happen without getting rid of Victor, and without Victor there’s no beating the Nazis. So both Rick and Ilsa have to be noble and have that lovely, heartbreaking scene at the airport.

However, in my experience some men argue that that the ending of Casablanca is completely satisfying, happy in fact. Rick and Ilsa get a chance to work out their differences (and have one last roll in the hay), Rick renews his belief in heroism, and Rick and Louis head off to fight the Nazis while Ilsa heads off to America to raise money with Victor.

Although I have a lot of “yes, but’s” here, I can also see how, from a guy’s point of view, this constitutes the ideal happy ending. Rick gets to have sex with Ilsa, and then gets to leave her without any commitment to come back later and try to have a life together. Instead, he gets to go off and shoot bad guys while she’s not longer around to complicate things. Bliss!

So, okay, women (who make up the vast majority of romance readers) like to believe that it’s possible to have a long-term committed romantic relationship. And we like books that back us up. Men seem to prefer books where the hero gets to have a lot of sex, but doesn’t end up tied down to anybody in the end. And if you’re not sure about this, check out the numerous mysteries and thrillers written by male authors where the hero is always having bittersweet, short-term relationships with women who either die or take off.  Women readers may not find this kind of ending particularly satisfying, but I’d argue a lot of men think it’s pretty neat.

Potato, potahto. Happy endings can be defined however you want them to be. Just don’t tell me the books I read are simple-minded because the hero and heroine end up together rather than heading off to troll for the next sex partner. If you can manage to do that, I promise I’ll refrain from even mentioning the words Peter Pan Complex in connection with happy endings that are hopelessly male.

Be My Baby
by Meg Benjamin

There’s no room in her life for love. Love has other ideas…

Konigsburg, Texas, Book 3

If Jessamyn Carroll had only herself to consider, staying in Pennsylvania after her husband’s death would have been a no-brainer. Her vindictive in-laws’ efforts to get their hooks into her infant son, however, force her to flee to a new home. Konigsburg, Texas.

Peace…at least for now. She’s even found a way to make some extra money, looking after sexy accountant Lars Toleffson’s precocious two-year-old daughter. She finds it easy—too easy—to let his protective presence lull her into thinking she and her son are safe at last.

Lars, still wounded from enduring a nasty divorce from his cheating ex-wife, tries to fight his attraction to the mysterious, beautiful widow. But when an intruder breaks into her place, and Jess comes clean about her past, all bets are off. Someone wants her baby—and wants Jess out of the picture. Permanently.

Now Jess has a live-in bodyguard, whether she wants him or not. Except she does want him—and he wants her. Yet negotiating a future together will have to overcome a lot of roadblocks: babies, puppies, the entire, meddling Toleffson family—and a kidnapper.

Warning: Contains Konigsburg craziness, creepy in-laws, a conniving two-year-old, a lovelorn accountant, a sleep-deprived Web developer, and lots of hot holiday sex.

Be My Baby releases from Samhain Publishing on Tuesday, December 8th.

Meg Benjamin writes about South Texas, although she recently moved to Colorado. Her comic romances are set in the Texas Hill Country in the mythical town of Konigsburg. When she isn’t writing, Meg spends her time listening to Americana music, drinking Colorado and Texas wine, and keeping track of her far-flung family. She recently retired from twenty years of teaching writing, Web design, and desktop publishing. Meg’s Web site is http://www.MegBenjamin.com. You can follow her on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/meg.benjamin1), MySpace (myspace.com/megbenjamin), and Twitter (http://twitter.com/megbenj1). Meg loves to hear from readers—contact her at meg@megbenjamin.com.

I’m giving away an e-copy of Meg’s Be My Baby (you’ll have to wait until next Tuesday for its release before I send it to you though).  Leave a comment about your favorite on-screen couple who haven’t had their happy ending (yet, or maybe they have according to a guy), or your favorite in-print couple and why you want them to have a happy ending. Or not. 

Another month gone?

Monday. AND the last day of November. Where the heck has the past week gone, let alone the month?  Gizmo Guy has been home for the past week with H1N1, the job Guitar Hero expected to get after he finishes his courses turned out to be something other than what they’d promised so that’s fallen through, and Curly has just informed me he has to find an employer who will agree to take him on as an apprentice as opposed to the school finding him someone for his co-op program. All this and I’m no where near ready for Christmas. Heck, I just got over GG’s birthday and now I have to come up with presents for everyone again?

Normally I have my Christmas shopping done by now. *shakes head*

A few other unforeseen things have cropped up as well, so I’m running behind on emails and other duties.  So if you’re waiting for something from me, drop me an email and nudge me, will you?

Apart from a ton of running around I have to do that’s non-Christmas related, there’s a lot going on in my writing life too.

Beginning tomorrow, I’m taking part in Mandy Roth and Michelle Pillow’s Rockin’ Around the Raven Xmas Tree Holiday Hunt – the prize will be a Sony reader.  It’s a scavenger hunt where you have to go through various authors’ websites and find a hidden graphic. I’ll be posting a link to the details on their site tomorrow. 

I’m also taking part in an e-reader contest with the Samhellion authors. For this one there will be FOUR ereaders (2 Kindles, 2 Sony ereaders) up for grabs – one per week, starting December 4th. Like the Raven contest, it’ll be a Scavenger Hunt. I’ll post more details on that when I have them.

My Wednesday guest blogger is fellow Samhain author, Meg Benjamin. I’m going to be giving away a copy of her latest release, Be My Baby — it releases December 8th, so you’ll have to wait a week before you receive your prize. (Hey, I may not have bought Christmas presents for my family, but you seem to be doing well, don’t you?)

Friday will be a big day because I’ll be in two places at the same time: here and over on my editor Tera’s blog. (Fellow TRW member JK Coi is there today so drop on by and leave a comment for her too.)

Barring unforeseen announcements, Friday will also be my 800th blog post. As I said the other day, I’m going to run a contest for that 2010 Toronto Firefighter calendar I’ve been posting about.   I haven’t decided what I’m going to make you do yet. I’m going to be putting details up that day.  **EDITED: THURSDAY will be my 800th post…so check for the details on the calendar contest then**

*counts on fingers* That’s FIVE contests for you to enter. So keep checking back.

Daily Draw Winner #23

23 – wow, that’s a lot of books that have been given away this month. Today’s winner wins an e-copy of their choice of Meg Benjamin’s books. Congratulations to:

Kytaira

Kytaira, I’ve sent you an email …

There were 25 items in your list. Here they are in random order:

  1. Kytaira
  2. Cybercliper
  3. Viv Arend
  4. Karen H in NC
  5. Jane
  6. Llehn
  7. flchen1
  8. Natasha A
  9. RKCharron
  10. Bikebali
  11. Lori
  12. SFWriterMasha
  13. Minna
  14. tigger9
  15. Valerie
  16. Sue
  17. Keri Stevens
  18. Hockey Vampiress
  19. Nancy G
  20. lindseye
  21. Joy Roett
  22. etirv
  23. Marley Delarose
  24. Iokijo
  25. Karin

Timestamp: 2009-07-20 11:12:26 UTC

Calling Chey, Sharon and Lindseye

While I’ve got you here – I’m still waiting to hear from Chey who won a copy of Jane Lovering’s book on July 5th, Sharon who won Barbara Meyers’ draw on the 14th, and on Lindseye who won last week’s weekly draw – which is Lindseye’s choice of any book (print or e) from amongst my guest authors. I don’t have your email addresses, ladies, and have no way to contact you, so you need to send me an email at Leah @LeahBraemel DOT com to claim your prize.