Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tomorrow is a Big Day!

Tomorrow is a big day for me, so I hope you’ll allow me a few minutes to tell you about it!
‘Her Only Option’, my fourth novel, will be released by Whiskey Creek Press tomorrow. Although I say ‘fourth’, it’s actually my eighth, if I count the four novels published between 1968 and 1978. My writing career has been divided into two parts, separated by 30+ years, and I tend think of my first four as my ‘early’ books, and the four published since June 2011 as my ‘new’ books. ‘Her Only Option’ was, as you already know, inspired by my visit to Egypt two years ago – and is the only book where I can pinpoint the moment when the seed first started to germinate in my mind. Here's a link to my blog about its early development
It’s also the first book that has been classed as ‘romantic suspense’ as it does contain an element of mystery and suspense. I have to admit that part of the suspense was mine, because I kept changing my mind about who the ‘villain’ was, until I finally managed to pull it all together! I wonder if you’ll be able to guess before it’s eventually revealed?
Fortunately my print copies arrived last Friday, and I’m hoping for some sales tomorrow, as I shall be doing my very first book-signing session—6pm to 8pm at a small Gift Shop/Coffee shop/Ice Cream Parlour! This is the poster currently displayed in the window. Not wildly high profile – but it’s a start! A friend of mine knew the owner, and introduced me to him. We went round the local shopping precinct about 3 weeks ago, and managed to persuade several stores to put up posters in their windows, but I was still getting worried that no one would turn up, mainly because it’s not really the best time of day. However, my friend who lives near the shop has persuaded some of her friends to drop in, and yesterday I heard that 6 of my friends, plus one of my daughters, will also be coming, so at least I won’t be sitting there all on my own!
Finally, because it’s supposed to be lucky to have 3 good things happening on the same day, tomorrow will also be the day when I finally submit my current novel. This new one, ‘Dream of Paris’, is a revamp of a story I wrote back in the 1970’s. I started to rewrite it as part of NaNoWriMo last year, then put it to one side while I finished ‘Changing the Future’ and also worked on another story. Apart from the basic premise of the story, it’s very different from the original version, not least because I’ve had to update various things. Its main setting is a high school – and schools have changed a lot since the 1970’s (and since I finished teaching in the 90’s, too). Fortunately, one of my daughters is a teacher, so I’ve been able to check things out with her and say ‘Does this sound right?’ Paris plays a large part in the story, and in the 70’s the usual way of getting across to France was on a cross-channel ferry. Now, of course, the Channel Tunnel and the high speed Eurostar trains have reduced the travel time dramatically. Last, but not least, there were no computers or cell phones in the 70’s. It’s so easy now for people to keep in contact, but sometimes, in romance novels, you don’t want them to be able to contact each other easily! Having to get around that problem gave me some headaches at times!
So – tomorrow is a big day. A new release, a book-signing, and a new submission – please wish me luck! 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Bedtime Stories

The one event in my childhood that has had the greatest effect on my writing career is due to my mom. When I was little and couldn’t fall asleep, my mom would bring me back to my room (because why would I stay there when I could go find my parents and hope they’d let me stay up just a little bit longer) and tell me to make up a story. She’d sit with me and rub my back while I would think of a story.

Usually, it was something that happened to me during that day or week—an event at school, a play date with a friend or a family event. One of my favorite things to think about was Indian Princesses, a father-daughter activity sponsored by the YMCA. We’d go sledding, camping, dancing or get together at people’s houses and do a father-daughter craft.

I would replay these events in my head and create a story out of them. I’d create characters—sometimes based on real people, other times not—and add to the end. Usually, I’d fall asleep before I did get to the end, allowing me to have more to think about the next night. If the story was good enough, I’d actually look forward to going to sleep so that I could get involved in my characters.

When I got older, I used the same techniques to tell my own stories and eventually wrote them down. Even today, most of my thinking time for my stories comes in the minutes while I’m trying to fall asleep. The challenge is to be able to write the ideas down and make them as good on paper as they were the night before in my head!

So, thanks Mom!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Reviews : is honesty the best policy?

     Driving the mile to work the other day, I heard on MPR the intro for a discussion on whether the anonymity of the Internet means people are more honest or more snarky. (Not how they described it, but hey, I also had to watch for road-crossing deer.)
    With my new Kindle app, I am able to read many more romances than before. Authors--sister RWA members--as well as Amazon ask me to 'like" and to post reviews. But I don't know the proper protocol. Does each of us have to create our own guidelines?
    I try to practice the "do unto others" Golden Rule. My mother preached to me any my three brothers, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." I believe in "what goes around, comes around" karma.
    Does this mean I should say only something good about the books I might review and cast aside any commentary on weaknesses or flaws? Every book has some good elements. The fact the writer finished it, submitted it or self-published it is an achievement in itself.
    If everyone only praises, does this make reviews worthless? Do reviewers need rating, too?
    I have read reviews that are critical that I agree with. If I add my chorus, will I help deter someone else from buying a novel? My opinion is only my opinion. Or can I view reviews as a big stage critique group whose feedback can help the author?
    I am sure some reviewers delight in going to extremes. Their motivation may be more to elevate, to celebrate themselves.
   Novels are verbal art. Art appreciation is subjective.
   What's your view on reviews? I really want to know.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Do your characters know more than you do?

Ana’s post earlier this week about the writer’s‘subconscious’ triggered several thoughts about how your subconscious can be at work while you write a story.

I’ve never been one for defining my characters before I begin to write, despite the advice in some ‘how to write’ articles about making a long list of all your characters physical attributes, upbringing, education, family, traits, habits, attitudes, fears, secrets etc. etc. I prefer to find out about my characters as I write their story. I see it as a similar process to getting to know a person in real life i.e. you gradually discover more things about them.

To continue the analogy, when we meet someone new, obviously we can ‘see’ them. For me, it’s the same with my characters. I don’t need to write a list of their physical attributes because I can see them in my mind almost as soon as (or even before) I actually start to write. In ‘Her Only Option’, for instance, I had a picture of Ross from the first moment I visualised my (as yet unnamed) ‘hero’ vaulting over the rails from one cruise ship to another. In ‘Changing the Future’ I ‘saw’ Paul walking along the pathway at the college at the same time as the heroine first saw him. It's almost as if they decide on their appearance and then appear in my inner vision.

I also feel that writing a detailed account of their background beforehand can sometimes lead a writer into including too much irrelevant detail about them (which I’ve seen in some novels). Instead, I let them tell me what’s actually necessary. In one of my current WIPs, Luke is a veterinary surgeon – and later I learnt (from him, and over several chapters!) that he’d been brought up at a local farm, his parents had been killed in a car crash a few years earlier, and when the local vet retired, he’d been able to use some of his inheritance from his parents to buy the practice. I hadn’t worked any of this out beforehand, but he explained it perfectly! Or maybe that was my subconscious at work? He hasn't yet told me how he came to meet his American ex-wife, but I'm sure he will eventually!

Some pro-forma outlines for character sketches ask you to list their favourite colour, animal, food, books, music, art etc! I wouldn’t know where to start with this, and don’t really see the point of listing such things. IF any of that information is needed, then the characters reveal it as and when necessary. In my recently completed ‘Dream of Paris’, I couldn’t have told you when I first started writing that Matt’s favourite singer was Edith Piaf. He told me that information later in the story, when one of Piaf’s songs came to have a special meaning for him and the heroine.

My very first experience of a character telling me something I didn’t know actually happened in my first book, published in the 1960’s. By the time I got to the end of the story, I realised the heroine’s ex-boyfriend needed a happy ending of his own, rather than being left out in the cold. After some thinking, I decided he had met someone else on a business trip to New York but had ended their brief relationship because he’d still been involved with the heroine at that time. Okay, so I needed to go back and add some ‘hints’ about this. Except that, no, I didn’t need to add anything. The hints were actually all there in the things he said and did – but I hadn’t picked up on them. I didn’t need to add anything at all.

Is that my subconscious at work, or do my characters really know more than I do, and simply reveal it at the right time?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Calgon, Take Me Away*…To Block Island

 If I could spend a week anywhere in the world to escape, there are two places I’d go—Block Island and Wyoming.

Block Island is a tiny island in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Rhode Island. It’s a fairly unpopulated, non-touristy summer destination for people who want to relax, hang out by the beach, bike ride and explore the one-road main street in town. You get there by ferry. There are no major businesses or stores (other than small ones), so it’s quiet and peaceful—other than the murder that happened on the beach in front of my uncle’s house one of the times my husband and I stayed there. Because my uncle rents out the house during high season (Memorial Day to Labor Day), we tend to visit off-season, either really early in the summer, or right after school starts. It’s still warm enough to swim, but there are even less people there than usual.

When I dream of escaping somewhere to write, I dream of going there—taking my laptop, sitting on the beach and writing during the day; then moving to the wide, wrap-around porch to write during the evening. Walking on the beach to work out plot points (or to ponder that murder), sitting in the run-down bar to talk to the locals and work out dialogue. Letting the waves lull me to sleep.

My other fantasy escape is Wyoming. I’ve never been there and I have no idea what it’s like. But when life gets too hectic, too much, I dream of running away to Wyoming. What I’d do there, I have no idea. Probably ride horses. Maybe write. Hopefully decompress. Or maybe become so bored and lonely I’d hop the first flight home to be back with my family where I belong.

Where would you go?

*For the Brits: “Calgon, take me away” is an advertising slogan for bubble bath.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Partnering with my Subconscious

My WIP's first act is still not right.  My first chapter, first page, first paragraph, first line are not delivering the punch I want.
Months ago, I axed the first two chapters because I recognized they were backstory.
I have two possible openers that, in my view now, still deal more with setting than introduction of my heroine, hero and plot.
I think my plot twists advance the story, and I still like my overall story arc--even more than when I first conceived it.

I have not been able to work on my story much over the summer; my physically demanding work schedule leaves me braindead by 9 pm. But come December, my evenings and weekends will open up. I am committed to finishing my rewrite and sending out the manuscript.

What I have been able to do this fall, as I get closer to my liberation,  is craft study. The book I am reading now is "Writing Love: Screenwriting Tricks for Authors II" by Alexandra Sokoloff.  She posits that "film is a compressed and concise have two hours, really a little less, to tell the story." She starts by assigning the drafting of a list of 10 favorite love stories, film and novel. Then she says to identify the one(s) that one's WIP most closely resembles.

I thought my time travel was a "road trip" story, but after sleeping on it, realized it is more a "Cinderella story." This ah-ha is clarifying how my Act I should flow.

Sokoloff says one's "subconscious knows way more than you do about writing." Between now and mid-December, I am consciously partnering with my subconscious. I am finding the story I have been trying to tell.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Show Don't Tell

As writers, we hear this all the time. We need to show the emotions of our characters, not just tell the reader what they're feeling. At times this is easier said than done. One of the main revisions requested by an editor on "This Feels Like Home" was to use more showing and less telling. To be honest, I thought I was. Obviously I need to revisit what I know about these two things.

Then, while I was checking e-mail the other day, an article popped up on my homepage along the lines of "Signs that tell you a man is in love with you". Well, the timing of that couldn't have been more perfect. Bring it! So, I clicked on the link and got these eight fabulous 'signs' from the people at Cosmo. Apparently they polled 'real' men (As opposed to what? Fake ones?!) to get these answers. In short, I don't care how they got them...or even if they made them all up. All of these definitely focus on showing, rather than telling, and I plan to incorporate several into my revisions.

1) - You catch him staring at you.

2) - He gazes into your eyes.

3) - He buys you food you like.

4) - He keeps your stuff out at his place.

5) - He talks about the future.

6) - He wears the sweater you gave him.

7) - He stands right next to you in public.

8) - He's okay with you answering his phone.

I love them all. This is a list I will keep handy so my heroes can show off those tender feelings of love, even if they're not quite ready to say those three little words.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


An Unexpected Blessing - coming November 21.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

10 Sentences

I'm taking the easy way out this week because I am sitting in the middle of my half-decorated study which has no curtains or carpet. It was hard work clearing everything out of here, and it's going to be even harder work putting everything back and returning to 'normal' again.

You may remember that my 'inspiration' for 'Her Only Option' was wondering whether the hero could vault over the rails from one Nile cruise ship sundeck to another. In the end, however, Ross didn't actually do this - but I couldn't omit my original thought completely.  So here's a 10-sentence excerpt, which takes place a week after they first met on the neighbouring sundecks.

They're at a party at the Rahman villa, and we're in Neve's POV. The first speaker is Ross.

"You and Joanne exchange ships next week; she’s on the Nadia and you’re on the Amirah. It’s a good thing I found out, otherwise I’d have had to practise vaulting over the rails between the sundecks."

"Easier to go down to the lobby where they have the gangplanks between the ships."

"Yeah, but not half as much fun. I even considered doing it last week when I first met you." He spooned rice on to her plate until she put out her hand to stop him.

A vision of him vaulting the four-foot gap between the rails of the sundecks came into her mind and she gave a quick chuckle. "Last Monday I’d probably have been willing you to drop down into the gap."

"Ouch - that bad, was it?"

"The first impression was not good, no."

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Query Letters

My query letters follow a standard formula that I’ve found useful. First of all, the tone--I approach publishing as a business; therefore, my letters are formal and business-like. Since none of my friends are agents or publishers, I don’t get to friendly. I’d rather err on the side of being too formal, than on too familiar.

My greeting is always, “Dear X” and “X” is always personalized. I don’t send a letter “Dear Agent,” “Dear Publisher,” or “To Whom It May Concern.” I put a lot of time and research into who I’m querying. There are so many ways of finding out who works at what agency or publishing house, and what submissions they’re looking for, that unless the website specifically says to address it generically, I won’t do it.

My first paragraph or opening sentences announce what I’ve written—word count, genre and title. I also tell them why I think it will interest them.

Then I give a short description of my book, no more than 2 or 3 paragraphs. Think of a “back-of-the-book blurb.” There is just enough information to hook them, without boring them with a ton of details. If it can be compared to something well-known, like a fairy tale, or a movie, I say so. But be careful with this; sometimes that can backfire!

My next paragraph details my credentials—previous writing experience, what’s been published, awards, association memberships, etc. I list my blogs (but again, be careful; if you list it, they will check it out) here with links.

My closing refers back to their submission guidelines, and I say what I’m including with the query letter, as per their guidelines. I thank them for their time and then close my letter with “Sincerely, Jennifer Wilck.” I often list a link or two with my name (not every single link, but the most important ones) to help them check me out a bit more.

And that’s it. I don’t weigh down my letters with too much detail, but I’m specific enough, I hope, to catch their eye. So far, it seems to be working for me. But I’m curious about what others do—what’s in YOUR query letter?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

My New Life as a Kindler

After standing in line for nearly an hour holding a three-month old to cash in on a "deal" at the phone store so my favorite daughter-in-law could upgrade to an I-phone, I agreed to buy an android tablet. My old laptop takes ten minutes or more to boot up, just to check emails.

But that's just backstory. I discovered my new tablet has a Kindle app and, after a month and a half of frustration, I have figured out how to download e-books. This is good news because I will have books in e-format soon.

Maybe I'll self-publish. I would need to be comfortable with the technology to self-publish.

Debra, I just ordered This Time for Always. Paula and Jen, you are next... as soon as I recharge the tablet. It has a short life and is beeping insistently.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Friday Friend Cera duBois

I am so excited to welcome Cera here today. I 'met' Cera this summer during her blog tour for A Hunter's Angel. Now, the lucky lady has had the second book in the series (A Hunter's Blade) released early! So, here she is to tell you all about her sexy vampire series.

Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Debra!
I’m a former high school social studies teacher who couldn’t find a job after graduating and decided to change careers completely and went to school to become a medical assistant. Now I work for the Army as a medical secretary. But my dream has always been to be a writer. I’ve started many books over the twenty odd years since writing my first book in high school. I even ventured into Star Wars fan fiction for a while. I’ve written something like 40 stories over 4 years, including 7 novels and won reader awards for my efforts. But it wasn’t until I came up with the premise for A Hunter’s Angel that I actually sat down and wrote book I could pursue publication of.
I write paranormal romance under the name of Cera duBois and have two books, A Hunter’s Angel and A Hunter’s Blade published by The Wild Rose Press. I also write contemporary Westerns under my real name of Sara Walter Ellwood. I have my first Western, Gambling On A Secret (book 1 of The Colton Gamblers series) coming out January 7 from Lyrical Press. And Heartstrings, a second contemporary Western, releasing in April.

I love vampire stories and followed your book tour this summer and loved the character interviews you did from A Hunter’s Angel. For those not familiar with it, can you tell us a little about the story?
Thank you so much for your support during my book tour. I really enjoyed doing the short stories series. I’d love to share a little about the story. I’d like to think I took the very traditional tropes of the vampire and werewolf(the heroine of A Hunter’s Blade/book 2 is a werewolf) myth and shook them up enough to make my stories unique.
In A Hunter’s Angel, Ian is not only a vampire, he’s a vampire hunter. But he works in the human world as a FBI agent who specializes in serial killers. Grace is the brand new police chief of her tiny Western Pennsylvania home town, which seems to have become a target of a vicious serial killer.
Here’s the blub and short excerpt:
The serial killer stalking Clayton, Pennsylvania, isn’t all that has Chief of Police Grace Wallace worried. For a year, she’s tried to forget Special Agent Ian McHenry and now he’s the expert the FBI sent to catch the killer. She can’t stay away from him, but something primal is telling her to run to save much more than just her heart. Despite the strict code of ethics Ian vowed to follow as a vampire hunter, he craves Grace’s blood above all others. If he chooses to stay, Ian risks losing his chance at divine forgiveness. But if he leaves Grace unprotected from the evil he’s hunted for over a century, he loses more than just his soul…
From Chapter 2:
Part of Grace desperately wanted to look up, and a bigger part of her dreaded this moment. She couldn’t hide for long. After all, she was in charge of this shindig.
Standing, Grace sucked in a fortifying breath and rubbed her sweaty palms together. Everyone stood respectfully when she moved from around the table to the front of the room. “Please. Be seated.”
Determined not to look at the woman and three men standing off to the left, she stared straight ahead. Her heart raced, and her scalp itched where perspiration gathered. “In order to better protect the citizens of our communities, I called this meeting to ensure we’re all on the same page regarding the investigation of the murders. Although I’ve been in contact with all of you since the first murder, four weeks ago, and have led the investigation, the FBI has sent a crack team of experts to assist us in hunting down the murderer.” Her voice betrayed nothing, but her mouth was dryer than the dog days of a Pennsylvania August. “Special Agent in Charge Ian McHenry?”
She looked at Ian and her heart stuttered over a beat. How could he be so calm and act as if nothing had happened between them?
How could he lead her on? Hadn’t the chemistry between them been instant and intense enough for them to throw caution and office taboos out the proverbial window?
Did he forget all those times they’d gone out for drinks and dancing? They’d spent weekends antiquing the countryside of Chester County. He’d taken her horseback riding at his magnificent country estate he’d inherited from his uncle. What about the beautiful necklace he’d given to her for Christmas, had it meant nothing?
He’d always been such an old-fashioned gentleman and seemed interested in her as a person and not just for sex. She fell so deeply in love with him it hurt. Had it all been a ploy to get her into bed for a one-night stand?
Why did you leave me?
The muscles in Ian’s back tensed as Grace’s silent question ricocheted around his head as if she’d screamed it at him. He forced a smile and looked around the room. “Thank you, Chief Wallace. I’d like to thank all of you for coming today to meet with us. Now to introduce my colleagues.”
With a gesture of his hand, Ian indicated an attractive, thirty-something, dark-haired woman and the dark-skinned, younger man. “This is Dr. Beth Otto and her assistant, Mark Hazelton. They will be working closely with Coroner Swartz. They both specialize in forensic pathology.” He then pointed toward a tall man dressed as Ian in dark pants, shirt and blazer. “And this is Special Agent Brad Morris. He and I will be working closely with the rest of you.”
Ian let Beth take the first round of discussion. An excellent medical examiner, she had worked with him and Brad for the past four years. Now was one of those times, he wished she wasn’t part of his team. She was extremely hard to fool. She’d never discovered anything that pointed to a vampire, and even if she had, her scientific mind would discredit it. But Ian always had a harder time coming up with reasons for the inconsistencies when things didn’t add up.

You’ve mentioned you got the idea for the “Hunter” series from a quote from Edward in one of the “Twilight” books. Being firmly on Team Edward myself, I’d love to know more about that.
“You’d be surprised, Bella, at how often my kind are the source behind the horrors in your human news.” Edward from Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer, page 25 of the hardback edition. In this scene, Edward and Bella are discussing the 'serial' killings and disappearance of young people in Seattle. For whatever reason that concept of a vampire being mistaken by human law enforcement as a serial killer bugged me for weeks after finishing Eclipse. So much so I started thinking up my own vampire/serial killer story. In my very first ponderings of this story, Grace was the bad vampire and Ian was a human hunter. But that plot had been done to death, and I didn’t want the female being the bad vamp. To me, it felt too close to what happens in the "Twilight" stories with Victoria. So, I let my ideas stew a few more days, and before I knew it, A Hunter’s Angel was born.

Coming early next year is the second book in the series, A Hunter’s Blade. Would you care to tease us a bit and share an excerpt with us?
Actually, A Hunter’s Blade was released early on Amazon. It is available now! Here’s the link:

This story is set in the mountains just west of Denver, Colorado. It happens a year after A Hunter’s Angel. The hero is a secondary character from A Hunter’s Angel who has only been a vampire since the end of Angel. The heroine is a 365 year old Lykan werewolf. She was born a wolf, a legacy of the demon hellhound Lykos and his human lover several thousand years ago.
Here’s the blurb and a short excerpt:
Brigit Wolfe, a born werewolf, hasn’t killed a human in over a hundred years, although now, she wonders if the animal attacking people in Silver Creek, Colorado, isn’t her. But she might have bigger problems when her cowboy neighbor, Austin Calhoun, ambles into her bar. Austin hasn’t been a vampire for long, but he is determined to prove to himself that he’s worthy of his hunter’s dagger. Brigit’s rare beauty and blade-sharp tongue enchants him. She ignites a passion he thought was dead, but is she the killer his master sent him to destroy? During Austin’s investigation regarding Brigit’s involvement in the deaths, an old crime surfaces connected to her human best friend. These two immortal enemies have to join forces to solve the mystery before someone else dies. But can they survive the heat of their own desire?
From Chapter 3:
When preternatural power touched her nape, Brigit assumed Bo Reynard was back, which was unusual. He never came in on Wednesdays, the slowest night of the week. Brigit set a margarita before a woman flirting with one of the other regulars at the end of the bar and took the man’s money for the woman’s drink.
After closing the cash drawer, she turned and sucked in a breath. The most beautiful pair of hazel eyes she had ever seen stared back at her from the other end of the bar.
The cowboy vamp removed his hat and set it on the empty stool beside him. Grinning at her, he ran his fingers through his disheveled hair. “Hello, there. I’ll have a glass of red wine,” he said in a voice as smooth as Kentucky bourbon.
She swallowed hard, took a deep breath and earthy spiciness tickled her senses. How did he smell that damned good? He’s supposed to smell like a rotting corpse. “Uh...which one?”
He shrugged with wry amusement playing on his lips. “What was my friend drinking the other night?”
“Syrah...the most expensive red wine I have.”
He pulled his wallet from his back pocket and flipped it open to take out a bill. “I’ll have a glass of that.”
A moment later, she set the glass before him and told him the price.
He handed her a bill and smiled. “Keep the change.” Before she could turn away, he said, “So, how long have you lived here? I’m new in town.”
She narrowed her eyes and crossed her arms. “Yes, I know. You bought the Wagner ranch. Just moved in. Your name is Austin Calhoun.”
He raised an eyebrow and picked up the glass. “Checking up on me?”
“I like to know who all my neighbors are.” She bent closer and hissed, “So when they start dropping dead I know who the prime suspects are.”
He leaned over the edge of the bar, peered deeply into her eyes. The image of him closing the distance and covering her mouth in a kiss zapped through her. His low-pitched voice did nothing to ease the erotic vision.
“Interestingly, I like to know my neighbors for the same reason, Brigit Wolfe, werewolf.” She narrowed her eyes and fisted her hands. His voice dropped even lower as he said, “You didn’t answer my question. How long have you lived in Silver Creek?”
She wanted to turn away, but something in those amazing eyes made her stay, and even more alarming, answer his nosy question. “Almost a year—this time. Why are you here? I know it wasn’t for the wine.”
Straightening his spine, he sipped from the glass and shrugged. “I thought I’d drop in to see you.”
“You’ve seen me, now leave.” She turned away.
Austin snorted. “Not so fast, puppy.”
She faced him with her hands fisted at her sides. “Oh, that’s mature. You think because you’re one of Lucas Pomeroy’s pet bats you’re so much better than the rest of us.”
He smirked and set his glass on the bar. “You do know I can’t turn into a bat, don’t you?”
She rolled her eyes, and he chuckled, infuriating her further.
“I follow a different code of ethics, you could say, than most of the damned and undead.” He looked around.
With only an hour before closing, there were only a handful of people in the place. When he locked those shifting golden-gray-green eyes on hers, she shivered.
“I think we should have a private chat after you close.” The serrated edge of his voice sawed through her. “I have some questions and want to get all the facts straight before I become judge, jury, and executioner.”
A cold lump fell into her stomach, but she fought the urge to run and leaned closer. Her mouth so dry she had to lick her lips to speak. “I’m not the one doing the killing, bloodsucker.”
“Then you shouldn’t mind helping me find out who is.”
Brigit spun away to take an order for a drink. How could she help him find the killer when she wasn’t a hundred percent sure she hadn’t attacked those humans?

What made you decide to write a series?
That’s an easy answer. I fell as much in love with Brad and Ben as I did Ian. They deserved their own stories with their own heroines.

Is your short story Bloodwine (A fabulous read, by the way!) part of this series as well?
I’m thrilled you enjoyed it! But no, Bloodwine isn’t part of the series. Although, I like the word I built in that short story. The mix of ancient vampires set in a futuristic world. I’m toying with expanding on my ideas and writing an actual book. But until I either become independently wealthy so that I can quit the evil day job, or someone invents a cloning device, it will have to wait. I’ve got too many other projects going on.

What got you interested in writing?
I’m not really sure. I think we are born to it. It doesn’t matter if we have never read a book before, we are either born storytellers or we aren’t. I was always making up stories in my head. Or in the games I’d play. I was, for the most part an only child—my brother was 6 years younger than me—and I had no other children around I could play with, so I invented siblings and friends. I gave them lives and homes and came up with stories about each of them.
But I hated to read in elementary school and writing was even less enjoyable. I’m dyslexic and was classified with a learning disability when I was in third grade and couldn’t read above a kindergarten level.
I eventually read my first book for my pleasure in eighth grade, the novelization of the TV miniseries The Blue and The Gray. Soon after finishing it, I started thinking up my own stories. Only this time, instead of just telling the story in my head, I wrote it down. Those ideas eventually morphed into my very first book which I wrote as a journaling exercise in eleventh grade.

What comes first, plot or characters?
Usually the characters. Then I think up the plot in which to torture these poor unsuspecting characters who have the misfortune of popping up in my psyche.

How do you come up with the titles for your books?
The titles for the books in The Hunter’s Daggers Series actually came fairly easy. Each of the ending words, Angel, Blade and Wings (the yet to be written book 3) all have a greater meaning to the “hunter” in each story.
In A Hunter’s Angel, Ian is trying to find divine forgiveness (or grace *grin*). Angels are the symbol God’s forgiveness/grace.
In A Hunter’s Blade, Austin (he is a character from A Hunter’s Angel, but changes his name after being turned into a vampire) only wants to be the best darn hunter that he can. He wants to prove to himself that he’s worthy of his hunter’s dagger (or blade).
In A Hunter’s Wings, the banished Guardian Angel, Tarial, wants her wings, which she lost after she saved the vampire master Lucas almost 2 thousand years ago, back.
I ended up using this same method when I had to re-title my (as Sara Walter Ellwood) first contemporary Western release, Gambling On A Secret. The working title had been “Butterfly” which is a metaphor I use in the story. But alas, my editor didn’t think it fit a Western. After a day of thinking about the themes in the series and the first book, Gambling On A Secret and all the other titles within the series came easily. I actually love these titles better than the ones I’d originally had for the books.

What is the hardest part of writing?
Honestly, now it’s just finding the time to write. Between my family, the day job and the promotion, not to mention completing my deadlines for my two editors, I’m having a hard time getting into a writing grove. I used to be able to pound out three to five thousand words a day, now I’m lucky if I get a thousand.

What have you learned from being a published author that you wish you knew before you were published?
There’s a whole heap of things I wish I would’ve learned before now, from effective promotion to time management. But mostly I wish I’d been more active on Facebook and Twitter and would have learned how to use them to my best advantage—because now I don’t really have time to do so.

What’s the best writing advice you ever received/read?
The best advice I ever got was from an editor who rejected my first contemporary Western about three years ago. She told me to read Debra Dixon’s GMC. I ended up reading Mary Buckham and Dianna Love’s Break Into Fiction. That book saved me. I have since read GMC too, but I learned the structure of writing a publishable novel from Break Into Fiction. Before then I’d include things that weren’t really need to tell the story. In fact, A Hunter’s Angel had been a mess before I applied what I’d learned and rewrote it.

Any advice for new writers?
Never give up. Never stop trying. And never stop learning.

Where can we find you and your books?
Website Links:
To Sign up for my newsletter:

Buy Links for A Hunter’s Angel:
The Wild Rose Press:
Barnes and Noble:

Buy Link for A Hunter’s Blade:

Thank you so much, Debra.

I'm also having a giveaway!
Two lucky posters will be picked to receive a custom piece of jewelry designed by me. So make sure you LEAVE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS in your post!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Real Life Heroes

No, I'm not talking about military men and women or firefighters or police officers. Although those people definitely deserve hero status in my mind. That goes without saying.

What I'm talking about are those little, every day moments that jump out at you and scream, "I belong in the pages of your book!"

Yesterday I was walking home from school. The autumn air was crisp. Many trees in the neighborhood have already begun to sport their bold colors. And a pile (really a trail) of leaves had been blown to the curb awaiting pickup. It was literally a picture perfect day and a picture perfect scene.

A man and his young sons were walking along the sidewalk, too. One of the boys noticed the abundance of leaves at the curb. His eyes got wide and excitement laced his voice as he pointed them out to his dad. He timidly went over and put one foot into the tempting pile.

Immediately Dad said, "Come on, let's do it!"

He took both boys by the hand and led them to the beginning of the long path of multi-colored leaves. At his command of "Go!" the boys raced through the leaves toward the other end. Their laughter rang in the chilly air. The leaves crunched beneath their feet.

I couldn't help but pause to watch and smile. After I crossed the street, I turned to look again, and there was Dad, racing through the pile of leaves along with his sons, the joy in his deeper voice blending with theirs.

It was the perfect moment. It belonged right in the pages of a book. My book to be precise. It was the exact thing my hero Joe from An Unexpected Blessing would do with the heroine's son. Too bad that book is already done and ready for release next month. The cozy scene would have fit perfectly into the story line.

But the moment will definitely go into my file of ideas for future stories.

And it reminded me, it really is true, inspiration can be found everywhere. Sometimes when you least expect it.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

An Unexpected Blessing - coming November 21.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

An Interview with my Heroine, Neve Dalton

Today I'm interviewing Neve Dalton, the heroine of my November release, Her Only Option. I’m on the Lady Nadia cruise ship, waiting for her in the lobby.
Ah, I see her now, running down the stairs– but, oh dear, she doesn’t look very happy …
Has something upset you, Neve?
I’ll say it has! I went up to the sundeck for some peace and quiet until my next tour group arrives, and next I know, I’m being chatted up by one of those cruise ship Casanovas – you know, the smooth-talking posers who think female tour guides are an easy target. And this one had the nerve to say tour guides churn out half-baked facts from inaccurate guide books!
I take it you weren’t impressed?
Well … (Neve blushes) … he was rather good-looking, with dark hair, and amazing blue eyes … but then he tried to claim he was an archaeologist. Huh! Probably one of those dilettantes who think they can make the discovery of a lifetime without any effort. Anyway, enough about him. I’m only thankful he’s on the Lady Amirah and not the Nadia, although I don’t envy my friend Joanne having to put up with him for this week’s cruise.
Er – how did you meet him if he’s on a different ship?

Oh, haven’t you been up to the sundeck? As you’ve seen, cruise ships have to be moored 3 or 4 abreast because there are so many here in Luxor, and they’re built to the same design, so the sundecks are level. Joanne and I often meet up to have a chat over the rails.
Let me ask you more about yourself and Joanne. I believe you’re both Cambridge graduates, so why did you decide to become Nile cruise ship guides?
We both felt we needed a break from the academic life. This job with the Rahman cruise line has given me the opportunity to return to Egypt where I grew up, and to share my passion for Ancient Egypt.
I understand you’ve been dating Malik Rahman.
(Neve narrows her eyes) I hope you’re not going to make some derogatory comment about me dating the boss’s son?
I wouldn’t dream of doing that!
I like Malik, he’s –well, as Joanne has said, he’s good-looking, charming, worships the ground I walk on, but—
But you’re not in love with him?
I can’t be, can I? Otherwise I’d have accepted his proposal.
So he’s asked you to marry him?
Oh yes, several times. But, between you and me, I think the only reason for his proposals is because his father won’t give him any senior role in the company until he’s ‘settled’ - which to Sabry means married and with a whole brood of sons to inherit the Rahman empire. And I’m not ready to settle down as a wife and mother.
Anyway, if you’ll excuse me now, I need to call Joanne and warn her about that annoying self-styled archaeologist she’ll have to put up with on the Lady Amirah this week. Rather her than me!  Bye-ee! (She runs down the stairs to the staff quarters on the lower deck)  
Hmm, I wonder when Neve is going to change her mind about that annoying archaeologist?
Her Only Option will be published by Whiskey Creek Press on November 1st.   

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Successful Promotion Ideas

I’ve published two books and, while I’m still learning what works and what doesn’t, I’ve discovered several successful promotion ideas that have helped sell my books.

  • My mother in law: Seriously, that woman has generated more sales for me by talking to her friends, family and in some cases, complete strangers, than anyone I’ve ever met. Take advantage of your family and friends. Have them get the word out.
  • Magnets: I had business card-sized magnets made up when my first book was coming out. Because my book was being published in June, I tied it into the theme of a “beach read” and had a beach scene with my name, the title of my book, website and the release date. I mailed it to everyone I knew with a note announcing my book, giving a blurb, and providing purchase links. I hand out extras at book signings.
  • Bookmarks: For my second book, I did the same thing, but with tied it to the idea of curling up with a good book and drinking hot cocoa, since it was releasing in November. Again, I hand out extras at book signings.
  • Social media: I have an author page on Facebook, where I promote my books, post cute notes about topics related to writing, post links to my blogs when they relate to writing and generally use the page to keep people informed of my writing progress. I solicit “page likes” occasionally. I also belong to various book and writer groups on Facebook, where again, I promote my books and blogs. I use Twitter and follow editors, publishers and reviewers. I also periodically look for romance readers or chocolate or shoe lovers (since I’ve read there is a connection between liking chocolate, shoes and romance books). Once I tweet with them a few times, I usually end up with their following me as well. I tweet about my books, blogs and writing progress, as well as other things that interest me. I’ve just started using Triberr, which somehow links Twitter posts to other people and expands my reach to more than just my followers.
  • Book Signings: I participate in book festivals, library talks/shows and book signings whenever I have the chance. Check your local libraries to see if they offer author panels or local author signings. Purchase a booth at local craft fairs, country fairs, etc.
  • Gift Baskets: I contact my local PTO and other school organizations and offer to put together a book basket or two (with things such as candy, lotion, etc.) for their fundraisers, tricky trays, silent auctions and raffles. I add in my bookmarks and info about the book I DON’T include in the basket to encourage the reader to buy the other one.

What do you do?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Jane, Libby and Me by Anne Holly

Recently, I just got around to watching the 2007 movie, The Jane Austen Book Club. Yes, I know I’m late to the party, but this is what having a small child will do to you. Around here, Bob the Builder tends to shoulder out the more adult fare.

I was of two minds when selecting this film. I am a great Jane Austen fan, and like many romance writers I consider her an icon. Yet, because of that love for Ms. Austen, I am also reluctant about pop cultural retellings and refurbishments. But, when you need a movie, and you’re looking in the bargain bin, sometimes you have to take a chance. And sometimes, you get lucky!

The Jane Austen Book Club, based on the 2004 bestseller by Karen Joy Fowler, features five women and one man who get together to read all six of Austen’s canonical works. The movie spans the six months they spend, with each section of the movie covering the month leading up to their meeting, wherein each finds the truth of Austen in their own lives, each in their own way according to their character and situation.

Aside from being fairly predictable, this movie worked for me as a testament to exactly why I love Austen – she can be all things to all people, and her novels have withstood the tests of time brilliantly.

Most writers, myself included, could never dream of being as universal and portable as Austen.

Yet, as a writer of romance, I flatter myself to say I am of her tradition. The genre of romance is itself rather portable. While many critics might titter about bodices being ripped and alphamale misogyny, of flights of fancy and losing one’s head, the actual books are so much more. For me, they are humanity. The books I love tell of the desire for, and fear of, connections with other humans. At its heights, romance is a genre of the human condition, and I have loved every single one of my characters for the bravery they have shown in taking their chances.

But real people have more at stake than their hearts when they take a chance on love.

The reason this film spoke to me, and the reason why many an Austen homage has not, is because this movie picked up so wonderfully on Austen’s major preoccupation with the function and consequences of her genre. That is, the concern, even dread, that romances can lead to the valuation of foolhardy passionate whims over the long term concerns of loyalty, community, devotion. That they might make us seek handsome faces and charming manners over longer lasting gifts, such as respect, honour and peaceful coexistence. Austen, better than most writers, understood that the true match made in heaven is one that results in a magical combination of all these things – basically, romance wedded with responsibility. Too often, people forget the sanity Austen brings to the table, and paint her books as fancy instead of realism.

For a single gal, Austen had a terrific understanding of the work that goes into love, regardless of the hearts and flowers tacked onto it by others.

I have made romance my focus, not only as a writer of fiction, but academically. One of my interests in cultural studies is the development of the myth of romance, particularly how people talk about passion and freedom in relation to loyalty and fidelity, and how they’ve been portrayed as somehow antithetical in recent “Follow Your Bliss” generations. In my books, I try to follow Austen’s example and bridge the divide between desire and partnership, things that often seem contradictory in pop culture these days.

Not surprisingly, my genre study has made it into my fiction. In my recent novel, Textbook Romance, wherein I explore the meaning of romance, my heroine Libby is a scholar who works to debunk the myths of love. For Libby, chasing after love is a fool’s errand, yet we are convinced by novels and movies that true love is forever violins. Libby’s work is about exposing the things that we think will make us happy, but merely bring heartache. She knows this from personal experience, and she’s determined not to make the same mistake again. Until, of course, she meets Seth, a romantic who is just as determined to change her mind about love. Yet, both have responsibilities that need to be respected.

Libby and I have a lot in common. Not because I have a Seth, sadly, but because she and I both think a lot about this idea of romance, and the impact it has. Also, like me, Libby swings back and forth between her Real Life and her Secret Life. You see, Libby also writes romance novels under a pen name! And, like me, she worries about what messages she sends. Like me, all of her work is about trying to understand this human condition.

For Libby, this is an ongoing quandary until she learns to let go of her fears. For me, combining honest courage with devotion, and, yes, with passion, makes me feel more optimistic about romance. I also make sure that my stories follow the Darcies home, in a manner of speaking. I like to take the couples past their romantic haze into true, human dilemmas that come along with coupling in the real world.

So, while I don’t compare myself to Austen, I love being part of her legacy, not writing romantic fantasies that remain unaware of responsibilities and common sense, but about the human need for a connection that works. Many stories valorize fearless pursuit of attraction, consequences be damned. But, when you think about it, acknowledging the troubles that potential lovers face makes their leaps of faith that much more courageous.

And, for me, at its best a romance is a tale of this courage.

So, what lessons have you learned from Jane?

An Excerpt from Textbook Romance:

Why doesn’t he call? The thought kept creeping into Libby’s thoughts off and on all day since she’d left that awkward voicemail for Seth. Why doesn’t he call me back? Had she been too frazzled? Not clear enough? Or was it just too little, too late? Oh mercy, she thought with a gasp – perhaps he thought she was just drunk!

Why doesn’t he call?

It was a pathetic preoccupation, she told herself sternly. She hadn’t even obsessed over getting calls from boys she liked as a teenager, and she was certainly too old for that now.

This lecture wasn’t strong enough to keep her from practically lunging at her cell phone every time it rang, though. So far, there’d been one call from Debbie, one from her old college roommate Julie, and one drunken wrong number.

Why doesn’t he call?

She was afraid she’d start whining and downing ice cream soon, at the rate she was going.

After Charlie had conked out just a half hour shy of the New Year the night before, Libby had thumbed through her mother’s meager book collection. Passing over the murder mysteries and agony melodramas, she placed a finger on a familiar book spine: Blinded by Love: How Popular Culture has Created and Sold Romance by Liberty Sullivan. She remembered sending the book to her mother out of the box of advance copies from the publisher. She had no idea whether her mother had ever read it, but she was touched to see it displayed on the shelf in such a prominent place. She’d curled up in a ratty recliner to read the words her younger self had so smugly sent out into the universe from her ivory tower:

“The trick of popular culture’s construction of love and romance is that it seems so natural to us that co-habitation should be based on passion rather than on the logical decision to mate for life. So natural that the notion that this hasn’t always been the case, or that there are other equally valid foundations upon which to build a pairbonding relationship, inspires confused stares from those of us educated at the feet of Hollywood and romantic literature.”

The next day, she was still pondering what she’d read. Libby still believed the things she had written in her book. Love at first sight, with all those fluttering hormones, wasn’t always the key to relationship success, and she still believed that books and movies promoting impulsive, selfish romantic decisions were foolhardy. But thinking about what Debbie had told her, she could see now that she hadn’t realized the full message behind what she had written. Wasn’t it possible that love at first sight could become something deeper? Relationships shouldn’t be built on lust alone, certainly, but, when mixed with the more eternal qualities of friendship and partnership, there was no reason why love and desire should be excluded from marriage altogether. One simply had to find all of these things wrapped up in a single person.

And now, perhaps too late, she was realizing that Seth might be that person for her.

Why doesn’t he call?

“Dammit,” she muttered as she checked her empty voicemail for the twelfth time that day. She refused to go so far as to call him again, but the silence of her cell was starting to deafen her.

“He’ll call,” her mother reassured her with a flip of a hand.

“He would’ve by now.”

Just then the chirp of her phone cut off her pessimism, and her mother shot her a smug look of victory. “It’s him!” Libby mouthed and dashed to the nearest bathroom for some privacy, nearly dancing like a schoolgirl.

“Hi!” she gasped into the phone, barely able to catch her breath.

“Hi,” Seth greeted her. “Am I calling at a bad time?”

“No! Not at all!” Libby knew her voice was a bit too loud, and she tried to calm herself down. She was just so relieved that he’d called. As long as they could talk, it wasn’t all over.

“It’s just, you sound out of breath.”

“Yeah, I was just…” Libby shook her head, reminding herself she was a grown woman. “Never mind. I’m not busy.”

To learn more about the book, check out its website at:

Anne Holly is a Canadian writer, mother and teacher, who currently lives in Ontario. She’s the author of two contemporary romance novels and numerous short works, and is working on two historical pieces at the moment. You can find her on Facebook, GoodReads, Twitter, and her blog, or check out her books on Amazon, B&N, and elsewhere.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Getting Started...Way Back When

I started reading romance in high school. Harlequin American was my prefered series of choice back then. After reading quite a few, I decided I wanted to write one some day. Then I thought, why wait for some day? So I dove in and wrote one and then another. All told I think I wrote about four romances back in high school.

Needless to say, I had no idea what I was doing. There were terrible to say the least. In one my heroine was married to another man and she was having an affair with her boss, the hero. Um, yeah. That's a big no no. In another my hero was from Spain and I based a lot of the story there. I didn't know a thing about Spain and didn't bother to do any research either. But I did make use of some of the Spanish I was learning in one of my classes. One of my heroes was a rock star, based on my first rock star crush ever, Rick Springfield. To 'disguise' my hero I named him Rick Summerfield. Gee. No one would ever figure that one out, would they. (But I thought I was so clever!)

I had no idea about goal, motivation, or conflict. I had no idea about showing not telling. I had no idea about plot or pacing. Basically, I had no idea...

But, looking back, writing those stories was a good experience. Even after those lame attempts, I never gave up my dream of 'some day'. And eventually, that day came and I not only wrote a book, but sold it and got it published as well. And then I did it again. And again. And again. And again.

And although some days I still feel like I don't know what I'm doing, I've learned a lot since those first high school attempts. And I learn something new with each and every book. I still have those old stories, and I take them out every once in a while. They are definitely good for a walk down memory lane and a laugh and a smile. In a way, writing those stories back then was easier than it is now...because I didn't know anything. I didn't have to worry about anything but telling the story. There's something to be said about that.

And, one of these days, I'm going to rehash that rock star one. I've even come up with a better name for my hero: Jesse Rhodes. He's a hillybilly rock star on a roll, and she's the reporter who just might ruin his career...and his life...when her story breaks.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


P.S. I'm out of town at a conference today and tomorrow, and I'm not sure if I'll have access to a computer, so forgive me if I don't respond to comments in a timely manner.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

An Interview with my Hero

Today I’m interviewing Ross McAllister, the archaeologist hero of my November release ‘Her Only Option’.  We're on the Nile cruise ship, the Lady Amirah, and I've just caught him before he goes upstairs to the sundeck. As he's wearing a blue shirt over his swimming trunks, I assume he's going for a swim, but he's promised me five minutes first.
Professor McAllister, can you tell us more about the work you’re doing in the Valley of the Kings?
We’re exploring a tunnel in the tomb of Senhotep the First. It leads from the burial chamber and was first discovered about forty years ago, but after they’d opened up about a hundred metres, they couldn’t get any further.
Why not?
They were heading in the wrong direction.
What makes you think you’re heading in the right direction?
We weren’t sure until we found 52 steps leading into a lower part of the tunnel. We’ve also unearthed some funerary figures and a stone fragment with Senhotep’s name.
What are you hoping to find at the end of the tunnel?
We know the sarcophagus in the burial chamber was empty, but we have no idea where the Pharaoh’s remains are. The tunnel may have been intended to fool the tomb robbers, or it may lead to another burial chamber, or it may simply represent the king’s route through the underworld. We won’t know until we reach the end. If we reach the end.
Yes, I understand you have some problems with financing your work, since Stephen Lingard withdrew his funding. Can you tell us why he did that?
I’m sure you’ve already read the gossip columns. Stephen’s daughter, Sophie, and I ended our engagement a few weeks ago. A mutual decision, I assure you, but unfortunately her father blamed me and accused me of publicly humiliating his daughter. After that, of course, he pulled the plug on his funding.
And you have no alternative source of funding?
We’re putting out various feelers at present, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
In the meantime, you’re about to take a trip up the Nile here on the Lady Amirah. Why?

Why not? (Hollow laugh from Ross). Actually, this trip was supposed to be part of my honeymoon. I could have cancelled it, but I’ve given my team two weeks’ leave, and I haven’t had any break in the last three months, so I thought I might as well spend a relaxing week on the cruise.
Maybe you’ll meet someone else with a rich daddy who will finance your work?
Oh no, I’ve absolutely no intention of getting involved with another woman, with or without a rich daddy. Sophie told me I was married to my work, and she's right. I doubt any woman would understand my passion for Ancient Egypt, so I'll concentrate on my work, assuming I can find some new funding, of course. And now, if you've finished, I'd like to go up to the sundeck.
(He flings his towel over one shoulder and takes the stairs two at a time)

Could those be ‘famous last words’ for our hero, or is this the beginning of his story?

‘Her Only Option’ will be released by Whiskey Creek Press next month.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Writing A Synopsis

Those three words are some of my most dreaded. A synopsis, as it applies to romance writing, is a summary of your book that includes the ending. Different publishers and agents have different guidelines for how long they’d like the synopsis to be. In general, most synopses are between two and five pages, but some can be as long as eight to ten or as short at one.

The different guidelines are one of the reasons why I hate writing them. The other is that I find it very difficult to show my writing voice when I’m summarizing my story. However, I attended a class a long time ago that gave me an exercise to do when I write a synopsis. I found it to be very helpful, so I thought I’d share them here:

  1. Start out with identifying and describing your main characters. You can never know your characters too well!
  2. Write a one-sentence description of your book. We’re talking beyond bare bones here!
  3. Write a one sentence beginning of your book. How would you summarize your opening scene?
  4. Write a one sentence ending of your book. How would you summarize your ending scene?
  5. Write a one paragraph description of your book. This will also help you with your query letters.
  6. Write a one page description of your book. Expand that paragraph.
  7. Write a three page description of your book. Expand that page.

I find this exercise helpful because it gets me thinking critically about what elements to include or leave out of a synopsis. It also builds upon itself—if I can manage to write a paragraph, I can probably write a page. Would it work for you? How do you tackle your synopses?