Sunday, August 29, 2010

Love Scenes

I don't need descriptions of slippery clefts. I know my anatomy.
I also know my husband's.
I want the escalating thrill of a new love--without actually having to do it.
I want foreplay that sets my heart on fire, and bed (or tabletop) action that ignites my body.

Bertrice Small writes sex scenes that sizzle with purpose and imagination. No one does it better, in my opinion.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

"The Practically Perfect" Synopsis

Ask any writer and I'll bet darn few of them list a synopsis as their favorite thing to write. A synopsis was always tricky for me. I still can't write one before I finish a book, but rather I go back and fill one in after my story is complete. If I ever need to sell a book on a synopsis, I'm in big trouble. (This really is something I need to learn to do at some point...the synopsis BEFORE the book.)

I have however, found a synopsis formula that works for me. Laurie Brown, fellow Chicago-North chapter mate and 2010 RITA Finalist for "What Would Jane Austen Do?", presented a mini workshop on synopsis for our group. She calls it "seven steps to a practically perfect two page synopsis", and I'm telling works.

Here are the basics in a nutshell:

1 - Opening paragraph should have a hook that leads into the bio of the hero and/or heroine. Use GMC. (CHARACTER NAME, a SHORT DESCRIPTION wants GOAL because MOTIVATION but WHY SHE CAN'T HAVE IT.)

2 - Second paragraph should be the GMC for the other main character.

3 - Third paragraph should be the meet or inciting incident that sets the conflict in motion. Use feelings. Tell, don't show.

4 - Fourth paragraph should show the deepening conflict. Pick two major plot turning points, one for each character.

5 - Fifth paragraph should show the birth of love. Again, pick two major plot turning points, one for each character.

6 - Sixth paragraph is the dark moment. Describe why each character feels there is no hope for the relationship.

7 - Seventh paragraph is the resolution. Describe what each character has learned about themselves and each other.

Laurie also reminded us that a synopsis should do three things: We get to know the characters, we understand what their conflicts (internal and external) are, and we know the conflict will be enough to last the length of book. In a romance synopsis, the focus should be on the relationship.

Following this format really has taken the agony out of writing a synopsis for me. Thanks, Laurie, for making my life easier in this regard!

And on that note, I really need to get a synopsis written for "Family Secrets".

Until next time,

Happy Reading (or writing)!


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Synopsis writing

Must confess I hate writing a synopsis, even more than I hated precis-writing exercises when I was at school.
But we writers have to do it, have to condense the blood, toil, sweat and tears that have gone into our stories into a couple of pages.
That's all Whiskey Creek want. 1-2 pages, summarising the beginning, middle and end, showing the conflict and resolution as well as character description.
Whoa! That's hard to do in 2 pages, especially when you have multiple conflicts, one piling in after another and the resolution is as complex as the conflicts have been. No word space for any dialogue or anything 'exciting'.
IMO you just have to tell the story.
I agonised over my synopsis for His Leading Lady - it was fairly bland and unexciting, but I must have done something right since they accepted it LOL

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Writing a Synopsis

I have to write my synopsis AFTER I write the story.

The story may not be complete, but the plot and chapters are there.

The rules for writing a synopsis are like the rules for writing a novel - ask a hundred people what the rules are and you'll get a hundred different answers.

I was taught by a popular writer how to write a synopsis. From that synopsis I received many requests. So, it worked. Why change it.

What I was taught: Open with a postive attitude: Widow and single parent, MaKayla Adams has the best plan to keep herself occupied when her son leaves for college in two weeks – start her own public relations business.

Her conflict: The problem – who will hire a thirty-six year old with a college degree and no experience?

The above are the first paragraph. My second paragraph, I describe the beginning and setting of the story and the heroines inner and outer conflicts. Next paragraph sets the tone for my heroine and what she will be up against.

Next couple of paragraphs you learn a little about my hero and his inner conflict and then he realizes who she is.

This is the black moment.

And then the rest describes how they make it through that black moment.

This is all done in a narrative voice. No deep POV or third person. This is four double-spaced pages.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Making a Synopsis Exciting to Read--and Write

I need to finish my WIP before I tackle the synopsis. So I went searching for advice.
Marg Gills says to start with the main character and his or her crisis. In her article at, she says to include snippets of dialogue or quote briefly from the novel itself. Don't neglect to reveal the character's emotions and motivations, those points that explain why a character does something, but keep it brief. If the setting is exotic, inject a taste of it into the synopsis with a brief paragraph. This includes any background information that is absolutely necessary for the reader to understand the story. Build excitement as you near the conclusion of the story summary by using shorter sentences and paragraphs. The synopsis is a sample of your writing; it is a taste of what reading the actual novel will be like, so give it your all.
She adds, don't forget that one- or two-sentence story line, or the theme of the story. It should go in your synopsis, or in your cover letter. Editors and agents like having this distillation; not only will it pique their interest, but it's something they can use when presenting the novel to the buying board. It's also something you can use, the next time someone politely asks you, "What's your novel about?"
This sounds like good advice.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

What's in a Name?

Character names are so important, yet at times so difficult to come up with. For my first book, the name of my heroine just popped into my head one day: Sharlie Montgomery. My sister actually came up with my hero (and I credit her in my dedication): Logan Reed. In that first book I had some secondary characters who would one day have books of their own. I named these guys Zach and Jake. There was also a character named Pete. I really didn't think anything of those names at first, until my editor (the fabulous Kat O'Shea) pointed out that the three names were similar in form. Four letters, many of the same letter formations. By that time, it was too late to change them. Zach and Jake had already (in my mind) become characters in their own right. There was no way I could change them midstream.

However, because of her comment, I have become even more aware of not only the importance of naming the hero and heroine, but of how their names fit together and work work the names of even minor characters.

Most of the time, once I find a name, I stick with it. Of course finding a name isn't always easy. I use an on-line baby naming list when I'm really stuck. I'll ask my hubby or friends what they think. I did change the name of one of my heroes during a rewrite of one of my manuscripts. The original name just wasn't working for me, and I eventually came up with one which worked much better. I've changed the name of minor characters from time to time, too.

Right now, I'm stuck on my current heroine's name. I named her Alyson. I wanted the hero to be able to call her by a nickname (Aly), but the name just isn't doing it for me. I have a host of secondary characters that have been established in other books, so I'm having a hard time coming up with a name for her. I've started the book using Alyson, but I really want to come up with something better before I get too far into it to change her.

Just for are my character pairings.

This Time for Always - Sharlie Montgomery and Logan Reed
Wild Wedding Weekend - Abby Walker and Noah Grant
This Can't Be Love - Jessica Hart and Zach Rawlings
Mistletoe and Folly - Mia Preston and Ethan Chase
Family Secrets* - Erika Garret and Chase Stewart
This Feels Like Home* - Alyson Winfield and Jake Hawkins
Rosewood* - Ellie(?) and Jeremiah Reynolds

*denotes a work in progress

So, there you hve it...any thoughts?

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Characters' Names

Sometimes the names are there when I first start thinking about a story. Other times I have to search for them. In 'His Leading Lady' the heroine was always Jess, but it took me some time before I decided on Kyle for the hero. I wanted a Scottish name and tried a few others before finally deciding on Kyle. Once he became Kyle, he became real.
In my current story, the heroine was always Abbey (occasionally called by her full name of Abigail) but to begin with, I had no ideas for the hero. I called him Jack just to give him a name and intended to change it once I got into the story. But somehow he became Jack, and there's no way I could change his name now!
Actually I have far more problems with surnames. Surname books and internet lists are too long, so sometimes I flip through a TV magazine to give me a surname, or look along the line of books on my shelves, or even think of a name from my family history!
In the end, though, I think all names are subjective. There are names we like and names we don't (for whatever reasons), and of course other people have their likes and dislikes. The hero in one of my early books was called Max (short for Maxwell), and I remember my mother saying the name Max always reminded of a neighbour's dog which had a really annoying bark. Just shows that you can't please all the people all the time!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Naming Characters

I'm not sure where I get my names from.

I know I have a couple story ideas written down and the names of my characters are filled in with question marks.

Once I start getting into the plot, I'll think of what they look like, act like, and then come up with a letter for a name. Then if nothing comes to mind, I'll look in my book of names under that letter and find something.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Inventing characters' names

I named my first hero Blade Masters. He's a studly, rich city kid turned sharp shooter who masters everything but the heroine. My WIP heroine is named Joni; her dead mother loved Joni Mitchell.
I think naming characters is one of the 'funnest' aspects of writing. Names can conjure an image, make a statement, generate embarassment or pride for the character. I dislike names that are hard to pronounce or long embellishments of a 'normal' name.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday Friends with Autumn Jordon

Thanks, Autumn, for being here on Friday Friends.

Autumn: I’m excited to be here. The place looks new and real nice. For one lucky commenter, now through Monday, August 16, 2010, I’d like to give away a copy of my January release, Obsessed By Wildfire in e-format. The winner can be anywhere on the net, but must be 18 years of age since it’s rated HOT! So comment and if you don’t know what to say, answer the question I posted at the end of the interview.

Okay, I have my tea. Let’s talk.

Tell us a little about Evil’s Witness.

Autumn: Evils’ Witness is a romantic suspense set in the mountains of northeast Pennsylvania. The idea for the story came about because of an incident that occurred at my family’s trucking company. A tractor-trailer and an entire load of juice disappeared. Trucks are high-jacked more often than you might imagine. Around the same time, we also hauled currency for the U.S. Treasury. I simply put the two events together and then thought what would happen if the robbery was witnessed by a small town woman, like myself. And what If the heists were conducted by the mafia, how would my heroine escaped the mafia and save her children? Where would she hide?

I’m thrilled that Evil’ Witness has received two great reviews so far and I’ve had a few readers email me saying they loved the story. Melissa said she can’t get my characters out of her head. I love Melissa.

Here’s a blurp:

Stephanie Boyd’s world crashes when she and her children witness a blood bath. To escape the wrath of the Russian Mafia, she has no choice but to help the FBI uncover the mafia’s mole inside the U.S. Treasury. While on the run with the handsome agent who is willing to die for them, Stephanie learns the meaning of love.

Agent John Dolton’s break in solving the case that cost him everything is a couple of kids and a beautiful widow. But keeping them safe seems impossible when their every move is foreseen by their enemy. Stephanie and her children soften the loner’s heart and John vows not to fail to protect the family he loves.

What comes first for you, the characters or the plot?

Autumn: Actually, for me, it’s a first line or a germ of an idea. I don’t really plot. I get this logline in my head and begin to write. Usually by the end of the first chapter, I’m searching for pictures of my hero and heroine. I like to have them posted near my desk. I’ll write maybe fifty pages and then I’ll jot down a sketchy synopsis. Basically, I’m writing down goals, motivations and turning points. The synopsis changes when I’m finish a bit because my characters have a way of lead the way sometimes.

How long does it take you to write a novel?

Autumn: I write a pretty clean first draft. I can’t seem to move on until a scene is nearly perfect, (cough), in my head at that time of course. The first draft of a 75,000 wc novel takes me about six to seven months, depending on life. Then the layering happens. That usually takes a month or so before I feel comfortable sending it out to my readers. I love to tweak and layer. Once I get their comments, I start editing again. All together, I guess it takes me about 9 months to complete a novel.

What have you learned being published that you wish you knew before you were published?

Autumn: The real work begins after you sign your contract. In addition to writing your next book, there are edits, galleys and promo which takes a huge amount of time and also industry stuff you ignored reading before.

If you think you know how to juggle time now, think of ways to do even more in less time. If you’re not an organized person, learn to be. If you think, I don’t need to network, ha ha. Peel your backside off the wall, wall flower, and start talking to people. Start reading the news bulletins on the industry.

What's the best writing advice you've ever received/read?

Autumn: Easy question. Not everyone is going to like your story, so shrug off the negative comments, quit the whining and get back to writing. That came from NY Bestselling author, Kasey Michaels, one of my dearest mentors, who didn’t say it quite that way. GRIN.

Where can our readers find you?

Autumn: Through my website or I’m on Facebook, Myspace and Twitter. I also have my own blog and post Wednesdays,

Can I ask your readers a question? What tempts you to read a book? The cover, blurp, word of mouth, bookmarkers, etc. etc.

And to tempt your reader, an excerpt of Evil’s Witness:

“Are you going to tell me what Ben Stover had to say?” She dreaded hearing the news he’d learned. It couldn’t be good. He would’ve told her good news immediately.
“They lifted the prints from the guy at the mall and ran them through the system. Ben had a hit. A small time thief named Doug Antonelli, a.k.a. Dog. So you were right about his name. But, we haven’t had any luck searching the data banks for a Victor, yet.”
She held on to a glimmer of hope. “You think you will though?”
He nodded. “This guy didn’t just fall to earth with a plan to rob the U.S. Treasury of millions. He has to have come from somewhere—have some kind of record. We’ll find him. It’s just going to take some time.”
“I won’t be stupid and ask how much?”
“I appreciate that.” He smiled. As if realizing for the first time that she was washing dishes, he said, “I told you I’d do those, Steph.”
She’d noted before he’d shortened her name. She kind of liked the nickname.
“That’s okay. This is therapy.” Stephanie shrugged and smiled at him as she rinsed another plate. “After the last twenty-four hours, I really needed to do something normal.”
“I understand. I do the same thing when I’m done with a case.”
Her hands stilled under the warm water. “You do?”
“You look surprised.” He set his mug down, snatched the tea towel from the counter and started to dry the dishes from the rack.
Gene had never helped her with the dishes.
She washed and John dried. It was kind of nice standing side by side, talking, even though some of their conversation dealt with their lives being at stake. But there was something about a man wearing a gun, drying dishes that struck her as funny. Especially a barefooted one.
She chuckled and he looked confused. “What?
“I’m sorry. It’s just you’re FBI.” Her cheeks warmed, again, the moment the idiotic words spilled from her mouth.
“We have lives too. We don’t wait in sterile closets for the next case.” He laughed with her.
She liked his laugh and the way his eyes sparkled.
“Well, actually, I sort of had this picture of you in a smoke filled room, playing cards, waiting for the call. Then going to the sterile room to be briefed on the high-tech gadgets you’ll use on your mission.”
“You’ve got it all wrong. I haven’t played cards in years.”
“Oh, I see. That’s the only part wrong?”
“Well, yeah.”
“Hmm.” Stephanie’s heart pounded so hard in her chest she thought for sure John would hear it over the steady stream of tap water.
He wore no ring. She wanted to ask him if there was a Mrs. Dolton, but she didn’t have the nerve.

Thanks so much for being with us, Autumn. Please come back when your next book comes out.

Be sure to leave your email address so Autumn and I can get in touch with you if you are the winner. Winner will be announced on Tuesday, so leave a comment/message until then.

Good luck and thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Choosing a Publisher

There are a lot more publishers around than there were when I was writing in the 60's and 70's. When I came back to writing a few years ago, I intended to try Mills and Boon/Harlequin again because they'd published me in the past. However, some preliminary reading of their current novels quickly revealed that my kind of stories didn't really fit their 'formula-driven' novels. Therefore I wasn't at all surprised when they rejected my first book (after keeping me waiting for 10 months!).
When I started to look around for alternatives, I was amazed at just how many there are out there. Of course, in the 60's and 70's pre-internet days, submission to an American publisher was out of the question because of the high mailing costs. I soon discovered, however, that there was a mass of American publishers who didn't insist on agent submissions only.
I narrowed my options down to half a dozen publishers and in the end decided on Whiskey Creek Press because (a)my friend Margaret writes for them and has always found them good to work for and (b)they asked for the whole manuscript right from the start, not just a query letter and synopsis or the first three chapters. Although I accept that a synopsis and sample chapters can give an editor an idea of the story and also of the standard of writing, I'd rather someone read my whole story, not just a part of it. Purely a personal preference, I know but to me it's similar, for example, to appointing someone as a teacher purely on the basis of how well they perform in an interview. Seeing only a part of something isn't as good as seeing the whole thing IMO.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


I plan to stick with publishers with a good track record.

Talk to authors to see if they are happy with their editor and publishing house. RWA is a good source for houses, but they add publishers if they make certain requirements. It doesn't make them a good publishing house.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


I haven't submitted a romance to a publisher in four years. Rejections after the requests jettisoned me onto a quest for a higher skill set. I've studied hard and am emerging to find publishing is in a whirlwind of change. Dorcester going e-only is huge.
I will submit to RWA-recommended e-publishers when my WIP is polished to the best of my ability. I'm nervous, but hoping I'll get a better grade than four years ago.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Friday Friends with Susan Meier

Thanks so much for joining us, Susan, on Friday Friends!!

Tell us about your July and August and November releases.

Susan: The July and August releases are a “duet” … two connected books to be released back to back. I’m very excited about this as it is my first duet for Harlequin. I’m also kind of excited about them because they are “the housekeeper says I do” books.

Both books have a wonderful fairytale feel as the two heroines, both maids in a company started by the heroine of book 1, Liz Harper. Imagine Liz’s surprise when she arrives at the home of her Friday morning client and discovers it’s her ex-husband!

It’s a fun, funny story that has an emotional center in that Liz had been pregnant and when she lost her baby it ended her marriage.

The august book MAID FOR THE SINGLE DAD chronicles how supersensitive, super alone, Ellie Swanson doesn’t just find her perfect mate, she finds an entire family who needs her. But the road to true love isn’t always smooth and they have a lot of “history” to deal with in terms of his ex-wife and her past.

The November book is a Christmas story. I’m doing a 2-for-1 with Barbara Wallace. This will be Barbara’s debut book! Our stories are about twins who are separated for the first time at Christmas. My heroine, a single mom, is the assistant to a sort of Scrooge who has decided to reopen the family Christmas tree farm. There’s plenty of fun and holiday traditions as the heroine teaches the hero the real meaning of Christmas … and, of course, of love!

What kind of research did you have to do? How do you approach someone to interview?

Susan: I do a lot of online research and a lot of online interviewing. I typically find someone who is an expert in the field that puzzles me and I email a list of questions. Most people are happy to answer, happy to be a part of a book!

You have been writing for Silhouette since 2005. Have you ever thought about writing a single title? If not, why?

Susan: Actually I’ve been writing for Harlequin and Silhouette since 1989. I know! I’m old! LOL

But I’m working on a single title right now. I got an idea that was just a tad too big to put into a romance. I tried to turn it into a series (thinking that could help it fit a category line). Instead I ended up with four books! Four single titles. So that’s the single title effort I’ll be making over the next few years! (Writing four single titles is a lot more complicated than four categories!)

How do you overcome writers block?

Susan: I read. I hunt around until I find a new book by a favorite author like Nora Roberts or Gina Showalter and I simply let myself fall into the book. Typically, a good book will have me jumping up from the sofa, thinking about my own story and how I can make it work!

What have you learned to look for while editing your work?

Susan: I have a tendency to over-explain and over-write! So when I go through final edits, I look for places that are dense with explanation!

Thanks so much for joining us, Susan. Please, come back any time.

Be sure to visit Susan's website at for all of her up to date information.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Happily Ever After

Quite simply, I write and read romance for the happily ever after. In today's world, having a guarantee that things are going to work out in the end is no small thing. The media (fact and fiction) is filled with tragedy.

Point in case, last night my girlfriend and I were watching a movie. It was one we'd been wanting to watch for a while, featuring a couple of our favorite actors, and were finally getting around to seeing. The movie was billed as a "romantic drama", so I figured it was right up my alley. The perfect tone for a girlie night.

Throughout the movie, the hero and heroine are faced with life's difficulties: family tragedies and issues, relationship concerns, life in general. The usual fare for romance: goal, motivation, and plenty of conflict. So we get toward the end, and things are looking good. The hero and heroine have declared their love and the secondary characters have begun to resolve some of their issues as well. As we're watching, my friend keeps saying she feels like something bad is going to happen. I assure her it's not, I mean after all, it's time for the happily ever after.

Nope. Hero gets killed. (Of course this compells everyone else to realize the value and precious gift of life and allows them to fully move on from their past issues, however...) It's twelve hours later and I'm still trying to process. I feel let down, angry, hurt, and a little shell-shocked that this is how things ended. (I'm not sure if I'll ever watch this movie again, which is a bummer, because up until the 'are-you-freaking-kidding-me?' ending, I was really enjoying it and the actor in it.)

With true tomance. This is never a problem. Along the way it may seem as though your characters are never going to find a way to work things out and get past the conflict(In fact, a good author makes sure you feel that way.), but they always do. It's guaranteed.

Even in the tough economic times we're having lately, statistics show that romance sales are up. People need that happily ever after now more than ever.

So, on that note...I have some writing to do.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Why write romance?

Short answer – because I’ve always written romance!
Well, not always. My first stories, as a pre-teen, were school, pony or theatre stories, but once I hit adolescence, I read romance, I watched romantic films and I wrote romance. I wrote stories for my friends which had 1940’s style romance between our favourite teachers or pop-stars or even the boys we liked. I’m sure I could be sued if those had ever hit the light of day! Of course, even though those stories were based on ‘real’ people, they were still imaginary really!
My first published novel in the 60's was a re-hash (and fuller development) of a story I’d written in my teens – names and places changed, of course. In later novels I developed my own main characters, who became as real to me as the earlier characters in my stories. I’m a romantic at heart, maybe because of (or despite) the fact that real life has proved different for me.
In a sense, I came back to novel-writing by the same route - writing fan-fiction stories about people I'd seen on the screen in The West Wing.
There’s no way I could write detective, mystery, suspense etc stories – my mind just doesn’t work like that. And I am simply not interested in writing (or reading!) what seems to be a modern trend (in America anyway, though I think less so in the UK) for paranormal, fantasy, vampire etc etc. I like my characters to be real people, not fantasy characters. One day I might try a historical – but it will still be a romance.
I think many women need some kind of escapism into a world where the heroes are gorgeous and romantic, and say and do all the things they’d love real-life men to do and say (but often – usually? - don’t). Otherwise why would romantic fiction be so popular?
And anyway, I like falling in love with my heroes.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Why write romance?

It's the only genre that held my attention.

I look forward to reading how the h/h get through their obstacles to find that happily ever after. I've always been attracted to romantic movies.

As a writer, it's exciting to help find love for two lonely people.

If only it was as easy to help friends and family find that special someone!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Why write romance?

I love the romance genre. Well-crafted stories sweep me away into an alternative universe where I bond with the characters and root for their HEA.
I started writing six years ago, when an author I respected cheated on her ending. Whether she was up against a killer deadline, or lost interest in her plot, she hopped to a summary reunion of H/H. I decided I could do better.
I should complete my first contempory WIP this winter. I intend to submit to an e-publisher. I have drafts of romances in western, time travel and suspense genres.
I am the new gardening columnist for Northwoods Woman magazine, so I've found the courage to be published. Now I need more time.