Sunday, May 31, 2015

Sunday Snippet: The Seduction of Esther by Jennifer Wilck

Samara ducked into the corner grocery store and swiped rain-drenched hair out of her eyes as she looked out at the street. The water poured down the front window of the store and blurred the sharp headlights of the passing cars into fuzzy, undulating splotches of yellow that danced before her eyes. She smiled. They reminded her of Shabbat candles. She closed her eyes for a moment and time slipped away. In an instant, she was in her grandmother’s warm, dry kitchen. Her face was pressed against her wide bosom; the hug promised safety, security and unconditional love. Her grandmother’s heartbeat thumped against her ear and infused her with calm and confidence. Her cousins chattered and the grownups laughed. China and utensils clinked. It was Friday night; the smell of brisket and challah filled the small, noisy apartment with mouth-watering scents of carrots, onions, garlic and yeast. Her stomach growled and the sound yanked Samara back to the present. She was hungry. With a shake of her head, she reached for a shopping cart and headed down the aisle.
Mounds of bright colored produce lured her—oranges, broccoli, bananas, kale. Her goal—the potatoes; the multitude of delicious sights and smells distracted her and she squeezed and smelled her way through the narrow aisles toward the back of the store.
Samara whipped her head up as a deep voice interrupted her thoughts of baked potatoes au gratin.  A tanned hand reached for her arm, its fingers long and square with clean nails.  They pressed against her arm, just firm enough for her to feel their warmth. Her gaze traveled up his arm, from the wrist. A light dusting of dark hair peeked from beneath the cuff of a starched, white shirt. Her eyes continued their way up to the biceps that filled out the sleeve. She continued across the broad expanse of chest, up a tanned throat, over a chiseled chin darkened by five o’clock shadow, past soft lips, around flared nostrils and into blue eyes. Slate-blue eyes twinkled at her. She yanked her arm out of his grasp.
“Let go of me, please!”
“Sorry. Didn’t want you to run me over.”

She tilted her head. Did his eyes always twinkle this much? She’d never seen him before; while his eyes alone would have been enough to spark a glimmer of recognition if they’d ever crossed paths, his voice was unforgettable. A trace of a rasp, like a callused finger catching on a silk blouse; a hint of a Southern drawl stuck out even in the melting pot of New York accents; a satirical lilt, a promise of laughter to brighten the darkest days. No, she would never forget his voice. She could get lost in it for days. Goosebumps ran down her back and she shivered. The sudden, uncontrollable movement jerked her out of her reverie and brought her back to the present. The glint in his eye told her he’d noticed her distraction and her cheeks warmed. When he stared at her, without saying a word, she jerked her cart out of his way and ploughed into the display of russet potatoes. The table screeched against the linoleum floor and mounds of brown spuds wobbled at the impact. Samara closed her eyes in horror and yanked her cart out of the way. She watched as one potato toppled onto the floor. Like a scout on a mission, it paved the way for the rest of the potatoes, because the pile collapsed and poured around her feet.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Meet Ellen Butler

From Single to Trio – Writing Love, California Style Trilogy
by Ellen Butler

I rarely write about my writing life, as a relative newbie to novel writing, I tend to leave writing advice up to those who have more experience. However, today I’ve decided to impart a morsel of new found knowledge.

Ever since signing on with my agent I’d been saying, “I wish I could think of a series.” Series are hot, hot, hot right now. A popular series (e.g. Harry Potter) will make you the richest woman in the world. Ongoing series focused around a main character (e.g. Stephanie Plum) will provide a living prosperous enough it allows you to hire staff to manage your correspondence, website, and tour schedule. A trendy series (e.g. Hunger Games, Divergent) will get your book made into a movie.

I wracked my brain for a series for almost two years, but the only tales I’d been able to create were single title stories, until now. How did this come about? Unplanned and not, in a normal manner. Unlike JK Rowling, who apparently planned seven Harry Potter books from the very beginning, my series idea came to me entirely out of the blue. After completing Heart of Design, I said to myself, “Self, I’m not ready to say good-bye to these characters.” Since I’d created the satisfying, “Happily Ever After” ending to the manuscript there was little I could think to do with my two main characters, Ian and Sophie. However, I’d created peripheral characters that I enjoyed and who made me laugh. Upon sending the initial novel for review, I mentioned that I was “thinking” (basically waffling, wavering, and dithering) over the possibility of creating a trilogy from this first novel and we’d talk more about it after she read the book. Some nail-biting weeks later my agent gave book one a thumbs-up, and became excited when I explained my nebulous idea to expand one into three. Three women, three romance stories, and presto-o a trilogy arrived – out of what I originally considered to be a stand-alone novel.

I don’t necessarily recommend you start out your series in the same way. My writing process would have been much smoother had I originally planned to write a trilogy. For instance, there are certain places where I’d written myself into a corner for the third novel because of what I’d written in the first. Eventually, I penned my way out of the issue satisfactorily, but you know I knocked my head against the wall a few times for not having the foresight to write it differently before the first book was published.

When it comes to series writing, probably the most important piece of advice I can give you is to create a timeline and character list. I generated a chart, and every new character which I introduce; I list out their physical attributes, relationships to other characters, job, and importance level within the story. This chart became my bible moving from one book to the next. For instance, two small characters in the first book became central characters in the third, and the character list saved me hours searching through the manuscript to find out simple details like hair, eye color, or the type of car the people drove. Both the timeline and character chart will help you maintain consistency throughout the series; this is especially true if you’re creating a character that could have dozens of sequels, like Patterson’s Alex Cross.  

Now that all of my smart, strong and sometimes sassy ladies’ stories have been told I’m ready to let them rest and move onto my next endeavor. For the past two years, I’ve been researching a WWII novel and it’s itching to get out of my brain onto paper. No, it’s not a series, it’s a single title. However, series enthusiasts don’t fret, kernels of a future trilogy are popping around in my subconscious, and having learned my lessons from the first, I will attack it differently and will hopefully avoid future head banging.

Ellen Butler received her bachelor’s in Political Science and Master’s in Public Administration and Policy from Virginia Tech. A mother of two, she currently lives in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC. After spending years working for a medical association writing dry but illuminating policy papers, articles and promotional materials, Butler made the leap to novel writing to release her creative side. Her most recent publications include the Love, California Style trilogy.

Stalk Ellen at:

~Love, California Style Series ~

Heart of Design (Book 1)
His thumb gently stroked the soft flesh. I swallowed. “I would say you’re making a valiant effort to get me into your bed.”
“Maybe.” His eyes smoldered. “Is it working?”

Can Interior Designer Sophie Hartland ignore her traitorous libido and hold her sexy Irish client, Ian O’Connor, at arm’s length until the renovations are finished? Or will she cave in to his pull on her heartstrings, and end up doing the knicky-knacky on the new velvet sofa?

Planning for Love (Book 2)
So, my latest computer date was supposed to be a successful marketer. He instead decided to visit an Ashram last week, and while there, apparently found the meaning of life through yoga and wacky tobacky.

After walking in on her boyfriend in flagrante dilecto, Poppy Reagan decides to take her dating life as seriously as she does her party planning business. As she works her way through a string of hilariously bad dates, she wonders if her soulmate actually lives in California.  Her foolish emotional spirit secretly yearns for the handsome Ohio doctor she met last year. Can Adam convince this California girl to test the relationship waters in the mid-West?

Art of Affection (Book 3) – Arriving August 24, 2015
“By the way, those were some sexy thigh highs you were wearing.” He winked.
Mortification burned through me as the door shut with a thump.
Can Holly let go of her abusive past and put her trust in the enigmatic cop who arrested her husband?

Thursday, May 28, 2015

U is for Using Social Media

Debra is a social media failure.

I will be the first to admit I am not very good at using social media effectively for promotion.

I really, really enjoy our conversations each week here at Heroines with Hearts, but as a marketing tool, I don't think blogs are very effective. At least for me personally. I've pretty much given up doing blog tours for my new releases. I found that I didn't get any new visitors, which means I'm not getting myself or my work in front of a different audience than I already have. Overall, my book sales have remained steady, so at least there hasn't been too much of a negative effect in not doing those tours. I still participate in one other blog, Book Beat Babes, but gave up the third I was a member of.

When I first got on Facebook, I was very careful to keep personal things off of my timeline. I only used my page for authory type news. But since many people who friended share personal information, I find my page filled with pictures of their kids, what they had for dinner, where they went on vacation, etc. Eventually the lines blurred for me as well, and I started posting personal things here and there. I am not on Facebook often, so again, as a marketing tool, it hasn't been effective. I do have a page, created by a friend, called "Fans of Debra St. John" which I really need to figure out how to use more effectively for book promotion. But again, if someone I've friended on there posts something personal, won't that appear on the timeline? Then personal and professional get all mixed up. This is something I need to investigate. I know many authors who have author pages on Facebook. I'll have to really study their timelines and see how it works for them to figure out how to make a page more professional than personal. With One Great Night, I tried a release party on Facebook, which was attended by several of my friends and fellow authors. But again, no one new. No one who wouldn't haven't known about my book already.

I haven't tried Twitter yet, although my publisher puts out a regular call for Tweets to share about our books on the TWRP Twitter feed. I think I may try giving Twitter a go this summer and see what happens. It will definitely be a learning curve, since I really am not familiar with it at all, but I'm open to learning something new!

Word of mouth...okay, so technically this isn't social media, but it can be a marketing tool. When my first book came out, my friends were so excited. They bought copies for themselves, their families, and other friends. Now that I have ten out, the excitement has died down a bit. When This Feels Like Home came out, I bought 30 paperback copies, thinking I'd sell most of them to my friends. Well, I still have a box of about 18 or so sitting in my den. I still let them know when I have a book out, but there doesn't seem to be a rush to buy them. Maybe they aren't romance fans. Maybe they don't like my writing. Maybe it's just that the excitement has worn off and it's 'same old same old' at this point.

I maintain a web-site, which I recently updated with a different theme and style. I have some ideas for adding a few more pages - pictures, a sub-page for each book, etc. - and I enjoy playing around with it, but I'm lucky to get half a dozen hits a month, so this probably isn't hitting any new readers either.

And I'm sure there are other things out there I'm missing.

What success (or failures) have you had with social media?

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Uphill Struggle

Paula finds the first draft an uphill struggle!

Writing a first draft is rather like climbing a mountain. You set off full of enthusiasm and it might seem easy to start with –a gentle climb on grassy slopes. But then the going gets tougher, and you puff and pant with every step as you tackle a steep part of the climb. You lose sight of the top of the mountain and think you’re never ever going to reach it, or you reach a seemingly insurmountable rock blocking your way, or the mist comes down and you can’t see anything ahead of you.

I’m sure we’ve all been there with our stories. At the moment, I feel as if I’m wandering around in the mist and bumping into rocks at every turn. In the last three days I have written and rewritten one conversation about a dozen times and it still isn’t right. In fact I’ve been struggling with the whole chapter since the beginning of May, and am still under 2,000 words with it.

I know some writers would advocate leaving that difficult scene, jumping ahead to an easier scene, and coming back to the first scene. However, I once tried that, and it didn’t work for me. The difficult scene kept gnawing at my mind, and wouldn’t let me concentrate on the later scenes.

So I’ll persevere and keep at it. My one consolation is that I’ve been in this situation before, and have somehow, eventually, got over that huge rock or found my way out of the mist. I'm sure the same will happen this time – until the next obstacle presents itself!

How do you deal with difficult scenes that somehow don’t want to be written?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Are Your Characters Underdeveloped?

Jennifer talks about getting to know your characters...

As a pantser, I usually start out with a pretty good idea of some piece of the story. It might be a scene that appears fully fleshed out in my head. It might be a conversation between two characters. It might even be a location. From there, I generally can come up with the premise for my book, and from there, I sit down and write.

I’ll admit, it’s not very organized and it does have its downsides; mainly, I often end up writing about characters I don’t know very well. Usually, I learn this because I get to a point in the story and I don’t know what happens next. I don’t know what the character would do in a situation, or why they react the way they are reacting. Often, when I go back and reread the manuscript, I find they have done a complete one-eighty and done something that I never expected them to do and that frankly, doesn’t work with the way I’ve set up the story. It’s times like these, as I’m doing major rewrites, that I wish I was a plotter.

The current manuscript I’m writing has some definite holes in it. I’ve been working on it for a long time and in addition, I’ve taken several extended breaks from it. Therefore, my characterizations aren’t consistent. But for me, I need to get to the end before I go back and fix things; otherwise, I’ll remain in a constant state of rewriting and never finish my manuscript.

I attended a workshop by Roxanne St. Clair at my local RWA conference and she talked about an interesting writing method that works for her. She writes the first 100 pages and then goes back to the beginning. She then writes through to page 250 and once again goes back to the beginning. Finally, she writes to the end. The reason she does it in stages is because she doesn’t feel she knows her characters well enough, and by writing this way, she’s able to fully understand her characters and make sure they are consistent and well developed throughout the manuscript.

It’s an interesting concept and in the future, I might actually try it. But for now, I’m plodding along to the end. My writing road is windy and has lots of dead ends that I need to fix, but it’s getting there. And by the end, I’ll know my characters.

Monday, May 25, 2015

U is for Unique

Ana muses about predictable story plots.

I read a blog post yesterday that talked about big publishers' push to make authors cowtow to tried and true story arcs. The writer listed big name author after big name author. All related how they were being told to dumb down their stories to fit a prescribed mold. For sales.

She wrote about their frustrations with reader feedback that their stories' outcomes were predictable by page 10. Now obviously some readers like predictable, and others don't.

Small press and indie published books are where readers hungry for fresh writing turn.

I'm for unique!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

A snippet from Ana's WIP

The hero is searching for the heroine to ask her to marry him. 

Blade reined his mare to a frantic stop beside Odin. He scanned the next section of fence, and his heart lurched in his chest. Red hair flying, arms and legs pumping, Stormy ran toward him.
Chased by Albert Jensen’s worthless bull.
Channeling his fury to steady his hands, Blade pressed the carbine against his shoulder, sighted through the scope, and focused as Sultan closed in fast.
The bull suddenly kicked up its hind hooves and spun in a circle. Then it resumed the chase, this time angling horns straight at Stormy’s back.
It thinks this is a game!
Blade’s body tightened. He had one bullet. One chance to save the woman he truly loved.
Sultan was four steps behind Stormy.
If his aim were off by even a fraction of an inch, he’d shoot her.
Three. A bitter, metallic taste filled his mouth, like he’d been sucking on an old nail.
Sultan lunged. Stormy dodged to the side, stumbled, and regained her footing.
Surefooted, Sultan jerked its head as if trying to hook a fish. Stormy screamed.
Blade was out of time. He held his breath and squeezed the trigger. The rifle shot cracked like a whip.
Stormy collapsed, and Sultan plowed into her limp body.
Dear God, what have I done?
He kicked Belinda into a high-speed dash down the hill, leaped off, and raised the carbine like a club. He’d beat Sultan to death or die trying.
The beast twitched like a dreaming hound, but it was dead. His bullet had taken out one of its eyes; bloody goo dripped from the hollow socket.
She lay cheek down in the grass, legs buried under Sultan’s jaw and neck. She wasn’t breathing.

Unsure how he would go on living, he knelt beside her. His hand trembled as he brushed her hair off her shoulders, but he had to witness what he’d done, understand why she was dead even if the memory—and the guilt—drove him later to madness.