Friday, July 29, 2016

D is for Dreaming

Margaret talks about dreams.

I have to confess I’ve never gone to sleep and dreamt about any of my characters, but I do day-dream about them. Especially my heroes! I live the heroine’s part as I write which is why writing romance has to be the best job in the world. In talks I used to give I’d begin by saying how many love affairs I’d had! It always got a gasp, and then a laugh.

Characters come alive when you write about them, they become real people. I meet this handsome man who initially can irritate me but I know all will change. While at other times I fall instantly in love and dream about a life we could spend together.

Does this sound silly? Not if you’re a writer.

The fact that I’d read romance long before I began writing helped, and how enjoyable it is being able to make up my own stories. I’m sometimes asked if I ever run out of ideas. Occasionally I think I have, but then without warning something will pop into my head and I’m off again.

What I would like to dream is a whole story, something made up for me so that all I had to do was write it down. Wishful thinking.

According to my Collins New English Dictionary there is also something called a dream-hole – which has nothing to do with dreaming or even writing but it spiked my interest. It is in fact a hole left in a church steeple to let in the light, and also let out the sound of the bells. I’d always thought these slatted holes were for ventilation purposes!

At the moment I’m creating a new story. It’s at its very early stages so I wonder whether I’ll be lucky enough to actually dream some life into it. Only time will tell.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

D is for Dan Jenkins

Dan is the hero in Debra's upcoming Halloween at The Corral.

By the time I introduced Dan as a VERY minor (as in he's mentioned once and has no speaking part) character in This Feels Like Home as a bull riding buddy of Jake's, I already had plans for my spin off series of holiday stories. I was kind of 'hedging my bets' and throwing in some characters I might want to use in a future story. Other than the fact he was a bull rider, I didn't know a thing about him.

When it came time to write the Halloween story for my series, I decided it was Dan's turn to be the hero. The first thing I did was give him a last name. Jenkins popped into my head so I went with it.

Then, of course, I had to flesh out his character. In the back of my head I had this idea of using the Halloween theme of costumes that hide who you really are. So, Dan became a man of many 'faces'. As a bull rider, and a damn good one at that, he is somewhat of a celebrity in his hometown. He has legions of adoring fans, mostly women, but he never is sure if they like him for himself or for his fame. If they'd get to know him, they'd learn he is a down-to-earth guy, despite the fact that he comes from a wealthy family. And although he's considered somewhat of the black sheep of this snobby family, he still loves them and is willing to don a suit to go have brunch at his parents' house because it makes his mom happy. Before 'running off' to join the rodeo, he was a premed major at a prestigious college.

Because of these many 'faces', Dan isn't really sure 'who' he is.

And neither is Kelly Harper. At first, she thinks he's a good ol' boy with an ego the size of Texas, and she wants absolutely nothing to do with him. Been there done that and learned her lesson in the past with an ex-fiance. But as she gets to know Dan, she discovers layers to him that she never dreamed existed. Layers she really likes. If she could figure out who the 'real' Dan Jenkins is, maybe she'll be brave enough to trust him with her heart.

The cover, which I've shared before, turned out so absolutely perfect for this story, I am in awe each and every time I look at it.

Here's the opening paragraph.

Great. An impromptu meeting of the Dan Jenkins Fan Club gathered a few feet away. The combination of floral perfume, hairspray, and cosmetics made Kelly Harper want to gag. As did the simpering, coquettish smiles on the faces of the groupies clustered around this little corner of Texas's hometown celebrity.

Halloween at The Corral debuts this fall.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

D is for Dublin

Pauls's characters all visit one of her favourite cities! 

Dublin has featured in all my Irish novels, even though the main part of the story takes place in Clifden and Connemara on the opposite side of Ireland.

In Irish Inheritance, Jenna and Guy first meet at Dublin Airport, and again at the lawyer’s office on St. Stephen’s Green. I imagined the office to be in one of the beautiful Georgian houses that border the large park in the centre of Dublin.
They visit the Book of Kells exhibition at Trinity College, and spend the evening together in the Temple Bar area of the city, which is full of bars and restaurants (and tourists!). Later in the story they return to Dublin, or rather to Dalkey, which was originally a separate town, but is now classed as a suburb of Dublin. However, it retains its ‘small town’ atmosphere, with a medieval castle, as well as a wonderful view of Killiney Bay, one of my favourite views in Ireland.

In Irish Intrigue, Charley goes to Dublin with Jenna for a weekend. They stay at a 5 star hotel overlooking St. Stephen’s Green – and every Dubliner will know which hotel I mean even though I didn’t actually name it! They also attend a film premiere at a cinema on Upper O’Connell Street. I gave it a different name, but based it on a real cinema that does host Hollywood-style premieres!

In Irish Secrets, Kara and Ryan stay at that same hotel on St. Stephen’s Green. One day, if  my Irish books continue to sell well, I might just treat myself to a night there – it's only about £450 (about $600) per night! 

Dublin’s Glasnevin Cemetery features in this story. It is an amazing place, the final resting place of many of Ireland’s patriots or, as someone has said, everyone who was anyone in Irish history. I wrote about Glasnevin before I actually managed to go there, so I based my description on photos and videos, and a fascinating DVD called ‘One Million Dubliners’ – because there are over a million graves in the cemetery, going back to the mid-19th century. I was quite relieved, when I finally visited Glasnevin earlier this year, that my descriptions of the cemetery, the visitor centre, and the pub next to cemetery were fairly accurate!

In my current ‘work in progress’, Irish Deceptions, the heroine, Ellie, will be going to watch a ballet at the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin. I saw a play there a few years ago, so at least I’ll be able to draw on my own memories for that. I haven’t yet decided what else Ellie will visit while in Dublin, but there’s plenty to choose from!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

D Is For Dialogue

Jennifer talks about conversation...

They say timing is everything, and that’s especially true with dialogue. Different people have different ways of speaking—some speak fast or slow, some are funny on purpose and some are funny unintentionally. Some have particular ways of speaking that immediately clue the reader in and identify the speaker.

I typically try to incorporate humor into my characters. How successful I am, well, I can’t say, because humor is subjective. But at least I try. Witty banter is hard. There is a timing to it and a delivery and when it works it’s awesome. When it doesn’t, oh boy. But whether or not my dialog is funny, it gives a hint as to what the characters are like.

This is a conversation from one of my WIPs:

“There’s a speed dating event at Urban Bistro Friday night. Come with me.”
No such luck.
“What? Why?”
“Because there will be a lot of guys in one room, obviously, and you didn’t like the date I set you up with last night.”
Aviva sighed. “Erica, I really appreciate your efforts, but I think I’d like to take a break for a little while.”
“Avs, you’re not in mourning, and you didn’t just break up with the love of your life. You’re alone, and you need a man. There is no ‘take a break for a little while.’”
Aviva cleared her throat and looked around the room. What she needed was a new coffee table and a new window shade and potentially a new roommate. “I don’t ‘need a man.’ I’m perfectly fine on my own.”
Erica laughed, and Aviva cringed until the raspy noise stopped.
“I didn’t mean it that way. I meant for sex,” Erica said.
Aviva spluttered.
“Please tell me you know what sex is,” Erica said with a look of horror.
Her other roommate was out, if the darkened bedroom with a wide open door was any indication, but still Aviva lowered her voice. “Of course I know what sex is. I just don’t see why you’re concerned with whether or not I get it.”
“Well, if you don’t know, it’s even more of a necessity. Girl, you’re coming with me and that’s that.” Erica grabbed Aviva’s hand and dragged her over to the sofa. Right in the middle of the beat-up, faux-wood coffee table was a printout from a speed dating website. Erica shoved it at Aviva, and Aviva took it with the tips of her fingers.

The characters are young New Yorkers, which means their dialogue is supposed to be snappy. The reader is supposed to have fun while reading.

In contrast, this is a sample from my book, Skin Deep:

“So, what can I say to make you join us?”
As he leaned against the wall in well-fitting jeans and a T-shirt that left nothing to the imagination, Valerie’s mind said, “Sleep with me.” Heat crept up her neck, over her cheeks and continued to the roots of her hair. A thin sheen of sweat dampened the space between her breasts. She felt the sudden urge to fan herself, like a damsel in distress in an old B-movie. Instead, she ignored her traitorous thoughts. Her balled fist pressed into her tight stomach.
“Tonight, not even chocolate will change my mind.”
She didn’t exactly lie. She had no intention of going to the bar, or of sleeping with him, no matter how her thoughts might try to sabotage her good intentions. She’d been fooled by surface finery before, and it had almost killed her. She wouldn’t let it happen again.
“I will remember that,” he promised. “But next time you will not get off so easy.” His eyes bored into hers for a moment, and then he turned on his heel and left.
True to his word, John arrived the following day prepared for battle. With a cursory knock on the door, he dangled a bag of M&Ms inside the trailer, but snatched it back before she could grab them. “We are going out for pizza. I will pick you up in ten minutes.” Before she could answer, he walked out.

John, the hero in this story, is very awkward around people, very hesitant to show himself to others. Consequently, he speaks more formally and doesn’t use contractions. I wanted the reader to wonder about him from the moment he opened his mouth. I also want the reader to see how he relaxes around the heroine as he gets to know her, because his speech changes.

How do you differentiate between characters and speech?

Monday, July 25, 2016

D is for Diary

Ana muses about the idea of keeping a diary.

During one pre-teen summer, schmancy, floral cloth-covered diaries with "locks" and teeny tiny keys didn't appeal to me. Diaries were for recording successes, and I wasn't the kind of girl who knew the cute boys in school were standing in line to pair up with me.

The how-do-I WIP of my life needed bigger pages, room to cross out mis-written lines. I needed spiral notebooks, narrow lined and narrow margined, so I could get words on a page.

I wrote about serious things. Like where I would live when I grew up, and what I would do. How I would immediately say the right things in casual conversations. How I would be skinny and pretty, know how to make up my eyes to look like deep pools of mystery. How I would be in charge of my life. Be certain about everything.

I ripped out page after page. By the end of that summer, all I had were the yellow cover, hard back, and the wire spiral. School started, and I was tossed back into the pool of social awkwardness without a plan.

Friday, July 22, 2016

C is for conflict

Margaret talks about conflict in romances


A story without conflict is about as interesting as watching paint dry, and I’m not talking about pointless arguments. I’m talking about meaningful conflict. Something that matters very much to our protagonists. Something that is almost a life and death situation. Something that will break their hearts if it is not resolved.

Generally in a romance the whole story revolves around two people who either meet for the first time or have met previously in less than happy circumstances. There has perhaps been trouble between them in the past, or there is something in the present that has thrown a spanner in the works.

Very often there is more than one thing causing this dissent and the author has to slowly peel back the layers until the fundamental reason is discovered and dealt with. While some conflicts can be dealt with quite quickly, others are far more deep-rooted.

Maybe they had been friends once but had fallen out over something that now seems trivial. Therefore when they meet again they will need to work very hard to get over it.

Or maybe they’re pushed together through work and she falls in love with him, only to discover he already has a girlfriend. But then she sees this woman out with another man and debates whether to tell him or not.

These are only a couple of instances but the possibilities are infinite. The secret is to keep the reader’s interest engaged, to take them through the many ups and downs until the inevitable happy ending.





Thursday, July 21, 2016

C is for Chloe

Chloe is the heroine in Debra's One Great Night.

She's ready, he's not; it's a battle of the sexes with a twist. reads the tag line for this story.

"I want you to be my sex tutor." is the opening line.

In the story, Chloe creates quite the bucket list for herself, with this show-stopper as the number one item. She's almost thirty and feels like she's never experienced real passion. On the outside she seems wild and carefree and totally sure of herself. On the inside, she's vulnerable and insecure. Here's a peek inside her head at the beginning of the story:

She shrugged in what she hoped was a nonchalant manner. “I don’t know. I mean, everyone always talks about how great sex is, but to be honest, I don’t know what the fuss is all about.” Maybe it was her. Maybe she
was doing it wrong. “So.” She toyed with the napkin under her drink. “It’s kind of on my bucket list. To have a night of really great sex.”. . .“Well, there are other things on my list, too. I want to get this one out of the way.” To silence the everpresent whispers of self-doubt plaguing every relationship she’d ever had.

I couldn't just pair her with any old guy who would take advantage of her crazy plan. Jason, who sees through the sassy exterior to the hidden uncertainty beneath thinks of her like this:

Yep. T-R-O-U-B-L-E.
One, because he hadn’t been lying earlier when he told her he’d never had a one-night stand. And he wasn’t about to start with his best friend’s baby sister. Second, and more importantly, even his body’s instinctual reaction to her sexy flirting couldn’t make him forget the flash of vulnerability in her eyes earlier. Would she ever tell him why she was so insistent on going through with her crazy plan? There was more to it than bragging rights with girlfriends. If she told him, would it explain why she played the vamp and tease to hide that vulnerability?

And throughout most of the story, even though she's never quite sure of herself, her faith in Jason is one thing that never waivers.

He clicked off the set with the remote. “Nope. We have more important things to do.”
“Like checking something off my list?”
Chloe’s heart pounded. Was it finally time? She licked dry lips. “Well it’s about time, Williams.” Then she paused. “Wait. You said we were going for a drive.”
“We are.”
Was he planning on taking her to a hotel somewhere? Wasn’t that kind of sordid? “Why can’t we it”—she gulped—“here?”
“Here won’t work for what I have planned.” The low drawl made her knees weak.
She swallowed. “Remember, I’m pretty much a beginner. I think here is fine. Unless you want to go to your place?”
“We can go wherever you want.” He threaded his fingers through the loose hair at her temples and tilted her face up. “You’re in the driver’s seat.” The deep blue of his eyes scrambled her brain.
She lost herself in the depths for long drawn out moments. “Then I want to stay here.”
He smiled, but shook his head. “Not an option for what I have in mind.”
Yikes. She was in over her head. Like she’d always known. Better to be in familiar, comfortable surroundings. “Really, my bedroom’s right down the hall about ten feet away.” She gestured. “Won’t that be easier?”
“Nope.” He brushed a kiss across her forehead.
“Come on.” He tugged her hand.
“Jason, really, I—”
“Trust me.”
Calm settled over her, stilling the twist of nerves. She did. Enough to follow him to the ends of the earth if he asked.

Chloe and Jason's story was definitely a fun one to write. I was thrilled when it won the honor of Best Contemporary Short in the 2015 IDA Contest. :)

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

C is for Charley

Paula’s secondary character re-invented herself as the main character in the next novel.

While I was writing the first chapter of Irish Inheritance, the heroine, Jenna, makes a brief reference to Charley on the second page. Maybe Charley would lend her the money for a quick trip to Dublin. When I wrote that line, even I didn’t know whether Charley was male or female! By the time I got to the second chapter I’d decided that Charley was female – short for Charlotte, but only my grandmother calls me that – as she explains later. During the story, Charley developed her own personality, often giving Jenna advice in a straightforward matter-of-fact manner. She also met assistant hotel manager Steve, and at the end, she and Steve joined Jenna and Guy in Ireland, ready to establish a Living History group at Mist Na Mara house.
As far as I was concerned, that was the end of it, as I had no plans to write a sequel or series. By the time Irish Inheritance was published, I’d already started another novel, set in England’s Lake District. Then I had an email from Rebecca, my publisher, saying, ‘You have an opportunity here for a spin-off story about Charley.’
My first reaction was, ‘Okay, I’ll think about that once I’ve sorted out the story I’m writing at present.’ In fact, I’d been having problems with that story, having got to Chapter 12 or 13 twice, deciding it wasn’t working, and going back to start it again.
The day after Rebecca’s email, I suddenly thought, ‘What if I move this story to Ireland?’
I thought about it for a few more days. Changing the location to Clifden in Connemara involved far more than renaming places or giving the heroine a different name. It meant changing the original heroine’s backstory, and her personality too. The heroine in the original story had been less assertive than Charley, so I needed to change her whole approach. I soon found that this was easier than I had anticipated, as Charley was already a ‘real person’ to me. In that sense, I didn’t have to wait to get to know her as I wrote her story.
I also found that the new story that developed didn't give me the same problems as the original story had done! Maybe Charley knew all along that this was her story, and not that other heroine's!

Irish Intrigue
Charley Hunter returns unwillingly to Ireland to complete the filming of a TV drama series. She still hasn't come to terms with the tragic loss of her husband there two years previously, and the last thing she expects is an instant attraction to an Irish veterinary surgeon.
Luke Sullivan's life is full as he tries to balance caring for his two young children with his busy rural veterinary practice. After the break-up of his marriage, he vowed to leave women well alone, but finds himself drawn to Charley.
While Charley struggles with the re-awakening of her emotions, Luke faces a series of unexplained crises at his clinic, as well as an impending custody battle with his ex-wife.
How can an English actress and an Irish vet reconcile their different worlds? And will their relationship survive when Luke believes Charley has endangered his children's lives – and then betrayed him?

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

C Is For Children

Jennifer talks about children as secondary characters...

I love writing children. They’re fun to create and they’re extremely useful.

They can be instigators. In A Heart of Little Faith, my heroine has to work late and she needs someone to watch her daughter, Claire. The neighbor steps up and the neighbor’s brother, the hero, entertains her with a board game until my heroine arrives:

Even before she entered, Lily could hear Claire’s giggle, and the telltale popping sound of “Trouble.” Wondering who Samantha had subjected to her mercenary daughter, Lily frowned and walked into the living room. The sight stopped her dead in her tracks. Gideon.
“Claire,” she whispered, but neither Claire nor Gideon heard her. Claire was too busy giggling uncontrollably. Her brown curly hair bobbed as she bounced around in excitement. Lily observed with wonder Claire’s ease around Gideon. Since her father died, Claire’s contact with men had been limited. Lily rarely dated and Claire tended to be shy around strange men. Not so with this man.
He turned around and nodded at Lily. “Hello.”
The sound of his voice, even that one little word, made Lily’s stomach go all jiggly inside and she swallowed as she watched his eyes rove from her wet, raggedy hair to her water-sloshed shoes.

Oftentimes, I use them as a way to explain things to readers. Because young children, especially, don’t know about certain things, they can ask questions that a main character can answer, thus providing the reader with information they wouldn’t otherwise necessarily know. For example, in TheSeduction of Esther, I needed to explain a few Jewish terms to non-Jewish readers:

“Shabbat Shalom and welcome to Temple Beth Am. I’m Dave.”
Nathaniel shook the older man’s hand and looked into kind brown eyes. “Shabbat Shalom. I’m Nathaniel and this is my daughter, Zoe. We’re new members.”
“I thought you might be. Hello, Zoe.”
“Hi, I’m seven and I go to school downstairs. Why did you say Shabbat Shalom?”
Dave smiled. “It means peaceful Sabbath and we say it to each other on Shabbat. Why don’t you and your dad go inside and sit down. Join us at the oneg afterwards for snacks. We have cookies,” he said, with a wink at Zoe.

Children also provide a way to demonstrate a main character’s traits. For example, in Skin Deep, I used Valerie’s niece to show the type of person Valerie is:

Back at the house, John disappeared upstairs, while Valerie searched for Sarah. She followed the noise of children laughing into the basement. Her nieces and nephews played board games, and their laughter, whining and arguing filtered up the stairs and through the rest of the house. Valerie stood on the bottom step and waited for Sarah to see her. When Sarah looked up, Valerie caught her eye, and Sarah ran over.
“Will you do my makeup now?” Sarah asked as she bounced up and down.
Valerie smiled at the endless energy. After her own hike, and the tension caused by dealing with John, she just wanted to crawl into bed and sleep. But she’d made a promise to her niece. And, as John had said, she was a good aunt.

Children are funny. They see things differently than adults. They’re often much more literal. At the same time, their imaginations are usually bigger and they’re more open to new things. So putting them into a situation and watching them handle it is often amusing.

How do you deal with these issues?

Monday, July 18, 2016

C is for Characters' Introductions

Ana goes back for gems of advice for introducing characters in "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers"

"Once you understand a character well enough to bring him or her to life, we don't have to know where the character came from."

"When you defined your characters the minute you introduce them. you may be setting boundary lines that your readers will use to interpret your characters' actions through the rest of the book. But if you allow your readers to get to know your characters gradually, each reader will interpret them in his or her own way, thus getting a deeper sense of who your characters are than you could ever convey in a summary.

"Sketching out your characters for your readers is just plain intrusive. It's a form of telling that is almost certain to make your readers aware that you the writer are hard at work."

"It's often a good idea to introduce a new character with enough physical description for your readers to picture him or her. As with describing your settings, all you need are a few concrete, idiomatic details to jump-start your readers' imaginations."

Friday, July 15, 2016

B is for Back story


Margaret talks about writing back stories


Back story is an essential in almost all novels, something that happened weeks or months or even years before the story begins. Something that tells the reader a little bit about the hero/heroine’s character, but not too much all at once. To be effective it needs to be fed in gradually, usually through dialogue or each character’s thoughts.

 I develop complete back stories for my two main characters before I begin to write, then add and improve as I go. It’s amazing how their identities begin to emerge - until they eventually become real people in my mind. Real live people whose story I’m telling!

I don’t use every tiny detail that I’ve written down. Back story is simply an aid, put in where necessary as a flashback in the character’s mind, or in dialogue. Of the two options I find dialogue works better because the reader becomes more involved.

And of course everything needs to be woven in seamlessly so that the reader doesn’t see it as pure back story, simply an interesting and necessary part of the book. I actually find it equally as interesting delving in to what’s gone on before I ‘met’ my characters as I do writing about them.




Thursday, July 14, 2016

B is for Ben O'Connor

Ben is a secondary character in Debra's This Can't Be Love.

Secondary characters are hugely important in a story. Most of the time, unless we're talking stranded in the wilderness or snowed in by a storm type of scenarios, our characters are interacting with other people throughout the course of their stories. Secondary characters often help us provide depth to our characters. They can act as a sounding board or a shoulder to cry on. They might be part of the back story. We don't want our background characters to take over the story, but more often than not, they are vital to it.

Ben O'Connor is the grandfather of Jessica Hart, the heroine in This Can't Be Love. Ben only has about eight total pages (if that) of face to face interaction with Jessica or Zach, but his role is vitally important. It's his absence in the story that sets up two conflicts between Zach and Jessica.

Jessica arrives at her grandfather's secluded cabin needing to get away from the emotional fallout of a failed relationship. She craves the peace she'll find there, but also knows spending time with Pops (as she calls Ben) will help her regain some equilibrium and put things into perspective. Instead, she finds Zach has taken up residence because Pops has gone on a month-long trip to trace his roots in Ireland. Jessica quickly lets Zach know in no uncertain terms that his service as a house-sitter is no longer required and the door shouldn't hit him on the way out. Zach, however has made a promise to Ben to take care of the place while he's gone, and he doesn't take that likely. Not to mention that he's sublet his apartment for the duration and doesn't have any place else to go. Jessica also comes to quickly realize that she wouldn't be able to handle everything that Zach is able to in Ben's absence. So, although neither is really comfortable with the idea, they wind up calling an uneasy truce and decide both will stay at the cabin.

As they get to know one another, an attraction grows. Zach is reluctant to act on it, however, because he doesn't want to betray Ben's trust in him by hooking up with his granddaughter. For her part, and for very personal, emotional reasons, Jessica is desperate to hook up with Zach before Pops gets home.

Ben doesn't make a physical appearance until page 188 in the book, but his specter 'haunts' both characters for most of the story. When he finally does make an appearance on his arrival back from Ireland, we still don't hear much from him, aside from now its his presence back home that's now keeping Jessica and Zach apart since they're no longer living in the same place, until almost the end of the story, where he provides the much needed shoulder to cry on and some sage advice that helps Jessica put her feelings for Zach in perspective.

I never knew either of my grandfathers, so it was fun to create and live vicariously through this imaginary character. And for a guy who wasn't around a lot in the story, he certainly played a huge role in it.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

B is for Ballet

Paula’s new heroine is a ballet dancer.

Write what you know, “they” say. So sometimes I despair of myself. I’ve had heroes who are archaeologists, veterinarians, undercover cops, and even a volcano expert. All of which required lengthy research (especially about volcanoes!). Each time I’ve wondered why I didn’t choose occupations for my characters that I already knew something about.

In IRISH DECEPTIONS, my current ‘work in progress’, my heroine is a ballet dancer. What do I know about ballet? In a word, nothing. I never had ballet lessons as a child (or indeed any dancing lessons), and I’ve never even watched a ballet on the stage, apart from a few scenes in musical shows.

So why did I choose this occupation for my heroine?

The answer to that is for a purely practical reason. I needed my heroine’s career to be cut short by a car accident that badly injured her knee. Not enough to disable her seriously, but enough to end her professional career. Okay, so she could have been an athlete of some kind e.g. a gymnast, or swimmer, or tennis player – but at the same time, I needed her occupation to be something that would bring her to the Mist Na Mara Arts Centre in Ireland (which has featured in all my Irish novels), so dancing seemed to be the obvious choice.

Could she still teach dancing even if she was unable to perform? Preliminary research showed that this was a career transition made by many dancers, even after injury may have halted their performing careers. So far, so good.

Then came the finer details. Yes, I know the names of the famous ballets, I even know what ‘up to 5th’ means (not sure how I know that!) – but the more complex movements in ballet? Not a clue! Google and YouTube proved useful, of course, but I needed some reassurance that I had got things right. And in this situation, it was not a case of ‘write what you know’ but rather ‘find someone who knows about what you want to write’. Fortunately I didn’t have to look very far, as I remembered a friend’s daughter has been a dance teacher for about 20 years. As a result, she and I have had several phone conversations, and even more email conversations. She is so excited about my heroine being a ballet dancer, and hopefully, with her help, I will get my facts and ballet terminology right.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

B Is For Beginnings

Jennifer talks about how you begin a story...

Beginning a story is not as simple as it sounds. You don’t just sit down and write. Well, maybe you do, depending on whether or not you like to plot ahead of time, but ultimately, some amount of editing is required in order to make sure you are beginning your story in the right place.

Surprisingly, at least to me, is that one of the ways agents and editors can easily spot an inexperienced writer is because they start their story in the wrong place. Just because the story in your head starts at a particular point doesn’t mean the story should actually begin there.

Oftentimes, the place you originally start the story is actually backstory, information that should be sprinkled through the rest of the story that tells the reader what happened prior to their meeting your characters. That part isn’t essential to the progression of the story.

Additionally, you want the beginning of your story to hook the reader enough so that they want to continue reading. While scenery is pretty and sets the stage, it doesn’t convince the reader that she should spend her valuable time reading your book.

I’ll admit to having a difficult time with this, and whenever I go back to my books, I always think I could have done it better. But, here’s the beginning of my book, Miriam’s Surrender. What do you think?

The line from Casablanca flitted through Josh’s head. “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world...” He fisted his hands at his side and closed his eyes. 
This morning, he’d hurried to work for a meeting with a new client. He’d worked on the presentation for weeks—a structural redesign of an Alumni Club for a local private school. It was different from most of the projects he had worked on before, and it sparked his creativity. They’d been awarded the contract and this morning’s purpose was to meet the client’s daily contact, the person Josh would work with throughout the span of the project. 
He’d walked into the red and black conference room of his architectural firm and froze. Sleek, black, flawless coiffed hair. 
No way. 
Ramrod straight posture. 
It couldn’t be. 
And as she turned and approached him, she’d glided. 
Oh crap.