Tag Archives: romance writing

#Music to write by…or not. #MFRWauthors

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The topic of this blog is supposed to be the music we, as writers, listen to when we are in the creative mood. I have to be honest about this – I need total silence when I’m in writing mode. If I put on any music – even classical without words(!) music, I will invariably stop what I am doing just to listen. God forbid I put on pop music. Then all I will do is sing along. And believe me – no one wants to hear my rendition of Baby, Baby, or Stop in the Name of Love.

Insert full body shudders here at the thought!

Music is very distracting to me when I write, so I’m going to talk about the music I listen to as  I Prepare to Write.  That, at least, is something I do, do.

Once I have my characters thought out and the storyline plotted, I go back to the characters and insert little idiosyncrasies into their backstories, which include the kinds of books they read and the music they listen to and favor. For my newest release, COOKING WITH KANDY, my heroine Kandy Laine is a total pop/rock-diva listening gal.  If she is alone at home, or driving in her car, she will have Pat Benatar, Madonna, vintage Joan Jett, or the Heart sisters blasting away and she will be singing at the top of her lungs, not caring a whit she can’t carry a tune in a bag! These rock warrior women are her musical soul sistahs. In the privacy of her kitchen she will dance like no one’s looking, a wooden spoon as her microphone as she belts out Heartbreaker or I Love Rock and Roll to her heart’s content. When I was trolling around on Pinterest trying to find the perfect image of Kandy, these were the ladies I listened to in order to find Kandy’s essence.

My hero, Josh Keane is a little more, shall we say, sedate, in his musical tastes. He’s a Jazz and Blues man, pure and simple. He’s got Al Jarreau and Miles Davis CDs by the truckload in his car and when he’s doing corporate computer research, or simply kicking back in his condo with a glass of Glenlivet 21 after a hard day, he’s a man who likes the complex simplicity of a solitary horn or a raspy, tortured voice weaving a tale of love, loss, and redemption. As Josh’s soul and spirit came to me, I had my iTunes opened, listening to jazz and blues by the hour. Those discordant chords and slip-timed keys brought to my mind the man Josh was, through and through.

Listening to music is, like writing, an individualistic endeavor. Whether for inspiration, motivation, or clarification, music helps a writer dig deep down, straight to the heart and soul, to bring forth the crux and core of character and story.

Plus, singing at the top of your lungs like no one’s watching is pretty fun to do!

When I’m not listening to music, you can find me here:Tweet Me//Read Me// Visit Me//Picture Me//Pin Me//Friend Me//Google+Me// Triberr

 

Stop by the other #MFRW authors participating in this 52 week hop and leave them some love.

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Filed under Contemporary Romance, Life challenges, love, Romance, Romance Books, Strong Women

#RWA16 Day 3…Can I get an “Amen?”

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I will admit this freely ….I’m starting to fade!! There is sosososososos much going on at this conference that I have truly had to choose wisely and miss out on some things just so I could attend others.

The first year I attended RWA I was OVERWHELMED.  I wish someone had told me to just take it all in, don’t try to do everything and be everywhere at the same time. Just breath and enjoy the moment. I did try to do everything and because of that I forgot half the stuff  I learned about industry and the craft of writing. I left the hotel 1 time and that was to have a meal with my chapter mates. I spent 5 days in a hotel and it nearly broke me!

Last year I knew better and when you  know better you do better. I went to a lot of worshops, but took time to enjoy other things likes  the publishing spotlights. Since were in NYC I also got out 2-3 times per day, saw my lovely New Yorker daughter several times, and basically had some fun.

This year, there is so much to do, I haven’t even done a 10th of what I wanted to do. But that’s okay. I’ve taken a daily walk outside the hotel ( you can see my video updates on my fb page of my little jaunts around the San Diego marina,) and I’ve spent more time meeting people and chatting them up than I ever have before. Maybe this is because no one from my chapter is here and I miss my lovely chapter mates. Maybe it’s because I realize I need to learn to network and get my name out there. Maybe it’s just because I’m lonely. Whatever the reason, I’m doing okay. I’m bone weary tired, but doing okay.

Yesterday I attended the Kensington book signing ( my new publishing home!!)  and this was the haul from just that 30 minutes:rwa12

This is my book haul so far, overall at the conference:

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I’m so glad I brought a spare suitcase!!

And I do want to add a correction. Yesterday I said I skipped the luncheon and that Beverly Johnson was the speaker. it was BEVERLY JENKINS!!!!! This is what you get for relying on stupid spell check!

While I’m in San Diego, here’s where you can reach me:  Tweet Me// Read Me//Visit Me// Picture Me//Pin Me//Friend Me//Google+Me//

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Filed under #RWA16, Author, Contemporary Romance, Kensington Publishers, Lyrical Author, NHRWA, Romance, Romance Books, RWA, The Wild Rose Press, WIld Rose Press AUthor

The art of Storyboarding…

On Saturday, my New Hampshire chapter of RWA was given a treat: our chapter President, Christyne Butler, gave us a masterclass on storyboarding. What is storyboarding? I am so happy you asked.

Typically used in visual media, a storyboard is defined as such: a sequence of drawings, typically with some directions and dialogue, representing the shots planned for a movie or television production. This helps the film people plot the story, frame by frame, sequence by sequence.

But writers use storyboarding as well.

Most books are comprised of chapters, scenes within chapters, and actions within scenes. Instead of framing the novel action by scene by chapter, writers approach the storyboard a different way. Christyne showed us her way, which is how her characters are plotted out. She boards each individual character and things that might pertain to him/her when she starts to write. She has a complete visual reference for the entire book at her fingertips when she begins to write her story. She must be doing something right because she is a multi-published, very popular author!

Now, when I plot a new story it looks something like this:

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I write everything out longhand once I find pictures of my  characters. I fill entire composition books with pictures, descriptions, motivations, and backstory. It takes a while, but so far it has worked for me. With Christyne’s method – a more visual one – it seemed like it was worth a try, so I did it. Here’s where I’m at after 2 days: ( those are my feet in the bottom of the photo – damn crop app didn’t work!

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This is a three book arc. My heroines are on the left side of the board, my heroes on the right. Just from viewing this I can see I know a whole bunch more about my girls than my boys!! SO right away, this has become a valuable tool for me. Since I am character driven, I have pictures of my peeps, their bedrooms ( I always want to imagine where they sleep!), things about their careers – quotes or pictures of occupations, and the colors on their individual blocks are foils for one another. For instance, the top is black and white because those two love interests perceive everything emotionally in shades of black and white – no gray. My goal is to get them to the gray! I love assigning colors to characters because I think of them in shades of colors. It’s hard sometimes to explain how my brain works, but the black and white instance is the easiest way for me to get you to understand how I envision people/characters.

This is all after 2 days. I’m hoping ( wishing?praying?) to have it done this weekend. I’ve already written two chapters, but I feel as if now I’ll know my characters much better when I write the rest.

So, if you’re a writer, do you storyboard? Write out everything in longhand? Fly by the seat of your pants? What? let’s discuss……

New release 3 WISHES (A Candy Hearts Romance)perf5.000x8.000.indd

Valentine’s Day is chocolatier Chloe San Valentino’s favorite day of the year. Not only is it the busiest day in her candy shop, Caramelle de Chloe, but it’s also her birthday. Chloe’s got a birthday wish list for the perfect man she pulls out every year: he’d fall in love with her in a heartbeat, he’d be someone who cares about people, and he’d have one blue eye and one green eye, just like her. So far, Chloe’s fantasy man hasn’t materialized, despite the matchmaking efforts of her big, close-knit Italian family. But this year for her 30th birthday, she just might get her three wishes.

Get it here: Amazon //  The Wild Rose Press // Nook//  Kobo //

Tweet Me// Read Me// Visit Me// Picture Me //Pin Me//Friend Me// Google+Me//

 

 

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Filed under 3 Wishes, Author, Candy Hearts, Characters, Contemporary Romance, Literary characters, New Hampshire, NHRWA, Romance, Romance Books, RWA, WIld Rose Press AUthor

What a conference can REALLY teach you

I recently attended the New Jersey Romance Conference and took a master class with Margie Lawson. Who, you ask? Well, if you don’t now who she is, you really are missing out.  Margie Lawson is a woman who wears many metaphorical hats. She’s a psychotherapist, an editor, and  a very smart, savvy woman, just to mention three. The master class I took was all about Empowering Character Emotion and it was the best 3 hours and the wisest money I ever spent on a day course.

Seriously.

In fact, I learned so much in that short 3 hours, I knew there had to be more to learn, and boy was there! When I clicked on her site I found she has on line instruction classes and packets and I purchased two right at the conference. I’ve been editing away ever since in my current contracted novel. You can see the efforts in the picture I’ve included. Now, Margie’s stuff is proprietary so I’m not going to tell you what she suggests doing, but I highly recommend you go to her site and click around.

I can say with all honesty my writing and editing skills have improved significantly since I started following her suggestions. She helps you hone in on places where you can add punch to character emotions and scenes where you can dial up the conflict from easy to complex with just a rephrasing of a few words, or the addition of a power word or two. She helps you see where you may have too much of one thing – like exposition, which makes readers skim the page – and not enough of another – like conflict, and we all know romance writers need conflict between their characters.

If you are determined to get that first book published or if you are a multi-published author already, Margie can literally take your writing skills to the next level and maybe even 3 or 4 more beyond that.

Just saying.

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Filed under Author, Contemporary Romance, First Impressions, Life challenges, love, MacQuire Women, NaNoWriMo, New Hampshire, Romance, Romance Books, RWA, Strong Women

NaNoWriMo time again

The first of November is a day that I circle on the calendar whenever I get a brand new one for the upcoming year. 11/1 represents the beginning of not only another month, a countdown to Thanksgiving and Christmas, but the beginning of the yearly NaNoWriMo challenge for writers across the globe.

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For those of you in the know ( and those of you who aren’t) NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, The challenge is to compose a 50,000 word novel  ( or greater than 50,000 words if you are so inclined) from 11/1- until 11/30. You catalog your daily word count on the NaNo site and complete tasks for “badges” of honor along the way. Once the end of the month comes, your total is tallied and if you reach the 50,000 word, you “Win” the challenge.

People who know me know I love an individual challenge. I’m not into team sports, don’t like to compete with others for anything. I would be one of those who would be eaten during the zombie apocalypse because I wouldn’t fight back! But when the challenge is just between me and myself, well, then I say, “bring it on!” I lovelovelove  a challenge myself with writing and NaNo is one of the best ways to do that.

Prior to the challenge, I usually think about what I’m going to write, plot out a few key points, put together rough sketches of my characters and then start, raring to go, on day 1. For the past 2 years, the nano books I’ve done have been sequels, so I knew where I was going with the plot, had already met the characters, a had a defined path. This year is no different. I am penning the 5th book in my MacQuire Women series.  This will be Serena MacQuire’s story and it is a tear jerker in my imagination. Hope I can get that emotion on the page for the reader to jive with.

Anyway, off I go. Day 2 is looming. Day one was a corker with over 3500 words down. Now I have 46,500 left to go…

So, do you NaNo? Let’s discuss…

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Filed under Author, Contemporary Romance, MacQuire Women, NaNoWriMo, Romance, Romance Books, Uncategorized

What season do you favor?

I recently visited the Roses of Prose blog-site (http://bit.ly/1Rq2ph8) and talked about how Fall has been a big factor in my romance novels. It’s the season I love the most because of the beautiful changing patchworks of colors, the cool crispness in the air, and the notion the world is slowing down, getting ready to rest and hibernate for the winter months ( much like I do!)  I love the symbolism of falling in love in the Fall. It just feels good to me. This got me  thinking: what do the other seasons represent to writers?

Would the Legend of Sleepy Hollow been as good a read if it had taken place in the summer? I don’t think so. The symbolism of the darkening and shortening days, and the cold, harsh descriptions of the dying foliage add to the utter creepiness of the story of the Headless Horseman. It wouldn’t have the same effect on the reader if took place during an 85 degree day at the beach.

Does the children’s book How the Grinch Stole July 4th make any sense? No, it’s How The Grinch Stole Christmas, which takes place in the winter with it’s cold, frigid air – much the same as the Grinch’s tiny heart, and the joyous spirit of the season helping him to find his love and kindness again. It wouldn’t feel the same if the Whos were giving out firecrackers instead of Christmas gifts. That’s just wrong.

Think of other stories where a specific season was highlighted. Would the story have been as good or rewarding if the season had been switched? And in your own writing. Do you favor a season more than others? If so, why. What does that time of the year bring to your story that enhances it?

I’d really be interested in hearing responses to these questions,so please, feel free to comment and pass the link on to other you think might be interested.

 

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Birth order…in life and in characterization

I’m fascinated by families and birth order. As an only child, I was the solitary kid in rooms always filled with adults. I think one of the reasons I’m such a good and thorough observer is because I was raised in that era where children were seen but never heard. I learned very early in life how to watch people without them noticing, how to gage emotions and reactions during situations, and most importantly, how to describe what I was seeing. From the time I knew I was the only kid in my family’s realm, I dreamed of having siblings. It didn’t matter to me if I was the oldest, youngest, or came somewhere in the middle of the food chain. I wanted other people like me around the house.
Sadly, it didn’t happen.
My life long fascination with birth order and how siblings react and interact with one another is the reason I like writing about big families. It gives me a great deal of pleasure to invent the families I always wanted as my own. I would have liked nothing more while growing up than to have older brothers looking out for me and sisters guiding my way to adolescence. Families come with their own sets of rules on behavior and thinking and actions. Most of it is based on the shared history they have, and much of it is situational. When I start a new book series, the dynamics in the family come first. Is there a father figure present and if so, how does he rule? If no dad is around, how does the mother keep order, pay the bills, provide for her children? What roles do the oldest and youngest play in  his scheme? All these questions are thought out prior to my ever typing a word of the story. I need to know “my families” before I can write about them. I invent the parents I wished I’d had growing up, along with the support system siblings bring with it. Since I was a step-kid to two new “parents” when my parents both remarried, I know what it means to be the outsider in a group. Resentments abound, feelings of insecurity and of not measuring up run rampant, and you never really “feel” as if anyone is truly on your side. Of course, these feelings follow us into adulthood so when I write about siblings who are aging, I know I need to have them make decisions and run courses of actions with those childhood traumas and dramas in mind.
Siblings are such a curious breed of human. They love each other one minute, then engage in a fight to the proverbial death in the next. They depend on one another, forgive one another for transgressions, and then never let the other person forget it! They share secrets, tell secrets, and hold secrets for one another. Who wouldn’t want to write about people such as this???!! The emotional ground is fertile and ripe with conflict, love, support and emotions.
What about you? Come from a big family, or are you an only like me? Where is your birth order and did it play a role in making you the person you are? Or did it hamper your dreams and desires because things were “expected of you?”

Birth order, sibling dynamics, and families are truly fascinating to read – and write – about.

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Why every one of us needs an Editor

Yesterday I was a guest blogger on writer Brenna Zinn’s blog. I talked about my love of figure skating and how I used this in my first romance novel Skater’s Waltz.  I mentioned Dorothy Hamill’s name several times and each time I spelled it incorrectly. So dumb! I know how to spell her name as well as my own and mine is much harder! Spell check doesn’t do names and I just glazed over it every time I read it in proofing. My Dartmouth grad English major daughter was the one who clued me into this mistake. Thank God for her.

This got me to thinking about why it is so imperative that we have editors.

Spell check was one of the best inventions ever and one of the worst. It has made us a writing nation of people who don’t bother to learn how to spell correctly and who don’t truly check our work, thinking our laptop programs will do it all and we will look like geniuses.

Na-ah. Doesn’t work that way.

I recently read a novel by a very famous and much published author who I happen to love. She mentioned colored contact lenses in the narrative of her story and even named the manufacturer. The only problem was that manufacturer doesn’t make colored contacts and never has. I know this because this is what I do for a paying job right now: I am a contact lens technician, so when I say I walk the walk and talk the talk of lenses, you can bank on it. Her editors and fact checkers paid her a huge disservice by not validating her statement and I think more people than just me noticed it.

So, back to editing. I learned a valuable lesson yesterday. When I write something I need to read it very very very slowly to make sure I have all the names correct, the i’s doted and the facts perfect. I don’t want to look like an idiot in print ( or in real life).

Lesson learned. Thank you, wise and learned daughter. And my sincere apologies to the fabulous Dorothy Hamill.

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Filed under Author, Contemporary Romance, Editors, MacQuire Women, Romance, Romance Books, Skater's Waltz, Strong Women

I love a challenge…

I love a challenge. There’s just something about committing to it, planning for it, and then executing it.  The ultimate goal – completing the challenge – is a high like none other. I’ve done 2 half marathons and the only goal I had with the first was to finish it upright and not on an ambulance stretcher. The second marathon had the same primary goal – run across the finish line – but I’d vowed to shave some considerable time off of my finish. And I did.

And I love a writing challenge most of all.

My local RWA chapter has a writing challenge every summer. You pledge to write every day, no matter what, for a week at a time. Every day you enter your word count for that day and it is totaled at the end of the week. The prize: accomplishing your goal. No trophies, cash prizes, or fabulous trips abroad ( although, wouldn’t that be nice?!) No, just the internal knowledge that you set out to do something and you did.

I’m a huge lover of NANOWRIMO. I’ve done it for the past several years and to me this is the ultimate test of your writing commitment. In order to “win” you must complete 50,000 words of your WIP from 11/1 until 11/30. You track daily and at the end of the month you must have a minimum of 50,00 words committed. This is a wonderful way of getting that first draft on the page.

Currently, RWA is having a writing challenge. You promise to write 2000 words each month in your WIP and then enter the actual word count at the end of the month on the RWA site. This is another motivator to get those fingers flying across the keyboard and unleash your imagination. And I can do 2000 in one sitting, never mind an entire month so this will be not only a fun challenge for me, but a relatively facile one as well.

So, what motivates you? Do you like a challenge? Does the idea of throwing down the gauntlet and committing yourself to a worthy ambition appeal to you? Do you need that proverbial kick in the a** to get you started? If so, CHALLENGE yourself.

 

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In a relationship? That’s fodder for a great story…really!

It’s kinda difficult to be in a relationship with yourself. Usually, you need 2 or more in the relationship to define it as such. Now before you get on Twitter and tell me the most important relationship is with yourself, hear me out.

I write romantic stories about men and women who find each other, suffer through hardships, and wind up living their happily ever after.  I was asked once, how do I think up the people I write about?  Well, here’s my dirty little secret concerning my writing: I don’t make my characters up completely from my imagination. I actually incorporate nuances, characteristics, speaking patterns, etc, from people I know, have met, or have seen.  I’m a huge observer. Part of my scientific educational background is in observation and methodology.  In lay terms, I’m a watcher. Voyeur is too skanky a word to use because there’s nothing sexually based about my people watching. And the people I watch the most are couples.

When I’m out at a restaurant, I’ll discreetly glance around me and see who’s together, what they’re doing, how they’re acting towards one another. I may see an older man and woman holding hands across a table, waiting for their drinks to arrive. Or, I may observe a younger couple each glancing down at their cell phones and not at each other as they wait for theirs. I’ve seen couples seated at a square table for four sitting opposite one another or next to each other. If they’re seated in a booth, same thing. Either across the table, or together in the same seat, the guy’s arm draped around the girl.

All of these behaviors tell me something about the relationship that I can use for my own characterizations.

Ever go shopping with your significant other? It’s a trip, that’s for sure. In malls, I make it a strategic habit to watch men and women shop together. Body language is a huge component of my writing, especially in a non-love scene. You can learn so much about a character by how one non-verbally responds to the other. Next time you’re in a shopping mall, check out the couples you see milling about. Are they holding hands? Arms draped over shoulders as they amble along? Are they talking? Is one person the main talker, with the partner nodding every so often giving the illusion of listening? Or is it a real dialogue where the two of them are responding verbally to one another? In a store, does the partner simply wait in a chair while the other shops or do they shop together, giving opinions, etc? Are opinions valued or poo-pooed away? Are complements given? Watch a man’s face the next time you see his woman modeling something sexy for him in a store and you’ll know exactly what I mean.

I was at a professional baseball game once and “listened” to a couple seated in front of me. They were on a first date – how do I know? The girl mentioned it as she and the guy were talking. She had never been to a pro-game before and he was explaining who was who on the home team.  Remember I said body language is key? Well, he was leaning into her as he spoke, and she to him as she listened, their shoulders touching often. He didn’t need to raise his voice to be heard because the noise level was good – not overbearing as it can be – so there was no reason for him to be so close to her just to be heard. They maintained eye contact throughout speaking. At one point during the game the home boys earned three runs on a single pitch. The entire stadium was on it’s feet, including the first daters. He grabbed her and hugged her in his exuberance and I swear I could see her fall in love with him before my eyes. The stadium could have been empty except for the two of them at that moment. I used that scene in an upcoming book of mine, First Impressions,  and I was giddy when I was writing it because I’d actually seen it played out in front of me.

If you’re a writer, your every  day experiences, the people you meet – even the people you know – are all fodder for you to use when you create your characters. Of course you never want to copycat a real person into a character – you’re setting yourself up for some serious legal action if you do! But there’s nothing wrong with a little cut and paste between people you know or have interacted with and your characters.

One final caveat: friends, loved ones, and family – please do not now LOOK for yourself in my characters when you read my books! You will never recognize yourselves if I’ve “used” you.

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