Category Archives: romance

The Big Reveal…

I have a book cover!!

Cover Art by Robin Ludwig

Two months ago, I contacted an artist to work on my cover. Unfortunately, she had a lot of personal life issues this summer and finally had to pull out of the job–just as I was sending my final draft off for copy editing.

A few days ago, I went to Robin, of Robin Ludwig Design Inc., with my tale of woe. She pulled together what I think is a beautiful cover in just a few days. She spent a lot of time with me looking at images and tweaking the design. She really made an effort to get a feel for my work and my tastes, and to understand what the story and characters were about. Absolutely amazing communication and service. Robin manages to be 100% professional while still being approachable, personable, and fun to work with. And while I was initially scared by how professional her website appears, her rates were completely reasonable and she did everything she could to work within my budget. In addition to doing the cover, she also quickly worked up a new blog header, background, and avatar for me, so that I could update my formerly uninspired-looking blog to match the new book.

Indies, if you’re looking for a cover artist, consider Robin. Feel free to tell her I sent you.

Now, more about ME…

Like I said, Hush Money is with the copy editor over the weekend. And now I have my cover. I think the last thing I need to do is register the copyright, and then I’ll be all ready to upload to Amazon and Smashwords, possibly as early as Monday, August 2nd. It’s very exciting in a head-spinny kind of way.

So much so, in fact, that I can’t remember if there was other stuff I’m supposed to tell you. You can read a bit about the Talent Chronicles series by clicking the new tab at the top, or by clicking here, and you’ll find a brief excerpt here.

I’m so excited! I’ll be announcing here when it becomes available for purchase, so I hope you’ll stay tuned.

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Filed under books, Hush Money, love, me me me, progress update, romance, self-publishing, Talent Chronicles, writing

Blueprint Series part 12: Fleshing Out Part 4

You know what you need to bring your story to a conclusion, but how are you going to make that into a whole quarter of your story? Does it have to be? We’re going to talk about that and some other stuff today as we work prepping part 4 of your story. (Click here for part 1 of this series on story development.)

To answer my own question above, my personal opinion: No, your 4 parts do not have to be equal quarters and your Part 4 doesn’t have to be quite as long as Part 2 or Part 3. But neither should it be so truncated that it seems a lot shorter.

This is one of the many balancing acts we face in writing. Your final act should be that exciting thrill ride we talked about yesterday, full of jarring impacts and forward motion. But it also should not be over so quickly that your reader feels she’s just invested hours in a build-up to something that was over too quickly. That’s a risk if you move from your SPP directly to your final showdown against the antagonist. At the same time, if there’s a long and complicated sequence of events to set up that showdown, your risk slowing everything down and disappointing your reader in a different way.

I just thought I’d throw some worries at you while you think through this, because I’m mean like that. As you’re outlining, you may find that you have more scenes or fewer scenes in your Part 4 than you did in other parts. Maybe it will take you more words to describe all that action, and that will maintain your balance. Hopefully you’ll be writing your climax using the kind of exciting language that will make it a fast read, make your reader power through to keep turning pages to see what happens, and that will provide the balance you need.

What you do not want to do here, is to plan a lot after your exciting climax. Don’t you DARE make me walk back to the Shire with you. Seriously. I’ll go home with your character to see how it all worked out, to see her get her reward, but I don’t need another journey right now, and I certainly don’t want another adventure of any kind.

I’ve got my post-victory buzz on. Don’t bring me down, man.

So let’s look at the Blueprint…

Step 12: Fleshing out part 4

  1. What is the climax of the story?
  2. How do the characters come to terms with their inner demons?
  3. Are there any loose ends to tie up?
  4. What is the happily ever after moment?

Not a lot of questions to work with there, but, at this point, you don’t need them. There is nothing extraneous in your climax. It deals with setting up the antagonist and knocking him down. And to do this, the protagonist overcomes her inner demon, that thing that’s been holding her back all along. It’s her grit, determination, and what she’s made of herself through the training that living through this story has given her, that allow her to win. Not luck, not some guy (unless he’s a co-protag and she saves him right back), not some kind of out of nowhere magic. Your protag saves the day and defeats her foe. She couldn’t have done it back when we met her, but she’s a different person now. Right?

Do you have any loose ends to tie up? Any subplots that need resolving, mysteries to be explained, identities to be revealed Scooby-Doo style? Like I said above, once you’ve impacted the reader with the emotion of the win, getting to THE END as quickly as possible is usually best for everyone. Every page she has to turn after that risks diluting the emotional high she paid for in the book price and hours invested in reading.

(It’s probably obvious that I don’t believe in epilogues. Epilogues that do not advance the series are most often gratuitous frolicking in the story world for an author who just doesn’t want to let go yet. Some readers also don’t want to leave the story world and these characters, and enjoy a drama-free scene of martial bliss 9 months later or whatever. Put it on your website and give those readers a reason to check that out and look at your other projects. The only epilogue type I favor is one with the purpose of dropping a seed that will grow into the next book. Horror movies are good at that type of final scene, but then, making you uncomfortable is the point of a horror movie. And making you feel WIN! is the point of romance, IMO.)

What’s your Happily Ever After moment? You’ve just saved the world from a monstrous, soul-sucking demon from hell? What are you going to do next? This is where you give the protagonist her reward, or the clear promise of it, for all her hard work through the story. Because what’s harder than changing and growing? Sometimes part of this moment in your story is about your protagonist realizing what she’s learned and how she’s changed, especially in stories for younger readers who expect that moral of the story, -what we’ve learned from this after school special- type moment. Often stories end with a punch line. This isn’t so much a joke (although it is often humorous and further breaks reader tension) as a bit of an emotional punch, and is often particularly affected when it is seeded throughout the story in some way.

It seems like we’re done (except for writing), but I still have at least one more thing I want to talk about. Tomorrow I’m going to talk about Battling Threads in your story, and how you might consider dealing with your subplots. Even if you don’t plan to add a subplot, there are still threads of different types that weave in and out of your main action story, and it’s important not to leave them hanging or let them grow into a tangle that impedes your main plot.

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Blueprint Series Part 11: Fleshing Out Part 3

I hope yesterday’s post helped you start to think through what my CP calls “The Valley of the Shadow of the Middle.” Middles are hard for a lot of writers. Today we’ll be working our way through the second half of this often desolate landscape. (If you’d like to start from the beginning, check out part 1 here.)

Part 3 of the story takes us from the MP (midpoint), which changed everything yet again by providing us with a whole new picture of what’s going on, to the SPP (second plot point), the event that will send your characters hurtling toward the story’s climactic end. Smack in the middle of those two points we’ll place PP2 (pinch point two), a reminder of the antagonistic force that’s more terrifying than ever.

Step 11: Fleshing out part 3

  1. How does the hero react to the Midpoint event? What’s different now?
  2. How does the heroine react to the Midpoint event? What’s different now?
  3. How do the characters take proactive action?
  4. How are the characters fighting their inner demons? How will you show that?
  5. What is Pinch Point 2? How will you show the evolution of the antagonistic force?
  6. How do the characters react to PP2?
  7. Is there a Black Moment in the sense of a break-up or break down of relations between the hero and heroine?
  8. Is there an all is lost moment where everything seems impossible for your characters? How do they react to that?
  9. How does the SPP come about?

In part 3, your protag is a different person than the one we’ve seen before. She’s not doing this for the same consequence avoidance reasons that dragged her into this mess. She’s in it now, and she’s becoming the Warrior we always knew she could be. If she could just learn that lesson, fix that skewed world view that would let her get past her inner demon, you know she’d be kicking some serious antagonist tail. But she’s not quite there yet.

So yesterday we talked about what a big deal the MP was. Something happened that really changed things in the story. How? What’s different now? How does it change your characters, and how will you show that?

Now that your characters have survived the the first half of the story, they’re hardly the wilting pansies they once were. They’re done running and hiding and trying to avoid conflict. What’s their plan of action now?

Remember how I said your protag wasn’t quite ready to win because she has to overcome her inner demon first? Remember to remind the reader about that too. Because this flaw she has is probably going to cause her problems come PP2…

Know who else has survived the story this long? Your antagonist. Remember that you’re keeping the odds stacked against your protag team and as they evolve, so does your antagonist. He’s bigger, meaner, and more bad-ass than ever. And he shows that by whooping your characters’ butts at PP2.

This may lead to an all is lost moment for your protagonist. I know I’m often very moved by those story moments in which the protagonist has taken such a beating, the odds seems so impossible, you almost want them to give up and go home, to stop taking all this punishment in a battle that seems hopeless. But that’s not who your protag is. It’s just not in them to give up (because you’ve got a fabulous climactic ending planned!), so they’re going to have to pick themselves up. Give them a story moment to wallow first, if you want to.

Note to romance writers: So much of romance now is action-oriented. Back in the day, we had a lot of historical and contemporary tales that were mostly two people moving through a story together, and much of their conflict was with each other. Today, with the huge popularity of subgenres like romantic suspense and paranormal romance, it seems wise to follow the advice of those who write in the thriller and suspense genres. But to do it with the kind of character depth, interpersonal drama, and loads of sexual tension that make romance what we love.

The “Black Moment” in romance, is something that happens that breaks your two characters apart, at least for a time. It is often followed by a “dark period” in which the characters brood separately and secretly long to patch things up. If you’re writing romance and working with this popular construction, your Black Moment and dark period will probably happen through this second half of part 3.

And now the SPP. In this scene, we turn that last corner that sends us into the sequence of events that make up your climax. In roller coaster terms, we’re at the top of the big rise, and the SPP is the thing that’s going to push us into a downhill sequence of terrifying and exciting events over which we have no control. (Ok, we do, but this is what a good part 4 often feels like for a reader.)

So what is the Second Plot Point? One way I like to think of it is as the delivery of the missing piece of the puzzle. After PP2, your characters are pretty defeated. It doesn’t seem like they’ll be able to go on. But the SPP brings some information that allows them to act. And through acting, they bring about the story’s final showdown.

And look! A middle! As someone who’s wandered the Dreaded Valley many times, there’s not much that’s more satisfying than laying out a rich middle and seeing my characters’ path running through it. I hope this helps you map out yours. And if you get bogged down and depressed listen to The Middle for a pick me up.

The last of the 4 main parts tomorrow! We’ll be filling in some of the detail that lead us to The End.

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Blueprint Series Part 8: Character Relationships

We’re working on the relationships amongst your characters on the Blueprint today. If you’re just finding this, click here for part 1.

This is another one of those that’s as easy or hard as you want to make it. Let’s just jump in.

Step 8: Character Work- Relationships

  1. For each character in the story, list other characters and make note of their relationships to and with each other
  2. List reasons why the hero and heroine should be together (goal = 20)
  3. List reasons why the hero and the heroine should stay apart (goal = 20)
  4. Are the hero and heroine bookends (peas in a pod, basically alike in some way) or salt and pepper shakers (a matched set of opposites)? How are they perfect for each other? In what way(s) do they complete each other?
  5. How are the hero and heroine the same? How are they different?

Obviously, a lot of this pertains to romance and others may or may not find it useful. The first one, however, if for anyone. I do it like this:

Joss:

+ Dylan = love interest. She’s had a crush on him forever, but assumes he doesn’t think about her at all.

+ Kat = Joss doesn’t really know what to think when Kat starts pushing her way into her life. Kat is sort of a force of nature and Joss finds herself become friends with Kat almost against her will.

Etc. For as many characters as you care to discuss. The do the next one, and work from their point of view.

Dylan:

+ Joss = love interest. He’s been interested in Joss for some time, but his friendship with Marco, and what went on between Marco and Joss, complicates things. Still, he can’t seem to stop thinking about her, and is starting to feel it’s time Marco just got over it. To Dylan, Joss isn’t like any other girl. He sees her as…

And, see, when it’s romance, I could go on all day. But you get the idea.

While outlining can seem like something very dry and creativity sucking to some people, to me it’s a place to play. I do some playing in the manuscript, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a lot easier to clean up messes here than there. Sketching in all these relationships can be a bit tiresome, until you start finding things. Once you have some basics of these characters down in the Blueprint, and start writing a few lines about their thoughts and feelings for each other, putting yourself into each character’s perspective, connections start happening. New backstory emerges. Stuff you knew about the stories suddenly gets explained to you. To me, this section is always worth working through.

I don’t know where I read about the exercise with the 20 reasons. Maybe Paperback Writer. Again, this is something that’s mainly for stories with a romance. The point was that if you can’t come up with 20 things keeping your H/H apart, you do not have enough conflict in your relationship.  I rarely make it to 20, but I always learn something or crystallize something in the push to get there. And, on the other side of it, you can’t go around having an H/H crazy attracted to each other over just chemistry and your say-so. I don’t care what happens in real life, we readers want more than that. So come up with some qualities and mutually fulfilled needs and crap and then maybe you’ll remember to show us those when you get into writing.

And yes, I agree that I probably just asked the same question twice in a row, as far as how are the H/H the same and different. But do you know that every time I answer it the second time, I still come up with more to say? Maybe because I’m lazy and see a bunch of words, ok that looks like I’ve done my job. No! It’s romance, dammit. You’re job’s not over. More!

That brings us to the end of this week and the end of this part of the Blueprint. We’ve discovered a boat-load of stuff. The next part of the Blueprint takes us into serious outlining. Next stop: Part 1.

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No Admittance Without Plot

It’ s been awhile.

I’m trying.  Maybe not very hard, maybe not in the most consistent way, but I am.  And the why of it is simply that my head is full of brain dolls, and more show up all the time.

A brain doll is sort of like a character.  But a character is someone whom I work, whom I form and mold and tweak.  A character fits into a story and the story fits around the character.  They are the ones who make it to the keyboard and are not generally allowed to run amock.  A brain doll works me.  Brain dolls are creatures that live in my head.  They’re made up of bits of backstory and internal conflict with a dash of physical characteristics, and they often show up in pairs.  They tend to come with very few accessories like, say, plot points, and most of them are lazy and don’t build on their own.  They just wait around for me to do it.

Some of my brain dolls, the ones that have been with me a long time, make their own spaces in the corners of my world.  They build sets and create stories, and they live lives within the borders of their regions.  Their stories tend to be soap-opera quality messes that I could never untangle enough to put to paper, even if I wanted to.  Some of them are former characters, retired with their abandoned plots to enact and embellish on their favorite scenes for, it would seem, all eternity. 

Matt and Alex still live in the WOTM region, waiting for that last 20K or so of grey area to get colored in.  They’re still characters, and thus far, they continue to wait silently for my return, should you wonder what became of them.

 But it’s the huge brain world playset of Supertown that’s out of control.  That’s the world where Mac and Colby live, though they, too, linger as characters trapped in the brain doll world.  Rand and Marissa want their story told, but not enough to give me enough hints on plot points to keep the action going.  Marissa brought in this ex-boyfriend named Joel, and next thing you know, Tina showed up with a criminal past and said she wanted to, after much angst and denial, be hooked up with Joel please.  Well ok, Tina, but what else ya got?  Give me more to work with or get in line.  One young woman showed up a month or so ago, and she felt promising.  She brought a hero, a father, a sister.  And then she turned around and informed me that no, she had 2 sisters, and they had beaus, but please excuse their complete fuzziness.  Great.  Thanks.  Take your trilogy and wait over there.  Patiently, Carolyn waits, reminding me that she’s important and she has a love interest, and please don’t forget to introduce him at some point.  But while she’s told me what she can about him, he has yet to show up and introduce himself properly.  Which might be why we refer to him as Stasis Guy.    Today, as I stare at the last line I wrote for Rand and Marissa, wondering about their motivations, I realize that someone needs to die.  Not right now, just, you know, sometime.  And the man she leaves behind waves to me from a dark corner.  I didn’t even know he was there, but he’ll be ready to play the Grieving Widower type who finds true love a second time later on down the road.  He introduces me to his Best Friend, who pulls him away from the body of his lover.  Best Friend says hey, how’s it goin’?  Just wanted to let you know that that experience will make me realize what a jerk I’ve been to my COMPLETELY FUZZY love interest here, and I’ll be having one of those Don’t Know What You’ve Got Till It’s Gone moments (yeah, coincidentally Cinderella is playing right now, neat).  Oh, how will that come about?  Well I don’t know, that’s your job, isn’t it?

Hey, I love hangin’ out in Supertown.  I love you guys.  Really.  But I’m constantly distracted by all these new arrivals.  You guys are never going to reach your character potential if I don’t get some work done.  Help me.  Help me help you.  Give me some stories to go along with these setups, or your world is never going to be anything but a some assembly required brain doll playset. 

Rand, you’ve got that anti-gravity thing going for you.  Get up there and pull down the Welcome to Supertown sign with the everchanging digital population indicator.  Bryan, get off your not coming up with my YA subplot butt and help him out, because I suspect you’ve got a bit of telekinesis going, don’t you?  The new sign is right over there.  It reads:

No Admittance Without Plot.

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Filed under characters, COD, ideas, progress update, rant, romance, wotm, writing

Nano/COD Update: Day 7

So my update for yesterday.  Hard hit by the plague, and even though I had to spend most of the day being still so I could keep breathing, I didn’t get much writing done.  It should have been a good time to get ahead, but I just couldn’t think straight. 

 By the end of the day, I was only able to come up with 755 words.  Which is far better than nothing.  It means I only have to write 2572 today to catch up instead of 3334. 

Ok, that was my attempt at positive thinking.  How’d I do?

So the thing that didn’t make sense?  I skipped it.  I know a reasonable answer is there and I just refuse to see it right now.  The thing about the traitor, as well as coming up briefly later in the story, is really a background thread for the series.  So it’s not critical that it be here for me to move on.  Skip!  Then I checked my outline and was supposed to write about my heroine going about town talking to people and finding out stuff about Mac.  Oh, I forgot about that.  The fact that I forgot it makes me wonder if it’s important, or if it’s just fill.  Since I couldn’t think of a way to make it important (like I wanted to write the dinner scene from my snippet yesterday, so I forced new reader info into it, which was easy and worked) I decided to just skip that too, for now.  Maybe I’ll come back and fill it in with things about Mac and thoughts from Colby that I fail to illustrate any other way.  And maybe I just won’t write it at all. 

So what the heck did I do?  Not much, like I said.  Mac came home from work and had some words with Colby.  I established that it’s his regular poker night and it’s his turn to host, and he can’t get out of it because everyone wants to come gawk at the fake girlfriend and he’s pissed off an worried. 

I did have him pull his shirt off as he stalked down the hall to the shower.  It was gratitous because we were in his head and there was no one there to see it but me.  But a girl needs to get her kicks somewhere.

Speaking of which, romance stuff is on the horizon, action too, and, beyond that, immersion into the superhero world.  Trying to remember to be excited about that.

I’m at 10764.  How’re you Sweaters and Nanoers doing (and those of you who don’t need a challenge to get stuff done too)?

 P.s. If you didn’t visit Joely Sue Burkhart’s blog yesterday, she had an interesting post that included her storyboard and a collage of inspirational stuff for her story.   Which, of course, made me want to show you whom Mac and Colby resemble.

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Nano/COD Update: Day 6

You know, I like to write in scenes.  I write from beginning to end and then I’m wiped.

So it seems to be a bit of an issue that scenes for me are rarely more than 1600 words.

Anyway, 1632 today to total 10009.  That makes me happy.  My heroine told the hero why she was there, which, of course, he didn’t take so well.  But neither she nor I expected him to.  She because she read his file, and I because I’m just all about the conflict and I know it.

So I sat down to write out some notes to get me throught the next scene.  I wrote some general impressions of the head of the bad guy agency and then WHAM!

Um, if the bad guy agency has someone inside the good guy’s secret mountain compound (such that they have the information they’re about to discuss in this scene), why don’t they just get its location from the aforementioned traitor and wipe them out?

Yeah, so my outline has a bit of a flaw, huh?  I think I’m too stunned by my own stupidity to think my way around this right now.  Right now it feels important to me that they actually don’t discover the location, as opposed to being able to get that information but feeling like other goals are more important right now.  So I don’t know what to do and I think a simple solution is right there and I’m too sick and miserable and pissed off right now to see it.

And aside from how lousy that last paragraph was, I’m not really in that bad a mood.  Not really.  I am, however, out of it to the point of senseless babble.

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Nano/COD Update: Day 3

Such exciting post titles for me lately.

So, what did we learn today.  Well, I learned the following:

  • One cannot intimidate the Nano site with how many times in a row one can hit refresh.  It doesn’t care.  It is not impressed.
  • When making icing, don’t just put in the listed ingredients, pay attention to the consistency.  It’s easier to add a little milk to thin it out than to add a lot of sugar to try to bring thicken it back up.  Admittedly, that’s not really a learn, that’s more of a review, and a duh at that.
  • Even when it seems like you’ve been in a scene so long that you must surely have written over two thousand words, it is very likely that you haven’t written one thousand yet.  Do not be surprised with you it see the actual number.
  • Three year olds, chocolate cake, and NanoWriMo progress do not peacefully coexist.

 Ok, that’s probably about it, really.  My hero and heroine had their first conversation.  My heroine’s just sashayed back off-stage, and my hero is standing there dumbfounded and not knowing what will happen next.  Guess which character I resemble.

I’m up to 5778 now, and losing a bit more of my lead every day. 

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Nano/COD Update: Day 2

Ugh.  I just crawled through a patch of guy talk to introduce my hero.  The heroine just walked onstage and put me out of my misery, thank goodness.  But I know I’ve hit the point where I need to go to bed and I’m not going to do good work, so I’m going to stop at 1132, even though it’s not what I wanted to do today.

That puts me at 4081.

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COD Update: Day One Part 2

I sat down for my regular evening writing session and added another 1264 for a total of 2949 for Day 1.  Yay!  I had outlined three scenes for myself in a pretty detailed fashion to get myself started.  All used up now.  Tomorrow I guess I have to work harder.  But that’s ok.  I need 385 words tomorrow to stay on track.

Colby’s got her assignment now.  Tomorrow, let’s go meet Mac.  Wanna?

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