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Thursday, May 27, 2010

When Rejection Comes From Too Close: Strategy For Survival

Please welcome guest blogger Marie-Claude Bourque. She will be giving away a copy of her book Ancient Whispers to one lucky commenter.

Every writer at any step of their career has to deal with outside negative feedback from critiques, rejections and perhaps reviews. And most writers will be able to count on their close support system in the form of spouses, family and best friends to get over the rough spots.

But what to do when the close support is not there or worse when the negative feedback regarding your writing comes from the people closest to you.

When that happens, it is doubly hard to survive trying to carve yourself a writing career, but it doesn’t mean you have to give up your dreams.

Assess the situation

First you need to assess the situation with honesty. Is there any truth in the bad feedback at home? Have you been so engrossed in your writing and writing commitments that you have forgotten all about the ones you love? It yes, perhaps you need to pay a little more attention to how you spend your time and find the right balance to both meet your needs with theirs.

Speak up

But what if you truly honestly are balancing well your writing with other parts of your life? Yet you still get increasing pressure from people close to you who demand you stop writing altogether, or keep intruding in the time you set aside for writing and act as if it is not important, or say things such as that your time would be better spent scrubbing the floor than writing stories. You think I may be exaggerating, but I’m not.

And for those who are in that situation, it is important to speak up. Tell other writers why you can’t make up that writer’s meeting or conference, that the manuscript or critique may be late and that it is because you just don’t have the support at home to help you free that extra time to do what most writers can easily do without a thought. If these things are a constant battle, the first step is to tell others.

Find support

Why tell others? Because you need support. Yes, some people very close to you are against or enjoy making fun of your writing, but not everyone. If you speak up, you may find your own cheerleaders in the strangest places. If you talk about it, you will find people who do understand and want you to be happy doing what you love. It may be another family member, a close friend, your neighbor. And if all fail, for sure, other writers will be there for you if you ask.

Every writer has struggled at one time or another and they all understand. Talk about it and reach out for that support so that when you do have rejections from the outside you have someone to talk too, someone that believes in you and will help you get back on your feet.

Be brave

At some point, you need to own your writing and be brave. It is hard but it can be done in tiny steps. I credit Bob Mayer to teach me about courage in his Warrior Writer class. When there are no places to retreat, you have to find your courage and face your fear. What is the worst thing that can happen if you sit down after dinner for an hour and just write no matter what? What if you hire a babysitter on a Saturday so you can go to your RWA chapter meeting? For some writer living with constant negativity, those things can be scary or bold to do and that is where you need to face your fear and, slowly, one at a time, do those things that may lead to arguments and snide remarks. The more you do it, the easier it will become.

Be professional

A lot of people will tell you that if you want people to take you seriously, you need to take yourself seriously and act professionally. That means making deadlines and schedules and sticking up to them. That is very true but sometimes for another reason. Some people will never take you seriously, period. It is not something you do. It is something within them. No matter what you do, your close critiquers will probably never change. But, if you do act professionally, something within you will change. You will be more confident and believe in yourself. You will be more able to act with courage and write proudly no matter what.

Don’t wait

Don’t wait for things to become better in order to be brave. You may think that those who are against you now will accept your writing once you achieve positive results. The truth is that winning contests or making that sale will not make things better. There will always be something else, the advance is too small, you are away too much, spent too much money or time on promotion. If people don’t want you to write, becoming a successful writer will not make them accept it more. Be brave, take those few courageous steps now and don’t wait to do what is needed for you to become a writer.

You have the right

Yes, you have responsibilities as wife, mother, daughter, girlfriend, and so on (and the same applies to men artists). But you also have the right to be happy. I am not saying here to be selfish, but you are an individual and you do have the right to be happy and to do something that you really enjoy just for the sake of it. You have the right to have dreams and work towards achieving them.

Yes, it may take some time away from others, but who decided that (mostly) a woman found true happiness only through making others around her happy. And so if some around you don’t believe you should be happy, remind yourself that you are an individual person who, like everyone in the family, has to right to be happy.

Start making small steps towards acknowledging to others that your writing matters whether by saying it out loud or by simply acting like it does. Be brave and the outcome may surprise you. Things and people in your life may actually change in a way that makes you truly happy, where you can find a place where you can both write and be at peace with those closest to you.


Marie-Claude Bourque is the American Title V winner and author of ANCIENT WHISPERS, a sensual gothic paranormal romance filled with sorcerers and Celtic priestesses in search for eternal love in modern time. She worked as a climate research scientist, a scientific translator and a fitness expert until she turned to fiction writing. She draws her inspiration from the French legends of her childhood and a fascination for dark fantasy.

ANCIENT WHISPERS, a Dorchester –Love Spell release is available now wherever books are sold. Find more at www.mcbourque.com and don’t forget to enter the contest for her month-long virtual release party at www.mcbourque.com/launchparty

Ancient Whispers

Gabriel is the youngest member of the Priory of Callan—an ancient Celtic brotherhood of cursed sorcerers and alchemists, each with deadly abilities and each haunted by a tragic past. Tortured by the devastating loss of his fiancée in 1755, Gabriel wants nothing more than to reunite with his soul mate.
Two and a half centuries later, Gabriel is still searching for his love. And then he finds Lily Bellefontaine. Cool-headed and practical, she has no memory of Gabriel. But she also can’t deny the pull of attraction drawing her under his seductive spell, urging her to give in to the…

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

2010 On The Far Side Contest

Got fantasy, futuristic, or paranormal? Then the On the Far Side contest is for you!!

Welcome dragons, witches, ghosties, vampires, shape shifters, unicorns, and any creature your imagination can conjure up in a galaxy far, far away, in a time long past, or in your very own backyard.

**NEW: Enter contest today to reserve your spot, but you can upload your file any time until contest deadline!

2010 On The Far Side Contest for Unpublished Authors

Sponsor: Fantasy, Futuristic & Paranormal Special-Interest Chapter

Fee: $20 FF&P members / $25 non-FF&P members
Deadline: August 29, 2010
Eligibility: Must not be published in full length fiction (40,000+) for the genre entering/or not published in genre entering for past 5 years
Enter: 2 page maximum synopsis (OPTIONAL) and first 20 pages of manuscript

To enter, go to the website

Payment via PayPal is preferred.

2010 Categories and Final Judges:

Romantic Elements:
Alexandra Machinist, Linda Chester Literary Agency

Hard Science Fiction/SF/Futuristic:
Danielle Rose Poiesz, Gallery/Pocket Books Editorial

Dark/Light/General Paranormal:
Sara Megibow, Nelson Literary Agency

Time Travel/Steampunk/Historical with Paranormal Elements:
Deb Werksman, Sourcebooks

Dark/Urban/General Fantasy:
Sarah LaPolla, Curtis Brown, Ltd.

Young Adult:


1. All entrants must be valid members of RWA National® with a valid RWA® number.

2. Entries shall consist of first 20 pages of manuscript plus an optional, unjudged 2 page maximum synopsis of the novel. A prologue and/or second chapter may be included if within total page guidelines.

3. Do not include illustrations, author bio/photos, vocabulary lists, or footnotes.

4. Entries shall be in standard manuscript format, 12 inch Courier or Courier New font or 14 inch Times New Roman font, 1" margins, and double spaced. (Format is not a judged component of the On The Far Side contest. No points are deducted for format infractions.)

5. The title and category should be on top left of the page, page number on top right.

6. The author's name should not appear anywhere on the manuscript or synopsis. Entries bearing the author's name on them shall be disqualified.

7. Entries must be submitted by midnight EST August 29, 2010. If requirement is not met, entries will be unopened. Payment must also to be received by Contest Coordinator before deadline.

8. NEW!! Entry forms may be submitted in advance of file upload. Entrants will receive an email with instructions for how to edit their entry form and/or upload or re-upload their files. No changes may be made after the contest deadline.

9. Entries will be received in RTF (Rich Text Format) files only. (To convert your file to RTF, open the document, go into File, click on Save As and choose RTF format. This will create a new document with the same title in RTF format.)

10. No more than TWO (2) entries per entrant per category.

Questions: Please contact the Contest Coordinator, Sherry Peters, at


FF&P Special Interest Chapter is actively seeking judges for our 2010 On The Far Side contest and are hoping you might be interested. Judging panels this year will consist of five (5) entries. Deadline for entries is August 29, 2010 and entries will start going out to judges in early September with a five (5) week turn-around.

**Entries are first 20 pages of manuscript plus OPTIONAL and UNJUDGED two-page max synopsis.


Romantic Elements
Futuristic (including Hard SF and SF)
General Paranormal (including dark and light)
Time Travel (including steampunk and historical w/ paranormal elements)
Fantasy (including dark and urban)
Young Adult

To minimize judging constraints, we ask that you choose a first and second category choice. Please fill out the following information and return to the Contest Coordinator at
otfs2010@shaw.ca. Entries are electronic only and will be emailed to all judges.

Please note: We will try to fill your first and second preferences for category but may need to give you an alternate category depending on number of entries received.



Please select status (check one):

Not Published [ ] PRO [ ] Published, Romance [ ] Published, Other Genres [ ]

1st Category Choice:

2nd Category Choice:

Would you be willing to judge a GLBT entry?

Do you plan to enter ON THE FAR SIDE? If so, what category? (Y/N)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Learning a thing or two from the movies

Please welcome guest blogger Cindy Carroll

Read any good movies lately? We all watch movies, sure. Do any of you analyse them as you watch them? After you watch them? How about reading them? Any of you find scripts online of movies you like or would like to see and read them to see just how they do it?

Reading scripts is a great way to see the three act structure. To see how screenwriters show instead of tell. Scripts are a whole different format. And the three act structure isn’t as obvious in some as it is in others. Of course, every story, whether it’s a movie or a novel needs to have a beginning, a middle and an end. You need to avoid the sagging middle in a movie just as much as in a book. With movies it’s a little easier because you have to keep everything active and show everything. There is no telling in spec scripts.

The general rule of thumb for showing in a script is you shouldn’t have anything in there that a director can’t shoot, that you can’t see. If you have a character and you want to get across that she’s a genius loner you can’t just say that. As a novel writer I found this to be the hardest part of the craft to grasp. I thought I “got it” after I finished writing my second book. I had a scene where I showed the heroine haggling over the price of a dagger. It showed she was stubborn, persistent. The light bulb had gone on. Except I didn’t quite get it. The last complete manuscript I submitted was rejected and one of the comments from the editor was that there was a problem with telling instead of showing. Back to the drawing board.

Then I started writing scripts. In the screenwriting loop I belong to they are very adamant about the show don’t tell advice. In spec scripts (scripts you write that are not contracted), you must show everything. If the director can’t see it, set up a shot for it, you can’t put it in the script. Back to our genius loner. In a book you might want to take the easy way out and say – Jane was a loner, not by choice but because she was a genius. That usually got in the way of people liking her. In a script you couldn’t write that. A director can’t set up a shot for that. In a script you would have to do something like:


Jane breezes in, drops her keys by the door. She plops onto the sofa, turns the TV to NOVA. She takes a peek at the phone – 0 messages. She shrugs. A Mensa yearbook is the only object on the table.

That’s not the best example, granted but it should give you an idea. Seeing how it’s done in scripts really makes you think about showing instead of telling when you’re writing your book. I recommend reading scripts to see just how they show and how you can incorporate that into your novels. But make sure you’re reading a SPEC script. A production script or a script written by the director or producer won’t follow the “rules” that the rest of us writers have to follow. Production scripts will have the scene numbers in the margins.

So, go read a good movie, analyse it and see if you can use anything you learn from it in your books.

Cindy Carroll joined RWA in 1992 and started out writing novels but turned to scripts when an idea for one of her favorite television shows wouldn’t leave her alone. That first attempt, and her second teleplay for the same
show, garnered her honorable mention in the Writer’s Digest 76th Annual Writing Competition in the screenplay category. She graduated from Hal Croasmun’s screenwriting ProSeries intensive in June of 2008. Her interview with David Rambo, writer/producer for CSI appeared in the summer special edition of The Rewrit, the newsletter for Scriptscene, Romance Writers of America’s screenwriting chapter. Currently working on the rewrite of her second feature, Cindy is also developing two new television

Keep It Moving: How Thinking Like a Screenwriter Can Improve Your Novel runs from September 6, 2010 through September 19, 2010

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Finding an Honest Compass

Please welcome guest blogger Carrie Lofty

This past weekend I attended the Wisconsin RWA chapter's conference just outside Milwaukee. During a workshop, one of the attending editors cited a passage of someone's manuscript and mentioned that it contained both "lovely" and "forced" imagery. I understood what was meant, of course, and most writers would--keep what works and ditch the rest. In fact, I probably could've compared notes with that editor to find many shared opinions regarding what deserved to stay and what proved distracting, clichéd or tedious.

But that concept is exceptionally difficult to apply to one's own work.

How can you tell which details to leave and which to cut? What makes the story more authentic, and what drags it to a slow, miserable death? Where is emotion stored in all those words? I don't know about you, but my words start to jumble and taunt as I get deeper into the puzzle of revisions. Losing my way almost seems part of the job--hence my reliance on the "compass" metaphor.

So how to develop your own honest internal writing compass?

My first suggestion is that you keep every detail grounded in point of view. If a detail doesn't help enhance or deeper a character's persona, it has to go. One of my favorite little phrases in my debut, WHAT A SCOUNDREL WANTS (http://www.carrielofty.com/WaSW.html), was "cinnabar red." However, that attention to color detail really didn't suit my hero, especially as he was running through the woods to escape armed soldiers. And I obviously couldn't use it from my blind heroine's point of view!

However in my current work in progress (http://www.carrielofty.com/Portrait.html), the heroine is a painter. I let her dwell on color to her heart's content. In fact she obsesses over color. Her gloves and her gown are both purple, but the shades are not exact. That knowledge bothers her and enhances the feeling that she's out of place at a formal supper. Point of view dictates every detail choice.

My second suggestion is that you read liberally from other people's unedited manuscripts. When I say "unedited," I mean those works which have not yet been polished by a professional editor. Published books a great for showing you what works. The compelling stuff is all still there! But you never get to see the dreck that was cut long before printing.

Seeing what doesn't work can be far more obvious than examining what does. When I'm reading a book that compels me to turn the pages faster and faster, I'm not in the mood to break it down and tease out the threads of beauty. Part of me doesn't want do for fear of spoiling the magic.

I judge contests for my local RWA chapters, and I help my critique partners find their ways out of messy first drafts. As such, I see a lot of works where all the dreck is still thriving like wordy weeds. It's all there--clichés, weak verb choices, awkward metaphors and similes. In one recent batch of entries, I noticed a whole host of new romance clichés, including heroes whose noses were broken in fights (all the better to give aristocrats that sexy edge of rough physicality). I ran right back to my work in progress and cut that exact same cliché!

Seeing your own mistakes reflected in someone else's work can be a fantastic learning tool, as long as you're honest about flaws and strengths. Finding that honesty is part of our job as writers. We're striving to be more honest with regard to human emotion, characterization and the nature of love and life. But that process begins with honesty in our own brains.

This is where I advocate the use of trusted critique partners for those authors who haven't found their own internal compasses just yet. Craft classes can also be useful, such as my upcoming FF&P workshop where I dive deeper into the topic of point of view (http://www.romance-ffp.com/event.cfm?EventID=159). The process of consistently and critically examining your novel(s), craft and writing style can be a heart-wrenching experience. Then again, so is getting another rejection letter.

So get to work! Look in dark corners and poke at your weak spots until they toughen up. Only then will your rejections turn to requests, your requests into sales, and your sales into untold fame and fortune. (I'm still waiting on that last part!)

Born in California, raised in the Midwest, Carrie Lofty met her husband in England—the best souvenir! Since earning her master’s degree in history, she’s been devoted to raising two precocious daughters and writing romance. Her January release, Scoundrel’s Kiss, featuring a Spanish warrior monk and the troubled woman he’s sworn to protect, was the sequel to her Robin Hood-themed debut, What a Scoundrel Wants. This June, Carrie’s sensual tale of two lovelorn musicians in Napoleonic Austria will help launch Carina Press, Harlequin’s new all-digital venture. With Ann Aguirre, she co-writes hot'n'dirty apocalyptic pararnormal romances as Ellen Connor. Their "Dark Age Dawning" trilogy is coming soon from Penguin.  http://www.carrielofty.com/  http://ellenconnor.com/

Beyond Research: Stronger POV & Effective Use of Detail runs from June
6th through July 11th with a break for the holiday

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Please welcome guest blogger Beth Henderson

I don’t know about you, but when I was first trying to break into the romance marketplace editors kept turning me down with madding words like “Love your writing but the story isn’t right for us.” Or “Enjoyed this a lot, but…”

Would be nice if they explained why it wasn’t right for them or what that unfinished sentence REALLY meant. My only comfort was that it wasn’t a generic preprinted rejection.

One editor at Silhouette even sent me a dozen of their latest books from her line for me to read so that I could figure out what these titles had that my manuscript didn’t.

Sad to say, I found what she sent a bit boring and what I wrote WASN’T boring. It was amusing, it was cute, it was tender, it was…Heck, it was better than what she’d sent. And yet I was missing something, I didn’t measure up. But in what way?!!

I had to teach myself how to find what those missing elements were. Those NECESSARY BITS.

Turns out there is a lot more to look at than just delightful characters, which I did have…well, there was SOMETHING that editor had liked and it had to be my characters since I tend to write character driven stories. She never said, naturally.

That didn’t mean I should stop right there, though. By going through books I actually liked in the line…and there were some…I began taking notes, highlighting things, seeing what sort of things were repeated in each of the stories I enjoyed, particularly when they were written by different authors. That was the key.

I know it was because they bought three Special Editions, two Yours Truly’s (a line that came and went back in the 1990s), and pushed me through the Harlequin Historicals door for two books for them.

In June, I’m ready to share the system I worked out with you when FF&P will trots out my online workshop, PUZZLING OUT THE “NECESSARY BITS”. For 4-weeks we’ll tear into other writers’ work to sort out what we need to include (not imitate) and what shouldn’t appear in our manuscripts for a particular publisher as well.

Wish I could say that doing this will land you a contract, but that still depends on the story you turn in and your brilliance level when it comes to finessing the English language. It will put you closer to the goal though.

I hope you’ll join me in June. In fact, head right on over to the Workshop section at FF&P and click those buttons that register you for a great adventure in writing.

And if you were wondering, yes, this system works for figuring out what is needed – NECESSARY – in other genres, too. I recently used it to sort out the Steampunk requirements. Now I just have to finish the new manuscript.

See you in the virtual classroom!

Beth Daniels

aka Beth Henderson, J. B. Dane, etc.


The author of 26 published novels (historical romance, contemporary romantic comedy, romantic-suspense, and YA contemporary romantic comedy), non-fiction articles about writing fiction, and presenter of “like a gazillion workshops…or so it sometimes seems”, Beth dipped into the mystery world as J.B. Dane with a short story in GREAT MYSTERY AND SUSPENSE MAGAZINE, which then folded. Not her fault, she says. Forthcoming is “The Dragon’s Tale”, another short “J.B.” tale, which is part of the anthology MOTHER GOOSE IS DEAD, out from Dragon Moon Press later in 2010. Currently she’s primed to christen a new pseudonym for the fantasy market’s subgenre of Steampunk.

Puzzling Out the “Necessary” Bits runs from June 1, 2010 through June 28, 2010

Friday, May 14, 2010

Actions That Really Speak

Please welcome guest blogger Raquel Rodriguez

Every writer’s heard the phrase “it’s all about the story,” and, well, in romantic fiction it seems doubly so. Actions can speak loud and clear, especially when there’s a lack of it through the plot. Heroes and heroines have a purpose to meet and fall in love just as readers have expectations of a happy ending. It’s the journey through the plot, all the little ups and downs, all the conflicts those two characters must face and eventually overcome, and all the actions those characters take that add a touch of magic and make the reader come back for more stories.

But sometimes that doesn’t happen, which was one of the reason I created my workshop “Get It Up And Running: Action That Goes And Flows.” My workshop can jump start your action sequences with three simple and effective techniques to enhance your scenes and excite your readers, make your sentences and paragraphs (and chapters) do what they're supposed to do, and move your plot forward.

I read a novella once that had so many opportunities for action that didn’t happen I soon grew bored though I was determined to finish. In a nutshell: a young couple was on vacation at a snazzy beachside resort then the ex-fiancée showed up. There was even an instant dislike among the female characters in the very first scene where they were all together. It promised to be interesting, so I read on.

The entire time I kept expecting interesting and conflict-laden actions and reactions between the three because the writer had obviously set up the jealousy between the two female characters. I expected the conflict to evolve and the characters to grow and learn something. I found myself even hoping for a juicy cat fight.

Nothing really ever happened. With a mere word from the hero, the ex- pouted and then went away toting her perfectly muscle-honed and tanned arm-candy behind her. The heroine never once was confronted with anything except cozy, vanilla bedroom antics that bordered upon ... well, boring. This was supposed to be a spicy story. (yawn ...)

I kept reading and was totally disappointed even though the main characters did have their Happily-Ever-After.

Lack of action (or ‘lac-tion,’ as I've been know to refer to it) can kill an otherwise great plot. My "Action" workshop addresses this deficiency with suggestions for improvement and exercises to help get characters up and keep them moving.

Giving the protagonists something to do also widens the possibilities of things to occur in the story. I show how sagging middles (of stories) can be avoided and fixed with easy cures. My action ‘therapy’ also adds opportunities for plot twists that make characters read with more depth and dimension, like they’re real people.

Readers want to believe in the hero and heroine. They want to sympathize with the situation, cry and shout and laugh out loud with them. Readers want villains to be overcome and to experience the action of daily life and changes of venues with the protagonists (not just from the bedroom to the boardroom and back again).

And readers want the protagonists to move around.

Actions can be built upon to help a story progress. Boring scenes can be transformed with simple changes. And actions can be any kind, from a character moving through a hallway or shopping for groceries, to running for their life, fighting a battle, or sailing through the clouds in a dirigible.

Have a difficulty or want to know more about how to add action (and even adventure) to a story? There’s still time to sign up for my workshop. Check out the right sidebar on my website (www.RaquelRodriguez.com) or visit the Special Interest FF&P Chapter of RWA (http://www.romance-ffp.com/workshops.cfm) for more details, and write on!


Growing up around ghosts and having written stories since her teens, native Texan and author Raquel Rodriguez is quite used to things that go "bump" 24/7. She has studied, taught, hunted (and found) ghosts, written articles, and has lectured about Parapsychology for over 25 years under her real name. She utilizes Astrology and Tarot (especially in combination), is inspired by J. Campbell’s and C. Vogler's work and other creative avenues to enhance and plot her stories. With the release of MY LOVING ENEMY in August '07, there is no end to her creative ideas. Raquel loves adding paranormal elements into her passionate stories with twists of action and suspense, and she divides her time teaching and writing. For more information, please visit her on the web.

Getting it Up and Running: Action that Goes and Flows runs from June 1, 2010 through June 28, 2010

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Get Out the Map: Using Maps to Build Your World

Please welcome guest blogger Robyn Bachar

I love maps. There’s a tapestry of a map of Middle Earth over our fireplace, and as gamers my husband and I have had many game maps tacked up on the walls near our computers. In the Storyteller series on my blog I’ve been discussing a gamer’s approach to writing, and for a gamer having a reliable map is often essential to your character’s success. As a writer, a map can be invaluable to creating your world and plotting your story. While drawing up maps for your own setting is traditionally associated with fantasy, they can be useful for sci-fi and modern paranormal/urban fantasy settings.

Mapping a Kingdom, Planet or City: If you’re creating your own setting, the idea of mapping it out can be intimidating, especially if you haven’t sketched anything since Art class in high school. First, you must embrace the mantra that it doesn’t matter if you can’t draw, because no one is going to see your map but you. One day you might want a professionally done version for your book or website, but right now it doesn’t matter that Blobville is next to Trapezoidland. What matters is getting down the basics—place names and terrain details. Second, don’t worry if you can’t name every city, village, town and farm on your map. A tip I learned that I use in my own writing is to place something in brackets when I don’t want to stop and name it, like [Hero’s home town] or [Heroine’s high school]. That way I remember what it is, but I don’t have to sit and ponder if Oakville is a better name than Pineville when neither is going to end up in the story. Don’t be afraid to leave an area blank or unnamed. Blank areas on game maps are often filled in later in expansions. The EverQuest map grew larger with each expansion as new continents were added.

For a gamer a map is so much more than just the names of places, because it can also tell you what monsters live in that area, what resources you can harvest, what travel routes connect it to other areas, what quests you can complete there and what areas are enemy territory. These are all good details to include in your map too. If Blobville and Trapezoidland are at war, the characters in your story need to know about it if they’re traveling through that area. Even if your characters aren’t going near those lands during your story, it might come up in a backstory, or in a later novel.

For modern settings, if your story takes place in a real world area you might think you don’t need your own map. However, you can always modify an existing map to reflect the world in your story. Do the vampires control a specific part of town? Is their territory encroaching on the werewolves’ area? Shade in their territory with colored pencils. Use pushpins to mark where the major characters live or any additions or deletions you make to the city. If dragons descended on Chicago and destroyed Navy Pier, that would be a good thing to keep track of on your map.

Mapping a Castle, Dungeon, Spaceship, or Character Home: All castles aren’t created equal, and not every dungeon is made of 10' by 10' stone corridors. If a significant portion of your story takes place in the same location, like a character’s home or spaceship, or if they’re exploring a dungeon looking for loot or monsters, then it can be worth your while to map the location out. There’s a variety of software you can use, but that can get pricey (and confusing, and possibly boring). I’ve used the game The Sims to design character houses—if you try it, I suggest using one of the instant money cheat codes so you can build what you need right away. Plus then you have the additional bonus of making your characters and seeing how they interact in Sim life. A low cost alternative is to simply use graphing paper. Remember graphing paper, the stuff you had to buy in Algebra before everyone was expected to shell out for a graphing calculator? I used it to design dungeons for my Dungeons & Dragons campaign, and it’s great for designing building and ship interiors. Even a simple sketch of a heroine’s home can be helpful, and this way you don’t have worry about remembering if it was a one or two bedroom house, or how the kitchen is laid out.

In closing, if you’re stumped on where to start with your design, don’t let it stop you. Google an example of it for inspiration. In Blood, Smoke and Mirrors I needed to describe the layout for a luxury hotel suite, but I’d never been in one, so I didn’t have a frame of reference for what it should look like. After poking around the sites for a few Vegas hotels I found what I was looking for and was able to move on with the scene.

Good luck, and happy mapping!

Robyn Bachar was born and raised in Berwyn, Illinois, and loves all things related to Chicago, from the Cubs to the pizza. It seemed only natural to combine it with her love of fantasy, and tell stories of witches and vampires in the Chicagoland area. As a gamer, Robyn has spent many hours rolling dice, playing rock-paper-scissors, and slaying creatures in mmorpgs. Currently she lives with her husband, also a gamer and a writer, and their cat.

Blood, Smoke and Mirrors

Wrongly accused of using her magic to harm, the closest Catherine Baker comes to helping others is serving their coffee. Life as an outcast is nothing new, thanks to her father’s reputation, but the injustice stings. Especially since the man she loved turned her in.

Now the man has the gall to show up and suggest she become the next Titania? She’d rather wipe that charming grin off his face with a pot of hot java to the groin.

Alexander Duquesne has never faltered in his duties as a guardian—until now. The lingering guilt over Cat’s exile and the recent death of his best friend have shaken his dedication. With the murder of the old Titania, the faerie realm teeters on the brink of chaos. His new orders: keep Cat alive at all costs.

Hunted by a powerful stranger intent on drawing her into an evil web, Cat reluctantly accepts Lex’s protection and the resurrected desire that comes along with it. Lex faces the fight of his life to keep her safe…and win her back. If they both survive.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Keeping Your Story Fresh When Working with an Outline

Please welcome guest blogger Annette McCleave

It’s generally accepted that there are two types of writers: pantsers (those who write simply sit down at the computer and putting their hands on the keyboard) and plotters (those who plot out the details of the story before they type the first word). But, as with anything, the truth is less exact—many of us fall somewhere in between.

Personally, I like to have a basic roadmap before I begin the trip. I want to know where I’m headed and what the major landmarks are along the way. It helps me arrive at the right spot without hundreds of pages of detours that later need to be trimmed from the manuscript. So, I write an outline. But I’ve been asked by many writers who prefer not to use an outline how I avoid losing the creative excitement that comes with flying blind. For some people, the fear of making the process boring keeps them from using an outline.

I find having an outline leaves plenty of room for creative spark. A roadmap doesn’t prevent you from taking excursions—it only provides a guidepost to help you stay on target. Nothing says you can’t take the off ramp and stop for lunch in a quaint little ghost town, or even drive the rest of the way using the back roads—as long as you keep a bead on your final destination.

Here’s a few ways you might make an outline work for you:

  1. Record only the significant turning points. If you write down every last detail in a lengthy synopsis, it could take some of the fun away. Try noting only the critical events that you need to drive the plot and romance toward your planned conclusion. If you require more guidance than that, record only the main conflict in each scene, such as: Bill tries to escape the blood thieves, but fails because they have a silver chain.
  2. Play with point of view. If you planned a scene in one character’s POV, switch it up. Write it from another character’s POV. Everything changes when you change the POV.
  3. Play with setting. If you planned a scene in one spot, move it to another. Better yet, move it somewhere where the setting itself causes more conflict. Instead of having that conversation in the drawing room, put the characters outside during a rainstorm. Or in a creepy, dark basement. Or in a boat with one of the characters unable to swim.
  4. Follow the white rabbit. Occasionally, as you’re writing, one of your characters utters something unexpected, or does something you hadn’t planned. Instead of ruthlessly sticking to the plot you have mapped out, follow the lead. See where it goes. Just keep the landmark turning points in view so you don’t end up too far off course.
  5. Torture your character, literally, if necessary. If you originally envisioned that scene with a hale and hearty hero driving the action, take him down a notch. Have something happen that throws him for a loop—take something important away from him, injure him, etc. Accomplishing the goal you gave him will be much harder now—yet he still must do it if he’s to win the day.
  6. Create a new roadblock. Was your character supposed to tail the villain to his hideout? Serve him a flat tire. Was your heroine supposed to steal a sacred relic from the hero? Serve her an empty vault. Make your character think on his/her feet and I’ll guarantee you won’t be bored.
  7. Reveal a secret even you didn’t know. Okay this one is dangerous. You can’t do a huge reveal halfway through the story if the secret hasn’t been hinted at. BUT, you can do it early in the story, or go back and add in a clue or two later.
  8. Add a scene or skip a scene. Did you plan to write a specific scene? What if you didn’t include it? How would the story change? What if you added in a new scene that you hadn’t planned? Go for it. Just keep your eye on your eventual destination.
  9. Give a person, object, or event mentioned earlier new meaning. Did you mention the heroine’s father at the beginning of the story? Why not have him show up? Does the hero have a scar? Have the reason for his scar knock at the door.
  10. Kill someone. This is always on the table. Bodies always cause excitement. J

Despite my outline, I find writing a novel a voyage of discovery from beginning to end. Not only do the characters reveal themselves and change in ways I hadn’t imagined, but the smaller events and setting details can add incredible details I wasn’t able to see when I started. It’s like comparing a black and write snapshot to a movie shot in glorious Technicolor.

If you’re at all tempted to try outlining, give it a whirl.

Annette McCleave is the award winning author of the Soul Gatherer paranormal romances series about immortal warriors who battle demons for the souls of the dead. Mother of one, pet owner, and former high tech executive, Annette currently writes for NAL Signet Eclipse.

Bound by Darkness

Soul Gatherer Brian Webster has long lived with the guilt of failing to save his teenage sister. When another girl dies in his arms protecting an ancient coin from a demon, he takes up her cause. The coin is one of the thirty pieces of silver paid to Judas. United, the coins are a dark relic of immense power, and in the wrong hands, they could destroy civilization.

Lena Sharpe is on her own mission to find the Judas coins. A Soul Gatherer by day and a thief by night, she’s negotiated the most important deal of her life. When a brazen warrior intervenes and kidnaps her to obtain the coins, she repeatedly attempts to escape. But Brian is unrelenting, fearful that the beautiful felon has made a pact with the devil himself. And he’s not entirely wrong.

Bound together by burning desire and a similar darkness in their hearts, Brian and Lena race against time to recover the missing coins. But as the truth behind Lena’s bargain surfaces, Brian is faced with a desperate choice — save the one, or save the many.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

When That Wand Hits You Upside the Head

Please welcome guest blogger Linda Wisdom

Many times I’m asked ‘why do you write witches?’ It would be easy to say ‘why not witches?’, but it’s more like “they chose me’.

I grew up reading fairy tales and as an adult I loved reading paranormal books. It seemed only natural a group of sassy witches would tap on my head and tell me I needed to write about them.

One of the first pieces of advice a fledgling writer will receive is ‘write what you know’.

So what do I know about witches other than mine don’t wear black unless it’s slinky and skin baring, no pointy hats for them, definitely no warts. And not a cackle among them. Although there could be a cauldron tucked away in the kitchen.

I know that I have friends who are pagan who made sure I was on the right path with the magick part. I know that they’ll also load me down with plenty of non-fiction reading material. And I know there’s something deep inside me that veers toward magick.

There are many sub-genres in paranormal where we will create our own worlds, legends, and even customs. You can even mix fact and fiction. Maybe even throw in some pop culture for extra spice.

Although I don’t see all that many Bela Lugosi vampire types in today’s romances and I’m sure we’re all grateful for that. Shapeshifters don’t look like Lon Chaney Jr. and no hint of Boris Karloff even with the mad scientist types. As for witches, not a Margaret Hamilton in sight.

With my witches a good 700+ years young, I have the fun of throwing in historicals facts here and there. I’ve always loved history, so finding something fun is more playtime than work. It’s also left me with a lot of crazy trivia bouncing around inside my head. It doesn’t mean you’ll see me on Jeopardy any time soon.

I also like to keep my witches as ‘real’ as possible. They’re like someone you’d meet for coffee, go shopping or have drinks with. The only difference is if some creep hits on them, they can literally turn the guy into a frog. And wouldn’t that be a good thing for every single woman! Maybe they lived through the Black Plague, could rightfully complain that corsets and bustles were no fun to wear, and how lovely modern plumbing is, but they also are modern hexsters.

But who knows? Maybe I am writing what I know. I could have been a witch in another life and that little voice inside my head is very real.

So when you sit down at your computer, close your eyes and tap into your inner witch, Fae, shapeshifter, demon or vampire.

You just might surprise yourself.

I know I’ve surprised myself more than once. A pair of fangy mischievous magickk bunny slippers are a perfect example.

Is that what you want to do? Tap into that hint of paranormal DNA inside you? Do you choose what you write or does it choose you?


Linda is a born and bred Californian who’s written from the first day she could hold a crayon.

After she sold her first two books to then brand spanking new Silhouette Books she continued on, also writing for Dell Candlelight Ecstasy, Harlequin Books, Bantam Loveswept, and a romantic suspense for Kensington.

Her office shows the magick she likes to instill in her books with her collection of dragon and faery figurines, Pocket Dragons and Halloween Barbies.

Her Hex series, along with some of her backlist books, have been optioned for TV and movies.

She lives in Southern California with her husband, two dogs, a parrot, and tortoise that all create their own form of magick.

Hex in High Heels

In this sexy, funny paranormal romance by bestselling author Linda Wisdom, it's all beautiful witch Blair Fitzpatrick can do to keep a lid on her talent for revenge spells, but things are about to get a lot more complicated...

Blair loves running her vintage shop and hanging out with witchy friends Stasi and Jazz. She's forever had a crush on hunky carpenter Jake Harrison, whose Were nature (he's a Border collie) makes him loyal, lovable, and fierce when need be. Just as sparks are beginning to fly, Blair is served with a big surprise when Jake's mother shows up along with his pack leader, who threatens to make Jake heel! When the alpha does the unthinkable, Blair is pushed over the edge. No one messes with her boyfriend-to-be, even if he does shed on the furniture!