Home    Workshops    Members Only    Contests    Join    Contact us                       RWA Chapter

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Urban Fantasy Romance--Paranormal Romance, which is it??

Please welcome guest blogger Stacey Kennedy

To be honest, I never thought about genres when I began writing. To me, at first, it was all about the story that captured me enough to begin writing. I didn't sit down and think out which genre I should aim for. I let the story go where it wanted to and didn't fight against it.

When the first novel in The Magical Sword Series, The Willow, was completed I was left in a bit of a pickle. I realized the story sat somewhere right in the middle of Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance. I couldn't exactly claim it as a paranormal romance since the plot wasn't centered on the romance, yet I couldn't say it was an Urban Fantasy because the romance held a very strong role within the story too.

So, where did that leave me? Frustrated. But then, another author gave me wind of the sub-genre, Urban Fantasy Romance, which my work fit into neatly. Was I saved? Not likely. There are many epublishers out there who have commented on my work suggesting I should choose either do Urban Fantasy and focus on the adventure or do Paranormal Romance and stick to the romantic elements. Will I listen? Nope. Liquid Silver Books and Cobblestone Press, have both welcomed my stories in with open arms and embraced my somewhat in the middle of genres stories.

Now, I know this will come up, because it always does, the disagreement of what Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance is. The line between these genres has become somewhat blurred and whoever you ask will say something different. Some will tell you it has nothing to do with the romance and it's all about if the series continues with the same characters throughout the novels. While I personally have no idea who is right, I'm sticking with what I've read from published author, Keri Arthur, who says, “Paranormal romance is a romance first and foremost. In urban fantasy the romance is generally a secondary plot (if it exists at all)”

On that note, I'll keep doing what I'm doing, writing the stories how they want to be told and letting the characters lead the way. Alright then, let me hear it, do any of you have this issue too, where you seem to fall not quite into a genre and wonder just where you fit in?

Oh--can't forget this part―if you like this type of story where adventure, danger meets hot romance, come check out Nexi's journeys. She's a kick-ass heroine with a heart and a bit of sass.

Stacey Kennedy is an avid lover of the paranormal romance and urban fantasy genres. If she isn't plugging away at her next novel, tending to her two little ones, she's got her nose deep in a good book. She lives in Ontario, Canada with her husband.

Website - www.staceykennedy.com

Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/profile.php?id=100000956942180

Goodreads - http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3473046.Stacey_Kennedy

Twitter - http://twitter.com/Stacey_Kennedy

The Magical Sword Series ~ Book One (Liquid Silver Books)

A past of secrets, a life broken by death―awakens to a world of promise and love, but lurking danger threatens to destroy it all.

In Carson City, Nevada a tragic car accident has claimed the lives of Nexi Jones' adoptive parents. Now, without them, her reason to live has vanished and she is determined to end her pain.

The problem with that, it's not heaven she wakes up to, it's the Otherworld. Nexi must reconcile the truth about her past, and her heritage as part guardian/part witch, while she begins to train to join the Council's guard. But it's not the combat training that has her worried, its attempting to keep her cool around the luscious guardian, Kyden that's her biggest concern.

Before long, Nexi's skills are put to the test as she begins to fight against the supernatural who have taken a human life. But nothing can prepare her for the journey ahead. Soon, she will find herself lost in a mystery and fighting to keep all she's gained, as Lazarus, a vampire, threatens to take it all away.

Read an excerpt - http://www.staceykennedy.com/the-willow-excerpt/

Praise for The Willow - RT Book Reviews

“…Witches, shapeshifters and vampires take center stage in this fast-paced tale, but even these paranormal creatures cannot distract from the beautiful love story between the hero and heroine. Kennedy has created a world that readers will want to visit again and again!” Dawn Crowne

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Holiday Magic

Please welcome guest blogger Cindy Spencer Pape

As a paranormal romance author, I spend all year writing about impossible things. Still, even for me, there’s something about this time of year, October through December, that seems to give me extra license. October is easy to explain—people love vampires, werewolves, ghosts and more around Halloween, and the darker the better. But Thanksgiving? Christmas? What is it about those holidays that makes them lend themselves to the supernatural?

I’d argue that a lot of it goes back to our primitive instincts. There are reasons so many cultures have holidays that coincide with the natural cycles of the Earth. Here in the northern hemisphere, October through December is the time when days get colder and nights get longer. Survival itself became more of a challenge, so of course beliefs sprang up to both acknowledge the darkness and danger, and to encourage hope. If magic/miracles can happen, then maybe we have a chance to get through the winter. From harvest through solstice, we see a strong focus on the inexplicable in both folklore and religion around the world.

I honestly think those same urges and instincts are part of why there is so much of the mystical even in our secular celebrations of the holiday season, and why paranormal fiction gains so much in popularity during the darkness of the year. This isn’t a new thing, either. Dickens, who wrote straightforward contemporary fiction for the most part, gave us a ghost story for Christmas. In modern holiday tales, we have Santa and his elves sharing time with talking snowmen, the Grinch, and flying reindeer. Thanksgiving, our celebration of family and harvest, doesn’t have a lot of magic associated with it, but maybe that’s because the harvest, and the joyous family get-together are considered miraculous enough in themselves.

Face it, as human beings, we crave the idea that there’s more to the universe than just the here and now, and the colder and darker it is, the more we’re comforted by that. It’s the time of year when our distant ancestors huddled around the fire and told stories to entertain each other. Is it so surprising then that we long to curl up with a good book and a blanket? And if that book is something just a little bit out of the ordinary, with maybe a seasonal touch as well, then all the better for whiling away a long winter’s night.

You can find out more about me and my work at the links below. Most of my books are paranormal, and even some of my “contemporary” or “historical” titles have paranormal touches. I have a couple Halloween tales and several Christmas books out with various publishers, all of which have at least a touch of that seasonal magic. One Good Man, which I co-wrote with Lacey Thorn, is a Thanksgiving paranormal mystery. Just the thing to enjoy after a big family dinner.

Whichever holidays you celebrate, may they be full of love and magic!


Author of over thirty popular books and novellas in paranormal, historical, and erotic romance, Cindy Spencer Pape is an avid reader of romance, fantasy, mystery, and even more romance. According to The Romance Studio, her plots are “full of twist and turns that keep the reader poised at the edge of their seat.” Joyfully Reviewed said, her “colorful characters and plot building surprises kept me spellbound,” and Romantic Times Magazine says her “characters are appealing, and passionate sex leads to a satisfying romance.”

Cindy firmly believes in happily-ever-after. Married for more than twenty years to her own, sometimes-kilted hero, she lives in southern Michigan with him and two teenage sons, along with an ever-changing menagerie of pets. Cindy has been, among other things, a banker, a teacher, and an elected politician, but mostly an environmental educator, though now she is lucky enough to write full-time. Her degrees in zoology and animal behavior almost help her comprehend the three male humans who share her household.

One Good Man

Co-written with Lacey Thorn

An enduring urban legend is the story of the phantom hitchhiker. Young or old, male or female, in need of help or just needing a ride, the legends vary. A helpful driver offers a ride and the passenger gives directions. When they arrive at the destination the passenger vanishes, sometimes leaving behind a memento to mark their passing. A stormy night, a deserted country road, a blown tire, and a woman on the run from a killer. Is the handsome young Marine here to save her? Or is he just a figment of her imagination?

Casey is caught between a murderer, a ghost and the wounded soldier who could save her life or break her heart. Grant can deal with Thanksgiving snowstorms and determined killers but not his brother's ghost, and not a woman who makes him start thinking about the future. Can Grant let go of the past to embrace the explosive passion he finds with Casey? He's willing to risk his life for hers, but what about his heart?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lessons from NaNo

Please welcome guest blogger Kalayna Price

It's the middle of November, which means across the world over a hundred thousand novelists are attempting to write fifty thousands words by the end of the month for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). This annual event receives a lot of mixed attention. I've heard it said that agents and editors dread the months following NaNo because of the flood of unedited 50k word manuscripts which pour into their offices. Before the start of NaNo, I almost always see posts or tweets directed at NaNo participants that boil down to "why are you waiting for November?" (which is valid, but not the point of this blog). This year there was a rather opinionated article criticizing NaNo and those who participate. So does the event have no merit? And if it does, why does it have such a bad rap?

I can't answer either of those questions definitively, but I can say, that in my opinion the yearly event can be a beneficial one and is an event I've participated in several times with great success. As to why it receives so much criticism, I think that is likely due to the fact participants are given permission to "write a crappy first draft." Now this advice is meant to alleviate the paralysis of perfectionism that often strikes writers. This is the fear that either has them sitting and staring at a blinking cursor trying to find the absolute best words before committing them to the page, or it creates an endless revision loop that never allows the writer to pass the first 5-15k thousand words. Giving yourself permission to write a bad first draft allows you to get an entire story on the page. I think the problem arises when 'writing a crappy first draft' gets interpreted as 'just get words—any words—on the page."

Over the years I've seen countless forum posts and blogs that suggest 'tricks' to reaching your wordcount. These tricks amount to what I call "word count stuffing." These are things like creating ridiculously long names for people/places and never using pronouns and instead using that long name every time the person is addressed/place is mentioned or to create long chapter titles for each chapter to boost word count. I've seen suggestions to make sure every sentence includes as many adverbs and adjectives as grammatically possible. I've even run across the suggestion to avoid using contractions so you get credit for both words. These are all, of course, ridiculous. The result of doing these things will be a draft that is much shorter than you're fooling yourself into thinking it is and that will need to be completely rewritten, line by line. (Granted, many of us do that even with what we consider a good first draft, but the above tricks would make the book a truly scary prospect.)

So, if word count stuffing makes NaNo the horror many proclaim it to be, what is a "good" crappy draft and why is the marathon writing event a good idea?

In my opinion, a good crappy draft is the result of giving yourself permission to write the story in the raw way it first enters your head. You don't over think it, you don't worry about the exact words, you just get the words on the page knowing that you can revise them later. This frees you to write fast, which has a lot of benefits. In my experience, when I'm fully immersed in writing, and writing fast, I find the story tends to integrate itself in my every thought so that even while I'm not at the keyboard, ideas are percolating in the back of my head. When I write fast, unexpected things occur in the book despite my outline. Now, on occasion I've written myself in a hole, but often the best scenes, dialogue, and characters have appeared during the fury of first drafting. Of course, you don't need NaNo to write fast. You can do that at any point in the year (and if you want to be an author, you'll need to because contracts don't revolve around November.) After writing a few books, I can say that writing 1.6k words a day is no longer a high goal or particularly fast for me, but if you're not used to keeping a daily word count, NaNo can give a novelist that push. And that's the other benefit of the challenge:

NaNo forces participants to sit down every single day and write. I first participated in the challenge six years ago, and before that I had a rather flighty noveling schedule. I was what you might call a "muse-struck writer" as in I only entertained my keyboard when I felt particularly inspired. That is no way to finish a book. NaNo forced me to write every day, and I remember that first year (and during every draft I've written since) I reached several places where I was completely and totally blocked. There was nothing. I pecked out words like each cost me a pint of blood. Normally I would have walked away and hoped something came to me in a couple days (which inevitably turn to weeks and sometimes months) but in that very first NaNo I learned that if I stuck it out and just kept working that eventually the dam would break and the words would rush out again.

I no longer participate in NaNo because of my deadline schedules and where those tend to fall in the year, but I can say I'm happy that I participated in the past. I think it offers novelists, particularly novelists who have never before reached "The End" on a draft, a lot of encouragement and a solid goal. There are definitely ways in which the challenge is rendered less useful to the writer, and there are some writers whose process simply isn't compatible, but I think as a whole, the ideas behind the challenge are solid. The biggest lessons behind NaNo are to write your story with abandon and to write every day, and that is a lesson we can apply to every first draft we work on throughout the year.

Write on, everyone.

Kalayna Price is the author of the Alex Craft Novels, a new dark urban fantasy series from Roc, and the author of the Novels of Haven from Bell Bridge Books. She draws her ideas from the world around her, her studies into ancient mythologies, and her obsession with classic folklore. Her stories contain not only the mystical elements of fantasy, but also a dash of romance, a bit of gritty horror, some humor, and a large serving of mystery. She is a member of SFWA and RWA, and an avid hula-hoop dancer who has been known light her hoop on fire. To find out more, please visit her at www.kalayna.com.

Grave Witch

Grave witch Alex Craft can speak to the dead, but that doesn’t mean she likes what they have to say . . .

As a private investigator and consultant for the police, Alex Craft has seen a lot of dark magic. But even though she’s on good terms with Death himself—who happens to look fantastic in a pair of jeans—nothing has prepared her for her latest case. Alex is investigating a high profile murder when she’s attacked by the ‘shade’ she’s raising, which should be impossible. To top off her day, someone makes a serious attempt on her life, but Death saves her. Guess he likes having her around . . .

To solve this case Alex will have to team up with tough homicide detective Falin Andrews. Falin seems to be hiding something—though it’s certainly not his dislike of Alex—but Alex knows she needs his help to navigate the tangled webs of mortal and paranormal politics, and to track down a killer wielding a magic so malevolent, it may cost Alex her life . . . and her soul.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

WORLD BUILDING— Stop the World, I Want to Make a New One!

Please welcome guest blogger Kerrelyn Sparks

I’m sure we would all agree that great characterization and plot are essential to developing a great story, but let’s not forget that every time you develop a story, you are building a world. Whether it’s a Regency ballroom, a contemporary boardroom, or an intergalactic game room, you are building a complicated world that you hope your reader will love. Great world-building skills can turn a good story into a great one.

I’ve been fascinated with world-building ever since I saw the first Lord of the Rings movie. If you’re like me, you gasped the first time you saw Rivendell. I wanted to live there and be an elf. And when I saw the forest where the Lady of the Wood lives, I was amazed. Forget the ring! I wanted to live in a tree house. Actually, I wanted to share one of those tree houses with a hunky male elf.

Not many of us have the skills that Tolkien had. And not all of us are writing fantasy. But no matter what kind of romance we’re writing, we still want to create a world that will draw the reader in so completely, she doesn’t want to leave.

So how do you create a world that is more than easy-to-forget window dressing for your characters? How do you make it real?

I. Describe with Detail

This can be a challenge. Most writers I know are at their best when writing action or dialogue. Many of us struggle with description. But the good news is description no longer means you need to emulate Nathaniel Hawthorne and spend twenty pages describing a house. In fact, this kind of writing will get your book thrown against the wall—or your manuscript rejected.

So how do you go about using detailed descriptions effectively?

  1. Trickle and weave

Instead of writing a page of description, pare it down to one paragraph or a few sentences. Trickle in description on a need-to-know basis. Choose the most important details and gloss over the rest. We all have an idea what the standard parlor in an 19th century London townhouse might look like, so pick out a detail or two that stand out and make this parlor different from other parlors.

There will be more description toward the beginning and middle of your book when you’re setting up the world. This is important because at the end, when the action speeds up, spiraling toward the climax, you don’t want to take time out to do a detailed description. That would totally destroy your pacing.

  1. Evoke all the senses

Avoid just using the eyes. Remember you are in a character’s head and experiencing all of his or her senses. When your heroine creeps into the attic, she doesn’t just see cobwebs and trunks layered with dust. She feels the sticky veil of a cobweb brush her cheek. She hears the tree branch thump against the windowpane and the rustle of mice scurrying away. The scent of mold and moth balls tickles her nose. This makes it more real to the reader.

Don’t use all five senses with every description or it will start to sound like a repetitive laundry list. Just pick a few…which brings me to the next point—

  1. Use words sparingly

Don’t overdo it. Make your point –the attic is creepy—and move on. Don’t state the obvious or succumb to the need to explain everything. Your most powerful writing will be the biggest punch for the least amount of words.

  1. Make the details relevant to the characters or plot

Back to that nineteenth century parlor—you have only a few lines to make this parlor stand out among every other parlor in London. Do the blood-red walls make heroine think the owner is bloodthirsty and ruthless? Do the womanly touches in the room make the heroine think the hero is clinging to the memory of his first wife? Choose details that reveal something about character or plot.

Think about movies or TV shows, especially ones with some suspense or mystery. Sometimes the camera will rest on an object for a few minutes—it may be a totally ordinary object, but you know it will become important later on. The same theory applies to writing. Include details that will later become important. There’s a theory that a detail needs to be mentioned three times before its true impact is revealed. I’m not one to believe in iron-clad rules when writing, but if something is going to end up important, it is a good idea to mention it a few times.

*** Very important—If you want the world you have built to be memorable to your reader, then that world must impact the character and plot. Your characters must react mentally and emotionally to the world they’re living in or otherwise that world becomes nothing but pretty wallpaper.

    1. The second way to build a great world is to make it special.

What’s a good example of making something special in your world? Think Hogwarts. If there was no Hogwarts, would Harry Potter’s world be nearly as fascinating? Not every book needs something on that grand a scale, but do consider stepping out of the comfort zone. Once you’ve set up your world, it is very important to follow the rules and be consistent. However-- no world is going to be perfect—it’s inhabited by characters who are not perfect.

Jane Austen understood the importance of occasionally being daring and setting your world upside down. One of my favorite scenes from Pride and Prejudice is the one where Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet meet by accident. He’s just been swimming in a pond, so he’s wet with an unbuttoned shirt and no cravat. He’s not properly dressed, and they’re not properly chaperoned. They’re both taken completely by surprise to the point they can hardly talk. This meeting goes completely against the rules of the Regency world, and that is exactly why it’s so delicious.

    1. The third way to build a real world is to make it as complete as our own world.

Tolkein was the master of this to the point that he actually created languages, wrote pages of elfin poetry, and added a ton of appendixes that detail the entire history of Middle Earth. Most of us aren’t going to go that far, but a certain amount is a good thing. You want your reader completely enveloped in your world, so at home in that world that when your book ends, they feel a loss, even a sense of homelessness that makes them yearn for your next book. To create a complete world, we can use our own world as a model.

  1. Setting—the most obvious aspect to world building.

There is something magical about a good setting. And there are some settings that evoke an emotional reaction from us. Maybe one of these will make you sigh: Scotland. Manhattan. A Caribbean island. The Enterprise. Pemberley. Stonehenge. These are powerful settings. Why not include a powerful one in your next book?

Make the setting relevant. In Beauty and the Beast, the entire world at the Beast’s castle was under the spell as long as the Beast was.

A good setting can help the story make sense or further the plot. Perhaps the best example is in Lord of the Rings, when Merry and Pippin find themselves in a forest, and the trees become characters and move the plot forward. The Ents (giant trees) destroy the first tower.

You may need to develop a map of your world—whether it’s a different world or the Regency world. Do you need to draw a blueprint of your house or castle or office building? Pay attention to architecture, furnishings, landscapes, plants, and animals. What kind of plants or animals will you find on the Scottish moors or on a tropical island? What does the sky look like? The climate and atmosphere? How do you travel about and how long does it take?

  1. Language

Dialogue will reveal much about your character. Where does your hero or heroine come from? What time period? How old are they? Male or female? What is their social status or level of education? Do they have a strong sense of morality or sense of humor? Their personalities—are they formal and stiff or easy-going? Each character’s speech can show everything about them or everything they’re trying to hide.

If you’re writing a historical or a time travel, your character will use sentence structure and vocabulary that fits his or her time period. Your Regency heroine will be overset, not upset. Your medieval heroine won’t be upset, but sorely vexed. Obviously, you have to do your research. Nothing can destroy world building faster than wrong dialogue.

Language must also be appropriate to your hero or heroine’s career. If your hero is a police officer or Navy SEAL, he and his comrades will have their own lingo.

Cursing—how your characters curse tells a lot about them and the world you’re building. If your hero swears by saying “By the three moons of Zelnar,” he’s either crazy or not from this planet. Your medieval hero might say “God’s toes” and your modern hero, “Holy crapoly.”

The language your characters use will not only define their character and set the time period of your book, but it can also set the tone of your book—

Serious—“He has fallen into shadow.” (Lord of the Rings, J.R,R, Tolkien)

Humorous--“What’s the name of this game?”

“Choo-choo,” he said. “You’re the tunnel, and I’m the train.” (One for the Money, Janet Evanovich)

Do you want a special world that people will remember? Then give it some great lines of dialogue.

“We’re not in Kansas anymore.” (The Wizard of Oz)

“Play it again, Sam.” (Casablanca)

“Do I detect the revolting stench of self-esteem?” (The Producers)

“African or European swallow?” (Monty Python and the Holy Grail)

“Beam me up, Scottie.” (Star Trek)

“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” (Gone with the Wind)

Don’t forget the power of language when you’re creating your world!

  1. Costume/clothing

Be accurate to your time period. Detail and consistency are important. Everyone knows exactly what kind of shoes Cinderella wore to the ball. And we’re all shocked when Mr. Darcy appears without his cravat!

Don’t forget hairstyle—you can tell an elf by his hair. Or personal grooming habits. How do your characters wash up?

Cinderella and The Wizard of Oz are both great examples where something the heroine is wearing actually moves the plot forward. The prince needs to find the girl whose foot fits the glass slipper. The Wicked Witch of the West wants the ruby slippers. Where would Zorro or Batman be without their costumes? Would the Devil who wears Prada be quite so diabolical if she was wearing Dr. Scholl’s? When it comes to shoes and clothing—make sure you have the right fit!

  1. Food

What your characters eat will tell a lot about them and their world. Beware of clichés—not everything on alien planets tastes like chicken. Have fun with the food! People eat some really disgusting things. Which is worse: coddled eels or fried twinkies?

  1. Culture—this is a big one!

1. Everyday life

What is the normal routine for people in your world? How has your story upset that routine?

2. Social hierarchy/ political and legal system

King, dukes, and earls? Starship captain, pilot, engineer?

What is against the law in your world? How are people punished? Who is the most powerful? Who are the most downtrodden?

3. Rules of etiquette, traditions, taboos

4. Popular culture—current books, music, celebrities, artists, etc. Use details—if your earl goes to the opera house, what opera is being shown? What do your characters do for entertainment? How do they party? What are the holidays? Is there a popular sport? Example: Quidditch in Harry Potter.

5. Religion/ mythology -- what do people in your world believe currently? What did they believe in the past? What sort of religious practices do they observe? Are there secret cults?

6. Attitudes and prejudices (toward gender, race, religion, social class, sex, etc)

7. Courtship rituals -- how does one find a mate in your world?

8. How do people fight in your world? Weapons? What kind of military do they have?

9. Economy—what kind of jobs do people have? How do they buy things? What are the tools of their profession?

10. What kind of diseases do people get and how do they treat illness? How do they give birth? How do they bury the dead or mourn?

Do your research. Make your world consistent and logical, but also occasionally daring! Make it special and complete. Hopefully, by using some of these suggestions, you’ll be able to create a world that will totally engross your reader and leave them begging for more!

Kerrelyn Sparks is the New York Times bestselling author of paranormal romantic comedies. Two of her books, How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire and Secret Life of a Vampire, have won Prism awards.. Her latest release, Eat Prey Love, is book number ten in the Love at Stake series. For more information, please visit her website, www.kerrelynsparks.com.

Eat Prey Love

Must love children.
Mortals need not apply.

Carlos Panterra is looking for a mate, a woman who will love and care for the young orphans he's recently taken under his wing (or paw, as the case may be). When the shape shifter spies the beautiful Caitlyn, it's like sunshine amidst the darkness. At last, he's found the perfect woman, except . . .

Caitlyn Whelan is mortal. Worse, her father is the head of a CIA agency bent on hunting the undead. Still, Caitlyn knows that Carlos is the man for her, shape shifter or not. So she jumps at the chance when her sister offers her a job to work with him, determined to show Carlos their attraction is more than just animal magnetism. But danger lurks in the night, and their unleashed, untamed passion might just get them both killed . . .

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Please welcome guest blogger Lynda K. Scott

synchronicity (sɪnkre’nɪsɪtɪ) — n an apparently meaningful coincidence in time of two or more similar or identical events that are causally unrelated

I’ve been doing a substantial amount of blogging and couldn’t think of a new subject that I could write about without boring myself as well as the reader. As I pounded my head against my desk top, my alien kitten, Wookie, prowled up to me and asked, ‘Is problem?’

You might think it’s unusual to have an alien kitten but I assure you, in my household, all the kittens are alien. It’s the eyes, you see -- Oh, you were more interested in her ability to speak? She absolutely speaks, something that surprised me when she adopted me. Sometimes she makes more sense than anyone else I know.

I often discuss plot ideas with her. In fact, in the past month, we’d just had a really great plot idea. My research was just falling into place, turning points seemed to be telegraphed directly into my mind. Even the hero and heroine walked right up to me, insisting they were good as they were and I should get busy writing their story.

I haven’t been this enthused by an idea in a long while. It hadn’t been done before to my knowledge so it would be fresh and unique.

And done by about twenty other authors.

At least, that’s what it looks like when I see listings for new books, movies and television shows. It’s frustrating. It makes you want to pound your head into the desk again. That’s when Wookie says Meeoowwrrr? Which means ‘Is new game? Want to play too.’

I explain my dilemma while trying to keep her from batting my head around. After bouncing into my lap and arching her back in a demand for petting, Wookie asked a series of important questions.

‘Is romance?’ No, not that I can tell. They might have some romantic elements though.

‘Is set in same place as ours?’ Uh, no, I don’t think so. (I thought she was pretty gracious when she included me in the ownership of the idea.)

‘Is alien kittens in story?’ No, but ours don’t have alien kittens either. As far as I can tell though, theirs have no aliens at all while ours does.

‘Is not same then. Go write our story.’ She threw her tail into the air as she prepared to go downstairs to find her afternoon sunbeam. ‘Needs alien kitten.’

While Wookie is understandably perturbed that there are no alien kittens, her line of questioning cleared my mind. Those other stories might be very similar in basic idea but they’re not the same as mine, er, ours.

Why would that be though? Simple. Because we didn’t write those other storys.

A story idea is created not just by what’s happening or who the characters are but by who the author is and what she/he has done. We authors bring a lot to the table, things that went into the making of us from the time we were born. Hurts, both physical and emotional, loves, guilts, failures, successes, who our family is, things we’re interested in, places we’ve been or wanted to go…all of that goes into the making of us and of our story ideas. And it goes into the creation of our characters and the subtleties of our plots.

Each one of us can write a story about dragon heroes and it will be different.

Each one of us can write a story about werewolf heroes and it will be different.

Each one of us can write a story about handsome aliens who fall in love with Earth damsels and it will be different.

Basic story ideas seem to be spawned by some sort of spontaneous synchronicity. They float through the ether until they find a receptive mind and they take root. They will not be identical. Though there may be some inherent similarities, they will be unique.

They will be unique because we, each and every one of us, is unique. If you don’t believe me, go ask your alien kitten (or dog). Just don’t admit your story lacks an alien kitten.
That kind of ticks them off.

Lynda K. Scott comes from a long line of Kentucky storytellers (although some of those storytellers told stories to keep their stills from being discovered). While her books aren’t designed to ‘hide a still’, they have won or been nominated for a variety of awards, including the RWA Golden Heart. Reviewer’s have said her work is ‘breathtaking adventure’, ‘creative, exciting and emotionally stirring’, and ‘brings science fantasy to life’.

Her interests span the gamut from organic gardening to astronomy, from crafting to sharp shooting. She is a member of several chapters of the RWA, including the Celtic Hearts, Beau Monde, HHRW and the FF&P. Additionally, she has a shared blog to highlight her work and the work of other futuristic, fantasy or paranormal authors. She invites all readers to join her newsletter by sending a blank email to LyndaKScott-Newsgroup-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

She now lives in Michigan with her darling husband; her big lovable doofus of a Rottweiler-mix Zuzu and her alien kitten, Wookie, who believes she is the evil genius behind all of Lynda’s work.


Eric d'Ebrur is out of time. He must find the legendary Heartstone and fulfill the ancient Gar'Ja bond he shares with the Stonebearer. But when he finds her, he discovers that love can be more dangerous than the Gawan threat. Eric can defeat the mind-controlling Gawan but will it cost him the woman he loves?

After terrifying episodes of hypersensitivity, Keriam Norton thinks she's losing her mind. When handsome shapeshifter Eric d'Ebrur saves her from the monstrous Gawan, she's sure of it. But insane or not, she'll find the Heartstone and, if she's lucky, a love to last a lifetime.

Lynda will be donating 10% of the Heartstone royalties for the Oct-Dec period to St. Jude’s For Children, one of her favorite charities (you can see her three favorite charities on her website www.lyndakscott.com plus you can read the unpublished Prologue to Heartstone). Please consider making their gift a generous one by ordering Heartstone for yourself or as a gift.

To win a free copy of Heartstone, leave a comment AND send Lynda an email to Lynda@LyndaKScott.com with FFP in the Subject line and your snail mail address in the body.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Dazzling Descriptions

Please welcome guest blogger C.L. Wilson

Books are a unique form of entertainment in that they actually use none of our senses and yet, when effectively written, stimulate them all. Solely with words, authors can paint vibrant pictures, evoke genuine emotion, and set so vivid a tone that the story unfolding on the pages becomes every bit perceivable and sensually stimulating as any other entertainment medium—even more so because words can do a much better job of invoking all five senses rather than relying solely on sight and sound.

Never is that more important than when writing stories that includes creatures, capabilities, or settings that do not exist or our contemporary reality.

The first place to start when learning to write description is with the most basic building blocks of observation: the five human senses, sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch. Your job as a writer is to invoke as many of those senses as necessary to set your readers in a scene, to vividly draw actions and events in such a way that the reader can connect on a sensory level with your book.

In order to write vivid description, you need vivid words and active, energetic verbs. Choices such as “was,” “there,” and “it” won’t cut it. Be specific. Be detailed. Be vivid. Infuse your writing with emotion, action, and energy. (www.thesaurus.com is one of any description writer’s best online friends!)

NOTE: I am not an “is-slaughterer” advocating the ruthless elimination of every form of the verb “to be” in your manuscript. Sometimes “is” is a fine choice! Just use it sparingly.

Perhaps even more important than using active, vivid, specific words, however, is using the details and the words your POV character would use.

What your character sees – and how true that view is – can be hugely revealing. For instance, if you are writing about a narcissistic self-delusional character, how that character sees the world should be very telling. I would imagine he would think all people are looking at him, admiring him, noting his fine clothes and enviable good looks. The world, his world, would revolve around him. And the words he chooses would be self-aggrandizing. The same scene, viewed from an unhappy social worker’s eyes would be remarkably different. Rather than noticing how people are noticing her, she might see the homeless person huddled in the corner, the sadness in a stranger’s face, the child hawking drugs on the corner, the friendless hustle of a downtown city street.

It is vital that you choose the words and the details that the POV character (not you, the author) would notice. Use the slang and the intonation the character would use when speaking. Use only words the character would be likely to know and use him/herself. Anything unfamiliar to the character (a strange new objection, a stranger) might be of great interest or might be casually overlooked – it all depends on what your story and your character require.

One of my favorite descriptive scenes is from Scott Westerfeld’s Midnighters: The Secret Hour. The premise of the book is that for certain people – those born exactly at the stroke of midnight – there are twenty-five hours in the day. At the stroke of midnight, time stops and only the midnighters (the children born at midnight) and certain creatures that live in this time can roam in the blue twilight of the midnight hour.

In this scene, Jessica (who does not know she is a midnighter) wakes at night and goes outside to find the world lit by blue glowing light and the air filled with what appear to be shimmering, radiant diamonds, each no bigger than a tear. Those diamonds, it turns out, are raindrops hanging in the sky in a world where time has stopped.

In a daze, she stepped out into the suspended rain. The drops kissed her face coolly, turning into water as she collided with them. They melted instantly, dotting her sweatshirt as she walked, wetting her hands with water no colder than September rain. She could smell the fresh scent of rain, feel the electricity of recent lightning, the trapped vitality of the storm all around her. Her hairs tingled, laughter bubbling up inside her.

But her feet were cold, she realized, her shoes soaking. Jessica knelt down to look at the walk. Motionless splashes of water dotted the concrete, where raindrops had been frozen just as they’d hit the ground. The whole street shimmered with the shapes of splashes, like a garden of ice flowers.

There are all sorts of sensory delights in the above two paragraphs. Sights, smells, tastes, the feel of electricity making hairs rise. Sound (the utter silence) is mentioned in a previous passage. This one scene alone (all 3 pages, not just the two paragraphs above) does an amazing job of capturing in perfect, vivid language the image of a world frozen in the midst of a rainstorm and the wondrous alien beauty of the midnight hour.

What are some of your favorite descriptive passages? Either from your own works or books you love? What made those descriptions so vivid / impactful to you?

C.L. Wilson is a NY Times, USA Today & Publisher’s Weekly bestselling author of fantasy romance. She loves reading, writing, and torturing her characters mercilessly. When not working, she enjoys relaxing with her family in sunny Florida and daydreaming of a world where people exercise in their sleep and chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream is a fat burning food.

Crown of Crystal Flame
Book 5 of the Tairen Soul series

A song of Love won her heart.
A Song of Darkness haunted her soul.
A Song in the Dance would seal her fate.

Seers had long foreseen an extraordinary destiny for Ellysetta Baristani. Already she had won the heart of the Fey King-the magnificent Rain, ever her ally, eternally her love. She had saved the offspring of the magical tairen and fought beside her legendary mate against the armies of Eld. But the most powerful-and dangerous-Verse of her Song had yet to be sung. As the final battle draws nigh and evil tightens its grip upon her soul-will Ellysetta secure the world for Light or plunge it into Darkness for all eternity? As she and Rain fight for each other, side by side, will they find a way to complete their truemate bond and defeat the evil High Mage of Eld before it's too late, or must they make the ultimate sacrifice to save their world?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

It's not just a Point of View

Please welcome guest blogger Shannon Donnelly

Let's start with a disclaimer—I am not a POV purist. I'm probably going to sound like one, but really I'm fine with viewpoint shifts in a story, so long as they work. But I think most folks use the "I'm not a purist" line as an excuse not to master POV technique. And a lot of folks just don't know why they need strong POV control in a story.

Back before my first book sold, I was lucky enough to get Jo Beverley as a judge in a contest (she writes historical romance and if you have not read her work, go and buy her books—she's good). She stressed one comment—master your POV and you'll sell. She was right. Back then, I had something I see a lot from journeyman writers—floating POV.

Floating POV is when the viewpoint is sort of third person and sort of omniscient. It's sort of in one character, but sort of not. This can show up in first person, too, where it's sort of first person, but sort of omniscient, so don't think you're immune there. However, it is less likely to show up in first person, which is one of the big advantages to using it. The big problem with floating POV is that it leaves the reader floating above and out of the story, too—the reader ends up emotionally detached. It's weak writing.

Deep POV, the opposite of floating POV, is about reader immersion. And by deep, I mean viewpoint that is locked within a character. This means locked right behind that character's eyes and within that character's head and emotions. Deep POV can be locked in first person or third person, but it is locked tight. When you lock POV like this, it's very tough to shift—both because you as the author start rolling along with the character, and each shift is a place to lose the reader. With deep POV you naturally tend to want to put viewpoint shifts at chapter breaks or major scene shifts instead of putting these viewpoint changes within a scene.

All transitions in a story are slippery places—chapter shifts, scene shifts and viewpoint shifts are the places where a reader can pause, slip out of the story and put the book down. Put enough of shifts into a scene, or too many fast shifting scenes before the reader is deep in a story, and you can see how POV purists end up having a good point—you're better off being a purist than someone who changes POV so much that it pushes the reader out of the story.

Like any other writing technique, POV control is about mastering the technique. That's an advantage a POV purist has because that person has nailed this part of the craft. And if you don't practice a discipline, if you're always loose with your POV, you won't learn how to control your story (or the reader's attention).

Coming from a background where I've dabbled in the other arts—music, painting, dance—I'm a believer in solid technique as a foundation. The stronger your technical skills, the more you can let them run on auto-pilot and focus on the fun stuff. When I played violin, every practice started with a half hour of scales. Only then could I dive into the music and have it come out sweet. Scales both limbered up my skills and improved my technique. A writer doesn’t really have the equivalent of musical scales, but we can still practice technique.

To improve my control of POV and my technical skills, I set myself the following disciplines.

First book I sold, I kept to one character's viewpoint per chapter. This became the technical exercise in the book. If I needed to cover another character's emotions in a scene, the following chapter could go back a bit in time to do that scene from that character. But I was a POV Nazi for myself and kept to one character's POV in each chapter. This deepened my characterization and the emotion in the scenes. It gave me the control I needed—but I still have to go back to this practice at times (yes, those skills you don't practice get rusty).

Next thing was to write more in first person. I still do this. While I like third person for the flexibility it gives of putting the viewpoints of a lot of characters into a story, I'll still use first person to write a scene. After the scene is written, if the story is all in third person I'll shift the first person scene into third person. First person helps me get into my characters and also works a lot like those musical scales to keep my technical skills sharp. It also gives me more emotional bang in my scene, and keeps me honest about my viewpoint control (it's so easy to think you're doing this well when you're not—I always say there's the story in your head, the story on the page, and the story in the reader's head, and these don't always match).

The last discipline is to always ask—do I need to shift viewpoint? (Hint: "Because I feel like it" is never a good enough answer.) Viewpoint shifts need to be treated like any other part of the story—they need a lot of good reasons to be in the story, or they need to be left out. That which does not improve a story will detract. If I have three good reasons to need a viewpoint shift—including the best one, which is that another person in the scene now has more emotionally at stake in the scene—only then will I look at crafting a shift.

Granted, sometimes the instinct to shift viewpoints is one you need to listen to. Writer instincts need to be developed and used. But sometimes this is also justification for a lazy habit that you need to pound out of your writing. This is where you have to be able to look at your writing and know that the scene works—it's giving you the emotion you need, so don't touch it. Or you have to apply the discipline to rewrite it and keep the reader within the viewpoint of the key character in that scene so the reader gets every ounce of emotion from that scene.

When you have to make a viewpoint transition, you want to use some technique to smooth this (it's like a baton hand-off in a relay race, and if you fumble this, the reader can trip right out of your story). But that's the subject for another day, and for the POV workshop that I teach (shameless plug there, but if you don't take this workshop, at least pick up Orson Scott Card's book, Characters & Viewpoint to grab some good tips).

I won't tell you, "Master POV and you'll sell." You may have other writing or story issues to address. But I will say that mastering immersive POV—the ability to put your reader into the story and keep the reader there, the ability to control viewpoint so well that it the craft is transparent to the reader—is key to becoming a great storyteller.

At least, that's my point of view.


Shannon Donnelly's writing has won numerous awards, including a RITA nomination for Best Regency, the Grand Prize in the "Minute Maid Sensational Romance Writer" contest, judged by Nora Roberts, RWA's Golden Heart, the Laurel Wreath, the Winter Rose, the Bookseller's Best, and multiple finalists in the Holt Medallion, the Colorado ACE, the Golden Quill, and others. Her work has repeatedly earned 4½ Star Top Pick reviews from Romantic Times magazine, as well as praise from Booklist and other reviewers, who note: "simply superb"..."wonderfully uplifting"....and "beautifully written."

In addition to her Regency romances, she has had novellas published in several anthologies, has had young adult horror stories published and is the author of several computer games. Currently, she is a member of several chapters of RWA, including FF&P, and she is a past-president of the Beau Monde, Regency Chapter of RWA. She has spoken at past writer conferences, including RWA's national conference, and regularly gives workshops online. Her abiding passions include--besides writing--her dogs, reading, gardening, painting, belly dancing, and the ever present horses in her life. She can be found online at sd-writer.com and twitter.com/sdwriter.

Under the Kissing Bough

Eleanor Glover never thought to marry. But when wickedly handsome Geoffrey Westerley, Lord Staines, agrees to an arranged marriage with her, she knows her duty. Geoffrey makes it plain that he wants nothing more than a sensible wife—and a Christmas Eve wedding to please his dying father. With a dearth of suitors, and her family's expectations weighing heavy, Eleanor agrees to the match, with one condition—a condition she cannot name or write upon her blank card. Despite Geoffrey's generous promise to give her anything her heart desires she cannot believe he will ever offer the only thing she truly wants for a Christmas gift…his love.

As an earl's son, Geoffrey Westerley knows his duty—and since he cannot have the woman he loved and drove away, he will have the bride his father intends. Geoffrey knows his passionate nature scared away one lady, and he is determined to treat his shy intended with respect and restraint. But when he finds Eleanor beneath a kissing bough, tradition demands that he pluck a mistletoe berry and kiss her. He never anticipated his bride's warm response, and as the wedding draws near he begins to see there is more to his bride than a quiet exterior. There may be enough to her, in fact, to heal a wounded heart—and a passion deep enough to match his own.

How to Handle POV Effectively, presented by Shannon Donnelly, runs from November 29th through December 12th, 2010

To win a free copy of Under the Kissing Bough, post a comment. A winner will be chosen at random. The winner can choose an electronic PDF or print edition.