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Friday, August 31, 2012

WORLD BUILDING by Raquel Rodriguez

Going some place new is always fun, especially when the surroundings are not what you see every day. The anticipation mounts, and the excitement fills you up so much that you can hardly wait to arrive at your destination and begin your new adventure.  Whether a city, small town, mountain range, or beach, architecturally interesting buildings, colorful landscapes, wide open or intimate spaces, scents, sounds, textures, anything that catches the attention can be exciting.  Like plotting and writing, building any world from scratch can be daunting but oh-so wonderful for the experience. 

What is a world – any world – without background (or back story)?  Stimulating surroundings and locale can help make or break a story and a reader’s attention.  Put your main characters into an environment then add little things here and there to make it more real-life.  Have them deliberately interact with their surroundings (does your hero have hay fever?) to add depth to the plot, emotion, and also can up the relationship tension.  Have them work hard for their goals, fail repeatedly (did your heroine overdraw her bank account by mistake?), dodge obstacles in their worlds and make choices because of those problems. 

Creating a setting that a reader can identify with is just as imperative to an engaging plot as the characters are.  Characters that face (or run away from) difficulties in scenes can add thrills and chills.  The reader becomes invested in those main characters and what they are going through and wants to know what will happen next. 

All writers want this continued attention from readers and hope they come back for more in the next book, and the next after that one (YAY!).  Like a favorite story (no matter the genre) a world populated with people who have real issues and complications to overcome in significance settings, on their way to getting what they want (like in any of the Harry Potter books), are more memorable than those who are set in environments that just get by with the basics. 

Building worlds may seem daunting, but creating interest is easy. Yet when done a little at a time, like putting together a puzzle or a pizza, all the elements, sights, sounds, textures, and even inert clues aiming toward the story goal can be very rewarding.  And that’s all it takes, just one step then another to create a wonderful world full of fascination your characters and the reader will enjoy. 

For more information, please see Raquel’s website,
More about the author:
Growing up with ghosts, native Texan and author Raquel Rodriguez is used to things that go "bump" 24/7. With a passion for Science Fiction, anything paranormal, Space Opera, and romance, she blends these elements into passionate stories with twists of action and suspense. Raquel has studied, taught and lectured about Parapsychology for over 25 years and loves to add touches of the unusual to her stories. Her personal motto is, "Never give up, never surrender!" from one of her favorite movies. When not teaching fitness or dance, Belly Dance, or plotting/ planning, or writing (where her cat, Merlin, usually supervises from her lap), she can be found at SciFi conventions, Renaissance Faires, performing, or experimenting with a new chocolate recipe. FMI, please visit www.RaquelRodriguez.com
I hope you will join my class
Fiction World Building for writers
Hosted by
Fantasy-Futuristic& Paranormal
Romance Writers
This 4 WEEK class starts Sept. 24th
For more information click HERE




Tuesday, August 28, 2012

How to use Real Police Techniques to enhance your Fiction Writing by Lucinda D. Schroeder

As a retired federal agent, turned-writer I am amazed at how many law enforcement techniques there are that can make fiction writing really POP!  Here are some examples.


Federal agents and detectives usually receive advanced training in lie detection. One of the techniques is to look or listen for how a bad guy uses pronouns.  For example, if he says, “I don’t where the wife is” as opposed to the more normal response of “I don’t know where my wife went,” the police may have a reason to suspect the husband.  “My wife” suggests a close relationship whereas “the wife” suggests a more distant relationship. This little trick can be used in fiction dialog and may be the one thing that keeps Det. Colombo suspicious of the husband while he digs around for solid evidence.

This same technique can be used of objects. Let’s say that before a crime is committed the bad guy says, “I’m taking my gun with me.”  When he returns he says, “I don’t have the gun anymore.”  The fact that the gun was “my gun” and then changed to “the gun” suggests that something (bad) happened during the time the two statements were made. “The” suggests distance whereas “my” suggests closeness.  

Body Language  

Deceptive body language is another area the police watch for. For example, an officer asks a suspect “Where were you this morning around ten?” and the response is “I don’t remember exactly.” The officer will view the verbal answer as a deceptive one because it lacks commitment and is vague. But if the suspect folds his arms, crosses his legs, or breaks eye contact while he’s making a statement like this one, the suspect’s response will be viewed as being even more deceptive. Deceptive body language used while the suspect is making a false statement is considered a huge red flag indicating deception.

Special Operations

A character deeply planted inside a criminal enterprise probably got there because of a confidential informant. Informants always seem to cause trouble in real investigations.  Informants are usually motivated by money and sometimes will make up intelligence information to keep getting paid.  Let’s say a search warrant is served based on the informant’s information and the supposed evidence is nowhere to be found.  This is an opportunity for major conflict and your readers will never see it coming.

Some informants are motivated by their desire to “play cop.”  In this case they’ll try to take over the case and will eventually start making decisions on how the case should be run.  I knew an informant who did this and ended up stealing property to prove to the case agent that he was “in” with a theft ring.

Informants can work their way into an agents’ life making her miserable. An informant like this will call at all hours of the day and night just to talk about personal problems.  Informants sometimes constantly ask his agent handler for all manner of favors.  The case agent tries to accommodate the informant as much as she can to keep him on the case.  Eventually the informant turns in a parasite that won’t go away.

If you put your female informant in bed with the male agent, the sparks will really fly.  Let’s say the agent confides in her with information he doesn’t want out?  Let’s say the informant now feels that the agent can’t be trusted.  So, she slips a recorder under the pillow and records the agent as he calls his boss and the prosecutors’ ignorant idiots.  Before noon the next day, she drops the incriminating tape off at the prosecutor’s office and leaves town.  Now the agent is in REAL trouble!  Let’s say he gets fired and loses his badge and service weapon.  What happens next?

Now that I’ve revealed some clever, but true law enforcement tactics I’ll have to shoot you! Speaking of shooting…..I’ll be teaching a class on Firearms for Writers in October 2012. The class will show you how to choose a weapon that fits your character; help you describe your weapon of choice and teach you how the brain reacts during a shooting when the rubber meets the road. I’ll also cover when a shooter in a gunfight is most vulnerable—creating a solid tension builder. I promise that you’ll never write about a gun in the same again. You’ll go from: “She grabbed her gun and ran towards the house,” to “What she didn’t tell them was that her 9mm Smith and Wesson laid perfectly in the small of her back. She’d fired it so many times that sometimes she wondered if it hadn’t been born in her hand. She carried it hot and ready for Mexicans.”

I hope you’re already fired up to take this class!


Author Lucinda Schroeder holds a BA degree in criminology from the University of Maryland. In 1974, she became one of the first women hired in federal law enforcement and went to work as a special agent for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. She quickly learned how to develop innovative schemes designed to catch the bad guys who were duped by a woman.
Lucinda Schroeder is the author of “A Hunt for Justice” that takes her readers inside a criminal world they never thought existed.  Her book is a gripping story of how she posed as a big-game hunter inside a ruthless ring of international poachers in Alaska. These poachers used low-flying bush planes and fat check books to get and pay for the opportunity to kill the biggest Grizzly Bear and sheep with the trophy-sized horns.  They would have kept going until the wildlife they were after were gone.

CONTACT HER at   www.ahuntforjustice.com
In her book Schroeder reveals how she set her hooks to catch these crooks that never saw her coming. Her readers travel with her the through the never-ending trials and tribulations she endures to save what is most important to her—wild creatures of the earth.
Lucinda is also a crack shot and has won numerous shooting competitions.  She is a former firearms instructor who taught firearm tactics to other federal agents and to Native Americans in South Dakota.  Her October workshop “Firearms for Writers” is a must for any story that features a gun.    
Lucinda is now retired and is working on her second book entitled “Monster Slayer—An agent goes undercover to rescue sacred Native American artifacts only to find demons out to destroy her. 

I hope you will join my class

Hosted by

Fantasy-Futuristic & Paranormal
Romance Writers
This 4 WEEK class starts October 1st
 for more information click HERE

Monday, August 27, 2012

Para/Normal Alpha by Robin Matheson

Para/Normal Alpha
Character Skill Sets in Action
By Robin Matheson
In scientific terms, the word alpha is used to denote the top-ranking wolf within the hierarchy of the pack. Generally a wolf/dog pack is led by a dominant alpha male because of its superior strength. [Daniel Wood. Wolves, 1994]
In human fictional terms…“People fear what they do not understand.” (Dr. Lee Rosen)
Within the Alphas television show universe, alphas, humans with highly evolved brain structures that give them superhuman physical and mental abilities, do not lead any pack. They are led by the all too human neurologist and psychologist Dr. Lee Rosen (David Strathairn) and are, in fact, viewed with extreme caution by the government.  
Part of the internal tension within these ‘alpha’ characters is derived from the very fact that they themselves do not always understand their skill set—that is their innate but uniquely enhanced ability, either.
Bill Harkin (Malik Yoba) is a ‘hyperadrenal’ alpha—able to switch on his “fight or flight” response allowing him to acquire exceptional strength for short periods of time. Sounds great being able to morph into a superman, right? Wrong. The adrenaline rushes have an unwelcome side-affect. Harkin has anger issues that cost him his job; he’s a former FBI agent, and his family.
A ‘transducer’, Gary Bell’s (Ryan Cartwright) brain is attuned to the electromagnetic field, allowing him to collect and process all types of electronic signals. Cool as this may sound, the constant barrage of information makes Gary overly sensitive to stimuli around him and he’s withdrawn into a world of rigid regime.
These examples suggest that choosing a skill set doesn’t necessarily mean choosing separate abilities to denote strengths and weaknesses within our characters. In the case of the alphas on Alphas, their super-powered skill contains both a positive and a negative side that adds dramatic depth to their character.
But what if your alpha character doesn’t possess a paranormal ability? Is it still possible to choose a trait that embraces that duality of strength and weakness? The simple answer is, yes. All alpha characters share the same core skill set and any one of those traits comes with a positive and a negative side.
Consider Harriet Jones (Penelope Wilton) from Doctor Who.

Audiences first meet Harriet Jones in Aliens in London and World War Three [Season 1: Episodes 4 + 5, 2005]. A backbench MP with a forthright grasp of personal promotion (alpha trait alert!), her encounter with the Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) and Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) immediately establishes her, dare I say dominant, alpha traits. Trapped inside 10 Downing Street, Harriet Jones doesn’t hesitate to assume Executive command as the only elected representative. She is the one who orders the Doctor to initiate the launch of the (non-nuclear) missile that destroys 10 Downing Street and the family Slitheen, calcium-based aliens bent on initiating a world war so that they can exploit the Earth’s resources. Fortunately, the Doctor, Rose and Harriet all survive and Harriet’s reputation as a Protector of Earth is firmly established.
Little wonder then that the Doctor predicts Harriet Jones’s rise to The executive position, that of Prime Minister of Great Britain.
Alphas are, by nature, goal oriented, often to the point of stubbornness (another excellent alpha trait). In the 2005 Christmas special, The Christmas Invasion, the Earth is once again under invasion, this time by the Sycorax. The newly regenerated Doctor (David Tennant) engages the Sycorax leader in a sword fight. He wins despite the leader’s duplicity and compels the Sycorax to leave Earth and never return. But this “deal” does not satisfy Harriet Jones. Determined to protect the Earth, because she believes there will come a time when the Doctor cannot do so, she orders the destruction of the retreating Sycorax ship.
Harriet Jones stands behind her decision, despite the Doctor’s anger at being challenged. Alphas don’t always play well together! With six words, “Don’t you think she looks tired?” he begins the rumor that will bring down her government.
But that stubborn protective streak that led to her downfall becomes her greatest strength in The Stolen Earth [Season 4: Episode 12, 2008]. In the opening scene the Doctor and Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) discover that the Earth has disappeared and set off to investigate. The Earth, along with twenty-six other planets have been teleported within the Medusa Cascade by the Daleks, a cyborg race intent on universal domination and the greatest enemy of the Doctor. Their plan is to detonate a ‘reality bomb’ that can, potentially, destroy all matter in every universe.
The Doctor’s former companions, who have each met the Daleks before, scramble to hide from the Dalek invasion. In the midst of the chaos, each is contacted by now former Prime Minster, Harriet Jones via an undetectable sub-wave network. She instantly assumes Executive command, forbidding Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman) from using the ‘Osterhagen Key’, a last resort nuclear option in favor of her own plan:
Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen): “Oh, excuse me, Harriet, but— Well, the thing is, if you are looking for the Doctor, didn’t he depose you?”
Harriet Jones: “He did. And I’ve wondered about that for a long time, whether I was wrong. But I stand by my actions to this day because I knew…I knew that one day the earth would be in danger and the Doctor would fail to appear. I told him so myself, and he didn’t listen.”
She proceeds to explain her plan to use a combined force to boost the sub-wave signal so it can reach the Doctor. This will, of course, render the network detectible by the Daleks.
Harriet Jones: “Yes, and they’ll trace it back to me, but my life doesn’t matter. Not if it saves the Earth.”
Despite being deposed from office, Harriet Jones refuses to leave her post as Protector of the Earth. Even in exile in a little cottage, she is ready with the technology and plan to defend against alien invasion, even at the cost of her own life. (I believe I mentioned that alpha characters are stubborn and goal oriented.)
Part of the fun of working with alpha characters is this ability to use their core skills—those traits alphas rely on to define who they are—both for and against the characters themselves. Harriet Jones’s three-episode character arc provides a perfect example of an established alpha skill set that becomes a vulnerability during the Crisis point of her story arc and yet becomes her most powerful tool toward achieving her goal at the Climax.
Award winning author Robin Matheson holds an honors specialist degree in Classical Civilization and English and a Master of Education. She's taught numerous courses at college, overseas and, more recently, online courses on writing. One of Robin's greatest passions is traveling. In addition to their home base, she and her family have also lived in South East Asia and South Africa.

Visit her at www.robiemadison.com.
I hope you will join my class
Hosted by
Fantasy-Futuristic & Paranormal
Romance Writers
This 3 WEEK class starts Sept. 3rd
For more information click HERE

Thursday, August 23, 2012


            Such a formidable title for such an essential tool. Most of you know this as a ‘To Do’ list and it’s imperative every writer have one.

            There are many different types of these lists. I have them for my works-in-progress, for my daily writing goals and a general one that I use for the bigger writing picture. Every writer has their own ideas and priorities that are important to them. I will be going over the top ten items that I believe I want to accomplish daily and how they can relate to you.

            Here are my top ten:
            Write ~ While this may be obvious to everyone, I know that I need to put this down as my number one priority. I tend to be a visual person and by putting this down on paper, I have made it the most important item. I see it daily in the number one spot and realize this is the task to be worked on most...it’s in black and white...there is no confusion or uncertainty as to its priority in the overall scheme of things. Notice I have this open as far as what I write but the aim here is to write my stories first as the other items on the list involve various forms of writing as well.
            Read ~ For me to recharge my writing battery, I need to read every day. This reading also can be a combination of items but mainly fiction as I am like most writers, I devour books and often read one a day.
            Tweet ~ Yes, this is one of my top ten as this is how I interface with others of my profession as well as readers. I can be extremely chatty in 140 characters and give people news both about my writing and some more personal items.
            Facebook ~ Six months ago, I would have never had this on my list but have come to realize there are a lot of people on this form of social media. With me being in Vienna, Austria, it has become one of the main ways for me to talk to family and friends in the States. I’ve also discovered that readers Facebook too. Many feel that an author can apply a more personal touch here than anywhere else. While it may take me a while to understand all the ins and outs, I love using this powerful social media tool.
            Blog ~ This is another area where my writing skills are used daily. I blog for myself and guest all over the internet for others. This is beneficial as it spreads my reach a little further as every blog appeals to different types of people. While you want to do this often, there is a point where one may over saturate a market. True, it is essential to get out there when you have a new release, but you don’t want to be known as the in-your-face writer as people tend to ignore and avoid you when you are. A few YouTube videos have been going around the internet talking about those types of authors and how it can hurt one’s overall plan. You want readers jumping for joy, not groaning in displeasure when they see your name.
            Take Classes ~ A writer, actually any person, will never know it all. Learning is a lifelong skill and my opinion has always been that the day I stop learning is the day I die. For me, I will look at my current WIP to see if a particular class can help me make it stronger. I also use courses as a form of motivation to keep me moving forward as well as enhancing research skills.
            Revise/Edit ~ At least part of my day needs to be spent going over what I’ve written to assure the article or story is the best it can be before I send it off to the appropriate party. During this time, I will also look at anything an editor has sent back to me. The time I spend on this daily can be a few minutes to a few hours and totally depends upon the items in this task list. I have been known to set aside all items and spend a day exclusively editing.
            Research ~  This is an area I am very fond of doing. Many of my stories are science fiction and I love looking up the latest discoveries on the internet to see how I can use and twist them to my advantage. Here I also look at the market, making sure what I’m doing hasn’t been done before and if it has, how I can do it new, fresh and different. My time spent on this task will be as interesting as possible, inspiring me to do better.
            Exercise ~ Now this may seem out of place in a writer’s list but for me it is not. One issue that writers, and women in general, tend to forget about is taking care of themselves. The point is if you don’t take care of you, there are no stories. I find that when I take the time to exercise, I plot and think about how I’m going to work a story as I walking or jogging or doing an exercise video. Sometimes, the more I exercise the better a story may become. I’ve been known to work out plot holes, why the characters have stopped talking to me as well as a host of other items or problems related to writing in general.
            Getting Enough Sleep ~ This goes hand-in-hand with exercise but is actually more valuable as far as personal care goes. Sure, I’ll write some evenings until I drop but if I don’t get my eight hours of shuteye, I find myself vague and unfocused the next day. Writers need to be on top of their game every day to create compelling content. While I may not keep 100% of what I have written on any given day, if I haven’t gotten enough sleep the content I’ve written more than likely will be trashed as  unsuitable.
            As a writer, each of us must find our balance and focus. Task lists can channel that focus because you have a map of what needs to be done daily. If you are a visual person, one who needs to see things in black and white, then making a task list would work well for you. Just take a quiet morning, or if like me a moment amidst the chaos, and start working on a list.
            At first, it may be trial and error until you find the right balance. The idea isn’t to box yourself in where you must do all these tasks daily, but striving for doing most of them may be all you can accomplish in the beginning. There are days where the writing will take over and you may never get to the revision part. If you exercise daily in the morning first thing, that may be the only other task that you do besides the item in your number one position.
            The idea is to make the list inclusive enough without ever boxing you in because let’s face it...life happens...things go awry. One needs the flexibility a list like this can provide but having a road map will keep you going and moving forward.
            So there you have them – the top ten items on my general daily task list. I do try to touch on each and every item during the day. Some days are harder than others, some days I don’t have a project to revise or an item on the list isn’t doable. Just having the list on my desk reminds me of what I need to complete, to manage and helps me to stay on track.
            If you think you are unfocused and aren’t performing your best, a task list would help to harness your passion into focus. Being on course can help you achieve your writing dreams, making you happier than you ever imagined. I wish you the best of luck in pursuing that dream and hope I’ve helped you in some small way.

Lynn Crain has penned over 25 novels in  romance in the genres of science fiction, fantasy and contemporary romance, erotic to tame in nature. She always knew that writing was her calling even if it took years at other professions to prove it. She has belonged to EPIC and RWA for more years that she cares to think about. Currently, she lives in Europe while her husband of nearly 30 years pursues his dream of working internationally. Her state-side home is in Nevada where family and friends wait patiently for their return. You can find her hanging out at A Writer In Vienna Blog (www.awriterinvienna.blogspot.com) and various other places on the net (www.theloglineblog.blogspot.com; www.twitter.com/oddlynn3 ; www.lynncrain.blogspot.com ;  www.facebook.com/oddlynn3 ) as well as her website www.lynncrain.com. Still, the thing she loves most of all is hearing from her readers at lynncrain@cox.net.
Check out Lynn’s latest book, The Harvester:
Princess Sky Xera Nerezsh came to earth to avoid the normal succession path to the throne. Being the oldest daughter, she will be required to murder her mother in order to secure her path to power. Sky loves her mother and refuses this path, choosing instead to disappear in the vast reaches of space. When her past collides with her present, she has to think quick on her feet, claim two men and a whole planet just to avoid the inevitable: a meeting with her mother. Along the way, she discovers true love and a burning need to be there for them always. Now if the other Harvesters can just keep to themselves, they’ll have no problems. But who said true love was ever easy.
Buy Links:

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

What Makes a Good Character? By Nell DuVall

Three major factors determine a character: the genre, the experience and expectations of readers, and the author's intentions. In romance and romantic suspense, readers like the alpha male, the strong silent type. They also like to see spunky heroines. In speculative fiction, which may or may not include a romantic subplot, heroes regardless of gender are essential and willing to fight overwhelming odds. In literary fiction, all bets are off and anti-heroes may hold sway. Mysteries vary greatly from doddering old people to smart youngsters. 

I like quirky characters and find that helps when defining secondary characters. I love writing villains and try to gain at least reader understanding of why they do what they do. That doesn't change their focus, and few of them change their intentions. They are seldom redeemable.

I have the most trouble with romantic heroes because of the patterns most editors want them to meet. As alpha males, mine start out goal focused. Often another woman has hurt them or a colleagues who almost destroy whatever they value—a business or success. They are ambitious, sometimes ruthless, with a strong desire to succeed. Most aren't seeking love. They may seek women who can enhance their lifestyle, definitely not the heroine. In the beginning, they often, but not always, prefer gooey woman or at least the image of a successful hostess. Over the course of the story, the hero changes and becomes more vulnerable and human. 

I don't write gooey women. Mine are spunky, logical to a fault, and determined to save the world, whether the hero's life or another alien world. They don't give up even in the face of overwhelming odds. They aren't good at relationships and rebel against alpha male types. Some lack confidence while others are overconfident. 

All my characters have strengths and flaws. Strengths when carried to extremes become flaws. Except for villains, my characters change during the course of the story and sometimes end up with goals they would not have originally considered. 

In my mysteries, the hero/ine unmasks the evil, but s/he is not necessarily caught, which some editors consider a no-no. I dislike mysteries where the evil doer when confronted, confesses all. I want them to stay true to their nature. However, it can also be fun to have them change and reform. This is often true in Young Adult stories. 

Another important aspect is to stay within character. This can be difficult in time travel romances, thrillers, novels with differing ethnic backgrounds, or alien worlds. Language, manner of speech, and mannerisms may and usually do differ. Characters may see each other and the story settings in vary different ways. These differences may create added conflict and add richness to the story. 

The most important thing to remember: readers must become vested in the characters and root for them to succeed. Every writer wants the readers to believe in the characters.  

There are many books on character traits and motivation available, especially those from the Writer's Digest. Ultimately though, one of best methods is to take a book in the genre that you have enjoyed and analyze the characters. Why do you like them? What are their strengths, weaknesses, and flaws? How do they change over the course of the story? 

Above all, write characters the reader can understand and empathize with. All readers may not love the characters, but they should be able to understand and root for them. Barry Longyear accomplished this in Enemy Mine. If you haven’t read it or seen the movie, it has a lot to teach writers. 

When Lilacs Bloom (ebook and paperback)

Beyond the Rim of Light by Alex Stone (Nell DuVall and Steven Riddle) (book and paperback)

Train to Yesterday (ebook and hardback)

Selvage (ebook and paperback, Aug. 2012)

A bank scam, a series of accidents that end as murders, and police too ready to accept simple explanations for deaths push freelance writer Brooke Beldon and systems programmer Paul Counts ever deeper into a tangled conspiracy. She struggles to clear her brother’s name. Paul, a sucker for a blue-eyed blonde, initially wants to help her, but also ends the chief suspect in murder. He must clear his name and unravel the bank theft to identify the culprits.
The only clue they have is the name of a sleazy strip club. Paul gets stonewalled at the club, so Brooke enlists the help of a sympathetic hostess. Going undercover, she tries to learn all she can about her kid brother Stan and the woman who left with him the night he died.
World traveler Nell DuVall has visited all the continents except South American and Antarctica. She has participated in marine surveys and archeological expeditions in Scotland, Ireland, and Turkey. Living for a while in the Appalachian foothills of southern Ohio gave her the inspiration for the "Corpulent Chiropteran" in Curious Hearts and her four Halloween tales in the ebook Teaching Man and Other Tales.

As Mel Jacob, ahe also regularly reviews speculative fiction for www.SFREVU.com and mysteries for www.Gumshoereview.com.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

GREAT(ER) EXPECTATIONS: Writing Cross-Genre Romance by Linnea Sinclair

If you’re reading this, chances are good that you’re an RWA member. And if you’re an RWA member, chances are good that you understand the connection between reader expectations in romance and the HEA (Happily Ever After) or the HFN (Happy For Now). The HEA/HFN are a trope as well as a result that romance readers expect (oh, okay, we demand) in our romance fiction. A story isn’t deemed to be in the romance genre unless it contains that HEA/HFN. And we, as writers, craft and shape and guide our characters and our plots toward HEA-ness in order to satisfy our readers (and before that, our agent and our editor). And we do so (or try to do so) in the allotted word count, be that fifteen thousand words for a novella or seventy-thousand words to one hundred ten thousand words for a novel. Given or take a few thousand.

Trouble arrives, however, when we write cross-genre stories. We now have two (or more) reader expectations to be met—and we have to do so in the same word count allotment.  To make matters more complicated, we might not be as conversant with the reader expectations and tropes of the non-romance genre… and hence we find ourselves floundering, juggling, drinking copious amounts of caffeine (or chowing down chocolate), and in general driving our critique partners and editors slightly crazy. Because we’re trying to fit twice the punch in half the size.

As someone who routinely melds two genres for a living, I’ve come up with three ways to make your life slightly easier (and less fattening ):

1. Know Thy Genres:  This means you need to be suitable well-read in all the genres in which you write. If you’re writing SFR and you go gangbusters on the hyperspace drive technical aspects and wimp out on the romance, you’ll lose readers (and reviewers). If you drown the book in romance and do paper thin world building, you’ll lose your speculative fiction readers. Those of us who love cross-genre come to those books wanting, yes, both our chocolate and our peanut butter (if you’re a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup candy fan). You have to know what readers expect…what must they absolutely have to be happy?

2. Determine What Expectations/Tropes Your Genres Have in Common:  Both space opera and romance trend (these days) for the take-charge, gutsy heroine. So in crafting your character for that kind of cross-genre book, you can meet both reader expectations but having a female protagonist that fits that kind of role. But in cozy mysteries, for example, the protagonist is often an amateur, perhaps even a bit bumbling. If you’re mixing cozy and space opera, you might want to forgo the take-charge technical wizard lead character and consider the ship’s cook as your protagonist…or perhaps a third-shift medical tech.

How about historical romance and fantasy alternate-Earth? Historical romance and fantasy both lend themselves to more lavish settings and descriptions. You can make readers from both sides of the bookstore happy if you address that expectation in your story. And if you know that’s an expectation you must address, it will cut down on your research time and your word count: You’re doing double-duty when you research and design the wizard’s castle with an eye to what both the historical and fantasy reader want to know (and experience). And,

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help: Seek out beta readers, critique partners, and other authors who write in all the genres you’re currently exploring. Take classes—online and in-person—from authors and experts in those genres. Don’t expect your romance critique partner to fully understand the tropes and reader expectations in police procedurals if that’s not a genre he usually reads.  Don’t expect the manager of the science fiction and fantasy bookshop you frequent to be conversant with the HEA. Use these sources but know what each source brings to the literary table.  

Writing cross-genre romance means you’re always going to be doing double-duty, serving two masters, demanding chocolate with your peanut butter. It’s a balancing act but it’s one that allows you—and your readers—to explore worlds and characters and plots and conflicts that are deeper, richer, and—when it’s done right—definitely more memorable. 

A good resource for tropes and viewer (reader) expectations:


Winner of the prestigious national book award, the RITA®, author Linnea Sinclair is a name synonymous for high-action, emotionally intense, character-driven novels. Starlog magazine calls Sinclair “one of the reigning queens of science fiction romance.”  The Down Home Zombie Blues, her 2007 Bantam release, will hit the movie theatres as The Down Home Alien Blues in late 2012.

Sinclair, a former news reporter and retired private detective, resides in Naples, Florida (winters) and Columbus, Ohio (summers). Readers can find her at her WEBSITE

I hope you will join my class
For Your Plots
Hosted by
Fantasy-Futuristic& Paranormal
Romance Writers
This 4 WEEK class starts Sept. 3rd
For more information click HERE

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Theme Matters. Or What Cupcake Wars Taught Me About Theme by Lori Wilde

Theme Matters.

Reality shows are all the rage on TV and one of my
favorites is Cupcake Wars.

Cupcakes pull viewers in.

Wars (conflict) keep them hooked.

But unlike what the title suggests, the show isn’t about food fights with miniature, frosted cakes.

Rather, it’s about creating tasty pastries that also follow the theme of a gala event where the winner of the cupcake war will showcase their cupcakes. Such events have included—the Rose Parade, Valentine’s Day, I Love Lucy 60th anniversary and the Tony Awards.

Here’s how it works. There are four competitors and three rounds of competition. The first round is for taste only. The second round is for taste and decorations 50/50 scores. In the final round the bakers must bake 1000 cakes in two hours and create a floor display—to house the cupcakes—that represents the theme of the event.

Part of the fun of watching Cupcake Wars is trying to guess who is going to win. It’s fairly easy to figure out who will get eliminated first. It’s the baker who forgot an ingredient or burned the caramel or broke down under the pressure. But when it gets down to the last two contestants, I guessed right only 50% of the time until I realized something very important.

It’s not always the best bakers with the tastiest cupcakes that win.


That’s right. The best tasting cakes don’t always win. Rather,  it’s the baker who most closely followed the theme who comes out on top.

Which leads me to the title of this blog—What Cupcake Wars Taught Me About Theme.

Theme matters. 

      If it’s a Christmas theme… 

Don’t use a Halloween decoration.

Let’s extrapolate the cupcake lesson to writing. Theme matters. Just as much in your books as in Cupcake Wars. Theme unifies the story in a way that nothing else can. It acts like a magnifying glass, showing the reader what central idea the author wishes to impart. Theme enriches, edifies, and electrifies a story. Without the direction of theme, a book will wander and meander, go off on tangents, and leave the reader feeling dissatisfied, even though they might not be able to say why.

A writer might deliver a tasty story, but if they can’t tie it up with a pretty thematic bow, they’ll be beaten every time by the author who can. Ultimately, the writer who knows how to effectively use theme is the writer who will win the war for readers’ attention.

How do you feel about theme? Do you consciously consider it before you write? Or is it something you address during revisions? Have you ever seen Cupcake Wars? If so, can you understand what the heck Florian Bellanger is saying?

About Lori Wilde
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Lori Wilde, has sold sixty-nine works of romantic fiction to four major New York Publishing houses. She holds a bachelors degree in nursing from Texas Christian University and a certificate in forensics. She volunteers as a sexual assault first responder for Freedom House, a shelter for battered women. She has served as the RWA National conference workshop chair and PAN retreat chair. Lori is a two time RITA finalist and has four times been nominated for Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award. She’s won numerous other awards and is a popular online instructor and workshop speaker. Her books have been translated into 22 languages and excerpted in: Cosmopolitan, Redbook, Complete Woman, All You and Quick and Simple magazines. She lives in Texas with her husband, Bill.

I hope you will join my class
Plotting From Theme
Hosted by
Fantasy-Futuristic & Paranormal
Romance Writers
This 4 week class starts September 10th
For more information click HERE