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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Who is Speaking Please? by Åsa Maria Bradley

A few years ago, a critique partner told me that she had problems distinguishing between my characters. I had worked hard to create a unique quirk for each of them. My hero often cursed and my heroine had a certain way of flipping her hair. When I asked for clarification, my dear CP said, “They all have a bit of a potty mouth, at times a little too much.” She pointed to a page where she’d circled each swear word. Two male and one female were speaking, none of them uttered a sentence that didn’t contain the word “fu**.” If I hadn’t included a dialogue tag here and there, it would have read as one long manic rant.

I revised and proudly showed my CP the new version. Now, only the hero’s sidekick dropped the f-bomb. The hero instead used “shit,” while the heroine preferred milder profanities such as “crap.” My poor CP’s facial twitches made me snatch the pages out of her hand and return home to rewrite them again.

As writers, we know that it’s not only what our characters say that is important, but also how they say it. The challenge is to make sure that each character has a unique way of speaking, moving, and thinking.

When I started writing, I thought that voice-driven fiction only took place in first person POV. Then I paid more attention to how my favorite authors stayed completely in character, not only through dialogue, but also during narratives.

One of my favorite characters is Stella Hardesty in Sophie Littlefield’s A BAD DAY FOR SORRY. Here’s a narrative passage:

“Stella had drained the Johnnie. She hadn’t really intended to, but some nights were like that. Some nights were for thinkin’ and drinkin’, when it seemed like you couldn’t do one without the other.

Stella rarely drank in the days before Ollie died. She’d figured that someone in the house ought to stay sober, and Ollie frequently wasn’t up to the job.”

Stella is a fifty-year-old woman who was beaten by her alcoholic husband and ended up killing him when she’d had enough. She now helps other women deal with their abusive men. A job that keeps her so busy, she rarely has time to run her sewing shop.

You’d think a theme like this would make Littlefield’s book a tragic story. Instead, it’s rich with humor and quirky characters that make you laugh out loud. Told entirely from Stella’s POV, in third person, her sarcastic witty voice colors the story in ways that make it impossible not to see the funny side of things.

Another favorite character is sassy Sabine, Queen of Illusions, from Kresley Cole’s KISS OF A DEMON KING. Sabine knows how important appearances are and prefers wearing audacious costumes with tons of bling. Here’s a scene from when she first makes contact with Rydstrom Woede, the demon king she’s forced to seduce.

“She’d thought it wouldn’t hurt to appear virtuous, which she assumed a good demon king would prefer.

“He had better like her shuddersome new look. Except for her ring, not a single ounce of gold adorned her body. No makeup, either. She’d left her hair unplaited, curling almost to her waist—without a headdress. And it felt wrong.”

By making Sabine describe what she’s wearing, and not wearing, we know not only what she looks like but how different this is compared to her normal look. We also get a feel for her personality by the vocabulary Ms. Cole chose.

These days, I try to make my characters stand out by more than just their preference of curse words. I give them different ways of speaking by playing with vocabulary and tone of voice. They often have a particular quirk, or pet peeve, or something in their background colors their perception of people, places, and things. After I’ve gotten to know my characters, I go back through my manuscript and tighten sections where I’m in particular character’s POV and make his or her voice stand out better.

Here are some of my favorite exercises, I hope they help you flush out your characters’ uniqueness as well.

1) Have your characters describe a childhood event. It could be a road trip they took with their parents, a traumatic event, or something that happened at school. Then rewrite that scene as if they were a child, using their younger voice as the narrator.

2) Imagine an event in the past that made your character very sad, angry, happy, or scared. Have the character describe the event while thinking about what unique words or phrases describes how personal this even was to that particularly character.

3) Pretend that you are writing a scene for a movie. In other words, you can’t describe what your characters are feeling or thinking. Instead, you have to rely only on gestures to get their emotions across. What unique movements or quirks would your characters have?

Do you have a favorite way of getting to know your character’s voice?  Please share with us.

Thank you so much for having me on the blog today. I love this group and can’t believe how supportive all members are, not only on the blog and the loops, but also when I met several of you at nationals in Anaheim.

Bio:  Åsa Maria Bradley new paranormal series features Vikings and Valkyries and their struggle to keep the world safe from Ragnarök—the god’s final battle. She’s originally from Sweden, where Norse mythology and history is ever present in archeological finds and buildings around the village where she grew up. Her articles have appeared in several magazines and she had an essay included in FEMALE NOMAD AND FRIENDS: TALES OF BREAKING FREE AND BREAKING BREAD AROUND THE WORLD (Three River Press 2010). She lives in Washington State with her British husband and a used dog of indeterminate breed. Visit her at AsaMariaBradley.com.

Monday, January 28, 2013

What’s your medical know-how and do you know how? by Bonnie R. Paulson

Well, HELLO! And thank you so much for having me!

Let’s get started by taking a fast quiz. (Do you hate me?)

  1. A humerus is:
    1. An arm bone.
    2. A leg bone.
    3. Something at a Greek restaurant.
    4. Something your boyfriend likes to bring home and gnaw on while he watches sports.
  2. Blood is made up of:
    1. Red cells, white cells, and plasma.
    2. Red cells, white cells, and water.
    3. Red food coloring and that sticky corn-starchy stuff.
    4. Something your boyfriend likes to sip on while he watches sports.
  3. Cranium refers to:
    1. The brain or head.
    2. The butt or tail.
    3. A game you can play with two or more people.
    4. Something your boyfriend likes to eat out of.
  4. DNA stands for:
    1. Deoxyribonucleic acid.
    2. Di-nucleic acetaminophen.
    3. Dude, nobody argue with me.
    4. Something your boyfriend has a serious mutation in.
  5. Bones are made of:
    1. Calcium predominantly.
    2. Chalk and rocks.
    3. Puppy dog tails.
    4. Something your boyfriend beats on the drums.
If you chose mostly As, you have a basic grasp of the medical information you might need for writing everyday characters. This could come in handy, especially if your characters break a bone or need a surgery.
If you chose mostly Bs, um, there’s no nice way to say this… I have a feeling you second guessed yourself. It’s common, but it’s the last thing you want to do when you’re a writer and trying to get in good with the readers. You never know how educated your reader is. You need to sound like you know what you’re doing.

If you chose mostly Cs… I have nothing for you. Seriously.

If you chose mostly Ds, holy crap! RUN! Because your boyfriend is most likely a zombie, a vampire, or a werewolf! Or a cannibal. Whichever one, you’re not safe and I suggest running like crazy! Go now! Unless of course he’s Predator and that’s just hot. (He’s my main crush).

The most important thing to remember when writing anything scientific or medical in your work, whether it be fiction or nonfiction or even journalistic in approach, you need to make sure you have your spelling accurate and the context correct.
Nothing is worse than reading a great love scene, you’re into the moment and enjoying the tension and chemistry of the characters when out of the blue, you see this line, “Perspiration glistened on his iris.” Uh. Right. Do you know what an iris is? Yeah, it’s the black part of the eye. If you’re perspiring on the iris, you better get to the doctor right away, ‘cause something isn’t right and you have no business doing it in a romance novel. I shuddered when I read this line in a real book. Shuddered and didn’t read any further.

Inaccuracies can cost you readers and might even kill your characters. I also read a book once where at the end of the romance – a love story between two doctors, one of which had cancer – on the last page, the hero says to the heroine, “I’m so glad the tumor was malignant.” And that was it.

ARE YOU SERIOUS? Malignant means death – or at the very least lots of treatment. I sat there and stared. Reread that line. Reread it again. I just went and looked up that book and reread it again! Seriously. That author just killed their character. At the end of a romance. No HEA there.

My point? Do a titch of research and you’ll do fine. Science can be rewarding and awesome to read, especially if the author sounds like she/he knows what they’re talking about.
BIO:  Bonnie R. Paulson mixes her science and medical background with reality and possibilities to make even myths seem likely and give every romance the genetic strength to survive. Bonnie has discovered a dark and twisty turn in her writing that she hopes you enjoy as much as she has enjoyed uncovering it. Dirt biking with her family in the Northwest keeps her sane.


Saturday, January 26, 2013

FF&P Writer Workshop Update

The Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal Chapter of the RWA Presents the line up of great workshops for February! Click here to see the full line up for 2013! http://romance-ffp.com/page/workshops

What's Your Brand? --Presented by Kris Tualla
February 8- March 3, 2013
$15.00 for FFnP members and $20.00 for non-FFnP members
In a crowded market, you need to stand out somehow, and that starts with your author brand. In this class we'll look at what a brand is - and isn't - and work together to create your personal brand.

Menage, Polyamory, Swinging...oh my! -- Presented by Dr. Charley Ferrer
February 11-24, 2013
$15.00 for FFnP members and $20.00 for non-FFnP members
Have you ever wondered what the true essence of a ménage was? What's the difference between Swinging and Polyamory? Discover how to set boundaries for your characters within these three distinct forms of sexual expression to enable you to write more credible scenes.
Writing your novel Scene by Scene -- Presented by Sally Walker
February 18-March 17, 2013
$30.00 for FFnP members and non-FFnP members
Learn the building blocks of fictional storytelling through brief lecture then writing exercises. In this workshop you will learn how to plan story and prevent pitfalls, one page at a time.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Naked in the Mud Puddle: on the Vulnerability of Critique by Amber Belldene

I confess that I’ve never taken a mud bath.  The closest I’ve ever come was being buried under some very hot enzymatic saw dust.  The cedar flakes went everywhere, and I can only imagine mud gets even more up-close and personal when you bathe in it.  Maybe that’s okay.

I like mud.  It’s rich, it’s fertile, it reminds me of primordial soup.  Mud is the kind of fecund mess that life comes from.  

And so is criticism.  

I’m one of the list parents for FFnP’s online critique group, the Mud Puddle.  It’s an amazing community of talented writers, many of whom are published.  We are all willing to trade constructive critiques.  That’s no small thing, considering few of us have have ever met face to face.  Critique is hard, vulnerable work—balancing positive feedback and honesty, accounting for subjective taste, and trying not to mess with a writer’s voice—the exchange of critiques can be like an embrace, a kiss, or a slap in the face.  

A writer friend of mine named Laurie Brock said to me the other day, “The wisest, most secure people I know are perfectly able to hear criticism without becoming angry.  They’ve seen their own shadows, so someone else pointing it out isn’t a, ‘Hey, your panties are showing,’ moment.”    

Of course, she’s right.  And I am not one of those people.

Once upon a time, before I took up the crazy dream of writing, I was content and centered.  When someone at work gave me a piece of feedback, I could take it calmly, without feeling defensive.  Why, oh why, is writing so much more vulnerable?  I live to have people read my books and tell me what they really think, but receiving a full-blown critique is a bit like being submerged in mud—it’s kind of warm and cozy, and it’s kind of suffocating.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am grateful to every single person who has ever pored over words I wrote and taken time to point out missed commas, over-used words, and parts of my story they hated.  And, like most writers, I have a very thick skin.  I don’t get mad.  I rarely get defensive.  Sometimes I do feel confused about what to do, or whose opinion to trust, or how to fix a problem. But, all that fecund mud seeps into me, and I always find my way out of the mire with a new idea.

Buy me a couple of drinks, and I’ll gladly show you my panties.  But I’m more shy about showing my story, naked and streaked with mud.  From punctuation to story arc, baring oneself to critique is intense.  I won’t promise you that the Mud Puddle is a utopia, where your feelings will never get hurt, and the coal dust of your WIP will be quickly transformed into diamonds.  But it is a fabulous, safe place to show your underwear and make long-lasting writing friends.  The Mud Puddle has made me a better writer, more sure of my own voice and more aware of my weaknesses.  And honestly, because helpful critiquing requires mindfulness and sensitivity, it has made me a better person too.  

I wish for every writer that kind of fertile community.

And so I invite you to come play in the mud.  If you are a member of FFnP, you can join the puddle by emailing critique (at) romance-ffp (dot) com.  

To wrap up, I asked some members of the Mud Puddle to share their philosophy of critique, or  lessons they’ve learned there:  

“The greatest gift I've learned from the Mud Puddle is how to write active characters, in motion with their setting. The MP helped me realize how to eliminate passive voice.”- Paula Millhouse

I’ve learned writing is a balancing act, too much of one thing, no matter how beautiful or fun, can become a distraction….[sometimes] I’ve written a particularly magical/funny/interesting phrase or paragraph and no one else cares for it.  I’m not saying a writer shouldn’t follow her/his heart, but when several people you trust all agree, it’s a good idea to ponder and perhaps reconsider, no matter how painful.” - Coleen Burright

“When I critique, I always try to find something good to say.  Saying something 'less comfortable' is sometimes necessary, but I always try to find a positive way to say it.  That said, I think it's important to learn how to receive a critique as well as give one.  We all have something to learn.” - Rhenna Morgan

“I am always honest. I try never to be brutal about it, but I won't lie and say something is great just because I can't find anything good to say about it. That's not helpful. It is probably one of the worst things you can do to a writer who is trying to learn their craft.” - Samantha MacDouglas

Photo of muddy feet is courtesy of Jonathan Isaac.


Amber Belldene grew up on the Florida panhandle, swimming with alligators, climbing oak trees and diving for scallops…when she could pull herself away from a book.  As a child, she hid her Nancy Drew novels inside the church bulletin and read mysteries during sermons—an irony that is not lost on her when she preaches these days. 
Amber is an Episcopal priest and student of religion.  She believes stories are the best way to explore human truths.  Some people think it is strange for a minister to write romance, but it is perfectly natural to her, because the human desire for love is at the heart of every romance novel and God made people with that longing.  She lives with her husband and two children in San Francisco.   

Connect with Amber: website | facebook | twitter

Blood Vine, released January 2013, from Omnific Publishing

Bites are an inconvenient bliss, exiled vampires are wasting away, and the fate of their kind depends on the perfect PR campaign. 

When public relations pro Zoey Porter arrives at an enchanting California winery, she discovers her sexy new client is the almost one-night stand she can’t forget. After her husband’s suicide, Zoey has vowed never to risk her heart again. But can she walk away from the intriguing winemaker a second time?

Driven from Croatia by his ancient foes, vampire Andre Maras has finally made a blood-like wine to cure his fellow refugees. Now he needs Zoey’s PR expertise to reach them. After his wife’s death, Andre has a vow of his own—never to risk another painful blood bond. And one taste of the tempting Zoey would bind him to her eternally. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Creating New Characters in a Character Driven World by Sayde Grace

Hello everyone! First let me give a huge thank you to FFnP for allowing me the honor and pleasure to be here guest blogging today. When I first decided to write a book I knew two things: one I wanted it to be about werewolves and two I had no clue where to start.

Thankfully a friend suggested I try FFnP where I immediately joined and hit the crit group up for help. A few years later I had written two paranormal books and secured a lifelong friendship and critiqueship with the amazing Rebecca Zanetti.

As I’ve grown as a writer and a reader I’ve learned something else, it’s damn hard to create characters in a world where we see and read about so many unique and fascinating characters. It’s challenging to create new worlds, spins, and points of views on ideas.

 For me the creation of my characters take more time than creating my world or species within my paranormal books. Usually this is because I start with what I want my characters to be like, what drives them and once I know that I figure out why this drives them. Most of the time the why is what determines what they are.

One thing I have found useful in creating new memorable characters that will stand out in a sea of fantastic characters is to give them real world humor, events, and problems along with the apocalyptic disaster surrounding their species or world.

For example, I live in southern Alabama in a very rural area. Once in awhile I will drive into Mobile, Al to go shopping. About a week ago I needed to go get some new shoes and headed to town. I drive a gas hogging Tahoe so I had to stop to get gas in down town. Well, as I stuck the nozzle into the gas tank a man walked around the corner of my truck and asked me for my phone number.  I resisted the urge to give him the death stare and instead explained I wasn’t interested and thanked him anyway before he tried to sell me a Lakers shirt for $10 that would make me look super smokin hot according to him.  As he peddled off on his womans bicycle still holding onto the Lakers shirt, I wondered about what kind of character he’d make in a book.

I instantly saw him as the lust driven but never laid side kick to my newest hero. You know, super annoying because everything he does is about sex that he never has, yet in the end he’s funny and useful. Or maybe he’ll be an undercover cop or PI following my heroine for an evil wolf looking for a new mate. You just never know, but can you see how the real life situation opened up so many character traits and even plots? While it’s always great to create something new and special and completely different from everyday life you still want to have a character us poor humans can relate too.  Those are the types of characters I remember.

So go forth, watch the people around you, ease drop on conversations while waiting at the doctor’s office or in the line somewhere, you never know when a real life situation or person will strike a memorable character for you.

Thanks everyone,
Sayde Grace

Sunday, January 20, 2013

FF&P Writer Workshop Update

The Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal Chapter of the RWA Presents the line up of great workshops for February! Click here to see the full line up for 2013!   http://romance-ffp.com/page/workshops

Writing Steamy Sex Scenes: Make your Readers Beg for More -- Presented by Dr. Charley Ferrer
February 4-March 3, 2013
$20.00 for FFnP members and $30.00 for non-FFnP members
Writing a good sex scene takes hard work. A great sex scene can give the reader new insight into the characters and their relationship, as well as further the plot or expand a theme.  

Criminal Minds -- Presented by Dr. Charley Ferrer
February 4-17, 2013
$15.00 for FFnP members and $20.00 for non-FFnP members
Have you ever wondered why criminals do what they do? What are their characteristics? How can you make your villains more than just monsters to scare your readers and add life and vitality to them, creating a killer your reader will love to hate or perhaps sympathize with?

Mindful Creating -- Presented by Mary O'Gara
February 4-March 3, 2013
$20.00 for FFnP members and $30.00 for non-FFnP members
How to get the most from your muse when you want it, is a month-long workshop focusing on quieting, focusing and working with your creative mind.



Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Strange and Unusual by Mimi Sebastian

Among the many writing tips I’ve come across, one that has stuck in my mind is to incorporate an element of the strange and unusual in your book. My debut Urban Fantasy series involves a necromancer, zombies, and demons. It doesn’t get much more unusual than that, but I guess it depends on how you look at it J.
We all have odd things that happen to us in our day-to-day lives. Things we shrug or laugh at, then keep shopping or walking. A friend once told me of a homeless man who entered the bus she was riding, holding one of those red viewfinder toys, empty of a picture wheel. (Talk about the strange and unusual. The pictures in those wheels could be downright weird.) He rode the bus and pointed the viewfinder at riders, clicking away, as if taking pictures. He was harmless, and the passengers, including my friend, found it amusing…and strange.
The story made an impression on me, obviously. I wrote a sequel with my necromancer heroine riding the subway when a homeless man steps on with a viewfinder toy, observing people through the toy. Of course, I upped the creepy factor, and it gave an edge to the sequel. It played up how my heroine was feeling insecure after a particularly stressful scene where she learns important, but disturbing things about her past.
I also like incorporating unusual settings. One of my scenes takes place at the Mechanical Museum in San Francisco. The museum harkens back to the days of old carnivals and beachside boardwalks, housing a collection of antique arcade machines, some dating back to the 1800s, all in working condition. If you’re ever visited it, it’s one of those unique places you don’t often find. If you haven’t, check it out!  It’s so much fun. My heroine meets with an old friend at the museum, and the weird kookiness of the exhibits serves as a great backdrop to show how my heroine’s life has just crossed the normal boundary from which she will never return. And then I end it with her playing a guillotine game…
With Urban Fantasy or Paranormal, the story and characters are strange and unusual, so what’s the point? Even though the characters are supernatural and deal with supernatural problems, they still live in the ordinary world and cope with ordinary life issues: death, love, acceptance, loyalty, and friendship. Not so strange after all. So, as we may sometimes experience for ourselves, when the lines separating the normal and abnormal, natural and preternatural become blurred, it can provide a moment for the character to question how they chose to cope with their power, or question their very sanity, which is always fun.
Or, the strange and unusual can actually ground the story in reality, which seems contradictory, but we all have those, what the…? moments, where truth is stranger than fiction, and when a book stumbles upon such a moment, the reader can sometimes relate more to the oddity than the sword wielding demon. (Of course, nothing wrong with sexy, sword wielding demons!)
As with all things in writing, anything can be overdone, and throwing things in that don’t relate to the overall conflict or theme will take the reader out of the story, but incorporating a small moment of strange and unusual can add power, provide a weird juxtaposition or fun moment, test your characters, highlight a character strength or flaw, or add humor.
Does anyone have any strange happenings or examples from their books or life to share?

Noemi Ghirghi writing as Mimi Sebastian
Twitter @mimisebastian


Noemi Ghirghi writes as Mimi Sebastian and raised herself on books and the strange and unusual with an unhealthy dose of comics and Scooby Doo. Loving angst-filled romance thrown in the mix, she decided to blend all those elements in a steamy mix in her first Urban Fantasy series, the Necromancer Books. The first book, The Necromancer’s Seduction, debuts July 15, 2013, with ImaJinn Books.

Noemi spent two years in the Ivory Coast with the Peace Corps and loves to introduce tid-bits from her experiences in her writing. She’s a member of Romance Writers of America and the Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal chapter of RWA. A transplant from the beaches of Florida, Noemi now wanders the desert in Phoenix , AZ, and attempts to balance writing with a day career, fantastic family, and household diva: her Amazon parrot.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Revising with Timelines by Laura Bickle

Writers tend to get into a lot of trouble with time. There's making time to write, managing deadlines, and the vagaries of market timing.

One issue with time, however, is entirely within the author's control. And that's the timeline of the story.

I never paid a whole lot of critical attention to time when I read. Sure, I was conscious that some passages in stories could be languid and slow-moving like a drippy faucet. Others were exhaustingly rushed. I never was quite able to put my finger on why.

And then, when my first book was accepted for publication, I discovered the answer:  books can grow timeline issues. They're very subtle, but can really cause problems with the reader's perception of a work.

A timeline problem occurs when characters have too many events crammed into a period of time - or not enough. A succession of tasks emerges that would require the bending of the rules of the space-time continuum or superhuman abilities to accomplish. It occurs when your main character hasn't slept for days. It happens when she travels an impossible distance in an hour. It can take place when your main character hasn't worked regular hours at her day job without explanation. This goes for crazy amounts of overtime, or not working at all. It happens when your character is doing "cop stuff" for seven days in a row without a day off or at least a pro forma request for overtime.  It's easy for an author to lose track of what day it is, and a character can get trapped in a month-long weekend or a year of Wednesdays.

Mundane concerns? Maybe. But they catch an editor's eye and seep into the subconscious of the reader. And sometimes, we've gotta pay attention to the rules of the real world - like time - in order to allow the reader to suspend disbelief for the really magical things we want to do with the story.

My editor asked me to turn a timeline in with my book. Something simple, listing the day, night, and all the scenes that happened in each. By reviewing my manuscript in this way, I could see where I crammed too many activities into the heroine's day  - or (eep!) not enough. When I finish a draft, I read through it and start constructing my timeline.

I also create a second list that's not strictly a timeline. It's one that notes where chapters begin and end, how many scenes are included in the chapter, and how many pages each chapter is. Sticking a ten-page chapter next to a twenty-five page chapter creates unevenness, and keeping a note helps me be more aware of it. It also shows me where I have a bunch of stubby two-page scenes strung together. This causes me to question whether I'm head-hopping or whether I really need to find a way to collapse those scenes into less choppy ones. It helps me analyze flow. It also shows me whether I'm doing a good job of ending chapters in the middle of the action, causing the reader to want to turn the page to the next.

By doing this kind of post-hoc analysis, and correcting the results, I found that pacing issues automatically ironed themselves out.

I've turned a timeline in for every book since, whether or not I was asked. And it's really reduced the amount of time I spend fixing structural issues in revisions. Now, I tend to work with that timeline in my head, and it keeps me honest. It keeps my very human characters from turning into Wonder Women and Supermen.

Not only do I have to manage time, but my characters do, too. Maintaining a timeline is a front-line editing fix I suggest that every writer keep in her toolbox.

Laura Bickle’s professional background is in criminal justice and library science, and when she’s not patrolling the stacks at the public library she’s dreaming up stories about the monsters under the stairs (she also writes contemporary fantasy novels under the name Alayna Williams). Laura lives in Ohio with her husband and five mostly-reformed feral cats. THE HALLOWED ONES is her first young adult novel. For more info about Laura and her books, please visit her website at www.laurabickle.com. She’s also on Facebook and Twitter, usually exclaiming over cute cat pictures and nerdy things.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

FF&P Writer Workshop Update

The Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal Chapter of the RWA Presents the line up of great workshops for January! Click here to see the full line up for 2013!

January 14-February 10, 2013

$20.00 for FFnP members and $30.00 for non-FFnP members

Editing is one of the most difficult tasks a writer faces and even seasoned authors often have difficultly detecting errors in their own work. When writers proofread their own work, it’s not unusual for them to overlook errors because their mind knows how the text should read and automatically corrects it. Whether you’re polishing your manuscript for a contest, preparing to submit to an agent or editor, or planning to self-publish, knowing how to effectively proofread your work is an essential skill. This class will cover tips and techniques for better proofreading, how to identify common errors in capitalization, punctuation, sentence structure, verb tense, and dialogue, misplaced and dangling modifiers, homonyms, and plural and possessive forms. A list of grammar resources will also be provided.

January 14-February 10, 2013

$25.00 for FFnP members and $30.00 for non-FFnP members.
Take this class from Sally if you want to learn how to plan the events of a story or massage the kinks out of a work-in-progress. You will learn how idea, purpose, and characters create “What-if” lists. Research, time line, subplots, suspense, pacing, problem-solving and fine art vs. commercial fiction will all be covered.
In this class you will be challenged to walk through the plotting of a story. Topics include: Clarifying the stimulating idea, identifying essentials of beginning, middle and ending, and how to make “What if” lists. Using logic to your advantage you will get to insert characters into anxiety-causing moments caused by real life or historical events. In the end you will learn what is dramatic and what is not. Are you a storyteller?
January 14, 2013 through January 27, 2013

$15.00 for FFnP members and $20.00 for non-FFnP members
This workshop will take into consideration the various aspects of sexuality, including: sexual desire, fantasy, body awareness, communication skills, sexual development. As we discuss these issues as well as societal and cultural norms, restrictions, and expectations on our sexuality and sexual behavior, participants will dispel misconceptions, address and overcome taboos, embrace a new sensual awareness and unlock inhibitions to allow them to feel comfortable with their sensuality and enhance your sensual writing.
Class 1 & 2: Addressing the participant understanding these issues and addressing it for themselves: desire, fantasy, body awareness, communication skills, sexual development. Dispelling fears and misconceptions. We’ll discuss these issues as well as societal and cultural norms, restrictions, and expectations on our sexuality and sexual behavior. Participants will dispel misconceptions, address and overcome taboos,
Class 3 & 4: Dabble deeper into higher levels of sexual play and briefly touch upon BDSM, erotic massage, sexual orientation including hetero-flexibility, gay/lesbian and bi-sexuality. Discuss these issues as well as societal and cultural norms, restrictions, and expectations on our sexuality and sexual behavior, participants will dispel misconceptions, address and overcome taboos.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Spaceships are the cell phones of tomorrow by Erica Hayes

Do you know precisely how your cell phone works? Probably not – because you don’t need to. It just works.

The same applies when you’re writing futuristic tech: it’s just the stuff your characters use every day. Whether it’s a spaceship, a light saber or a pair of telepathic wave-generator goggles (see? I just made that up, and you get it) – the people of the future will have gadgets aplenty.

But how to include them in your story without bogging down in dull technical explanations?

Back in the old cyberpunk days (nostalgic sigh…) we decided we didn’t care about golden-age sci-fi exposition. We just threw the gadgets out there and moved on, a metaphor for the fast-moving, techno-sick society.

And ‘less is more’ is still a useful rule. If you’re writing futuristic romance, the story’s about the characters, not the gadgets. So give the tech the attention it deserves – it’s like living wallpaper. It’s the world-building, the same as the magical system in a fantasy or the werewolf pack hierarchy in a paranormal. It’s not the core of the story. So give a basic explanation of what it is and what it’s for, and move on.

You wouldn’t launch into a full explanation of the physics if your hero made a cell phone call. So don’t do it when he goes to warp, either. Just give the reader enough to understand what’s happening. And remember, readers are used to sci-fi movies and TV – where all they get is a bunch of visuals, without anything explained. They are smart. They’ll get it.

Unless you’re writing hard sci-fi, in which case readers want those details. Or, if you have a gadget that’s particularly important to the plot, you might need to go into a fuller explanation. But generally, if you’re genre-bending with a futuristic romance or a space fantasy, keep it simple, colourful and visual.


Focus on what it does, rather than how it works. If your pan-galactic megaspace ion drive (or whatever it’s called) propels the ship faster than light, that’s cool. Just show it doing that, and move on. We’ll suspend disbelief and kick Einstein to the curb for a while. It’s when you try to explain too much that readers lose faith.

Keep your explanations in the character’s point of view, rather than stepping aside into infodump. For example, you could go for:

The communicator was black, and had a metal ‘press-to-talk’ button on the side, with a light that flashed when the device was out of range.


She thumbed the metal button on her communicator. “Are you there?” No response. The little red light flashed. Damn. Out of range.

A basic ‘show, don’t tell’ rule, yes? But it’s an easy trap to fall into when you have a lot of exposition to deal with. And if you absolutely must infodump? Try using dialogue, even if it takes longer. It’s far more interesting to read two characters bickering for a page about how the hyperdrive works, than a dry paragraph of explanation.

Don’t forget visuals. Like I said, readers are familiar with sci-fi movies and TV. They expect to be shown what things look like – the cooler, the better. Also, your visuals are a symptom of how things are in your futuristic world. There’s a galaxy of difference between the Starship Enterprise and the Serenity. What do you want your world to look like? Is it shiny and clean, or is everything rusty, broken and ill-maintained?

Don’t forget other senses, too. Details will bring your tech – and your world – to life. Does your heroine’s plasma gun buzz and warm up in her hand when she fires? How does it smell in the bowels of your deep space freighter? What does it feel like for the passengers and crew when the spaceship breaks the light barrier? Make your reader feel as if they’re right there.

And finally: if in doubt, leave it out. Readers are smart. They’ll get it. And don’t forget to use a good beta reader, who’ll pull you up when you’ve glossed over something important.

BIO: Erica Hayes is the author of DRAGONFLY, a kick-butt sci-fi adventure from Momentum Books, as well as the Seven Signs paranormal romance series from Berkley Sensation. To find Erica on the web, or to read an excerpt, visit http://www.ericahayes.net -- or chat with her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ericahayes

Monday, January 7, 2013

Writing Extreme Emotions by Karen Duvall

I don't know about you, but I have not experienced first hand most of the tragedies I put my characters through. I haven't watched someone get murdered, or seen my life flash before my eyes, or been chased by demons and gargoyles. My life is a bit more subtle (aka boring). So then how does an author write about the emotions brought on by these experiences without having gone through them herself?

You could say you've watched similar things happen to actors on television or in movies and that's what inspires you. Or you could say a friend or family member had a similar experience and told you what it was like. Or maybe you read a nonfiction book or article from the point of view of someone who endured similar tragedies.

These are okay sources if they inspire you and get you to crank up your imagination. In fact, I have an awesome nonfiction book called LEAD POISONING that does a pretty darn good job of recounting the experiences of gunshot victims. I got it from Paladin Press, a terrific resource for this kind of information. http://www.paladin-press.com/

I'm sure you already know that exaggeration is key to writing believable fiction. I don't mean over-the-top plots and purple prose, but sometimes you have to push the envelope just to get the right information across to the reader, whether it be emotion, physical description or action. That being said, a little goes a long way, so everything you write must pack one hell of a punch.

Sun Storm Collage created by Karen
I'm not pushing hyperbole, but I am emphasizing the importance of making your words count. In everything. I could go on for pages about this, and I'll add to this in future blog posts, but for now let's focus on the bugaboo writers tend to pull out their hair over. Emotions.

Think about anything, and I mean anything, that has had a powerful emotional impact on you and you can use it as a launching pad for any emotion you need your character to express.

Of course you'll have to embellish it for the purpose of your scene. For example, consider the most frightening experience you've ever had. Even if it was a call from the IRS telling you you're about to be audited. Such shocking news would likely send an icy ball of fear hurtling to the pit of your stomach. You don't have to face an evil sorcerer, ax murderer or a vampire to know fear. You just have to compound what you already know with intensity. The point is to use your personal storehouse of bona fide emotions as a building block to create authentic reactions for your characters.

But here's the thing. There are different levels of feelings we derive from our emotions. The IRS phone call elicits fear related to anxiety and dread. Fear for our lives is on a whole other level associated with horror, terror, panic, and hysteria. Escalating nervousness to terror is no easy task, so you have to borrow from another emotional experience to balance the playing field.

Say what? How can a different emotion be in the same ballpark as the one you're trying to convey? When it comes to visceral reactions, there are plenty of physical similarities to draw from.

Physical pain and emotional grief are heavy hitters. Most of us have experienced these to some degree. That intensity is what you need to carry through to your characters in a way that will create a tragic experience for the reader to share. You'll have to put your imagination into overdrive, and if you build on these base feelings, you may be surprised at how effective it can be.

Everyone feels. Whether the character is a six-year-old child or a fifty-year-old hardened criminal, these individuals are human beings. And for the benefit of the reader, the characters need to emotionally react to the events around them, even if it's only expressed internally. A character who denies feeling anything is feeling it enough to think denial is the best way to handle it. That's a Catch 22, wouldn't you say?

Be prepared to venture into some dark places inside your head. If you want to create realism in your fiction, this is a sacrifice you'll need to make for your art. You can do it!

Feel free to share an intense emotional experience in a comment. It can be anything you think you could derive an emotional reaction from to enhance an experience for your character.

BIO:  Karen Duvall lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and four incredibly spoiled pets. She's an award winning author published with Harlequin Luna and is currently working on a new contemporary fantasy series.

BLURB:  After the biggest solar flares in history nearly destroy the planet, Sarah Daggot becomes a Kinetic, endowed by her exposure to extreme radiation with the power to forecast sun storms. And she’s not the only one. Other Kinetics possess different kinetic abilities, and Sarah believes they're destined to join forces and halt the final onslaught of the sun… before the world ends.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

FF&P Writer Workshop Update

The Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal Chapter of the RWA Presents the line up of great workshops for January! Click here to see the full line up for 2013!

January 7-February 3, 2013

$20.00 for FFnP members and $30.00 for non-FFnP members

Whether you are a Pansters or a Plotter ~ Deep Story’s easy-to-use tips and techniques will forever silence your dreaded Internal Editor and expanding your writing success. In addition, you will learn the Hollywood’s secret to creating complex and believable characters in a matter of minutes. And with Deep Story’s simple writing techniques you will quickly become a master at creating scenes, characters and plots that readers everywhere will fall in love with.

January 7-20, 2013

$15.00 for FFnP members and $20.00 for non-FFnP members.
No matter what genre, series are in demand by readers and publishers alike. But is writing a series right for you? This workshop will help you:
  • Examine the pros and cons of writing a series
  • Define and evaluate your idea
  • Develop a Series Bible to track plot lines, characters and story arcs
  • Develop a Pitch Bible that includes blurbs, synopses and a story arc to market to agents and editors
  • Turn your series idea into a workable project with tools, templates and one-on-one help

January 7-February 3, 2013

$20.00 for FFnP members and $30.00 for non-FFnP members

Whether you’re just picking up the Whip or have been writing D/s novels for some time, this workshop will provide you with the fundamentals necessary to navigate through the vast ocean that is Dominance and submission including definitions, character traits/development, and the various types of relationships possible. Learn the complex intricacies of the Power Exchange and how characters interact compartmentalize and/or incorporate BDSM into their vanilla life as well. Discover how to create the dynamic characters which embody the three common personality types inherent in any typical BDSM relationship as well as the psychological connections which are the fundamental aspects of these emotionally intense relationships. As we dispel the myths and misconceptions perpetuated by the media you’ll be able to create realistic characters and fantastic scenes. Discover the differences between erotic BDSM, Dominance and submission, Masochist and Sadist, and Master/slave relationships. The focus of this workshop is to learn “The Basics”. We will briefly review the BDSM FOR WRITERS CHECKLIST to discover how this valuable tool will assist in creating your characters. We will also conduct various basic exercises to assist you (the writer) to experience a few of the emotional intricacies of Dominance and submission for yourself. This is an interactive discussion with a BDSM expert practitioner.