Romance and the winter bouquet

Lately, I’ve had a hell of a time focusing.

Between a major project at work and selling my home, my writing seems to be getting the short end of the stick.  My current WIP? Pfft.  Seems like I’ve been on the same scene for the last 20 years and my characters have all aged (gracefully, I might add!).  Nothing about the scene flowed. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to delete it and forget about it. But with each revision, each click of my keyboard, I knew that it was a valid, if not pivotal, scene to keep.

A bestseller author, one who I consider a mentor, told me whenever she was stuck she’d cook spaghetti. She said you have to get up and walk away from your work.  I’ve also heard about people doing laundry to get through a rough patch. Taking your mind off the scene or chapter that is giving you trouble and focusing on something else, helps breakthrough any issues you’re having.

So, I got up, grabbed my new toy  and walked away.IMG_4804

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This festive winter bouquet started it all.

I believe inspiration comes at the most unexpected times, the most unexpected places. And it was definitely this bouquet IMG_4833that jump started my breakthrough. I loved the way the colors popped and the red of course, screamed romance.

Who would have thunk it? 🙂

Soon my thoughts were running rampant and I started to pick apart was wasn’t working, feeling confident about the direction of my scene.

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Sometimes it takes the smallest thing to get us back on track. My muses, Poe and Fitz tell me that all the time. I should listen to them more!

Poe (l) and Fitz (r)

 

 

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Going Against Type with Author Sharon Black


Going Against Type
Awhile back I blogged before that no man (or writer) is an island and how important it is to support and promote the work of our fellow authors.  There’s no time to worry about there being enough readers to go around or that the genre in which you write is saturated with thick competition. Get over that!  Not only are you doing yourself a disservice, but you’re forgetting one key point–readers CAN have several “favorite” authors.  ( I know I do!)

Since I’m all about spreading the word,  it’s with great pleasure that I tell you about author Sharon Black’s debut novel, ” Going Against Type,” a romantic comedy released as an e-book by Tirgearr Publishing.

Ms. Black shares that “Going Against Type,” “is set against the backdrop of Dublin newspapers. It’s the story of two rival columnists, –one a sports journalist, the other a fashion writer who write anonymous columns for their newspapers – and fall in love without realizing they are bitter enemies in print.”

IGoing Against Type by Sharon Black - 200 was very surprised to see that her hero was the fashion writer. It puts a different, yet nice spin on things! Lending to the book’s authenticity, is Ms. Black’s background in journalism and her work with The Evening Herald and The Irish Examiner.

Another thing that caught my eye about the novel is that it’s set in Dublin.  Yes! There’s something about a sweet Irish romance that just pulls me in.  As a matter of fact, one of my favorite movies is Leap Year , a romantic comedy with Amy Adams, which is also set in Dublin. I loved the countryside scenery, the people and of course the romance.  “Going Against Type” gives me that same vibe and I so look forward to diving in!

For a sneak peek of author Sharon Black’s debut novel, visit http://fb.me/786XHTMBT
tirpub.com/gatype

Or show some love by tweeting Sharon #GoingAgainstType@authorsharonb

Happy reading!

 

 

Do we write what we know or play favorites?

Sound of MusicRaindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things!


From “My Favorite Things,” The Sound of Music–

Everyone knows you’re supposed to write what you know. But I often wonder how much of what we know, involves what we like. How much of our favorite things go into our writing?

A great deal I would imagine.

Out of curiosity, I scanned through some of my story lines/themes and was amazed to find how many of my favorite things appear in my work or become my character’s favorite things.

For example, I love traveling to Puerto Rico. One of my short stories takes place, where? You guessed it. Puerto Rico. I vividly remember the rich, lush scenery of the island, and it helps when seeing through the eyes of my heroine.

In another one of my stories, the main character is a lawyer. Once upon a time long ago, I wanted to be a lawyer. I was always fascinated with the legal system and the idea of “arguing” for a living appealed to me! The lawyer’s love interest just happens to be a police officer/detective.  There’s only one explanation for that: men in uniform. Hot damn! 🙂

I collect pieces of art and sculpture. And to my surprise (or not) one of my heroines is an artist/sculptor. Her love interest is a journalist. (Go figure!) At one point, I majored in journalism, but then quickly changed to English Literature. I figured my imagination could run rampant with the latter.

Hmmm ….This self-analysis stuff can be scary.

Okay, so it seems quite a bit of my favorite things or “likes” wind up in my stories! And because they do, at times, I make a conscious effort to write the opposite.

For example, Octavia Middleton, my heroine in the “Heat Between Us,” is a shoe fiend. She  goes absolutely bonkers over them. She will spend her last dime on a pair of Louboutins. I’m the same way …but only about purses and handbags.

Writing the opposite “like” works well. After all, the book isn’t autobiographical and I don’t want the character to sound like me. One neurotic writer in the house in enough!

On the flip side, when we include some of our favorite things, as we are bound to do, the reader actually gets a glimpse into our personality through our work. Or they’ll at least wonder about certain aspects of the book.

Romance author Rochelle Alers is a favorite of mine and at the top of her game. I’ve read just about every book she’s written. In one of her books, her character is relaxing to the jazz sounds of my favorite saxophone player, David Sanborn.

OMG! Talk about being thrilled to read that! I was happy because 1) His name was in the book and 2) someone else was a big fan (or so I immediately wondered).

I’ve met Ms. Alers and on one occasion I told her how thrilled I was to see that she’d written about him in her book. We chatted about it for a bit and then went on to talk about writing.

Hmm …now that I think about it, I never did ask her if she liked David Sanborn. I guess if an author counsels you on pitching your story to her editor, you shut up, and do what she’s advising, right? David who?

What about you? Have some of your favorite things made their way into your characters’ thoughts, ideas and motivation?

Prologues: Do they prolong the story?

For years I’ve heard the pros and cons of starting your book with a prologue. The preference varies drastically among editors and agents, and that in itself doesn’t help when trying to decide whether to use them or not.

At a writer’s workshop, which featured a panel of editors and agents answering random questions, the inevitable prologue question was raised and the opinions ranged from lukewarm to frighteningly strong.

One agent detested them and stated, “If there’s a prologue, I won’t even read the manuscript.” Since I had a prologue at the time, I shrank down slowly in my chair and made a note not to send my manuscript to her. Other panelists didn’t mind as long as it was directly linked to the plot of your story.

In my first book, I struggled with having a prologue. At first, it was in Chapter 1, then it moved to the beginning of Chapter 3 and remained there for a while. But when I looked at it again ten months later, it seemed disjointed and out-of-place.

So, I went with my gut and put it back at the beginning of the book, making it the prologue. I also used one of my many references, “3 Reasons to Ditch your Novel’s Prologue” as a guideline.

The following is the beginning of my first book. The prologue is only 686 words, but it leads directly into the story and I couldn’t see it being anywhere else in the book. By the way, it may read like a mystery, but it is a romance!

    Prologue
    In a corner office of A& B Realty Corporation, the Chanel-clad woman sat in contentment as the shredder’s hum slashed through the after-hours silence of the flourishing company. Blinds drawn, she continued her work by the glare of a single lamp placed at the toe of her expensive black pumps, not in the least bit worried about any unforeseen visitors.

    She’d heard the scuttlebutt among her son’s employees. Of all the offices huddled amidst these ambitious walls, hers presented the most foreboding aura. So much so, the cleaning people were reluctant to enter, leaving her trash can seldom emptied.

    The smell of the overheated shredder filled the air with pervasive danger. But the stench exhilarated and empowered her. She felt in control, therapy almost as soothing as an hour with her therapist. She pulled back, lessening the number of pages she ran through to allow the metal contraption a chance to cool down.

    Its steeled teeth gnarled at the incriminating documents like a favorite pit bull, and she smiled with a sense of purpose. The ripping power of the blade was reminiscent of a knife poking holes into her problems—depleting them of their life blood, and eliminating potential troubles—like unwanted women in her son’s life. These troubles required shrewd planning.

    Mona Acevedo believed murder to be a reliable deterrent for complications and she regretted that she hadn’t killed Octavia Middleton when she had the chance. For that blunder she could just scream.

    A&B’s current undertaking was a high-profile project to construct luxury condominiums in their city and nothing could stop its progress—especially a conniving gold digger. Her diamond bracelet sparkled as her wrist twisted items down the mouth of the greedy shredder—copies of leases, titles, cashed rental checks—anything that would buy her enough time to remove the thorn from her side.

    Not wanting to be implicated in the matter, she needed to enlist the help of someone ruthless, yet desperate enough to do her bidding. Her relationship with her son, strained as it was, was at least civil. This project could bring them closer together. Her family’s legacy depended on it.

    She stifled a yawn with the back of her hand, her body starting to feel the effects of leaning and stretching from the menial task. The small, gold clock on her desk read one thirty in the morning. She hadn’t realized she’d been here so long. She should alert her driver to start the car. Standing, she straightened a pile of remaining documents and stored them inside a plain manila folder.

    With the key she kept on her person at all times, she unlocked the credenza behind her desk, and filed the folder under classified, before locking the drawer again. The overall project file, which contained all the data of current residents and businesses associated with the Brownstone project, was now void of any documents that suggested the Middleton woman’s affiliation. Aware of her son’s judicious work ethic, she knew he would uncover the information soon enough. But for now, her clandestine activity would buy her enough time to put her plan into action.

    She flipped open her phone, pushed a button and then spoke into the receiver. “I’m coming down. Have the car ready to leave.” Ending the call, she grabbed her black mink from the coat rack. A chill still lingered during the early May mornings. One swift kick to the paper shredder sent it flying underneath her desk. She would empty it later.

    Taking one last look around her office, she turned off the light and headed to the waiting car five stories below. She needed to rest and then prepare for the staff meeting taking place later on that morning.

    She would report to her son that this phase of the project—in which her team compiled information on prospective residents and business owners where negotiations may be required—was complete, and he should feel confident to move forward without any delays or obstacles.

    She would move forward as well, keeping the path to his success clear from unwanted complications. A mother’s work was never done.

What about you? Does your book have prologue? Would you consider using one?

TGIF: Two days of sex, passion and books …

This weekend the New Jersey Romance Writer’s Conference, (NJRW) whose theme is “Unleash Your Passion,” happens and I’ll be there.

I’m looking forward to the lineup of guest speakers and presenters, which includes best-selling authors Sabrina Jeffries, Heather Graham, Susan Wiggs and husband and wife team, Jim and Nikoo McGoldrick.

There will workshops for writers at all levels, some include:

  • Using POV to create emotionally powerful scenes
  • The Core of Romance
  • Women’s Fiction: Hitting the Genre’s Sweet Spot (see, told you there’d be sex!)
  • E-pub, Self-publishing, Marketing and Selling the book and the Future of Publishing for the Writer

There are also editor/agent appointments for those pitching their books, a Literary Book Fair, where authors sign their books for their fans, and most of all, networking opportunities.

I’m not pitching a book this year. However, I will be handing out business cards (which ALL authors should have–yet to be published and published) and networking. I’ve met some of the most fantastic people at these types of conferences, not only as supporters of my work, but as friends.

The NJRW conference will also have a professional photographer on site to take studio and environmental portraits. Need a new head shot for your book or Web site? Say cheese!

While I’m there, I’m going to take a trip to Barnes and Noble, which is only 10 minutes from the conference location. There are a couple of new books I want to pick up.

    I find J.K Rowlings’ adult book,“The Casual Vacancy”very intriguing. It’s also on Nook, so I will be making my e-book purchase!

    Ken Follett’s,“Winter of the World” (part of the Century Trilogy), which is on Nook as well! Yippee!

    Actor and Director Penny Marshall’s, book “My mother was Nuts,” looks hysterical.

    I couldn’t buy books without including a Romance novel. “Return to Willow Lake,” by Susan Wiggs, one of the conference speakers, is on my list to buy. It’s on NOOK as well. However, I may purchase this at the conference, so that I can get Susan to sign it! Perfect timing!

By the way, the authors signing at the Literary Book Fair donate a portion of their proceeds to literacy. Nice, huh?

I’m taking a bag large enough to transport all my new books—those I plan to buy and those I don’t!

Have a great weekend. See you Monday.

How would Scarlett O’Hara pitch her novel?

The New Jersey Romance Writers Conference is fast approaching and I’m very excited. Although I’m not pitching a book this year, I hope to do so next year. In every one of my pitches so far, I’ve been fortunate enough to get a request for a partial or full manuscript. But lately, I’ve been wondering about different approaches, and how others make their pitch.

Since I’m a movie nut, I even wondered how some of the most memorable characters in film might have pitched their work. The first character that came to mind is none other than Scarlett O’Hara from “Gone With the Wind” brilliantly played by Vivien Leigh.

How would Scarlett O’Hara pitch her novel?

The editor averted his eyes from the loosely tied manuscript to the green-clad woman sitting across from him. He watched the velvet purse of the same hue–the one she swung back and forth like a pendulum–collect streams of dust that now covered the sparse, makeshift office.

“Miss O’Hara, no one in any of the 11 confederate states would publish this rubbish,” the editor said, his tone stern, yet somehow appeasing. He seemed uncomfortable sitting behind a desk, and it appeared to Scarlett that he’d be more suitable on horseback, or escorting her to the latest ball. She wondered how he taken on this position.

“Fiddle Dee Dee, Rhett Butler. I had Mammy …I mean I spent all day making sure my story had a hook. I even missed Ashley’s barbecue at Twin Oaks to revise it and now that ole mealy mouth Mellie …”

Butler drew a long puff from his cigar and then placed it in the crystal ashtray in front of him. Squinting through the opaque swirls of burnt cedar, he watched the aspiring writer’s reaction with more than a casual interest. “From what I hear, Miss Mellie is a very talented writer.”

Scarlett flung herself against the high back chair, sending a mass of fringe twisting about like a pile of unruly worms. The salon’s curtains used to fashion the gown didn’t leave much for modesty, and her breasts rose and fell with each pout, giving an unapologetic editor a full, unwavering view.

“You’re a beast, Rhett Butler,” she declared, snatching the bodice of her gown together, “And a cad, which is why you simply must publish my memoirs. You’ve insulted my womanly sensibilities. I am a better writer than Mellie. I’ve led a full life with juicy details that could make lots of money.”

“Scarlett, we’re in the middle of a war. People aren’t spending money to read. They’re trying to survive. Besides, your characters are one-dimensional. There isn’t enough conflict. Your heroine has had too easy a life. She sounds like a flirt, a trollop.” His bluish-grey eyes darkened with a mischievous twinkle. “She sounds like you.”

Scarlett stood and then sashayed toward the open window, the slight rustle of her worn petticoat and the boom of distance cannons, fought for the right to be heard. “Why I could be famous and save Tara with all my new wealth. And I wouldn’t have to marry that old man, Frank Kennedy.”

Rhett checked his pocket watch before standing to stretch his well portioned frame. “Scarlett, I’m not in the habit of throwing away money. But if I had an investment, a promise of sort, I’d see what I can do.”


“Keep your proposal and your offer, Rhett Butler. They matter nothing to me. I’ll find another editor or agent. There are plenty you know.”

Then she turned from the window, her eyes gleaming with determination. “Why …why I’ll stay on the other side of Atlanta where it’s still just humming with literary activity. I’ll stay at my Aunt Piddypat’s. She’s knows everyone in Atlanta society and can certainly find one of her editor friends to publish my book.”If that Beecher-Stowe woman can do it, so can I.”

Okay, so if you plan to pitch your book to an agent or editor, I don’t recommend following Scarlett’s approach. The guidelines in the article, “How to Pitch Your Book at a Conference,” will be safer and smarter. The list below gives you a quick overview. The article gets into the nitty-gritty and what you need to know.

1. Do Your Homework
2. Prepare a Pitch
3. Be Professional
4. Break the Ice
5. Conduct Your Own Interview
6. Get a Business Card
7. Make Lemonade from Lemons
8. End the Right Way
9. Pretend You’re From Missouri
10. Breathe

I’d still like to know how Scarlett would have done. 😉

Is life too easy for your characters? Bring on the obstacles …

When writing fiction, particularly romance, we have been taught that readers want a heroine or hero who experience tragedy and then rise back from the depths of hell to claim (or reclaim) their true love. My words, but you get the gist.

Short and sweet, a character must overcome obstacles (and many) if your story is to have a satisfying ending, or for romance writers, the must have happily ever after.

If you’re having trouble doing that, an article, “Throw Obstacles at Your Characters” from Writing World may help you get started. This is one of the best writer’s reference sites around. I keep a binder filled with a plethora of articles on the craft and business of writing that always come in handy.

Case in point.

I’m working on my second book, and for some reasons I didn’t think my heroine, a pediatric nurse and single mother, who is afraid of getting involved with another man after a mentally abusive relationship with the father of her child, didn’t have enough obstacles. So I went back to my trusty binder and reread, “Throw Obstacles at Your Characters.”

So far, the list of obstacles in my wonderful heroine’s life goes like this. While camping with the new love of her life, she falls off a ravine, sprains her ankle and gets bitten by a snake. At some point in the story, when she finally finds true love, she loses it. She chooses not to believe the hero when he tells her that her ex-lover, who has slithered back into her life, isn’t sincere and has ulterior motives for coming back. And if a separation isn’t enough, the ex-lover kidnaps her son (and his) to force her hand into marriage. Nice guy, huh?

Oh, and did I mention that professionally, my heroine comes under suspicion for aiding and abetting a criminal in an illegal prescription drug ring?

Hmmm … I think I need more obstacles.