Sunday, June 29, 2008

ABCs of Writing Fiction - Sections S and T

ABCs of Writing Fiction
Section S-T
Scroll Down to Read Previous Lessons

S – Series. Consider writing one. Remember the last time you fell in love with the characters in a book? You wanted/needed more. That’s why series are so successful. They keep your sales increasing. That’s the bottom line for publishers. Just make sure each book can stand alone as its own story so it doesn’t matter which one your new fans start with. Once they love your voice, they’ll buy your backlist.

T – Twists. Editors want “The same only different.” They often don’t want to take a risk on a book that is too different because it doesn’t have a proven market. They also don’t want the same old thing. If you’re writing romance, you know the girl will get the boy in the end, what you need to do is find interesting twists for your hook and that sagging middle. When I’m not sure what I want my heroine do next, I make a list. The first ten will most likely be ideas that are common. As the list gets longer, I find myself coming up with something interesting and exciting. Also, brainstorm with your critique partners or even friends and family. Sometimes, watching a series of movies jumpstarts my mind. Warning: make sure your twists are a natural result of the events, actions, and dialogue in your story. Coincidences are story killers.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Interview with Deborah Shelley

I’d like to welcome our guests today, Shelley Mosley and Deborah Mazoyer. They’re also known as the writing team of Deborah Shelley. It’s a pleasure having you come visit us at Much Cheaper Than Therapy, where chocolate is plentiful and advice is free. So grab some chocolate and a lounge chair. Your therapy session has begun.

Thanks for asking us to visit! We see you’ve set out two matching loungers and a big bag of Lindor’s truffles. We might decide to never leave! (okay by us) KW

I understand you have a new release out called Marriage 101. Can you tell us a little bit about your fabulous new book?

Marriage 101, like our other novels, is a romantic comedy. Our hero, Danny Riccuci, thinks divorce is hereditary. After all, his family could be the poster child for failed marriages. The only exception is his sister, Maria. And she’s married to the church. Danny’s so sure he carries this divorce gene that he’s never bothered to challenge the family curse.

Rachel Levin, our heroine, is a teacher of human relationships. She knows all the scientific reasons for mutual attraction. She knows the basis of the human needs that drive people into relationships. She knows the statistics of almost every aspect of her field. In fact, Rachel knows everything about human relationships—except what it’s actually like to be in one.

Together, Danny and Rachel learn there’s a lot more to love than what’s in a textbook, and that sometimes, genetics are highly over-rated.

Marriage 101 is a very interesting title. How did you arrive at that name?

The Life Skills class that Rachel inherits is known by its nickname, Marriage 101. But we had another reason for naming the book Marriage 101. A good marriage, even one based on a larger- than-life love, takes a lot of work. There’s also a big learning curve. All of us in a marital relationship are taking Marriage 101. Marriage 102, if we’re lucky.

Did you have to do a lot of research for the book?

Shelley was a teacher for ten school years, and managed to have only minimal psychological damage after a full semester of junior high lunch duty! Deborah is the mother of a teenager.
What character did you like writing about the most, and why?

We know this sounds like a cop-out, but we really liked them all. At first glance, Danny seems cocky and self-centered, but he has many layers that go against the stereotype of a jock. Rachel is on her own for the first time, and tries not to show how vulnerable she is. Our secondary characters kept wanting more air time--Maria, the stealth nun; the perpetually cranky Bianca; and Grandma Riccuci, whose spaghetti sauce is hot enough to start a war. Maybe we’ll give them more exposure later.

If your book was made into a movie, what actor would you like to fill your hero’s shoes?

Hugh Jackman. (Yum) KW

Do you have any authors that inspired you?

There are so many authors in both Valley of the Sun Romance Writers of America and Desert Rose Romance Writers of America who have inspired us from the beginning. They generously gave us advice and instruction, and cheered us on when we were reeling from rejections. We hate to list them, because we’re afraid we’ll leave out someone. They know who they are, and they have our love and gratitude.

What do we have to look forward next?

We’re working on another romantic comedy, A Taste of Decadence.

Thanks, Shelley and Debbie!

To celebrate their book release, Shelley and Deborah are offering a free copy of Marriage 101 to one lucky commenter on today's blog. They will be around all day today. I'm sure some of you have questions or comments for them, so please ask away...

Bio: Deborah Shelley, the team of Shelley Mosley and Deborah Mazoyer, began writing together on a benchmarking report for city government in 1993. They soon discovered that, as much as they didn't like benchmarking, they loved writing together. Their first book, Talk about Love, was a Holt Medallion Finalist. Talk about Love was followed by the romantic comedies It's in His Kiss, My Favorite Flavor, and One Starry Night. "Falling for You," their Purim story in the anthology, Romancing the Holidays (a finalist for the IPPY), was featured in Booklist's “Spotlight on Multicultural Romance.” Their latest romantic comedy, Marriage 101, is a 2008 release. Shelley and Deborah are currently busy at work on books number six and seven. Their romances have been translated into Danish, French, Dutch, Norwegian, Russian, and Portuguese.

In addition to the Deborah Shelley romances, Shelley has co-written several non-fiction books: The Suffragists in Literature for Youth: The Fight for the Vote: Romance Today: An A-Z Guide to Contemporary American Romance Writers; The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Ultimate Reading List; and Crash Course in Library Supervision. Shelley’s co-writers include John Charles, Sandra Van Winkle, and Joanne Hamilton-Selway (a.k.a. “Team Mosley”). Dennis C. Tucker co-wrote Crash Course in Library Supervision. Shelley also reviews for Booklist and Library Journal and writes for What Do I Read Next? and Novelist. Shelley, RWA's 2001 Librarian of the Year, retired after more than twenty years as a library manager to work part-time as a reference librarian at the Glendale Community College Library Media Center and devote more hours to her family and her writing.

Deborah is the Building Safety Director for the City of Glendale, Arizona. She’s had some pretty huge projects these last few years--namely a hockey arena and a football stadium that was the site of Super Bowl 2008. With many other large projects, including residential and retail construction and all of the new hotels and restaurants needed to support the Super Bowl crowd, Deborah has had very little down time.

Both Deborah and Shelley have been blessed with truly supportive families who encourage their writing; a wonderful critique group (Sandra Lagesse, Marion Ekholm, Carol Webb, and Kim Watters); and spoiled rotten cats that object to time spent writing as time that could have been better spent devoted to them.

Check out author’s website at

Buy Marriage 101 at Amazon or Barnes and Noble

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Interview with Lucienne Diver

I’d like to welcome our guest agent today, Lucienne Diver, the newest agent over at The Knight Agency. It’s a pleasure having you come visit us at Much Cheaper Than Therapy, where chocolate is plentiful and advice is free. So grab some chocolate and a lounge chair. Your therapy session has begun.

Can you please give us a little information about your publishing background?

It all started in fourth grade when I won a speech competition…. What's that? Fast forward? I can do that.

When I graduated college (after working on the university anthropology magazine and earlier than that my high school literary magazine), I applied to jobs in publishing and to graduate school for forensic anthropology. Publishing got back to me first and I never looked back. I've always been a voracious reader and to be part of the publication process…priceless.

What made you decide to switch agencies?

There comes a point when it's time to leave home. Spectrum is a fantastic agency and Eleanor Wood gave me my start fifteen years ago when I was fresh out of school. However, The Knight Agency is a great fit for me now. They're a really wonderful, dynamic group of people with a lot of ideas and the energy to make them a reality. I'm very excited about joining them.

How many clients do you currently have?

About 40.

Did you bring over any authors with you? How many more are you actively looking to sign?

I brought all but one of my authors, who decided to stay with Spectrum, with me. I'm pretty busy with my forty plus clients, but I'm always looking to take on something that blows me away. I represent all kinds of commercial fiction, from adult to young adult.

What other genres besides romance do you represent?

Fantasy, science fiction, mystery, suspense, mainstream and women's fiction.

What fees (if any) does your agency charge? What is your agency’s commission rate?

No fees. 15% on domestic rights, 20% on foreign.

What’s your response time for queries, partials and full manuscripts?

Generally within a month, though occasionally when I'm swamped it can stretch to two or three months.

What new author have you recently signed?

I've recently signed a fantastic urban fantasy/paranormal romance author named Chloe Neill whose first, SOME GIRLS BITE, is coming out from Ace in 2009. I've also just recently sold an amazing debut novelist, N.K. Jemisin, to Orbit at auction. I'm really looking forward to both these releases, as well as new books by Marjorie M. Liu, Susan Krinard, Lynn Flewelling and others!

What new project made you grab for that hidden piece of chocolate in your pencil drawer?

Because it was just so good? One of my authors, Rosemary Clement-Moore recently turned in her new novel, SOUTHERN GOTHIC. I'm convinced she and I read all the same wonderful books growing up and that she managed to distill the best from each into one book.

What can an author do to grab your attention?

Write a kick-butt story with a phenomenal voice where the pace doesn't flag and the ideas are fresh.

What do you love/hate most about being an agent?

I adore working with brilliant, creative people and having some part in their success. What I hate? Waiting for responses. Patience is not one of my virtues. ( I can relate to that. KW)

What trends do you see for the future of publishing?

I think that with new readers, e-books are going to be playing a larger part in publishing, but we've all been talking about that for years and I don't think it will ever (or at least not in our lifetime) take over completely from print publishing. As always, it's a sure thing that the industry is cyclical, so different genres or subgenres will rise and fall in popularity. It's a good thing to be diverse, which is not to say unfocussed, in your work so that you can move with the times.

Any other chocolate nuggets you can give authors looking for representation?

Focus first on writing an awesome book. While you should be aware of the realities of the market, you shouldn't let them or "conventional wisdom" dictate to you. What you want is to be the person to whom others are compared, not the one compared to someone else. A fresh voice is priceless. Once you've produced an awesome book, hone it. Don't get turned down by being a draft away from a "yes." Unfortunately, agents and editors are often too busy to nurture a diamond in the rough.

Thanks, Lucienne!

Check out the agent’s website at

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The ABCs of Writing Fiction Section Q-R

ABCs of Writing Fiction
Section Q-R
Scroll Down to Read Previous Lessons

Q – Quest for an Agent. I have often heard it is now harder to find an agent, than an editor. That may be true, but don’t give up hope. Persistence pays off. Refine your craft and keep submitting. First, do your research. Don’t waste time submitting to agents who don’t represent your genre. Save that stamp money for filling your gas tank. While building your agent wish list, ask questions. That’s one reason we network at meetings, conferences, and on loops. Don’t be afraid to submit to more than one agent at a time. If you get a rejection, don't take it personally and don't be afraid to submit to that same agent with a new project in the future. Many writers were once rejected by their current agent. Here are links you might find helpful. Before you submit, check the agent’s website for guidelines. Also, you’ll find more and more agents blogging. Check out what they have to say. Get help on that query Join this group to find agent interviews.

You can find The Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, & Literary Agents on Amazon, at your local bookstore, and in your neighborhood library.

R – Research. We all know writing historicals requires months of research. I’m here to tell you, writing contemporary fiction doesn’t exempt you from the great fact hunt. For example, I once needed to know if the company my heroine worked for would most likely be privately owned. Would it have a CEO? Does a cell phone work in an elevator? I now write suspense/mysteries, so I stroll through bookstores and belong to the Writer’s Digest Book Club
I love collecting books like The Criminal Mind, Fakes & Forgeries, The Handbook of Practical Spying, The Private Investigator’s Handbook, and of course, The Elite Forces Handbook of Unarmed Combat. All I need now is a hunky guy to practice those moves on. Ask questions on your writing loops. For those of you writing mystery/suspense try joining
I'll post the next lesson a week from today. Until then, I need to get back to my manuscript.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Interview with Annette Mahon

I’d like to welcome our guest today, Annette Mahon. It’s a pleasure having you come visit us at Much Cheaper Than Therapy, where chocolate is plentiful and advice is free. So grab some chocolate and a lounge chair. Your therapy session has begun.

I understand you have a new release out called The Secret Correspondence. Can you tell us a little bit about your fabulous new book?

The Secret Correspondence is the latest in my Secret romance series. All the books in this series take place in the fictional small town of Malino, Hawaii. In The Secret Correspondence we re-meet Julie Wong from The Secret Wish. Julie's neighbor, Claudia, has broken her leg and is now residing in the care center where Julie works. Claudia doesn't want the center to contact her son, but Julie feels he should know what's happened to his mother. So she sends an e-mail, which develops into a correspondence.

The Secret Correspondence is a very interesting title. How did you arrive at that name?

All the books in this series have titles that begin with the word secret. So Secret Correspondence was an obvious title for this one. Julie begins writing to Ned in secret, then they keep their correspondence quiet so that Claudia won't know Julie contacted Ned without her consent.

Did you have to do a lot of research for the book?

Not too much. There's always something that has to be checked on, even in contemporary books. I searched hotel websites to see what kind of luaus were offered, as I wanted my couple to attend one. I also looked at Hawaiian jewlery online, to see if the type of jewelry I envisioned was available--and it was! I also asked a few questions about CPAs--Ned's occuaption.

What character did you like writing about the most, and why?
I really enjoyed Claudia, the hero's mother. She's an older woman who blossoms during the course of the story, and I enjoyed having her find herself.

If your book was made into a movie, what actor would you like to fill your hero's shoes?
This is a very difficult question for me, because I'm not a movie person. I can never remember actor's names, either. My hero is a very handsome man, and he has fair hair and gray eyes. Maybe Orlando Bloom? (Yum. I'll go for that! KW) Not exactly how I pictured Ned, but close.

Do you have any authors that inspired you?

I don't know if admiration is the same as inspiration... I loved Nora Roberts earlier books. I'm not into the darker, paranormal themes she's been doing more recently, but I loved her category books and her early single titles. I also love Debbie Macomber's books, especially her yarn shop series.

What do we have to look forward to next?

In December, the second book in my Matchmaker Quilt series will be out. The Matchmaker Quilt books follow three sisters as each in turn inherits an heirloom quilt, given to the next woman in the family when she completes her education. Family legend says that the recipient of the quilt will quickly meet her one true love. In Dolphin Dreams, Jade, a marine biologist and dolphin behavorist, is given the quilt and subsequently meets Adam, the son of a hotel tycoon who is looking into buying the hotel where she works. In December, Jade passes the quilt along to her sister Momi (the Hawaiian word for pearl, pronounced "moe-mee") who can't wait to meet the man of her dreams. Unfortunately, the only new man she's met recently seems to be the crusty building supervisor at her apartment house. Yet she and Rick forge a friendship as he fixes her faulty plumbing and teaches her to cook.

Thanks Annette!

Author's website: (sorry, it's a bit out of date, I'm afraid; that's what happens when you let a relative tend it)

Book may be purchased at any online bookstore or direct from publisher at

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

On-Line Dialog Class

Online class: July 1-15, 2008

"Dynamic Dialogue" by Alicia Rasley

Registration $30 at

Dialogue reveals more than what a character is saying -- it reveals who the character is.

In this workshop, learn how to make your dialogue reflect your characters and their conflicts, and your own voice too.

Among the topics addressed will be how to:

* Find your character's voice

* Make dialogue a conversation

* Add conflict to dialogue

* Make it sound natural and authentic

* Use pauses and quote tags for active dialogue

* Make dialogue a true element of both plot and characterization

Alicia Rasley is a RITA-award winning author, college teacher, and nationally known workshop leader. Her book, Point of View and Your Story, is now available from Writer's Digest Books.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The ABCs of Writing Fiction Sections M - P

ABCs of Writing Fiction
Sections M-P
Scroll down the blog to read past lessons.

M – MySpace and Other Networking Sites. I’m not computer literate, so my sister made my MySpace page last August. You can probably find a teenager willing to do yours. During this past year, I have met many wonderful people and I was introduced to promotional opportunities I wouldn’t have otherwise found. As a result, I would highly recommend MySpace for promoting your book. You can’t beat the price: zero dollars. I haven’t had time to spend on the other sites, but just from loop chatter, I don’t believe they have as much activity. If you have a contrary opinion, leave a comment about your experience. My only warning is not to take time away from your writing to network. Writing comes first.

When I began my MySpace journey, I realized it wasn’t easy to find “Friends” that might be interested in knowing my book existed. I realized a need and began to fill it. I contacted Romance Readers, Writers, Reviewers, Publishers, Librarians, and Booksellers to collect their live links for other writers and readers. On my personal blog, there are now 1,000 live links to assist you in collecting your MySpace friends. Simply scroll down the blog to find the links, click on one and it will take you to a MySpace profile page, click on “Friend” or “Add” to ask that person to be your friend. Then go back to the blog for the next link. You need to have a MySpace page to do this.

N ­­– Nora. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to a speaker say, “Don’t head hop your point of view,” and a writer will answer, “Nora Roberts does it all the time.” Nora makes so money for the publisher, she can do whatever she wants. You will also hear many times, “Learn the rules before you break them.” This is good advice. One year, I was judging a major romance contest and it became apparent that breaking the rules can have a negative impact on your book. I saw manuscript pages bogged down with tons of introspection, flashbacks that stood out because they were obviously there to dump back-story, etc. Successful writers learn how to break a rule without the usual negative impact on the story. So, my advice is to stick to the rules until you are a multi-published author with years of experience behind you.

O – Own Your Domain Name. Even if you don’t plan to create a website yet, you should buy your domain name now. There are bound to be other writers, or Internet surfers, with similar names who could take your favorite if you don’t grab it first. When I Googled my penn name, I discovered there is a former Playboy model who goes by Tina LaVon. I believe she may already have that domain, so I bought SuspensebyTina instead. There are a lot of Tina’s out there, so I was lucky it was still available. I bought mine through Yahoo. I've heard many writers buy theirs at Go Daddy.

P – Plotter vs. Pantser. Which are you? Does it matter? It only matters that you have found a method that works for you, so when you have deadlines you can work quickly enough to meet them. My first manuscript was a pantsing attempt. I meandered, had fun, got rejected (No surprise there) and put it away. With my second, third, and fourth full manuscripts, I plotted the whole thing with colored Post-It Notes and classroom butcher paper I bought from a teaching store. It covered the whole dining room wall. Lots of Fun. I’m visual so every strand in the story was a different color and at a glance, I could tell where I needed to add romance, the villains POV, or character development. The fourth manuscript was Liquid Hypnosis and it sold to The Wild Rose Press. My current manuscript is Desperate Homeowners. I started out as a pantser, hit a wall after chapter three, and had to plot the rest. I believe you need to plot most of a mystery to make sure you scatter the clues for your readers, but don’t let anyone force you into being a plotter, panster, or a mixture. That’s like telling a painter how to create his masterpiece. You have to do what works for you.

Remember to follow your own instincts.
Successful authors write and submit often. So, why are you still reading? Go write!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Interview with Vicki Lewis Thompson

I’d like to welcome our guest today, Vicki Lewis Thompson. It’s a pleasure having you come visit us at Much Cheaper Than Therapy, where chocolate is plentiful and advice is free. So grab some chocolate and a lounge chair. Your therapy session has begun.

I understand you have a new release out called Wild & Hexy. Can you tell us a little bit about your fabulous new book?

Wild & Hexy is the second in a series, but don’t freak out if you haven’t read the first one, Over Hexed. You won’t get lost, I promise. Wild & Hexy features a nerd who lost his chance to date the beauty queen during high school, and now has a second chance when she returns to the little town of Big Knob, Indiana, for her sister’s wedding. To make the most of that second chance, he needs a little magic, conveniently provided by a matchmaking witch and wizard. The conservative residents of Big Knob have no idea a witch and wizard live in Big Knob, and they would have a conniption if they found out about the dragon in the forest and the lake monster in the lake!

Wild & Hexy is a very interesting title. How did you arrive at that name?

This is officially called the “hex” series, so the titles needed to work that in somehow. I started it off with Over Hexed, and then my editor suggested Wild & Hexy. Her boss came up with the third title, Casual Hex. It’s a fun word game we’re playing. I’m open to suggestions for future books.

Did you have to do a lot of research for the book?

Research of the most interesting kind – reading about the traditions of magic. But once I ventured into light paranormal, I realized I had tremendous freedom to make stuff up, which I love doing.

What character did you like writing about the most, and why?

That’s like asking me to choose my favorite child! I loved writing about Annie, because she had to come back to town a former beauty queen who is 20 pounds overweight. Then there’s Jeremy, my computer nerd, and nerds will *always* find a place in my heart. Dorcas and Ambrose, the witch and wizard, are a hoot, but my favorite character is George the dragon, who claims he’s ADD. George is a typical teen, except that he weighs 2,000 pounds and breaths fire. He’s a prankster who loves listening to his iPod and playing Texas Hold ‘Em with the raccoons. How could I not love George?

If your book was made into a movie, what actor would you like to fill your hero’s shoes?

I’d pick John Krasinski, from The Office, but I also loved him in License to Wed.

Do you have any authors that inspired you?

Absolutely. When I was in high school, I read Huckleberry Finn and became enamored of Mark Twain’s writing. Then I fell into a big non-fiction hole during college and, later, the diaper-changing years. I finally managed to climb back out and enjoy fiction again when I started reading romance in my – if you can believe it – mid-thirties! I devoured Jayne Ann Krentz, Sandra Brown, Barbara Delinsky, and, of course, Nora Roberts. Susan Elizabeth Phillips is another writer I really admire because she likes to make her readers laugh, which is one of my main goals, too. And I can’t leave out Jennifer Crusie and Janet Evanovich. Lately I’ve become a huge fan of Alexander Smith McCall.

What do we have to look forward next?

I have an anthology coming out from Harlequin in January, 2009, and the third book in the hex series, Casual Hex, will hit the shelves in February, 2009, just in time for Valentine’s Day!

Thanks, Vicki!

To celebrate her book release, Vicki is offering a free copy of Wild & Hexy to one lucky commenter on today's blog. (please make sure we have a way to contact you if you win) She will be around all day today. I'm sure some of you have questions or comments for her, so please ask away...

Bio. New York Times bestseller Vicki Lewis Thompson sold her first book 25 years ago, and it’s been a rollercoaster ride ever since. She’s written more than 90 books for Dell, Harlequin, Bantam, St. Martin’s Press, and NAL in both series romance and single title. Besides being an eight-time RITA nominee, she’s won numerous RWA chapter contests and will receive the Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award at RWA’s national conference this summer. Her latest book is WILD & HEXY, out from NAL Onyx June 3.

Check out author’s website at

Buy Wild & Hexy.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Book Covers – Love Them or Hate Them?

I don’t know about you, but if I pick up a new book from an unknown author, chances are it’s because of the cover. I always hold my breath right when I hear that my cover is done, dreading what I’ll see when I open my email. I’ve been tremendously lucky with my covers. I’ve known of other authors who are not so lucky. A bad cover can break a book. It doesn’t matter how beautifully written the pages are if the cover is repulsive. I’m sure you’ve seen those covers out there, right? The ones you inwardly cringe when you see a god-awful looking picture on the front. The horror of it if the hero looks like the Hulk on acid.

There’s several sites out on the net focusing on book covers, and others where you get a chance to vote for your worse cover. Cover Cafe has their annual contest and the results for 2007 should be up soon. There is also Romance Book Covers, which has a huge library of cover art.

I stumbled on one I particularly liked. Check out Shiela Stewart’s Book Cover Lover’s Blog. Kathryne Kennedy has two of her covers up. Both of which are beautiful, and Sheila’s are also sexy and romantic.

What do you think?

Carol Webb

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Plot Trick-by Connie Flynn

An 8-Point Plotting Method
by Connie Flynn

So you've got these great characters. He's brutally handsome, she's terminally pretty. The setting is outstanding, a slick trendy nightclub in a major city or a brooding house in the depths of some godforsaken wilderness. The conflict is of the 'she's an arsonist, he's a firefighter' variety. You can't go wrong, except for one thing. What should your characters do. It's called plot. Some people think it's unnecessary. Other people think it is king. Neither side is right. Or wrong.

Plot serves one function – making sure your character changes. Good luck having a good story without characters who learn and grow and strong, connected plot points pressure your character into that growth. So, surrender yourself to learning a few basics. This structure can be as loose or as tight as you want. What it does do is give you a box for your story. So here goes.

A writer can start a book by first developing the characters or by first developing the plot. Either way is a valid entry point to the story. When beginning plotting, however, these following elements must be taken into account.

1. Setting
2. Characters
3. Goals
4. Obstacles to the Goals (conflict)
5. Motivation (reason for trying)

A novel can also contain a theme or moral, but use a light touch. Avoid preaching.

Begin with the story problem (question), which includes:

1. What the character(s) wants to achieve. (goal)
2. What the character stands to gain. (motivation)
3. What stands in the way. (conflict)
4. The consequences of failing. (motivation, i.e., the other side of gain)

Give this area lots of time and attention because when you have this established for all major characters (not just hero and heroine) the rest of the plotting process will more easily fall into place. Now, using the bare bones method, you will plug in brief scene descriptions in the following areas of story change. Complex motivation and intense detail can be filled in later, once you’ve completed this skeleton outline. And, yes, there are nuances for each of the eight steps but we won't be talking about them today.

Bare Bones of Plotting

1. Inciting incident: Sets the tone for the book and defines the story question. It is an action scene that contains a place, a conflict and action that shows the conflict. It also contains setting, at least one of the characters (usually), and ends with readers understand the clear-cut problem the protagonist faces. This is one of the most important scenes in a book and few books get sold without an outstandingly written inciting incidents.

2. Escalating troubles: The character takes steps to overcome the problem, but each attempt makes the situation worse, until he finally tries something that he falsely believes has solved the problem. You can plug in one to three action scenes and one or two summary scenes, depending on the length of the book, The events will include:

A. Point of No Return: The spot where your character is so invested the goal that turning back is a major issue — risking major loss of property, relationships, even of life. Most return options have closed. The character is now stuck with the problem until the end.

B. Small Successes: Or a large and outstanding one that will later be reversed or turn out not to be what it seemed.

3. Resting Point: The character's success let him take a breather. In mysteries and thrillers this is often when characters believe they've caught, killed or identified the villain. In romance, the characters believe they've overcome the obstacles to love. In horror they believe the wicked witch is dead.

4. Major Crisis: But something is held back from some, if not all, characters and very often also from the reader. When this information surfaces, all illusion of success is shattered. The character now realizes the problem hasn’t been solved, and this last crisis convinces him it can’t be. This leads to despair. This is a key point of character change and one of the three most important scenes. Develop it well. It destroys completely whatever success has been achieved and the rules have escalated.

5. The Black Moment: Characters believe that all is lost. This can be a period of story review and high angst and if properly done leaves the reader wondering if the character(s) will ever prevail. This is where the character changes. This is usually more than one scene involving more than one character. While introspection works well here because characterization is at a high, action scenes can add interest and texture and should be worked in whenever possible. The longer you spend here the more character based your story becomes. The faster you go through it the more plot or action driven your story becomes. Neither is better, they're just different.

6. Turnaround: Something occurs that causes the protagonist(s) to see a solution. This must be something that is caused by an external event, not just a result of the character’s thinking process. A new decision is made. The turnaround is caused by some kind of action so this is an action scene. It's intensity can surpass the major crisis, but not the climax. This is the third of the important scenes

7. Climax: The character acts on the decision and either succeeds or fails to achieve the goal. This is the most intense scene of the story but is often not the most important one because it answers questions rather than raises them. Here is action, action, action. This is not the time to stop and complain. This scene must answer the story question. Some loose ends can be delayed but not the major ones.

8. Denoument:: Shows character(s) receiving the appropriate rewards or punishments. Remaining loose ends are also tied up, but many should have already been resolved during the major crisis through climax scenes. Keep it short.

The trick to plotting is creating incidents that demonstrate the ideas you want each step to convey. The incident must include character, goal, motivation (if only implied) and most important, conflict (obstacle to goal). These scenes are considered plot points because the plot will not move without them.

Example: If you've filled in the major crisis like this – Sara loses Jim's love – you've failed to define an action. You need something like this – Angry that Sara failed to tell him her parents didn't approve of their relationship and wouldn't be at the celebration, Jim broke their engagement and walked out on her. Physical details that you can picture in your mind or draw on a storyboard. Specific words like angry, instead of vague ones like lose. This is the key point of plotting. On these major plot points, picture your characters DOING something and then describe that, plug it into the plot point, move on to the next plot point. Once the majors are defined, it's not too hard to figure out how to link them together if you must. Often that isn't even needed as you can use scene and chapter breaks to end one event then establish the next one.


Once you have the basic bones begin filling in more details of characterization, motivation and consequences. Never forget that characters drive the plot through their decisions and actions. Make sure secondary characters have a vital role in the plot. The sidekick whose only job is to give the hero someone to bounce his ideas off is not enough. Give this person another role, perhaps that of unwitting betrayer. If not kill him off or eliminate him.

The inciting incident must be an action scene. Buildings don't have to explode, but a problem very serious to the protagonist(s) must be outlined as an action scene. No backstory allowed.

The escalating troubles must build on one another. The character applies for a dream job. First complication is the bus breaks down and she must reschedule the interview. During the reschedule telephone call, the interviewer makes a racist comment that the character cannot abide. She objects and while the interviewer does reschedule the appointment, the character knows she won't get a fair outcome. What does she do next? Each decision makes things worse until she reaches small successes.

The major crisis must believably derail the character's chance of succeeding. Not only must the character believe this, the reader must believe the character. It's okay for the reader to know that the pot of gold is just over the next rise in the road, but they must be convinced the character doesn't believe that.

The turnaround scene must be triggered by an outside event that gives the character a shift in perspective. The character can’t just look in the mirror, think “I”ve been such a fool,” then make the change. Although this kind of turnaround has been seen in some books, it always makes the reader feel cheated.

Keep in mind, plot equals character and character equals plot. In other words, although the character makes the decisions, you must decide what those decisions will be and how the actions will play out. This is plot. Without it, the characters cannot demonstrate the full depth of their abilities.

So there you go . . . good luck with your story. Let your imagination roam, put together plotting group and brainstorm together. Creativity feeds off itself. Most of all have fun with your writing. It's the best way to write a great book.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

ABCs of Writing Fiction Section J-L

The Writing Doctor
continues with
ABCs of Writing Fiction
Section J - L

J – Join a Writer’s Organization. I belong to Romance Writers of America. Thousands of writers have joined forces to share information on the market, promotion, agents, and the craft. We network and make lifelong friends. RWA is considered one of the strongest writing organizations available for writers. Even if the romance in your book is only a subplot, consider joining. Go to for more info. If romance isn’t for you, check out Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, Mystery Writers of America, or Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.(Google them for websites) Ask your writing friends which organizations they recommend. If you attend meetings, remember to act professional. This is a business and writing is a small world.

K – Know Your Characters. Some novelists can sit in front of their computer and type their way through a book without any forethought about character or plot. Must be nice. Most of the novelists I’ve met have some understanding of who their hero, heroine, and antagonist are before they begin Chapter One. Some have created checklists they complete before writing. They decide what their character looks like, where they live, what they drive, their greatest fears, what they want out of life, where they’ve been and where they’re headed. I’ll start with a checklist, but as I get to know my character through writing the book, they often develop a different personality. That’s fine as long as you make changes in the first half to reflect this other personality or your heroines will all turn into Sybil (Old Sally Field movie where the woman has multiple personalities.)

I recommend you read Goal, Motivation, and Conflict by Debra Dixon. She will help bring life to your characters. I also use The Secret Universe of Names by Roy Feins. I come up with a name for my character that feels right, then look it up in his book. He gives a character sketch to go with the main letters in the name. I think of it as a spring board to jump off of and into the story.

L – Listen to Your Instincts. Writers are readers as well. We know a good story when we read one. Trust the instincts you’ve developed as a reader. When critique partners or contest judges give you feedback, listen to your gut when deciding what you should change. Your instincts will tell you which hooks will be interesting, which conflicts are believable, and which dialogue is stilted. At times, I feel overwhelmed by all of the “don’ts” in writing a good book. So much so, I may avoid my work for a day or two. That’s when I have to remind myself to write the story I love. When I trust my instincts and write what sounds good to me, I usually get positive feedback on the outcome.

Now trust your instincts, and go write.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Interview with Terry Spear

I’d like to welcome our guest today, Terry Spear. It’s a pleasure having you come visit us at Much Cheaper Than Therapy, where chocolate is plentiful and advice is free. So grab some chocolate and a lounge chair. Your therapy session has begun.

Thanks so much for having me at Much Cheaper Than Therapy today! I needed to be where a dose of chocolate is always plentiful! (We aim to please!) KW

I understand you have a new release out called Heart of the Wolf. Can you tell us a little bit about your fabulous new book?

Publisher’s Weekly said this about Heart of the Wolf:

Red werewolf Bella flees her adoptive pack of gray werewolves when the alpha male Volan tries forcibly to claim her as his mate. Her real love, beta male Devlyn, has been out of her life for years, but comes after her when she finds herself accidentally captured by humans. Bella becomes convinced that Devlyn only wants to return her to Volan, but soon realizes that Devlyn loves her as much as she loves him, and is willing to fight Volan to the death to claim her. That problem pales, however, as a pack of red werewolves takes to killing human females in a crazed quest to claim Bella for their own. Bella and Devlyn must defeat the rogue wolves before Devlyn's final confrontation with Volan.

The vulpine couple's chemistry crackles off the page, but the real strength of the book lies in Spear's depiction of pack power dynamics, as well as in the details of human−wolf interaction. Her wolf world feels at once palpable and even plausible.

Heart of the Wolf is a very interesting title. How did you arrive at that name?

I like to have a title that shows what the story is about—especially a shapeshifter like this. And since it’s not a werewolf horror story, I wanted to show that it was a romance. So Heart of the Wolf was born. All the series end with Wolf, to keep some consistency. The next three titles sold to Sourcebooks also--Don’t Cry Wolf, Betrayal of the Wolf, Allure of the Wolf.

Did you have to do a lot of research for the book?

Yes. In each of the stories, real wolf behavior is researched and included as snippets in the world building. Plus, even though I’ve lived in Colorado and Oregon, I do a lot of research, even to the extent that I printed out a bunch of elevation maps in Oregon, to better picture Bella and Devlyn searching in the woods for the killer’s clues. In Allure of the Wolf, I’m researching the Canadian Arctic and all about Arctic wolves as opposed to the red and gray wolves that are in Heart of the Wolf and in the other stories. And in fact, Arctic wolves are a subspecies of gray wolves, but different due to living in that region.

What character did you like writing about the most, and why?

I like all my characters, or they wouldn’t be in the book! From the bad guys to the secondaries like Bella’s neighbor who keeps trying to catch the gray wolf’s attention, to the zoo-man who creates lots of trouble for them, although he only wants the best for wolves, and Leidolf, the mystery red werewolf, who finds his way into all my stories. In fact, he just now appeared in my WIP, Allure of the Wolf. And of course, Devlyn for his devotion and unwilling desire to have Bella and keep her safe, to Bella who could never find anyone she loved like Devlyn.

Do you have any authors that inspired you?

Jack London and his Call of the Wild and White Fang. I’d read them years ago as a kid, but that’s part of why I wrote about wolves as I did. :) (I loved those books, too) KW

What do we have to look forward next?

The Vampire…In My Dreams (YA, coming August 26, ’08), Deadly Liaisons (vampire romantic suspense, coming Fall ’09), Don’t Cry Wolf is coming out Spring ’09.

Thanks, Terry!

Thank you all for having me and I wish you all a great summer!

To celebrate her book release, Terry is offering a free ebook of The Vampire...In My Dreams or Winning the Highlander’s Heart, winner’s choice to one lucky commenter on today's blog. (please make sure we have a way to contact you if you win) She will be around all day today. I'm sure some of you have questions or comments for her, so please ask away...

Bio. Award-winning author of urban fantasy and medieval historical romantic suspense, Terry Spear also writes true stories for adult and young adult audiences. She’s a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves and has an MBA from Monmouth University. She also creates award-winning teddy bears, Wilde & Woolly Bears, to include personalized bears designed to commemorate authors’ books. When she’s not writing or making bears, she’s teaching online writing courses, gardening, judging contests, and reviewing books. Originally from California, she’s lived in eight states and now resides in the heart of Texas. She is the author of Heart of the Wolf, Don’t Cry Wolf, Betrayal of the Wolf, Allure of the Wolf, Winning the Highlander’s Heart, Deadly Liaisons, Relative Danger, The Vampire…In My Dreams (young adult), Deidre’s Secret (young adult) and numerous articles and short stories for magazines.

Check out author’s website at


Thursday, June 5, 2008

Valley of The Sun Romance Writers

I always recommend that writers join a writing organization such as Romance Writers of America. Within this huge organization are local and online chapters. Valley of the Sun is one of my local chapters here in Arizona. This Glendale Chapter hosts the huge Chocolate Affaire booksigning every February. The members of this blog attend every year.

Why join a writing group? To network in person and on loops, listen to monthly speakers, read and contribute to the montly newsletters, participate in group booksignings, and to learn about your market. Valley of the Sun offers a great deal. If you're a member, you can submit your synopsis, query, and three chapters for ten dollars and a published author will critique it for you. Also, every October, we attend a retreat at a haunted hotel. This year we will be staying at the Grand Hotel in Jerome, a real Arizona ghost town.

Even if you don't live in Arizona, you can join the chapter, receive the newsletter, join the loop, and receive the critique for ten dollars. Anyone interested in joining will first have to join the national organization. Check out Romance Writers of America at
If you live in Arizona, you can attend two Valley of the Sun meetings before deciding to join.

What's new? Glad you asked. We have a writing retreat this month.

Saturday, June 28, 2008 - 9 am to 4:30 pm
5747 W. Glendale Avenue - Glendale AZ,
across from Murphy Park
Tel: 623-934-9119
9:00-10:00AM - Vijaya Schartz - Dynamic Writer's Websites
10:00-11:00AM - Jennifer Ashley - The Great Agent Hunt
11:00-11:15AM - Break
11:15-12:15PM - Pamela Tracy - Suspense Romance
12:15-1:30PM - Lunch
1:30-2:30PM - Janeen O'Kerry - Writing The Hook
2:30-3:30PM - Renee Bernard - Historical Erotica
3:30-3:45PM - Break
3:45-4:45PM - Butterscotch Martini GirlsJuggling Family, Day Job & Career, You Can Do It.

Ongoing book signing during the day.
No registration fee -
Coffee, tea, and water available at no cost
Reserve your seat with Josette Umbertino at
Pay for your own lunch and/or room if you plan to stay at the Inn.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Interview with Harlequin Editor Johanna Raisanen

I’d like to welcome our guest editor, Johanna Raisanen. It’s a pleasure having you come visit us at Much Cheaper Than Therapy, where chocolate is plentiful and advice is free. So grab some chocolate and a lounge chair. Your therapy session has begun.

What exciting new projects are happening over at Harlequin?

Here are some of the exciting things to look for from Harlequin.
Silhouette Nocturne books is looking to acquire paranormal editorial with strong sexual, fantasy and danger elements for its new eBook program, Nocturne Bites.
Many of the elements that make a Silhouette Nocturne book successful remain true for the Nocturne Bites series. Stories should deliver a dark, highly sensual read that will entertain readers and take them from everyday life into an atmospheric, complex world filled with characters struggling with life and death issues. Only shorter!

Harlequin has also begun a nonfiction program. We are looking for books that will entertain, support, inspire and provide insight to women 35+ years old as their lives and roles evolve and change. We are focused on the following categories: relationships, health, diet, fitness, self-help, inspirational (Christian living) and narrative nonfiction (life memoir/personal memoir, lifestyle memoir, travel memoir and celebrity biographies/autobiographies).

Another new and exciting tidbit is Harlequin will be expanding into the Young Adult market starting with some paranormal stories under our MIRA imprint. We are excited to introduce a new fiction imprint targeted to a younger audience of African-American readers called Kimani TRU. Keep checking our web site for more YA information.

Finally, Harlequin will be celebrating its Diamond Anniversary next year—60 years of romance! Look for a year of celebration in all of our series. We’re still planning all of the special stories, so keep checking our Web site,, for news.

Can you give us a little history about Harlequin?

Here’s the history of Harlequin, as our PR department told me:

Canadian publishing executive Richard Bonnycastle founded Harlequin in 1949. In the early years, the small firm published a wide variety of American and British paperbacks—from mysteries and Westerns to classics and cookbooks. It wasn’t until 1957 that Harlequin began buying rights from Mills & Boon, British publishers of romance fiction since 1909. Mary Bonnycastle, wife of the founder, noticed the enormous popularity of these "nice little books with happy endings," and suggested the company concentrate on them. By 1964, Harlequin was publishing romance exclusively.

In 1971, Harlequin purchased Mills & Boon—and the romantic talents of more than one hundred British authors. Between 1972 and 1984, overseas acquisitions, joint venture partnerships and licensee arrangements brought the total number of Harlequin markets to 100, and sales soared from 3 million in 1970 to the present worldwide total of 131 million.

Harlequin also launched its highly successful North American direct mail operation. Following this, direct mail services were successfully started in the UK, Australia, Holland, France and Scandinavia and more are being developed.

By the end of the decade, Harlequin had established itself as the world’s leading series romance publisher and by 1981 was a wholly-owned subsidiary of Canadian communications giant Torstar Corporation, publisher of Canada’s largest metropolitan daily newspaper, The Toronto Star.

At the same time, Harlequin’s editorial lineup began growing from the 8 titles a month available in 1970 to the more than 120 titles it now publishes per month—each with its own personality and readership, and most available in 26 languages.

In 1984, Harlequin joined forces with one of its most spirited competitors by purchasing Simon & Schuster’s Silhouette imprint. Today, Silhouette novels appear beside Harlequin titles on shelves around the world, making Harlequin the world’s most prolific publisher of paperback novels.

The year 1994 was one of tremendous growth for Harlequin. The company entered the single title publishing environment with MIRA Books, it’s mainstream women’s fiction imprint, and has achieved startling success including #1 bestsellers on the New York Times, USA TODAY and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists.. Single title imprints launched since 2000 include HQN (romance), Spice (erotica), Red Dress Ink (chick lit), Steeple Hill (inspirational), Steeple Hill CafĂ© (hip inspirational) and Luna Books (fantasy).

Harlequin moved online into the brave new world of e-commerce and e-publishing in 1996 with the creation of a web site which it renovated and re-launched as in 2000. Digitally, Harlequin’s ebooks are consistent bestsellers on ebook lists such as Harlequin also offers audiobooks, digitally downloadable short stories (Spice Briefs and the Harlequin Mini), mobile phone content and podcasts.

In 1997, Harlequin topped the inspirational romance market with Steeple Hill, while under two specially created imprints, Worldwide Mysteries and Gold Eagle Books, Harlequin had long been active in the mystery and male action adventure markets.

Harlequin Enterprises launched Kimani Press, its African-American imprint in 2006. Kimani press includes single title and series books. The publisher has also announced plans to publish non-fiction books.

When you add it all up, Harlequin has shipped approximately 5.5 billion books since 1949 and looks forward to the writing of many more chapters in a remarkable publishing story.
Wow! What a story, eh? (yep) KW

What are your top five pet peeves a new writer makes?

The answer to this and the next question is the same in terms of the actual writing. For new writers, I’d say a pet peeve is submitting an incomplete synopsis. Don’t give editors cliff hangers, saying we’ll find out how the story ends if we ask for the full manuscript. Chances are we won’t bother. And the other pet peeve is receiving a submission that clearly doesn’t fit the line I acquire for. Do your homework. Research the series/imprints/lines you want to write for. Read the books being published.

As for pet peeves in writing, as I mentioned, they’re the same for published and unpublished writers:

1. Misunderstanding as conflict. If what’s keeping your hero and heroine apart can be cleared up with a frank discussion, that’s not true conflict. Conflict and dramatic tension are what drives a story. In a romance, the happy ending is a given, so writers need to throw real obstacles in the path of the couple. Make the reader wonder—for a moment at least—how they’re going to achieve their happy ending.

2. Overexplanation. If your characters are having a conversation where one person is saying something the other would reasonably know—you’re overexplaining. If a character is having an internal monologue about why he/she is doing something—you’re overexplaining. Exposition and overexplanation are a disservice to your reader. You’re assuming she can’t keep up with what’s happening and you need to hit her over the head, pointing out what’s going on. It also slows the pacing, making the story boring.

3. Stereotypical, one-dimensional characters not properly motivated. Readers want to identify with the characters they read about. If a character is too good or too sweet or too evil they aren’t real, and you risk losing a reader’s interest because they don’t believe in your characters. A character’s actions must also be logical—they must be something that person would do (this helps to make the characters more real). Their motivations must be believable. I find a common pitfall is making villains so over-the-top evil that they are laughable. Isn’t the villain who is friendly and charming, yet a cold-blooded killer more scary?

4. Over the top writing. As Strunk and White say in their classic book on writing, The Elements of Style: “Avoid the elaborate, the pretentious, the coy, and the cute. Do not be tempted by a twenty-dollar word when there is a ten-center handy, ready and able.” I couldn’t have said it better. There is a tendency to use overblown language in highly emotional scenes. But that type of language actually takes away from the emotion. Keep it simple!

5. Accidents and coincidences to move the plot. I’ll quote Robert McKee’s book, Story: “Story creates meaning. Coincidence, then, would seem our enemy, for it is the random, absurd collisions of things in the universe and is, by definition, meaningless. And yet coincidence is a part of life… The solution, therefore, is not to avoid coincidence, but to dramatize how it may enter life meaninglessly, but in time gain meaning, how the antilogic of randomness becomes the logic of life-as-lived.” If you pile up coincidences in your story, they become meaningless and absurd. Accidents can happen, too, but often they are a contrived method to make characters act a certain way. An accident takes rational decision-making out of your characters’ hands, forcing them to react to the situation.

What are your top five pet peeves a published author makes?

See the above answer.

What old trend or new trend do you see in publishing for Harlequin?

Trends are tricky to predict, because the market is cyclical. What was popular diminishes, but never goes away entirely. Then often comes back into favor. Right now, erotica and paranormal are riding the popular wave. Tomorrow, who knows? Maybe someone out there will come up with the new hot trend?

What catches your eye in a new writer’s work?

Strong characters with believable motivations, fast-paced and engaging writing, a well-thought-out plot and conflict. And of course, great writing.

For the submission process, what do you want from an author ? What is your response time?

We accept partial proposals (synopsis and three chapters) at Harlequin American Romance. But I recommend checking for full submission guidelines as some lines may vary. Generally we try to respond to submissions within three months.

What new author have you recently signed?

Last year I signed two new American Romance authors—Lisa Ruff, whose first book is called Man of the Year and is on shelves in June 2008 and Trish Milburn, whose book, A Firefighter in the Family, is out in September 2008. Be sure to check them out!

Any other chocolate nuggets you can give authors looking to break into your house?

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to do your research. Find the line or imprint you like and get a sense of the type of stories that are being published. Read the line. You need to decide where your voice and your story fits.

Best of luck to all, and happy writing!

Thanks Johanna.

Check out Harlequin’s website at

Monday, June 2, 2008

New Contest

SECOND 'Magical Jewel' contest for

DOUBLE ENCHANTMENT is the second novel in the RELICS OF MERLIN series. Merlin used thirteen different jewels as a focus for thirteen mysterious spells, and the 'magical jewel' in DOUBLE ENCHANTMENT is a garnet. For this second contest, the prize is an 11.65 carat garnet cross necklace. (See
CONTEST page for a photo and description of this 'magical' jewelry.)

This contest is all about spreading the word about the RELICS OF MERLIN series. To enter, just post the following blurb anywhere on the Internet (Chatrooms, Forums, Blogs, Myspace, etc. Err, no inappropriate sites, please. And the exact blurb cannot already be mentioned on that site. If you don't own the site, please verify that it's okay with the site owner to post the blurb).

"Simply delightful!"~Publishers Weekly
Please visit:

Email the URL link to: with CONTEST in the subject line.

A winner will be randomly chosen from those with a verifiable link. Entering the contest automatically signs you up for the author's newsletter. Your information will be kept confidential. Contest ends August 26, 2008. Void where prohibited by law. You must be 18 years or older to enter. No prize substitution permitted. This contest is subject to all federal, state and local laws and regulations.