Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Care and Pruning of Your Manuscript

If you've ever been to a seminar or event and halfway through wondered why you thought this was a good idea, please read on.

I recently attended a session at my local library on basic houseplant care. During the discourse, I was thinking this was two hours of my life I’d never get back again. But then, I began to recognize the parallels between plant care and writing.

In the beginning stages of this man’s love affair with plants, he said he killed off a lot of plants while learning the business. Who among us doesn’t have forgotten drafts of horrible ideas shelved under the bed which we started while learning what we were doing, only to realize those ideas would never work?

He next said he learned a lot by making mistakes. We authors spend a lot of time rewriting manuscripts that we once thought were great, but, after learning a bit more about our craft, realize they can be improved upon. Each revision makes the manuscript stronger and more meaningful. Maybe it’ll even be good enough to make it into print one day.

His third bit of advice really hit home. He learned to be ruthless when it came to pruning his plants. To avoid legginess, which would result in a weak plant, he trims a stalk or vine back to almost nothing and allows it to fill out into a healthy plant. We’ve often been told to trim our backstory to half of what it starts at, and then cut it in half again. Just like the leggy plant, trimming a story of its excess makes for a stronger plot line.

Who would have thought there would be such cross-over between caring for plants and caring for a manuscript? Please let me know your suggestions for improving on a WIP. I’m still taking names for the gift-card drawing, until midnight tonight, so leave me a comment. Then, click on the icon and visit other sites on the hop to be eligible for even more goodies. Thanks for visiting!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Romance Madness Blog Hop--Day 4

Romances We Love

The Reluctant Debutante is 99 cents today only on Amazon!

If you’ve been following my posts during the blog hop, you know which authors have inspired me. I took all that inspiration, plus a lot of workshops, contest results, ruthless editing of backstory, and many hours at the computer and have come up with my series on the origin of the Cotillion Ball in America. Little did I know when I had my lightbulb moment to write about the Cotillion in the United States, that the decade it was introduced would be so filled with great historical events. It was an untouched era in historical romance, and ripe to be explored.

The first book in the series is about Ginger Fitzpatrick, a feisty redhead who would rather be campaigning for women’s rights alongside Amelia Bloomer than attending the Cotillion to find a suitable husband. All that changes when she’s introduced to her brother’s best friend from St. Louis. Joseph Lafontaine is a tall, dark and handsome man who sets Ginger’s nerves tingling from their first meeting. But, he is harboring a secret, and any involvement with Ginger would cause devastation to them both, and to the Fitzpatrick family. I'm so pleased that Amazon has selected The Reluctant Debutante for its Daily Deal for January 28, 2013 only. Click on the link to the right to order this book now.

The second book in the series is The Abolitionist’s Secret. Heather Fitzpatrick is the quiet, shy twin, who is rarely noticed, until the night she and her parents save a female slave from being captured by slavemongers looking for her. Shortly after their encounter, she meets and falls in love with David, the son of a plantation owner who is looking for an escaped slave. Their divergent views on the issue of slavery don’t hinder the romance, but other events interfere and keep them apart.

I’m offering a $5 gift card to one lucky commenter at the end of this blog hop, which will run from January 25-January 29. Tell me who your favorite author is and why. Then click on the icon to the right and visit other blogs on the hop, all of whom are offering gifts. And stop back tomorrow to see who’s next on my list of favorites.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Romance Madness Hop--Day 3

Romances We Love

The Bridgerton Series by Julia Quinn

Eight books about a rambunctious family in Regency England. What could be better? I loved everything about this series on the Bridgerton family—even down to the names of the siblings. The parents named the children alphabetically, Anthony, Benedict, Colin, Daphney, Eloise, Francesca, Gregory and Hyacinth. Such a clever idea. It helped me as a reader keep the siblings straight while I was reading each of their stories.
I saw Julia a few years ago at an RWA conference, and she confessed, after eight books about the same characters, she needed a break from the rowdy Bridgertons, but this series continues to grow. There are epilogues, Lady Whistledown books, and now, some of the secondary characters are getting their own moments in the sun. Some day, I’d love to own a complete boxed set of all the books. They are that good.

And they helped spur my own inventiveness.  I am currently in the middle of a series about the Fitzpatrick family, a well-to-do family in America in the 1850s—the decade leading up to the Civil War. Not a lot has been written about this time in America’s history, but it’s rich with events that shaped our country. And, borrowing Julia’s clever idea, I gave my siblings a common thread, too. They are each named for an herb or spice. There’s Halwyn, which is a Welsh/Arthurian name meaning salt, his twin, Pepper, Basil, Ginger, twins Jasmine and Heather, Rosemary, Valerian and Saffron. Ginger’s story, The Reluctant Debutante, will be available for 99 cents as the Kindle Daily Deal tomorrow, January 28, for one day only.

I’m offering a $5 gift card to one lucky commenter at the end of this blog hop, which will run from January 25-January 29. Tell me who your favorite author is and why. Then click on the Romance Madness icon to the right and visit other blogs on the hop, all of whom are offering a giveaway. And stop back tomorrow to see who’s next on my list of favorites.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Romance Madness Blog Hop--Day Two

Romances We Love

Next up is a real heavyweight who practically invented romance—Nora Roberts.

What can you say about her? She’s a machine. With over 200 books written already and a career that has spanned three decades (so far), she’s still able to find enough ideas to generate five new books each year. In trying to narrow down my choice to one book, I find it’s impossible. I love the books where she writes from a male perspective—most notably the Chesapeake series about the three brothers. But I also like it when I learn something or get taken away to a wonderful setting or era.

My sister and I both read Chasing Fire, about the smoke jumpers in Montana, a few years ago, when it was first released. We had been in the redwoods of northern California a year previous and saw the smoke jumpers in action there, so we thought it would be a great read. Nora did a great job of detailing how to fight forest fires while intertwining two love stories—a tall order, to say the least. I especially liked the interplay between Rowan and her father. My sister lives on 22 acres and has an open-pit fire going most of the time to burn off the rubble that comes with all that acreage. She had a fire going outdoors and realized it was time to start dinner, so she headed inside to cook. After a few minutes, she looked out the window and saw that her fire had jumped out of the pit and was racing toward the back pond and the stand of hardwood trees. As she raced back outside, she asked herself, “What would Rowan do?” So she went to the head of the fire and created a barrier, effectively starving the fire and saving her trees. Thanks, Nora.

I’m offering a $5 gift card to one lucky commenter at the end of this blog hop, which will run from January 25-January 29. Tell me who your favorite author is and why. Then click on the icon to your right and visit other blogs on this hop, each of whom will have a giveaway.  And stop back tomorrow to see who’s next on my list of favorites.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Romance Madness Hop--January 25-29, 2013

Romances We Love

How can you narrow it down?

When asked to write about one book that I love, I struggled for a few days with the assignment. Then, I decided, even though it meant more work on my part, I’d devote each day of the hop to an author who influenced me. First up is Jude Deveraux.

I read A Knight in Shining Armor in 1989, when I was consuming romance books like they were Skittles, and instantly fell in love with it, and with the whole concept of time travel. Douglass is the perfect heroine, flawed and lovable. And Nicholas—the knight in shining armor, literally. Sigh.

Along the way, in one of my moves or the other, I purged some of my mountain of books and Jude’s book fell by the wayside. But I never forgot it. When she re-released it in 2002, I purchased it again and it’s now a part of my permanent collection. She included a few pages on what her process was while writing it. She closeted herself away for three and a half months in a cabin in the Pecos Wilderness in New Mexico to write the book. I used to own a log cabin in the George Washington National Forest in West Virginia and have often thought I’d love to go back there and write a book. I’m now working on a time travel…

I’m offering a $5 gift card to one lucky commenter at the end of this blog hop, which will run from January 25-January 29. Tell me who your favorite author is and why. Then click on the Romance Madness icon on the right side of this page to visit other stops on this tour. And stop back here again tomorrow to see who’s next on my list of favorites.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

An interview with Crimson Suspense author Lynn Crandall

 I'm so excited to be hosting Lynn on the eve of her release of her new novel. I love the title, and am anxious to find out more about the book and the author, so let's dive in.

Tell us about your upcoming novel.

My book, Dancing with Detective Danger, releases tomorrow, Jan. 21. It focuses on the redeveloping relationship between Sterling Aegar and Ben Kirby.

A private investigator who works with her sister, Sterling has never put to rest the trauma of her father's unsolved murder. Though she and Ben enjoyed a passionate and thrilling love affair, two years ago Sterling ran away from it when the wounds of her past demanded she insulate herself from the vulnerability of love and bury herself in her work.

A police officer, Ben has spent the last two years trying to put Sterling out of his heart and mind. But he knows it hasn't worked, and when he runs into her at a crime scene, his desire for her at a physical level is triggered, but more profoundly at an emotional level.

As the two are thrown together again, they find putting the past to rest means something unexpected.

What's next for your readers?

I am presently working on a book about Lacey, Sterling’s sister and co-private investigator. She is introduced in Dancing with Detective Danger and has issues of loss to contend with regarding her husband.

Do you have a favorite part about writing? Least favorite?

I love a lot of things about writing but to pick a favorite, I would have to say the “reveal.” Since I’m a pantser, what happens next is often a moment of delightful surprise when characters tell me something interesting or the plot takes a path I didn’t expect. My least favorite it not knowing what comes next. As a pantser I create character bios, a loose outline and ideas about scenes. But it’s nerve wracking to face blank pages not knowing exactly what’s going to happen. Something always does, but it’s still a bit daunting to not know.

Who influenced you professionally?

I began writing as a newspaper reporter and magazine article writer and was so lucky to begin under a fabulous news editor who helped me learn to “see” the lead and the points of the story that readers need to know. I think it is a very useful skill to apply to fiction, too.

Why do you write romance?

I feel humans are amazingly complex and interesting, so I like to read about characters who are flawed but are able to find love. I’m fascinated by the complexity of relationships and romance novels are about relationships. Or course, a happy ending makes my spirit swell.

Have you ever written in another genre?

I have written mystery short stories. I enjoyed it, but I found myself dreaming dark and disturbing dreams. Since I’m a wimp, I stopped writing mysteries to stop the murder and mayhem dreams.

Have you ever written a character based on someone you know?

Dancing with Detective Danger evolved as a story from a thought about family relationships that have suffered through problems and yet remain intact, vital and growing. This concept of family was sparked by my own family relationships at the time, which aren’t always ideal, as family relationships tend to be – not ideal.

Do you have an idea for “the” book of your career? Have you already written it or is it still an idea bouncing around in your head?

I have one or two of those ideas, and I hope to bring them to life soon, though I don’t imagine them as “the” book of my career, because there are always new “the” book ideas coming into my head. But since in a former life I’m sure I was a fairy or angel or something immortal (J), several of my ideas are fantasy, though still fundamentally romance.

Who would you like to cast as yourself in the movie about your life?

Hmm…good question. Can I have Anne Hathaway?? Please?? She looks nothing like me, but that’s OK. I liked her character struggles in The Devil Wears Prada.

If you could choose two people to have dinner with, from any time period, real or fictional, who would you want at the table?

Only two? Jane Austen and Kelley Armstrong. But that’s tough to narrow down. I think it would be amazing to be in a room with my characters from Dancing with Detective Danger.

Are you a dog or cat person?

I’ve never seen a dog or a cat I don’t think is cute. So I’m dual. But I have two cats who I adore.

Would you rather vacation at the beach or the mountains?

No question. Beach me. Growing up and living a good portion of my life in Michigan, I always was near a body of water and it was lovely.

Book blurb:

Uncovering secrets and exposing truth are all in a day’s work for private investigator Sterling Aegar. But when her latest case threatens to reveal her own buried feelings for an old love, Sterling runs for cover.

A body in the bathtub and pleas from a jilted wife to find her wayward husband mean a welcome break from the usual humdrum cases Sterling and her sister, Lacey, are called to investigate. But when Sterling’s old flame, Detective Ben Kirby, walks into the murder scene, she feels her world spin out of control. Danger from thugs and murderers poses no greater threat than the peril she’d suffer if she lets daredevil Ben get too close.

Seeing Sterling for the first time in two years is for Ben like drinking in a healing tonic. He could never forget the way it felt to run his hands over her delicious curves or the way she touched his soul. She remains the one person who can make the emptiness in his gut go away. Finding the murderer is his job, but protecting Sterling from seriously dangerous people is his mission.
As the case unfolds, Sterling and Ben not only solve the murder and locate the missing husband, they confront secrets that set them each free from a painful past.

You can learn more about Lynn or contact her at the following:

website: http://www.lynn-crandall.com/



twitter -- @lcrandall246 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Give Me A Graveyard

I’ve always loved roaming around graveyards—the older, the better. There’s something about being in the presence of these old souls that experienced the life that I write about that makes me feel peaceful. Not sad or solemn. Just peaceful. Especially when the fog rolls in.

My obsession with old graveyards began long before I started doing any genealogical research, but that’s the excuse I use when someone asks me why I venture in when most would rather stay in the car.

Of course, roaming old graveyards does not come without peril. Over the course of my years, I’ve been scared out of my wits. Not by ghosts, which is what you’d expect, but by humans. I’ve been chased off private graveyards by men wielding shotguns. My sister got sucked into a grave when the ground around an old headstone gave way. It rattled her so much, she gave up helping me look for Jedediah Smith’s mother’s grave and left the cemetery. I trespassed on an old farm to find my Shank relatives’ graves and a man walked out of the fog dressed in 19th century farmer’s clothing. As it turns out, he was Amish, and was quite helpful, but gave me a fright at first.

This past weekend, I was in the DC area for a visit with friends and my brother, who was in town for a conference. Sunday morning was heavy with fog. A perfect day for going to a graveyard. But this was a graveyard like no other. Arlington National Cemetery still was decorated with Christmas wreaths—one at every grave. As my friend waited in the car, I began walking closer to the graves, snapping frame after frame. The air smelled of balsam from the wreaths, and was moist with fog. I stared at row after row of the good men and women who served and, at various times, fought, for our country, and thought about those battles. The Civil War, World War II, Vietnam, Afghanistan. All were significant events in my life, and they certainly were significant to those brave souls who rest in this beautiful cemetery today.

Who would have thought that one of my favorite moments of the weekend would be standing alone in a foggy graveyard, smelling the pine? I think anyone who knows me well could have predicted that one.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Getting To Know Sharon Clare

Today, I'm pleased to host the lovely and talented Sharon Clare on my site. She's from Canada, and has graciously agreed to spend some time with me this morning. And, as if hearing more about her novel, which is set on a tropical island isn't enough for me on a snowy Ohio day, she's offering a gift to one lucky commenter on the blog! Here's Sharon!

Before I answer Becky’s wonderful author questions, I want to thank her for having me as a guest today.

1. What is your current project about?

Rhapsody is a paranormal novella, released from Crimson Romance on Dec. 24, 2012. The blurb describes it best:
Isabelle plans to escape the real world when she takes a tropical vacation. But escape becomes too real when Paradise Resort disappears. To win her freedom, she must break an oath and out-play her opponent in a game of seduction. Her self-control is resolute until her traitorous body decides this is a game she wants to play.
Jonathan’s needs are simple: break down Isabelle’s resistance, win the game, and get back to the real world where an emergency waits. Desire grows between them as each roll of the die reveals secrets, truths and skin, until Jonathan is forced to confront his worse fear or forfeit Isabelle to the dark mastermind of the game.

2. What’s your favorite part about writing? Least favorite?
My favorite part about writing is getting to the final draft of a story. This is the polishing stage, when I know my characters best and start to feel better about the writing. I enjoy this micro-editing, trying to write fresh sentences, toning up the plot and adding tension where needed.
My least favorite part of writing is the beginning, the rough draft. Even though I work on my characters before I start to write, they feel flat to me until I’m well into the story. My rough drafts are not pretty. Lots of he saids and she saids and just getting a story down. I have to remember it will get better.

3. Why do you write romances? Have you ever written in any other genre?
I write romances because I love the interplay of romantic relationships, the dynamics of men and women working together. Characters have flaws, but ultimately they’re desirable people, nice to have in my head. Romance feels good. It’s a fun genre to spend time in, and with so many sub-genres, there’s lots of variety. I would have a hard time living with characters suffering the emotional angst that’s common in literary fiction, besides I don’t have a literary voice.
The first manuscript I wrote is historical, a love story between an Anishnabe man and a French-Canadian woman. I cut my teeth on this story, but I didn’t write it as a romance because I wasn’t well-read in the genre. Honestly, when I learned that romance is the best-selling genre and the one where it’s possible for mid-list authors to make a living, I began to learn how to craft a romance. I had a lot to learn.

4. Have you ever written a character based on someone you know?

Yes, I wrote a short story based on my mother, something I would like to revisit one day and expand into a novel perhaps. My mom suffers dementia, and she lived with my family for a time, a pretty brutal time actually. One day as we stood in the kitchen together, she said, “I can’t find myself.” I thought that was profound and true to my writing nature, I used her words as the title for the story.

5.  Where do you rank in the family hierarchy?

I’m the oldest of three. I have two brothers, 4 and 6 years younger.

6. Are you a dog or cat person?

I have both, but always considered myself more a dog person. My cat, Dave, became so ornery in his old age he began attacking the neighborhood dogs when they dared to walk by our house. He’s now both notorious and leashed.

7. Sun or fog?

Sun absolutely. Nothing better than its heat on my skin.  

Thanks again, Becky! For more information on Rhapsody and my first paranormal romance, Love of Her Lives, please visit: www.sharonclare.com

To thank your readers for visiting today, I’d like to offer the chance to win a small travel gift since Rhapsody takes place on a tropical vacation. Please leave a comment with your email address and tell us what games you like to play on vacation, and I’ll randomly select one commenter.