Thursday, February 26, 2015

Strong Heroines

“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.” ―Nora Ephron

I decided to write on heroines this week, so I searched the internet for the top heroines people loved.

Here’s some from Some surprised me, but I smiled as I read through the list, because I can relate to reading about all all these women, and admiring them..

Lizzie Bennett, Pride & Prejudice
Nancy Drew, Nancy Drew Mystery Stories (I admit to reading all her books)
Anne Shirley, Anne of Green Gables
Jo March, Little Women
Elphaba, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
Lisbeth Salander, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Hellen Keller, The Story of My Life
Laura Ingalls, Little House on the Prairie

What made these women great heroines?

They are strong, smart, confident, and know what they want. They were imaginative, ambitious and competitive. They can also be impulsive, argumentative, and willing to do anything for their family or friends.
Strong heroines can also be opinionated, but stand up for what they thinks is right.

Lisbeth from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo has a fierce moral codes. She lives by her own rules and sticks to what she believes in. She’s flawed but uses it to push herself to be who she wants to be. She understands herself in a way very few do. I have to admit, I loved Lisbeth. 

I’m thinking I need to go back and look at my heroine’s again. Do they have these characteristics?
Are there others they need - a sense of humor; persistence?

Who would you have on your strong heroines list? What characteristics do your heroine's have?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Tuesday's Tips and Tweaks

This week author and agent, Lois Winston joins us with her tip. Lois also writes under the pen name Emma Carlyle, is a USA Today bestselling, award-winning author and literary agency associate.

Lois’s Tip

As a literary agent, I’ve listened to hundreds of pitches and read through thousands of query letters and manuscript submissions. Being both a published author and a literary agent has given me a unique perspective on publishing. I know what it's like to be the writer whose only desire is to sell a novel, and I know what it's like to have to crush someone's hopes with a rejection letter. It wasn't until I started sending out those rejection letters that I began to have a better understanding of why so many writers receive them.

As it turns out, most manuscripts are rejected for one or more of ten basic reasons. Writers have control over some of these reasons but not all of them. Over the years I’ve given writing workshops and talks on this topic. Afterwards, many attendees often urged me to write a book on the subject, which I eventually did. Top Ten Reasons Your Novel is Rejected and How to Avoid Them shows writers how they can control more of their destiny by not falling prey to many of these reasons. The following is an excerpt from the book:

Dialogue and Narrative

Dialogue is one of two ways authors can show their stories. The other is active narrative (scenes where stuff happens.) Well-written dialogue, like well-written scenes, will do one of two things – either advance the plot and/or tell the reader something essential about the characters. Poorly written dialogue reads like filler and bores readers.

Although dialogue should sound natural and realistic, it needs to be written crisply. We all speak with lots of extraneous words and interjections. We constantly repeat ourselves. We uhm and uhr and stutter and stumble more often than not, unless we’re members of Toastmasters or championship debaters. Even though these things are natural and realistic in the real world, they have no place in dialogue. Good dialogue shouldn’t make the reader want to shout, “Let’s get on with it. Spit it out already!”

Dialogue should also be more than just chitchat. It should cut to the chase, not be filled with banal pleasantries.

Example of a poorly written dialogue scene:

“Whatcha want, gorgeous?” said a deep, gravely voice with a heavy Brooklyn accent. He sounded like Fran Drescher on steroids.

What I’d really like was two tickets to the ballet instead of two tickets to a pro-wrestling musical extravaganza. Dave really hated the ballet as much as I really hated pro-wrestling, but I couldn’t very well buy him something for his birthday that he didn’t like or want, could I? Although, somehow I couldn’t see him standing on line for even thirty seconds, let alone thirty minutes, to buy ballet tickets for my birthday. I ran my fingers through my mass of curly red hair and bit down on my lower lip as I wondered, did that mean I loved Dave more than he loved me?

“Hey, red, you like wanna stop like mooning over The Boulder’s tight ass and like tell me whatcha want?” continued the male counterpart of Fran Drescher in a loud, booming voice. I noticed several people turn toward the ticket counter. “Like I ain’t got all day, you know,” he continued, his voice getting even louder.

“Uhm, Nori?” said Reese, tapping her French manicured nails on the shoulder of my taupe colored Ralph Lauren linen cropped jacket, the one I’d bought on sale at Macy’s to match the pencil skirt I was wearing. “It’s your turn. You, er, want to tell the guy what you want, so we can like get out of here, maybe, and go get something to eat before our lunch hour is over?”

I hadn’t realized I’d made it to the front of the line and Mr. Fran Drescher was talking to me. How absolutely embarrassing! I felt the heat quickly creeping up my neck and into my cheeks as I slowly turned to look at him. He was as wide as Fran was thin. He must have weighed three hundred pounds. He wore a skin-tight sleeveless black T-shirt with the red “AWE” logo emblazoned across his massive barrel of a chest. Muscles bulged on top of muscles on arms that were completely covered in tattoos in every imaginable color of the rainbow from his thick wrists up to his bulging shoulders. He had the thickest neck I’d ever seen, a shaved head, and an enormous gold nose ring, large enough to easily fit on my wrist, hanging down from his nostrils to his chin. I wondered how he could eat with that large thing dangling over his mouth.

He slowly drummed his beefy fingers on the counter as he leaned across, casually leering at me, as he said in a very sarcastic voice, “Any day now, doll.”

Now, if the ticket seller is a pivotal character in the story, he needs to be mentioned in detail, but certainly there are better ways to do it. However, if this is the only time he appears in the plot (which it is,) he doesn’t need to be described in such detail. And that’s just the beginning of what’s wrong with this dialogue passage.

Tag lines (he said, etc.) should only be used when it would be confusing to the reader not to use them. If the dialogue is between two characters, tag lines are extraneous because it’s obvious who’s speaking. The dialogue alternates between the two characters. If there are more than two characters in the scene, the tag line can still often be eliminated by the use of narrative action.

Then there’s the body language, which is nothing but filler. Good writing will only have a character engaged in body movements that are important enough for the point of view character to remember later. For instance, if Nori only bites down on her lower lip when she’s trying to rationalize something to herself, then the lip biting is a tell. (Note: This is different from telling your story. A tell is an action or trait that gives insight into a character. It’s often used in mystery and suspense when ferreting out the bad guys.) Maybe Nori really knows Dave isn’t in love with her and has been trying to convince herself otherwise. But if the lip biting is merely a body gesture for the sake of a body gesture, it’s filler and doesn’t belong in the passage.

Adverbs in tag lines should be used as little as possible. Well-written dialogue should use verbs that are very descriptive to the action instead of relying on adverbs. That doesn’t mean you should never use adverbs. Just make sure there’s a good reason for using them. Otherwise, they become a crutch.

Finally, description for the sake of description has no place in a well-written manuscript, whether as part of a tag line, in dialogue, or in narrative. Describe only that which is important to what is happening to the characters in the scene. If the hero and heroine are running through the subway, screaming for help as they flee an ax-wielding serial killer, the heroine isn’t going to notice the overflowing trash can filled with empty Starbucks cups nor the way the hero’s sea green and turquoise paisley tie is flapping around his neck as they race for the exit.

Dialogue by its nature will speed up pacing. Internalization (inner thoughts, monologues) will slow pacing. There’s a place for both. Good writing will have a balance, and depending on the genre, might lean more toward one than the other. But keep in mind wherever possible, you should strive to show your stories, not tell them. Too much internalization will make editors’ and agents’ eyes glaze over and result in a swift rejection.

Excerpt from Talk Gertie to Me

So let’s look at that same dialogue scene written as it appeared in the book:

“Whatcha want, gorgeous?”
Two tickets to the ballet? I smiled to myself. Dave hated the ballet as much as I hated pro-wrestling. Payback would come on my birthday.

“Hey, red, you wanna stop mooning over The Boulder’s tight ass and tell me whatcha want? I ain’t got all day.”

“Nori.” Reese nudged me out of my reverie.

That’s when I realized I had made my way to the head of the line, and the thick-necked guy with the nose ring and shaved head was speaking to me.

Buy Links:

Top Ten Reason Your Novel is Rejected

Talk Gertie To Me
You can find Lois at:
Twitter: @anasleuth
Thanks Lois, for dropping by and sharing that great writing tip.
Don’t forget to check back next week for another author and her writing or marketing tip.


Friday, February 20, 2015

Bucket Lists - What's on Yours?

Bucket lists have become popular ever since the movie, The Bucket List. Although, before that I think we all had ideas of things we wanted to try, do, or accomplish.

Our topic this month is if you have (or even if you don't have) a bucket list, what top priority thing(s) do you want to accomplish? I’ve always had a list of things I wanted to do. When I accomplish one, inevitably I add one or two more things. I’m not sure I prioritize them. It’s kind of what opportunities or motivation shows up.

I wanted to write. I’ve always written scenes and short stories, but I wanted to really write a book. I put it off until my second bout with cancer and I said to myself – someone’s trying to tell you something. Duh! What’s something you keep meaning to do, but put off? So I bought a computer and wrote my first story. And I’ve been writing ever since. I made it to the Amazon River in Brazil and stayed in a tree house – now I’d like to visit the Great Wall of China.

So my top priorities would be to become a better writer. I also want to become a better watercolor painter. (I took that up and off my bucket list three years ago). I want to trace my family roots as far back as possible. (I started studying genealogy two years ago.)

China’s up there of course. I’d also like to find more ways to give back to my community. I do volunteer work and donate to my favorite organizations, but I feel there are other ways I might be able to help. And I can give back to the writing community that’s helped me so much.
What's on your bucket list? And what are your priorities?

I’m looking forward to hearing what others have as top priorities in their lives. I’m off to start checking them out with a visit to Skye Taylor. Here’s the list of everyone else who’s going to share their bucket lists. Please drop by and read their thoughts.

Geeta Kakade
Kay Sisk
Connie Vines
Judith Copek
Rhobin Courtright

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Writing Arc

Okay, right away I have to say I have trouble with the writing arc. I've read Christopher Vogler’s The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure For Writers and I've taken a class and it sounds great, but I can't do it.

I get the beginning and the journey idea, but I write murder and romance so there are two journeys - right?

Or maybe more - the heroine's journey to solve the murder; the hero and heroine's journey to find romance and their true goals and maybe even the villain's journey to meet his goals. Argh!

I posted to Google and found all these other arcs

The 3 Types of Character Arc – Change, Growth and Fall by Veronica Sicoe

The Crucial Story Arc by Darcy Pattison

The Narrative Arc – What is the Narrative Arc in Literature

And I’m sure there are lots more. So what’s a writer to do? Which Arc do you follow, or do you?

My attempt is to decide on my characters, what their goals are and the obstructions to getting to those goals. I usually start with the differences between h/h and how that can cause conflict. Then throw in my villain and how he can block the journey and at the same time help the h/h grow and realize their true goals. I begin with the inciting incident. Then the search for the killer, and the h/h’s search to find each other. Throw in a couple of plot points and some twists that turn the story around. Then the h/h need to make some critical choices. The murder is solved, they et the villain and then one more thing is revealed that separates the h/h. And that is solved and we have a happy ending.

Okay so it’s not Vogler. What do you do? Do you follow a specific journey? I’d love to here how it works for you.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Tuesday’s Tips and Tweaks

This week author Pam McCutcheon joins us with her tip.

Pam is the author of romance novels and how-to books for writers under her own name, and the Demon Underground YA urban fantasy series under the name Parker Blue.

Pam’s Tip and Excerpt from her book, Writing the Fiction Synopsis

My tip is also an excerpt from my book: Writing the Fiction Synopsis: A Step by Step Approach:
Using Dialogue in Synopses

When I first started writing synopses, I was told never to include dialogue. I wasn’t sure why, but I followed instructions and ensured I didn’t break this “rule.” After I thought about it, I came to the conclusion that I agree . . . and disagree.

It depends. Using a lot of dialogue defeats the purpose of the synopsis because it’s designed to tell the story in a small amount of space. Most dialogue, by its nature, takes up a lot of room on the page, especially if you’re relating a conversation between two people. Can you really afford to take up half page of your synopsis with dialogue? Or would that space be better spent describing several scenes?

Adding chunks of dialogue also changes the pace. There you are, zooming along as you relate scenes at the rate of X per page, then all of a sudden you slow down to a crawl as we live through this one scene moment by moment. Instead, try to paraphrase the essence of the conversation and move on.

On the other hand, I have used dialogue in synopses when nothing else will convey the information as well. In one of my novels, the hero takes action because he misunderstood something the heroine said. The misunderstanding didn’t last for long, but it was the trigger event of my story. Instead of paraphrasing what she said in narrative form and explaining why he misunderstood it, it was more efficient just to use the dialogue. It wasn’t necessary to explain it because the misunderstanding was inherent in the quoted dialogue, and it didn’t slow the pace because the phrase only consisted of three words.

In the three synopses in Appendix B [of Writing the Fiction Synopsis], you’ll see I only used one line of dialogue—the last line of Speed. In this case, I wanted to end with some kind of clincher, and I thought the last line of the movie worked very well. But if I had tried to paraphrase it, it wouldn’t have been nearly as effective and would have taken the same amount of space.

So, my advice on dialogue is to use it sparingly in your synopses, and only when it’s more effective and efficient than summarizing the same information.

Buy Links (original hardcover)

Revised e-book:

You can find Pam at:

Thanks Pam, for dropping by and sharing that great marketing tip.
Don’t forget to drop by next week for another author and her writing tip.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Muse It or Lose It

Do you have a muse? Is it there when you need it?

People talk about their muse, but I’m not always certain I have one. Sometimes it takes a vacation and I can’t find it. Was it because I wrote too much and it got tired? Was it because I hadn’t been writing for a few days and my muse decided it wasn’t needed and wandered off. I think Stephen King answered this one.

The original Muses are the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne [Memory]. Zeus came to Mnemosyne on nine consecutive nights and the nine daughters were the result of those nine unions. They were Erato Love Poems; Euterpe Flute Playing; Kalliope Epic Poetry; Kleio History; Melpomene Tragedy; Ourania Astrology; Polymnia Sacred Music; Terpsichore Dance; Thaleia Comedy. All nine girls are of one mind … they are free spirited and have their hearts set upon song … they sing of the laws of the Immortals and the goodly ways of a life. Their homes and bright dancing places are on Mount Olympos but they may appear to anyone as long as the performer is paying tribute to the immortal gods with their art.
J.D. Robb said of muses,   "You're going to be unemployed if you really think you just have to sit around and wait for the muse to land on your shoulder."

Stephen King has a similar, but slightly different view. “There is a muse, but he’s not going to come fluttering down into your writing room and scatter creative fairy-dust all over your typewriter or computer. He lives in the ground. He’s a basement kind of guy. You have to descend to his level, and once you get down there you have to furnish an apartment for him to live in. You have to do all the grunt labor, in other words, while the muse sits and smokes cigars and admires his bowling trophies and pretends to ignore you. Do you think it’s fair? I think it’s fair. He may not be much to look at, that muse-guy, and he may not be much of a conversationalist, but he’s got inspiration. It’s right that you should do all the work and burn all the mid-night oil, because the guy with the cigar and the little wings has got a bag of magic. There’s stuff in there that can change your life. Believe me, I know.”

He also said “Don't wait for the muse. As I've said, he's a hard-headed guy who's not susceptible to a lot of creative fluttering. This isn't the Ouija board or the spirit-world we're talking about here, but just another job like laying pipe or driving long-haul trucks. Your job is to make sure the muse knows where you're going to be every day from nine 'til noon. or seven 'til three. If he does know, I assure you that sooner or later he'll start showing up.”

So I guess my problem these days is I need to set a specific time to write and do it and hopefully my muse will wander back.

What about your muse, if you have one?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Tuesday's Tips and Tweaks

This week author Marie Laval joins us with her tip. Marie writes racy, rule-breaking romance and women’s fiction. Originally from Lyon in France, Marie studied History and Law at university there before moving to Lancashire in England where she worked in a variety of jobs, from PA in a busy university department to teacher of French in schools and colleges. Writing, however, was always her passion, and she spends what little free time she has dreaming and making up stories. Her historical romances ANGEL HEART and THE LION'S EMBRACE are published by MuseItUp Publishing. A SPELL IN PROVENCE is her first contemporary romance. It is published by Áccent Press.

Marie’s Tip

I feel like a little bit of a cheat because my writing tip isn't actually my own, but one I have pinched from the great Stephen King.

A couple of years ago, I watched online one of his lectures about writing and the creative process. He was asked if he carried a notebook everywhere to jot down ideas in case he forgot them. Now, I am a great fan of notebooks, I have one or two for every one of my stories and I cannot go anywhere without taking them in my handbag. Over the years, I have always found them invaluable to help me gather my ideas, focus my thoughts or scribble a few words or sentences I'm afraid I'll forget.

Stephen King replied that he didn't believe in writing down ideas to make sure he remembered them. He believed that the best ideas were the ones he would never forget because they would always stay with him, no matter what. And despite my great love of notebooks, I had to agree with him. You never, ever forget a great idea, a great name, or a great piece of dialogue. The best scenes are the ones you can visualise so much that you are actually inside the story. Taking notes is then totally unnecessary, because you actually live the scene, along with your characters, and I don't think that there is anything more magical than this.

When I was writing  my newly released contemporary romantic suspense A SPELL IN PROVENCE, I experienced quite a few of those magical moments. The meeting at Bellefontaine between Amy Carter - my heroine - and Fabien Coste, was one of the first and most striking images I had of my characters, and so was the scene when Fabien is standing at the top of the stairs at Manoir and looks down at Amy before the Hunt Ball.

I still have my notebooks - it's a habit hard to break -  but I have learned to trust myself, my instincts and my feelings more.

Excerpt from A Spell in Province

Shivering in the cold breeze despite her shawl, Amy joined the guests lining up to be greeted by Fabien, who in true lord of the manor style, stood tall and imposing at the top of the steps, with torches burning on either side of him.

He might wear a black dining suit and a crisp white shirt instead of a suit of armour, but there was something untamed, fundamentally uncivilized and proprietary about the way he surveyed the crowd – as if he truly owned everything and everyone, like Frédéric had said, and Amy was seized by an irresistible, irrational and overwhelming urge to flee. She didn’t want to speak to Fabien Coste, didn’t want to put up with his arrogant ways. He could keep his fancy chateau, his contacts and glamorous guests, she didn’t need him. She would walk home. It wasn’t that far.

She was about to step aside when he looked down and their gaze met. Shadows danced on his face. The torches hissed in the breeze, their flames shooting high in the air and reflecting in his green eyes, giving them a deep, dangerous glow. For the space of a heartbeat, the noise of conversations around her became distant and fuzzy, and all she could see was him.

Buy Links:

You can also buy it in print at

You can find Marie at:

Thanks Marie, for dropping by and sharing that great writing tip.

Check back next week for another tip from another author.


Still having computer problems. Working on a tablet. Stand by for Tuesday Tips and Tweaks .

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Heroes You Love

Whether writing , or reading ,what draws you to the hero. What makes you fall in love with him?
Is it his looks?

Is he a bad boy with redeeming characteristics? He stops his motorcycle to rescues a puppy on the side of the road.
Is it his courage and/or selflessness? He always puts the heroine, family and friends first.

What about humility, patience and caring?
With me there has to be something in his appearance that catches the heroine’s eye. Then he needs qualities that complement the heroine and help her grow and maybe reach her goal. There needs to be conflict but he will try to understand her and put her first needs first. He needs to be romantic. If not at first, then he learns from the heroine how to bring romance into their relationship. It can be flowers and wine, but I love it when the hero comes up with different ideas that blow the heroine away – a picnic in a field of daisies that she loves. Or maybe the surprising gift of something she loves. Or he steps in to help with her special project.

Who’s your favorite hero? Mine is Roarke from the JD Robb series

Monday, February 2, 2015

Tuesday's Tips and Tweaks

This week author Jacquie Bigger joins us with her tip. Jacquie lives on beautiful Vancouver Island with her husband, and is grateful to do what she loves best—reading and writing.

Jacquie’s Tip

Today we’re going to be talking about publishing, marketing or selling tips an author should be aware of whether traditional or self-published.

In my opinion as an avid romance reader, there’s nothing more important than an eye-catching cover. When I browse for books, especially from new-to-me authors, the cover is the first thing I notice. It has to be strong, charismatic, and most importantly, not cluttered. If you’re writing a series each of the covers should have the same feel to them, so that readers get a sense of continuation. They can look at the front of the book and immediately know their favorite characters will be found inside. That’s buying power.

I don’t feel this is something you can scrimp on as an author. For my books, Tidal Falls and The Rebel’s Redemption, I used a well-known designer within the industry, Kim Killion. I felt it would be my best shot as an indie author at getting some early recognition. Anything you can do to get readers to take notice is a victory.

Excerpt from The Rebel’s Redemption

 “Miss Campbell, guess what? Jake’s here. He was outside when we went to get Susan. How cool is that?”
"That’s pretty cool all right. How’d he get here? And where’s Chris?” She’d grabbed up a napkin to wipe the ice cream from her lips, when a voice out of the past lifted the hairs on the nape of her neck and sent a shiver down her spine.
“He’s here. With me.”
The smooth tones rolled over her, and sucked all the air out of the room. Annie stiffened, then crumpled the napkin and slowly turned in her seat—yep, it was Jared all right. And Chris.
He looked good. The random thought floated through her mind even as she tried to digest the fact he was finally back. Eight years too late, but he was here. She wanted to grab Chris and run. Run before what was obvious to her became obvious to everyone else. Shit.
“Hello, Annie, it’s been a long time.” Why was he looking at her as if she’d betrayed him? She wasn’t the one to cut and run without a single word in all this time. Goddamn him.
“Jared. Yes, it has been. A very long time. There were no phones where you were? Your mother probably would’ve appreciated knowing whether you were dead or alive.” Not to mention herself. She’d promised herself she wasn’t going down this road, the blame road. It was time to leave.
She turned her back on him, looked into Jack’s concerned eyes, and forced herself to smile as if her heart wasn’t shattering into a million tiny pieces. “I better get back. Tina needs to take her break. Call me later?”
He gave her waist a warm squeeze, and placed a gentle kiss on her cheek before sliding free. “I’m not sure what’s going on, but for what it’s worth, I’ve got your back.”
Near tears, she stood from the table, and without looking at either man again, grabbed both children’s hands and hustled them out the door.

Buy Link

You can find Jacquie at:


Thanks Jacquie, for dropping by and sharing that great tip on covers.

Don’t forget to check back next week for another authors tip.