Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Playing Around With Book Titles

I can't be the only one who does this. Book titles are constantly popping into my head. I heard something and think... that would be an AWESOME book title. And then I try to think up a good book to go with it. It's one of the triggers for book ideas in general for me.

What's funny, though, is the books I've published so far were written before I had a title. So then I had to think something up. With the Svatura series I ended up going with flowers because I like that flowers have meanings and so I could match the flower to the book concept. With the Shadowcat Nation series I tried a bunch of different things, but finally decided to use "F" words. (No, not that one. Though it is my favorite swear word.) Action words starting with "F" - fall, fortune, fury, fate... I paired them with the heroines names.

But I still have these awesome book title ideas floating around in my head. Sigh. Here's a couple that you might find fun.

Lines from a Poem
Someone (me maybe if I get to it) should write a series with titles that are lines from a certain Shakespeare sonnet. One of my favs is Sonnet 116.  Titles from this one would be...
  • When It Alteration Finds
  • An Ever-Fixed Mark
  • Look Upon Tempests
  • Time's Fool
  • Edge of Doom
Patriotic
Maybe I'll do a series of patriotic books and use lines from different patriotic songs for the titles. Oooh, that's a good one. Hmmm... I might have to pause on Sarai's story to write the first of these. Lol. Here's a few ideas on the titles...
  • In the Dawn's Early Light (Star Spangled Banner)
  • Loosed the Fateful Lightening (Battle Hymn of the Republic)
  • Let Rocks Their Silence Break (My Country Tis of Thee)
  • Let Eagles Shriek (Stars and Stripes Forever)

You get the idea now. I'm not funny enough to do "clever" titles that are a play on words. So I think I'll stick to my titles with some kind of meaning. And I'll continue to get ideas from the titles I play with. I just can't help it. These all pop into my head at random moments. Does this every happen to you? How do you come up with book titles?


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Black Orchid Edits

It's about that time. With each book I write, when I hit the editing phase with Wendy, I share some of my newest key learnings or most consistent issues. So here's what Wendy is catching a lot of in Black Orchid.

Too Many "Eyes"
In my first pass, I had a ton of expressions and not enough physical action. In particular, with the expression, I did a lot of eye descriptions. To fix this I did two things. First, I literally did a search for eye, look, glance, and then decided if there was a better way to get the point across with a more physical action. Then I made sure to look for more opportunities to incorporate character's physical movements when I did my full read through before sending to Wendy for more edits. I even used actions to help heighten tension.

Injected Sentences
This was a very new one for me. In the middle of sentences I was injecting additional descriptions/ideas/thoughts that were truly complete sentences on their own. For example: "Nate, though deep in shock at the state of affairs, kept his mouth shut." It's okay to do this sparingly. Too much and sentences get way to long and confusing. In editing Wendy caught that I was doing this a ton! I think we caught the majority of them - only leaving them in where it makes sense.

Passive Voice
I've been caught using passive before. This is where something happens to the character rather than the character doing it. For example...

Passive: Heaviness sat like lead in his heart.
Active: His heart was heavy with the weight of his regret.

In passive voice, the target of the action gets promoted to the subject position. Instead of saying, "Steve loves Amy," I would say, "Amy is loved by Steve." (See more at this resource Wendy sent me.) The funny thing about passive voice is I often feel it's more poetic sounding - which is why it ends up in my writing. This is a preference thing with writers. My compromise is that of the 21 times I used passive voice in the book, I left in only 3 or so when I felt that the active voice just wasn't as pretty. :)




Monday, April 7, 2014

Top 10 Things I've Learned In Life

I had to really think about this one as there are several directions I could take it. In the end, I decided to make this a note to younger me. If I could go back and tell myself the ten most important things I’ve learned that could maybe get me through childhood, high school, and even college a little easier, what would they be? The below is what I came up with – in no particular order…

1. Live Now
The one with the red spots on the back is me.
By this I mean, life is a one-time shot. So live it. Go out and experience things. Try things you never thought you would. Talk to people from all walks of life. Look for those moments when the path less traveled presents itself. This will mean different things at different times in your life. More than that… each stage in life is a one-time shot. I’ll never be 10, or 20, or 30 again. I’ll never be in high school or college again. My kids will be the age they are only once. So try to enjoy every stage to the fullest. Now.

2. No Fear
Don’t let fear stop you from doing something you love, or make you do something you don’t want to, or keep you from trying something new that might just be amazing. And not just fear… loneliness, jealousy, what others think. Whatever your roadblock. Make your choices in life for yourself and then own those choices.

3. Family Comes First
This will mean different things to different people. But decide who is closest to you and put them first in your life. Make sure you spend quality time with them as much as possible. They’re not guaranteed to be there forever. Tell them you love them every day. Look out for them. But especially, find time for them.

4. Perfection Isn’t Worth The Stress
I’m not saying don’t try to do your best. But don’t let trying to be perfect make you so stressed that you don’t enjoy life anymore. And don’t let other’s idea of perfection push you into being someone you’re not or doing something you hate. Because that will change you into someone you don’t like.

5. You Won’t Even Remember Their Names
That clique you so want to be a part of. Those kids who don’t quite like you or put you down. Forget them. You won’t even remember their names ten years from now. They’re not worth the effort or worry. But the people who like you for you… those often become lifelong friends.

6. Smile and Enjoy
I find that my mood follows my facial expression. If I’m serious or frowning I don’t have a good time. If I smile, I start to enjoy myself. I also feel more beautiful when I smile – maybe it’s the happiness coming through. People also respond better to a smile and a kind word.

7. Internet Is Forever
I wouldn’t tell my younger self this (since internet wasn’t a thing back then), but I definitely tell my kids. You can do some permanent damage with the internet by posting stupid things that you shouldn’t have been doing in the first place, or even just being goofy. Future employers, boyfriends, friends might see something you’d wish they hadn’t, and there goes that opportunity.

8. Love Who You Are Now
Know who you are, what you believe, and the kind of person you want to be – and be confident in that. And I’m not saying be perfect in that – just be confident. Don’t let others tell you who you are or should be. And don’t constantly be worried about who you could be – thinner, smarter, older, younger, nicer, stronger, whatever. Love who you are right now. And I don’t mean not to try to better yourself. But just to love yourself.

9. Give Yourself Something to Chase
I loved Matthew McConaughey’s Oscar speech. Give yourself a goal – an impossible goal – that you keep your eyes on. Don’t let yourself just go “well – this is who I’ll be forever – I guess that’s it.” Give yourself something to be chasing.

10. Don’t Depend On Others To Make You Happy
That perfect man. Your parents. Your children. Colleagues. Friends. Do not expect them to be responsible for your happiness in any way, shape, or form. Can they add to your happiness? Be a source of happiness? Absolutely. But you, and you alone, are responsible for being a happy person.

I realize that I got on a bit of a preachy pedestal there, but I wish younger me could have realized some of those things a lot sooner. I actually enjoyed every phase of life I’ve been through so far, but I wouldn’t go back unless I took some of this knowledge with me. I’d love to hear what big life learnings you’ve had that you’d add to this list.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Pacing: Avoiding Rush Hour and Rollercoasters

Pacing can be one of the trickier elements of writing a book (and one I'm definitely still working on with every book I write). There is a delicate balance to placing all the most important moments in the book in such a way that they flow naturally. You don't want the minor elements to drag it down to rush hour slowness, and you also don't want to whack the reader in the gut with rollercoaster changes in pace.

Here are 2 writing devices that have helped me. Most recently I've applied both to Black Orchid - the 4th and final book of my Svatura series. 

Key Elements Timing

I recently took a tutorial on Writer's Digest delivered by Scott Eagan of Greyhaus Literary Agency called "Mastering the Most Important Moments In Your Story." I highly recommend taking this tutorial. I don't want to steal their thunder, so I won't share details (go take the tutorial). But here are my high-level take aways:
  • Know what kind of story you are writing and what the most important moments are to the storyline.
  • Make sure you are deliberate about the timing and placement of those key moments.
From the tutorial, I actually created a little chart for Black Orchid when I was first writing it where I listed the key moments of my story and where they fell in the book (page #). I could then see how the story flowed from a placement perspective. 

Here's a really generic version of my table (so I don't give away any spoilers from the book). Based on the below, I realized a few things. For example, getting from Adelaide and Nate doing something to Nate does something was taking way too long. So I needed to look at the flow there.

Black Orchid Moments
Page
Nate/Adelaide Ripped Apart (from last pages of CD)
1-3
Adelaide does something…
15 (early)
Lila does something…
32 (late)
Adelaide and Nate do something…
64
Ellie and Adelaide do something…
104 (late)
Nate does something…
140 (very late)
Something does something to Maggie…
173 (late)
Nate does something….
197 (perfect)
Final fight and resolution
244-end (perfect)


Color Coded Flow Chart

The second writing device I used is one I came up with on my own. (Although I'm sure others may have used something similar before.)

My first round of comments back from my awesome editor, Wendy, revealed that I still had pacing issues. I was going from no tension to sudden action in a very jerky way. I had plenty of action scenes in the book - so it's not that I needed to add more big scenes. However, I needed to set those action scenes up better, and, possibly more important, I needed to add "small moments of tension" to the no tension bits.

To help me pull back and look big picture here's what I did.

1. Make a Table: I made a table with a column for the Chapter #, a column for the Type, and a column for the Plot Points in that chapter. (To help keep spoilers out, I'm just showing you the first two columns below.)

2. Label Your Content: I looked through each chapter and then wrote down the type of element(s) - one of the following:
  • Discussion/Internal Discussion
  • Activity (which is minor action but usually fairly static like telepathy)
  • Minor Action (physical action but that only takes place quickly)
  • Action (my bigger scenes with LOTs of crazy action)
3. Color Code:  I color coded those types. I'm a very visual learner. So I made action RED, minor action ORANGE, activity YELLOW, and discussion or internal GREEN. Then I looked to see where I had green/yellow for too long. 

4. Analyze the Chart: This really helped me see exactly where I needed to add some Minor Tension points (ala "someone's watching you" or "we saw you" or things along those lines) to help move the story a long better. And the third column with all the plot points (which I didn't share here) told me where in the plot I needed help and gave me ideas of what would work best.

If you look closely - anywhere that's ORANGE that now says "MINOR TENSION" is where I added those extra moments.  I might even still need some more up front - around chapter 7 maybe.

Chapter
Type
Prologue
Action
Chapter 1
Action
Chapter 2
Action
Chapter 3
Discussion
Chapter 4
Discussion
Chapter 5
Action
Chapter 6
Discussion/Activity
Chapter 7
Internal/ Activity
Chapter 8
Internal
Chapter 9
Internal
Chapter 10
Activity/Internal
Chapter 11
Minor Action/Discussion
Chapter 12
Discussion
Chapter 13
Activity thru Discussion
Minor Tension
Chapter 14
Activity
Chapter 15
Activity/Discussion
Chapter 16
Action
Chapter 17
Discussion
Minor Tension
Chapter 18
Internal
Chapter 19
Activity (but all internal)
Chapter 20
Activity
Minor Tension
Chapter 21
Discussion/Minor Action
Chapter 22
Discussion
Chapter 23
Discussion/Activity
Chapter 24
Activity
Chapter 25
Minor Tension /Discussion
Chapter 26
Discussion
Chapter 27
Action
Chapter 28
Activity
/ Minor Tension
Chapter 29
Discussion/Activity
Chapter 30
Discussion
Chapter 31
Discussion/Minor Action
Chapter 32
Discussion/Activity
Chapter 33
Discussion/Activity
Chapter 34
Discussion / Actiity
Chapter 35
Action
Chapter 36
Action/Acitivy
Chapter 37
Action
Chapter 38
Action
Chapter 39
Activity
Chapter 40
Activity
Chapter 41
Activity/Discussion/Internal

I will definitely be using both of these exercises moving forward as they were both incredibly helpful to me in very different ways. You'll have to tell me if they were effective with the pacing when you read Black Orchid next month!


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Andromeda's Fall Blog Tour: Retrospective

I love a good blog tour, and I think this was my best yet! And it was entirely due to Ms. Deejay and the awesome folks at Masquerade Crew Tours!

Masquerade Crew Rock!
Before I get into the retrospective on all the stops and fun, I want to take a moment to call out exactly why I think Masq Crew did such an awesome job.
  1. Well Organized - I didn't have to lift a finger. Deejay worked with each host. For guest posts she got specific topics or let me know if it was up to me. Even offered to help me come up with topics.
  2. Good Mix - Deejay made sure I had a good mix of posts in my tour - from guest posts, to top 10 lists, to reviews. I was especially surprised and happy with the number of hosts who signed up to do reviews (and even more happy that they ended up liking the book!).
  3. Great Communication - Deejay was timely in requesting anything she needed and letting me know about next steps. If any bloggers missed their day to post, she was on top of it. In addition, the tweet blasts were off-the-hook. I know MasqCrew's tweet capabilities, and boy did they put it to work for me!
  4. Immediate Impact - This is the first time I've seen a significant increase in sales during a blog tour. I love blog tours because of the opportunity to interact with bloggers/reviewers and readers alike. But I saw a big pop in my sales as well, and that's awesome!
You can probably tell that I was thrilled with this blog tour, and I'll definitely be going to MasqCrew in May when Black Orchid makes an appearance.

So, once again, a huge thank you to the MasqCrew team for all your help! And giant thank you to all the bloggers/reviewers for hosting me!!!

Giveaway Winner:
The giveaway of a $40 Amazon gift certificate is still in progress. Go to any of the blog tour stops below to enter!

Blog Tour Host Surprise:
Surprise blogger hosts! I'll be doing a random drawing just from the bloggers/reviewers for a $20 Amazon gift certificate. I'll announce the same day as the giveaway!

Blog Tour Review:
As I mentioned above, I had a great mix of stops and a ton of fun with this tour. Here's a breakdown of everything that happened in 1 week!

Reviews:
I was thrilled with the reviews I received - way beyond my expectations. I am so happy you all enjoyed the book and hope you'll keep an eye out for future books from me!
  • Four 5-Star Reviews!
  • Five 4-Star Reviews!
  • 2 Additional Positive Reviews! (not sure of stars lol)

Guest Posts:
The guest post in particular were really fun. And I hit a lot of varied topics.
  • 4 Interviews
  • 2 Top 10 Lists
  • My Relationship With Romance
  • The Appeal of Paranormal Romance
  • Flying By the Seat of My Pants
  • Alpha Males (Walking a Fine Line)
  • Having Fun With Dialogue

Blog Tour Stops:
Here are ALL the stops from the tour. Please check them out if you missed any.

Monday, March 24

Tuesday, March 25

Wednesday, March 26

Thursday, March 27

Friday, March 28

Saturday, March 29

Sunday, March 30

Monday, March 31

Thanks again to Deejay and Masquerade Crew for the great service! And thanks again to all the bloggers/reviewers for hosting me!!! I hope everyone had as much fun as I did. :)



Monday, March 31, 2014

Having Fun With Dialogue

Guest Post Re-Post: Originally posted 3/31/2014 on Cherry Mischievous as a guest post. Part of my Andromeda's Fall blog tour organized by Masquerade Crew.

*****

I love dialogue. As a reader, I love to see the interaction between characters - especially enjoy a good witty exchange. As a writer, I think it’s one of my favorite portions of a book to write. I honestly think I enjoy writing it so much not because I’m that funny (cause I don’t think I am), but because I can come up with the clever responses that I wish I could think of that fast in real life.

But dialogue isn’t just about being witty, it can be used for so much more than that. Here’s what I like to use dialogue for with some examples from Andromeda’s Fall (my latest release):

Reveal Information
I find it’s more organic and more interesting to reveal information through dialogue. How do we find out new information about other people or situations? Most often it’s through communication of some sort. In the below example, we find out that the heroine is asking for alsylum, that A.J. assumes she’s a nobody, that she’s pretty beat up, and that she’s possibly been ejected from her community. That’s a lot of information in one little exchange. “And why would we consider giving asylum to a little nobody like you?” A.J. asked. “One who – judging by those cuts, bruises, and I suspect a broken left arm - has been shunned by her own dare?”

Establish a Setting
Long descriptions of settings – while they can be poetically beautiful – can also lose the reader. And you don’t want to describe every room they walk into. Sometimes it’s better to establish the setting with a casual comment.

“Nice room. I like the view of the mountains,” Andie said, as she moved to look through the wide picture window.

Establish a Character/Relationship
This is a big one. Personality often comes out through dialogue. Details about their lives, backstory, looks, etc. also often come out in dialogue. The display and development of relationship can also happen. For example, in the exchange below, we assume the speakers of just met, we find out that Andie (our heroine) is good at breaking and entering, is on the sarcastic side, maybe a bit reckless, is confident, and possibly has something to hide.

“I’m not going to ask how you got in here. Clearly, our security needs reviewing.”
Andie didn’t betray her satisfaction at his comment. “I’m sure it’s fine. Very few measures would work to keep me out. Or in.”

“I found you.”

Andie merely shrugged. “Off night.” In more ways than one.

“What do you want here?” he asked.

“I want to speak with Jaxon Keller.”

His eyebrows shot up, and he crossed his arms over an impressive chest. “About what?”

“None of your damn business.” Andie’s chin tipped up slightly in defiance, but inwardly she cringed. Stop talking, dummy.

Deepen the Conflict/Heighten the Tension
You can use dialogue to introduce new situations, new dilemmas, and make the reader feel the nerves. You can also use it to make a conflict worse. Words can insight others to fight, or maybe your character says something they regret in the heat of the moment.

“Did the storm get worse?”

“No.”

Andie’s eyes shifted from the window to A.J. “Talk to me. I’m a Commander, not some breakable doll.”

A small smile tugged at his lips. “The storm has passed, and it’s calm out there. It’s possible the weight of the snow took out our power.”

“Or I didn’t put enough gas in the generator when I started it up today.”

“Maybe.”

“But you don’t think so?”


There are many other uses for dialogue in writing. These are just some of my favorites. When I read, especially if I’m reading fast, I often skip to the dialogue parts because I’ve frequently felt them to be the most interesting and often the most important. What’s your favorite part about dialogue?


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Alpha Males (A Fine Line to Write)

Guest Post Re-Post: Originally posted 3/30/2014 on darksilvertree as a guest post. Part of my Andromeda's Fall blog tour organized by Masquerade Crew.

*****

If you’re a romance reader, then you’re like me – you like a good alpha male. But what is it about these guys that we love so much?

Photo by Walt Stoneburner on Flikr.com
As a reader, I can tell you that I personally look for a guy who I want to be in charge. Someone who has integrity, is a natural leader, knows what he wants, but also wants the best for those he leads. But personally, I also want an alpha male who is completely absorbed by the female lead… who knows her inside and out because he pays attention. Who puts her needs first, always. He also needs to develop over the course of the book into someone better because she makes him better.

As a writer, let me tell you… it’s a fine line to walk because an alpha male has traits that walk the line between great guy, total jerk, and wimp. Here’s just a few ways I’ve run into this…

Leader vs. Dictator
A strong leader often has to demand results, or tell people what to do when they’re not sure of his choice (sometimes even when he’s not sure). But it’s very easy to go toward the dictator side where the alpha male rules with an iron fist. The trick here is to write an alpha who is confident yet approachable. Brilliant yet flexible enough to listen to others. But still knows when to lay down the law. Fine line, right?

Strong vs. Domineering
We want a man who can win in a fight, defend his people, defend his lover, and save the day. But no one wants to be forced into anything – either by physically or mentally. So we writers walk this line by making our alphas morally strong as well – give them people to protect, a higher cause to fight for, and a lover to watch over in a caring way.

In Love vs. Stalker
There is nothing sexier than being wanted. And an alpha male who just can’t look away, walk away, breath when he’s away from his love is very sexy. But it’s also easy to cross over to stalker. The only way I’ve found that helps me look for when I’ve crossed this line as a writer is to imagine how I’d feel if that same behavior was coming from someone who the female lead really doesn’t want rather than her alpha. Puts a different spin on it.

Supportive vs. Total Wimp
We want our man strong, but we also want them sensitive and supportive – especially in relation to his love. However, it’s very easy to make him so wimpy that she does all the fighting both for their relationship and against their enemies. Not sexy, right? I find it helps to make the supportive piece be a part of the alpha’s character arc. Basically it’s a trait that he discovers as his relationship with the heroine progresses and love changes him into someone with rough edges just slightly smoothed down.

What do you think? What are some of your favorite characteristics of the alpha male? What fine lines do those features walk where, if crossed, leaves you cold?