Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Writers' Wednesday Welcomes Mary Ellen Dennis

This week, I’m happy to welcome author Mary Ellen Dennis. Former singer/actress and perennial rule-breaker Mary Ellen Dennis is the author of several award-winning historical romance novels and culinary mysteries. She is married to novelist Gordon Aalborg (aka Victoria Gordon), whom she met online through a writer's group; they live on Vancouver Island.

She has two books in stores this month, released by Sourcebooks Casablanca: THE GREATEST LOVE ON EARTH, set in the exotic world of a 19th century circus, and THE LANDLORD’S BLACK-EYED DAUGHTER, a fast-paced and passionate retelling of the story of two timeless lovers who would die for each other. This gorgeous romance gives the poem a whole new depth and a happy ending.

Thank you for taking time out of your schedule to talk with us, Mary Ellen. Good to see such great reviews for both books. You’ve said one was inspired by Noyes’ “The Highwayman.” The other is an 1875 circus romance. These are two very different themes. What intrigued you by each?

The seed for my circus romance was planted when I researched my 1893-1923 generational saga, HEAVEN’S THUNDER, and learned that the circus had visited Denver in the early 1900s. A big circus. With elephants! And what was then called a cameleopard (giraffe). Curiosity piqued, I began to research traveling circuses. Although no one circus is the basis for THE GREATEST LOVE ON EARTH, P.T. Barnum's comes close.

Emmett Kelley, arguably the most famous clown ever, was a friend of my dad’s. Emmett would appear in centre ring, in the middle of a huge spotlight, a white, upside-down smile dipping toward his chin. In his white-gloved clown hands he’d carry a broom and dustpan. He'd step outside the spotlight and start sweeping it into a smaller circle. Then, smaller. When the spotlight was no bigger than a dinner plate, he'd sweep it into his dustpan. To me, a little kid, it was magic! My heroine, Calliope Kelley, is named for Emmett Kelley.

Yes, at one time traveling circuses carried magic to rural areas throughout the country. My mother told me one used to set up every summer in her small town’s fairgrounds. She said my uncle and a couple of his friends would help set up for free tickets. How fortunate you were to see the iconic Emmett Kelley. He is a legend.

THE GREATEST LOVE ON EARTH came out of research you did on an earlier project and your unique connection to the circus. What drew you to the theme of “The Highwayman” for THE LANDLORD’S BLACKEYED DAUGHTER? And please tell us it has a happy ending.

When I was in grade school one of our assignments was to read a poem in front of the class. I couldn’t decide between “The Highwayman” and Shakespeare’s “Venus and Adonis” (I love horses). Why yes, I was an overachiever, why do you ask?

I chose Alfred Noyes. The bell rang before I finished and no one moved. At that moment I decided I’d be an actress when I grew up. And I’d write a romance inspired by my favorite poem. I’ve achieved both goals, although THE LANDLORD’S BLACK-EYED DAUGHTER took longer (I played Nellie is South Pacific at age 19).

First, I want everyone to know that THE LANDLORD’S BLACK-EYED DAUGHTER has a happy ending. And now, here’s an excerpt:

1 April, 1787
Elizabeth Wyndham gazed at her reflection in the mirror above her dressing table. Dispassionately, she scrutinized her ink-black hair, which fell in ringlets on either side of her face, not unlike a spaniel’s ears. A scowl caused her delicately arched brows to descend toward her dark brown eyes—so dark that from a distance they looked like lampblack. “You’re a fraud,” she said to her image. “A cheat.”

“What did ye gabble, Mistress?” asked her servant, Grace.

“I wasn’t gabbling,” Elizabeth fibbed, her lashes thick dark crescents against her cheekbones. “I coughed.”

“It didn’t sound like a cough t’ me.” Grace regarded her mistress with disapproval. While no one could deny that Miss Elizabeth was an attractive woman, Grace wondered how much longer her looks could possibly hold up. After all, she must be close to thirty. And yet she acted as if men would always flock ’round her, like pigeons. Truth be told, Elizabeth Wyndham should have been married for a good decade now, and mother to at least five children.

“What are you staring at? My gown?” Elizabeth allowed a thin smile to tug at the corners of her mouth. “In truth, this gown is so out-of-date, ’tis moss-grown.”

“Ye never fret over fashion when we’re at home.” Grace’s gaze touched upon Elizabeth’s powdered white shoulders, which contrasted dramatically with the red brocade of her gown—her very low-cut gown. “If ye want the naked truth, Mistress, yer bosom’s practically fallin’ on the table. What would yer mother—”


“—say if she saw such a thing?”

With a shrug, Elizabeth turned back to her reflection. She was aware of her shortcomings and strengths, and considered her beauty her most important asset. But only because of society’s dictates. Her quick intelligence, which would last far longer than her face and figure, would ultimately serve her better. Until that time, however, she would display her physical attributes, turning a blind eye—and a deaf ear—to the servant, chaperone, or even stepmother who expressed dissatisfaction.

“God blessed me with a generous bosom,” she said, “and I see no reason to hide it.

Grace’s face flushed. “Ye’re an authoress, Mistress, not a . . . one of them . . . improper ladies.”

“Whores, you mean?”

Grace looked as if she were about to faint. “Yer language,” she reprimanded. “Wait till I tell your mother—”


“Wait till I tell somebody,” Grace cried, stomping toward the bed.

“I’m sorry,” Elizabeth said. “It’s just that I’m so nervous.”

It’s just that you’re a fraud, her reflection mocked. How could she face the 150 guests gathering in the ballroom below? Tonight was supposed to be the crowning moment of a career that, in all modesty, had been enormously successful.

She cradled her face in her hands. Her cheeks were so hot. While she prided herself on her iron constitution, her body was sometimes bothered by a variety of vague aches and pains. She attributed their origin to tension, unhappiness, confusion, and a host of the womanly maladies she had always disdained.

Perhaps I’m coming down with a fever and will die in the next few minutes, she thought hopefully. Then I won’t have to encounter all those smiling faces, and listen to all those compliments, and pretend I’m still the darling of Minerva Press.

She had already decided that her writing career was over. Pretending otherwise was artifice.

Grace captured two black velvet ribbons and lifted them from the four-poster’s gold counterpane. “What do you want me to do with these, Mistress?”

“Tie them around my neck and wrist, please.”

“I’d rather fetch yer shawl.”

“No.” Elizabeth extended her wrist, but her servant just stood there, holding the ribbons gingerly, as if she’d caught two mice by their tails. “All right, hand over the damnable things. I’ll put them on myself.”

Grace gasped at the word “damnable.” Her thick brows shot up toward her mob cap. Without further comment, she thrust the ribbons at her mistress.

Elizabeth's fingers felt like chips of ice as she fumbled with her accessories. She knew she shouldn’t snap at Grace. Her servant wasn’t responsible for B.B. Wyndham’s inability to finish Castles of Doom, and Grace certainly wasn’t responsible for Elizabeth Wyndham’s related problem, or more precisely, her obsession.

“My obsession,” Elizabeth whispered to her reflection.

She squeezed her eyes shut, but it didn’t help. Behind her closed eyelids, she conjured up the raven-haired knight whom she hated and feared and loved—the raven-haired knight who existed only in her imagination. His face remained elusive, but the more she wrote, the more frequently she caught flashes of him—the width of his back beneath his surcoat, his thick hair curling over his ears and brushing his nape, the way he held his lithe body so straight and tall. She had fled the Yorkshire Dales in a virtual panic. That way she wouldn’t have to confront her knight’s forthcoming death. Yet he had followed her here to London, invading her publisher’s palatial townhouse. She now knew he would follow her everywhere.

It sounds wonderful, Mary Ellen. I can't wait to read it. May we have a taste of the circus story, too?

While researching THE GREATEST LOVE ON EARTH, I discovered that one circus’s animal act included both lions and tigers. I built a whole scene around that. My hero, Brian, is injured rescuing horses from a train wreck and my heroine, Calliope, is determined to “pirate his act” and perform his role as cat tamer.

Here it is:

Calliope tucked her shirt more securely into her breeches and her pant legs into her boots. She had bound her breasts and her hair had been stuffed into one of Brian’s caps. Her best idea was to invade Clown Alley and fashion a handlebar mustache beneath her nose. Maybe it wasn’t her best idea. She kept stifling the urge to sneeze.

“I don’t anticipate trouble,” she said. “I’ve known these cats since they were cubs. I’ve fed and watered them.” She wrinkled her nose and adjusted her mustache again. “I’ve even cleaned their cages.”

“It’s different inside the ring,” Brian said.

“I’ve watched you hundreds of times and memorized your every move. I’m not scared.”

“Tigers are the most cunning. Lions give warning, since they have a slow way of turning before they strike. The black panther is a killer.”

“We don’t have a panther. You only mention the word ‘killer’ to frighten me.”

"Will you not agree to either lions or tigers? It’s far less dangerous.”

“No. The posters announced both together.”

Calliope strutted into the ring-sized cage and slammed the door behind her. The chute’s wooden entrance panel opened. The first tawny lion appeared, followed by another. Leo and Duchess. Six tigers entered the cage. Although Calliope had played with them all, even petted their smooth coats, she felt her stomach tighten. The knuckles of the fingers that held her whipstock and hickory club stretched white. She snapped her whip and the beasts settled.

So far, so good.

Not so good. One of the tigers was slinking toward her, his ears flattened, his tail swishing softly. Plato. Sweet, lovable Plato, whose lips were now curled in a nasty snarl.

She snapped her whip.

Plato’s ears twitched forward. His muzzle seemed to expand in a tiger smile as he mounted his pedestal. Calliope could almost hear him purr. Triumphantly, she tossed her head. The cap flew free and her hair tumbled down. At the same time, she sneezed, losing her mustache.

"It’s a girl!” screamed a woman.

Calliope slanted a glance toward the seats. Movement surged like a tidal wave as some women pitched forward in faints while others stood, trying to get a better view. Swooning women outnumbered the avidly curious ones. Clowns climbed the guardrail, carrying vinegar and salts.

Damn and blast!

She returned her gaze to the cats. Plato chased his tail, exciting the lions. Calliope could sense the old lion-tiger jungle hatred flare. Sure enough, Leo sprang from his high pedestal, landing within inches of Plato. They both locked together, struggling fiercely for tooth-and-claw advantage.

Calliope brandished her club at the flailing cats then gave Leo a generous clout on the top of his head. The lion let go the tiger’s neck, and Plato scampered through the chute.

Eyes smoldering, Leo turned, glared, and growled.

How can you leave us hanging like that? Now that you've thoroughly hooked us, what’s your next project?

I’m working on a romantic suspense called GYPSY ROSE LIEBERMAN, about a Vaudeville ghost who was—oops—sawed in half by her magician husband. She lives “Up There,” or as John Belushi calls it, “Corpses R Us.” Think: Ghost meets The Lovely Bones. Gypsy’s (live) counterpart lives “Down There.” Can you guess how they communicate?

And I’m almost finished with the first draft of an historical romance, THE MIDNIGHT BRIDGE. While traveling to London, my heroine’s, coach is held up by a highwayman named “Conky Blue.” His real name is Trev Kendal, he’s a Cambridge law student, and he robbed the coach to win a wager (he returns the stolen goods). He’s also the adopted son of self-proclaimed Texas emperor, Michael Kendal. When my heroine leaves England to join her uncle’s household, she’s dismayed to find herself falling in love with Trev, who is now Michael’s lawyer. Because even though she’s never seen his face, she loves Conky Blue…

Ah, another story where a highwayman plays a major part. Sounds great, Mary Ellen. Hope we see it in print soon.

What tip would you offer writers?

Although it’s almost become what I call an “enigmatic cliché,” I truly believe an author must “show” rather than “tell.” What do I mean by show vs. tell? Here’s an example:

"I'm impressed with the work you've done," said Mr. Boss.

John Hero dropped his eyes and smiled. "Thanks, sir."

John had begun working for Boss & Co. six months ago. He had earned the nickname "workaholic" after his wife's sudden death...

Now try this:"I'm impressed by the work you've done," said Mr. Boss.

John Hero smiled. "Thanks, sir."

His smile faded as he stared at Mr. Boss's Wizard of Oz paperweight. He remembered how his wife had loved the song "Over the Rainbow," how he had sung it to her every night as she lay dying, how she had said, “John, you can’t carry a tune in a bucket,” her voice a caress. There was no doubt in his mind that Laura's sudden death had turned him into a workaholic...

The first way isn’t wrong. It’s just that I feel no empathy for John because the author told me about his wife’s death. Add the paperweight, or any personal detail from John’s POV (Point Of View), and I know the character better, feel his pain. Do you see the difference?

An excellent example of the difference between ‘show’ and ‘tell.’ I’m making a copy of it for future reference.

And be careful about a character dropping his or her eyes. They could get stepped on.

Yes, those dropping body parts can get messy. It’s been great talking with you, Mary Ellen. Good luck with your new releases. Thanks, again, for joining us today.

Thank you for inviting me.

For more information, please visit Mary Ellen at http://www.maryellendennis.com/.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Writers' Wednesday Welcomes Selena Fulton

On Wednesdays, we meet an author who is published or on the journey to publication, who shares a writing tip with everyone.

This week, I’m happy to welcome Selena Fulton. Selena won the 2009 Golden Acorn Excellence in Writing. She finaled in the 2010 Beacon contest. Thanks for taking time out of your schedule to talk with us Selena.

Thank you for having me.

Your current work is an inspirational. Could you please tell us a little about it and what draws you to this genre?

THE LONG WAY HOME is a contemporary inspirational romance set in Florida. I write about Christians dealing with real life situations and their journey as they grow in their faith. I try to show that no matter how far you may have strayed from God, He will always welcome you back. Being Christian doesn’t mean you’re perfect, it means you’re forgiven.

Here’s a blurb:
Mindy Stanley is far from home in every sense of the word. Not only has her husband, Joe, stolen their grocery and rent money again, he is in jail for killing two people when he wrecked the company truck. She refuses to divorce him, however. She is the daughter of a minister and even though she walked away from the church years ago, to divorce Joe would prove that her daddy was right.

Forced to cope on her own with two small children, she feels abandoned by God and everyone else. When she goes home for her sister’s wedding, she must face her parents, her past and the ex-boyfriend she didn’t wait for.

This sounds like a wonderful story, Selena. Forgiveness and redemption are universal themes. Faith can give us the strength to persevere and overcome any adversity.

What are you working on now?

One project is a time travel romance, which is a novella. I have always been fascinated with the idea of time travel, and “what if,” and soul mates. I also have a few YA ideas I’m working on.

Will you do another inspirational?

Oh, yes. I like to write stories that Christian people can relate to, about the real problems they face in the world.

What tip would you offer writers?

Keep submitting and learning! You are never too old to learn, and you will never be published if your story never makes it off your hard drive.

I love that advice. Is there anything you might add for writers just starting out?

Find a local chapter. Being around other writers provides a wealth of knowledge and is very encouraging. Take courses on writing; some of them are free. Read, read, read. You get a feel for what is selling as well as filling the creative well.

Very true. There's nothing like other writers for understanding and support. Thanks, again, for joining us Selena. We look forward to seeing your work.

Please visit Selena’s blog: http://www.selenafulton.wordpress.com/

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Writers' Wednesday-Tips From Conferences

Backstory. That one word is often enough to send writers screaming into the streets. Or at least moaning to the freezer for another Monarch® bar. Seems like we either dump it in all at once (but if readers don’t know the hero’s story, how will they sympathize with his motives?);

we ignore it (one contest judge wrote: “I never thought I’d say this, but I need more backstory here;”)

or it comes out in “scintillating” dialogue such as: “John, you know that when my father died in that terrible hot air balloon crash just before Christmas last year, I inherited his fortune. My sister has continued to fight the will, and she accused me of falsifying the documents.”

“Yes, Marsha, I’ve watched these last three months as the trial dragged on, bringing out the worst in all your relatives. Your uncle even tampered with the brakes on your car. But the police arrested him and now he’s in jail.”

At this point, even the hardiest reader would lam the book against a wall.

So--what do we do and--when do we do it?

Award-winning author and writing instructor Leigh Michaels has answers to those questions. She shared some of them at a recent Ozarks Romance Authors’ (ORA) conference in Springfield, MO.

Knowing what and how much readers need to know--and when they need to know it--can pose difficulties. Michaels admitted she still sometimes faces those challenges.

Her suggestions for handling the issues? For one, she said use dialogue. But not in the excruciating example above. Make the exchange among characters sound natural and confined.

A writer can also break up the backstory into several small bits to weave in as the book progresses, rather than hit readers with everything at once.

That piece of advice seemed directed at me, specifically. In my first manuscript, the heroic knight’s entire history was out within the first few pages of Chapter 1. But the readers needed to know it so they could sympathize with his goal and motivations. I thought. Poor hero. He’s languishing in a special corner of my mind, and I intend to rehabilitate his story one day.

Michaels mentioned another point that might be difficult to parse. If the information “isn’t crucial,” she said, “skip it.” Excellent advice. But--crucial to whom? The reader.

My translation of her advice: Of course every drop of the lovingly constructed history of my hero and heroine is ambrosia. For me. What about the readers? What must they know to make sense of it all? To make a really good punch, the ingredients must be balanced or the result is either stomach-churning sweet or eye-squinting sour.

I’m still learning my own way of writing. It’s not like everyone else’s. When I first started with fiction, I tried to do it like others said they did. Or like I thought it should be done. Or like I did the non-fiction I’d always written. But it didn’t work that way. Since it didn’t, I was convinced that I must be a failure.

But now I’ve come to accept the way I work. I’ve found that on my first draft, I overload backstory and ‘tell’ way too often. On the next trip through, I try to eliminate what’s not necessary, save lots for later, and turn the ‘telling’ into scenes with dialogue. I’m still working on that balanced recipe. But thank goodness my purchase of Tums® is lessening.

Leigh Michaels’ advice on backstory, which was only a part of her presentation on backstory, pacing and transition, reinforced points about weaving in our characters’ history. It seems writers at most levels of their careers would benefit from her insights. I recommend sitting in on one of her workshops or dropping by her website and ‘classroom’ for more pointers. Don’t forget her classic book: ON WRITING ROMANCE.

Leigh Michaels is a multi RWA Rita nominee contemporary romance author with more than 100 books, whose latest two novels are Regencies. The third Regency will be out in September. Visit her at http://www.leighmichaels.com/. Her romance writing classes are offered through Gotham Writers’ Workshop at http://www.writingclasses.com/.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Writers' Wednesday Welcomes Ashlyn Macnamara

Welcome to Writers’ Wednesday where we meet authors who are published or are on the journey to publication. In addition to sharing their stories, they offer writing tips they have found invaluable.

This week, I’m happy to welcome Ashlyn Macnamara, a Romance Writers of America (RWA) 2011 Golden Heart® finalist. Her Regency will be published in early 2013 by Ballantine-Bantam-Dell.

Thank you for taking time out of your schedule to talk with us Ashlyn. What an exciting year for you, finaling in the prestigious Golden Heart® contest--then selling right around the time of RWA Nationals.

It's been a wild few months for me. In two and a half months, I went from unagented, to acquiring representation, to selling my book. I'm still waiting for it to sink in.

Was this your first time to enter the GH?

Yes, it was.

In a sense, I'm still in shock that I even finaled. I entered my manuscript A TALE OF TWO SISTERS in several chapter contests, and only finaled in three of those. They say it's a sign of a strong voice when you get widely varying scores. I guess I have a strong voice, because boy, do my scores vary. Judges either love me or hate me, and I almost always get that one judge. Sometimes more than one.

To final in the GH, you have to get five judges to agree you've got a strong entry and hand you, at the lowest, mid-to-high 8s—or have one hold-out who scores you so low, you qualify for the standard deviation rule. But even then, the other four have to agree and give you high marks. Considering my track record with contest judges, I am extremely fortunate to have finaled

That's so encouraging for writers who are entering contests--or even those who are reluctant to do so. The GH notifications came on March 25. When did you learn the book had sold?

Oddly enough, the first time was before I even had an agent. I was in the process of nailing down representation, because I sent out queries to my entire A-list on the evening of March 25. I had more than one offer, and I was still waiting on responses from a few more agents who were still reading. In the middle of that, I received an email from an editor that basically amounted to a revisions letter. I'd submitted to a new line this past winter on a whim, and the guidelines on their website said that they'd contact me only if interested. So I submitted, and figured I woudn't hear back. Once again, I was shocked to receive this email, but I replied to the editor, told her I was in the process of acquiring an agent, and could my agent get back to her?

Of course she said yes. A couple of days later, I made my decision and signed with Sara Megibow of Nelson Literary, and she sent me her own revisions letter. And some of her suggestions were basically the opposite of what the interested editor wanted me to do. So I revised to Sara's suggestions, and we went on submission.

That first editor was still interested and made us an offer. When I talked to her on the phone, I asked her specifically about revisions, because in the back of my mind, I figured I'd have to undo everything I did for Sara and then some. Nope, the editor said. Sara's ideas were spot on.

And then I had another offer, because we submitted to nine lines, and this offer was even better, because it was a two-book deal with an advance, and for an actual book, not just digital with the possibility of print-on-demand. So we went with that one, about a week and a half after the first editor showed an interest.

Of course, I have no clue what my revisions are going to be like. I'll be working with the same editor as Sherry Thomas, who, when I met her at Nationals, informed me with a great deal of glee that her first revisions letter was 16 pages, single spaced.

That's a fantastic story, Ashlyn. What a whirlwind. You must have had a difficult time sleeping for a few nights. But the result was worth it. A TALE OF TWO SISTERS is, as mentioned, a Regency, one of the most popular genres today. What draws you to this era?

I love historical romance, period. I read in all eras, and I love medievals, Regency, Victorians, Georgian, Viking, pirate, historical westerns, you name it. In fact, I love it even more when a story is set somewhere off the beaten path, both era-wise and place-wise. I started reading romance back in the 1980s before authors became stuck with a specific brand, when you had authors like Johanna Lindsey and Heather Graham who wrote everything from Vikings to (in Lindsey's case) futuristic.

All this to say, I never considered myself a Regency author. In fact, SISTERS is the first Regency I ever wrote. My very first manuscript—the one that lives under the bed and plays with the dust bunnies—was a medieval. My other stories are all set in North America around the time of the Revolutionary War or shortly thereafter.

In fact, when I first got the idea for SISTERS I tried to figure out a way to set it in colonial Williamsburg. It just didn't want to go there. My characters and my story dictated themselves to me as Regency, and I've long since learned I can't fight my characters or they take their toys and go home. So I wrote a Regency in spite of myself.

All that said, I do love me some Jane Austen. I love her humor and sarcasm and social commentary.

Please tell us a little about the work.

A TALE OF TWO SISTERS, well, the title is pretty much self-explanatory. I've been telling people it's a little like Sense and Sensibility only with more love scenes. It's not a true retelling of the Jane Austen classic, though. It does feature two sisters: Julia who is ruled by her head and Sophia who is ruled by her heart, but that's where the similarities end. It's also very much a double romance. One of the sisters takes a slightly more prominent role, but each one has her own hero, and the story line alternates between the two.

What binds the two romances together? The villain, of course.

See, Sophia has had an unrequited crush on the villain for years, but he's never noticed her. When he finally deigns to, he offers for Julia instead.

It sounds great. If only we didn't have to wait more than a year to read it. What’s your next project?

Since I landed a two-book deal, I'm working on the next story in the series. It features the best friend of one of the heroes of SISTERS. I kind of developed a crush on him when I was writing the first story, so getting to write even more about him is a bonus. He's a little snarky, a little dissipated, but underneath that, he hides the soul of a long-suffering artist.

Mr. Upperton is also the reason my release date is so far off. My publisher wants to release the two relatively close together.

Very well. I suppose we can wait a few months for the first book, as long as we're promised a quick follow-up.

What one tip would you offer writers?

Never give up. Never surrender. And never stop believing.

About this time last year, I was ready to give up. I'd received a detailed rejection on one of my Revolutionary War stories from an e-press. I know those are supposed to be good signs, but after all the heart and soul I'd put into that book, not to mention researching it on site, the pass was a blow. At the same time, I'd received a detailed critique on my first three chapters of SISTERS from a published author. The issues pointed out in both cases were similar, and I told myself it was a wake-up call. I just wasn't ready for prime time. I still needed to work on craft issues, so what point was there in entering the GH, when I wouldn't even get any feedback in return for my $50? I'd basically be throwing that money, along with the postage, paper and ink out the window, because my writing didn't have what it took to final.

Now, I'm a member of a group of writers who formed the previous year with the intention of entering and finaling in the GH. When I told them I was bowing out, but I was happy to cheer everyone else on, they gave me a collective kick in the seat of my pants, told me to suck it up and get to work. And I am so thankful they did.

Absolutely. Nothing can surpass helpful, supportive friends. I'm sure they're all thrilled and hope to travel the rest of the road to publication with you. Good luck.

Thanks, again, for joining us today. I hope you’ll be back in 2013 when A TALE OF TWO SISTERS is released.

Thank you for having me. I'd love to come back when I can share something more concrete, like cover art or excerpts.

Find Ashlyn online: Website: http://ashlynmacnamara.net/ (blog is located on my website)
Facebook page (feel free to like me): http://www.facebook.com/%23!/pages/Ashlyn-Macnamara/178818875498486
Twitter: http://twitter.com/%23!/ashlyn_mac

Monday, August 1, 2011

Three Little Words. Paeans to the romantic in us writers. Ah, yes.
Goal, Motivation, Conflict.

Actually, romance, suspense, mystery, paranormal--no matter what we write, those three little words live at the heart of our work. Best-selling author Shannon K. Butcher put them at the top of her outline on Plotting Romantic Suspense when she spoke at the Ozarks Romance Authors conference, Saturday, July 23. But as she pointed out, many of the same steps in planning apply no matter what the genre.

Developing characters, a writer must establish goal and internal conflict and be able to answer key questions. Why are the hero and heroine perfect for each other? Why do they love each other?

The external conflict must be established. Who drives it? Is the resolution satisfactory?

Butcher dealt with GMC--along with other elements such as pacing, tension, the dark moment, story resolution. She broke them down into what might be described as the journalistic questions--who, what, when, where, why, how--listing the detailed questions as she moved through each section.

One of her points could be applied to every part of the story. Balance. Writers must find the balance in every area, from pacing to sexual tension.

Butcher also touched on secondary characters and subplots. Secondary characters can help create the world we're building and can provide tension relief.

Subplots should enhance the main plot but should be used sparingly and only as necessary.

Before we even begin writing, however, she urged writers to examine the internal conflict, the one we began with. Is it strong enough to carry the story through the the end?

What I took away from her presentation was this: The development may be driven by genre, but every story must employ goal(s) that is (are) strong, worthwhile; motivation that is compelling but reasonable for the characters and the world we're building; internal and external conflict that drive the story and the characters until the black moment, after which the hero/heroine will experience a resolution (and a mystery solved?) For those of us who write romance, that resolution is a HEA.


Now all that remains is to figure out how to do it.

The next guest on Writers' Wednesday has certainly done so. Be sure to stop by and meet Ashlynn MacNamara later this week.