Lots of WOW's!

My head spins with all the great resources that have been posted here this month. Instead of adding more--and there are many, many more!--here's a recap of what we've blogged about for the past eight months. Below are the answers I would give if asked how to become a romance writer.

1. READ romances.

2. Learn the genres and sub-genres of romance. Find out what type of romance you'd like to write. (Tip: You really should love them before you write them.)

3. Learn what publishers publish the type of romance you want to write.

4. Learn (and correct, if necessary) the Top Ten Beginner's Mistakes.

5. Join a writing group and/or organization, and, if possible, find a critique partner or group. There's nothing like having someone who understands and will cheer you on and lend a shoulder to cry on when needed.

6. Learn how to set goals...and how to keep them!

7. Learn how to manage your time. Too often we put the things we want to do behind all the other things that vie for our time. Make writing a priority.

8. Keep current on publishing industry news.

9. Enter contests and submit your work to pulishers. Someone other than you will have to someday read it. Contests can help you hone your skills. Remember that rejections are part of the writing life, so grow a thick skin. Learn how to use rejections to your advantage.

10. Remember that you'll always be learning, whether you're a beginning writer, have been writing for a few years, or have published twenty or more books.

*Resources for the above can be found within the Bits & Bytes blog.

Happy Writing!!

Connecting with other writers

This month's topic, Resources for Writers, had me going in a completely different direction. A decade or so ago when I first started to write, I had ordered several books from Writer's Digest. One was a reference book about magazine and publishing houses and what they were looking for in a story and how to reach the right person.

Through that same book, I also found a link to Romance Writers of America, and then eventually to a local chapter in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I lived seventy miles away and the meetings were held on a Thursday night so there was quite a bit of challenge with babysitters and bad weather, but once I'd made the connection with that group, it was like finally reaching land after spending a year at sea.

Heart of Iowa Fiction Authors gave me my first connection to someone else who was trying to write a story. The meetings were always informative (if not over my head:) and I had the opportunity to socialize with other aspiring authors. That was a big deal for me.

Through the years, although my needs as a writer have changed, my connection to that group has not. Longtime members viewed our meetings as a time to catch-up and learn a little something new. But it was always the visitors to the group that lit a fire under me. What can be more inspiring than pure enthusiasm for putting words to paper? And many times their excitement for the craft gave me a lift at just the right time.

Nowadays, we as writers have many opportunities to reach out to others in the business. Through conferences, contests and writer's loops, we have the chance to connect with someone who is walking the same path. When you have a little free time, run an internet search on writer's resources and see how many opportunities are available.

I’m Melting, I’m Melting . . . bzzzt Zip!

There are many aspects of a writer’s life, many tools of the trade to learn and master but one important thing often overlooked is the basic tool we employ. Yup, those pesky computers, laptops, gadgets and electronic gizmos galore. Without them we would all be reduced to pen and paper, or replacing messy ink ribbons in the old clunky typewriters of yore. They were fine for a time but we have moved on to bigger and better (?) things, at least until something goes wrong.

For me it was three Trojans (not Brad Pitt), one virus (no pigs or birds), one embedded spyware (definitely not James Bond) and seventy two, yes, seventy two, warning thing-a-ma-jigs. Apparently they had been setting me up for disaster for some time because with one little click, it was a barrage of pop-ups and then a quick death by strangulation. My computer was no longer my own. It would not let me access the internet; it would not let me do much of anything. Pop ups claiming to help me get rid of the bugs were everywhere but I’m told they probably activated them instead. It became apparent that my security system was not so secure and once those buggers got started, they disabled, reconfigured and reconnected whatever dots they wanted to.

After getting some much needed help to determine the damage, my computer was taken back to ground zero and born again. Luckily for me my help knew how to save my document files on to an external hard drive while reanimating my electronic corpse; otherwise I would have lost the entire contents of my last days work. The dedicated writers of Wichita Area Romance Authors have stated numerous times the necessity of backing up your work to some external device by either a thumb drive, external hard drive, CD disk or my own personal favorite: emailing my work to myself to store in cyberspace. When your computer has a meltdown either through old age, lightening or sabotage, it’s the luck of the draw as to whether your work can be saved. So be smart, save EVERYTHING somewhere else and then you can rest peacefully knowing that your “babies” will still be there to greet you in the morning.

My last word of wisdom for the day; do some research on security programs for your computer. Ours was a popular one but obviously not a very good one. Check with several computer technicians to see which one they recommend and when you get a consensus, change. There is at least one good security program that you can download for free from: download.com. So do yourself a favor, save yourself a ton of money, do your homework and make your work environment virus free.

Need a Jump Start? (Penny Rader)

Since we’ve been discussing writing resources and inspiration this month, I thought I’d share what helps me jump start my brain.

Pictures and Collages

One of my favorite pastimes is flipping through magazines, looking for pictures I can use for characters and settings. I also like to clip out motivational words and pictures and fix them onto my writing notebooks with clear contact paper.

I’d also like to make a collage for a series I’m planning. Since I haven’t done one yet to show you, I found this site with some great examples and how-to info: http://belleenchanted.com/pre-writing-with-collage/
The links she gives for the Jenny Crusie collage don’t work, but this one does
http://www.jennycrusie.com/more-stuff/book-collages/ .


I love to listen to music, especially songs with a story. I’ve heard many authors say they create soundtracks for their stories. I’d love to try this, but haven’t quite figured out how to go about finding the songs that would fit the story I’m working on. I think it’d be a helpful tool, sort of like a habit maybe, where I’d get used to turning on the soundtrack and the story would leap into my mind and out my fingertips.

Books about Creativity (As many of you know, I love writing exercises!)

Pen on Fire: A Busy Woman’s Guide to Igniting the Writer Within by Barbara DeMarco-Barrett. Turn fifteen minutes a day into productive sessions that get and keep your creativity flowing. Here's an exercise to try: " Detail the senses by writing for fifteen minutes on a certain food...for someone who has never tasted it. Write about a visual scene for someone who can't see, and write about a piece of music for someone who can't hear."

A Writer’s Book of Days: A Spirited Companion and Lively Muse for the Writing Life by Judy Reeves. This book has writing prompts for every day. For example, one for today is “Returning takes too long.”

The Writer’s Retreat Kit by Judy Reeves is a workshop in a box, with a guidebook and interactive cards. An example of one of the prompts: “It’s what whispers your name at night.”

Escaping into the Open: The Art of Writing True by Elizabeth Berg. Here’s a quote: “You feel the call…Now answer it as fully as you can. Take the risk to let all that is in you, out. Escape into the open.” This book has exercises that unleash creativity and fire passion/emotion into writing. Here's an example: "Write a description of something you look at every day in three different types of light (e.g., morning sun, dusk, lamplight)."

Panning for Gold in the Kitchen Sink: Everyday Creative Writing by Michael C. Smith and Suzanne Greenberg. This book has 40+ exercises based on daily life. For example, “Invent two plausibly odd remedies for whichever ailment you wish to cure…Begin a poem, story, or essay that incorporates one of these ‘cures.’”

Pencil Dancing: New Ways to Free Your Creative Spirit by Mari Messer. “Fun…is a central element of creativity.” Try this exercise: "Do something a kid would do. Walk in the rain and splash through puddles, play with bubbles in the bathtub, leap into a pile of leaves, run on the dewy grass in your bare feet. Write about how this experience felt."

If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit by Brenda Ueland. I found two chapter titles particularly intriguing: “Why Women Who Do Too Much Housework Should Neglect It for Their Writing” and “You Do Not Know What Is in You—an Inexhaustible Fountain of Ideas.”

Room to Write: Daily Invitations to a Writer’s Life by Bonni Goldberg. Here’s an example: “Today pick a stranger who fascinates you. First, describe the person’s spirit, soul or energy, without relying on physical appearance. Then begin the physical description.”

The Pocket Muse: Ideas and Inspirations for Writing by Monica Wood. This is a book of prompts, exercises, and illustrations. Here’s an example: “Write about your earliest superstition.”

The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life by Julia Cameron. “…writing is best broken down into a one-day-at-a-time, one-page-at-a-time process. We do not need the courage to write a whole novel. We need the courage only to write on the novel today.”

Writing toward Home: Tales and Lessons to Find Your Way by Georgia Heard. “My notebook…always reminds me I’m a writer, and it helps me live a considered life that doesn’t spin by focused only on groceries, dinner, and car repairs.”

I’d Rather Be Writing: A Guide to Finding More Time, Getting More Organized, Completing More Projects and Having More Fun by Marcia Golub. Prompt: “Something is lost, not long ago but now. What is lost? What does the character do?”

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. There’s a chapter about giving yourself permission to write “shitty first drafts” and one about writing what you can see though a 1” x 1” picture frame instead of worrying about writing the entire book right now. Or something to that effect. :D I don’t own this book and it’s been a while since I read it, but these two things are what stick in my mind.

So…what works for when you need inspiration? Care to try your hand at any of the prompts and exercises listed above?

The Joy of Writing

The joy of writing romance is in viscerally understanding what it is. The romance paperback is ubiquitous to our culture in the United States. There is one in every waiting room, boxes of them in shelters, reams of paper devoted to them, and now with the electronic age, there are terabytes of them recorded on dusty servers. Why?

Because they do good. Everyone of them contains hope, a satisfactory ending, and an adventure of the heart if not the body. One Romance Writers of America luncheon speaker told of a few of the letters she'd received over the years. One was from a young man who had been engaged when he had a motorcycle wreck and become paralyzed from the neck down. What did romance books do for him? They had been left at the hospital by women in the visiting room and someone who had been to visit him had used one. By the time he recovered from his coma, his injuries, to remain paralyzed, he'd lost his promising career, his future wife, and all hope. The stack of romance books brought him back from his deep despair and desire to end his life. He'd wrote the author of his turning point book to explain it to her. He now had hope for his future and plans.

I recieved a phone call that started with, "Are you the person who wrote, The Proving Zone:Tory's Story?" and the next sentence sent my heart to my toes. "It changed my life." I was afraid they'd tried something in the book and injured themselves or something horrible, not to mention the shock of realization that someone had hunted me down and my phone number. But, the caller went on to explain that because of my book, she realized what she'd been doing and changed her behavior which resulted in a renewed relationship like she'd never had before. Other readers have reached me to let me know that phrases from that book have become a part of their family language. We affect other's lives.

We let people remember and refresh their own feelings of romance in their relationships by reading romance. I've watched people who are having the worst year of their life read romances because they are a time out of the pressure of that worst year.
We give people breathing space.
We stop worry for a while.
We keep horror and fear for the future at bay.
We bring them home safe.

As we write and the words flow from our fingers with all the ease we enjoy, we too reach a place that feels too good to stop. We play in the lives of our characters. When we are stopped, bound up by trying to reach that perfect description of what we want to convey, even then, in our tiny angst, the pain feels kinda good, like a healing bruise. And it may bug us for a few days until it is right. We know we must never give up. The world needs us. Every day. Brand new, crisp pages, and shiny covers or dusty, torn, aged garage sale paperback--every one is necessary.

The people we meet and find as compatible souls in this romance writing world are some of the best relationships we'll ever have.
Because they understand it, and knowing what it is, still enjoy...the joy of writing romance.

Commend, laud, honor, acclaim, extol, venerate.

In other words, in praise of Roget’s Thesaurus.

Roget’s is my third most favorite writing resource.
Number one is my imagination.
Number two is my computer.

My Roget’s is dog-eared, tattered, ripped, rent, and damaged. I love it. I simply adore finding the word that makes a sentence sing.

For the most part, my writing style is simple. I have no illusions about what I write. It’s entertainment, easy, uncomplicated, pleasing as stroll down a shady lane, but sometimes I just need a better word.

Maybe I used handsome three times on one page. I try to avoid those echo words that writer’s notice, but ordinary readers gloss right over. Shift+F7 gives me the thesaurus in Microsoft Word. I use it frequently, but there is something more satisfying about grabbing the book with the broken spine and falling out, ragged pages.

Leafing though all those words gives me new ideas. Sometimes, they take my story or my characters in a whole new direction.

Handsome = attractive, good-looking, elegant, stately, majestic, gorgeous.
Elegant is the word that fits best tonight.

The elegant Dr. Peter Mark Roget created his thesaurus in 1805 but it was not released to the public until 1856. Imagine what it must be like to create a book every writer looks to. He's been called the man who became a book. I like that. His is the book that helped me become a writer.
What books have been your inspiration for writing?
Besides Roget, I can name three others that seriously influenced me.
The Wolf and the Dove by Kathleen Woodwiss (my first romance)
Morning Glory by LaVyrle Spencer. (the best character study of a hero ever)
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby (proof that I can write no matter what problems life throws at me)
Happy writing

Storytelling Is An Art

Don’t we enjoy reading a good book? If it doesn’t hold our attention, we usually lose interest, never picking that book up again. This concept should be just as important when writing our own manuscript. As writer’s we want to hold the reader from the beginning to the end. When a reader loves your book, they are inclined to tell others. Waiting with anticipation for the release of your next novel.

An essential writing technique in storytelling is Creating Suspense. How many books have you read until the wee hours of the morning? Not wanting to put the book down. Involving yourselves with the characters, as if you knew them on a personal basis. Have you taken time to watch people when you talk to them? If what you are saying is putting a glassy eyed look on their face, it’s a sure bet, they aren’t listening. Same concept goes for when you are writing your story. Anyone can write words on paper. It’s the emphasis a writer applies to grammatically correct sentences and interesting words, that makes the novel suspenseful to the reader.

Characters are the working force to storytelling. Without them, there isn’t anything to write about. Characters have an agenda following a goal. Put them in a situation where there is conflict. I like to call conflict, obstacles. The hero and heroine will work through the conflict; building on the obstacles, moving the plot along creating the necessary suspense. A book I have found helpful is “Building Believable Characters” by Marc McCutcheon. Great book for helping me develop my character charts.

Some writers have difficulty applying Conflict in their storytelling. Once our characters are developed, we as writers have established a relationship with them. The last thing we want to do is cause pain or discomfort towards them. Conflict makes the story worth reading. It provides the story with struggles, tension, choices the characters will have to make. Having opposing forces is what brings the internal and external conflicts to a height of the drama. If you touch the reader’s hearts at all levels of emotions, you’ve created the art of storytelling.

Storytellers must satisfy their readers with a Believable Ending. Characters should have their conflict reduced to a workable agreement. A twist of surprise at the ending will bring delight to the reader. Such as a traumatic event giving the character a chance to change. Romance storytelling is based on the hero and heroine resolving their differences in harmony. What the basic conflict was in the beginning of the story is now reflected to a happy ending.

Are you excited to be with your characters each day? Does your story hold your interest?


Understanding the Premise, the Blurb, and the Pitch


A “premise” is a brief summary of what the book is about, preferably in one to two sentences. It can be considered the quickie pitch for an agent, an editor, or a reader.

A Premise’s Job
Reinforce what the title says about the book’s genre and tone
Summarize the storyline
Show the story’s uniqueness
Intrigue the reader, agent, or editor
Entice the reader to want to know what’s going to happen
Establish the story’s dramatic issue and hint at movement within the story to reach a satisfactory fulfillment

Sample Premise of It’s Mau-idness (by Starla Kaye)

Two people burned in previous bad marriages fight an unwanted and irresistible attraction while battling over a spa ranch business investment in Maui.

Tone: semi-lighthearted by the play on Maui Madness (original title I came up with)
Summary: characters battling over something both want
Uniqueness: the type of business being battled over
Romantic conflict: prior bad marriages make characters wary, but physical attraction is strong and hard to resist


Some people wrongly believe that a “premise” is the same thing as the promotional “blurb,” such as used on back covers. The premise may be incorporated into the blurb, but the blurb goes into more detail to encourage a reader to buy the book.

Goals of the Blurb

Introduce the main character or characters
State their goals (the reason for the story)
Hint at conflicts (reasons they will have trouble reaching the goals)
Establish setting details: time period, genre influences, location
For a romance, to show attraction and frustration

Sample Blurb from If You Loved Me by Starla Kaye

Caitlin Curran MacDonnell’s life is a disaster. Forced into marriage in Scotland at eighteen to a man she had never met before, at twenty-one she’s told the marriage is to be annulled. Only problem: Now her brother wants to force her to marry someone else. She’s had enough. She has dreams of her own and they don’t include an enormous, handsome Scot OR a disgusting old man. It’s time to find her “husband” from whom she was separated after her wedding night and get on with her life.

Just when Mac is getting on with his life, his sassy young bride shows up in Tumbleweed, Kansas where he’s now the sheriff. He’d been told she’d died, yet there she is, willful and independent as ever, demanding an annulment so she can go off to San Francisco to be a photographer. That might be what she wants, but what she needs is a man to keep her in line.

Character introduction: Cailtin Curran MacDonnell and Mac MacDonnell
Her goals: end her farce of a marriage and start her own life as a photographer
Her conflicts: not go from one forced marriage to another
Setting: married in Scotland, confronts Mac in Tumbleweed, Kansas
Romantic elements: sees Mac as a handsome Scot, he sees her as needing him


In baseball terms, it would be what a pitcher throws to a batter in an attempt to work towards a game win. The pitcher would hope that all of his pitches are so good that all the batters strike out, and he earns the glory of a win.

In a writer’s terms, the pitch is what a writer tells an agent or an editor about his/her manuscript with the hope of earning representation or a sale. The pitch can be as short as the 1-2 sentence premise, or relating the guts of the work in 6-10 well crafted sentences for a five to ten minute agent/editor appointment. The pitch can also be used in a query letter.

Contents of a Good Pitch

Relate the genre, and possibly a targeted line
Give the approximate word count (should fit the targeted line you mention)
State if the work is complete
Provide a succinct summary of the basic storyline plot points
Establish the setting, including the time period
Introduce the characters and their goals
Show the conflicts and obstacles to keep the characters from reaching their goals
In a romance, explain what attracts them to each other and what keeps them from physically or emotionally apart

The Write Path--the Road Now Traveled

We writers hear and read a lot of how each of us should achieve the right effect in our craft. It is all right and all wrong. (Disclaimer: This idea is not mine, but resonates with me so I'm passing it on.)

Imagine if Charles Dickens, Tom Clancy, Steven King, Barbara Cartland, Shakespear, Louisa May Alcott, and Georgette Heyer all sat down to discuss writing. Each and every one of them would probably have a strong notion of what writing should be like. Each and every one of them would be correct. Each and every one of them would be wrong.

Each has a distinctive style and writer's voice. Each emphasizes different areas of their writing. As you re-read the list above let your mind's ear think of words they've written. Charles Dicken's rich backgrounds and detail. A man who was commissioned by our country to change the world by his writing. And so A Christmas Carol was born. And it worked. Christmastime rioting and destruction of commercial districts was stopped in this country. Now, that's the power of the written word.

Tom Clancy's tangled weaves of far separate lives that are almost insurmountable in reading complexity but come together and dazzle us. Steven King's way with few words, but horrifying in the way they linger on the brain.

How can we forget Barbara Cartland's breathless heroines and her exotic locations? She was once the most prolific writer that ever lived. She led the charge for mass marketing romances.

Louisa May Alcott's gentle descriptions of everyday life in the lives of regular people. Her books have been beloved by a generation and become classics. Georgette Heyer, one of my personal favorites, has layering of interlocking stories as well as good characterizations.

Each of these writers would be silly writing as the others. The richness of the reading world would be less if they had tried. Worse, if one had stayed silent and never wrote their own stories in their own way, the world would be less also.

Since we started this blog, it has had a lot of excellent information for writers. It has been very multidimensional for all kinds of writing. However, I think the greatest lesson of all, is to be true to one's own writing spirit. In the attempt to learn and grow in the craft of writing, sometimes we prune the wrong limb. Be careful. The world never has enough variety and is always looking for something new to read.

Well, bite my steaming, swollen toe!

I’ve had a lot of favorite writing books over the years. Fiction Is Folks by Robert Newton Peck, Shut Up, He Explained: A Writer’s Guide to the Uses and Misuses of Dialogue by William Noble, The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes and Heroines by Tami D. Cowden, Caro LaFever, and Sue Viders, Goal, Motivation and Conflict by Deb Dixon, Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women edited by Jayne Ann Krentz, Sun Signs by Linda Goodman, Color Me Beautiful by Carole Jackson, and 45 Master Characters by Victoria Lynn Schmidt are just a few of them. One was a small book bound in light blue paper that I got from Beverly Wadsworth that had been written by an author she represented. It was an informative little piece of work that had one of the best character sheets I’ve ever seen in it. I can’t remember either the title or the author of it, and I lost it during one of our many disasterous moves.

So you can see it would be hard for me to pick just one book. These days, like everyone else, I rely a lot on Internet websites for assistance and information. The two I use most are Dictionary.com (http://dictionary.reference.com/) and Seventh Sanctum™ (http://www.seventhsanctum.com/). Dictionary.com has a dictionary, a thesaurus, an encyclopedia and a translator all on one site. It’s good for spelling, short information on a subject and synonyms and antonyms. I use the thesaurus section most often, particularly when I’m stuck for a word or stuck on one.

Seventh Sanctum™ is a collection of “generators.” These generators are programmed to randomly create names, characters, plots, ideas, items, or just about anything you can imagine. If you need a name for a minor character in a hurry, try the Quick Character Namers. It generates names based off census data for America. It uses common names only, so you won’t get something like Grail Steelreaper or Ginger Lustflame. However, if you need a name like one of the afore-mentioned, you can certainly come up with it on the Weird Name Generators.

Two of my favorite generators are the Romance Stories generator and the Cuss-O-Matic. The Romance Stories generator will give you a romance-oriented plot and pair of characters complete with extra details and plot complications. For example: This story starts in a small city in the Antarctic. In it, a silly professor is in love with an unwise project manager - all thanks to a murder. If it does nothing else, the generator will certainly get you thinking.

The Cuss-O-Matic is found at Serendipity(http://nine.frenchboys.net/). If you need a colorful epithet, try generating one like, “Oh, pinch my pestilent, pogo-sticking rump!” One of my favorite all time exclamations came from the Cuss-O-Matic. It’s fun to use Seventh Sanctum™ or one of the other generators links on its page. The only problem is you can get caught up in the whimsy and adventure of generating that you don’t get much writing done. But if you need a quick writing boost, Seventh Sanctum™ is the place to go.

The Art of Seduction

The Art of Seduction by Robert Greene, (also the author of 48 Laws of Power) if taken for its purported purpose of getting anything from anyone, is rather creepy and chilling in its constant use of the word “victim.” It takes seduction at the worst meaning of the word and often made me think of stalker. Here, however, I present it as book with information that can aid in developing and understanding your characters.

The book is presented in two parts. The first part gives a straight forward, in depth explanation with historic and or literary examples of Greene’s arbitrarily set of nine types of seducers:

1. The Siren—ultimate male fantasy figure who offers a total release from daily life. Symbol is water, liquid and enticing.

2. The Rake—provides a mix of danger and pleasure. Symbol is Fire, a Rake burns with a desire that enflames.

3. The Charmer—discussed below. Symbol is the mirror, reflecting what the other person wishes to see.

4. The Ideal Lover—reflects fantasies and desires. Symbol is the Portrait Patinter—under his eye all imperfections disappear.

5. The Dandy—creates an alluring presence that stirs repressed desire. Symbol is the Orchid, odor sweet and decadent, prized for rarity.

6. The Natural—has the qualities we left with childhood: spontaneity, sincerity, unpretentiousness. Symbol is the Lamb, soft and endearing, a pure innocence we want to possess.

7. The Coquette—grand master of the game of alternating hope and frustration with the lure of total satisfaction. Symbol is the Shadow, it cannot be grasped.

8. The Charismatic—attract by radiating a confidence and contentment they keep mysterious. Symbol is the Lamp, an invisible current that turns cadescent.

9. The Star—uses the desire to escape into fantasy and dreams. Symbol is the Idol, the eye of the worshipper fill the Idol with life and imagine it to have real powers.

Each type also has a “Key to the Character” section and “Dangers,” a connotation Greene never applies to his “victims.” In the margins are a great many historic and literary quotes which are interesting in themselves and are used as mirrors of the author’s ideas. The second half of the book is given to the “process of seduction” which Greene divides into four phases, the first being “Choosing the Right Victim.” It is a disturbing dissection of social power but can provide motive, means, and modus operandi for your characters.

How so?
Take the seducer type “Charmer.” Greene states, “Charm is seduction without sex. Charmers are consummate manipulators, masking their cleverness by creating a mood of pleasure and comfort. Their method is simple: they deflect attention from themselves and focus it on their target. They understand your spirit, feel your pain, adapt to your moods.”
We all use characters that are charming. This book gives an in-depth analysis of how to charm—be it your hero or, if followed to the conclusions of the book, the vilest of villains. The main facets of a charmer, according to Greene, are that they are keen observers and truly listen. By keying in on what is important to their “victim” they tailor their responses and bolster self-esteem. Greene includes paragraphs with these headings in explaining how a Charmer works:
1. “Make your target the center of attention
2. Be a source of pleasure
3. Lull your victim into ease and comfort
4. Show calm and self-possession in the face of adversity
5. Make yourself useful.”

One of the examples given to support the Charmer is a telling of how Averell Harriman came to marry his second, and much younger, wife Pamela. It makes fascinating reading as well as suggesting several plot lines.

If you are hunting for a different or unusual way for your hero to gain your heroine’s heart or vice versa or a way to make your villain truly despicable The Art of Seduction may be for you. Check it out from your local library and see if you find it useful.


This is ACT II to Pat’s wonderful blog two days ago so grab your popcorn, Junior Mints and Diet Coke. Settle into your favorite chair, dim the lights and start the sequel! (Eat your heart out Spielberg.)

Ever been stuck for a name to fit your plucky heroine or dastardly villain but your brain can’t get past the mundane? Consider the phone book. First names. Last names. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. (Insert your favorite instrumental music here.) I tell you, this book has it all and the bigger the city, the better selection. Just let your fingers do the walking.

Baby name books. (Slide show of the cutest babies in town—your own included while we are treated to a moving rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.) If you don’t own a book, then buy one or hit the web for more names and meanings than you could ever use.

Year books. (Showing bad hair photos and smiles with shiny braces while playing 80’s music.) Remember Betty Brown and Janet Jones, the mean girls in high school? Now is your chance to get even. They could become Betty Jones and Janet Brown and you can steal their boyfriends before the end of the first chapter. Or make them flat broke, flabby and working some menial job at your heroine’s very successful company.

Friends and family. (Slightly out of focus photos of family members gathered around Grandpa while we are treated to the theme to Deliverance.) As long as they are minor characters and you paint them in a good light, then go for it. Just remember you might be sitting next to them this Thanksgiving when you ask them to pass the gravy. Trust me, it’s not worth a lap of turkey goop.

Map Quest. Where do these people live? How far away? How long will it take them? Which highway will you choose for your characters to run out of gas, blow a tire, lock their keys in the car, pick up a lonely hitch-hiker or get stranded at a motel on a hill? (Key in the spooky music along with visual images of Freddy, Jason and or Norman Bates.

So, savvy writers, what forms of research do you use when you get the urge to create a masterpiece of your own?

Roll the credits.

Resources for Writers.

Resources for Writers. Humm.

I was really scratching my head over this topic for our blog during the month of November. There are more resources available to us than one can possibly imagine. We have resource books, research books, the Internet, even movies can show us how to become better writers.

Today, I want to talk about a resource EVERY writer has.
The writer.
Yes, the invaluable resource I'm talking about is you.

When I wanted to know the symptoms of appendicitis, I called the local hospital emergency room, explained that I was a writer and asked if there was someone available to talk to me. Before I knew it, there was a doctor and an ER nurse happily telling me how to diagnose and treat appendicitis. Yep, all I had to do was ask, and this was long before I was published.

In my most recent novel, I needed information about nurse midwives. My nephew is married to a nurse midwife, so I did have a special in, so to speak. But what I really needed was information from an Ohio nurse midwife, because laws on midwifery vary from state to state. In this instance, the Internet and e-mail became my best friend. After searching for an Ohio midwife in the area about which I was writing, I contacted the clinic via e-mail, explained I was a writer, and soon had the phone number and e-mail address of the midwife happy to answer any questions I had.

I have interviewed, The Commanding General's Mounted Color Guard at Fort Riley, Kansas, the sheriff and police chief of Council Grove, Kansas, a nurse midwife in Millersburg Ohio, a cowboy, a rancher, a cattle buyer, an 1860's reenactor and a fireman. Talk about more information than I could possibly use. And all because I asked.

People can give you insight and information that you could not uncover by reading. Their anecdotal stories can give your writing an authentic flavor. You can learn terms and procedures that add realism to your characters. So when you're doing research for your heroine’s or hero’s job or just need information about a different part of the country, you can be your own best resource tool. Don't be afraid to ask.
Who has been the most interesting or helpful person you've talked to and why?