Plotting

Character Interview Blog Hop – Heroines – Eden Widow

Character Interview Blog Hop - Heroes

I have so enjoyed the interviews from this blog hop, and the ease with which it seemed each participating author managed to get their heroes and heroines talking. Patty Blount’s interview from last week, with the brainy and secretive Julie Murphy from her amazing Young Adult novel, SEND, was no different. In case you missed it, you can find that interview on Patty’s blog – HERE.

When I thought about interviewing a heroine from one of my own stories, I hoped the process would be smooth for me as well. As smooth as a slice of creamy New York cheesecake. I would interview Eden Widow, the haunted yet graceful heroine from my second novel, SAFE IN HIS ARMS. Her story was originally a subplot in my first book but it grew into its own.

Eden is most comfortable in her apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side overlooking Central Park, so we meet there. I hear her buzzing me into the building seconds after I’ve already walked in behind a woman with two little white dogs wearing pink bows in their hair. We all ride the elevator together and as I watch the numbers climb, I’d swear the little dogs watch as well.

My inspiration for Eden Widow - atherine Zeta-Jones

My inspiration for Eden Widow –
Catherine Zeta-Jones

The moment I step into Eden’s apartment, I’m struck by a panoramic view she has of Central Park from her picture window. A desk sits before it, centered, with plenty of space to either side for a clear unobstructed view. A luxurious cream-colored sofa and club chair sit conversation style with enough room to walk around them to be spacious yet cozy. Besides the view, what strikes me most is the array of cheerful flowers in vases placed on every flat surface I see. The flowers are all the same – white daisies and yellow forsythia sprays. They’re in bud vases, bowls, urns, fluted vases… not overdone, just simply lovely. They’re everywhere I look and make me smile, like this space is a happy one because they make it so.

I follow Eden through the living room to a small breakfast nook where she has tea prepared for us. She moves across the rooms with a confident grace, as though her every movement is part of an intimate choreographed dance. She pours my tea and smiles as I thank her for having me. I take a seat across from her at the delicate round table.

“Please feel free to begin any time.”

Her voice is smoky, though not gruff. Her expressive eyes nearly as dark as her black hair.

I take out my pen and notepad and ask the first, rather blunt, question.

 

What is your greatest fear and have you told anyone? Why or why not?

She continues to pour the tea, into her cup now. Then she gently sets the teapot down, not looking at me or answering and I wonder if she heard my question. And then she lifts her teacup and speaks again – with that intriguing voice of hers.

Firefighters battling blaze“My greatest fear is one which haunts me night and day. It’s the recurring nightmares and whatever truth they’re keeping from me. I want to know what it is as much as I fear knowing.

“I’ve told Luke about them, my brother. It would be impossible not to. We’re not twins, he and I, but we could be, it’s been only us for so long and we couldn’t be closer. Besides, he knows all about my dreams since I’ve had them from youth… from when I… from when our parents died… in a tragic fire…

“That fire started it all… I still smell it. I still feel the heat of it on my face. I still hear my own hoarse screams and pleas from when I fought to go back inside to save them and the fireman held me back. I had nightmares for the longest time after that. They were uncontrollable.”

She sips her tea and I can’t help but look around her apartment. There are candles placed here and there – floating candles, pillars, scented jars. All have blackened wicks. I’m no expert, but I’m a little surprised someone so traumatized by fire would have flame-lit, not battery-powered, candles around.

The light clink of her teacup on the saucer draws my attention back to her.

“Luke was there for me. He understood because he had gone through it, too. He held it together for my sake but when I finally realized how tormented he was by my pain, I found an outlet for it. I took all of the images from my dreams, all of the unanswered questions and disturbed emotions, and turned them into fiction. I adopted the pen name Gerard Blackwood, whose tales of murder and mayhem are depraved and gruesome… and… beloved by an insatiable and loyal audience. The more I wrote, the more time there was between nightmares, until they finally subsided.

But something happened recently…”

She looks at me without speaking, a small uncomfortable smile playing upon her full lips. I sense her apprehension and fear, and realize she’s struggling for composure. I cover her hand with mine and she closes her eyes for a moment. When she opens them she seems stronger.

“I… was assaulted. Here in this very apartment. I… know this because I woke in the hospital with worried faces all around me. Everyone wanted to know what had happened, who I had let into my apartment, did I know the man… but I couldn’t remember. When I tried, panic blurred the memory, blended what happened before, with the fire, with what happened now and… it was all too much… and then the nightmares started again. They’re more violent now, more cryptic, and my writing has become darker because of it… I’m not sure my mind will ever unmuddle the memory of what really happened to me. I wish I could say I am in a state of blissful ignorance but I am not. The memory teases. My greatest fear is that the teasing will stop and the truth will become clear.”

 

I can imagine either would be terrifying. Can you tell me about one person who made a positive difference in your life?

She smiles and though it’s not a grand smile, I am taken in by the beauty of her eyes as it reaches them.

“That is an easy one. Scott Parker. He has been Flowers and tea cupso patient with me. I have dated men before, not  many, but enough. At one time I was even engaged to a man I adored and who adored me. Too much, perhaps. Dylan James. He is a beautiful man, strong. Solid. Sooty eyes and hair. He’s part of the family now because his sister married my brother. But he had a tendency to smother me. It wasn’t meant to be cruel, just attentive and… protective, I suppose. Especially when it came to my nightmares. The questions he would ask me about them… sometimes they frightened me more than the dreams.

“Scott is different. He doesn’t push or plead. He’s confident in his own skin. Confident enough for both of us, in fact. He loves me, I know it without question, and I love him, but he does not need to hear that from me at every meeting, during every conversation. He just knows. We can just be, and it’s enough. He trusts me to make my own choices, unlike Dylan, who tried to orchestrate my every move, as though he feared I might shatter…like spun glass.”

She offers more tea and I accept though she does not pour more for herself.

 

Where do you go when you need time to yourself?

“As an author with deadlines, I have a lot of time to myself. Too much sometimes. I must say, I so look forward to time with Scott. His home upstate is lovely. His property ends where stunning and serene parkland begins, so it looks and feels like it goes on and on. A stroll in the gardens on his property is all it takes to unwind. Especially when he’s with me. I find my most peaceful and fulfilling moments are with him. There in his space…and even here. With him. In mine.

 

Do you have a secret? If so, why do you feel the need to keep it secret?

Meet Eden Widow“I do have a secret. It’s one I wish to learn… the meaning behind my dreams. I know something happened to me. Something besides the fire. Something that frightened me so much I have been unable to see it. And so it haunts me. I do not feel the need to keep it secret… yet, there are times, moments, when the answer seems too close, and I turn away. When I awake… I am still unsure what my secret might be.”

Her phone rings and I wait, certain she’ll answer it, but she doesn’t.

“That would be Luke. He and his wife have invited me to dinner this evening. Along with Dylan. Please accept my apologies but I must get ready.”

I understand and say so I as I pack up my pen and notepad. And then a deep male voice comes over her answering machine.


“Hey E, it’s me. Kristen’s craving Mexican now, so no Italian tonight.
Unless she changes her mind again. She still wants the ice cream so
don’t forget to bring that. If you didn’t get it already, you might have
to head into Queens for it ’cause I’m sure I bought out all of Manhattan.
Don’t be late.”

Eden smiles as she walks me to the door. I tell her I hope she won’t have to drive to Queens for the ice cream and she laughs softly.

“Thank you but I won’t need to. I’ve been stocking ice cream for Kristen for months now.”

I step into the hall saying I have just one more question. She waits and I ask.

 

If you could ask for one thing, what would it be?

I see that same effort for composure as before and I wish I could withdraw the question, not wanting to leave her feeling low but rather with that sweet, content smile. She breathes softly.

“If I could ask for one thing, it would be to go back in time and unplug the potpourri pot that overheated, started a fire that destroyed our house… and killed our parents.”

She eases the door closed between us.

I have missed Eden and Scott, and all the other characters from this book. I cannot wait to revisit them and again watch Eden reach her much-deserved Happily Ever After.

Next week’s Character Interview will feature Elizabeth D. Spencer’s heroine, Rebecca Simmons from her Historical Romance, WHEN CUPID CAME TO TOWN. You’ll find that interview on Elizabeth’s blog – HERE

Elizabeth D. Spencer lives on Long Island, New York with her husband, three children, and two energetic Sheltie puppies, Brinkley and Carson. (Named for the dog from You’ve Got Mail and Downton Abbey’s very own Carson, the butler.) She shares a love of history with her family and a love of books. Her days and nights are spent writing. When she is not writing Appellate briefs for the day job, she is busy writing historical romance novels. The greatest challenge has been learning to balance it all. Coffee has been a tremendous help!

 

 

Character Interview Blog Hop – Heroes – Jake Marlon

Character Interview Blog Hop - HeroesEvery author needs to get characters talking… not just on the page, but to the author herself. And not just in every day niceties but in detail, with secret yearnings, quirks and private musings. I’m sharing a bit of that here today, Week 10 of the Character Interview Blog Hop – HEROES. My thanks to Patty Blount for passing the baton to me. Last week, Patty introduced you to Dan Ellison, the high school student and former bully from her Young Adult novel SEND. You can find her interview with Dan HERE on her blog.

Today you’ll meet my hero, small-town restaurant owner and handsome loner Jake Marlon. I met Jake ages ago and am now spit-shining his story so others can watch him reach his well-deserved and hard-fought happily-ever-after… and maybe even fall in love with him as I have.

My inpiration for Jake Marlon, hero from Tears before Love - Actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan

My inspiration for Jake Marlon     Jeffrey Dean Morgan

I had asked to meet Jake before he started work for the day but he said he starts too early. Then I asked to meet after work, but he said he finishes much too late. And so, I’ve met him at The Grill, where he’s preparing for the lunch crowd, though he’s said “crowd” is not what he’d call it. I sit on the dining room side of the pass-through window, watching him in the kitchen. He’s an impressive man, over 6′, with messy black hair and dark bedroom eyes. He works methodically, moving about the space with ease, and I have an odd sense of watching an animal born in captivity, believing there’s little if anything beyond his small enclosure.

I can tell he’s not thrilled that I’m here. His broad back is to me as he dunks a second basket of onion rings into the deep fryer. It sizzles violently. He sets a timer.

I click my pen, ready to begin, but he doesn’t look at me. I wonder if he’s forgotten I’m here… but he’s already given me the go-ahead, so I begin.

Jake…

He starts to turn when the timer buzzes for the first basket, drawing his attention. Going back, he hangs it to drain.

Character Interview Grill

What is your greatest fear… and why?

He picks up a huge knife and a glorious eggplant, and just looks at me, his dark gaze holding mine. Several emotions pass in his eyes and I find myself drawn in. I feel I should look away, allow him a private moment, but I can’t… In truth, I’m not sure I want to.

My greatest fear?

He looks around the place and it’s as if he’s looking at land from far off shore.

Losing this place.

Raw emotion thickens his voice and I realize this fear of his is real and deep.

It almost happened a few times.

He sets the eggplant on the counter, starts slicing it lengthwise. I’m amazed. Each piece appears to be of perfect ¼” thickness.

I managed to get it going again but… I might not always be so lucky.

 

Have you told this to anyone?

His slow smile captivates me. It’s a bit condescending but strangely I don’t care. I smile in response.

The hours I put in here aren’t exactly secret. Do people know what your work means to you? Or do you have to tell them?

I almost answer his question, but then remember this is not about me. I want to know more about him. He’s not just a workaholic. He has secrets. I can see them in his gaze. As I study it, he lifts a dark brow and I can’t tell whether it’s in challenge or amusement.

 

Why are you so afraid of losing this place?

His smile fades. That play of emotions is in his eyes again.

My life is here. My past. My… future. I’ve worked this place since I was a kid. Back then, my dad did everything I’m doing now. Almost. When he could. Out there…

He points through the pass-through, toward the dining room.

That belonged to my mom. She worked the room like a pro and people liked her. They tipped her good and she’d skim a bunch off the top so the old man wouldn’t get it. He’d’ve wasted it on booze, and she wanted new things for herself. And for me. She bought me a football once. With her tips.

Pissed off the old man. He wanted to know how she was able to afford it. I didn’t tell him, of course. That would’ve been ugly… He took it, you know. The football my mom bought for me. Said I’d get it back when I’d shown my worth, but I never saw it again. Not until after he died. Interesting bastard, my old man.

I want to comfort him but he’s guarded now. Clearly finished with that question, so I ask another.

 

Tell me about one person who made a positive difference in your life.

Christopher Olivieri. He’s my… godson. Tony and Maria’s boy. He notices things and asks a lot of simple questions that are hard to answer. He’s a challenge but he’s a great kid. Happy. Innocent. I have issues with his parents sometimes, mostly Medusa… sorry, I mean… Maria… but they treat him good. Like a kid should be treated. And he comes here sometimes – his parents’ place is at the other corner. The fancy Italian restaurant… they do well down there…

He brushes the eggplant and other vegetables with olive oil and herbs, lays them on the grill, smiling as they sizzle.Football

Chris brings the ball and glove I got him for his birthday and we’ll play a game of catch in the lot. He says his father’s too busy to play with him, like mine was… for different reasons, though. I’m busy, too, but the kid has a way of getting me to do things I wouldn’t normally do.

Like… take a break from this place now and then. It’s just a few tosses, not a big commitment. And off the kid goes, happy as a kid should be.

He chuckles and it’s a soft warm sound I want to hear again.

Yeah, Christopher. He’s made a difference in my life… It’s hard to explain how an eight-year-old can do that, but he did.

He turns the vegetables. Brushes them lightly.

 

Where do you go when you need time to yourself?

Used to be, I’d spend time alone here, cleaning up after closing. Then… well… I’ve had company lately. Not that I mind. Not much anyway. It’s Willy. Wilma Davis. She just started showing up here regularly around midnight. I’d be mopping the place, you know, closing up for the night. It annoyed me. Having her crashing my space like that, but… Have you met Willy? Nah, probably not, because if you did, you’d smile just from hearing her name. Or you’d go running from here, screaming.

Short skirt, pretty legs - Wilma Davis - Tears Before Love - Romantic Suspense - Debora DaleShe has that effect on people, Willy does. I follow her, you know. At night. After she leaves. She doesn’t know it. She thinks nothing of walking alone through the park in the dead of night in those heels and little skirts of hers. I watch her… I mean… I watch that she gets home okay since she lives right on the other side of the park. With her roommate. Cora.

He leans closer to me as though eager to share a secret, and I ready myself for a juicy bit of gossip.

Talk about wanting to run screaming from someone. If a bawdy redhead swings her hips your way, that’ll be Cora. Run. That’s it. Run.

There’s no down time with her around…

He transfers the fragrant, grill-seared vegetables to a chafing dish. Sits on a stool at the counter.

Sometimes, I’ll stay there, by the lake, after Willy gets home. Wait for the light to go on in her apartment… I’ll be thinking, not thinking… I’ve always done that. You know when you live above the store, you need a place to go and the lake is it…has been since I was a kid. Of course, the old man never knew about it. He’d just say I didn’t know about the cost of time.

 

Do you have a secret? If so, why do you feel the need to keep it secret?

Well, I don’t know if it’s a secret, really, but… I wonder how things would be if they’d turned out like I planned. I wanted to own a sweet little 5-star hotel somewhere, and be the head chef in its 5-star restaurant. Not too many people know about that dream. Really, only my mom and Maria knew about it – Maria, as in Christopher’s mother. Tony’s wife.

He gives his head a shake as if to bring himself back to the present.

That’s what I’d be doing if things had worked out differently.

 

Have you ever been in love? Had a broken heart?

Well, yeah. Who hasn’t?Meet Jake Marlon

He’s staring me down, or trying to, but I’m on to him now. Those dark eyes of his are rich with secrets I wish I could pry from him, so I won’t let him off the hook.

Women love to ask about other women…

When I was a kid, most of my youth, in fact, until my early twenties… I thought Maria was the one. She took my heart, filled it up…too much. Then, BAM! She popped it like a balloon.

Poor Tony.

He chuckles. Tries to wipe the smile away.

He has her now.

We were very different back then. I was 17, she was 16. We were together for a year. She’d hang out here a lot. She’d even help out. I liked watching her work. She was one sweet sight.

We were going to go to school together. Business school – hotel/restaurant management. We talked about it like it’d really happen. Then I had more and more responsibilities here and… she… didn’t understand. One night… I was supposed to meet her, out there, by the lake. I asked… I actually begged…for an hour off so I could talk to her, but my dad kept giving me stuff to do. He must have made me tally the receipts four times that night. I got to her more than an hour late, and she was with Tony. They have three kids now. Christopher’s the oldest. You know… that night the old man wouldn’t let me meet her? That night I found her with Tony? That’s the night he died. Wrapped his truck around a tree. I kept thinking I should have taken the keys… but I didn’t.

He pushes off the counter, heads into the dining room with the grilled vegetables, and lights the final sterno.

Then there’s Jessie. Not long after the old man died, my cousin’s girlfriend – Jessie – experienced the same thing. Her father was a drunk, too. Died basically the same way. She didn’t handle it too well, and Steven, my cousin, asked me to talk to her. I did. And… things just went on from there.

He unlocks the front door, flips the closed sign to open.

She’s a great woman. She’s getting married soon. We just…ended things. It wasn’t a healthy relationship. We had a lot in common. Too much, I think. Same pain, same confusion. We didn’t really help each other, just complained mostly. But she’s funny, and she’s sensitive. We both knew nothing more would come of what we had, but…well…it went on for a long time. She did the right thing in saying yes to Carl’s proposal. She knew we’d never get married but she asked me anyway, just to be sure before she gave him her answer. And now she wants me to give her away.

His smile is small. It looks less than happy. He gives me a shrug, waves a hand toward the buffet.

Hungry? It’s all-you-can-eat. Just $9.95.

The bells on the front door ring. He gives it only a passing glance then turns away, heading for the kitchen. I gather my pen and notepad and duck my head under the pass-through to thank him for his time. And that’s when I see it. There, on a shelf next to the door leading into the parking lot, propped against a vintage Diner sign is an aged though unscuffed football.

 

Be sure to look for next week’s Character Interview when Elizabeth D. Spencer will introduce you to her hero, widow farmer, Jake Callen, from her Historical Romance, WHEN CUPID CAME TO TOWN. You can find that HERE on her blog.

Elizabeth D. Spencer lives on Long Island, New York with her husband, three children, and two energetic Sheltie puppies, Brinkley and Carson. (Named for the dog from You’ve Got Mail and Downton Abbey’s very own Carson, the butler.) She shares a love of history with her family and a love of books.  Her days and nights are spent writing. When she is not writing Appellate briefs for the day job, she is busy writing historical romance novels. The greatest challenge has been learning to balance it all.  Coffee has been a tremendous help!

 


 

 

My Writing Process – Blog Hop

My thanks to Debora Dennis for inviting me to participate in this blog hop to discuss my writing process. I accepted twice – once last week under my pen name and once this week. To see what my alter ego had to say, check out the post here: Arla Dahl

What am I working on?

I am working on keeping track of who I am on a given day since I’ve been switching hats, playing erotic author one day and romantic suspense author the next. At this moment, I’m working on revisions for a story I fell in love with – flaws and all. I am now smoothing those flaws – or trying to.

CANYON ROAD, my current romantic suspense, is set amongst the stunning, though unyielding, Colorado Rockies. It delves into the heart of an abuse survivor as she fights to overcome the past and move on with her future, only to become trapped in the crazed and deadly world of a man determined to rescue his kidnapped sister and nephew. Survival techniques abuse survivors employ are explored as danger levels ratchet ever higher. But no technique is guaranteed, and without wit and a willingness to join forces, survival may be but a fading dream. As I drive my hero and heroine toward that common goal – to rescue mother and child from a deranged drug dealer – I force them to they fight a growing attraction that could – will – change them forever.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My hero is a regular guy who becomes a hero because he’s been thrown into a situation where he’s forced to think and behave in ways that are more fine-tuned and forceful than he’s accustomed to. His background isn’t military or law enforcement. His background is a strong family where each member does what they can for the others. I have a soft spot, myself, for men and women who show their own unique heroism in surprising ways, whose bravery has been untapped, untamed or undervalued. And I have a lust for those same heroes and heroines who can tap into something before-unseen that lies deep inside of them, something they call on as danger ratchets ever higher. No formal training. In a life or death situation, they don’t crumble. They become the one to count on.

Why do I write what I do?

When I sit with the family to enjoy a movie, that movie will most often have a main theme of action and suspense. Of course, I love comedy and romance. I love whodunits. But a movie with action? A movie that makes me think and wonder and hold my breath? That is the kind of movie I want to see. And that is the kind of book I want to read. And write.  

How does your writing process work?

There’s no question that I’m a planner. I am the workshop queen and have taken an uncountable amount of classes on the subject of craft. From each workshop, I’ve taken something, usually something I can weave with other somethings from other workshops.

I’ve pieced those bits together to give myself a process that excites me, that makes me eager to dive in and write. Charts are involved but nothing extreme – too much pre-planning and my muse goes on hiatus.

By the time I’m ready to start Chapter 1, I have a very loose list of events for the story, and a simple chart plotting the order of those events and their emotional impact on the characters.

That’s basically it. If I include too much information upfront, my creative side gets bored because there’s nothing new to discover during the actual writing. Also, if while I’m jotting the notes for potential story events, my muse is stirred, I will stop jotting and actually write the scene, then save it to be inserted into the story at some future point. Some of my most powerful and emotional scenes have been written well before the plotting was through. Its surprises like that which make me fall in love with the writing craft despite the occasional muse mutiny.

Thank you for coming by to see what I’m working on and how I work it. It’s been fun talking about my process and it’s been exciting to talk about my hero and heroine. They’ve been patiently waiting for me to finish some other work and come back to them. And now I am eager to do just that.

Also posting their writing process this week are Debra Druzy and Tuere Morton

Debra Druzy is querying her first finished Christmas story called SLEEPING WITH SANTA, a sensual contemporary romance. She had a job (several of them) but has gone the stay-at-home-mother route, making writing her full-time gig, in the wee hours of the morning, during school hours, and any spare time in between. http://www.debradruzy.com

Tuere Morton writes young adult fiction by night and is a health professional by day, earning an MS from the University of Stony Brook. When she isn’t voraciously reading, the Long Island native’s fearless children and lovable German Shepherd serve as inspirations for her stories. She hopes you’ll enjoy the first book in her series, ICON. http://tueremorton.wordpress.com/

 

 

The Sound of Silence

Back in August of 2012, an idea for an erotic novella trilogy came to me. It was both exciting and intimidating since my go-to genre is romantic suspense. This idea, however, came nearly fully-formed. Well, when I say, ‘fully-formed’, I mean it was an idea with a bit of depth that felt worthy of deeper exploration.

It took nearly two months for me to fully plot the first story. I was ready to start writing it yet thoughts of how I would write Books 2 and 3 haunted me. What if, after writing Book 1, the others wouldn’t take shape? What would I do then? I had to force myself to focus on the story I was actually writing, not worry about the next two. I would deal with them, I told myself, in due time.

Well… it’s time. And for the past couple of weeks, I’ve been coming down hard on myself because the plotting/writing of Book 2 isn’t going as well as I would like. I have experienced highs as I’ve completed one tiny bit of plotting work. And I have felt incredible lows when I’ve tried to move forward… only to stop cold as the muse, for no apparent reason, grew silent.

I’ve always considered myself one of the world’s slowest writers but now wondered, since this new story was so hard to get onto the page, maybe it wasn’t meant to be.

And then, just this morning, I read an article about a Simon and Garfunkel song that has been chosen (and more than deserved to be) for preservation in the Library of Congress. The song? The Sound of Silence.

While I love that song – and Simon and Garfunkel – it’s not the song, necessarily that made me feel better about the sluggish pace of my plotting and writing. Instead, it was this fact I discovered about Paul Simon’s writing of The Sound of Silence:

“Paul Simon took 6 months to write the lyrics, which are about man’s lack of communication with his fellow man. He averaged one line a day.”

He averaged one line a day over six months for a 217-word song.

Maybe I’m not the slowest writer after all. And maybe, just maybe, speed isn’t want matters.

Day 4

I am finding my stride here as I reach Day 4 of my Book-in-a-week marathon. I’m finding – or rediscovering and reinforcing – what works for me and what doesn’t.

The whole idea of this is to just write. Get the story down without worry over details. If you need information on the fragrance notes within a specific perfume, just leave yourself a note in the text and continue on. Don’t worry about a specific word or a gripping emotional reaction. It’s about story. Layers and details can be added later.

I see how this process works because it keeps the muse active and in the story moment. The yet undiscovered plot points, the little twists and turns a pantser like me has yet to figure out, flow from the muse to the page in a natural – and still exciting and surprising – way.

However for ME – and because every writer is different, I believe we need to modify methods to fit our needs – not getting those perfume details or emotional reactions actually stalls the writing process. I can’t move on unless I know how the fragrance layers of that perfume smell because those notes will affect either the rest of the scene or a scene later in the story.

So, for those of you wanting to try this but are worried you won’t be able to accomplish it as it should be accomplished, I’ll say this – whatever you accomplish this week will be a reward for your muse. Just staying in the moment for more hours per day than you normally would, without household distractions (because you took care of all that stuff before you started) and with constant reminders to yourself that this is your first not final draft, gives you the freedom not only to create but to have fun doing it.

Onward! My muse awaits!

W-Plot Revisited

Hi, my name is Debbie and I am a Pantser. Yes. I know. What is a plotting tool doing as the title of a post about a pantser? Well… this particular tool is one that works for both the detailed plotter and the seat-of-her-pants pantser.

I’ve talked about the W-Plot in the past and if you’d like to read my first take on it, you can find it here. But for now, I’d like to tell you about what I now consider to be the best use for this tool – it forces a writer to dig deeper. Believe it or not, even for a pantser, tha’s a good thing.

As a pantser, I find it impossible to write a detailed outline or synopsis of my story before my story is written. It’s not that I can’t come up with plot points or the emotions connected to them. It’s the way those pre-planned plot points and emotional responses make me feel once they’re on the page. I feel as if the story has already been written. There’s nothing left to do. My muse settles in for a Rumpelstiltskin nap and I’m left wondering what happened to the thrill of creating – and writing – this new story.

As a panster, the W-Plot helps me to rearrange the vague scene ideas I have at the story’s planning stages. I have a short list of events I know will happen in the story. I see them in my mind. My muse decides just how much to give me and gives nothing more. It’s a tease. This little muse knows how to keep me interested. Every muse is different and, I am convinced, every muse is like Tinkerbell. Hard to capture, easy to piss of and just bitchy enough to keep you on your toes. So, don’t push the muse or she’ll give you the silent treatment, and trust me, that’s the last thing a writer wants.

That’s where the W-Plot comes in.

Digging deeper for the W-Plot is not as strenuous as it sounds. Imagine a jigsaw puzzle. All the pieces are there, scattered on your table, but you can’t see the full picture they’ll create. You start placing the corners, the frame pieces. Each of the remaining pieces fit within that frame but where? How? What if one piece is missing? You must handle each piece, turn it around, match the color, the shape. One edge of one piece might fit against the frame, but when you start adding other pieces, suddenly you realize that piece is in the wrong spot. You thought it would work, but it doesn’t.

In a puzzle, that’s not such a big deal. You just take that one piece out and replace it with the correct one. In a story, it’s like major surgery. You can’t just move a scene around. Every scene must lead to the next. If a scene can be so easily removed, it probably shouldn’t be there in the first place. It must serve a purpose. The scenes before and after it will need revisions. The original scene will need them too because now it has to fit into a new spot within the story. Transitions have to be smoothed, information not yet disclosed must be removed, uncovered clues can no longer be a mystery. Of course it can be done. It’s done all the time. But it’s a lot of work.

How does this part of the W process help a pantser? By allowing the pantser a glimpse into the story without a full reveal.

The W-Plot gently guides the muse through the story. What is the character’s story goal, what does s/he want to happen in this story? The question can be answered in one sentence or two paragraphs. Whatever works for the writer. The beauty comes as the various W points are addressed – what event becomes the first obstacle to the goal? No details necessary. Just the idea.

While working my current W, I realized the flow of my simple plot points didn’t work the way I’d imagined. Each was worthy of the characters and the story, but their sequence did little to up the tension. And when writing romantic suspense, tension matters. A lot.

On the W template, I rearranged my one-sentence plot points until the ebb and flow of story worked the way I wanted it to. And yet, the story itself – and all of its surprises – have not yet been disclosed. I have built my puzzle frame and sorted my pieces. I still can’t see the whole picture but I know what I have to do to make it appear. I have all the pieces and, most importantly to me as a pantser, I’ll still have the thrill of building the picture one small piece at a time.

Ideas vs. Stories

I never have a problem coming up with story ideas. Never. I have a folder full of them on my desktop. Why? Because ideas are everywhere. They’re in overheard conversations, news reports, billboards, TV commercials, movies. Even a slogan on a t-shirt can prompt an idea. Thing is, ideas aren’t stories and so… while I have tons of ideas, I have only a few stories. So far.

Several of my ideas have grown into story blurbs. I’m excited about all of them and cannot wait to dig in to each blurb and flesh it out. That’s the fun, creative part of writing – it’s also the most frustrating.

Imagine reading a book and you really get into it. It’s gripping and you cannot wait to see how the tension escalates, how the hero and heroine overcome their conflicts and make love. So you turn the page… but it’s blank. Turn another page. Again… blank. Frantically, you leaf through the rest of the book and finally spot some words on page 82. But they’re just a tease – an overview of what’s about to happen. How did the characters get to that spot? How will they get out of it? You want to know all this but no one is around to tell you.

Welcome to the creative time in a writer’s life – both thrilling and frustrating at the same time. Thrilling because we get to decide what and how things happen. Frustrating because we’re eager to know but first must form all the pieces from nothing, then fit them together. It’s the hair-pulling time in a writer’s life. It’s also the most thrilling time because when each of those pieces fit, when the hero shakes the demons from his back or the heroine sees her own worth for the first time and they come together as equals in love, it’s the most gratifying moment a writer can imagine.

Unless, of course, you count the moment a contract is offered. 😉

Speaking of…

I am now awaiting word from a publisher regarding my last story. Of course, I hope they love it as much as I do and offer that contract, but I won’t know… until I know. So in the meantime, I’m doing what a writer is supposed to do. I’m challenging the ideas in my folder, seeing which one can stand the plotting test, and I’m forging ahead, hopeful, eager to torture a new hero and heroine just long enough to make them see their strengths so I can, once again, provide a happily ever after.

Ain’t enough hours in the day…

I didn’t even check to see when I posted here last. I know it’s been a while, though… too long, actually. Life getting in the way and all that.

So what’s been happening here? Well… rejections are flowing in. runny-eggs Two are still out but… well… the odds aren’t so great, now are they? Ah, well. All part of the process.

Besides that, I’m focusing on my newest wip and while it’s slow-going, I don’t mind so much. If I’ve learned anything with the past three stories I’ve written it’s this – better to take time planning than waste time revising.

Meanwhile, it’s kitten season again and the shelter is filling up once more. Just last week, some very kind heart called us to say she rescued 6 kittens who had been stuffed into a paper bag and tossed into a commercial garbage dumpster. Thanks to this wonderful lady who heard their cries and stopped to do something about it, these kittens – all six – are in foster homes where they’re safe, loved and being bottle fed. Soon… if we foster parents can bring ourselves to allow it… they’ll leave our homes and go to new ones. To their very own special families. Until then, we’re feeding them around the clock (I have two, and two other volunteers each have two) and just simply adoring them.

Yes. Giving them up is going to be a very difficult thing to do.

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So… what’s new by you? Have some good news to share? I’d love to hear it. Especially now after receiving not one but two rejections in one day. hissyfit

Muddled thoughts of a Gemini

I know I haven’t been here in a while and, honestly, I can’t say why. The days are just flying by and the hours in each seem to have gotten shorter.

I’ve been working on the plot of my new story and still have April 1st as my goal to start writing it. That’s something I’ve learned from my previous work – a simple yet rounded bit of plotting works well for me. I’m that cross between plotter and pantser. And April 1st is when I hope to put plotting aside and start a month of pounding out some pantser pages.

Meanwhile, we’ve been attending a variety of homeschooling activities – which, not surprisingly pick up as the weather gets less frigid. We’ve watched holocaust movies and discussed World War II. We’ve watched David Copperfield and Oliver Twist, and turned them into lessons about 19th Century England. I’ve finally learned how to turn a simple event into an opportunity for learning and realize that every day life has more lessons in it than anything we could possibly plan.

Take the shelter, for instance. The lessons there are immeasurable. Daughter is learning so much from volunteering – not only about compassion and responsibility, but also about human strengths and weaknesses. She’s learning, sadly, that more often than not, when people see something curious, they stand back and leave it for someone else to investigate or fix. Even when stepping in can save a life. Or possibly save a life. I guess we’ll never know for sure.

We lost two newborn kittens last night. That’s what this is all about. The mother rejected them and everyone, apparently, thought it was just an anomaly… a mother cat not feeding her babies. Surely, they thought, it’s just at this moment she’s not doing so. Sadly, that just wasn’t the case and no matter what we did during our shift… it was simply too late.

Mother Nature is a cruel, cruel bitch at times but never more so than when an innocent is made to suffer. I don’t know that we could have done anything to save these kittens, in fact, on many levels I know we couldn’t have. Still…  and maybe this is partly the writer in me asking… but I’ll always wonder, ‘what if’.

The Fatal Flaw

I haven’t been keeping up with my blog. Used to be, every other day I was here posting and every day I was visiting other blogs. I’ve fallen out of the blog routine… but for pretty good reason, I think. I’m plotting.

I’ve chatted here often about the various workshops I’ve taken and how they inspire me. Storyboarding, W-Plot, Character Diamond, Fatal Flaws and Book-in-a-Week. Well, I’ve sorted those workshops into a specific build-upon order and as I work through them, I review what I’ve already done so I keep true to the characters’ personalities, needs, desires, downfalls.

That brings me to the Fatal Flaw. Laurie Schnebly-Campbell gives this class and it is one I cannot recommend enough. I understand everyone plots differently and what works for me might not work for you. BUT… what I find about this particular set of lessons and assignments is that they build the character in astonishing ways. Showing the needs they have and why they have them. Showing how the character will react to overcome those needs or to fulfill them. It brings out their quirky habits and explains them in a way so logical, you can’t help but remain true to the character as you plot out the events in the story.

And yes, that’s the part I’m up to. Plotting the events. I’ve got the characters down – and am thrilled and amazed at how everything fits. The hero is one way and is headed down a certain path. The heroine is another way and headed down her own path. Those two paths cross every now and then. Sometimes hero and heroine just breeze by each other (in scenes of understanding) and other times they smack into one another (conflict) and neither will give up the path without a fight. Thing is, the individual paths they’re on will meet further down the line and continue as one. Whether they walk side by side on that path or fight for the lead is up to them… and me. And the Fatal Flaws.

Knowing the characters this intimately will, I hope, help me form the events in their story in such a way as to challenge them, keep the reader intrigued and fulfill the needs of all as they grow, change and find love.

Yes. I, myself, am falling in love. With my newest characters… though I do still love the one I just left behind. Ah. Such is the fickle life of a romance writer.

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