Wednesday, August 26, 2009

How to Write Your Synopsis Without Losing Your Mind

I'm proud to say the following was printed as an article in the Tampa Area Romance Author's newsletter, The Scarlett Letter, as well as reprinted by various other RWA chapter newsletters! Hope it helps - enjoy!

I used to leave writing the synopsis until the end—makes sense, right? I soon figured out this meant wasted hours reading the darn book AGAIN to figure out what is actually happening when. There had to be a better way.
And there is! When I’m writing my WIP, I keep another document open that is simply numbered 1-20, or however many chapters I expect to write (you can always add or delete! Brilliant!). As I finish a chapter, I toggle to my other document and write a quick sketch of what just happened. When I’m finished with the rough draft, or at any time in between, I can read through this simple document and see the flow of the story. It’s a lot easier to get an overall picture of your GMC, character development, story arc, etc., than relying on notes, post-its, or memory. If I change, add, or delete a chapter, I adjust it on the synopsis worksheet, always trying to keep the worksheet as true to what’s actually in the chapter as possible. Before adapting this technique, I used to find that the synopsis described things that didn’t actually happen in the book!

Since the key to a good synopsis is focusing on WHAT HAPPENS, the battle is almost won. Now, you can polish it up. I also save it in different forms – a 1-2 page, a 3-5 page, and then a fully detailed synopsis. By cutting and pasting from the master document, I will then have whatever size synopsis the editor wants to see.

(Now, if I can only figure out a way for an editor to request it!)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Music for Inspiration

Calling all romance authors - now the question is, what music do you often listen to while writing?
Depending on the historical era, I throw in a soundtrack - Pride & Prejudice (Kiera K version), Emma, etc...and for the rest, my old standby is Somewhere in Time, though the cd I have is very old - probably the oldest cd I own! I can't think of how many pages of Tame the Wild Wind were written to SIT on "continuous play" mode. Soft Mozart tunes and opera melodies are another favorite. I generally avoid music with words so it doesn't throw off concentration.
Other favorites are the soundtracks to Far and Away and The Last of the Mohicans, which is so beautiful. I find that the music alone is itself inspiration - since most writers "see" their stories as they write (I do), the background music is like my very own soundtrack to that movie in my head. Now, if only Amazon could enhance the Kindle to have various selections played while the reader is engrossed in a story. Hmmm - maybe I'll patent that idea!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Favorite Romantic Books (not necessarily romance novels)

Ethan Frome - though forced to read this in high school, I later learned to appreciate it. I like the juxtaposition of the frozen winter and his frozen heart, and how Mattie later turns his life around. Sad ending, of course.

Jane Eyre - all time fave of a nanny turned bride. In the real world, many rich men didn't marry their kids' governesses and nannies back then, but Jane changes Mr. Rochester's life around. Always wanted to read Far Sargosa Sea, about his first wife (the loony locked in the tower) but never got it. One day.

Pride & Prejudice - the classic. Skip the P&P and Zombies version, though! I'll take Mr. Darcy without the kickass zombie moves, thank you. Lizzy is the perfect heroine - realistic, practical, and a romantic at heart.

Emma - favorite story of growing up with your future husband. Mr. Knightley is my fave Austen hero - he's forgiving, loyal, and devastatingly adorable (at least in the movie version!).

Wuthering Heights - is there any better love story than Heathcliff's and Cathy's? Even though she tortures him and makes his life a living hell by marrying the rich boy down the road, their love survives the grave. The Yorkshire moors are made only more intriguing when one ponders their ghosts, forever united, running around the heather.

All timer - Gone With the Wind! Scarlett is the quintessential heroine, though she is really not likable if one really studies the book. But Melanie is the other extreme, so we all like Scarlett. She's brave and daring, and loves with her whole heart.

Sense and Sensibility - Austen's other lovely story of sisters is a classic women's read. Marianne is embarrassingly like how I used to be as a lovestruck teen, but Elinor gives us hope that we may all blossom into refined women, though with a touch of romance in our lives.

What are your favorite love stories? Please share!

Friday, August 21, 2009

An Imaginary Interview with a Romance Author

Q: Where do you get your ideas and inspiration?

A: This is the most common, but easiest question to answer. Sometimes a scene in a movie, or something I hear or read about, sparks something. For Tame the Wild Wind (comes out next May!), I had heard the term "claim jumper" and thought about what would happen if two people claimed the same piece of land. Take away their money and means to fight in court, and add a steamy southwestern backdrop - and you have a story! Sometimes a costume book will suggest a character.

Q: How do you choose characters' names?

A: I try not to pick ones based on people I know - and there will never be a character named Anna or any form of that for modesty reasons! But variations on the A names I do like - several of my novels have a heroine with an "A" name - The Emerald Hawk's Arianne, The Outlaw's Bride's Abigail, The Boundless Sea's Arabella, and The Captain's Lady's Amanda. I guess I choose "A names more often than not because, like most authors, as I'm writing, I see part of myself as the main character. It's easier to get into someone's head and write from their POV if I associate with them. But strangely, once the book is finished and I read it back, I am no longer that character but an innocent bystander! Incidentally, I would never name a heroine my daughter's name, even though she was named for Meggie in The Thorn Birds, one of my favorite novels. I also have a character naming book and try to pick names that fit the characters, often changing them early on until the fit is right. The Boundless Sea's Philip may change, but Arabella won't.

Q: Tell me about Miss Bennett in Love.

A: This is the first Regency novel I've written and I'm very excited and pleased with it. I still have final editing to do and some filler scenes, but it's pretty much done. Miss Bennett is Mary Bennett, the middle sister from Pride & Prejudice. It is not written in the vein of Jane Austen at all, but it is an accurately drawn historical novel. I always liked Mary's character and thought that, beneath her prim and austere exterior, lurked the heart of a true romantic. She meets a dashing colonel who is heir to an earldom. So our little Mary becomes a countess. I will be searching for an agent for this novel soon and hope it will be the "breakout" novel I've been waiting for! This is the first in a trilogy I plan to write about the younger sisters of P&P - so next will be Miss Darcy in Love, and Miss Lucas in Love.

Q: What is your inspiration for The Boundless Sea?

A: I have always loved Juliet's soliloquoy about "My love is as boundless as the boundless sea" and wanted to use it in a novel but never knew how. I love the ocean and everything to do with it, and wanted to center a novel around the sea. My hero, a former pirate hunter, Captain Philip Rathbone (surname will be changed, just don't know what at this point - but Rathbone is always my choice for a work in progress) has been summoned by, he believes, a love from his past. In truth, it is the daughter he's never heard of who's urged him to come to her mother's rescue. Set in the Spanish court and sweeping into the Caribbean, it's filled with dark priests, ruthless pirates, sea battles, and of course, true love and a treasure chest or two. The images I have of these characters are a Russell Crowe type and a Salma Hayek type. Wow - what a combo.

Kindertransport - by Jennifer Childers (WRP)

Jen is a talented writer and sensitive soul. Kindertransport is her first published novel by my publisher, The Wild Rose Press. It's set in the turbulent times of Nazi Germany. The heroine, Erika, is a nurse in charge of physically challenged children, who, of course, were targeted by Hitler's regime for extermination. When Erika has to trust an SS officer to save the children, the story unfolds from there, in a mixture of intrigue, suspense, and romance, of course!

Check out the other Wild Rose Press authors and books at They have something for everyone - historical, inspirational, contemporary, and cowboys. Lots of cowboys! Whether you like your romance spicy or sweet, WRP is for you.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

excerpt from The Boundless Sea - work in progress

Scene of Philip and Arabella when they first meet…..

“Who goes there?” Philip strained his eyes in the darkness. A shadowy figure lurked behind the corner of the dank hold. He could hear the creature’s rapid breathing. A strong stench of fetid animal dung filled what little air there was. The ship rocked sideways, stirring up the smell. He clutched his handkerchief to his nose. The figure, whether man or beast, he could not tell, stepped into the feeble light. A broken bottle was wielded in its fist.
And then the creature spoke. The voice, though he had not heard it in seventeen years, was all too familiar.
“If you touch me, I will kill you.”
A thousand emotions, all of them disturbing, flowed through him. He blinked hard, adjusting his eyes to the dimness.
The bottle wavered. “Who are you? Did xxxxx send you down here to murder me?” She bit off a sharp laugh. “He need not have bothered, since the stench is enough to fell a bear.” Philip stepped forward, and Arabella faltered back with a gasp. “Stay where you are, sir!”
“Arabella, it’s me – it’s Philip.” And then, as if she wouldn’t have known him otherwise, he added, “Philip Rathbone.”
“I know who you are,” she breathed. The bottle fell to the floor. “What are you doing here?”
Her voice was even, measured, but he heard the falter. His heart leapt a little in his chest.
“Why, you sent for me. I came as quickly as I could, only I met with….” He took a few steps toward her and she stood her ground. In the faint light seeping through the cracks in the deck overhead, he could make out her features. Her brown eyes were dark orbs set against her pale complexion. Her full red lips, one of her most attractive features, looked tight and drawn. She put out her hand to touch him, eyes wide. He remained in place, watching her, fighing back the urge to take her in his arms….
Her fingers brushed his coat and she jumped. “My God, you are real,” she stammered. Her arm dropped to her side. Her eyes narrowed. “What do you mean, I sent for you? I have nothing to say to you, Philip Rathbone. Nothing whatsoever.” She whirled away from him, and he caught the faint whisper of a scent of roses clinging to her tangled dark hair as she walked.
He followed her. He always had. He pulled the torn and crumpled broadsheet from inside his coat, where he’d kept it close to his heart. He shook it in front of her.
“Is not this your writing, Arabella? I beg your pardon, I mean, Countess of Aragon?” The words were bitter in his mouth. How long had she waited to marry his rival, the one man he would sooner spit on than share a casual greeting? The betrayal still cut, even after so many years. But still, she had sent for him, and he’d come running, like a dog, his tail between his legs. Hoping for understanding…an explanation…anything.
She snatched the paper from him and stood under a brighter beam of light. She crushed it in her hand.
“Marguerite,” she said. She stared at him for a moment, her gaze lingering on his mouth. “My daughter,” she added.
He tried to hide his disgust and sorrow and rage. She’d bedded the Count as soon as he, Philip, had turned his back.
“Belated congratulations on the birth of your child,” he said, surprised his voice was so calm. “My regards to the proud father. How is the Count these days?”
Arabella chewed her lip until she tasted blood. How dare he? How could he speak to her after all he’d done to her? She longed to tell him the truth; how she’d been sick with grief, desolate, even, when he’d left her to pursue other adventures. Left her pregnant and alone, and at the mercy of a man such as Cesar, the Count of Aragon, who’d pretended to be her friend.
But years of court life had taught her many things. One was to never show her true feelings, but to wear a mask of indifference. She squared her shoulders and held her head high, as if she were in the Seville court rather than in the rolling bowels of a pirate ship.
“He is superb. I will give him your regards, if we can ever leave this wretched place.” Her cold gaze glanced up at his shoulders and across his chest. “You’re not as thin as you once were. Perhaps you will be useful to me.” She turned on her heel and he snatched her elbow before she could react. His left hand caught her right as she raised it to strike him a blow that would fell any other man. Any other man not severely and utterly in love with her.
She stared into his eyes, her own wide and bright with unshed tears. Philip felt the surging passion rise in him once more, but fought it down as he glanced at her throat, as pale and soft as an apricot’s blush. How many kisses had he placed there? How many nights had he caressed her, enjoying her maidenly blushes and sighs, until she’d given herself, freely and totally, to him?
“How could you do it?” he asked. He dropped her elbow, but his hand still clutched her wrist. It felt fragile and delicate in his hand. His grip eased. “How could you marry that….that….”
“Because I knew it would kill you,” she spat. A single tear slipped down her cheek, like dew on a roseleaf. “After what you did to me, I only wanted vengeance.” A sob tore from her, and she pulled at her arm. “Let go of me.”
He shook his head slowly. “You cannot know what your act of vengeance did to me.”
She gulped and shrugged. “Your cold heart will mend, I’m sure.”
He sneered at her. “And yours can never break, since it’s made of hard iron.” Rage and grief tore through her like a runaway stag. “You know nothing of my torment, of my pain! How quickly did you bed the fair lady xxxx? Was it the week you left me, or did you wait all of a month?”
“I have no children, no reminders of my broken vows, madam.” He finally released her hand. “Does she look like him? Double chin and warts on her ears?” He took a lock of her hair in his hand, meaning to tug on it, but at the familiar softness, he could only run his fingers through it. She stepped away from him and he dropped his arm.
“She is beautiful,” she whispered. Her gaze was on his mouth again. “She looks like your mother. She has her green eyes.” The hardened look around her lips faded, and he thought he was seeing her as he had years before, the night she’d snuck away from her father’s castle to the woodsman’s lodge where he’d waited for her….
“My…mother? How could she look like….”
Had it not been for her hands suddenly gripping his, he would have sunk to the filthy floor. And then she was in his arms, gasping his name and sobbing, her mouth heated softness against his. He tried to kiss her back, but was paralyzed with the stunning realization of her words, of the truth. He had a child…a daughter! Arabella had carried his child….
His hands floated over her middle, the ruined silk gown she wore a hindrance. He tried to imagine her belly large with his daughter, and cursed aloud his youthful xxxx that caused him to miss it. To betray her.
“Tell me,” he breathed, tasting her lips, sweet like honey from the hive. “Tell me about her.”
They were on the floor, and he’d pulled her onto his lap, his arms settling around her tight. He would never release her again.
She choked on a laugh, and pressed her warm cheek to his. “She is the most intelligent girl I have ever seen. She reminds me of your father. You will think so, too. She often baffled all of her tutors, and of course, Ces…” she bit off his name. “He was very indulgent. He treated her well, though he suspected she was not his.”
Philip closed his eyes and inhaled the scent clinging to her hair, her throat….She sucked in a calming breath, and her bosom rose and fell. As if watching in a dream, his hand slid up her waist to cup her breast. His fingers skimmed the rounded fullness peeking through her bodice. She shivered, and he drew her closer. Her gown must have been loose, because his hand could just slip beneath the fabric. The feel of her bare flesh against his palm was more than he could take.

Love Changes Everything

Love, love changes everything
hands and faces, earth and sky
Love, love changes everything,
How you live and how you die
Love, can make the summer fly,
Or a night seem like a lifetime
Yes love, love changes everything,
Now I tremble at your name
Nothing in the world will ever be the same
Love, love changes everything,
Days are longer, words mean more
Love, love changes everything,
Pain is deeper, than before
Love, will turn your world around,
And that world will last forever
Yes, love, love changes everything,
Brings you glory, brings you shame
Nothing in the world will ever be the same
Off into the world we go,
Planning futures, shaping years
Love bursts in and suddenly,
All our wisdom disappears
Love, makes fools of everyone,
All the rules we make are broken
Yes, love, love changes everyone,
live or perish, in its flame
Love will never, never let you be the same
Love will never, never let you be the same

An old poem written years ago....

On darkened nights I love to stare
and watch the moon dance in your hair,
or see the shadows as they creep
along your nose and curving cheek,
then change,and fade, and disappear
just when the twilight time is near.
You wonder why I do not sleep
and these long hours that I keep;
but why should I close my eyes
when all my dreams lay by my side?

April 14, 1988

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Favorite poems and lines...

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways....

I dream of a girl I used to know...I closed my eyes and she slipped away....

My love is as boundless as the boundless sea.

The search is over - love was with me all the while....

It was that long ago but it's all coming back to me now

In my heart there'll always be a place for you for all my life

There's a place for us. Somewhere, a place for us...peace and quiet and open air wait for us somewhere....

And so I come to you with open arms, nothing to hide

I don't want to close my eyes, don't want to fall asleep 'cause I'd miss you babe, and I don't want to miss a thing....

After all of the fire, after all the rain, I will be the flame....

And if you want it, you got it forever...I could just lay here beside you

Love, love changes everything. Days are longer, words mean more.....yes love, love changes i tremble at your name....nothing in the world will ever be the same....

say you'll share with me one love, one lifetime....say the word and I will follow you. Share each day with me, each night, each morning....anywhere you go let me go, too. Love me - that's all I ask of you....

Tonight, tonight - it all began tonight. I saw you and the world went away....for here you are, and what was just a world is a star....tonight

I don't care how you get here..get here if you can.....

Let me call you Sweetheart, I'm in love with you....

My love, there's only you in my life...the only thing that's right. My first're every breath that I take, you're every step I make. And I...I want to share all my love with you. No one else will do....

"Well, you know what they say - it's better to have loved and lost, than to never have loved at all." "Oh yeah? Try it some time."

Your eyes are the eyes of a woman in love - and oh, how they give you away....your eyes are the eyes of a woman in love and may they gaze evermore into mine....

your heart understood mine. In the depths of the fragrant night, I listened with ravished soul to your beloved voice.

You have bewitched me, body and soul.

You'll stay forever this way. You are here in my heart and my heart will go on and on....

Monday, August 17, 2009

excerpt from my work in progress, The Boundless Sea

She had never stopped loving him. A love like theirs had no end. From the first moment she'd seen him, so many years ago, her heart belonged to him. But even now, he could still doubt her.

"All those years ago," Arabella began, nestled in his arms as they lay in the private sanctuary of their large, four-poster bed, "did you ever feel...even once...that I'd stopped loving you?"

Philip stroked the tousled black curls from her shoulders, exposing her neck . Tiny goosebumps rose in reaction to his caress. "No," he admitted, curving his fingertip around her earlobe. He flicked at the pearl and pink crystal earring dangling from her ear. The earrings were the first gift he'd ever bestowed upon her, and she'd kept hem safe, all these years. "I never felt that. Did you? That I'd stopped loving you?"

She ran her hand up his ribs and curved her palm over his shoulder. Though the years had taken their toll on him, he was still as virile and strong as ever. She closed her eyes against the painful memories that lingered. But a few more weeks - a few more days - was all she needed to banish the pain for good and open her heart for a new life with him.

"I used to think it, when you went away...."

His arms tightened around her. She pressed her mouth to his chest, just over his heart. "And now?" he whispered.

Arabella sat up, straddling him, the thin silk sheet the only barrier between them. He sighed deeply and settled her onto him in a more satisfactory manner. She wriggled until he groaned, then leaned forward for a kiss.

"Hmm." She regarded him with a thoughtful look. He tugged at the thin ribbons tying her gauzy chemise around her shoulders. It slipped down to her waist, exposing the most exquisite pair of breasts he'd ever seen. He arched an eyebrow, waiting for her response.

"I would just like to say, Captain Rathbone, that you had better not stop loving me."

His arms stole around her waist, drawing her closer. His body reacted the only way it could, and he yanked the sheet away and rucked up her chemise.

"And if I do? What will my punishment be?"

She rose off his lap and slid down him, as if it were the most natural thing in the world, which it was. It had always been thus between them. Her inner muscles clenched him tightly, and her thighs gripped his sides. He longed to close his eyes, but the enraptured expression on her lovely face had captured his gaze. He held her as she rocked slowly on him, bringing them both to the brink.

"A millenia of being my slave," she said, her voice a husky whisper. "I shall never...never let you go." She shuddered in his arms, then cried out in joyful abandon.

His heart was full of love for her. Throughout the long, lonely years, she'd never given up hope. Had always known he would come for her.

"Then I shall never stop," he replied, and didn't.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Love...A Song that Never Ends?

I was speaking with another writer recently about love - specifically, the long-lasting variety. We debated whether love fades with the passage of time and distance; if the powerful, all-encompassing strength of first love survives, or does it vanish, as light and frail as cherry blossoms on the wind?

So many books and movies would not exist without this question. Scarlett O'Hara clings to her love of Ashley throughout the war...throughout 1000 pages, for that matter! In The Count of Monte Cristo, the love between Edmond and Mercedes survives 16 years, to be reborn as deeply passionate as it was before.

The first romance novel I ever read was Twice Loved, by Lavyrle Spencer. The hero returns after being missing and pronounced dead for several years. Inthe book's opening, he walks into his wife's house, expecting to find everything the way he left it. To his great surprise, she has married his best friend. The rest of the book was a whirlwind ride, to say the least. And, yes, she goes back to her first husband, the hero who has clung to their love while trying to find her again.

So, what about love? Does it transcend time and space? Does it vanish, only to reappear at the glance upon an old photo, or the whiff of a beloved's perfume? Does it hover in the background of every day life, only to pop its head back into reality, urging, intent and feverish, remember me...I am still here... ?

In the movie, Dan in Real Life, Dan informs his teenage daughter, besotted with passionate love for the first time, "you cannot love someone after only knowing them for 3 days." At the end of the movie, he confesses his love for Marie, whom he has just met - "I love her, I love her, I love her, I love her...." Each phrase, each firmly stated belief, stresses how life-changing his love for her has become. Though it's only been a few days, his love is as deep and true as what his daughter feels. He learns, as we do, that love is an elusive gift. We have to choose how to give it, because once we do, we cannot take it back.

But how is it possible to love as strongly and deeply as in the beginning? How does love retain the initial spark of a first kiss? The first...everything? Does romance fade? Is romance - love?

Were it not for these questions, Shakespeare, Browning, Byron, and millions of others would have no subject matter. We can take it apart, analyze it forever...and still never come up with the right answer. Love does not respond to logic or physics. Like the universe, it is infinite. Juliet tells Romeo her love is as boundless as the sea. How many times have we seen greeting cards that tell the recipient to count all the grains of sand, or stars in the sky, to show how much we love? We tell our beloved, I love you - and it always implies - before, since, during, and after. I love you with all that I am, and all that I can ever hope to be. Love never dies. It has no end.