A few weeks ago, I had some friends over for drinks, food, and fun. Some of us were writers, so of course the topic turned to writing. Those that weren’t writers, asked us many questions, trying to figure out what went through our minds as we developed our plots and characters. I mentioned how writers needed to be psychologists. The other writers agreed that writers have an honorary degree in psycology, but this didn’t sit well with one of the women who is a psychologist. She wanted to know how writers, who didn’t spend all those years getting a psychology degree, think we could possibly know anything about psychology when all we’re writing is that . . . you guess it – smut.
So I went into my office and pulled out some of my books. You know, the ones that help us create those characters that jump off the page. When we create characters, we need to know them inside and out. What they look like. Their likes, dislikes. Their families. Their past and how it has affected them. What makes a person do bad things? What makes a person shy away from commitment? What makes a person angry, happy, sad? But what does psychology have to do with writing? Everything. We need to know a character’s past or their backstory – even if we don’t use everything we’ve learned about that character. It’s a character’s past that shapes them and how they react to the present. We need to know and understand what motivates our characters. Why they do what they do. Can they change and grow from their past?
If we know what a character fears, we can create conflict with that fear. Does she fear the dark because she was locked in the closet as a child. Now is someone trying to kill her and she has to hide in a closet. What is she feeling? Does it bring her back to her childhood? Does it bring back memories of a parent being killed while she hid in a closet. What memories area being triggered in the present? Can she overcome her fear? Does he fear commitment? Is it because his parents divorced? Or because they stayed together for the sake of the children and he had to suffer through their battles? Then let’s create conflict by putting him with a woman he’s beginning to fall for.
What do your characters want from life? What are their goals and why do they have those goals? Did your character grow up poor and now want money and security? Did you character grow up without a father and now wants a family to be the best father possible? Does your character want to correct a wrong from his past?
Was one treated differently than the other? Does your character want retribution from this? How does the other sibling feel about it? Did one sibling have to give up her life to take care of the other siblings? Was it because her parents were alcoholics or drug addicts? Did the parents die make her take charge? Or was it simply because she is the oldest and thinks she’s in charge. How does this affect the other siblings? Let’s not forget the psychology of pairing up characters and how their background affects how they react to each other. What would happen if we paired up a shy person with an out-going one? A creative person with one who is analytical? An adventurer with one frightened of her own shadow? What do we as writers, do to get them together for their HEA?
By the end of the evening, we had our resident psychologist agreeing with us. Did we convince to try and read a romance? Well, we’re still working on that one.
Most useful author tip: Don’t let other people’s opinions of what you write define you as an author. If you love writing romance, write romance. They don’t have to read it, but don’t let them badmouth your job or career.
Most successful promo tip: Besides writing romance, I also write history and children’s books. I find when I’m going to book events, it helps to set up my table according to the event. If it’s a romance author event, I usually just bring my romances, but if it is a general book event, I set up my table accordingly. My history and children’s books go to the forefront, while my romances to the back or side. It brings people to my table (because we know there are those who won’t stop when they see the romance covers). Then I can talk about everything I write.
From the time she was a teenager, Anita would sneak her grandmother’s romances and read them until all hours of the night. She never thought about creating one herself, but fell into it with a few friends. On a long road trip, they started talking about their favorite authors and why they like their books. To kill time, they started making up their own characters and plot.
From that point on, Anita had story ideas and characters filling her head. Finally, to shut them up, (or so she thought), she started writing them down, surprised at how erotic her characters wanted to be. Her first book with The Wild Rose Press, “South Seas Seduction,” was published in March, 2015. Her short story, “Surprise Me,” part of the Candy Hearts Series, was published in January, 2016. The continuing story, “Surprise Me Again,” was released on February 10, 2017.
Anita also writes romantic suspense as Tina Susedik. Find her here:
Charged with trespassing and indecent exposure on Erik Stenson’s private beach, Carson and Josie Sandberg return to South Padre Island to attend the court hearing. However, their reunion with Erik is not what they expected. An invitation for a drink turns into a weekend of passion that fulfills fantasies and leaves all parties wanting to explore more than bedroom bliss. Will time, distance, and family issues stand in the way of a relationship, or will they be surprised again?
Buy on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2nYfMzB
I started writing to escape. It wasn’t that my life was so bad, it was just very busy and rather humdrum. I worked full-time and my kids were in grade-school. I felt like I had something demanding my time every minute of the day and none of it was about me. I started writing my first book on my breaks at my job. That progressed to writing in the mornings after my kids left for school and before I left for work (blissfully, I usually didn’t have to be at my job until 10 a.m.). Then I began to squeeze in a little time on weekends, after the usual chores were done. As my kids developed more and more activities and friends, I had even more time on weekends. (It helped that I wrote in on a computer in our family room so I could keep an eye on things.) By the time they were in junior high and high school, I could count on about fifteen to twenty hours a week of writing time. Over ten years, I wrote (and published) ten books. I look back now and don’t know how I did it. And yet, I do. The key thing back then was…
It was a treat, a reward, an escape from the daily grind. When I got my first publishing contract, I took the summer off to write, and it wasn’t nearly as much fun. Suddenly I was supposed to write. It was a job, rather than a treat. But that didn’t last long, as the market for my preferred genre (historical romance) declined, and with it, my income and any justification for taking time off from my day job.
Over the last ten years, my outlook on writing changed, and along with it, my productivity. Part of it was that my publishing career never really bounced back and that was discouraging. But even more important was that rest of my life became more satisfying and exciting. We had money to travel, and money to indulge my creative instincts in home-remodeling and redecorating and gardening. Suddenly, writing wasn’t so much of an escape. It was still enjoyable, but I was easily distracted from it. The rise of the internet didn’t help. So easy to read emails or blogs, or shop, or research the next trip, instead of write. Instead of predictably writing a book every nine months to a year, some of them took a year and a half or more. I began to wonder if I’d outgrown my need to write. And then…
Once again altered my relationship to writing. My husband had health issues and frustrations with his business and kept threatening to retire. My daughter had some bad relationships that took a serious toll on her mental health and resulted in her needing a lot more support and help. My stress level went from enviably low to seriously high, and stayed there. All at once, escaping into a book sounded wonderful.
I’ve always believed the act of writing changes something in my brain. It alters my brain waves and releases endorphins and takes me to a more positive place. My focus goes from my problems to my characters’ problems. And their problems I can solve! I can give them a happy ending, even when sometimes I’m in doubt about whether there are any happy endings in real life.
I’m sure my relationship to writing will go through more changes. In a few years I will retire, and my husband will sell his business (which I do basic bookkeeping for) and I’ll have a lot more time. Will I use that time to write more? Or will I squander the extra hours, and be less productive? I don’t know. A lot of it will depend on what’s happening with the people I love. If my kids give me grandchildren. If my husband stays healthy (and alive!). If I stay healthy and able to garden and hike and travel. But it’s nice to know that if things get tough, I always have writing. My magical escape to other worlds and times.
Mary Gillgannon is the author of fifteen novels, mostly romances set in the dark age, medieval and English Regency time periods. She’s married and has two children. Now that they’re grown, she indulges her nurturing tendencies on four very spoiled cats and a moderately spoiled dog. When not writing or working—she’s been employed at the local public library for twenty-five years—she enjoys gardening, reading and travel..
Best writing advice: Make sure the beginning of your book sets up the reader’s expectations correctly. The mood you set in the beginning will create their expectations, so don’t lead them astray with a light opening for a dark book, or an action-packed opening for a leisurely one.
Mary’s best marketing advice: The cover is crucial. It needs to be eye-catching and also show the mood of the book.
When hardened gamester Marcus Revington wins Horngate Manor in a card game, he’s delighted to finally own property, and undeterred when he learns he must marry the heiress of the estate to claim it. The heiress, Penny Montgomery, is happy with her life raising horses at Horngate and has no desire to wed anyone. When she discovers what her guardian has done, she comes up with a scheme to convince Marcus she’s unsuitable as a wife so he’ll give up his plan to marry her. Who will win in this battle of wits and wills? Or will they both discover the name of the game is love?
New ideas can come from anywhere, but they are often more special when they come from old routines. New writing lessons from old ideas dig deeper into your imagination. One of my joys in my long years of writing has been the opportunity to work with other writers, whether in critique groups or going to conferences and hanging out. Every time I meet new writers I always learn something. That’s one of the reasons that I started teaching writing classes many years ago.
It seemed like a good way to continue to improve my own skills, but I also quickly learned there was more I could get from the experience than just the opportunity to teach others. I almost always learned something new myself. This past month I taught a class on characters and assigned my students to interview their characters as a way of getting to know them better.
And that proved to be a big learning experience for me. Instead of questioning her hero or heroine, as I instructed the class, she chose to interview her villain. Suddenly the character questions took on a whole new meaning and a new understanding of the story. She asked him WHY he was doing such dastardly deeds. We all search for meaning of goal, motivation and conflict for our main characters, but what about those bad guys in our stories? Don’t we want to know what made them so evil?
She went on to ask him why he had singled out the heroine for his nasty deeds and how far he was willing to take the whole nasty situation. I give my classes profile sheets to fill out so she went on to ask him questions I normally only give to the main characters—things about his past, his childhood, his good and bad influences. Suddenly this evil character was taking on a whole new dimension. He was truly coming alive and I am certain her character and her book will be richer for the whole experience.
I am going to put her idea to use in my own writing. As I continue work on my next book, I am not only going work through all those exercises on my main characters, but I am planning on how to use that idea in every aspect of working with my villain. I’ve often advocated spending social time with characters, but I am going to try that with my villains too, just to see what makes them tick.
This is why I always feel that it is so important to keep in touch with other writers, even if we are working in a solitary profession where everything is normally kept in our head until we put it on the written page. Discussing ideas with other writers is always helpful, and I have learned over the years that working with beginning writers can go even beyond that. They are learning the craft so often some of the same tired routines we’ve been using can be improved or viewed in new and different ways and they can bring that out in our own work.
And became a manager, one of my duties was to work with new writers or coach young reporters to help them improve their stories. Sometimes it could be frustrating but mostly it was rewarding to see them constantly improving and to see those improvements appear on the air. That’s why it made perfect sense to me that I should want to do the same thing now that I was making writing my primary vocation. When I began teaching writing classes online and giving workshops at conferences, I looked at it as a good way to keep meeting writers too and to keep getting new ideas. And this idea of focusing on the villain is one I won’t forget. I’ll be using it!
Rebecca Grace is a former broadcast journalist who has worked in TV newsrooms around the West. After 30 years she left the newsroom for five years in public relations before turning to the world of fiction writing full time. She also teaches writing classes online and has presented writing workshops at a number of writing conferences.
Her latest book, Blues at 11, published in 2015 by The Wild Rose Press, is a humorous mystery, set in the world of a Los Angeles television journalist. Her last book was Dead Man’s Rules, also published by The Wild Rose Press in 2014. It is the first of a three book series. In addition to writing romantic suspense and mystery novels, she also writes romance novels, novellas and short stories.
Kimberly delaGarza is leading a charmed life. As a Los Angeles television anchorwoman her face is well known around the city; she wears designer clothes and lives in a beachside home. But now she has been accused of murder. Her next TV appearance may be in a mugshot, her next outfit may be an orange jumpsuit and her next home may be The Big House. And as she searches for the truth … a vicious killer is closing in.
“Someone needs to find the killer,” I said. “What if he’s after me too? Think about Lindy’s accident. She was driving my car. The hit and run driver might have been after me.”
Hank waved an impatient hand. “From what I’ve heard, she was driving too fast and may have been racing the other car.”
“She told me she was careful.”
“You think she’d tell the truth if she was racing? Look, I would appreciate it if you hired a PI and left my dad out of this.”
“All you’re worried about is looking bad for your mayor and rich people like the Brookings family. I’m sure they’ll give you a nice contribution to your next campaign for providing personal attention.”
“I am not elected,” he said through gritted teeth.
“But you are worried about your job and appearances. Isn’t that why you were making such a big deal out of my ‘security arrangement’ with your dad?” It was my turn to hold up the quote fingers.
The coldness that grew in his eyes was like an approaching glacier. “Look, I know what’s happening. You’re doing your normal Kimberly crap.”
His harsh words smacked into me like a slap of hard wind to my face. “My what?”
He unloaded on me with the force of a blizzard. “You’re a pampered princess who is so damned used to getting your own way that you can’t handle it when the real world invades your private fantasy life! Well, it’s here, lady, and it’s real. But I won’t stand by and let you hurt my father by getting him involved.”
Find Rebecca On the Web
This is an experiment in living. Do you follow excitment?
I am the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. That may sound impossible given the state of the world. The news has been dramatic lately. I will say there were months of being under water with all of it. Last fall, after finishing a project, I didn’t go back to writing. Days went by without touching the keyboard. I let it all be. No forced enthusiasm.
Six months elapsed, during which I didn’t push myself to write or to do anything with my free time I didn’t feel like doing. Without forcing anything, my days took on a certain shape, things I like to do emerged. One of those things was an increased interest in the news, even though the news was bringing me down. I didn’t fight it.
into all the stories, increasing my understanding of events and history as it unfolded. I became a bit more active, following the votes of my elected representatives and communicating with them. I carefully chose what I would do and not do so I wouldn’t be overwhelmed. That bit of action lifted my head above water. Now I limit my new intake to twice a day, which also helps. If you read or watch the news and it bothers you, I recommend finding some way no matter how small to participate. It’s a known way to avoid depression.
In the quiet space of not forcing myself to do anything during my free time, another feeling, subtle and powerful, grew. I missed writing.
But how, and what? I want to write what I’m most excited about writing. I want to live in a way that I’m always doing the thing that is most exciting to me in the moment. Sometimes that is writing, sometimes that is photography, sometimes it’s learning about history. Sometimes it’s taking a nap or reading a book.
Doing what you’re excited about is an incredible way to live. Try it.
I know I have more free time than average. But even when I worked seven days a week, I would try to do tasks that excited me first and then yes, I would have to force myself to get started on other tasks.
Tune into inherent excitement even in dreaded tasks. When working and having a lot of chores, there is an element of manufacturing excitement, at least at first. But checking things off a list can be exciting. Here’s a tip that you probably know but it’s a good one for dreaded tasks. Dreading something is usually caused by being overwhelmed, the thing being too big. You can trick your mind into not dreading it by breaking off the smallest bit possible to do first. That gets you going. Then keep breaking the whole thing down into small achievable steps.
Experiment with doing whatever most excites you in the moment. Concentrate fully on that moment. With writing, I’m doing that, and it’s amazing. When I sit down to write I work on whichever project most captivates me at the moment. It’s turning out to be something different than I’ve written before and quite challenging, but I’m breaking it down. Every day I open the file and add ideas to the brainstorming page, do some research, add ideas. I’m not putting a deadline on the process. Since it’s new to me, it may take a very long time, and that’s okay.
try milking each moment for what you enjoy, whether it’s washing the dishes or working on a project. With your free time, try to not make decisions about what you will do with that time and see what it is you enjoy the most. It might be different than you thought.
Here’s a book I was very excited to write and publish last year. I drew on what I learned from helping take care of my mom when she was disabled. Cara Cruz and Jason Ward both love his mom, who is disabled, and taking care of her turns out to help them find their paths in life.
Super student Cara Cruz made it all the way through her prestigious MBA program only to choke on the last final. Ordered by her advisor to take the summer off and clear her head, she’s home in Lobster Cove for some fun before retaking the exam. If she fails a second time, she will lose her dream job offer in Chicago. Meanwhile her best friend happens to be her ex-boyfriend’s mom, which means close contact with the man who broke her heart. Twice. This time she’ll protect her heart no matter the cost.
Ex-major-league baseball pitcher Jason Ward blew his money, his elbow, and his love life. Now at home taking care of his mom and working on a new life plan, he wants Cara back, but he already struck out, didn’t he? Maybe not, and now his mission is to win her back without telling her the truth about why he really came home.
Winning at love will be the only be the only play that counts. Nicci
Here’s where I connect with readers online:
I decided to take the leap and join a Weekly Blog Challenge for 2017, but little did I know that my biggest challenge would not be taking the time to write a blog post each week, but rather to share so much of my personal self. The idea of the challenge isn’t just to revive my stagnant blog—as was my intent—but to share little bit of personal information each week. Some days I feel as if I’m drowning in a sea of selfies and…
TMI (too much information!). With the new normal of marketing consisting of live videos and spewing personal information online, how does an introvert learn to swim? Most people’s favorite sound is that of their own voice- not so for many of the introverted and selfie-challenged people of the world who practically get hives at the thought. Raises hand.
It’s not that I have something to hide, but instead I often feel as if I have nothing exciting to share. Thriving on a life striving for comfort, routine and monotony does not make for an interesting read.
So, I’m making the best of this look at me decade by
Gather author advice, but find a happy medium. You’ll often receive conflicting advice, so you have to decide what defines you as an author, your stories, and most of all—what makes you happy in your writing.
Don’t force it. Find the places you like to market and focus on them the most. People can tell if you’re being genuine and not just spamming a social media feed. For me it’s Facebook. How About You? Do You Like to Share? Or Is the Thought as Uncomfortable as a Dream of Being Out in Your Underwear?
If I want to be extroverted, I live vicariously through some of the heroines of my books, but not all of them. My introverted heroine from my book, Destiny Calling, struggles to accept her newfound, very extroverted, very unusual family.
Blurb for Destiny Calling:
When the woman who raised Hope is murdered by something not human, Hope loses the only family she knows and discovers one she might wish she never met. With a touch that can make the desperate hopeful, Hope is the answer. The only question is if she can deal with sibling rivalry, accept that entities feeding off despair exist, and determine if Griffith is the man of her dreams, or not at all what he seems. http://amzn.to/2cVm4ME
Maureen Bonatch grew up in small town Pennsylvania and her love of the four seasons—hockey, biking, sweat pants and hibernation—keeps her there. While immersed in writing or reading paranormal romance and fantasy, she survives on caffeine, wine, music, and laughter. A feisty Shih Tzu keeps her in line.
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Maureen-L.-Bonatch/e/B00KHY1KK8/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1