Saturday, January 30, 2010

Psst...my February book is available now on Amazon

And by available, I mean, on sale now, not just available for pre-order.

What are y'all waiting for? Go. Buy.

Need an incentive? How about some pretty?

Don't you want to curl up with him for a few hours? You know you do.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Blogging on Intrigue Authors today

Just a heads up that I'm blogging over at eHarlequin on the Intrigue Author's blog today. I think this might be a fun one--I post some deleted scenes from three of my books. Sometimes you just can't fit everything in that you want, or sometimes the scene just doesn't quite fit in the end.

So drop by and see what was left on the cutting room floor.

Comments, as always, are appreciated!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

WWW - The Formula

We writers talk a lot about "the rules." What they are. What they aren't. Whether or not to break them. I think there are probably no hard and fast rules about "the rules." Sometimes you break them at will. Sometimes you don't. Sometimes you break them on some things but keep them on the others. Sometimes you don't have a clue what the rules are to begin with.

But I'm a lot less interested in "the rules" than I am "the formula." You know, the formula all romance writers write by, according to scoffers and critics.

I can hear the outrage now. We don't write by a formula! How insulting.

Well, um, I do. I write all my books by a formula that's been around since the days of Aristotle. It's called the Three Act Structure, and I think almost all good genre novels follow that formula, whether we realize it or not.

In Poetics, Aristotle lay the foundation for story structure we know as Three Act Structure. Put simply, this structure can be described as "the beginning, the middle and the end." But Aristotle himself, and the millions of storytellers who came after, have refined the three act structure, defining the integral parts and functions of each act and how they drive the narrative and result in a satisfying story.

Nowhere does the three act structure figure more prominently than in screenplays and stage plays. Screenwriter and teacher Syd Field was a pioneer who made the three act structure one of the foundations of his screenwriting classes. In his book Screenplay, this is how Field breaks down the three-act screenplay:

Act One - Pages 1 - 30 (approximately)
THE SET-UP
In these thirty pages, the writer sets up the story, the characters, the dramatic premise and the major players and their relationships.

Act Two - Pages 31 - 90 (approximately)
THE CONFRONTATION
In Act Two, the main character's attempt to reach his goal is thwarted again and again, forcing her to change the way she tries to reach her goal. Each change leads to a new obstacle standing between her and her story goal.

Act Three - Pages 91 - 120 (approximately)
THE RESOLUTION
The third act solves the story problem, for good or for ill. Your character reaches her goal or is forever thwarted. Or, perhaps, the events of the story cause her to change her goal and find a different sort of success than she originally sought.

(Field, Screenplay, pp. 9-12).

Romance writers may recognize the structure Field outlines in his book. Roughly, the three act structure is similar to the so-called "formula" many romance writers have followed for decades in plotting their stories. And why not? As Aristotle recognized as far back as 350 B.C.E., human beings tell stories the same way. Instinctively, we understand that a story requires the three parts Field outlines. In fact, by keeping the three-act structure in mind as we plot our stories, we can improve our pacing, avoid a sagging middle, and create a dramatically and emotionally satisfying ending that will leave the reader happy--and eager to buy our next books.

When plotting your novel, try starting out with a broad three-act outline. The Set-up--who is your protagonist? What does she want? Why does she want it? What is keeping her from getting what she wants? You probably recognize a seminal form of Debra Dixon's Goal, Motivation and Conflict concept in the previous questions. That's because Dixon knows what Syd Field and Aristotle knew: goal, motivation and conflict are essential to Acts One and Two of the three act structure.

If you properly set up Act One, you have a pretty good idea where to go in Act Two (a.k.a. The Dreaded Middle). You know what the protagonist wants, and you have a good idea what stands in the way. Act Two is all about escalating that conflict, making sure that each subsequent obstacle is bigger and more complex than the obstacle that came before it.

If, at the end of Act One, you've driven your protagonist up a tree, you can certainly get her back down again. But make sure that as she hits the ground, there's a bear after her. And the next tree you drive her up should be taller and more perilous than the one before, and the bear that chases her when she gets down better be bigger and meaner than the one before.

At the end of Act Two, you will have reached that point we romance writers know as the Black Moment. In screenplay structure, this is the Act Two turn. It's that point in the story where it seems impossible that your protagonist will ever reach her goal. All is lost.

Here is where the quality of the first two acts come into play. In the process of setting up your story problem, defining your protagonist and antagonist, and escalating your conflict, you should have built in the escape hatch through which your protagonist escapes to reach her goal. It's not enough to discover the antagonist's weakness. Ideally, the protagonist must have learned something over the course of the confrontation that helps her do something at the end of the story that she could not have done at the beginning. It can be as simple as standing up to an overbearing parent or as complicated as giving up the goal she's spent the entire story pursuing in order to reach a different, more important goal.

If you can take the three act structure and break it down into its parts, you have created a solid outline for your novel. But what if you're not a plotter? What if you're a pantser? How can the three act structure help you?

Try approaching the revision process with the three act structure in mind. When you're through with the story you've written by the seat of your pants, apply the three act structure as a measuring stick. Have you spent too much time on the set-up and given short shrift to the middle? Has your middle overtaken the story, meandering around without escalating incrementally toward the black moment? Is your black moment the logical result of the confrontations your hero or heroine experienced in Act Two? Does your resolution drag on too long, or is it the short, sweet button to your story that it's supposed to be?

The three act structure has stood the test of time. Put it to work for you.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A little something for writers

I know that not everybody who reads my blog is a writer. But I think some of you probably are. I sometimes bend over backwards here on the blog not to get too "inside baseball" about the writing craft in my posts, knowing that a lot of readers just don't want to know too much about the nuts and bolts of what we writers do. But personally, I do love the nuts and bolts, and I think I'd like to write about writing now and then.

I'm fascinated about how people write, the choices they make, the techniques they use, the shortcuts they come up with to move things along more quickly and efficiently. I like the psychology of writing, how we as human beings have told stories for centuries and how modern day writers have adapted these ancient skills for new generations.

And I like to share things I've learned that might make it a little easier for aspiring writers to take a step forward in their careers.

So starting tomorrow, I plan to dedicate Wednesdays on the blog to writing. We'll call it Wednesday Writer's Workshop*. Check this space tomorrow for the first post, which will talk about story structure. Future posts may be formal articles, guest blogs from other writers, or simple Q & A sessions where I do my best, from my limited experience and perspective, to answer your questions about writing. And, of course, feel free to ask questions about writing in the comments of any of these posts. This is a work in progress, and what I post and whether I even keep doing this will depend on whether or not the rest of you get anything out of the posts.

So please, tell your writer friends about Wednesday Writer's Bootcamp. This is a free chance to pick the brains of someone who's made it through the slushpile at a major New York publishing house and into print. I can answer some of your questions about how to get there yourselves, and if I don't know the answer to a particular question, I'll find someone who does. Share the link on your Twitter feeds, Facebook, your own blog or your own writing email loops. I remember when I was unpublished, I was desperate for all the inside information I could get. I bet a lot of writers feel the same way.

So, drop by tomorrow for the first post and let's talk about writing!

*I edited this from Boot Camp to Workshop because I don't want to step on any trademark toes.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Kitten Update!

This one's for Kea. :)

First up, Cody, pretending to be a sweet potato in the veggie basket on the counter.



He's not supposed to be on the counter, and mostly we do try to keep him off with the water bottle treatment (they so hate being sprayed). But he's so cute in the basket, I didn't have the heart to pull out the water bottle and shoo him away.

Next up, Mac.



Now that's the life. Lying on the Snuggie, dreaming about chasing things—what more could a little kitty want?

They're getting huge. Well, huge for kittens. Mac weighs over 5 pounds now, and Cody's close to that. We're getting close to time to neuter, I'm afraid. My babies aren't babies anymore! ::sniffle::

Novel Talk Author Spotlight

Guess who's one of the spotlight authors this month on NovelTalk?
I'm trying to be really conscientious about getting out and about online over the next couple of months to make sure people remember I have new books out. It's been over a year since my last book, COWBOY ALIBI, came out (September 2008). I had nothing out in 2009, unless you count the free book I posted to my website. (And by the way, if you haven't read it yet, it's still up on my website, so feel free to give it a look). So there are going to be readers who don't remember who I am, even if they enjoyed my first four books.
I'm so grateful to have people following this blog who actually care what I have to say. I hope you'll tell your friends and family—anyone who enjoys mysteries and romance, really—about my books and this blog. Or send them to my website. I don't have vast funds at my disposal to buy advertising, so I'm really having to depend on family, friends and my online pals to help me get the word out.
I also want to remind y'all that I could use some reviews on amazon.com, borders.com, etc. Maybe you do reviews on eHarlequin and would like to tackle my lastest series, or even some of my backlist. I don't even mind if you didn't like the book that much and want to say so . I appreciate the honest criticism and hope to learn what I can do better.
You could also link to some of my posts on your own blogs. (And be sure to let me know if you have your own blog. I'm always looking for blog inspiration, as you know, and I'm more than happy to link to an interesting blog post, as it saves me from having to be all original and smart myself!)
But enough of the unsightly begging. How are y'all doing this fine Saturday morning?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Blogging at Intrigue Authors

I think this is a fun one, and I'd love to hear your responses, so please drop by my blog post at the Intrigue Authors blog and tell me your answer to the question I pose.

Comment love always appreciated. :)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Winner of the Romance Junkies Guest Blog giveaway

I posted the winner in the comments on my guest blog post over on Romance Junkies, but in case you missed it, the winner of her choice of books from my backlist is Susan Leech. Congratulations, Susan! My email is linked on my website, so just go there, click on the "contact" link and email me your mailing information and which book you'd like to have. If I still have a copy, it's yours! :)

Thanks so much to everyone who dropped by to give me some comment love. I appreciate it more than you know.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Well, I was kind of waiting on Romance Junkies...

I turned in a blog post to Romance Junkies a few days ago for a blog post that was supposed to go up Friday, the 15th, but so far, it's not there. I'll keep checking that blog and let y'all know when it's up. Meanwhile, here's a little end of the week update.

First, and most important, I finished book four of the Cooper Justice series, BACHELOR SHERIFF this past week. It's in my critique partner's hands, bless her heart. This was was a difficult book in the end—it just didn't want to come together cohesively. I was up until almost 2 a.m. last night trying to blend everything together into a workable whole. My CP will tell me whether or not I succeeded. It's due 1/29, which means I've got to send it by Priority Mail on the 26th. Nothing like a little stress in your life, huh?

Second, if you're the opinionated sort, and you've read and enjoyed CASE FILE: CANYON CREEK, WYOMING, how about heading to amazon.com and giving it at little love in the reviews section? And if you've read any of my other books and liked them, could you help those along, too? Comment love makes me very happy.

Now I get to take a couple of days off writing. Not many, however, as my editor wants me to turn the last three Cooper Justice books into a back to back to back trilogy with an overarching mystery throughline. Now I have to figure out how to do that. Eek!

So, how about the rest of you? Anything fun and exciting going on with y'all this week?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Blogging on Intrigue Authors today

Have I mentioned I'm the worst blogger ever? I'm terrible about forgetting to post here when I've blogged somewhere else to let y'all know about it.

So, anyway, today it's Riley Patterson's turn to answer questions on the Intrigue Author's blog.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Blogging on Intrigue Authors

Today, my blog post on the eHarlequin Intrigue Authors blog is a fun one: I interview Hannah Cooper, the heroine of my January Intrigue, CASE FILE: CANYON CREEK, WYOMING.

Interviewing my characters is one of the more fun things I do as an author. I don't do it nearly as often as you'd think, but my talk with Hannah convinced me that I should include this particular author's parlor trick into the planning stages of a book more often.

Anyway, hop on over to the Intrigue Author's blog and get a little behind the scenes look at the character you'll meet, if you haven't already, in this month's release. And if you don't yet have a copy of my September 2008 Intrigue, COWBOY ALIBI, be sure to leave a comment, since I'll be drawing for a copy of that book.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Blogging on Romance Magicians

I'm blogging today on Romance Magicians, the group blog of my local RWA chapter, Southern Magic. The topic? "What is it with the fishing thing?" I talk about the Cooper Justice series, and what inspired me to create a new series featuring a loving, boisterous family who run a fishing camp and marina in northeast Alabama. Drop by, give the whole blog a read. There are a wonderful bunch of writers posting there.

Plus, I'm giving away a $10 gift certificate to Barnes and Noble.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

4 1/2 Stars - "Wonderfully romantic and beautifully written..."

Cataromance gave CASE FILE: CANYON CREEK, WYOMING a great review. I particularly love the quote I put above in the headline. I hope they like CHICKASAW COUNTY CAPTIVE as well.

Speaking of reviews, if you've read any of my books and would like to leave a review on amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million or any of the other online bookstores that allow reviews, I would love it. I love to hear what people think about my books, for one thing. Good, bad or otherwise. And I've heard that publishing companies do pay attention to which authors are creating a buzz online through reviews and the like. Apparently I'm not very buzzy at the moment. ;)

Finally, in case I haven't reminded you lately, both CASE FILE: CANYON CREEK, WYOMING and CHICKASAW COUNTY CAPTIVE are available now for purchase at eHarlequin.com. Amazon.com is also already shipping CASE FILE. And a week from today, CASE FILE should be in bookstores everywhere. I'm hoping, though not expecting, that my sales for the first week will be good enough to get me on the Borders bestseller list. It would be my first time on the list, though my last book got pretty close.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Pop Music 2009 Mashup

This is just wild.



The only songs in the video that I know are the Miley Cyrus song, the Taylor Swift songs, and the Beyonce "Single Ladies" song. Yes, I know I'm woefully unhip.

For more on the creator of this mashup, visit his website .

Friday, January 01, 2010

Chickasaw County Captive is Available on eHarlequin

My February book is now on sale at eHarlequin.com.

If you just can't wait (and come on, you know you can't!), you can get your copy early from eHarlequin, and at a lower cover price, too!

What to know more about this book? Here's the back cover copy:
When someone tries to kidnap his daughter, Jefferson County DA Sam Cooper sees red. He wants little Maddy protected, at any cost. Even if that cost includes working with a distractingly attractive detective, Kristen Tandy. He knows Kristen wants to solve the case…so why does she try so hard to stay distant from him and his little girl? Remaining professional is something he fully understands, but the emotional—and physical—scars Kristen tries to hide make Sam deeply interested in turning things personal. And the more protection Kristen offers his daughter, the more her closely guarded vulnerability draws him in. Before long, as the truth of her past is slowly revealed, Sam realizes just how desperate someone is for her to remain silent.…
Now, here's your contest for today: go read the excerpt linked on the Chickasaw County Captive page on eHarlequin and answer this question: What is Sam's response when Kristen and her partner ask to talk to his daughter Maddy?
The first person to answer correctly wins a $10 Barnes and Noble gift certificate. The second person to answer correctly wins a signed copy of your choice of my backlist books, Forbidden Territory, Forbidden Temptation, Forbidden Touch or Cowboy Alibi.