Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Romance Author, Roseanne Dowell's Views on a Controversial Topic - To Plot or Not

Before we get to Roseanne's post, here's something about her Sweet Romance, Time to Love Again

The man next door, his granddaughter, and her sister’s ghost help bring Rose Asbury out of seclusion.
Fifty-eight year old, Rose Asbury knows people think she’s a recluse, but she doesn’t care. She just wants to be left alone. She doesn’t need anyone and no one needs her and that’s just fine. At least Rose didn’t until this year. For some reason this year is different. Suddenly, she’s melancholy and discontent with her life. 

And the man next door doesn’t help matters. He insists on speaking to her. So her stomach tumbles every time she sees him, that doesn’t mean anything. Hunger pangs, nerves, she just wishes he’d leave her alone. Or does she? To top it all off, his granddaughter and her friends insist on playing in her yard, sledding, building snowmen and throwing snowballs at her house.

Then her sister’s ghost shows up and Rose’s life changes drastically.

Buy Link:  http://amzn.to/timetoloveagain    
See Book releases from   http://bit.ly/roseannebooks
About Roseanne Dowell:
Multi-published author, Roseanne Dowell, writing instructor and former school secretary, is an avid reader and writes various types of romance – paranormal, contemporary and mystery. Living in Northeast Ohio with her husband of  fifty years, she has six grown children, fourteen grandchildren and one great grandchild. She spends her time between writing, quilting and embroidering.  She’s been published since 2006 with seven releases this year and several new releases coming in 2012. She also enjoys blogging, tweeting, facebooking and posting on various writers groups.  To learn more about Roseanne check her website: www.roseannedowell.com  or her blog http://roseannedowellauthor.blogspot.com/

To Plot or Not  by Roseanne Dowell
At one of our chapter meetings of RWA, the speaker talked about plotting a novel and writing a synopsis before the book was written. She suggested if we had never done that to try it.
So I did.
I had an idea for a story that was taking shape in my mind. As usual, I knew how it would begin and how it would end. What happened in the middle? I didn’t have a clue. Oh, I had a few ideas. I knew there was a secret about my heroine’s birth, and she’d find a dead body But I had no idea who he was (yes, I knew it was a male) or why he was killed. So I tried plotting. I came up with a few ideas about his identity and even about who murdered him and even why.
I started to outline my plot, and I came up with a pretty good story line. Then, I started writing. And it flowed pretty well. My heroine discovered the body.  Then I was stuck. Something didn’t feel right to me. I wasn’t sure what it was, but for some reason, I couldn’t move on. My heroine wouldn’t let me. No matter how I tried to move on to the next conflict, I couldn’t.
I was totally blocked. The story sat for the better part of the year without me typing even one word. Every time I opened it, I read it, made a few changes and then I got to the part where I was stumped.
I stared at the computer, sometimes for hours, trying to come up with something, anything –even if it was garbage – just to get me past that hump. I couldn’t do it. So I’d move on to something else. I revised several other stories that I’d written a long time ago, then I’d go back to it. The problem was –I was locked into the outline, I didn’t know how to make the transition to the next thing. It didn’t feel right.                                                                                                    
It wasn’t until one day; I was emailing my writing buddy about my dilemma. I needed help and any suggestions she could offer would be most welcome. I wrote what I had so far, and where I wanted the story to go. For some reason, in that email, I started to ask what if, which is how I usually wrote. I threw out a couple of ideas to her and answered them myself. Finally, I was unblocked. I even created a new character and another conflict. I ignored the plot outline and went a completely different way.
That was how I usually wrote, asking what if as I wrote, coming up with new ideas. For me, plotting and outlining doesn’t work. I’ll never do it again. For others, it works fine and good for them.  I understand it’s not necessary to stick to the outline, but for me, since I wrote it, I had trouble deviating from it.  It blocked my creativity. Yes, I should have ignored it long before, but it was too fresh in my mind. It took a year and then some to forget what was on that outline so I could move on.
I guess my whole point is – write the way it’s comfortable for you. There is no right or wrong way, there’s only your way, and don’t let anyone tell you differently.  There are very few hard and fast rules in writing. We all have to develop our own style, our own voice, and our own rules. Some authors get up in the morning and sit down to write. Some write later in the day, and still others write in the middle of the night. Again, whatever works best for you. The important thing is to write.

Roseanne Dowell

Please leave a comment to welcome our guest, Roseanne Dowell to Sweet Not Spicy.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Romance Author, Alicia Rasley, Shares a Character Building Technique

Here's Alicia's Special Technique, Which She Used in Her Sweet, Discreet Romance, Allegra's Song, A Regency Novel:

Character Interview Example by Alicia Rasley

Here's a technique I used to get into my hero's heart and mind, and you might find it a helpful exercise for your own writing, especially with those strong silent gentlemen! I think of myself sitting across the table taking notes as I "interview" the character.  I ask leading questions and record (well, type) the answers in the character's first-person voice.
Here's an example.  Nicholas is a soldier who returned from the war to a wife he hardly knows.  Months later, he's still distracted and disoriented, and she has given up trying to reach him.  He doesn't really wake up to her unhappiness until she's left him for a few days.  Now what I'm going to do is start with an unthreatening question, and then, when I have the poor fella relaxed, get more intrusive.  I'm also going to ask him to describe the exterior– where he was, what he saw, what he heard– so that I can use that to write the setting details later.

The interview with Nicholas:
You must be glad to be home again with your family....
I don't know.  It should be....  It was just so strange, being home.  It was my home, but it was so different from what I remember.  My parents both died while I was gone.  I knew it, of course, but I don't think I really understood it till I got home and they weren't there.  And there we were, Allegra and I, in the master suite.  My parents' room.  I couldn't sleep there.  So I took to sleeping in my old room, down the hall.  I'd visit Allegra, of course.  Odd, isn't it, that I could do‑‑ that, but I couldn't sleep there afterwards.
And Allegra?
She was grown.  A woman.  I hadn't really noticed that.  She'd been just a girl when I married her.  You know.  Foolish notions.  Stars in her eyes.  She used to write these letters to me, while I was away, and she'd dot her i's with little fat circles.  And I didn't notice at the time, but last week I was looking through all those letters‑‑ hundreds of them, almost seven years worth‑‑ and I realized somewhere a few years ago she stopped using those little circles. 
Why were you looking through those old letters?
Looking for her.  She's been gone for a couple weeks. And I'd forgotten what she is like.  I felt like it had been years, not days, since I'd seen her.  I couldn't remember what she looked like when she's frowning and biting her lip as she reads through a piece of music and imagines how it will sound. Or at night, in the moonlight, with her hair down on her bare shoulders.  I couldn't remember any of those memories.  So I read over her letters.
Tell me where you were, when you read the letters.
I was in the attic.  I went up to find a chair to replace a broken one in the dining room.  And I saw that leather satchel, the one from when I was in Portugal, the one I used to put her letters in. 
Wasn't it dark in the attic?
Not at first. It was the middle of the afternoon, and the light was streaming in through the gable windows.  You know how the light is that time of day?  Kind of white golden, and up there in the attic, it sparkled on every bit of dust in the air. Sometimes I could smell her perfume on the letters. I could smell that perfume over the dusty smell, and sometimes I could sense her but not see her.
Was there any noise?
It's an old house, so sometimes I could hear the rafters creaking. You know how old beams rattle, like an old man coughing.  Other than that, all I could hear was the paper crackling when I opened a letter.
It must have taken a long time.
Yes, but it was good. I could remember her better then, after I read them.
But you've been home for months.
I know. And she was there, I remember that‑‑ in the house, at the dinner table, in the bed.  And she made everything comfortable for me, which was pleasant‑‑ except I'm not used to comfort, and sometimes it was annoying, to have her keep asking what did I want to do.  Did I want to redo my father's study, did I want to buy a few more mounts for the stables, did I want to go to London for the season.  Did I want salt on my eggs.  Did I want to hear that new sonata she'd learned.  Did I want to have another child. Did I want to be alone. That's all I remember, really, all those questions.  I was supposed to say yes or no, when‑‑ when I didn't really have an answer.  So sometimes I said yes, and sometimes I said no, and she'd go off and do what she thought was best anyway.   So I remember she asked me, do you want me to go, and I said‑‑ I don't remember. Yes or no, one of those two. And she did what she wanted to do, went her own way.  That's the problem with us.  We never needed each other. Oh, we thought we did, and each time we parted, I felt that need, sharp like an arrow, right in my heart.  But we had to go on living, and we did, both of us, and so we just learned not to need each other. It hurt too much. But it's time now, I think, for us to start needing each other again.
How we can use the interview:
The advantage of this technique is that you almost "channel" the character.  The character (or your subconscious construct of him) takes over and starts directing the answer.  (Trust me on this– just let go, and it will happen.)  
And you can probably see how easy this would be to "translate" into a first-person narration, but it's also helpful for third-person passages.  Use the sensory details to embellish the relevant parts of your story, to add description from within the character.  Use the emotion to give the reader an understanding of why he behaves as he does.  And use the voice to give a sense of immediacy and clarity to the characterization.

You won't have to do this with every event in the book.  Once you get a sense of a character's POV, you won't ever lose it entirely.  It's as if that channel is open in your mind, and you just have to make the decision to switch to it when appropriate, letting the character's own perspective on each event dictate the narrative.

If you'd like to read the story about Nicholas and how he finally came home from the war, check out Allegra's Song, a Regency novella.  You'll recognize some of the lines from above!

Amazon Buy link:  http://amzn.to/FOfDPT

Alicia Rasley is a RITA-award winning Regency novelist who has been published by major publishers such as Dell, NAL, and Kensington. Her women’s fiction novel The Year She Fell has been a Kindle bestseller in the fiction category.
Her articles on writing and the Regency period have been widely distributed, and many are collected on her website, http://www.rasley.com/. She also blogs about writing and editing at http://www.edittorrent.blogspot.com/.  Check out the Amazon page for other Regencies by Rasley.

v    Rakish heroes.
v    Reckless heroines.
v    Elegant stories.

Please welcome Alicia by leaving a comment.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Please Welcome Romance Author, Mary Montague Sikes

What the Sweet Romance, A Rainbow for Christmas, by Mary Montague Sikes is About:
Life is going as planned for Meg Smith and her brother’s family. They are in Missouri preparing for a wagon train journey cross country to Denver when tragedy strikes. Her sister-in-law dies in child birth, and her brother’s life ends in a senseless gun fight over a horse.
To save the family’s Ohio farm, Meg’s father has arranged her marriage to a wealthy Denver man. When they marry, her new husband will send the money to her father to pay off the bank. Meg decides she must honor her father’s wishes, so she sets out alone on the wagon train journey with her six-year-old orphaned niece to meet her fiancĂ©.

Will Mr. O’Sullivan accept Eliza? Meg worries. When she becomes attracted to the wagon master, she starts to wonder if she really wants to marry a man she’s never met?
http://tinyurl.com/86vb4ko - Amazon Link
And Now, Some Advice from Mary Montague Sikes:
Always Keep a Notebook Handy
      Always keep a notebook with you because you never know when you’ll come across something remarkable you can use later on in an article or a story. That’s a piece of advice I like to give writers. In my own writing studio, I have dozens of little notebooks and artist sketchbooks filled with information from journeys taken over the years.
     One of my black hardcover notebooks is from a journey we took into rugged mountainous areas of Colorado where we discovered a section of old gold mines in Idaho Springs. Inside the Phoenix Gold Mine, a veteran miner entertained us with colorful tales from pioneer times. The day we visited, he was having trouble with his left arm which he said was injured when he was struck by lightning inside the mine a few weeks earlier. He believed this was a message from God showing him where a vein of gold was located. Not long after the lightning strike, a rich pocket of gold ore was located where it hit. What he told us that day filled my notebook and provided an entertaining chapter for my book, Hotels to Remember. It also supplied me with a little background into mining in the West where not only gold but also silver were found in the early days of the pioneers. The talkative miner gave me a piece of gold ore that day that I still have on display in a cabinet. It’s a reminder of the importance of artifacts and other memorabilia to a writer.
     Several years ago when we were visiting charming little communities in the Colorado mountains, I came across several books documenting the early days of the settlement of the territory. Although I had misgivings at the time, I bought two of the books, including one with diaries of women settlers. They’ve provided a wealth of knowledge to supplement all those little notebooks that line my book shelves.
     As I wrote my latest book, A Rainbow for Christmas, I referred many times to my Colorado notebooks, artist sketchbook, and my book of dairies written by the “covered wagon women.” I’ve learned to treasure my notebooks and to be on the lookout for local books that contain a wealth of research information.
     Keep lots of notebooks. That’s wonderful advice for writers.
About Mary Montague Sikes:
Growing up in the historic city of Fredericksburg, VA, Mary Montague Sikes was surrounded by old buildings and stories of the nation’s founding fathers. Virginia’s history fascinated her and so did the challenges of those who left the comforts of the established colonies to head west on wagon trains. When she discovered the diaries of the brave women who endured great hardships to cross the plains, she was fascinated and knew that one day a bit of their stories would surface in one of her novels. That book turned out to be A Rainbow for Christmas, published in 2011. This young adult novel is her first historical book. Her other novels include the “Passenger to Paradise” books, Hearts Across Forever, Eagle Rising, Secrets by the Sea, Night Watch, and Jungle Jeopardy. She is author of a mystery/suspense e-book, Dangerous Hearts. She has written five non-fiction books, including Hotels to Remember, a coffee table book featuring her art, photography, and stories. All her novels have kindle versions.
Sikes is a graduate of the University of Mary Washington where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in psychology. Following her love of art, she studied painting and sculpture at the College of William and Mary and earned a MFA in painting from Virginia Commonwealth University. A freelance writer and photographer as well as book author, Sikes presents programs for art, writing, and civic organizations. For the past 14 years, she has taught art part-time at West Point (Virginia) Elementary School.
For more information about her books and art, visit http://marymontaguesikes.blogspot.com/.
Please welcome Mary Montague (Monti) Sikes by leaving a comment.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Please Welcome Anita Davison, Author of the Culloden Spirit

About The Author – Anita Davison

Anita was born in London, a city with a unique atmosphere; a sense of time passed that she connected with, even when she was quite young. When the other children on the school trip coach were throwing the contents of their lunch boxes at each other, Anita was staring out of the window at the ancient buildings, imagining men in wigs and heeled shoes coming out of coffee houses to climb into sedan chairs on the cobbles outside St Pauls Cathedral.
Writing about the past may be more intricate than contemporary fiction because there are so many details to get right, and even more ways to get it wrong - but Anita maintains that historical fiction chose her.
Her latest novel, The Cherry Garden will be published by Pen and Sword Books in early 2013
Trencarrow Secret Published by MuseItUp June 2011
Culloden Spirit Published by MuseItUp September 2011
Blog: http://thedisorganisedauthor.blogspot.com
Trencarrow Secret from MuseItUp Publishing
Blog: http://trencarrowsecret.blogspot.com
Culloden Spirit from MuseItUp Publishing
Blog: http://cullodenspirit.blogspot.com

What the SWEET ROMANCE, The Culloden Spirit, Is About:
Carrie Gordon's season in her native York was an unqualified success, until the young man who paid her so much attention married someone else. 
When her family takes a summer trip to her father’s ancestral home in the Scottish Highlands, her handsome Scottish cousin, Duncan McRae, takes an immediate dislike to Carrie, mainly due to her father’s plans to refurbish Cair Innes castle which is in need of extensive repair beyond the means of its present owner and resident, Iain McRae.
Carrie feels the vacation will be a disaster until she discovers a strange young man while exploring the derelict castle, However, she soon learns Ruairi McRae is not what he seems, and the battle he intends to fight was lost by his clan a hundred and fifty years before.
Will Carrie be able to accept that she cannot be part of Ruairi’s world? And when the Roma arrive to camp on Bucks Meadow as they do every summer, who is the beautiful gypsy girl Duncan won't talk about?

Amazon.Com Link (USA)

Culloden Spirit Excerpt:

Disappointed Carrie’s first foray into the castle wouldn’t be a solitary one, she gripped the door ring and twisted hard. The door swung inward with hardly a creak, and she paused on the threshold to survey the interior.
A curved stone staircase reached to the next floor of a two-storied entrance hall with a massive fireplace at one end. A small balcony sat at the top of the stairs like a miniature gallery. Small windows high in the walls barely penetrated the gloom, leaving the corners in shadow.
“Are you just going to stand and stare? Let’s have a proper look round.” Beth said.
“You’re spoiling this for me, Beth. Have some patience.” Carrie negotiated the raised step into a cold, damp entrance that smelled of mildew and ancient flowers.
At intervals along the walls hung lop-sided iron sconces, heavy with globs of yellow wax from long-burned candles clinging to the metal.
Carrie’s tentative footsteps moved across the gritty flagged floor, while Beth’s resembled a rhythmic march as she systematically examined every corner and peered up the chimney. She ran her hand across a window sill and pulled a face.
“It’s really dusty in here.” She lifted her fingers away with a grimace and wiped them surreptitiously on her skirt.
Carrie exhaled slowly, summoning patience. “What did you expect? It’s been practically deserted for fifty years.”
“I suppose it is impressive.” Beth slapped one of the solid walls with the flat of her hand. “To think this was where Papa’s mother was born, and her father before that.”
“Last night, Uncle Iain said Cair Innes is where the McRae souls belong.”
Beth sniffed. “We’re Gordons, not McRaes.
Ignoring her, Carrie ventured through a doorway into another empty room, where the plaster in one corner had crumbled away to expose the floor supports of the room above. A canopied stone fireplace stood at one end, its hearth strewn with bits of old wood and desiccated leaves.
Beth strolled to the window, which gaped empty of glass, like an open mouth onto the lake. She leaned her forearms on the sill and poked her head through.
“Oooh, look! The lake comes right up to the castle walls down there. It’s as if we are floating on the water.”
“Come away, Beth before you fall in,” Carrie warned.
Beth sighed, but did as she was told, displaying her resentment at being told what to do by poking a pile of dried leaves in the corner with the toe of her boot.
Above the fireplace hung a blackened, carved shield with a blurred Latin inscription beneath it. The flurry of a disturbed bird in the chimney made Carrie jump. She tugged her shawl tight around her shoulders against the chill.
“There’s nothing here, Carrie,” Beth spoke from behind her. “We may as well go back to the lodge.”
Carrie swung to face her. “I thought you liked history. You’ve had your nose in a guidebook since we left London.”
“I do.” Beth’s gaze probed the hallway. “I like rooms arranged as if the occupants are due to return any moment.” She gave an exaggerated shudder. “This place is old, damp, and creepy.”
“You can leave, if you like. I’m staying a while longer.”
“And I’m cold.” Beth rubbed her upper arms and made for the door, her skirt swaying above the tops of her buttoned boots. “I’ll see what the stables have to offer.”
Relishing her regained solitude, Carrie wandered back into the entrance hall to peer behind another door in the corner. Smaller than the others, it opened to a flight of narrow stone steps with a frayed rope handrail that curled downward into the bowels of the building.
Assuming what remained of the kitchens lay at the bottom, Carrie was about to descend into the darkness when a sound above made her pause, listening.
Is someone else here?
More intrigued than nervous, she climbed the curved staircase, the treads of which dipped in the middle from thousands of footsteps, to the tiny balcony overlooking the entrance hall like a miniature stage. A narrow window looked onto the courtyard, and off to the right lay a short hallway with light patches on plaster walls where paintings had once hung.
At the end, a wooden door stood ajar. Carrie’s pulse thrummed in her temples as she extended a hand to widen the gap, but before she made contact, it swung open.
“Coom in,” a male voice said.

Blog: http://thedisorganisedauthor.blogspot.com
Trencarrow Secret from MuseItUp Publishing
Blog: http://trencarrowsecret.blogspot.com
Culloden Spirit from MuseItUp Publishing
Blog: http://cullodenspirit.blogspot.com

Please welcome Anita Davison to Sweet Not Spicy by leaving a comment.