Halloween

Halloween. Halloween is one of the most celebrated of all holidays, right up there with Thanksgiving and Christmas. What makes Halloween different is while Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrate family, love, and togetherness, Halloween celebrates the unusual.

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Halloween is the one time of year when a person can “come as you aren’t” instead of “as you are.” It’s the one time of year when wearing masks is not just accepted, but expected. A time of year where anything can happen.

For most people, becoming someone else happens only on Halloween. For others, however, it is a job. There are several professions where people make a living pretending to be someone they’re not. Professions where a person has to assume a role in order to achieve results. One such career choice is private investigator.

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In order to succeed as a PI, you have to be able to investigate others without detection. This requires a certain level of skill with details and deception. In “Lost Distinction,” book two of the Jordan James, PI series, Jordan has to search for the missing son of a US Ambassador. The only way for her to succeed is to investigate in some of the seediest areas of London without detection.

Whether it’s for work or fun, it’s exciting to “come as you aren’t” every now and then. Wishing you and yours a wicked fun Halloween!

Check Out this Exclusive Excerpt from “Lost Distinction,” Coming November 2014 from Soul Mate Publishing!

We stood there in silence, considering the significance of this discovery. Although there was still no proof, this threat suggested there could have been more to Arthur’s disappearance than we realized. If Arthur was kidnapped, we might not be looking for a missing person. We might be looking for a murderer or his victim.

I suddenly felt a new anxiety about this case. The more I considered all the unknowns, the more I realized there was only one person who could provide some much-needed answers, Ambassador Gatlin Cross.

“Cold Ambition,” Available Now on Amazon!

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Novel Writing Month Begins by Terri Patrick

Most Novembers, since I first heard of NaNoWriMo in 2001, have been my designated “whip that novel into shape” month. I never join the site or report my word count to anyone but myself. I prefer being within my writer cave instead of populating a database. I do enjoy all the posts of support and success that are shared online from my writer peeps and I love cheering them on while also absorbing all those positive vibes. It’s a great way to spend November especially since the weather is dreary and drippy in Oregon.

Whipping a story world and characters into shape means they still have to simmer and be stirred, tasted for flavors, and more, before the final presentation on a plate for consumption. Oops, sorry, just finished dinner. But the analogy is consistent with my process if you change the hours to cook, into months for crafting a novel. The analogy also is true that not everyone who samples my cooking wants to read more. It can take time to perfect a recipe from a nutritious meal into a tasty delight.

story binder 004It’s been a year since my first novel was published and I have gotten a little pressure for the next novel. I’ve been dithering and dabbling with my incomplete novels while being distracted by grand babies and other writing projects and business requirements. Plus, Checkmate First Mate was originally planned as book two of a trilogy and it took a lot of whipping and trimming to get that story to stand alone but also retain the potential to become part of a greater story.

My grammy-nanny days have recently become a bit intense but I’ve decreed an end date that will be doable for all. This means I’m on track to settle into November and the next novel, except I couldn’t choose which book to start whipping… I have other WIP’s that aren’t connected and could be easier to complete, plus there are some nonfiction works…

Well, I’ve spent two weeks contemplating the interrelated story boards, and dabbling with ideas while flipping through the outlines and drafts of potential companion novels. I have chosen to revamp that greater story within the same world and cast of characters. When I made the decision I could almost hear some of those characters snickering. There’s a ton of recrafting and rewriting to do! Fortunately the past six weeks Mercury was Retrograde and that’s energy that encourages to me to review, redo, repurpose, renew.

Today I went to Office Max for color coordinated binders, pocket folders, and manuscript envelopes. Then it was hours of rearranging all kinds of research, charts, character diagrams, and more, into the correct colors. Plus, I have everything I need to create a series bible as I work forward.

Every novelist has to develop their own process and my process has never been the same from year to year or book to book. But I was so pleased with my accomplishments today I had to take a picture. This was to prove to my two brainstorming partners that I was again working on a novel and not succumbing to the delights of grammy-nanny duties instead. However, only by looking at the picture I took did I see a flaw in my process. I still had my story boards arranged in the original order! Switching them around put the board with only a few seed ideas and potentials into the middle. Now the one with all the white space is my focus and what I had planned as book one, is now the finale. Huh? This throws my world building off its axis, and changes the patterns of the planets, and, well, it’s rather exciting!

There be happy writing days ahead.

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Paranormal Romance Contests/Events by Susan Hanniford Crowley

Let’s talk about online Halloween parties and contests.  I’m having a blast and will be in a couple of places at the same time.  Here is my dizzying schedule.  Come on over and join the fun.

Friday, Oct. 24-31: I will be on my News Blog page on my website as part of JoLynne Valerie’s ParaGoddess Halloween Blog Hop.  I will be sharing news of giveaways/contests on that day.  I will also be sharing a list of all the other blogs in the blog hop. http://www.susanhannifordcrowley.com/apps/blog/   My contest there won’t end until Halloween at 11:59 pm Eastern Time.

Friday, Oct 24 -31:  I and a pile of romance authors will be on The Romance Studio Spookapalooza http://trsparties.com  I will also have a contest there too.  So come on over and enter The Romance Studio.
spook5_promoSat., Oct. 25-31: On Nights of Passion Blog (right here), the passionate crew, some guests, and I will be doing giveaways on and off throughout the week.  I will kick off Sat. Oct. 25 with the incomparable Rebecca Royce and her shifters and demons.  On Fri., Oct. 31, I will be Stacy Hoff’s guest, and I will give a very special prize to one lucky contest winner!  You can only enter there.  http://nightsofpassion.wordpress.com

Please, note that you can only enter at those locations.

Whew! I’m having a wild Halloween this year.  What about you?  Going to be in costume?  I’ll be a vampire! Smiles and waves.

-Susan
Susan Hanniford Crowley
www.susanhannifordcrowley.com
Where love burns eternal and whispers in the dark!
Vampire King of New York available at Amazon Kindle and print, Barnes and Noble Nook and print and in Kobo

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Wedding Planning . . . and Planning for My New Novel by Lauren Linwood

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My daughter recently became engaged, and everything at our house now is a whirlwind of activity. We studied venues online, and she chose 5 she liked (with 1 as a back-up because she’s my kid!). My commission was to scout out the places and report back. She hoped my legwork would narrow it down to 1 or 2 places to choose from to celebrate this magical day.

Being my organized self, I visited each place, using my trusty iPhone to take tons of pictures. I gathered brochures. I got price lists. I asked questions. I wrote up a page on each venue, listing its pros & cons. In the end, that 1 special place stood apart from the pack. They paid attention to so many small details that other venues never considered. It became a no-brainer. We visited the site, and it was perfect.

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So the happy couple picked a date, booked the venue, and my husband and I put down the 1st payment (ouch!) of several over the next few months.

Wedding dress shopping went much the same way. She had Columbus Day off from teaching, so she booked a few places, grabbed a bridesmaid who also had the day off, and we hustled from one end of town to the next. She limited her shopping to 3 places and tried on about 10 wedding gowns in each shop. I shot pictures from the front, back, and sides and we studied how she looked in person and how well each dress photgraphed. We considered all kinds of silhouettes, and in the end, one dress didn’t just speak to all of us—it sang loudly from the heights Meredith Grey’s famous words to McDreamy: Pick me. Choose me. Love me.

Needless to say, that dress became The Dress (just like Der chose Mer).

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Those are the biggest checks off the massive To-Do List—date, place, and dress. Everything after this will take time, from looking for a photographer to finding a DJ and designing that just-right bridal bouquet. We’ll tackle each project, do our research, and book things accordingly.

All this wedding business got me to thinking about when I first start writing a new book. I put a lot of time and effort into each novel before I ever type “Chapter 1” on my computer screen.

Yes, I’m organized in this aspect of my life, too, and do a lot of up-front planning. I will spend hours (seriously!) on finding the oh-so-perfect names for my hero & heroine. I’ll look at lists of popular names during that era. Play with first and last name combinations. Put the hero and heroine’s names together, side-by-side, just seeing how they rest next to one another.

Once I land upon their character names, I start seeing a mental picture of their physical appearance. I create a person, top-to-bottom. I know skin tone, hair color and texture, body frame, and height. I choose eye color and size of feet and see their posture and hair style so clearly.

Then I develop their backgrounds. Family. Where they grew up. If they had pets. Education. Religion. If they hum along while they do a task or bite their fingernails. All of that helps lead me to their personalities and characteristics. Are they timid? Intelligent? Stubborn? Happy-go-lucky? Do they make snap judgments or see the glass as half-empty or half-full? Can they be patient, or do they get irritable when bogged down with menial tasks?

All that hard work helps cement my characters in my mind. And like the importance of wedding planning, my characters are everything. Once I see them and hear them and know how they’ll react, then I know eventually that the plot and conflicts will come, just like getting that date/place/dress has gotten the whole ball rolling for my daughter’s wedding.

I’m on the cusp of starting a new book now. I’m beginning to see my people and form their personalities. I’d say 90% of this background stuff never makes the book—but I know it about them, and it will influence the course of the story and their relationship.

So here’s to my daughter and her fiancé . . . and I also raise a glass to the new couple who will come to dominate my life over the next months. May they all find everlasting happiness together!

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Captivating Contemporaries

As a writer of contemporary romance, I’m always reading within my genre to learn from the current greats, to figure out the craft and to make my own stories even better. Besides, I was a reader long before I ever penned a single romance novel, so I love to read. Last week I finished reading four books in one week–He’s So Fine by Jill Shalvis, In Your Dreams by Kristan Higgins, Heroes Are My Weakness by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and Indecent Proposal by Molly O’Keefe.

Yeah, I often binge read. It’s my treat, the way I’ve learned to push the world away, and the only relaxation I get most of the time. For kicks, after I finished reading all four in quick succession, I decided to diagram the four books onto the Plot W–a modified Blake Snyder (Save the Cat), three-act plot structure to try to figure out why these stories worked so well and analyze them. Here’s what I learned is important to me in a contemporary romance:

Compelling Stories. I found compelling can come in many different flavors and many different ways. In each of these books, the author gave me great characters to love. But in addition to the compelling characters, there was something else that drove me to read the story, that engaged me, and drew me in.

In the Shalvis book, besides the love story between the hero and heroine and the camaraderie between the hero and his two best friends, the component that sucked me in the most and kept me reading was Lucky Harbor, the community the author created. The setting is so compelling, I want to live there and inhabit that space with all those beloved characters I’ve grown to know and love throughout the series. It’s a huge draw. And I eagerly await every single release.

In the book by Kristan Higgins, it was the characters’ struggles–the internal conflict that was so compelling to me and kept me turning the pages. Not only did the internal conflict keep the main protagonists (hero/heroine) from getting together, that flaw also kept them from the growth they needed in order to fully acknowledge and realize their love for each other. Seeing them overcome that barrier was totally worth the suffering on their part (and mine).

In Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ book, beyond the memorable, three-dimensional characters, the Gothic tone and the twisty plot also kept me engaged and guessing. Because I’m a writer, I do understand tropes, and I grew up reading Mary Stewart, too. So I figured out a few of the key plot twists before they were revealed, but I was delighted to find out I understood the fabric of the story. And, in the end, I adored the hero and the heroine.

And in O’Keefe’s book, the characters’ emotional journey hit such highs and lows I couldn’t help but hold on and enjoy the ride. The story was emotionally engaging, compelling me to continue to read. O’Keefe often gets the emotion spot-on in her novels–whether it’s anger, love, desire, distain, stubbornness–the emotional resonance is why I continue to pick them up each and every time she releases a new one.

Heat. Yes, I need heat, lots of heat, in my contemporary romance. I read a wide range of romance, but it’s important to me that the romance is central to the story and that someone gets burned by love and lust. It doesn’t matter to me if the romance/sex is a slow burn or an instant inferno that rages out of control burning up the pages. What matters most is that there’s plenty of sexual tension, attraction, love, and good old-fashioned sex. Yeah, baby. I enjoy experiencing that feeling of falling in love and into desire along with my hero and heroines.

Universal Core Stories. When authors pull on universal tropes or core stories that I understand, I connect immediately with the characters and their plight. I’m more willing to buy stories that fall into certain trope categories. Core stories and core struggles appeal to readers because they are universal battles we all have seen or experienced in some form, therefore we empathize with the plight of the characters.

Some of the tropes used by the four authors I read last week were: Shalvis–Fish Out of Water, Secret Identity; Higgins–Ugly Duckling, Marriage of Convenience; Susan Elizabeth Phillips–Beauty & the Beast, Ugly Ducklying, Fish Out of Water, Gothic/Suspense tropes, Second Chance at Love; O’Keefe–Other Side of the Tracks, Marriage of Convenience, and Secret Baby. These core stories (and many others) are woven into the fabric of our culture and they touch us deeply in layered and complex ways.

Strong Conflict Lock. An important conflict lock–where the hero and heroine are at odds that creates a barrier big enough to keep them apart for most of the story. In He’s So Fine, the conflict lock is that she’s got a secret and he can’t abide lies. The external conflict is (heroine) her secret identity; the internal conflict is that she doesn’t tell the hero the truth about her identity when she should–therefore it becomes a lie by omission. And in In Your Dreams, the internal conflict for him is PTSD and the external conflict is his interfering ex-wife. Her internal conflict is her lack of self-confidence tied to a stammer that she’d been bullied for when young. The external conflict is her ex-fiancé who rejected her when he lost a lot of weight. For the most part in this book, the external conflict is what keeps these two apart. At the black moment, when all is lost, it’s the internal conflict that raises it’s head and roars to keep the love interest away. The stakes seem high in the Susan Elizabeth Phillips book–as they often are in Gothic novels. At times the stakes seem to be death of the heroine, loss of the cottage, her poverty, her health. We believe from the beginning that that hero once tried to kill the heroine. Talk about big conflict. And for him the stakes are him recovering his humanity–being transformed from a monster to a hero. In O’Keefe’s Indecent Proposal, the secret baby is part of the external conflict as well as the hero’s secret identity, the precarious political campaign, and the hero’s remoteness. The internal conflict for them both is abandonment, which makes them both reluctant to open up and be vulnerable and allow themselves to fall in love even though they have a sizzling sexual attraction.

All in all, I learned a lot from the best-selling ladies of contemporary how to tell a captivating contemporary romance story. Thank goodness they continue to write great books so I can keep turning the pages and learning my craft.

Check out books by Mackenzie Lucas, getting to the heart of contemporary romance with Essence and Courting Cinderella.

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Vacations from Writing

Let’s suppose — strictly hypothetically, of course — that you wake up one morning and don’t feel like writing.  Can you take a vacation from writing?

Hard to imagine, which is why this is a strictly hypothetical suppose.  Like waking up one morning and deciding to take a vacation from chocolate, sex, peanut butter and sardine sandwiches, whatever it is that always makes you sit up and take notice.  But just suppose.  Is it OK to take a vacation from writing?

Now, you probably think you know how I’m going to answer. I’ve lectured so many new writers about the critical important of having a writing discipline, scheduling when you’re going to write, and when the time comes sitting your ass down in the chair and put words on the page that you think I’m going to say, “No way.” You’ve heard me climb up on my soap box and pronounce that the difference between a writer and a dilettante is that a dilettante writes when he feels inspired, while a writer writes when it’s time to write.

So maybe it will surprise you when I answer: Absolutely, you should take vacations from writing.  Sometimes your subconscious, which has been working really hard to generate all this creativity while your logical brain merely provides the grammatical excellence and occasionally edits the plot, just needs to recharge.  Your subconscious (Percy or Kevin or whatever name your subconscious goes by.  What, you haven’t named your subconscious yet?  C’mon, let’s get cracking here) lets you know by generating all these weird dreams like your high school English teacher giving you an F on a creative writing assignment and making you read your turdlet to the whole class while standing up in front in your underwear and you don’t have your reading glasses.  That’s how your subconscious tells you, “Hey, out there.  I need a vacation.”

BUT . . . here’s the catch.  You can’t wake up in the morning, not  feel like writing, and take a vacation that day.  That’s not responsible burnout control, that’s sloth.  One of the 7 or so deadly sins.  That makes it way too easy to wake up the next morning and, nah, not today either, it’s cloudy and I’m never fully creative when it’s cloudy.

You have to schedule your writing vacations in advance.  “I’m taking Thanksgiving week off, relax with the kids, sleep in, gorge on turkey sandwiches.  Then, Monday morning November 26th, I’m back on it.”

You have my permission to do that.  Just not too often.

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A Pantser’s Paradise: Are You Gearing Up For NaNoWriMo? by Char Chaffin

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IT’S COMING.

It’s almost HERE.

The madness that is NaNoWriMo, and every writing pantser’s paradise: permission to write at the speed of light, eschewing grammar and punctuation in a quest for fifty thousand words in thirty days.

And it’s the plotter/outliner’s biggest challenge and (in my case) worst nightmare.

Oh, I tried, I really did. Three different years, in fact. It was so seriously pathetic, I still suffer from night tremors. I conceded defeat early on, then found a nice dark closet to hide,  and curled up in the corner like a shrimp. I probably sucked my thumb as well. I can’t be sure; it was dark in there.

It’s impossible for someone like me to write by the seat of my pants. I am an editor at heart as well as by trade. And anal to boot. Can you imagine what it’s like for an anal editor to get hold of their own speedily-written, gap-grammared, bulleted-by-plot-hole text, and then ignore every error in favor of more zippy wordage? It’s enough to give you hives.

I write, edit, write some more, consult my highlighted outline, then edit. Then repeat everything. Set it aside. think about it. Go back to chapter one, read through while editing stray words here and there. Ponder and agonize over pronoun placement. Go on the hunt for repeat words. Edit those out.

Then I move on to writing chapter two.

Every time I sit down to write with my current work, I read through from the beginning before I even pen another word. Not the chapter before I stopped, but the very beginning. Can you say OCD? No, but I can say LOL.

I guess it’s easy to figure out NaNo isn’t for me.

I admire anyone who jumps on the NaNo wagon and is wildly successful at it. It’s an achievement, that’s for sure.

Those who NaNo successfully do have to work hard to clean themselves up especially when all those words are flying around trying to find a coherent spot to land. That’s what the month of December is for. I, however, have already given up by then and am back to my old tricks, which involve all that editing and backward-ness stuff I already mentioned.

NaNoWriMo has produced some amazing reads. Everyone should try it at least once. Who knows, it could make a pantser out of you.

So if you plan on joining the mix for this coming November, best of luck. I’ll be rooting for you.

In between all the editing and writing and pondering, that is.

Char Chaffin is an Acquisitions Editor for Soul Mate, a multi-published author, and a displaced Alaskan who regularly plots to return to the Last Frontier, preferably when hubby Mr. Don can travel with her.

 

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