Posts Tagged ‘publishing’

How We Write: Central Conflict

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

Without conflict, your story has no forward momentum. Your characters have no motivation to act. There’s no goal they can’t achieve. So, in commercial fiction at least, there’s no reader engagement, no matter how well what you’ve written is, well, written. For lack of a better analogy, you need combustion that will lead the reader to expect some future explosion that’ll keep them on the hook through the rest of the wonderful things you plan to do.


And I’m not just talking about suspense plots.In addition to writing (and now editing) romantic suspense as well as crafting sci-fi/fantasies that are full-on thrillers, I also write home and family dramas (straight contemporary romance) where the same level of escalating conflict and tension must still exist, in order for the reader to care enough to turn the page.

Conflict is how readers identify with your characters. It’s how the story transports the reader through a purely fictional journey. How deeply do the dilemmas you put the protagonist through resonate? How carefully do you craft the internal motivation and goals and tension the character must resolve, and are there external factors (anchors and stumbling blocks) that drive that person to do and behave and learn and grow and fail and, ultimately, succeed?

Conflict IS NOT petty arguments and bickering between the leads. (more…)

Where Will 2012 Take Me in Publishing?

Monday, January 9th, 2012

Yes, I have five different book proposals in the works (four of them with my agent or with publishers, waiting for acquisition, finger’s crossed), but I’m also stretching my more technical/editorial muscles in new, exciting directions–I’ve been hired as an Acquiring Editor for the NEW Dead Sexy romantic suspense line at Entangled Publishing.


Officially, the new imprint is: 

Dead Sexy: The Nina Bruhns Collection.

And today’s the launch/announcement of our new baby!


If you know Nina, as I do, you’ll be as excited as I am by this announcement. She and I and our other newly hired editor Susan Meier are already working with authors and thrilling stories you’re going to love, come the May launch of Dead Sexy. What a great team, including our managing editor, Vicki Wilkerson!

The Dead Sexy editors were successful, award-winning, best selling authors first. All of us. Now we’re following our passion for teaching and nurturing and helping other writers fulfill their publishing dreams.

We at Dead Sexy strive to be the exciting home every successful romantic suspense author is dying to have. And Entangled is a digital-first publisher that puts authors first.   An amazing partnership from the get-go!

Check back often in 2012 for weekly Publishing Isn’t for Sissies and How We Write posts that are taking on even greater meaning and purpose for me, as well as more updates from my popular Dream Theories and Psychic Realm and Soul of the Matter and Things my Teenager Says series.

Now that you know what’s kept me away from regular blog posts these last few months, let me say it’s great to be back. I couldn’t be happier about the horizon before me ;o)

Join me.

It’s going to be an exciting ride!

Secret Legacy: Excerpt, Book Club/Reader Guide, Giveaways, Appearances

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Secret Legacy is finally here! I can honestly say that no other book has captured so much of my fascination and imagination. Those of who who’ve been following the blog for a while know this truly has become the book of my heart in so many meaningful ways.

Check out all the cool stuff that’s happening. Help me celebrate! There’s something for everyone.


Dark Legacy, Book 1 in the Legacy series, is a FREE EBOOK May 2nd – May 9th. Grab your copy of the digital download. Begin the psychic fantasy journey from the very beginning, at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders and Diesel Books. Then look for the .99 cent promotion from May 9th – May 23rd, and the $2.99 promotion from May 23rd-June  6th.

June 17th, Dark Legacy’s a FREE FRIDAY DOWNLOAD at Barnes and Noble’s Unbound blog.

Read a Secret Legacy Excerpt, Reader and Bookclub Guide, and Reviews.

Enjoy this Legacy Series Interview and Secret Legacy book trailer.

The  Night Owl SciFi Interview tells you more about the series.

Leave a comment in  these contests for your chance to win free Secret Legacy downloads and signed copies of Dark Legacy.

Follow the Blog Tour, for more great info and chances to win:

Look for more interviews and articles, like Secret Legacy’s feature at International Thriller Writers.

Read weekly Dream Theoryand Psychic Realm updates here on the blog,to go deeper into the Legacy Series’ worldbuilding.

Look for my ITW Thriller Roundtable  appearances, discussing:

  • May 30th-June 5th Is fact really stranger than fiction? How do you weave the two to make a really compelling story?
  • June 6th-12th How would you characterize your literary voice? How did you develop it?

How We Write: Our Secret–Plot, Revise, Plot, Revise…

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

The REAL secret to writing best selling novels… That’s what Jenni and I are talking about on How We Write. And what we’re saying is, THERE IS NO SHORT CUT. Eh-hem. Sorry, didn’t realize I was yelling.You might have noticed by now that this sort of thing torks me a bit. Folks who give/sell sure-fired advice, keys to the kingdom, THE WAY to your published Eden. They don’t often work. They tend to demotivate over time, not lead us closer to our overall objective–success.

success failure

Too often once you follow these ten easy steps, you realize there’s nothing of substance on the other side. And the guru you’ve gotten the list from has mysteriously moved on to giving advice like “how to be the most popular tweeter on the planet,” and you begin to realize that this person’s objective is to give advice. Because THAT’S what he/she thinks will make them a best selling author. God forbid that the person giving advice about writing personally follow through on any of what he/she’s saying and get back to writing novels themselves.

I exaggerate. There’s some great advice out there, and you should soak it all in. But always remember that this is work. This isn’t a race. And you can’t force your way into being “successful” at it by following a set of rules that promises to be the answer to all your problems.

We’re not selling quick and easy in HoWW. We’re talking about our processes (because Jenni’s is different than mine), and how you need to discover your own. We spent a month exploring what character means to a real, in-progress novel. March has been about plotting and structure, and Jenni wraps up the discussion by touching once more on narrative structure, and going just a little deeper than before. But she’s also ranting, like me ;o) Because the point we try to make in each post is that narrative structure and conflict lock and character plotting and so forth are just frameworks in which your story needs to work. They’re NOT your story, and too many people will tell you differently, and that gets us cranky.

Your story is what happens on the page and in the reader’s mind, once the list of things that makes a good story, mechanically, are taken care of. (more…)

How We Write Wednesday: Conflict Box–Failing and Fixing

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

Jenni made one thing clear about Conflict Lock last week: the conflict box seems simple enough, but when you try to chart conflict without motivation, which is essential to drill to the core of what drives your external story, things can get tricky. Lets get right to some examples to illustrate what we mean (review  our posts from last week again here and here  if you need to catch up), then I’ll wrap things up at the end of the post and get back to talking about what’s MOST important…character ;o)

My first pass at the conflict box for my WIP was a fail:

conflict box mine fail

Pretty good, right?

But notice the amount of yadda yadda. Never a good sign in a chart that’s supposed to be very simple. (more…)

How We Write Wednesday: External Conflict–Lock and Load

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

Jenni’s going to explain the Conflict Box over on her blog today. HoWW is all about plot this month, and it’s time to get serious about the external conflict that drives story and our critiques. And unless you lock and load your protagonist’s central goal and what stops him/her from achieving that goal, your plot won’t believably propel the protagonist or the reader through the story.

lock and load

You can tell from Jenni’s and my last two posts, that plot isn’t my drafting happy place. Character is. But, as I’ll be teaching once again this weekend with the Central New York Romance Writers Mini-Con, character IS plot. Your two lead characters (the protagonist and antagonist) must have external goals that are in conflict with each other, in every scene/chapter/act of the story, or you’re not crafting characters that will drive each other to grow and change on the page. And, the part I like best, those external goals and conflicts must derive from who these people are as characters BEFORE you create the on-the-page situations and obstacles that get in the characters way.

A hard and fast rule: the protagonist’s goal must drive the antagonist’s conflict in your story, and vice versa. Think of it in revers–if the antagonist of your novel isn’t complicating your protagonist’s race to achieve his goal, you don’t have much of a story, right? No matter how beautifully drawn your characters are, you won’t have the core external conflict that will keep a reader turning pages to see what happens next. (more…)

How We Write Wednesdays: Plot THIS…

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

Jenni’s talking process this month, as we teach a blog series on plot. I sharing details from a critique she did for my soon-to-be-released Secret Legacy. She did the narrative structure  tap dance last Wednesday. Today, let’s get into what I did when her “I am a plotting maniac” analysis assured me that I had no plot at all…

plotting maniac

I just gave a workshop on the importance of planning. For those who are new to HoWW  because you heard my lecture last weekend and thought you’d pop over and see what all the fuss was about, let me fess up. I began writing Secret Legacy before a medical crisis, stopped a month in (for several months) while I dealt with surgery and the fall out, then took up the drafting again mid-recovery (when in fact my health was getting worse, not better). Which is my excuse for having NO PLAN (other than my intuitive understanding of of characters I’d written in Dark Legacy and the overall series and story arc I wanted to tell). I was drafting blind, which is how I know for certain, when I teach, that my students don’t ever want to be where I was when I asked Jenni to read the ugly first draft because I knew it was way off. 

I knew my characters and everything about what I wanted them to feel. I was feeling everything with them. I had 300 pages of feeling that was the best, most accessible emotion I’ve ever put on the page (did I mention I was a mess when I wrote the first draft???). I’d written, I kid you not, the dead-on, most amazing ending I’ve every pulled together, that resolved issues I’d written about for two books, leaving the door open for a sprawling series I hope to be writing into for years to come.

But, as Jenni pointed out last spring and in her last post, I had absolutely no plot reason for my principle characters to be emoting all over the reader or each other in key places in the book. (more…)

How We Write Wednesdays: Okay, Okay, Let’s Talk Plot

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

Jenni’s talking plot today over on her blog. Or, more to the point, she’s sharing how often I have no plot when I first start writing because I spend so much time researching my characters (which you can hear more than you ever wanted to about, in our last month of  HoWW posts).

plot structure

She’s being gentle, pointing her “YOU NEED HELP WITH YOUR STORY, GIRL” finger at me–for now. I suspect that won’t last as we get deeper into things in March. You thought our shoe confrontations got aggressive–just WAIT until we start bantering turning points, and I’m not allowed to use internal character motivation or emotion in my debate…

Seriously, it’s a great post. You should all dive in, contemplate her sage advice and experience, ignore any pot shots she takes at sick little me (cough, cough, sniffle), and come back next Wednesday when I take my revenge turn at the story structure wheel.

Oh, and tomorrow. Come back here tomorrow, when I’ll kick off a Publishing Isn’t For Sissies series on online/digital/viral promotion,beginning with an in depth look at NetGalley, where Dorchester’s just launched their presence, including a feature of my to-be-released-in-May Secret Legacy.

Take a look at the link–Dark Legacy and Secret Legacy are both up there, in all their new sci-fi/fantasy glory, which is really cool, since I’m starting brand new in that genre and we need reviews and industry exposure to draw a whole new segment of readers to my metaphysical/parapsychological/psychic world ;o) Come back tomorrow and the next few Thursdays to hear more.

As for me, I’m taking my coughing self back to bed the rest of this morning, so I’ve got a shot at kicking this flu’s ass before I fly out Friday to teach and network and wear amazing shoes at the DFWcon in Fort Worth. I can’t wait to meet many of you there!

Take it away, Jenni!

How We Write: Character Is Just The Beginning

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

We’ve talked a little about analyzing story, a lot about what character growth means, and even more about how to figure out why your characters are doing what they do in key places in your story. So, is that it? You know me better than that. Let’s take a closer look at Jenni’s example from last week’s HoWW Post, think this through a little more, then set things up for a whole new topic starting next week. One of Jenni’s favorite things this time–plot.

But don’t think you ‘ve seen the last of this lovely planning document. It’ll be back sooner than you might expect, especially since we’ve established that character is plot is character is plot. And those of you coming to hear me teach at the  DFWCon this month and the Central New York Writers Minicon  in March, we’ll play with it even more ;o) 


Okay, let’s bullet point some cool features about this type of character analysis that we’d love to get you excited about (I love bullet points, so for those of you who dug the bullets Jenni uses above, you’re my kind of detail freaks):

  • Think critique group–you know, the kind of thing Jenni and I were doing when I first showed it to her. Think about the type of digging deeper conversations you’ll have with those helping you with your own stories, with this as a starting point to visualize evolving components of your novel.
  • For the first row in Jenni’s table, (more…)

How We Write Wednesdays: Making Characters Realistic–YOUR Way

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

So, after last Wednesday’s Character Chart Basics, that didn’t turn out to be so basic after all, how are we doing???

Like I said, I know it’s a lot to take a step back from a work-in-progress and rethink why you’re doing what your doing with your characters, how you’re making them realistic,  at key points in the story. But whether you’re in the planning stages or preparing to write/re-craft, that level of understanding of your intent for your character arcs is crucial. Still, even if it’s not your or your critique partner’s first time around the “mine for motivation in every scene” block, the process I described last week can seem overwhelming. It’s difficult to envision who and what your characters will be over the course of a novel.

character drawing

So, let’s take a step back and revisit Jenni’s blog for fresh look and her and my critique of her WIP. It’s her turn to take the HoWW wheel, and she’s promised to give us some specific examples of exactly how this sort of character analysis and planning/re-crafting can work, whether you’re doing it solo or as a team. How to make all the information I dumped into the last post work–YOUR way.

Remember, How We Write Wednesdays began with an idea of showing others how the brainstorming and critiquing we’ve done with our own and each other’s books has enhanced the depth and complexity and quality of our stories.

Mining for motivation and character development is just the first step on our journey here:

  • We want to show the process of writing and critiquing as it’s really done, not  just lecture about it.
  • We want to demonstrate and encourage you to discover your own process, not simply offer a list of “to-dos” that may or may not work once you try to apply them yourselves with no additional help.
  • This is a practical approach to helping writers find their own techniques–not a bucket of quick tips, when there’s nothing quick about the day-in, day-out challenge of creating an satisfying reading experience.

So head on over to Jenni’s blog to read about What is better? Do what other writers say works? Or make it work for you? And how to know the difference.

Then come back here next Wednesday, when I wrap up our Character Arc discussion, answer final questions, then spin things in a totally new direction.

Just as Jenni and I head off to the Dallas Fort Worth Writer’s conference (read more here and here) to teach in person. Hopefully we’ll see some of you there, or at the Central New York Mini-Conference in March, where I’ll be teaching plotting through character and a lot more, along with my agent Michelle Grajkowski.

Look us up. Come out and learn with us in person. Then work with us some more out here. We’ll be talking craft and critiquing and understanding and improving your own writing process for months to come ;o)