Thursday, March 31, 2011

S is for Suspense

This week I'm pleased to welcome author Lynn Romaine who will talk about the 'S' word--Suspense


“Suspense is a feeling of uncertainty and anxiety about the outcome of certain actions, most often referring to an audience's perceptions in a dramatic work. Suspense is not exclusive to fiction, though. Suspense may operate in any situation where there is a lead up to a big event or dramatic moment, with tension being a primary emotion felt as part of the situation. In the kind of suspense described by film director Alfred Hitchcock, an audience experiences suspense when they expect something bad to happen and have (or believe they have) a superior perspective on events in the drama's hierarchy of knowledge, yet they are powerless to intervene to prevent it from happening.” (from Wikipedia)

Well, there it is – the S word. Many of us love it, read it and even write it. Like a lot of young girls, my first suspense book, Rebecca by D. DuMaurier, got me hooked. I fell in love with anything dangerous--from DuMaurier to Victoria Holt to Mary Stewart.

So when I started my first novel eight years ago, I never considered writing anything but murder and mayhem, the heroine in dire straits, always coming out the winner.

Whether you are a reader or a writer, why do you like suspense books? The question is probably a moot one, since most of us would say we read (and write) for the pleasure of it.

And all stories contain tension or suspense, even a cozy mystery, where something is at stake. Whether it’s Pride and Prejudice or Silence of the Lambs, we hold our collective breaths and hope for a good outcome. Happily it’s fiction and we know when it’s over, we’ll still be safe and sound in our comfy armchair.

Let’s get to the S word and connect it up to the Lisbeth of my title. Suspense is the best way I can think of to write tension and I don’t have to try hard to make sure it’s included. Just have a stranger leap out on my heroine, grab her and toss her to the ground. The good part is I can also turn her into a super-heroine, who fights her way out of the man’s clutches and, better still, she can get even by jumping into his car and backing over him! Pretty gruesome, right? What’s a middle-aged woman like me doing writing that kind of stuff? Well, it feels great to create a world where women have the upper hand, where they are not mincing about, afraid they might wander down some dark alley.

So I write suspense. My best recent model of the perfect heroine is Lisbeth Salander, Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. It’s no accident this book has sold over thirty million books. Lisbeth does what every female secretly dreams about—getting even with the bad guys. So I write suspense where I can guarantee this happens. I am now working on book six and, as usual, it looks like it is going to end badly for my heroine, Sonny Betancourt, who is stalked, run over, beaten up, and eventually kidnapped. But never fear, I write suspense and my heroine always wins.

You can find Lynn Romaine on the web at: and at

Buy this Book

Coming June, 2011
Turquoise Morning Press


Friday, March 25, 2011

R is for Research

This week, I welcome award-winning author Allison Knight to share her experience on research.


Linda, thank you so much for allowing me the opportunity to talk about one of my favorite topics, research. Historical and contemporary authors have to do research, it's a fact of life, but how do I go about doing it? Well, here are some hints, learned over nearly thirty years of writing and making a lot of mistake. So -- let's get to it.

If you write Science fiction, fantasy or even paranormal romance you don't have as much of a problem as the rest of us. Researching the customs, events, or location isn't difficult when you can create your world, or your creatures. However, for the rest of us trying to deal with real world, it's not that easy. We face the need for research.

Unfortunately, if you make a glaring mistake, believe me there is someone out there who will read your book and discredit your prose because you made a mistake. Rumor has it that a romance writer included a breed of horse in one of her westerns that didn't exist at the time of her novel. A horse enthusiast spread the word the author couldn't be trusted to write a decent novel and the author's career was ruined. I can't vouch for the story, but if it's true, it's enough to give an author chills.

Most of us try very hard to get the facts right. So how do we do it.

I love encyclopedias. And with the internet we have a great deal of information available now that we couldn't access as easily when we had to find in books we barrowed from the library or bought what we wanted to know. You can still go to the library, but it takes a tremendous amount of time to find one piece of information. You can still buy books, but it's discouraging to buy a book only to find what you wanted wasn't in it. However, the internet has changed the way most of us research.

So when using the internet, always verify the information with at least two dependable, independent sources. Better yet, find three sources with the same information. That will usually indicate the facts you have are correct. If you think what you've found is questionable, make a note of the date of the site and the url and keep it with whatever information you've gathered. I use a notebook for each novel with a section for research and I stash my notes there.

Authorities are great. When I wanted information about a particular hurricane of the nineteenth century -- indication from what direction it came, how long the eye would have lasted, (that kind of info) I called a professional meteorologist. Then I talked to someone who had been through a hurricane. Not surprisingly, both people were delighted to talk about their knowledge or their experience. When I needed information on what kind of rifle would be carried and how to shot the thing, I asked a gun collector who was renowned for his knowledge. Again, he too, was more than happy to explain what I needed to know. So don't be afraid to approach the person who might have information you need. I even involved my medical doctor, asking what a certain type of injury would affect a person's available to walk. It also gave me a chance to promote my newest book.

Books, especially journals and autobiographies can provide great information, especially if you are writing a historical novel or romance. Don't discount newspaper articles either. I hesitate using the expertise of another fiction author unless I know something about that individual's researching techniques. Time lines work well if your story involves related events.

Last, if you are trying to describe a location, traveling to the site is the best method to use. However, if you can't go, or the area has changed a great deal because of time or condition, again 'Google maps' or old maps can help. Sometimes you can discover the needed description in journals or newspaper reports which will give clues. But be careful. Twice, I made glaring mistakes about location. In the first, I had the wrong army starting the battle and in the second I describe a location as level farm land when in reality the area was mountainous. In both instances, I caught the mistakes before the books went to the editor. So be sure and check your facts, several times if you can't visit the location.

If you make up a location, even though your publisher will probably add a disclaimer at the beginning of the book, it's a good idea to check and make sure the place doesn't exist.

And, it's not a bad idea to add your own disclaimer to either the beginning of the end of the book letting your editor know you have checked the fact.
Researching a novel can often seem like putting puzzle pieces together to make a whole, and it can be as addictive as fitting a puzzle together. It's part of what makes writing historicals such fun for me.

Roses for My Lady
Award winning author, Allison Knight began her writing career like many other authors. She read a book she didn’t like and knew she could do a better job. She grabbed paper and typewriter (computers were not available back then) and announced she was going to write a book. Her children hooted with laughter.
“Yeh, Mom, when cows fly,” her daughter declared.

She took classes, joined a critique group and RWA, and wrote, rewrote and wrote some more. When her first book sold, she came home from her teaching job to find a stuffed toy cow rotating from the ceiling fan in the family room.

It seemed - “Cows did fly!”

Since that time, Allison has written and published seventeen romances for both digital and NY publishers with a digital valentine novella coming out in February. Her current work is another medieval book from her 'song' series.

Because she loves to share her knowledge and her love of romance novels she often blogs with other authors. She also loves to talk about the growing digital market.


You can find her at:

She blogs once a month for The Writers' Vineyard,

Friday, March 18, 2011

Q is for Query

This week I'm pleased to welcome author Elaine Cantrell who gives us the 'dos and don'ts of the dreaded Query Letter.

In several places on the internet I’ve heard people moaning over the “dreaded query letter”, and I understand why people dread writing them. This is your first chance to make a good impression on an editor or assistant editor, and you don’t want to blow it. They probably don’t spend more than a minute on each letter, so if yours doesn’t stand out they won’t request your book. The query letter is so important some publishers have guidelines explaining how to write them on their websites. If a publisher does offer guidelines, you should follow them to the letter.

I don’t claim to be the world’s foremost authority on writing query letters, but I do have a pretty good track record. A large percentage of the time when I send one the editor asks to read the manuscript. They don’t always take the book, but they do read it. So this is how I do it. Be aware that the procedure for an electronic submission and a paper submission isn’t much different.

First, look to see who you should send the email or letter to. If it’s an electronic submission, sometimes, it only says to send it to submissions@, but sometimes you have to direct the email to the appropriate editor. If that’s the case be sure you spell the name correctly.

Now, let’s take a look at what you should do and what you shouldn’t.


1. Be professional. Don’t go on and on about your kids or pets. The editor isn’t interested.

2. Set it up like a standard business letter.

3. Remember to include your name, address, email, and phone number.

4. Include any awards you’ve won and an overview of your publishing history. It’s okay to put your best foot forward here, but don’t tell the editor how much your friends like the book.

5. Keep it about a page in length.

6. Remember to thank the editor for his/her time.

7. Use standard, easy to read fonts like Times New Roman.

8. Watch your grammar.

9. Send a stamped, self-addressed envelope with a written submission.

10. Single space your paragraphs, and add a space between paragraphs.


1. Tease the editor by saying, ‘If you want to know how it turns out, I’ll send my book to you.

2. Use gimmicks in a written submission. Sparkly confetti should not fall out of an envelope and coat the editor’s desk.

3. Use hyperbole. Your work should speak for itself.

4. Tell them who has previously rejected the manuscript.

5. Say that it still needs work.

6. Discuss payment, rights, or ask for criticism.

7. Discuss more than one work at a time.

Now, let’s look at a typical query letter. I’m plugging in my pitch for my novel Return Engagement which the publisher did take. This publisher wanted electronic submissions to a submissions@ type of thing. I attached a manuscript and a full synopsis because that was what they asked for.

Today's date

The editor's (or agent's) name and title

The publication's name

The publications address

Dear (Mr./Ms.) (editor's [or agent's] last name),

Elizabeth Lane has heard the call of the four most seductive words in the entire English language: what might have been. Would you risk everything you hold dear to find out what might have been? That’s the choice which Elizabeth has to make.

Elizabeth is lucky, for she has it all, money, fame, a satisfying career and a devoted fiancĂ©. Her humble beginnings are all but obscured, but she isn’t the kind of woman Senator Henry Lovinggood wants for his son, Richard. Senator Lovinggood plans to make Richard the President of the United States; he’ll need a woman from a wealthy, powerful family by his side. Ten years ago he broke Richard and Elizabeth up, but this time it won’t be so easy, for Elizabeth wants to know what might have been. This time she’ll fight back, a struggle which ultimately leads to kidnapping and attempted murder and alienates her from the man of her dreams.

Return Engagement is a 90,000 word contemporary romance. It is my sixth novel. My first work, A New Leaf, was the 2003 winner of the Timeless Love contest. It was published in October of 2004 by Oak Tree Press. Since that time, I’ve had three other novels published and have signed contracts for two more. The tone of my work has been compared to Elizabeth Peters, but I believe it’s closer to Danielle Steele.

I was born and raised in South Carolina. I hold a Master’s Degree in Personnel Services from Clemson University and am a member of Alpha Delta Kappa, an international honorary sorority for women educators. I am also a member of Romance Writer’s of America and EPIC authors. At present I teach high school social studies.

I hope that my manuscript will be something you can use. I have attached the manuscript and a full synopsis to this email. Thank you very much for your time and consideration.


Your name

Your address

Your phone number

Your email

Some people talk about themselves before they give a little blurb about their book, but to me it makes more sense this way. Good luck with your query. I hope the first editor you query takes your book.

~ * ~

Elaine Cantrell was born and raised in South Carolina.  She holds a Master’s Degree in Personnel Services from Clemson University and is a member of Alpha Delta Kappa, an international honorary sorority for women educators.  She is also a member of Romance Writers of America and EPIC authors.  Her first novel, A New Leaf, was the 2003 winner of the Timeless Love Contest and was published in 2004 by Oak Tree Books.  At present she teaches high school social studies.  In her spare time she enjoys reading, collecting vintage Christmas ornaments, and playing with her grandchildren.  Visit Elaine at and at .  She’s on Facebook at and would love to be friends.

By the way, Return Engagement is number 5 on the Whiskey Creek Press best seller list. If you’d like to read the first chapter, you can find it at
Romantic Times gave Return Engagement 4 ½ stars and said, ‘This touching story is beautifully written and explores the emotions involved when two people who love each other are influenced by outside forces and their own doubts. Each character is fully developed and the plot is filled with interesting twists.’

My links:   I’d love to be friends. Do send me a request.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Party's Over

             Always a bridesmaid, never the bride--sigh.

The 2011 EPIC Awards Conference took place this weekend. As you may know, Next Time I'm Gonna Dance finaled for an EPIC e-Book award. Unfortunately, I didn't win the prize this year. It was my third finaling, and I was hoping third time would be a charm. But, as you can see from the photo of my mantle, I'm optimistic about next year. (and, no, my mantle doesn't sag--it's the angle of the photo)

I am pleased that Trisha FitzGerald won the Ariana Award for cover art for Next Time I'm Gonna Dance. The award is well-deserved. Just look at that cover!

My congratulations to all the winners. For the others who finaled and didn't win (I can't use the word 'losers'; there is honor in finaling)--see you at the dance next year?


Thursday, March 10, 2011

P is for Point of View

This week I am pleased to welcome author Jane Toombs who talks with us about Point of View.


Think of readers as becoming fairly easily confused. Unless you tell your story in a clear and logical format, you can count on them getting annoyed with you. If the reader happens to be a first reader for a publisher, you can count on your confusing story getting rejected right then and there.

Who is telling your story? If you decide to use the I character to make it more immediate, then you’re using first person.

1. With the I character, you must remember no one else in your story can have a point of view. Everything that happens is shown through how she or he sees or hears the action. This is called the first person point of view.

This character is always I or me so you can’t use a name. Some writers have gotten around that by having a chapter or two told by somebody else, but that’s tricky to do and some readers don’t like it. But many readers do enjoy the I person telling the story because it definitely is more immediate.


When I realized neither Arthur nor the pretty blonde he had his arm around had seen me, I was ready to call out, but held when he pulled her closer.

Arthur stared in disbelief over Beth’s shoulder at his fiancĂ©e. Damn. She was looking straight at the two of them. Have to talk fast to get out of this one.


When I realized neither Arthur nor the pretty blonde he had his arm around had seen me, I was ready to call out, but held when he pulled her closer. Then he spotted me. His guilty look changed to a forced smile as he let go of the blonde and waved.

What was wrong with the first example? In first person with the I character, no one else can have a POV—and Arthur did.

In the second one the I character interprets what she sees him do.

2. The You is called second person point of view. In other words “You went to the store .” You is the character, and, again, nameless . The entire story is told from that second You point of view and no one else can have a viewpoint. Most writers find this very awkward and most readers find it off-putting. Second person is rarely used for this reason. It’s difficult to do successfully.

3. The third person character point of view is the one most commonly used because it allows more scope for the writer. The characters do have names. But do remember that third person can be from only one character’s point of view at a time, most often the hero or heroine. Be careful to separate by an extra space or **** when another character takes over. If there is a villain, he or she and also have a point of view if separated from the two others. I find it easiest to give the villain a separate chapter or chapters, even if they’re short ones. Be extremely careful not to head hop.

To avoid that, use a line break to help the reader realize someone else is speaking. Try not to do this more than once in a single scene.

Wrong: Mary felt his embrace was somehow false and stiffened in his arms.

John muttered a curse word as he let her go. Mary was just too bloody perceptive.

Right: Mary felt his embrace was somehow false and stiffened in his arms. John released her immediately, but she heard him curse and he glared at her.

What was wrong with the first example. Again, without a line break of any kind, we were switched into John’s POV.

4. Omniscient third person is where any character can have a point of view. This multiple POV takes skill, if it’s not limited, so can be a disaster for a writer who isn’t already skilled in handling this. My advice to any writer who doesn’t have a few books to their credit, is to leave it alone. After all, any character in a story can voice their opinions without getting into their POV.

Wrong: Janice took aim and pulled the trigger, felling Fred.

Gloria screamed, afraid she’d be next, but Betty sprang forward, determined to wrest the gun away from Janice.

Right: Janice took aim and pulled the trigger, Fred fell. Gloria screamed, no doubt afraid she was next, but Betty sprang forward, so Janice took aim at her.

What was wrong with the first example? All three women had a POV--bing, bang, boom. This is not the way to handle omniscient POV. .

5. Animal POV. Unless most of the story is going to be told, for example, from a dog’s POV, don’t have that dog speak or think anything. This holds true for all animals. If you want to indicate the animal has an opinion, say something like: “From the way my cat looked at me, I could tell he was disgusted.”

Or as my oldest son said to me when he was eight: “Don’t bring me any more books from the library where animals talk, because they don’t.”

Go figure--he wound up being a doctor.

~ * ~
Jane Toombs, born in California, raised in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, has returned "home" to live in the beautiful Upper Peninsula on the shore of Lake Superior--with the Viking from her past. Jane has five children, two stepchildren, seven grandchildren, a calico cat named Kinko and two computers.

She's the author of over eighty published books, both in paper and electronic. These include the various romance genres--gothic, suspense, contemporary, historical, Regency and paranormal--as well as other genres such as mystery, fantasy and horror. Jane has used pseudonyms--Ellen Jamison, Diana Stuart, Olivia Sumner--but is now writing under her own name except for her Zebra/Pinnacle romances for which she uses Jane Anderson.

Find out more about Jane's books at:
and visit Jane (Dame Turquoise) at:

Thursday, March 3, 2011

O is for Overwriting.

This week, multi-published romance and romantic suspense author, Carol McPhee, shares her thoughts with us on Overwriting.


Wordiness weakens the force of expression. Conciseness alone doesn’t achieve effective writing, but it is hard for a writer to write forcefully if two or three words are used to convey the idea one word could express.

Examples: John is going to plan to write you soon.
                John will write to you soon.

Students who disobey the rules will be separated from the university.
Students who disobey the rules will be expelled.

When I first started submitting chapters to a critique group I joined years ago, several of the critiquers harped on my verbosity. My question to them was: were not all words equal and shared the right to be used? Apparently not. In today’s fast-paced world, readers want to get to the crux of the story and not be led into a maze of unnecessary words. Overly long sentences put the reader at a loss as to the writer’s point before the end is reached. Wordy writing characterized by excessive detail, needless repetition, and convoluted sentence structures can derail the most passionate of readers. It makes the writing uninteresting and tedious.

To avoid wordiness in your writing:

Eliminate words which are redundant or superfluous: Redundancies, such as "cooperate together," "close proximity," "red in color," "small in size" or "end result," make thinking sloppy and tax the reader’s patience. In effective writing, every word serves a purpose. Take out empty words or phrases that do not affect the sentence’s meaning.

For example:
(along the lines of) - replace with - like
(as a matter of fact)      in fact
(at all times)       always
(because of the fact that)     because
(by means of)       by

Eliminate empty words and phrases: To avoid wordiness, combine two or more sentences to form one compact sentence.

Wordy: The headlights were bashed in and there was some superficial damage to the body. Otherwise, the mini-van seemed to be in excellent condition.
Concise: Aside from bashed-in headlights and superficial damage to the body, the mini-van seemed to be in excellent condition.

Reduce clauses to phrases and phrases to single words:
Wordy: The pine forest, which was glazed with shimmering ice, offered breathtaking silence.
Concise: The pine forest, glazed with shimmering ice, offered breathtaking silence.
Wordy: For her birthday, Shirley received a gown made of taffeta.
Concise: For her birthday, Shirley received a taffeta gown.

Use strong verbs as opposed to weasel verbs that suck the power from your sentences:
Weak verbs such as "is, has, took, gave and make," lengthen sentences needlessly. Verbs such as "kindle, carve, and race" invigorate sentences quickly and efficiently.
Wordy: The carpenters made slow advancement, and building costs were making a steady climb.
Concise: The carpenters advanced slowly and building costs climbed.
Wordy: The janitor’s duty is to lock up the school and check to see whether all windows are closed.
Concise: The janitor locks up the school and checks that the windows are closed.

Use the active voice to strengthen your sentences
The active voice stresses the actor in a sentence, whereas the passive voice stresses the receiver. Since the passive voice results in unnecessary clutter without making writing more direct, and forceful, use the active voice.
Wordy: The house was painted by the students.
Concise: The students painted the house.
Wordy: The apartment buildings were leveled by the hurricane.
Concise: The hurricane leveled the apartment buildings.

Eliminate expletive constructions: An expletive construction is a sentence that begins with "there" or "it" and postpones the sentence’s subject. Even though expletive constructions are effective in showing a change in direction, they frequently produce wordiness.
Wordy: There are three books lying open on the table.
Concise: Three books lay open on the table.

I hope I have given you insight into checking your own writing to improve its readability.

Available now from Champagne Books
Bio:    Carol lives in Nova Scotia, Canada, with her hero of almost fifty years. Writing was never on her radar screen until she faced a serious health issue and needed distraction. She began reading romance novels, discovering the tales seemed to feed the same threads-boy meets girl, conflict breaks them apart but problem resolution leads to a happy ending. She longed for more intensity on the characters’ journey. Thus None So Blind germinated in her mind. Her belief that this story would be her only writing venture proved faulty when Undercover Trouble ripped onto her keyboard, followed by many other romance stories.

Visit Carol on the web at: