Saturday, February 17, 2024

February's Round Robin Blog


 Feb 17

Our Round Robin topic this month is Goal, Motivation, and Conflict; it is the glue that holds your story together and keeps your reader turning the page. It can and should be applied to every central character in your story to create more emotional impact while readers, knowingly or unknowingly, experience its benefit. In a romance, if your reader reaches for the Kleenex, you’ve done your job as a writer. Or, in a mystery, if a murderer is apprehended and brought to justice, that reader may well feel a great sense of satisfaction or relief at the conclusion.

These goals, motivations, and conflicts can be internal or external, but when GMC is internal, it exposes the character’s emotional needs. Who wants what? Why do they want it? What stops them from getting it? Digging deep into your character’s psyche can build a compelling storyline because their goals, motivations, and conflicts can often be linked to emotional wounds.

Say a character has been unlucky in love. They might conclude they are just not lovable and don’t deserve to be loved. Their emotional wound or need is to find love, which becomes their goal. Their motivation might be to move beyond those feelings of unworthiness, which can create conflict. How do they achieve the very thing they want the most? What is standing in their way or preventing them from reaching their goal? This block can also be their external conflict.

What if your character looking for love meets someone who continually puts them down in a mean or sly way? How long before Character #1 realizes what Character #2 is up to? This realization can become a powerful external conflict as Character #1 comes to terms with it. What if Character #1 decides they must escape Character #2? What ugly confrontation could stem from it and add weight to your story?

There are many ways to work with these aspects of writing a story. Some writers use charts, and others write backstories. I don’t want to make writing a more challenging exercise than it already is, so when I do my character profile, I make bullet points and then enlarge them as I write because I am more of a pantser than a plotter.

I’m always interested in how other authors deal with different aspects of the writer’s craft, so now I’ll see what I can learn from the following:

Dr. Bob Rich  https://wp.me/p3Xihq-37G 

Anne Stenhouse  http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com

Connie Vines  http://mizging.blogspot.com/

Helena Fairfax  http://www.helenafairfax.com/blog

Diane Bator  https://escapewithawriter.wordpress.com/

Skye Taylor  http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea

Thursday, February 15, 2024

My New Book

 


AVAILABLE HERE


Released on February 1st in e-book, also available in print.

Professional football was Ty Harding’s life. Injury and age ended it. Now what? Returning to the family ranch after two decades to decide his future, he finds it in crisis. His mother needs help, and Ty’s ranching skills are rusty. His only recourse is his high school sweetheart, who runs the adjoining property.

Georgia Caldwell manages her thriving spread, competes in team cattle penning, and has little room for anything more, especially an injured football hero.

 Ty is captivated by the strong woman Georgia has become. Is her busy life the reason she keeps her distance from him, or is it something else? Could whatever she is hiding keep them apart, or can Ty become the man Georgia needs for them to rekindle what they once had?

 

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Our First Round Robin of 2024


 The idea for the first Round Robin of 2024 caught me short-footed during a deep freeze. I am taking care of two houses while the owner is on vacation, and in the one where I live, the water froze, so my mind was not exactly on any writing project.

When asked to share some ideas on giveaways as a marketing tool, my initial thought was that the only giveaway I had ever initiated via Goodreads a long time ago wasn’t too successful. However, with much patience and slightly improved temperatures, the water and my thoughts began to flow.

I tend to write books in series of three, as in The Berkeley Square Series, Books 1 – 3, and Those Regency Belles, Books 1 - 3. The Buxton Chronicles come in one volume of three novellas, and I have just completed Book 3 in my Western Collection of contemporary Western romances.

Several years ago, I ran a giveaway on my author’s FaceBook page, asking a question to which anyone who had read Book 1 of The Berkeley Square Series would know the answer, and offered Book 2 to the first reader to get it right. I had lots of likes for that post, but no responses, correct or otherwise. At the time, I had already moved on to writing Book 3 in that series, so I didn’t pursue that idea. It might be time to try again.

I have never offered ‘swag’ at conferences and workshops as I have seen too many bookmarks and other advertising materials unceremoniously dumped before the day or weekend was over. Yes, spending money to make money is possible, but I don’t believe in throwing good money around. Most authors have a budget for advertising, and I admit that mine is minimal for various reasons.

Another idea I had was to invite my followers to name a character or become a character, bearing in mind the genre of the book. The winner of that particular venture appeared as the housekeeper in Those Regency Belles, Book 3. That was quite good fun, and I think I might try that again with my next book.

The most I spend on advertising is for my business cards, which I leave wherever possible. I also use them as bookmarks by punching a hole in one corner and attaching a beaded ribbon or lengths of fancy string. Dollar and thrift stores are an excellent resource for these types of materials. My other go-to is postcards. I can get three books and their blurb on a postcard, and when I make up bundles, I will place a postcard advertising The Berkeley Square Series with Those Regency Belles, and vice versa.

I see the most positive results when I give a book away. I usually make a note for myself of which book I gave and when I gave it, and then when I get my sales report from my publisher, I check to see what, if any, result came from it. It’s been noticeable that after a book giveaway, I often notice an uptick in sales of my other books, so that method seems to work best for me.

Like many authors, I prefer the writing process to the necessary one of self-promotion and advertising. My virtual assistant monitors my FaceBook page and posts when sales are on various platforms, or a new book is released. I’d struggle without her, so I appreciate all she does for me.

So now I will visit these authors and see what tricks and tips they offer.

Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-36L

Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/

Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea

Friday, December 22, 2023

The Gift

 

I am so late with my Round Robin blog, the last one for 2023. I  marked my calendar for December 15th. Plenty of time to write a short story ready for posting on December 16th, right? Not according to the bug that had me wake up with such a sore throat I couldn't speak and an ensuing head cold. Thankfully, it was nothing worse, and I can now speak and breathe again.

It may be behind, like the cow's tail, but here is my Christmas story for December 2023.





 It might be Christmas, but Suzie Castle felt no cheer or goodwill to all men. Losing her parents this year within months of each other weighed heavily on her, as did having her art class budget cut. She worried for her students, who had left before she did today with cheery Christmas greetings and shouts of ‘see you next year’ as they filed out of the classroom before her.

Cold from riding the train and then taking a bus from the school where she taught to her home, her feet wet from walking through slush and snow from the bus stop, she trudged up the stairs of her three-storey apartment building, wondering why she’d insisted on having a room with a view when an apartment on the main floor would have been so much more convenient right now.

Stopping at her door, Number 304, she set her grocery bag down and searched her purse for her keys. Why hadn’t she thought to find them while sitting on the train or the bus? She fitted the key in the lock, turned it and pushed her door open—then stopped.

Pale blue light flooded her open-plan kitchen, dining, and living room.

Had she left a light on? She didn’t think so. Besides, all her lights were practical, white LED bulbs. This morning, she had switched them all off and opened the drapes before leaving for her journey to the school. Now, not only was there light, but her drapes were closed against the wintery night. She stepped inside, her jaw dropping as she looked around.

The blue light came from an acrylic Christmas tree on her coffee table. Who had put it there? And when had all those cards been set up on her mantle shelf?

Suzie toed off her wet boots and wriggled her toes into her welcome mat as she unzipped her coat. Who on earth had been in her apartment? She hung her coat in the hall closet. As she approached her coffee table, she noticed several wrapped gifts on the floor beneath it. Frowning, she picked one up and looked at the label.

Happy Christmas, Miss Castle. See you next year. Best wishes, Jorge.

She picked up another.

Thank you for making the last term so fun. Love, Beccy.

Thinking of the bright, difficult fifteen-year-old with whom she’d had more than one skirmish, tears pricked Suzie’s eyes. She brushed them away and picked up another gift.

You helped me see things differently. Thank you. Love, Donny.

Donny. Suzie laid the gift on the table. She’d crossed words with him, too.

Suzie ran her gaze along the row of cards, stunned to see herself depicted on each one. She picked up the biggest, showing her in her toque and muffler with a big smile. She ran her finger over it and opened it.

Hope you like my drawing of you. Happy Christmas. Peter.

Peter. Her most talented pupil.

On another card, she was pointing something out to a figure she was sure was little Mary Brown. Whose easel had been behind Mary’s? Suzie couldn’t remember but thought it might have been Devon Jackson. She turned the card over. Sure enough, there were his initials and the date.

Suzie swallowed the lump in her throat as she remembered some of the casual, throw-away questions and comments from the last few weeks in the run-up to Christmas.

What do you do at Christmas, Miss Castle?

“Snuggle up in a big blanket with a book and drink hot chocolate.”

Do you have turkey and all the trimmings?

“Good gracious, no. It’s just like another day for me, although I sometimes buy myself a box of chocolates.”

Have you ever locked yourself out of your apartment?

“Only once, and then I left a spare key with my neighbour.”

Why did that question and her response suddenly spring into her mind?

Who had asked it? Suzie’s brow wrinkled as she thought back. It was Beccy. She was sure of it. At the time, she’d been busy suggesting a correction to the shading in Beccy’s drawing and not thought anything of it. Now, she saw clearly how her students had been cleverly gathering information all this time.

A knock at her door startled her, but she went to open it, only to find her elderly next-door neighbour, Mrs. Delaney from Number 306, outside.

“Mrs. Delaney,” Suzie said, welcoming her with a smile. “Please come in.”

There was an answering twinkle in Mrs. Delaney’s kind, blue eyes. “Don’t mind if I do, but I won’t keep you a moment. I only wanted to make sure you weren’t cross that I’d used your spare key to let the young ones into your apartment, and of course, I stayed with them while they decorated. They were such polite young people and wanted to do something nice for you so you wouldn’t feel lonely at Christmas.”

“How could I be cross about that sentiment, Mrs. Delaney?” Suzie motioned her to sit down. “This is the nicest thing that has happened to me in a long while. Would you like a cup of tea?”

“If you’re sure it’s no trouble, dear.”

Suzie went into the kitchen to fill the kettle and switch it on, but right beside it, a mug with two single sachets of gourmet hot chocolate sat on top of a box of chocolates.

“Mrs. Delaney,” Suzie called. “Would you like a mug of hot chocolate instead? Irish cream or salted caramel?”

“Irish cream would be lovely,” Mrs. Delaney said, and Suzie unhooked another mug from her mug tree.

When she had made the drinks and carried them into the living room, Suzie sat opposite her neighbour and smiled.

“Thank you for helping my students set this up,” she said. “This is the best gift anyone could have given me.” She raised her mug in a salute to Mrs. Delaney and each one of her students. “Happy Christmas!”


THE END

Monday, November 20, 2023

A Cowboy This Christmas Anthology

 It is hard to believe we are already more than halfway through November! In my part of Canada, we have had a wonderful and relatively snow-free fall, but Christmas is just around the corner and who knows what that will bring. 

As always, writing has taken a lot of my time, and this year I was part of a short story project. It was fun to return to the short story format, which is where I started my writing. Together with eight other Alberta authors, we came up with A Cowboy This Christmas. Each story is infused with holiday magic and is likely to steal your heart. You can find it at:

https://www.amazon.com/Cowboy-This-Christmas-Romance-Anthology/dp/1777755522

OR

https://www.amazon.ca/Cowboy-This-Christmas-Romance-Anthology/dp/1777755522




Saturday, July 22, 2023

Round Robin Blog July

This month we are looking at how important Character Arc is to our stories and how it ties into the plot or story arc, and do you usually give some time and story to character arcs for secondary characters?

A story without a good character or story arc is like a straight piece of string. Boring. Uninteresting. Then tie a few knots in it here and there, and it becomes a different beast. Why is the knot in that place rather than in this place? Why is that knot bigger than the others? Does its size mean something important in the plot or an ‘aha’ moment for the character? And what does that squiggly little knot between two bigger ones indicate? Could it be a red herring slipped in there to catch the unwary?

The plot arc is the story’s shape, while characters have internal and external arcs that can create conflict. At the beginning of the narrative, Character A may be lacking in confidence. He or she thinks they are useless, unlovable, and ordinary. Then events test them as the story progresses, and we see that character overcome their ‘negative press,’ the false image they have of themselves, and by the end, they see they are useful, lovable, and extraordinary.

Secondary characters in a story are there to bring out the best in or give support to Character A, which doesn’t mean that they are less critical. They still need a good backstory, and the author needs to make them as well-rounded as Character A and not a caricature. They need names, strengths, and weaknesses, the same as Character A. While we might lay out every aspect and nuance of Character A for our reader to get to know and understand him or her, we don’t need to see that for the secondary character, even though the author will know it. Secondary characters are great for discovering facts, as Lord Clifton instructs his secretary Edward Pargetter in my book His Dark Enchantress.

Lucius tapped his forefinger against his lips, his eyes narrowing as a scheme began to form in his mind.

“That could be most fortuitous, as long as the under-secretary is not one James Horace.”

“If you wish, I could make enquiries as to whom exactly my cousin is attached.”

“I do wish, Edward, and it must be done as discreetly as possible. I also wish you to discover who else Lady Darnley has invited to dinner. Now, will I be signing my life away if I do not read these damnable letters?”

“You’ll never be sure, Sir.” Edward handed him a freshly trimmed pen.

Because Edward has been employed by his lordship for some time, they have developed respect and liking for each other, as indicated by Edward’s quip. In the same book, Lord Clifton relies on his head groom, Mr. Noble, and coachman, Mr. Tockington.

“We’ll do the same as in Folkestone.” Determination made his voice grim. “Noble, I want you and Tocky to make enquiries at the Full Moon and the Flood Tide. Edward, find the White Horse and hire a horse for me and a carriage for you three and our equipment. I’ll ask the landlord here for the quickest route to Lille.”

Edward was the first to return and he and Lucius waited impatiently for Noble and Tocky.

“Perhaps they are unable to make themselves understood,” suggested Edward.

Lucius shook his head. “I doubt it. Noble speaks passable French and Tocky appears to be able to make himself understood anywhere. Plus, with coin available to pay for a round or two of drinks, they may be gleaning more information than we expect.”

Secondary characters will have a different perspective on Character A, understand and maybe appreciate their likes and dislikes. They can help the reader build up their image of the main protagonist, like peeling an onion in reverse. They might be more like the person on the street, someone the reader can easily relate to, rather than a lord of the realm, hot-shot sports hero, billionaire, or whoever your Character A might be.

Now, visit my fellow bloggers and see what they say on the subject.

 

Anne Stenhouse http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com

Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/

Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/

Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com/blog

Marci Baun http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/

A.J. Maguire http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/

Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea

 

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Round Robin Blog - Emotional Wounds

 

 


This month our topic is emotional wounds for our protagonists – and how to help them learn to cope with and accept those wounds.

 First, what is an emotional wound? We likely all have one or more, to some extent, and it is the same for the characters we create.

 Wounds can be caused by an event or series of events, by a person, particularly someone close, be it a friend or family member, from either a parent or parents, or a (usually older) sibling. It might be caused by a careless comment heard in passing, one that our character hears at a vulnerable point in their life. Rather than let it go, our character hangs on to it until it becomes ingrained in them, colouring their thoughts and feelings in a negative way.

 However, much like an alcoholic who cannot recover until he or she recognizes their condition and makes the personal choice to overcome it, our characters are unlikely to recover from an emotional wound unless they look into themselves and choose to make changes. As their creators, we authors can start by building a believable backstory for the characters. The deeper the wound, the more complex the character, which can then lead to creating a strong character arc.  

 What is your character’s greatest fear, and why? Answering the why can be the path to overcoming the fear. Perhaps your character was bullied as a child. Not having the physical or mental strength to overcome it at the time the event(s) occurred might mean your character has difficulty standing up for himself or herself. A weak person making a bold decision can be the start of a change in that character.

 One of my characters was overshadowed and controlled by her mother – until the mother was out of the picture. My character’s first step on her path to healing and growth was stepping alone outside her front door. Mother/daughter or father/son wounds are often the strongest, deepest wounds to heal.

 Perhaps your character has a physical flaw which they have been teased about or otherwise made aware of. This might make them not value their self, to make them think they have less to offer than the next person. It might make them unlovable when what they want most in life is to love and be loved.

 Another of my characters dealt with her father’s murder by tracking down the murderer. The villain in one of my short stories suffered abuse as a child, which led to him being an abuser and ultimately committing murder.

 This is an extensive and complex subject, and I have given only brief examples of ways in which characters can be wounded. Because I write historical and contemporary romance, my characters' wounds are usually resolved through love. Idealistic, maybe, but the genre known for its happy-ever-after endings still leads the market.

 Now to visit my fellow bloggers to see what they have to say on the subject.

  

Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/

Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-2W9

Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/

Marci Baun http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/

Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea