Here is the Save the Date card that tells the story of Harriet and Roxley’s wild romance:
Feel free to lift them and Pin them or Share them on Facebook or Twitter! Spread the news!
When Kay Thomas and I discovered we had the same release dates coming up for our new stories (hers: Hard Target, mine: Have You Any Rogues) we sat down and interviewed each other and shared our thoughts about writing and life. Ok, Kay came up with all the questions, but I did all the hard work. Teehee.
EB: What’s the one thing you wish you had known before you started writing?
KT:The more you write, the more addictive it becomes. If I had know this beforehand I might have taken up, oh, I don’t know—marathon walking or scrapbooking instead. I can’t imagine not writing today, but part of that is because I’ve been doing it for so long.
I’ve heard people talk about characters that just won’t leave them alone, and I never understood that whole concept until writing the Elite Ops series. Hard Target was an addictive writing experience for me. I loved the characters, the location, the adventure, the growth arcs, and the relationships.
While this first book didn’t write itself, the story came much easier than others I’ve written in the past. For the first time I could hear the characters talking in my head and they wouldn’t let me rest, till I wrote down what they were saying. Currently, I’m working on Book 2 in the Elite Ops series and I’m happy to say that I’m having a similar experience with “hearing” those characters’ voices.
EB: What do you like to do in your “spare” time?
KT: Free time?? Hmm… I’m not sure I’m familiar with this concept?
Joking aside. My ideal “free day” would include: making pancakes, (well okay, eating the ones my husband makes since I don’t cook much) sitting around with my family and having breakfast together, watching an old movie or renting a new one, playing a game of dominos (we have ongoing tournaments at our house), and of course, reading a good book in front of the fire, or lying in the hammock.
EB: Do you have a particular writing regimen?
KT: I hesitate to call what I do a regimen. It doesn’t feel quite that structured…but during the summer and on holidays I write early in the morning while everyone is asleep at my house. During the school year, I write after my son goes off to school. I’m more productive on story in the mornings. I use the afternoons for email, publicity, etc. Or that’s my goal. In an attempt to manage my time better I read a great book a few years ago called “Never Answer Email in the Morning”. I got some great tips, but ultimately I’m not sure the lesson took.
EB: Do you outline an entire book before writing it?
KT: Sadly, no, though I could spare myself much grief and gnashing of teeth if I did. I’m a “pantser” who is trying to become more of a plotter in the interest of saving myself time and aggravation (ie – not writing myself into corners). I usually have an idea of a story before I start a project, but I generally have to just sit down and start typing before the bulk of the plot comes. There’s a magic for me about my fingers hitting the keyboard. I can’t “talk it out” in terms of plotting. I have to “write it out.” That’s where my stream-of-consciousness-writing comes in.
I use a storyboard with sticky notes to keep my thoughts in order. It’s not terribly organized looking to anyone but me.
Still, I can keep the pace hopping, even when I don’t know exactly where I’m headed. That’s why I’m working hard at becoming a bit more plotting-oriented before I start, so I don’t write myself into that corner I was speaking of earlier! But the challenge for me is keeping the story fresh if I’ve plotted it too much beforehand. For me, if I plot the storyline too thoroughly before I write it, that joy of the discovery isn’t there as I type, and it comes across as flat on the page…not new. So it’s a balance for me to plot enough to have a destination, but keep the reins loose enough to go wherever I need in order to still enjoy the ride.
EB: Is there one book you find yourself reading over and over?
EB: How do you do your research? Do you travel or do it online?
KT: These days I do most of it online. In writing my second book, Bulletproof Texas, I had a terrifying experience when I insisted on learning how to rock climb myself because my character was going to climb in the book. The equipment at the rock climbing gym malfunctioned, and I fell about 12 feet—flat on my back—in front of my husband and child. That scared them both worse than it scared me. For the record, my agent had begged me not to do this. I’ve now learned my lesson and do any “extreme research” online only!
Hard Target—my first book in the new Elite Ops series—takes place in extraordinarily remote locations in Mexico and one area in particular where drug cartels are quite active. I have no desire to do a live research trip there, but on-line I’ve made a wonderful discovery. You can find English speaking expat bloggers in pretty much any place you’d like to set a story, along with YouTube videos that can “take you” almost anywhere.
EB: What do you like best about your hero, Leland? What drove you crazy about him?
KT: I love that Leland Hollis is willing to do whatever it takes to keep Anna Mercado safe, even if it means driving her away. Her safety is far more important to him than her thinking he is a nice guy. When the book opens Leland is rethinking a lot of things in his life. He’s disillusioned with the career path he’s chosen and knows that he doesn’t have all the answers. Basically, he’s looking for redemption and finds it in helping Anna and her son. That kind of searching humility is very appealing to me, and the whole badass-southern-boy-with-a-heart-of-mush persona makes me melt.
The thing that drove me crazy about him was something I did to myself when I created his character. When the book opens Leland is recovering from a drug bust gone horribly wrong and he’s wearing one of those walking boot casts. I’ve had to wear one of those myself, and I thought at the time that I was being oh-so-smart in “writing what I knew.” What I didn’t consider was how awkward that boot would be if one was on the run from a Mexican cartel, traipsing through the jungle and um…having sex.
EB: What’s your best advice for aspiring writers?
KT: Don’t give up on your dreams. When those rejections come (and they will…it happens to everyone) send out another query or request immediately. Then go have that chocolate bar, glass of wine, long hot bath, or all of the above to soothe the hurt feelings. I’ve always thought that I got published initially because I was too stubborn to give up.
EB: What’s next for you? Can you tell us a little about it.
KT: Book 2 in the Elite Ops series (working title: Personal Target) is about a case of mistaken identity and a very personal vendetta against former SEAL/CIA operative, Nick Donovan. From Dallas to Mexico, across the African Savanna, to the shores of the Mediterranean it’s a race against time for Nick to save the woman he loves but lost years before.
You can find out more about Kay Thomas and her wonderful romantic suspense novels at her website.
Avon Author Kay Thomas pinned me down and asked me to answer a few questions about writing for her. I, in turn, am forcing her to do the same. Here are my answers, and hers will run on Monday.
KT: What’s the one thing you wish you had known before you started writing?
EB: To let go of comparisons to other writers. As an author you need to learn to be confident in your own stories and tell them from the heart. If you start comparing your stories to others, you are missing the most important point: that other person could not have told your story. It was yours to tell. Own it. Write your heart into it. And don’t worry about what other people’s successes or stories. You have no control over that.
EB: People tend to be surprised at how much of my books I hand write before I ever sit down at the keyboard. I go through piles of notebooks and scraps of paper while writing a book. I find that my muse has a mind of her own and when she gets going it is best to sit down and write everything that is coming out—just get it down as fast as I can. I carry a small notebook with me always.
Then I let the notes mull a bit and when I do sit down at the computer I use as a starting point. Sometimes I have fully realized scenes, other times it is only a smattering of dialogue—but those bits are usually enough that when I start to transcribe them, the rest sort of unfolds before me. And when I have days I don’t know what to do, I open the notebook and just start typing from it verbatim and that will often times grease the story wheels to get me moving forward.
KT: Do you outline an entire book before writing it?
EB: Yes. But I never follow it. I find that as the story unfolds, threads shift and rise up out of the fabric that I never expected, but they are character elements, surprises that I cannot ignore—they are gems in the rough. So the roadmap I start with is always a guide, but not a hard and fast route.
KT: What’s your best advice for aspiring writers?
EB: This is a craft. And you don’t get it right the first time. No one does. By way of example, I knit. A lot. And even though I’ve knit since I was seven, I know that with every project there are moments when I tear it back or tear it apart completely and redo it until it works. That is how you learn. Never think your words are carved in stone. They are not. They always need to be reshaped, sharpened and polished—even the ones that seem brilliant when they come tumbling out of the keyboard. So many people seem to rush their work—this grand race to call themselves published. But if no one wants to read your story because it is rough or uneven, because it isn’t polished, what is the point. It takes patience, rewriting and a dedication to craft to be successful in this business.
KT: What’s next for you? Can you tell us a little about it?
EB: I have two upcoming projects coming out. My first novella for Avon Impulse, Have You Any Rogues? (November 12th) and the third book in my Rhymes with Love series, If Wishes Were Earls (December 31st). The novella was a kick to write—Lady Henrietta Seldon has fascinated me since she came on stage in Along Came a Duke. Then as I was writing And The Miss Ran Away With The Rake, there is a scene where she and Viscount Dale cross paths—just for a blink, and in that moment I could see them staring daggers at each other and knew there was a story there. I LOVE those moments.
And of course, If Wishes Were Earls, is finally the story of Harriet and Roxley, who have been in love with each other for years. Again, when they first happened upon each other in Along Came a Duke, I knew they were perfect for each other. But happily ever after is never that easy. I loved putting Roxley and Harriet through their paces in If Wishes Were Earls, if only to see them find their way together through all sorts of adversity—and rightly so. A happy ending is earned.
Kay Thomas writes romantic suspense and her upcoming book, Hard Target, will be available November 12th. Learn more about Kay at KayThomas.net.
Join Kay and Elizabeth as they take over the Avon Facebook page, Monday, November 11th at 7pm ET for an evening of live chats, prizes and mayhem.
If you are like me, your writing time is both precious and never long enough. So here are some of my methods to make sure you are getting the most pages out of your limited time.
1) Stop reading email, posting on Twitter and checking your Facebook account. Okay, maybe that’s a little drastic, but how about printing out this little rule and stick it on your computer screen: Writing first, all the rest second. To make is easier, turn off all your notifications that will beep or pop up on the corner of your moniter. You don’t need to see “what’s going on” every second of the day. Especially not during your writing time.
2) Do as much pre-writing as possible. Take notes while you eat breakfast and lunch. Sketch out dialogue bits, scene ideas, setting descriptions. When you sit down to write, type these notes right into your manuscript and they are usually enough to catapult you into your story without too much hemming and hawing.
3) Write from a well-thought out outline or synopsis. These are the roadmap of your story and will get you from A to Z in the quickest route. You wouldn’t drive from Seattle to Dallas without a good map, so why write a novel without one?
4) Use a timer. When I get really behind or am on deadline, I use a kitchen timer. I set it for anywhere between five and twenty minutes and tell myself that I have that much time to write X amount of pages. That little ticking bomb really gets my fingers flying.
5) Turn off the internal editor. When I write my first draft, my only goal is to get the story down. If there are missing transitions, holes in the dialogue or in a scene, or a word, sentence or paragraph that just doesn’t sound quite right, all of that can be fixed when I do my revisions. Remember: Revising a manuscript is an entirely different process than writing the first draft.
6) Set a specific time each day and amount of time to write. Make this time sacred. You’ll find that as your daily writing time approaches, your imagination, thoughts and focus start moving toward your story automatically.
7) If you find yourself stuck and unable to think of anything, just write the dialogue for the scene. Or describe the scene. Anything related to that part of the book to keep your fingers moving. If you are really and truly stuck, go back to your synopsis and then move to the next scene.
8) Give yourself a writing night out once a week. I get out of the house, away from the family, and go to Starbucks, where I review notes and plan my writing for the next week. Sometimes I use these hours to review the pages I’ve written recently or just brainstorm. The change in scenery and the lack of interruptions will allow you time to concentrate and come away revitalized and refueled (literally) to get to work.
What are some of your favorite tricks to maximize your writing time?
Let’s get to work on what I love most: creating characters. I love my characters. I love spending time with them, mulling over the problems facing them, how they are going to respond, but most importantly, how are they going to respond and why do they respond that way. So as you start to plan your month of writing consider some of this advice for helping round out and develop your characters.
From birth, we all collect experiences that shape how we do everything. And if you want to create living, breathing characters you have to consider their experience as you, the author, write their story. Let me use Lady Hermione Marlowe, the heroine in my book, Tempted by the Night, as an example.
Hermione, much to her distress, is one of those Marlowes. The ramshackle family of the Earl of Walbrook, and the stigma of her missing father and her rather flamboyant mother follows her like a pair of great big, ugly traveling trunks. In the world of being perfect and being from the right family and making the perfect match, her parents, as much as she loves them, are two strikes she can do nothing about.
As I created Hermione, first in His Mistress by Morning as Charlotte’s best friend and the hero’s sister, and then by writing her story, I was struck by how deeply her insecurities ran. And therein lay the character flaw that I mined like gold. She is the daughter of an earl and therefore should be quite secure and lofty, and yet she is as lost in Society as the greenest country lass. But this flaw works because it strikes a chord in all of us. It will resonate with every reader because everyone has been tied up by their own insecurities at one time or another. And because she tries so hard to overcome them, we as the reader root for her to succeed. Because her success on a very deep level is ours as well.
So once I had discovered how deep her insecurities ran, especially when it came to her feelings for Rockhurst (to the point of throwing up when he comes near her), I then had to give her the tools and the power to overcome her fears. Because Hermione wanted everyone, especially the Earl of Rockhurst, to see her as an elegant young lady of Society, I therefore did the complete opposite and made her invisible. Unseen. Nadda. Nothing. And slowly Hermione discovers that outside her self-imposed limits, the strictures of a Society where she will never be just another member of the herd, she can come into her own.
So take your hero and heroine in your story, and dig around inside them and ask yourself:
1) What are their greatest fears? Try to discover something that most everyone can identify with.
2) How can you take your character right up to the dragon’s lair and have them face that fear?
3) What lessons, tools, and help will they need to win the battle?
4) What can we as readers learn from our character’s lesson?
This exercise helps outline your character’s development, steps in your plotting and the story arc. And one last note: make your heroine likeable. Nothing tanks a book faster than a bitchy heroine. Would you want her for your cubical mate in an office? If the answer is no, then why are you spending November telling her story?
Likeable sells. So does a depth to character that tugs at the heart. Find what tugs at your heart and then write.
As you are working towards getting your story idea fleshed out, you will want to get your heroine ready for some Brazen action. Here is a quick checklist for creating the Brazen heroine. Sit down with a notebook or your character sheet and consider the following:
1) Write down your definition of Brazen
2) Look for examples from real life or history
3) Create your Heroine by giving her:
4) Cast your Hero and make him:
And if you’ve made your heroine Brazen enough, God help your poor hero. LOL.
Let’s just get to the good stuff, shall we? I’ve posted the excerpt for Have You Any Rogues?! And apparently I do, Yes, Sir, Yes, Sir, Three Rogues will do. Tee Hee.
As a little backstory, I got the idea for Have You Any Rogues? while I was writing And The Miss Ran Away with the Rake. There is a scene, late in the book, where Crispin Dale comes to Owle Park and demands that Preston hand over his cousin, Daphne. As Crispin was there, glowering on the front steps, I realized–or at least in my imagination–I saw Henrietta Seldon glaring back at him–and I just knew they had HISTORY. Lots of it.
All that all was left to do was to explore what had happened to them before and what might happen if they were tossed together yet again.
I love it when a good bought of glowering and glaring ends in a happily ever after, don’t you?
Avon is having a fun summer promo this year: Escape with a Rake! And no, they don’t want you to wander off with wayward garden implements, but with some of hottest, wickedest, devilish rakes out there–and for only $1.99!
Here’s your summer raking, er, reading list:
by Elizabeth Boyle
And the Miss Ran Away with the Rake
Daphne Dale thought she’d found her perfectly sensible gentleman until she met Lord Henry Seldon.
This Rake of Mine
When the rakehell Lord Jack Tremont kissed Miranda Mabberly, mistaking her for his mistress, neither realized his reckless act would cost Miranda her reputation, her fiancé, and her future.
by Sara Bennett
Led Astray by a Rake
Beneath Livy Monteith’s icy blonde exterior beats a passionate heart, a heart that will not abide by society’s rules. But even her friends at Miss Debenham’s Finishing School are shocked by the man she desires. Lord Dominic Lacey, the man they call Wicked Nic, and is every bit a scoundrel.
by Suzanne Enoch
Reforming a Rake
Alexandra Gallant is a governess extraordinaire—and if it weren’t for that unfortunate incident at her last position, she wouldn’t now be forced into the employ of Lucien Balfour, the most notorious rake in London. Though the sinfully attractive earl hired her to teach his young cousin, his seductive whispers and toe-curling kisses suggest he has something far less respectable in mind .
When a young lady who vows revenge on the rakish lord who loved and left her, she finds herself unexpectedly caught in Cupid′s net along with the handsome viscount when her plan to love and leave him backfires.
by Sarah Maclean
Nine Rule to Break When Romancing a Rake
Lady Calpurnia Hartwell, a plain but wealthy 28-year-old who refuses to marry a man who only desires her fortune, acts on a long-held crush and flings herself at Gabriel St. John, marquess of Ralston. Gabriel finds her antics more amusing than enticing, but his half-wild half-sister needs an impeccable chaperone and he chooses Callie for the role. Their proximity creates an infinite series of opportunities for the rake to practice his wiles on the more than willing wallflower.
No need to hide the fact, I love writing. And I love learning about my craft–so when I asked a number of my friends, who have between them like a gazillion books in print, their all-time favorite books on writing, I discovered some new faves and of course the ones I consider some of the best. So here it is, the 21 Essential Books on Writing in no particular order.
2. On Writing by Steven King. This is the audio version, because face it, it is Steven King reading Steven King.
3. How to Write Killer Fiction by Carolyn Wheat. Another book on Liza Palmer’s must read list. As she explained, “Don’t we all want elements of suspense in our novels to make them page turners.” True that!
4. Bird by Bird by Annie Lamont. This was Megan Crane/Caitlyn Crewes first choice out of the gate, and she’s picked a true classic, one that is on everyone’s list. But have to admit, I have never read it. Time to change that.
5. Save the Cat by Blake Synder. I love this book. It helps you see fiction through a screenwriter’s focused eye and keeps you on target. Love it!
6. The Courage to Write by Ralph Keyes. Another book on Megan’s list. Another for my TBR.
7. Writing from the Inside Out by Dennis Pulumbo.
8. The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell. I adore this book. The perfect pick up and read a short chapter for your daily kick in the pants. JoAnne Ross says it is a perfect book for “quick encouragement.” Can’t we all use that from time to time? Keep this book within reach.
9. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. Another one of those books that is always on the top of writer’s lists of inspiring and helpful books.
10. On Writing Well by William Zinsser
11. The Writers Journey by Chris Vogler. If you haven’t read this book, make this the first one you pick up. The best book on novel writing out there. And as Christina Dodd said, (and rightly so) “Not boring.”
12. Reading like a Writer by Francine Prose.
13. If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland.
15. Walking on Alligators by Susan Shaughnessy. This book is another one for quick inspiration and daily affirmations and exercises.
16. The Writing Life by Annie Dilliard.
17. How to Write Your Best Story by Philip Martin. This and the Annie Dilliard book both came with the recommendation: “Good advice, well written.” What more could you ask for?
18. Goal Motivation & Conflict by Deb Dixon. I will be honest. This book has never sung to me. But on the other hand, I know so many writers who rave and love it. I mean LOVE it. So I could hardly leave it off.
20. Scene and Structure by Jack Bickham. The quintessential and essential nuts and bolts book for every writer. Love this book.
21. Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. One of my all-time favorite books–a great nuts and bolts read for honing and making your novel standout.
Are there books missing from the list? Add your own in the comments.