Theory on Thursday with Juanita Kees

I’m HUGELY excited to have fellow West Aussie, Juanita Kees on Theory on Thursday today! Juanita’s debut book FLY AWAY PETA released yesterday with Eternal Press and I for one can’t wait to read it. When I first read Juanita’s post – a few weeks ago now – I simply couldn’t wait to share it with you. So without further ado… here she is:

Welcome Juanita!

I would like to say a special thank you to Rachael for having me here today.  I am a huge fan of hers and if you haven’t read JILTED or ONE PERFECT NIGHT yet…what are you waiting for?

Today I’m going to be talking about my favourite subject – Writing from the Heart. It seems appropriate that as Romance Writers we put our heart and soul into our writing to create the perfect levels of emotion and reader engagement. Why? Because that’s what love is all about – the heart.

When I write, I think of it as building a house.

The heart is the foundation on which you build your story. It’s about people, emotions, challenges, victories and most of all love. Rely on all five senses to get into the hearts and heads of your characters. What are they feeling, seeing, touching, hearing or smelling? (Let’s hope it’s something good!)

The second step is laying the floor. A floor needs to be level, insulated against the creeping cold and damp, strong enough to resist the cracks that appear as it expands with heat or retracts when cold. The same applies to your plot. It needs to be strong enough to leap over the cracks when it reaches that dreaded ‘saggy middle’ and have enough give and take to keep the reader engaged until the end.

Next comes the walls. The substance and structure are the support for your story. Is there enough  of a story to keep the reader turning the page? Does it ebb and flow as easily as the incoming tide? Or is it spiralling out of control, choppy and all over the place like an angry storm? Make your walls strong. They are what protect the heart.

Let’s not forget about the doors and windows. Windows let in light and fresh air. These are your characters. Keep them fresh and appealing. They are the windows to the soul of your story and will shed light for the reader to follow them through the twists and turns of your plot. The front door is your story. Make it open and inviting from the first words on the page. An open door will draw them in and keep them there without the need to lock it behind them.

Grammar, spelling and punctuation are part of your finishing touches. This is the roof that will protect your investment; keeping your characters, the plot, your heart, and ultimately your readers, happy.  And the chimney? Well, that’s the finishing touch – the ‘bling’ if you like. These are those little gems that make your story unique and give it your own personal touch or voice.

Now that you’ve built your house, here is your key – the key to success, attached to your heart.

Happy Writing!

Juanita

Thanks for sharing that outlook Juanita – I’m sure everyone found it as fascinating as I did :) Juanita can be found online at her website, on Twitter and Facebook. Please check out the blurb of her new book – FLY AWAY PETA – below, which can be purchased online here!

The time has come to face her worst fear and the clock is ticking…

Peta Johnson will go to extreme lengths to protect her daughter Bella. When the Bella is
kidnapped, the search for her takes Peta back to the small Australian country town of Williams, a place she’d vowed never to return to. The town where her dreams were shattered and her nightmare began. Back to the place she’d been destined to meet two very powerful, yet very different men. One would break her heart, the other would destroy her soul. Both would change her life forever.

Theory on Thursday with Mandy Magro

Today I have DELIGHTFUL rural romance author, Mandy Magro, visiting for Theory on Thursday. Mandy’s new book Jacaranda will land in a shop near you VERY soon. Mandy is talking about her writing process – I LOVE hearing about how other authors craft a novel, don’t you?

Welcome Mandy…

Thanks for inviting me onto your fabulous blog, Rachael. I’m thrilled to be here.

 Ever since you so thoughtfully asked me to be your guest today, I’ve been wracking my brain, trying to come up with a technical issue I could touch base on. One that would make me seem so savvy minded, so organised, so professional….and so worthy of the title of “Published Author”. And then it hit me, why not lay all my cards on the table and admit I am…wait for it…a pantser! And I love it!

 In my day to day life I’m an obsessively organised person with lists for lists for lists…you get the picture :)  I’m a firm believer in the saying that everything has its place, and that’s where it should be! So, in my writing life, where I can escape from the clutches of the daily grind, I love the freedom of being a pantser. It’s like I take on an entire new persona where my world can be as it will. It’s extremely liberating!

 Yes, I have read plenty of books that have explained all the ins and outs of plotting, and sometimes I use these proven techniques, but then other times, most of the time to be honest, I fly off the seat of my pants. Allowing my characters to take control of the writing reins and take me where they will on their adventures. I feel, for me, it provides maximum creative expression and frees me of the chains of serious plotting. Sometimes I even surprise myself with where the plot is heading and can’t type fast enough to keep up with the characters. It’s a fabulously euphoric feeling and I believe that this then passes onto the page and in turn entices the readers deeper into the storyline.

 Don’t get me wrong, though, as there are a few major points you need to get straight before sitting down to begin the very first chapter. Plotting can be a very useful tool at this time. Otherwise, you might find yourself drowning in redrafts and unnecessary edits-a writer’s worst nightmare!

 P.O.V is one of the biggest and you must decide before the very first word which way you are going to go with this. Too many P.O.Vs can confuse the reader and lose the strong emotional bond they attain with the main character unless it is done with immense skill. For me, I tend to stick to using P.O.V for the heroine and the man she is falling in love with. It helps me to obtain maximum sexual chemistry. And for those of you that have read Rosalee Station, you’ll know that I adore writing about sexual chemistry-leaving the bedroom door wide open for the readers.

 The other points I take into consideration are:

 1. Wants…what do your characters want most in life?  What drives them to do what they do? What are their dreams, hopes and aspirations?

 2. Conflict…what is stopping them in their tracks? What walls do they have to climb or battles do they have to face to achieve their wants, their desires?

 3. Action…what action will they take to get past the conflicts, to achieve the seemingly unachievable?

 4. Resolution…How do all these points above, wants conflicts and actions, round up in the ending. How are they resolved?

5. ESP…get inside your characters’ minds, express in detail their worries, fears and dreams. It makes them three dimensional. 

 So, with all this in mind before you begin your manuscript, pantsing can be outrageously fun, emotionally charging and absolutely thrilling. It doesn’t set you up for unforseen challenges-like if you get a decent way into your manuscript then discover that a character refuses to do what you have plotted them to do-instead it gives them free will to show you what they want to do next, not what may be expected of them because you have plotted it so, right back at the beginning. Pantsing can create the pathway for very exciting threads throughout the book, and very adventurous characters.

 As with everything in this world, what suits some may not suit others. For me, pantsing is the way to go while for others plotting may be their hard and fast rule. My best advice is to go with your gut instinct, do what makes you comfortable so you can be taken away on a mind-blowing adventure while tapping away at the keyboard.

 Thanks, again, for having me. It’s been an absolute pleasure! :) 

Right back at you Mandy, I think you’ve pretty much just described my plotting process too

You can find Mandy online at her website and on Facebook. Her latest book Jacaranda hits stores soon and the blurb is below:

JACARANDA BLURB:

At nineteen, Molly Jones has the world at her feet. Then one drunken night she falls into bed with Mark, a cowboy just passing through. By the time Molly realises she’s pregnant, Mark is long gone.

Now, at twenty-six, Molly’s life is almost perfect. She’s the devoted mother of Rose, and a renowned horse trainer. She lives amid the beauty of Jacaranda Farm, surrounded by family and friends – none closer than hunky stockman Heath. But she’s still looking for the love of her life, and a father for Rose. When Mark stumbles back into her world, as charming as ever, Molly begins to hope for a future she’d long ago relinquished. 

But how will Mark react when he learns he’s a father? And could the man of Molly’s dreams be closer to home than she thinks? 

From the author of Rosalee Station, this lively and passionate love story bursts with the colour and feel of Tropical North Queensland. 

Theory on Thursday with Lynne Marshall

Today I have romance author Lynne Marshall, talking about something that feels particularly close to home at the moment. As I zoom towards the end of my wip, I’m hoping that I’ve given the reader everything they want in a romance and will be using Lynne’s handy check-list. 

Welcome and take it away Lynne…

WHEN ALL SEEMS LOST

 For those who read and love the Romance genre—though contrary to popular belief that they are formulaic, which they’re not—there is an expected sequence of events in each book. This sequence can be compared to similar expectations for readers of the murder mystery genre.  There, by the end of the book, the murder must be solved.  In Romance, the couple must fall in love and commit to each other. How each genre achieves that ending is as creative as the author who pens it.  The story structure for Romance is like other fiction literature, with the addition of a few genre-specific traits.

General Five-Stage story structure for fiction:

  1. The character has a problem
  2. Complications make the problem worse
  3. Conflict, complications, and crises result in a climax
  4. Problems get resolved
  5. The characters learn something about themselves and/or life

In Romance, step #3 is termed the Black Moment – when all seems lost between the hero and heroine.  Done right, the author makes the reader believe there is no way this couple will ever be together again.  All is lost.

 The Problem:

Often in Romance, the writer has not set up strong enough conflict to ensure a dramatic, all or nothing, black moment. Editors sometimes complain about the hero and heroine “skipping through the tulips” instead of emotionally battling each other.  Notice I said emotionally battling, not bickering.  Big difference.

Conflict is the key. The most engaging books take the reader on a rollercoaster ride through emotion and drama, forcing their characters to walk through hell before finding and accepting the gift of happily-ever-after.  Without solid conflict for both of the characters (hero and heroine) this cannot be achieved.

What Makes a Good Black Moment?

One ingredient cannot be overlooked when creating the characters for a romance.  There must be a relationship barrier.  The RB is what keeps the character from moving closer to their love interest.  It isn’t something external that prevents the couple from physically getting together.  No, the RB is internal and should keep this particular character from engaging in a love relationship with ANY other person.  For the purposes of our Romance books, the RB prevents our hunky hero or spunky heroine from crossing over the border of physical lust into true love.

 No Wimpy Characters

We don’t write about wimpy characters in Romance.  We like to read about people willing to overcome their shortcomings in order to attain the love of their life.  When our characters are hit with the black moment – that moment when their worst fears are fully recognized – they do something many people forget to do these days—they GROW.  They may not do that immediately in the book—the author may torture the reader with the possibility of the whole relationship falling through—but we sense that change is coming.  It keeps us turning the pages.

 The Goal of the Black Moment

…is to magnify the relationship barrier along with the character’s major personality flaw when the plot forces the character to face their worst fear…to either change or lose out.

Yes, the characters have an epiphany and realize they must change or give up, or let go of that long-held baggage that has been holding them back in life. The hero is the catalyst that gives the heroine the courage to let go and try for a better future, and vice versa. Each wants to change in order to experience true love.

The HEA – Ah

When everything falls into place in a Romance book, the reader closes the cover with a sigh and a solid sense of “all is right with the world.” The characters we’ve invested in for however many pages, are giving themselves permission to crawl out of the chains of the black moment and FINALLY fall in love.

Question for readers:  What is your favorite part about the Romance genre?

Ooh great question Lynne, looking forward to some great answers.

You can find Lynne online at her website and on Facebook.

Lynne’s latest release is Courting His Favourite Nurse:

Blurb

 Anne Grady knew better than anyone that love was complicated. When she’d left her hometown, she thought she was leaving her past heartbreak behind for good, as well. But practically the moment she returned to care for her injured parents, she stumbled headlong into their confidant—her first love, Jack Lightfoot.

 Jack had been unable to deny his feelings for Annie when he was a teenager dating her best friend, and he certainly couldn’t muffle the spark twisting between them now—even if memories of the past kept threatening to push them apart. This time Jack wasn’t going to let history repeat itself—he was going to show Annie that the two of them were meant to be much more than best friends!

You can purchase Courting His Favourite Nurse from Harlequin, Amazon, Book Depository and other good bookshops!

Theory on Thursday with Emmie Dark

Today I have debut Superromance author Emmie Dark for Theory on Thursday and she’s talking something very relevant to both aspiring and published authors – social media! I’m hanging out to read Emmie’s debut (see blurb below) which sounds like a lot of fun. Over to you Emmie…

Social media secrets for new authors  

Hello Rachael and everyone! Thank you so much for inviting me on your blog. I thought, given that Rachael and I know and interact with each other mostly through social media (Twitter and Facebook primarily) that talking a bit about social media might be a useful topic for this Theory on Thursday post!

As a debut author (my first book, a SuperRomance titled Cassie’s Grand Plan came out in March) I’ve taken a very sudden and deep dive into the publicity machine these past few weeks – which has involved a lot of social media stuff. I’ve (almost) come out the other side and I’m now a bit wiser, a bit more battered around the edges, and could quite easily sleep for a week.

But it all would have been a very different picture if I hadn’t already been reasonably social media savvy and had already put significant time and effort into my online presence before I got “the call”. I think probably I’d need to sleep for a month, instead. J

Here are the top three things I’ve learned that might be helpful to you.

1. Be prepared – long before you get “the call”

I was once given the advice as an unpublished author not to get too enthusiastic about being online because, “you don’t open a shop if you have nothing to sell”. I think there is some wisdom in that advice, especially if you are spending a disproportionate amount of time online. Making your “shop” all fancy and fabulous without any “product” in it is a waste of time.  Writing should always be your first priority!

But having made the transition from unpublished writer to published author, there were quite a few things I was glad I had already put in place. I had a Twitter account, a Facebook account and I’d already bought my domain names (although I didn’t have a website or blog actually up and running).

The main reason that it was good to have all these things in place was that I was already familiar with how to use them, not just in a technical sense, but in terms of the norms and style of interactions. As a new author there is so much to learn and do, this is one additional burden you just don’t need.

So get yourself set up, especially if being online is new to you or outside your comfort zone. You want to get as much practice in as you can because – as you know from writing – practicing is the only way to get good!

Not only that, but your editor will Google you before they offer you a contract. Seriously. Google yourself and see what comes up – is the search page filled with items you’d like your potential editor to see?

2. Be the talk show, not the ad break

Sure, once you’re published, you need to use your online presence to advertise you have a book out – let’s face it, that’s what it’s all about!

But if all you do is bang on about your book and your writing, people are going to stop listening very quickly. It’s no secret that the key to successful social media presence is interaction. You have to listen to others, reply to them, participate in conversations.

I like to think of it as “social media karma” – the more interesting and interactive you are, the more people will follow you and (as a result) help build your profile. You also have to help others on their journey – re-tweet links to blog posts, share happy news of new contracts, etc, etc, because then others will do it for you when it’s your turn.

When you’re online, you don’t have to limit your conversations only to writing and your genre – but do remember that you are online as YOU an author, not just everyday-friends-and-family YOU. If you want to analyze the plots of your favorite TV shows, that’s fine, but if you want to analyze the campaign approach of your favorite politician maybe think twice. Don’t say stuff that could be damaging or offensive.

Think of yourself as the CEO of YOU. You don’t have to play it absolutely safe – being controversial can be a useful tactic, but remember you are (or want to be) in the business of selling books. Don’t offend your customers!

3. Do what works for you

As I’ve said, practice is vital because by the time you’ve got a book on the shelves, you don’t want to be fumbling about, posting accidentally, or getting important announcements wrong. But the other vital thing that emerges from practice is that you find what works for you.

Not everyone wants to dive head-first into every kind of social media and I totally understand that.

Do you need a website and blog? Yes, probably. These are pretty much inescapable these days, and you need to commit to keeping them up-to-date and looking spiffy. If design is beyond you, get some help. It’s worth the investment in

Do you need to be on Twitter and Facebook? Well, that depends. You need to know if they’re going to work for you – if you’re going to have the time and, most importantly, the interest to keep them fresh and up-to-date. The only way to find this out is to have a go.

Personally, I find I’m much more drawn to Facebook than Twitter. I really like Twitter and it can be great fun to jump into conversations with other writers about all sorts of things (and it is seriously the fastest way to find out the news about pretty much anything in the world) but it’s just not quite my cup of tea in the way Facebook is. Perhaps it’s because I’m a visual person and I like the photos and visual aspects of Facebook compared to the interface I use for Twitter (Tweetdeck).

I’ve also recently joined Pinterest, but personally, I can see that as an exceptional way to waste time instead of getting on with things – but then we all need an occasional time-waster!

I wish you the very best of luck with your writing journeys and with finding your niche on whatever online media gets you going. Hope to see you on Twitter and/or Facebook soon!

You can find the delightful Emmie on the web at her website, blog, on Facebook and on Twitter!

Thanks Emmie – that was both fascinating and useful! I’d love to hear from readers and writers about their social media experiences! Do you have a favourite platform? What do you like to see on authors’ Facebook pages, etc…?

Blurb: Cassie’s Grand Plan

Four steps to a brand-new life

Cassie Hartman knows what she needs to do to get her life under control. First, she’ll get herself promoted. Then she’ll update her appearance. Steps three and four—marriage and family—well, those will have to wait.

Then Ronan McGuire shows up. The too-sexy, too-polished business consultant has the power to derail Cassie’s plans before she’s even really started. If he doesn’t approve her promotion, she’ll be back to square one—and that’s not an option. Cassie needs to keep her focus on that first step, no matter how much Ronan tempts her to skip ahead to the third and fourth ones….

You can purchase Cassie’s Grand Plan online at Amazon, Book Depository and Barnes and Noble.

Theory on Thursday with Louisa George

 First Theory on Thursday guest for my new-look blog is debut M&B Medical author Louisa George. I met the lovely Louisa at the cocktail party (I think) at the last RWAus conference and she was as lovely in person as she is in her glamorous author pic :) But even more exciting than author glamour is author wisdom, and Louisa has some very insightful info to share with us today… Thanks for coming Louisa and WELCOME! 

What do You Want from Me?
Ten things I’ve learnt from working with an editor

Hi Rachael! Thanks for inviting me here!

Back in the dark ages when I began writing and amassing rejection letters saying my
category manuscript was not what they wanted I began to ask the question, well what
the heck do they want? No-one could tell me for certain. After a year working with
the best editor in the world and doing a heap of revisions on three manuscripts, I can
tell you what they want. Or at least what I think they want from a category writer.

1. Settings
Wherever you choose to set your story the place should be aspirational- the reader
wants to step inside the heroine’s world. There isn’t a lot of space in a short book to
describe the scenery, so make your words count. My second book, Waking Up with
His Runaway Bride (release July 2012) was originally set in the midst of a raging
bush fire, my heroine’s medical practice was failing, she had no money and was
reeling from her mother’s death. Not a lot there for anyone to want to emulate!

2. Dialogue
Men speak and think differently to women and this should shine through dialogue. I
was asked for flirty and sexy conversation to counterbalance deeper emotional scenes.
We have to see why the heroine is attracted to the hero- and how they fall in love.
Playing and flirting is always a good way of getting the sizzle level higher!

3. Emotional conflict
This is the real doozy and where I kept going wrong. Emotional conflict is NOT
a tragic backstory. Emotional conflict is how the tragic backstory has influenced
a character’s life/thoughts etc. What emotional armour do they use to protect
themselves from hurt? And how is that armour chipped away?

4. Highs as wells as lows
This is a romance, a love affair…there has to be moments of positivity. The reader
doesn’t want to be thrown into a deep depression. If there are fast-paced emotionally
charged scenes, we need slower paced scenes too.

5. Character driven NOT plot driven
My second partial was turned down because the plot was too complicated. There was
a disputed will, an intruder, a fraud, a dead grandmother, the loss of reputation and
cricket match fixing – all in the first four chapters of a medical romance! The plot
needs to be simple but effective, and deeply emotional.

6. A hero we all want to love
Alpha, for sure- but sensitive to a point, capable of love despite the tragedy he’s been
through. A modern day man with flaws- not downright rude or an angry victim. He
can be (emotionally or physically) scarred, yes, but healed…or on the way to being
healed.

7. Obvious signs of fighting attraction
Lots of sizzle and chemistry and lots of internal struggle to not act on the attraction!

8. Obvious signs of an emotional journey
We can’t have the hero/heroine suddenly have their internal conflicts resolved on the
last page- we have to see them changing as the story unfolds.

9. Fresh twists
This always has me in a panic! But, in a nutshell, there are no new plots – just new
characters. Your hero and heroine bring their own fresh viewpoints to old storylines.
If you draw your characters in a unique way rather than relying on stereotypes you
breathe new life into an often repeated trope.

10. Politeness and Professionalism
From you! This is a business and you need to show your willingness to learn and
grow as an author. Sometimes it’s frustrating having to wait for long turnaround
times, or deal with more revisions, but bitching about it in a public forum is not
professional.

Obviously, there’s heaps more to this so if you have any questions about the
publication journey or revisions, or…anything…then please don’t hesitate to ask!

WOW – that was very useful stuff Louisa. Thanks so much for being so honest. And all you wonderful aspiring writers out there, Louisa has generally offered to answer questions, so… ASK AWAY!!

You can find Louise at her website and on Twitter . Louisa’s debut novel is ONE MONTH TO BECOME A MUM. Check out the fabulous blurb (and to-buy links) below.

Some things in life are worth waiting for…

Jessie Price has lost her only chance at motherhood – it’s a constant
hurt, until she meets sinfully sexy single dad Dr Luke McKenzie
and his gorgeous little girl. Luke’s intoxicating kisses and his
daughter’s adoring hugs have Jessie longing for the impossible. But
she’s a temporary locum, the clock’s ticking – and there’s only a
month to make all her wishes come true…

Available on Amazon and at Mills & Boon.