Thursday, June 30, 2011

Tips from Diana Gabaldon

Today I got the opportunity to hear Diana Gabaldon, Tess Gerritsen and Steve Berry on a panel discussion during our Opening Session. Of the many words of wisdom they shared with all of us, most striking were the comments from Diana Gabaldon.

She was talking about her characters: onions, mushrooms and nuts. Before you think I've lost my marbles and begun a cooking blog, let me explain her meaning.

Onions are characters, like her Jamie and Claire, that keep revealing themselves, layer by layer as she goes further into the story. She learned more about them the more she wrote their characters. Like peeling an onion.

Mushrooms are characters that just show up. They are sort of a surprise at first. She said her Lord Jim character just showed up on her page. They seem to grow out of nowhere, but become an important part of the story.

Nuts are her characters that she is stuck with, or has to use because of history, the genre, or the story itself. She talked about historical characters, such as Charles Stuart, as well as characters the story created, like Jamie and Claire's daughter. Those characters she said she had to just "live inside" to understand them and fit them into the overall story.

I'd never thought about my characters this way. What about you? Can you classify your characters into Onions, Mushrooms and Nuts?

Monday, June 27, 2011

40 Years of Romance

I have been fortunate to share most of my adult life with my husband of 40 years this June. (Yes, I was indeed a child bride). I knew almost from the first time I saw him that I would marry him. Just had to wait (and I didn't have to wait long-he proposed to me on our second date) until the idea came to him. I wasn't going to stand in line, and there was a long one. He was the handsomest man I'd ever dated. I believe our first kiss set up a chemical reaction that made all my other memories fade. I didn't have the crowd chasing me like he did.

We left for our honeymoon in 1971. This picture was taken in our $200 VW, which took us all the way from Holland, through France, Italy, the then Yugoslavia, back along the Riviera to Spain, and then back up to Holland and home through England. We found out when we sold the car for $200 to another American tourist, that it was two cars welded together. The morning the picture was taken, we were robbed by gypsies, and my husband's passport was stolen. But were we unhappy? No, we were so much in love, being stranded in Spain without any money wasn't a problem. And we found a way.

In between having our babies, we found a life together that was not always easy, but then, nothing that lasts rarely is. I have to say it was a lot of work.
But the rewards, out of this world.

I'm one of the lucky ones, and I know it. I feel grateful every time I look at these photos and see my kids and now grandchildren.

So what did we do on our 40th? No more camping for me. And that's perhaps a story for another day, how we camped out for 18 months with 4 kids in a tent (one was a newborn), due to circumstances beyond our control. No, I don't do camping.

We went to Asilomar. Quiet evening with a room with a sliver of ocean view, fireplace, no phone or internet. Walks along the beach and the plank pathways. Aquarium. Ah. It was a nice way to start spending the next 40 years.

What a great abundant life. And so much to look forward to.

What about your relationships? Do they get better with age? Or has weathering the troubled spots turned you into a diamond?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Six Cows, No Horse and No Clue: YOU CAN'T ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU WANT

Author Mary Lynn Archibald is one of the treasures of our Redwood Writers community here in Sonoma County. She has been a volunteer at special events and teaches writing classes, especially memoir classes, throughout the county.

Her story is really a romance, although she's shy when I suggest this. Couldn't you see a romance novel, starting with a couple answering an ad in a local newspaper, and finding their soul mates?

Welcome her and her incredible tale. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.

“You can’t always get what you want.”

—Mick Jagger

“Mick was right about one thing. But, as we discovered by doing way too many things the hard way, you can get what you need. Eventually.

What we needed, Carl and I, were like so many other things in our relationship: two vastly different things; yet our twelve-year experiment in country living brought us closer in unexpected, almost magical ways that we were only able to appreciate long after our rural adventure had ended.”

So begins Accidental Cowgirl: Six Cows, No Horse and No Clue, a love story, though not the usual kind. This one found my husband and I in the midst of a cattle-ranching business we knew nothing about, when all we’d really wanted was a peaceful, country retreat.

“We had met, Carl and I, through a newspaper ad in the spring of 1984. He was trim, dark-haired and jauntily mustached. His ad in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat read as follows:

COMPLEX SWM, 47, passes for 39, going on 18, handsome, ex comm’l banker, clergyman, dream analyst, now building own home. Listens to blues, gardens, backpacks, stops for garage sales, writes poetry, reads Countryside (magazine). Immersed in Jungian psych., strong spiritual side but no kook. Well educ. and traveled. Full of exper., innocence, wonderment, entrepreneurial, romantic, down to earth, whimsical, shy, outgoing, playfully comepetitive, great companion, friend, confidante. SF, please have similar qualities and hammer.

To which I replied (I think):

I am a tall, willowy green-eyed blonde who owns a hammer. Interested? Call this number…and so on. (I actually have hazel eyes, but I thought green sounded better. The rest was true, except for the fact that I’d never heard of Countryside magazine. He’s never let me forget it.)”

We also found ourselves hopelessly in love with cows. Ours were Polled Herefords, which as any cowpoke will tell you, have the sweetest personalities of any bovine—hence their names: Big Mama and Baby, Peaches and Paco and Pansy, and so on.

We had over thirty in no time—we couldn’t bear to part with them. Since they were beef cattle, this was not a very lucrative plan.

I wrote this memoir because, once our backwoods escapade was over, I realized that if I didn’t describe it in all of its funny, sad, agonizing and poignant detail, nobody would believe it. We could hardly believe it ourselves.

I kept a journal for our entire twelve-year sojourn, and took many photographs of our other love, the luscious land: ponds, streams, huge rocks, woods, bogs and meadows—even two big waterfalls. As I reread my notes, I realized that our story was something we needed to share with other country dreamers.

It took me five years to get it done, and from the feedback I’ve received since the book was published, I know there are lots of others out there who long to get back to the land.

Just be warned: the “simple life” isn’t quite as simple as it seems!


Mary Lynn Archibald a freelance editor and copywriter and author of two books: Briarhopper: A History, a memoir of one woman’s life from 1913-1945, and Accidental Cowgirl: Six Cows, No Horse and No Clue, a lighthearted memoir of a greenhorn’s life on a small cattle ranch.

Her next book, (working title, Showoff: From Soquel to the Summer of Love), is a memoir that expands from her early life on a chicken ranch in Soquel, California, to San Francisco in the ‘50s and ‘60s, and her varied careers as switchboard operator, model, sales clerk, chorus girl and Miss San Francisco wannabe. It is due out in the summer of 2012.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Ever Dream About Moving to the Country?

Join me tomorrow for author interview with Mary Lynn Archibald. She talks about Six Cows, No Horse, No clue. How she found her true love by accident. She'll tell us about her book: Accidental Cowgirl. Hope you return tomorrow for this great writer.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Welcome Tara Lain

Welcome to Tara Lain, who is guesting at my blog today, and promoting her book: The Scientist and the Super Model. Tara and I met online at a Savvy Authors workshop and have been crit partners. She writes beautiful male on male romance. I mean, these guys, I could fall in love with. The excerpt from her book is PG-13, but gives you a flavor for her writing and the powerful emotions she unearths. Welcome, Tara!

The Mystery of Writing Male/Male

My sincere thanks to Sharon for hosting me today in celebration of my new release, The Scientist and the Supermodel. As you may know, this book is primarily a M/M story. It’s the prequel to my M/M/F ménage called Genetic Attraction and tells how the two men who are the heroes of that book met and fell in love. Sharon, along with a lot of other people, ask me why I decided to write male/male romance rather than male/ female. I’ve given a lot of quick, glib answers (I love men. Two is better), but I’ve also given it some serious thought. First let me say, I love male/female romance too. I read it and I write it in the form of M/M/F ménage, but I haven’t written a traditional M/F story yet. May happen. But there is something about male/male …

A woman who commented on my blog awhile back talked about gender roles. She said she didn’t like the traditional gender roles that seemed to dominate so much male/female romance, and so she liked to read male/male instead. Personally, I think many of my favorite writers create some kick-ass heroines, whether literally or figuratively, and they transcend gender roles pretty thoroughly. But there is no doubt that when the love affair is between two or more men, the gender roles are much more fluid. They can be dominant or submissive, take care of each other in whatever way they choose rather than what society outlines. I enjoy mixing up my characters’ personality traits making my seemingly alpha males into sexual submissives or my obviously effeminate men into decisive, stand-your-ground heroes. It’s all possible with more than one man to play with.

I also enjoy exploring the emotional identity of men. I’m not a man (I’m a happily married woman) and don’t know exactly what they feel, but I do know that no two men are exactly alike any more than two women are. I like to show a range of emotions – men who are comfortable with their feelings versus those who hide from them, men who are extremely verbal as well as the strong silent types. While it’s possible that two men together just doubles the testosterone as some suggest, isn’t it also possible that not having the traditional male protector role in a relationship can allow men to be more vulnerable and open?

While the world is fortunate to have some brilliant gay men who write terrific LGBT fiction, I think the role of men together is enhanced by having a woman’s view of what’s possible. Since we don’t have to be limited by “what has always been true for us” in these relationships, we can visualize them broader, more diverse, more full of imagination and possibility than has yet been conceived. After all, romance is fantasy but fantasy has always shown us what could be true. So that’s a little of why I love writing M/M fiction -- and I learn more every day. If you’ve never read a M/M book, I suggest giving it a try. It just might turn out to be a passion for you as it is for me.

AND NOW I HAVE TO TELL YOU ABOUT THE CONTEST I’m Running for My New Releases!!! 8 BOOKS THIS MONTH! 4 Books Next Month.

Here’s the first simple step:

Comment on this blog and leave your email address. I will copy it and enter it in the drawing for the 2 books being given away during this week. One copy of The Scientist and the Supermodel and one copy of Genetic Attraction. You’ll be notified by email if you win. Comment and email, simple.

Here’s MORE CHANCES TO WIN! (more complicated so read closely LOL)

· Go to my Book blog Leave a comment and follow the blog (if you already do follow, it counts). You will be entered in EVERY drawing until the end of the month. Two books will be given away every week and you’ll be entered in all those drawings.

· Go to every blog on my blog tour and leave a comment on the day of the post (or at least in the same week) and you will be entered again during the week in which the post is made.

· The entire blog tour is listed on my website and updates will be posted regularly so check it out. There will also be Yahoo Group chats and TRS parties where I will be giving away other books so watch for those!

Whew!! Remember, you can take each one of these steps and have a bunch of chances to WIN! (You just have to enter, the logistics are my nightmare! LOL) Got it? Comment and leave your email. And thanks so much for coming to say hi. : )

Jake has a mad hidden passion for his older boss, Emmaline Silvay, so why is he getting all hot and bothered when he sees this gorgeous man in a bar? Though Jake thinks of himself as straight, he's been having a lot of trouble getting excited about any of the girls he's dated. He doesn't have any such trouble with the supermodel, which throws his whole world into confusion. Roan Black knows better than to fall for some straight guy, especially a PhD scientist who couldn't possibly be interested in a high school dropout, could he? Well, maybe they can just have sex ....

Excerpt PG-13 - The Scientist and the Supermodel M/M erotic romance by Tara Lain:

The bar suited his mood. Dark, a little musty, it looked like the renovations throughout the old Los Angeles hotel hadn’t made it this far yet. Candles glowed on the few tables at the back and on the massive horseshoe-shaped bar that dominated the room. He climbed onto a barstool away from the door. From their badges, it looked like a few conference attendees had found the place, but he didn’t recognize anyone. Perfect.

“What can I get you?”

The buxom, California-blonde bartender smiled and looked like she might be offering more than a drink. No fucking thank you.

“A dirty martini, two olives.” He barely knew what that was, but he’d heard a friend order one and liked the sound of it. Just the way he felt.

Lack of performance. At twenty-five. Not exactly every young man’s complaint. In college, he’d been a serious cocksman, banging half the girls he met. He wasn’t exactly proud of that, but it was the truth. The last couple years, though, except for his dreams of Em, he just didn’t have the enthusiasm. Since his PhD. Since Tom.

The bartender placed the drink carefully in front of him, displaying a rack to make a centerfold weep. He grabbed the martini and took a swallow --


The bartender grinned as his eyes teared. She inconspicuously placed a glass of water in front of him and walked away. He’d definitely failed the finals in macho tonight. Another mouthful, and he let it slip down his throat this time. Was this supposed to be good? Bitter, burning. He’d think of it as penance.

Thinking. There was the rub. Tonight wasn’t the first -- or even fifth -- time he’d been half-cocked with a girl. Maybe it was the studying, writing his dissertation. He knew doctors said that stress could affect a guy’s…ability, interest. He’d gone for months without a girl while finishing the doctorate. No problem. But, of course, there’d been Tom. Tom had cared for him. He could admit it now, even though he’d tried to ignore it then. And Jake -- shit. He’d been a shit.

The next big swallow of the martini went down real smooth.

“Want another one?”

He startled at her voice. “Sure.” ’Cause he felt very, very dirty.

A nice buzz set in. Not much of a drinker. He adjusted his wire rims. Man, he’d never feel the same way about them after tonight. Clark Kent, huh? He liked that.

He looked across the bar through a comfortable little haze. There were a couple of conference nerds, possibly an LA hooker trying to persuade them to view her etchings, some other random business types, and --

Who did that guy think he was, Brad Pitt? A baseball cap and sunglasses in this black hole. How could he see his drink? Jesus, was he drinking champagne? Alone?

The bartender was Johnny-on-the-spot with the next martini, and Jake took another mouthful. Oh yeah, just like silk. He hoped there was a lot of nutrition in an olive, because this sure as fuck was dinner.

He looked up again at the guy across the bar. At least he thought it was a guy. He could see longish hair sticking out from under the cap. And the mouth… From what he could see, those lips would make Angelina Jolie jealous. Maybe a girl?

As he took another swallow, he saw the guy/girl’s hand reach out for its flute of bubbly and miss. Only a quick grab saved the glass from tumbling over. Jake could almost feel how pissed the person was. The cap was ripped off by an impatient hand, letting a mane of shining, black, chin-length hair fall free. The creature looked around like it was searching for predators, then pulled off the huge black sunglasses.

Holy fucking Christ.

Gorgeous. He knew this was LA, the land of the genetic celebrities, but this was ridiculous.

Okay, Jake, you’re staring. He looked down into his martini and took another slug. But he had to look again.

Peeking up over the edge of his glasses, he watched the guy -- it was a guy, he was pretty sure now -- take a deep breath, like he was really relieved not to be flailing around in the dark. Cheekbones. That was what you saw first on that face. Architectural masterpieces with perfect hollows beneath. Shit, the guy was looking! Jake looked away fast but was pretty sure the guy had seen him staring. Now that was embarrassing, but he couldn’t quite believe what he’d just seen.

He took off his glasses, wiped them on a napkin to kill time, and then put them back on. He sneaked a peek back to find the guy looking down at his champagne, so Jake just stared. The guy was the most beautiful man -- person…creature -- he could ever remember seeing. Yeah, it was definitely a guy, even though the face was like some kind of idealized being, half female, half male. Large eyes rimmed with heavy lashes and the Angelina lips were offset by a clean, very male jaw and strong, arched brows. His hair looked black, although the candles on the bar picked up a little touch of red, and it was cut in a lazy European style that swept hair onto his forehead and shagged it around his face. As Jake watched, the man pushed his fingers into that hair, pulling it back off his luminous face for a moment, and then released it to fall again in idle perfection. The guy was young, probably younger than Jake.

There was just one problem. If this was a guy, why did Jake suddenly have less room in his suit pants?

Reach Tara Lain at:



Author blog:

Book blog:


Savvy Authors:



Friday, June 17, 2011

The Book Bible: The Setting


Welcome back! So far we’ve discussed setting up your Book Bible in a notebook, the Character section, the Notes section, the Plot section, and any other sections you might like to add yourself. Let’s jump right back in to discuss the Setting section in the Book Bible notebook.


Now this area, at least for me, requires a lot of attention. While I’m a character driven writer, the setting section of my Book Bible has tons of information in it. There are two different worksheets I use in this section. One for general information about each country/kingdom you create or mention in your books and one for more detailed information about each city and location. The first worksheet I fill out before I begin writing while the second I fill out before and during the writing phase.

Again, the original idea for using setting sketches like this at all came from Karen S. Wieser and her book, First Draft in Thirty Days. And like before, I have edited and tweaked them to work the way I wanted them to.

The Country Sketch


  • Race:
  • Language:
  • Technology: (What type of technology exists in the country? Be as detailed or as general as you like here. “Modern times”, “Medieval Times”, or “Electricity and indoor plumbing but still use horse and cart”)


  • Located: (Mention where it is in relation to other countries and landmarks – borders, oceans, rivers, etc.)
  • Cities: (List all cities and towns. This list will be used for the second type of setting sketch.)
  • Other Locations: (This is for a random location say in the woods that doesn’t necessarily belong to a town. You can also mention important lakes and rivers here that show up in your story.)


  • Currency: (What type of currency do they use and how much is it worth? Coins, paper money?)
  • Class: (Classes of people. Commoners and nobles? Middle and upper classes?)


  • Type: (Army, Navy, etc or one you made up!)
  • Ranks:
  • Awards:
  • Weapons:

(Repeat this section for each type of military you have in that kingdom/country.)


  • Commoners:
  • Nobles:

(Repeat this section for each type of class your country has.)


  • Gods:
  • Goddesses:
  • Beliefs/Superstitions:
  • Myths/Legends:


  • Birth:
  • Death:
  • Graduation:
  • Marriage:
  • Military Promotion:
  • Names:


(What people where. Repeat for each class or special government/military rank the country has Be specific for women, men, and children..)

  • Commoners:
  • Nobility:
  • Military:

The Location Sketch

Now this sketch, holds the more detail about the country’s cities and locations your characters will visit. Like a tavern or some other building.


City or Town:

Description: (Describe the town itself in general terms. Large city or small? What other land marks is it near? What happens during the day (open market in the square?) and a night (clubs, bars, etc)?)


(Name and describe each location in full detail – look, smell, sounds, etc. Even if you don’t use all the details in your book, having them all listed here will greatly help you when you go to write and/or edit the book. Locations include Taverns, inns, shops, government buildings, houses, etc. Any place your character go to, should be listed here.)

I know the example for this sketch is small, but you just repeat the areas for each city or town you need to. With my books, my characters travel around a lot and so I have five or six towns listed with 2 to 3 locations each. Your book might only have one town but 9 or 10 locations. It all depends on your book!


Yes, maps. I love to make them and they’re relatively easy to make. I use a program called AutoREALM ( to make them along with Paint.NET for tweaking. Both are free programs to download.

Here is an example for you, the map I made for The Kinir Elite Chronicles Series.

And there it is! Your Book/Series Bible. Remember that you can edit any of the sections and the sketches to fit your needs. Each writer, genre, and book has their own needs. Even though all my books are fantasy, none of the sketches look a like.

Again, if you have questions about something I didn’t explain well enough, please don’t hesitate to ask in a comment here. I was trying to keep these posts from getting too long.

Thank you again Sharon for having me here. You are welcome to visit me some more at my website and my blog

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Book Bible: The Character Tab

Today is Part II of a three part series on Book Bibles. You'll want to bookmark this series to refer to later on. Sometimes I get information that I know I'll use later. Enjoy! (Sharon H.)


Welcome back! Yesterday we talked about setting up your Book Bible in a notebook with dividers for certain sections. And we discussed what goes into the Notes, Plot, and any other tabs you put into your Book Bible. Today, we are talking about the Character tab.


Here is where I keep all the character sketches, notes, etc for every major character in my book. The hero, heroine, the villain, and any side characters that are important. Like in my series, The Kinir Elite Chronicles, the Kinir Elite are a team of six warrior elves. While Derac is really the main character of the story, I have sketches made up for the entire team as they are very important to the plot. It is up to you and how you write on how many of these you actually make. I know many authors who only make sketches for the hero, heroine, and villain.

I also keep any other notes about the character in this section. I like to “talk” to my characters as if they were real people (and yes, they talk back!) So I have snippets of conversations saved or interview questions and things like that here as well that have added personality traits for my characters.

Now, for the side characters that appear but are not all that important like shop keepers, people they might run into once or twice only, and other characters like that, I use a notebook paper and write down their name, if they have one, and any little notes I put into the story as I write. For example, I’ll have “Maleena: Derac’s first wife; died in a fire; long blonde hair;” But that’s it. I don’t need a full sketch on her because she’s dead and only exists in Derac’s memory. She’s important enough that I need to remember that she has blonde hair, but doesn’t warrant a full sketch of her own.

The Character Sketch

Here is a black character sketch, with explanations for you to use. I originally started using sketch sheets like this one after reading “First Draft in Thirty Days” by Karen S. Wiesnder. I’ve edited the one I actually use to fit my needs – as should any writer.

CHARACTER: (Full Name)

  • Character Role: (Hero/Villian/Etc)
  • Nickname:
  • Birth Date/Place:


  • Age:
  • Race:
  • Eye Color:
  • Hair Color/Style:
  • Build (height/weight):
  • Skin Tone:
  • Tattoos/Scars/Markings:
  • Skin Tone:
  • Style of Dress:
  • Weapons:
  • Magical Powers:
  • Characteristics/Mannerisms: (This where you can add those little twitches and quirks about your character – like they pop their knuckles when nervous for an example.)


(List/Describe your characters personality. I do this in a bulleted list but you can write it out as a paragraph if you like. Mention things like – Quick temper, Battle hardened warrior, Devoted to family, etc.)


(List/Describe your characters background, their upbringing. Again, I do this in a bulleted list but you can write it out as a paragraph if you like. Mention things like – where they were raise, what type of family do they have (parents/siblings), anything that’s important that happened to them in the past basically.)


(List/Describe your characters job and what type of education they have. Put as much detail as you like here about it. Did they go to college? What special skills do they have? What does their job actually entail?)


(List/Describe the internal conflicts your character deals with during the book. Now I have this section a few times on a character’s sheet – once for each book. This is where you can talk about your character struggling with say, the loss of a spouse/child or some fear they have that may prevent them from reach their goal in the story.)


(List/Describe the external conflicts your character faces in the book. This is things like the villain, or even the weather. Stuff that is outside the character and his/her control. Again, I repeat this for each book in a series.)


(Use this section for anything else you want to add.)

Type it up, print it out, and put it in your notebook. Repeat for each character!

If you have pictures or drawings of your characters, don’t forget to add those here! I was able to hire an artist to draw sketches of my characters for me. You can see them at the website for the Kinir Elite,

Now, as you write the book(s) you will no doubt have things to add to this sketch. I simply write them down by hand on the paper or on a sticky note. Yes, I have quite a few hand written notes all over the place. I update when the page gets too hard for me to read without getting lost and print out a new copy. I do like having the notebook, but I don’t want to print a new page for one line of new information. So, I wait until I run out of space or it’s too jumbled for me to find what I want before I update it.

And we are done for the day. Come back again tomorrow and I’ll explain the rest of the Settings in the Book Bible.

If you have any questions about something I didn’t explain well enough, please leave a comment here. I’ll be sure to visit all day to answer your questions.

Anastasia V. Pergakis lives with her husband and two year old son in Columbus, Georgia. She is a high fantasy writer, enchanting adults to remember their imagination is not gone just because they grew up. Her series, The Kinir Elite Chronicles, follows the Kinir Elite, a team of warrior elves protecting Kinir and her people. Cleanse Fire, the first book, is being submitted at the moment.

Anastasia is also the owner of Anastasia Creatives, a web design company helping the "starving artists" and small business owner have a solid web presence through quality websites. You can learn more about this at

And if all that wasn't enough, Anastasia recently started a new venture called Beyond Worlds. It is a place to highlight fantasy and sci-fi authors and their works. It is a division of, originally started by Charlene A. Wilson (, author of Cornerstone Deep. You can visit Beyond Worlds at

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Book Bible

Welcome to talented author Ana Pergakis. I asked her to do a series of posts on The Book Bible. No one has ever successfully explained to me how to set one up, and how to use it when writing a stand alone book or series. Because I looked hard and wide for someone who actually used one, when I learned about Ana's plan, I was thrilled she agreed to share it with all of us. Please join us for
the next three days as she shows us how to do it.


Thank you so much Sharon for letting me be here! I’m truly honored. I want to start this post with a little disclaimer if you will. When it comes to Book Bibles, there is no right or wrong way to organize them. I will tell you how I set up mine and you can change it to what works for you.

Now let’s get into the thick of things shall we? For the purpose of this post, I’ll use my Book Bible that I made for my fantasy adventure series, The Kinir Elite Chronicles.

What you need:

A three ring binder (one for each book or series)

Tab dividers (make sure you have plenty!)

Printer (including paper and ink of course)

A three hole punch (or a single one will work too)

Your imagination

Labels (big and small) (optional)

Setting it up:

Now for a series, I keep all the information for the entire series in one notebook. Since characters and settings often repeat themselves, I find it’s easier to keep up with all the details this way. However, the set it up is the same for a single book as well, just less tabs. For the rest of this explanation, I’ll talk about setting it up for a series, just change what you need to for a single book.

First thing I do is take a big label (ya know the ones about the same size as those name tags you stick on your shirt) and write the title of the series on it then stick it on the front of the binder. Then I use the smaller labels – narrow ones, and write the name again with the letters on top of each other for the spine. (This way you can still see the title when it’s on the shelf.) Now you don’t have to use labels. You can use paper and simply tape or glue them on. Whatever works for you.

With the tab dividers label them as so: Characters, Setting, and Notes. You can add more if you like of course. For example, I have a tab for Languages because my characters have their own language that I need to remember through out the entire series. If your book centers around politics or religion in some way, you can have a tab for that also.

I’ll talk about each of these tabs in more detail later on. Now, the rest of the tabs are for the Plot. Since I don’t always know the titles of the books in my series, I just label the tabs “Book 1 Plot,” “Book 2 Plot,” etc.

Now that your binder is ready to be filled with fabulous information, it’s time to get your imagination in gear!

I’m going skip the Character and Setting tabs for today, as both are very detailed and make for long posts.

Notes (and other tabs)

For a brief explanation, of my Languages tab that I use for my books. Since my characters are usually elves, dragons, faeries, etc, I always give them their own languages. Now, there are those that make up an entire language like J.R.R. Tolkien did with his elves in “Lord of the Rings.” I would keep such a thing in this section too. But, I don’t go that far. Usually I just have a few words for the languages – Mother, Father, Yes, No, Greetings, Currency, etc.

I set up a spreadsheet in Excel for this. I have it divided like this: Word/Phrase | Pronunciation | Direct Translation | Meaning.

The first two columns are pretty self explanatory. The made up word and how you pronounce it. The last two I’ll explain with an example.

In my series the Kinir Elite Chronicles, the team has a saying (my elves here speak Latin by the way) Vivo Liber. Morior Bonum. The direct translation of the phrase is “Live Slow. Die Fast.” (At least as I want it to mean, I’m sure my Latin isn’t perfect!). But under the Meaning column, I explain further that really the meaning behind the words is to wish someone a long, joyous life and to not suffer in death. Of course, not all words or phrases will need the extra explanation.

My Notes tab I use to keep random bits of information. One of the characters in my Kinir Elite series is a very religious person and is often praying to one God or Goddess. So I have the few deities that I made up so I remember them later. I also include any symbols I made to represent them.

Basically, the Notes tabs hold any information that you have to remember, but doesn’t need a full section in the notebook on its own. Like a few deities or government ranks, etc. My rule of thumb is if I have more than a page of notes, then it warrants having its own section in the notebook.

The Plot Tabs

This section I hold copies of my query letter, synopsis, blurb, etc.

I also make my own cover art to use on my website and blog, so I also print a copy of that here. I would keep a printed copy of the official cover art in this section also.

When the book is completely finished – as in about to be released and I literally have all the edits done, I print a copy of the manuscript and put it in this section also. This is so that when I go to write the next book, I can refer to the notebook, instead of juggling two open word docs on my computer.

Now, to keep these posts from being too long, I’ll stop here. Please tune in tomorrow! I’ll explain the Character tab in detail tomorrow.

If you have any questions about something I didn’t explain well enough, please leave a comment here. I’ll be sure to visit all day to answer your questions.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

From Where I Sit

There's lots of future in my future. And I'm so grateful I get to write, that I live on a beautiful piece of property, and get to garden, tend my chickens, be close to family and the community of writers.

Today, I'm filled with gratitude for all I have. Nothing is certain. Things change. We live in challenging times filled with pitfalls and dark caverns. Some people are dangerous. What I have to remember is to forgive them. The quote I love is "Forgive them. Change me."

On the Naked Hero blog yesterday, Misa was talking about being true to herself. I liked what she said. And it got me thinking. The only thing I can change is my thoughts. My thoughts change my attitude. Change my attitude, it will change my behavior. Change my behavior and it changes the results. But it starts with my thoughts.

So today, I see years and years of prosperity, and a future "so bright I need shades," to quote Steely Dan. And opportunity. And time to do it all.

This is Day 36 without flour or sugar. Yes, I've missed not tasting some items. But I'd rather feel like I do today. Grateful. Grateful for everyone around me.

I want to thank my writer friend Julia Barrett, who I feel will be a friend for the rest of my life, and my sounding/grounding board, for Tina Folsom and Bella Andrade, for believing in me, for helping me stumble through all the ups and downs of self publishing. For Virna DePaul for first inviting me to a RWA Chapter meeting and making me feel welcomed, and offering to review one of my early WIPs (ugh!). For Lee Lopez and Jill James, for Karin Tabke (Black Diamonds all), Brenda Novak. Sophie Littlefield at all the crew at SF RWA who again made me feel like a sister. Veronica Wolff for critiquing, and being the first person to say, "This is hot. You can take that to the bank!" For Catherine Bramcamp who watched as I began my writing process, and, when I asked her, "Is it normal to write 92,000 words in 30 days?" she nicely answered, "If you can do that, you can do anything." Darynda Jones who was gracious to share her great story with me. My Tuesday "Jack London" crit group, all the teachers and coaches I've had: Marlene, Ana, Margie Lawson, Deb Dixon, Donald Maas. I'm grateful for my new friends at WG2E (Misa, DD, Tonya) and Ravencraft Romance Realm, Hannah and Marina, Esther and Janet and all the crazy ladies at SV RWA, my old friends at Wicked Writers, and for my agent, Jill Marsal.

When I say I am a writer, it is only because these and many more others have helped me in the past. I write this because, without them, I might have given up on the dream of becoming a best-selling author. And because of them and their stories, I won't quit until I get there.

Angel is out now in all eformats. I'm proud of that book. And I'm revising Book 2 in the series, Josh's story, the dark angel who switches sides. It was hard not to fall in love with Josh while writing his character, so I knew his book would come next. All the major characters have their own stories. I'm intrigued with the angelic realm and the space between Heaven and Earth, where all the drama is. Heaven isn't 100% perfect by design, the Underworld isn't 100% evil by accident.

Tomorrow, and for the next three days, we're going to hear some great ideas on creating a Story Bible, from talented author Ana Pergakis. You won't want to miss it.

So, who do you thank? Has there been a special mentor or friend in the business who helped you? Is there someone you are grateful for? What do you do to keep gratitude a part of your daily life? One lucky commenter will get a free download of Angel and my thanks for showing up.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Angel is Out Today!

So happy Angel is out today. Available on all eformats. I know it's up on Amazon. We're waiting for B&N and Smashwords.

Claire, an unconventional Guardian angel sent to save a sexy Brazilian-born painter from killing himself, discovers Daniel has been preyed upon by a powerful dark angel posing as his best friend and agent. Although successful in saving Daniel’s life, Claire is in danger of losing her own when attraction to her handsome charge blooms into a forbidden love.

The dark angel offers her what she’s only dared to dream about—an eternity with Daniel. Will she sacrifice her soul, or sacrifice a lifetime with a man she knows she was created to love?

Here's an excerpt:

Daniel hesitated a second, then lumbered to the stairway, mumbling something not in English. Claire willed herself up to the top landing, near the entrance to what she assumed was Daniel’s master bedroom suite. As he passed through her, she smelled the wine, the sweat, and trace elements of his aftershave.

Telling herself she was concerned he wouldn’t try to injure himself further, she followed him into the bathroom, leaned herself against the door for support, and watched as he slipped the tight black slacks with paint smudges down over his briefs. In one smooth move, he bent over and slipped off the gray briefs, exposing the tanned and muscled cheeks of his ass. She blushed at this intimate view of him from behind. The smooth, tanned flesh made her quiver.

He was healthier than the charges she usually got. Lean and well toned, this one didn’t resemble the usual cadre of suicidals who had done years of damage to themselves, usually through drug and alcohol use. Simply put, Daniel was perfect in every way, from his broad smooth shoulders to the smallness of his rear and tightness of his thighs that were dusted with just a little dark hair. She watched the muscles move under his skin as he pulled aside the shower curtain and stepped in. When the water began to run she waited, giving him privacy.

Truth was, she usually liked to shower with her charges, but it was not the recommended way. She would give him a little more distance tonight; let him show her his dreams and the true source of his torment. Her instincts told her to be cautious. Something in her internal radar was bleeping off the charts.

She inched her way closer so she could smell the shower gel he used. She leaned against the wall, letting the lemony steam cover her invisible but sensitive angel flesh. She closed her eyes and listened to him reprimanding himself in Portuguese. It wasn’t important to have a word-for-word translation; she understood perfectly what he was saying. The way the sounds rolled off his tongue and the deep resonance of his voice was soothing. She knew in that instant that she could save him. He didn’t want to die. He wanted to live. He was fighting with himself, and right now that was a good thing.

She was still daydreaming when the water stopped and he reached for the towel located on the wall Claire was leaning against. His hands went through her shoulders to grip the blue terrycloth hanging there. She didn’t move as he pulled the fluffy cotton to him, buryied his face in it, and then reached behind him to towel-dry his hair with one muscled arm as he arched backwards and gave her a first class view of his chiseled abs, and more.

The place where he had touched her was warm. The full length of this slick, wet Adonis who smelled of fresh lemons was no more than four or five inches from the edges of her gown, but her body underneath began to glow and she was suddenly shy, and blushed. This had never happened to her before. When his hands again went through her body to replace the towel, and he exhaled a release, filling her nostrils with his mortal breath, she knew she had to get out of the room.

Willing herself into his bedroom, she rubbed her upper arms until the sensation of his palms was gone, and took a deep breath. Daniel dressed while she stepped out onto the upper landing and occupied herself watching Joshua tinker around in the kitchen below.

In a crisp white shirt that smelled freshly laundered, and a pair of blue jeans with sandals, Daniel brushed by her angel gown, not knowing he barely grazed her back. She followed the trail of his scent as he danced down the stairs, fingers of his long dark hair trailing behind him.

Close one. Other Guardians had told her if some kind of attraction occurred between the angel and the charge, her invisibility could be compromised. And if she appeared to him in the flesh at any time, it might mean a quick trip home to Heaven. She would have to be extra careful to make sure that didn’t happen.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Behind The Grog

A big thanks to Sharon for hosing us all here this week, for being a fan of The Naked Hero and WG2E, and for offering up our insight to you all. What a fun, fun idea!

Making a grog work means that everyone knows the expectations, everyone is on board with those expectations, and everyone has jobs they understand and can commit to. I’m definitely the Behind-the-Scenes girl of our blogs, running the dashboard, organizing our content, structuring the blog pages, etc.

Was I always a techy girl?

Nope! I learned out of necessity. We launched our blog way back when and I wanted it to look a certain way. I wanted to have links in the sidebar widgets. I wanted content organized just so. But none of the original founders had the money to spend on any more than the custom Wordpress design we’d agreed on (customizing a Wordpress design is very easy and one of the most affordable ways to get a blog/grog rolling).

Now, I should interject here and say that my parents call me a pioneer woman. That is, I am rarely idle, and I do what needs to be done, particularly when there’ s no one else to do it.

So, a little HTML didn’t scare me. I dove in, began reading about SEO and code and Wordpress, and I experimented. I learned. And while I’m no pro and would never quit my day jobs, I do enjoy having the ability to manipulate the look of our websites, add the content that the other gals want added, and I’ve grown with the industry and the world by learning to be techy.

I love participating on both The Naked Hero and WG2E (I also write for the grog, Killer Characters). They all give me something different--outlets for creativity, thoughts, and a means to hone my craft and dig deeper into the industry. Working with others means the pressure to produce a daily blog isn’t there. I write on my day and trust that the others will meet their commitments and write on their days. This is super important for me because I:

Am the Marketing Director for Entangled Publishing ( http://entangledpublishing )

Am a mother of 5

Am a wife

Like to read

Want a life

Am a writer ( )

Blogging is fun. It’s important for different facets of my career. It’s an outlet. But it’s also work, so doing it with other people who I enjoy spending [virtual] time with makes it all the better. We’re our own little family-- lots of love, some squabbles (like DD said, we don’t always agree on everything!), and the knowledge that we always have each other’s backs.

About Misa/Melissa

Melissa Bourbon, who sometimes answers to her Latina-by-marriage name Misa Ramirez, gave up teaching middle and high school kids in Northern California to write full-time amidst horses and Longhorns in North Texas. She fantasizes about spending summers writing in quaint, cozy locales, has a love/hate relationship with yoga and chocolate, is devoted to her family, and can’t believe she’s lucky enough to be living the life of her dreams.

She is the marketing director at Entangled Publishing, is the author of the Lola Cruz Mystery series with St. Martin’s Minotaur, A Magical Dressmaking Mystery series with NAL (Pleating for Mercy: ), and is the co-author of The Tricked-out Toolbox and two romantic suspense novels to be released in 2012.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

BLOGGING: How We Work/How We Get Along

WAVING from Kentucky! Yes!~ we do have internet service here!

Most people know me as Tonya Kappes, mother of four, but readers know me as The high-class hillbilly that writes romantic comedy and cozy mysteries.

My short stories, Masked Souls, and Another Quirky Christmas are published through a small press. Recently I Indie published my debut novel, Carpe Bead ‘em and excited to say it hit Amazon’s bestsellers list in the United States and the United Kingdom! Needless to say, I’m over the moon.

Enough about me….

When Sharon asked our grog to take a week and blog, we were delighted. I decided to tackle how we work, cooperate and just plain get along.

Now I’m not gonna lie, sometimes we want to spit in each other’s eye, but we don’t. We chew harder on that piece of straw and bit our tongue because none of us have the same opinions. You see, we all have different writing career paths and no matter which path we are on, it’s not the wrong path.

That’s what makes The Writer’s Guide To E Publishing work. We bring all different sort of opinions and ideas.

When D.D. and I came up with the idea, we wanted a place where writers had all the new electronic publishing tips in one place. D.D. is Indie published, Lee is polishing her manuscript, Misa is big six published and indie published, I am small published and Indie published, so we bring a lot of industry knowledge to the site.

First we got a yahoo loop. We each took a day, and since D.D. had so much information already, she took on a lot of the other three days. But Lee is doing a lot more of that now. Anything that needs to be discussed, goes through the yahoo loop.

We all agreed, that we would be honest in our journey. Honest about what we like about publishing and what we don’t like about publishing. Lee gives the facts, I try to make it fun, and Misa and D.D. just tell it like it is. And sometimes we don’t agree. But that’s okay! It’s what makes the grog work.

WG2E was designed to give the writer every option they have to make the most of their careers. We wanted to pay it forward and give back to writers. WE believe in KARMA, good ju-ju, and this was our way of doing it.

For example, my experience may be different than Lee’s, but at least the writer gets to look at all our experience and not go into something with a blind eye like we did. We aren’t saying it’s a bad blind eye, but we are honest and let you know what to expect on all fronts.

So come on by WG2E, no matter what stage of the publishing game you are in. I promise you will learn something new!!

Tonya Kappes is the author of Carpe Bead ‘Em , that hit Amazon’s Hobby Fiction Best Seller’s list only six

days after the debut. The Ladybug Jinx, a romantic comedy novel will be available in August 2011.

Tonya is the author of two short stories which can be found in the Something Spooky This Way Comes

and Believe Anthologies. Her, co-authored, non-fiction book The Tricked-Out Toolbox, helps writers

explore the best promotional and marketing strategies for their career, will debut January 2012.

Besides being the co-founder of the beyond quirky writer’s grog The Naked Hero

(, she also is co-founder of The Writer’s Guide to E Publishing


When she’s not writing about quirky characters and even quirkier situations, she’s busy being the

princess, queen and jester of her domain which includes her BFF husband, her four teenage boys and

two dogs.

Why write a book with beading elements? Once upon a time, Tonya was the proud co-owner of a very

successful beading company, Beadnicks LLC.