Q. How do you create chemistry between your characters that keeps readers turning the pages?I mean, I know chemistry when I see it on the TV or movie screen but when do you know you’ve captured it on the page? A. That’s a very good question, and one that many romance writers struggle with each novel they write.It’s important to remember that chemistry has key components: sexual attraction, intellectual common ground, emotional connection and emotional conflict.It’s not excessive mental lusting and sex scene for the sake of just having a sex scene.I always look for ways in which the characters shake each other’s world to the foundation.I like it when they challenge each other… among other things.
Q. Your brief summary of North Star alludes to a villain or villains so is the story a mystery? A.No it’s a romance with some suspense elements.I mean it’s not John Gresham and the story focuses more on the relationship of Caresse and Graham.
Q. In your blog this week you spoke about critiquing other writers of RWA, doesn’t it make more sense to have only published authors critique unpublished writers? A. No way!Everyone’s feedback is vital because all types of people read romance novels.If you are an active romance reader, and most published and unpublished romance novelists are, then you know when a passage is confusing, or if the pacing is inconsistent or even if the characters are likable.A writer should never limit the critique to just published writers because good feedback can come from the most unexpected places.
Q. What will be the next novel after South Beach is finished? A. Well I haven’t decided yet.I think I’ll be closer to knowing the answer to that question when I’m on the final chapters of South Beach but I promise to keep you updated.I hope to have North Star published before I begin to outline my third novel.
I’m a writer so I see the world a little differently from… let’s say doctors, teachers, mechanics, reporters and politicians.Everyday I may hear or see something that may end up in the pages of my book.Sometimes, I wish I wore a baseball cap that read, “Be careful because I’ll twist, embellish and add more drama to whatever you say just to make it fit my novel.”
Hey, I wonder if that warning would even work.Everyone may become leery to say anything for a day or two then my warning cap will be forgotten and then the secrets, vices, idiosyncrasies will be revealed over days of personal interactions.I think that’s part of the reason why I love writing.There are times when funny things happen and you just want to capture it in a way that transcends re-telling the story for the umpteenth time on a cell phone conversation or in an email.
I can think of five things that happened today alone that will end up in my novel because people provide a wealth of material.Is it hard to work a main job and write on the side?Yes, but it’s the personal interactions my main job gives makes my writing shine.It also challenges me to get my scenes just right.There’s nothing more frustrating than to have a very funny situation happen in real life and to not be able to capture the moment perfectly in writing.As you can guess, I have much respect for screenplay writers because they strive for that real-life feel with every scene they develop.
Now, I have a lot of friends that tell me I have their permission to use parts of their lives in my novels but I’m not a reporter.I make take a small universal fact that they shared and then smash and torture it until it doesn’t look anything like the story they gave me because my characters are living their own lives in the pages of my book.
Hey, that reminds me, have you every played the Sims game?It’s a computer/video game where you create a Sim and the world they’ll live in.In a lot of ways the Sim Creator (the player) is a good comparison to how writers feel when they are busy working on their stories.The only difference is that sometimes the characters drive the story instead of the writer.
Like yesterday, I was writing a scene in South Beach with Laila and her best friends, Sofia and Marina. I knew how I wanted the scene to close but I didn’t know how I was going to get my characters there.It wasn’t until I was typing their dialogue and watching their interactions that THEY showed ME their wit, frustrations, vulnerability and utlimately the way to end the scene; it was fun and authentic because it held nuances of my own personal interactions with my close friends.It also gave their friendship more depth.
I love my characters and if you find yourself in my presence and I get a silly grin on my face while you’re talking it’s because I can’t wait to twist, embellish and dramatize what you just revealed for my latest work.You can’t say I didn’t warn you.
While web surfing a few author sites, I discovered a writing tracker to post on my website.It’s a good tool to update site visitors on my writing progress but it’s also a glaring reminder that I need to get South Beach finished before the end of July.It says I’m only ¼ of the way there.(Sighs)
In order to get some good feedback on novel so far I’ll enter the first chapter of South Beach to my online RWA critique group.I’m a little nervous because the reviewers can say whatever they want.The rules alone for this group were seven pages long and there are over 300 members.It’s a little intimidating; it’s like a fifth grader presenting a book report to a group of high school seniors.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m very proud of my work and I received great criticism from my focus readers but the critics in this group are similar to the judges of writing contests.
One of the rules of the group is to critique two members’ works before you submit a chapter of your work.I didn’t think this would be problematic until I started to read the rules on writing a critique.(Like I said above… there are many pages of rules.) The rules state that you must be very through in your critique because they keep a database of your review.If it’s too short it won’t count as a critique, just a comment, so you better make sure it’s worth the keyboard you’re typing it on.
I guess I can’t blame the moderator for the extensive rules, Lord knows when I submit my work I want it thoroughly assessed.I guess I just have to remember what Charlotte Dillion said, “You should put as much effort into a critique as you hope others will use when your chapter is the one being critiqued.”The goal is to encourage stronger writing from the writer and not to make the writer want to give up.Every word a critic writes should be measured but the writer should also know that they shouldn’t take everything to heart.
Each of us has different likes and dislikes, and since a critique is only an opinion, the writer doesn’t have to agree with it. If they can just look through the whole critique and take what they believe is helpful, the rest can just fade in the background.Right?
Well, I look forward to critiquing a writer’s work this weekend.Just remind me to re-read this entry when it’s my turn to hear the comments about my wo.
He knew he didn’t give me enough time to steady my emotions and compose myself.His smile made me blush like old times and our brief polite hug didn’t deter the familiarity of his touch.
We talked about his success at his job and his children.He seemed very relaxed and happy as we reminisced about his popcorn and chocolate addictions (his only food vices because he takes very good care of his body).He complimented me on my body and said that he could tell that I’ve maintained my nice figure.I returned the compliment with a slight jab at his abs.(Yes ladies, his abs were rock hard.)
We talked about my cars because it was during our relationship that he helped me pick out my latest.Then the subject of our breakup came up.He surprised me by thanking me for initiating it.It was the wake up call that he needed.He said that he owed me for all that I did for him.
The sincerity was evident.He lowered his confident persona and revealed the remorse for the pain he caused.And in doing so I revealed things about the guy I dated after him.He wasn’t surprised that I had a serious boyfriend after him but he was shocked that the relationship didn’t develop like ours.I told him it was because of the drama in the guy’s life and how my relationship with K had made me leery of drama in any form.
He solemnly nodded and then bird poop landed on my left forearm.We laughed at my horrified expression as K told me it’s a sign of good luck.He retrieved a napkin from his car and believe it or not, the conversation when back to lighter topics.We both agreed that seeing each other again was a good thing.It was nice to be able to see each other without any animosity.
“There are some things I want to talk to you about; we should go have dinner one night.Wednesday or Sunday nights would be good.Or some time in the evening,” he said as he stepped closer.
“I’d like that.”
We promised to talk again.Then he extended his arms to hug me.When I stepped into his embrace we hugged each other tightly.I held him snugly and felt the full strength of his arms and chest as his closed any existing space between us.The chemistry was palpable as my heartbeat quickened.When he slowly caressed my back and whispered in my ear, “I need to see you soon,” my body instantly responded.
When I agreed again, he kissed my neck and let his hands slowly lower to my hips.We lingered a few inches apart as we enjoyed the closeness.I wasn’t sure if this was part of some game he was playing or if he was feeling the same stirrings I was but neither of us wanted to break the connection.We hadn’t touched like that since last summer.
With a parting smile, he entered his car and told me to be a good girl… just like he use to when we dated.The phase made me a little nostalgic.When he pulled away from the curb I entered my home and laid my back against the door.Realizing the chemistry was still all consuming, I was thankful that he did me a favor by meeting me outside of my home.
I saw K.P. over Memorial Day this weekend.It started with receiving his unexpected texts, that turned into him calling me and sharing a few laughs then he surprised me with an impromptu visit.It happened so quickly; the re-connection happened within the span of a half hour and even as I type my account of yesterday's events I can’t catch my breath.
One minute I was rewriting a section of North Star in my underwear; yes, when single ladies are home alone we walk around semi naked; then the next thing I know I’m finding myself hearing the familiar timbre of K’s voice in my ear.I know his voice instinctively, in spite of my cell phone only revealing the words ‘private number’.
He was on this way to workout at the gym a mile away from my home.So he decided to cease texting and call me.The conversation was light and fun.It was evident that enough time had passed that our perspectives on our breakup was healthy and affirming.
He said he wanted to see me before he started his workout.I objected and said he should get his workout out of the way first, in order to stall for time.I mean it’s not like I was dressed for company.And everyone knows you can’t see an ex looking less than your best.I prayed that he would be gracious enough to delay his initial impulse to close the distance between us…then I heard it.That familiar sound his voice takes when he’s grinning because he has me off balance.
“I’ll be there in five minutes.Come out when I get there.” “What?No, I’m right in the middle of writing an important scene. I can’t?” “I’m on my way.In five.”
When he hung up in my ear, I cursed and sprinted to my bedroom.He always was a cocky mofo and doing this was just his way of proving that he could make my heart race and palms sweat with minimal effort.I quickly pulled on black yoga pants, a small camouflage inspired tee and spray on a light perfume.I ran a comb thought my hair and wished it had curls or waves instead of being straight at that moment.Another curse escaped my lips when my cell phone rang again.
“Yes?” “I’ll be there in one minute.Come outside.”
Before I could utter a protest, he ended the call abruptly again.He still loved the dog and cat routine.I guess that’s what I get for being attracted to a renegade Marine.He never did anything by the book; always test boundaries and analyzing situations to his advantage.(Technically he’s a former Marine because of his honorably discharge but any Marine worth his salt will tell you there’s no such thing as a former Marine.You’re one for life.)
(Sighs) I had to tell myself to STOP for a moment, to not let him stir me up and shift the balance of this meeting.I fingered the box that still held the letters and cards K wrote to me during our courtship.I reminded myself that a lot of time has passed and we are different people.I ended it and went on to have another serious relationship.“This is just about closure,” I reassured myself.
When his car horn sounded outside my window I frowned because I hadn’t put sandals on my feet.Where are those shoes?Ugh!My cell phone rang again.
“I’m here.” “I’m looking for my flip flops.I’ll be right there.”
When I exited my home, I felt the balmy summer air fan my face as he emerged simultaneously from his car.He looked just the way I remembered him.Strong, handsome and confident; the grin on his face said it all.He had an undeniable swagger and the smug grin on his face told me that he wasn’t going to let me regain control over this meeting.He was on my turf but he changed the game…and like a crowd watching Jordan in the fourth quarter in ’92… I was speechless.
Q. How would you describe Graham Sheridan?When I think of a magazine editor in chief I think of a stressed out, coffee guzzling and TUMS chewing Type A personality.Is that who he is? A.Graham has many Type-A personality traits; he’s highly competitive, business-like, aggressive, excessively time-conscious and at Psyche magazine he demands that his subordinates operate to his standards of excellence but he’s not a prototypical Type A personality.I guess he can be best described as an Alpha male with an Achilles heel.He’s like a Black version of latest James Bond movie character played by Daniel Craig; his strength is as evident as his intellect and he doesn’t back down from taking risks.
Q. I enjoyed visiting your website it inspired me to make time for writing again.Tell me, how do you avoid creating stereotypical characters? A.I like to take composite of people I know and merge that with a few attributes people I only known from a distance (i.e. movie, music or television stars).My advice to you is find out what works for you and just stay away from one-dimensional characters that can described in two or three words (i.e. NY gang member, gay hair stylist, unemotional doctor, or sex-crazed pool boy).If you have to start a stereotypical character make sure you add layers and do all you can to increase the likability of your depiction.
Q. Your novel isn’t published so why bother with a website at this stage? A.I’ve seen this question in my inbox three times in the last four weeks so my guess is that someone is really curious.(Sighs)This site isn’t a narcissistic venture to stroke my ego, I can promise you that.As a PRO member of RWA it’s a great way to increase my exposure to literary agents and editors.It also keeps me focus on my writing because I know you guys will be right here asking me if I got the call or other writing questions.This has become a great place to get feedback from everyone on my life and my writing while sharing the information I’m learning on the journey to publication.
Q. I, and a small group of unpublished novelists were wondering if you do speaking engagements or if blogging your preferred way of sharing your writing experiences. A.At present, I’m a blogger and writer.I haven’t been asked to speak or take part in a panel but I hope after I place in a few literary contests that will change.As I start to navigate the world of RWA, I’ll keep you abreast of my involvement with other members and any writing awards I hope to receive.
I got it!At 5:30AM when my eyes slowly opened to greet the day, the answer to my problem with the opening of North Star came and it clear as crystal. I have to thank my ‘former guy, now friend’ for letting me verbalize my writing dilemma last night and God for the much needed epiphany.
I feel inspired because I never knew how to correct the first chapter of North Star.The writing was tight but nevertheless the first opening scenes were bugging the heck out of me.Now I realized the problems and I'm ready for surgery.
First, I introduced a minor character that is only in three scenes in the novel; and two of those scenes are in chapter one. Ugh!I guess at some point I thought he was going to provide insight to how much Caresse cared about the students at the community center but the truth is... other scenes showed her commitment quite beautifully.So the first major surgical cut of North Star will be cutting Ty from the novel.
Second, the relationship Yvette and Caresse can be expounded upon.This is an enhancement, think of it was a plastic surgeon adding a chin implant to a weak jaw or modest breast implants to a flat-chested lady.It’s a modification that will give the story of their friendship more depth and layers.
Third, the flashback in chapter one needs a stronger bite of honest revelation; it doesn’t have the feeling of a mind-searing, life-altering event.And that’s hurting my novel because that incident haunts Caresse and keeps her from loving a man deeply.I know the history of Caresse in my head but I failed to reveal the core of her pain in my novel.I need to correct this flawed flashback so readers can have a stronger empathy for her.
As you can see, I have much work to do this Memorial Day weekend.Wish me luck!!
Yesterday my youngest hija was recognized for her participation in Varsity Cheerleading.As she stood at the podium to receive her varsity letter and the award for the ‘Most Improved Player’ I was reminded about how far she has come as an athlete.Tennis and Cheerleading kept her very active this school year and her people skills have improved dramatically.
She has increased empathy for others and realizes the importance of team work, commitment and respect.It’s was a sacrifice to attend every game, match or practice and check her ego at the door when her coaches gave much needed instruction but she did it and to tell the truth it was inspiring to see the transformation.
My daughter reminded me that although writing is a solo venture there are organizations and colleagues that can make it a very rewarding process.I’m enjoying the insights I receive from the romance authors on Twitter; the support of the Romance Writers of America and the critiques of my preliminary novel readers; each increases my knowledge of the genre and develops my writing skills.
In life we travel many roads and it’s my hope that the road I’m walking will bring me joy, clarity of mind and a better understanding of my purpose on the planet.
There are times in my life when I'm focused, driven and determined to achieve my goals. And then there are times when I'm unfocused due to my own lack of direction or poor personal decisions. Today was one of those unfocused days.
I’ve been having a little bit of a time with my personal life.Heck, I have no shame in that department.I’ll humbly admit it.It seems that the life of my most recent boyfriend is complicated to the point where I need to step back.Breathe.Refocus.I really think a friendship-driven bond will be healthy for all parties involved.And my big brother, Ken; my sistafriends and extended family are throwing their full support behind that decision.I’m thankful for all of their wisdom but I’m a little disheartened by the outcome of this latest development.
As many of you know I’m a divorced mother of two beautiful daughters, and as said divorced woman I know a thing or two about balancing life's pleasures and I recognizing what real unconditional love is.At present, I have no desire to reject love when it makes its presence known but it still eludes me.
Part of me thought my problem is that I’m a strong woman with my mind set clearly on my future, with my children forefront in my mind.I’m also so confident with myself that I won’t put up with too much of a guy’s crap. I guess I’m old school in that regard; I have too much self respect to let any man take that away from me.
And my biggest deterrent stepping away from a drama filled relationship is that I’m raising two young women.So I really can’t afford to set a bad example in the relationship department.I really hope God will work out what is best for me because I refuse to get myself stressed out about affairs of the heart.Drama expected between the covers of a romance novel but it’s upsetting when it appears in your personal life.
It’s been a very hectic couple of weeks but the writing must go on.I’ve redefined my relationship with my guy.I guess you would say we’re more friends now.Both of us need time to focus on other parts of our lives.I’ve re-connected with my half-sister; she a literary writer that has mastered the art of securing an agent.(I’m next!!)Well I stumbled across the rules of Colin Powell so I thought I would share them with you.I think I used his top seven on every day of this week. COLIN POWELL'S RULES
1. It ain't as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning. 2. Get mad, then get over it. 3. Avoid having your ego so close to your position that, when your position falls, your ego goes with it. 4. It can be done! 5. Be careful what you choose, you may get it. 6. Don't let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision. 7. You can't make someone else's choices. You shouldn't let someone else make yours. 8. Check small things. 9. Share credit. 10.Remain calm. Be kind. 11. Have a vision. Be demanding. 12. Don't take counsel of your fears or naysayers. 13. Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.