Monday, May 26, 2008

Plotting workshop

Kayla Perrin's How to Plot workshop is the final session I'd like to share with you from the 2008 Romance Slam Jam.

Are you familiar with Kayla Perrin's work? Kayla's a USA Today and Essence bestselling author. She's written for several publishers, including Avon, St. Martin's and Harlequin. She writes suspense, romantic suspense and contemporary romance. So Kayla knows what she's talking about when it comes to plotting.

She started the workshop with an exercise. Here's the premise. Your heroine leaves her home in the middle of the night. Answer these questions:
* Where is she going?
* Why is she going there?
* Who will she see?

OK. Take a few minutes to answer those questions, then come back.

Are you ready to move on?

Your first scene has a lot of work to do. It introduces your protagonist, establishes her goal and motivation, and sets up your story's conflict. Where is she going and why? How do these answers fit into the overall story?

Next, Kayla suggests plotting the black moment, otherwise know as your character's ordeal or the story's climax. This helps map where your story's going. The black moment has to be emotional. Emotion pulls readers into your story. Once you've plotted your black moment, ask yourself whether this ordeal is strong enough to sustain your story.

You have your opening scene and your story climax. Now identify at least four major plot points that move your story forward and smaller plot points that help your protagonist's development.

Used wisely, these tips will help you plot a full, multi-layered story.

Happy writing.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Helping Out Reporters

I'm constantly on the lookout for ways to promote my books. One of my more recent discoveries has been publicist and author Peter Shankman's HARO Newsletter. HARO stands for Help A Reporter Out. It's an email newsletter that Shankman sends out three times a day with queries from reporters and freelance writers looking for experts and everyday people to interview on a variety of topics. 

The newsletter is free and is an excellent resource for authors and publicists looking to get more exposure. Like I said, this is a FREE resource but you need to practice some restraint. Some reporters are ONLY looking for experts on a certain topic. So, don't waste their time and yours by responding to queries  you aren't qualified for. Also, some of the queries are specific to certain cities or regions of the country. 

But the biggest rule of all is: Do Not Repost The Emails. . .ANYWHERE! Peter Shankman doesn't play when it comes this rule. He will put you on blast if you do. If you don't believe me, check this out.


Monday, May 19, 2008

Promotion workshop

During the 2008 Romance Slam Jam, author Donna Hill conducted a workshop titled "How to Promote Your Book." Donna was fantastic; very informative. I especially appreciated the promotion timeframe she shared with us. Basically, don't wait until the book is released to begin marketing. Think about your marketing plan as soon as you turn in your manuscript.

Approximately six to nine months before your release date, answer these questions:
- What's your budget?
- How many promotional tasks do you need to do?
- What promotional things can you afford to do?
- What do you want to do? (e.g., book tours, conferences, bookmarks)
- What reviewers, book clubs, book stores do you want to contact?

Donna also shared the components of an effective Web site, including:
- Author biography
- Blurbs for books
- Cover images
- Excerpts
- E-mail address
- Book order information/links


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Kendra’s Random Walk

Having a book published is a lot like scattering seeds in the wind. You never know where they will land and take root. I'm always surprised and thrilled when I get emails from readers telling me they're enjoying Kendra and her crazy adventures. But I'm even more surprised when I get emails from readers in other countries who enjoy my books, since except for my MySpace page, I don't do any promo to reach readers outside the USA. Yet, I've received email from readers in Canada, England, The Netherlands, Germany, and Japan!

One such email came from the fiction buyer for Random Walk, a bookstore chain in Japan, who discovered my books on MySpace. Not only is Random Walk now stocking my books in at least one of their stores, but I recently did a really cool interview for the website of Random Walk’s bookstore in Kobe Japan. Random Walk's owner is also the owner of the largest importer of foreign language books in Japan. So, if you’re ever in Japan, and need something to read, Random Walk has stores in Tokyo, Kobe, Osaka, and Kyoto. And if you find a copy of one of my books on the shelf, please send me a picture!


Monday, May 12, 2008


One of the workshops I especially enjoyed during the 2008 Romance Slam Jam was Harlequin Kimani author Wayne Jordan's Keep Your Hero from Sounding Like a Heroine: Writing Believable Male Characters.

Wayne shared several tips to remember when differentiating male and female dialogue.
1. Women use more words to express themselves than men.
2. Women rely more on their feelings - both emotional and sensory - in their communication and reactions. Ask yourself, what does she feel in the physical sense as well as how does she feel in the emotional sense?
3. Men rely more on their visual perceptions. Ask yourself, what does this character see? And remember, he's more inclined to believe what he can see.
4. Women express themselves with emotion; men are more physically demonstrative.

One movie that illustrates this communication difference very well is Speed starring Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock. I've watched that movie several times in part to study the way the writers used dialogue to enhance characterization. Have you ever seen it?

Sandra Bullock's character is very nurturing. When the danger of the moment is over, the first words out of her mouth are, "Is everyone OK?" She puts others before herself.

Keanu Reeves' character is an impulsive, action-oriented person. Words aren't important to him. Dialogue is an afterthought. When one of the male civilians asks him if what they're about to do will work, Keanu just stares at him.

Of course, this type of exchange is easier in film. It's not as though we can have our heroine share her deepest, darkest fears with the hero and have the hero's response be a blank page. The way I try to work around this is by having an especially alpha male character speak with the least amount of words possible.

What have you observed about the difference in the way men and women speak? And how do you show this difference in your writing?

Next week, I hope to tell you about either Donna Hill's promotion workshop or Kayla Perrin's plotting workshop.


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Nose--and Teeth--To the Grindstone

Sorry I've been such a bad blogger lately. I have a good excuse. I've been writing. I got some excellent feedback from my agent, and some outside readers, on the YA novel I've been attempting to write. The general consensus is that while I have a good story and characters, I'm not quite fitting what I've got into the right format for YA. ARGH! So, now I'm toying with whether to scrap the project altogether, or making the characters older, possibly eighteen, which would turn the book into an adult novel. I'm leaning towards the latter because I've fallen in love with these characters and really want to write about them.

Decisions Decisions.

I've also been working on Kendra book #5, which is a much easier process. I'm so comfortable writing about Kendra and co. that these books kind of write themselves. It's like putting on a comfy pair of shoes, while writing the YA novel is like trying to squeeze my feet into cute shoes that don't fit.

On the health front, I found out recently that at the ripe old age of 41, I have to have all my wisdom teeth pulled. All at once! One the same day! The date is set for next month. That means being sedated again and doing more weird stuff that I won't remember, and more funny stories for my family to tell me the day after. Fun! Fun!

Finally, for those of you who thought it might be fun to be an author's assistant, you may want to think twice after reading this man's story. Gee, I wonder who he could be talking about ; ).


Monday, May 05, 2008

Back from the Slam Jam

I got back from the 13th annual Romance Slam Jam Sunday afternoon. I had a fantastic time sharing fellowship with other lovers of African American romance novels. But things have been a little hectic getting ready for the work week and catching up with everything that was on hiatus while I was away.

I'd promised to share tips from the workshops I attended during the conference, and I will. The workshops were excellent. But let me get my thoughts together first. I'll give you a run down next Monday.

In the meantime, check out the Urban Reviews blog. They've uploaded photos from the event and posted the 2008 Emma Award winners.

Have a great week!


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