Friday, September 13, 2013


My husband has been querying agents for his detective series. He is now the proud owner of enough rejections to make a full sized shower curtain. Both sides. Despite all that, he has also gotten a lot of positives and some real constructive revisions, suggestions, and encouragement that he has a good idea and to continue on.

Yesterday, he told me that he has a request from an agent for a couple of chapters and…drumroll…the dreaded synopsis.

“Is this like an outline of the story?”

“Um…no. The synopsis isn’t as stark as an outline. It should give the flavor of your story enhanced by your voice to hook them.”


“Think of it like telling a friend what the story is about and you’re hitting the high points or the arc of the story (plot) and filling them on the main characters and how they fit into the plot of the story. You touch on the goal, motivations, and conflicts of the main character(s). You also want to give the black moment—when all seems lost and then the how the hero wins the day.”

“Goals, motivations, and conflicts? That sounds too complicated. I don’t think you really need that.”

“Sure do. Every good story has that. Let me put it another way. Goal - what your Hero wants (both internally which gives the character arc; and externally—plot). MotivationWhy they want it (both internal and external). Conflict —why they CAN'T HAVE IT (both internal and external)”

“In two pages? Isn't there just a formula or something?”

Are we having fun yet?  

Once I stopped laughing over that last plaintive question and wiped my eyes, we sat down and discussed whys and hows. Yeah, I tried to give him a formula.

  • What is the hook?  Another way to look at it is what’s the story in a sentence? A friend of mine, Nancy Parra, demonstrated this well with her book, Mr. Charming
A single mom with a secret past finds herself embroiled in a playboy’s murder. 
It shows the story and hints at the external and internal conflict and it gets your attention. This is a very short first paragraph.

  • What is your hero/protagonist’s Internal Goal Motivation Conflict and External GMC? What does he want, why does he want it, and why he can’t have it? Internal shows the character arc, external defines the plot. Keep it brief. For romance, of course, we give both hero and heroine's and for other genres it would be protagonist A and B, or main characters. And you'd set this as two paragraphs. If you include the GMC for the villain then there would be a third paragraph. 
  • What is the Plot? What happens in the story? Get the plot down in a clear concise manner. You want to include enough important plot points to convey the story. Once the plot path is clear in your mind then weave in why the unfolding events in the story are important. You can mention the secondary plot—as it impacts the primary—but the story is your main plot. That's what you need to focus on. This will be your biggest section of your synopsis.
  • What is the Black Moment? This is the moment when, despite the best effort (or maybe because of his efforts) of the protagonist/hero, all seems lost.

  • What is the Resolution? The protagonist/hero usually has to pull something from him/herself (character arc) to accomplish the resolution and win against the odds. Goals motivation and conflict are usually tied into the resolution. He's changed from what he/she was when the story began. The events of the story have taught him/her something.

You want to write the synopsis in PRESENT tense and be sure to give the ending. Be a professional. Make every word count. Putting your voice into the synopsis, you're giving them a taste of the story while they're reading for content. Your voice can also act as a hook.

Hubs will be working on this today. Hopefully, it will go smoothly. Once he writes it we have two guinea pigs to read it and give their feedback. We figure if it makes sense to someone unfamiliar with the story and they "get it" then we can declare it a success.

  • How do you handle writing synopsis? Any suggestions?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


My guest is historical romance author Donna MacMeans. She shares her recent trip to Scotland with us.

Last year about this time I realized that if I was to set my next book in Scotland, I needed to “walk the land” -  get a feel for the countryside so I could present it accurately in THE WHISKY LAIRD (due for release in the spring of 2014).  So I packed my bags and booked a flight for Edinburgh.  As it’s a mind-melting ninety-four degrees here in Ohio, I thought I’d revisit that trip and cool off with a little nostalgia.  Want to come with me?

We stayed in the Grassmarket area in Edinburgh.  So named because long, long ago, horses and livestock there to be sold in the markets would graze in pens just beyond the western edge.  

As you can see from the picture, it’s below Edinburgh castle...way below.  Given that the Royal Mile, the main drag in Edinburgh, runs from the castle to the sea and that all the tour groups meet on the Royal Mile, we had to do some serious climbing to get to our tour bus - every day up, every day back down.  A quick way to get in shape is to vacation in Edinburgh LOL.


Lots of bars and all the patrons (and barkeeps) seemed engrossed in the same book!

Imagine that!


We took a number of trips that took us into the highlands.  I like this shot of the little town of Callander


One a hot day like this, the low clouds make me feel cooler.  We saw a number of waterfalls.

Notice that the water has a slight brown tinge.  This is due to the peat in the water.  You don’t see many houses throughout Scotland.  Most of the population lives in the cities.  The rural areas belong to the sheep!

Here’s a shot of Highland landscape and heather (always wondered what heather looked like)



We spent a night in Inverness.  Just as Edinburgh is clearly a medieval city, Inverness has a more Viking or Norman influence.  Can you see it in this picture? 

Inverness Cafe


We spent a day at St. Andrew’s and saw this familiar guy.  He was playing for a wedding in the chapel adjacent to this courtyard. 

St. Andrews 


Of course, as THE WHISKY LAIRD pairs a Scotch distiller with a woman devoted to the Temperance movement, we visited the Blair Athol distillery.  Here’s a pic in the courtyard of the distillery - oh wait!  What’s the tour guide reading?  


I went to Scotland to become familiar with the scenery.  While on a tour bus going through some woods, I found myself thinking that much of the scenery reminded me of Virginia and North Carolina.  Right about that time, the tour guide mentioned that a few years ago, he had a geologist on the bus.  The geologist collected some rocks at one of the waterfalls and said that based on the limestone he found, Scotland was once part of the Appalachian mountain system of the United States.  Of course, it split and drifted away long before Columbus came to call.  But it struck me that I could have gotten a similar sense of Scotland right here in the States, but it wouldn't have been half as fun.

So how about you?  Have you been on a memorable vacation?  Ever been to Scotland?  Want to go?  

Someone leaving a comment will receive a copy of The Casanova Code - the book every one is reading? (grin).

Monday, September 9, 2013


Romance author, Anna Sugden, is my guest today. She visits the blog on various occasions but I'm thrilled to have her visiting today with her debut novel, A Perfect Distraction. Yay Anna! 

Writing is Anna's third career, the first was working as a Marketing executive for a multi-national corporation, then as a primary teacher (we call them elementary teachers here), and now a published author. She started getting serious about writing shortly after 9-11. I'd like to tell you she was an overnight success but...well, I'll let her tell you about that and what it took to get to this point.

Thanks so much, Sia for letting me visit today. Your blog has always been a great place to hang out, so it’s especially nice to be able to visit as a published author, to celebrate the release of my first book, A Perfect Distraction! (Happy squee!)
Like many authors, I took a long time to sell my first book. Nine years, eight full manuscripts and four partial-and-synopsis proposals to be precise. That doesn't include all the revisions I did on most of those. As for rejections, let’s just say I could wallpaper my office quite nicely ;). During that time, I also had a lot of success -- I finalled in or won almost every prestigious writing contest for unpublished authors, including three Golden Heart finals. My manuscripts were passed up and across, but for a variety of reasons always failed at the final hurdle.

No-one ever said writing was an easy profession, and they were right!

One of the things you think, as you go round and round in that holding pattern of ‘nearly there’, is that you must be missing something -- a magic key that would unlock the door to that first sale. If you could just find that elusive magic key, you would finally get The Call.
You’re all expecting me to tell you that there is no such thing. Actually, there is. J In fact, there are several. The trick isn't finding a magic key, it’s figuring out which one will work for you. That’s part of the writer’s journey - trying out those keys until you find the right one.

So what are these magic keys?

1.    Perseverance. Writing is hard work. Fact. It’s hard for everyone, from Nora Roberts to the newbie starting their first manuscript. There are numerous inspirational talks from famous authors telling you about their journey to success. They will also tell you how they still have to battle every day for every book. Yes, you need a little bit of luck to succeed - the right book, landing on the right editor’s desk at the right time - but, to paraphrase Samuel Goldwyn the harder you work, the luckier you’ll get. Those who succeed are the ones who don’t give up. Obvious? Perhaps. But as my lovely husband always says - the only way to guarantee you won’t be published is to give up.
2.    Keep on learning. It’s not enough to work hard if you keep making the same mistakes. No-one writes a perfect book. There are many ways to learn - craft books, workshops, critique partners. Yes, even those of us who think we've seen, heard and read it all can learn something new from an expert. One of the ways I was able to make the necessary changes to my work was through expert advice - I bought a critique from a well known author in a charity auction. I also managed to get a fantastic agent, who provided me with excellent insight into what I needed to fix.
3.    Be prepared to change. Sometimes, as the saying goes, a change is as good as a rest. It may be that you should try writing something different - I learned a lot by writing romantic suspense and still hope to get some of those books published J. It could be that you need to try writing for a different line/editor/publisher. I started off targeting Special Edition, but switched to Super Romance because that line was a better fit for my writing. It may be that your strategy for getting your work to the right people has to change. I had more success through contests and editor agent pitches than direct submission or queries.
4.    It’s okay to take a break. Sometimes we just need to stop and rest. That’s not a bad thing, especially if you use that time to refill your creative well and re-energize your muse. After all, we are all chasing our dream. What is the point of hating every minute of it? Take some time off and read, watch movies, go for long walks, whatever it takes to recharge your writing batteries. Trust me, you’ll be back writing sooner than you think.
5.    Write the book of your heart. We all have the book we dream of writing. In fact, most of us have several. But, we also all have an excuse for not writing that book - the market isn't right, you need more writing experience, everyone is writing that kind of book, no-one is buying that kind of book etc. The truth is that you don’t need to write the book of your heart for anyone but yourself. Write it, enjoy it. You never know, things change all the time in publishing, so maybe one day, the book of your heart will be the book that sells. Mine was. Everyone told me that I’d never sell a sports romance, let alone one featuring a hockey player. J

  • Have you found a magic key that worked for you, either for writing or something else? 
  • Or, tell us about something you've worked hard at and succeeded in.

Anna Sugden
A face-off—head vs. heart 
For Jake Badoletti, this year is all about his career. He has a rare second chance to make the most of being a pro hockey player, so no parties, no scandals. Too bad he's met a woman who could sideline those plans. Maggie Goodman is not his usual type—right down to being a single mom. Still, the sizzling connection with this gorgeous brunette can't be ignored. 
With a little juggling and a lot of focus, Jake manages to have the game and Maggie. Then his performance on the ice suffers and a scandal erupts. Now he can't afford the distraction of Maggie…even if she is perfect for him. 
Romance Times – 4 stars!

Anna Sugden, is a three-time Golden Heart finalist who loves reading and writing happy endings as much as hockey! When not reading or watching hockey, she loves football, good food and wine, making simple cross-stitch projects and collecting memorabilia, penguins, and fab shoes.

Anna lives in Cambridge, England, with her husband and two bossy cats. 
You can find Anna: WebsiteFacebook, Goodreads, TwitterRomance Bandits