Archive for December, 2013

Writer’s Journey: Plotter or Pantser

Thursday, December 26th, 2013


*New writers often think there must be a wrong way and a right way to create novels. They eagerly join writing groups and devour how-to books with the idea that a gold answer on “how to write a book” will be dropped in their lap. There’s nothing wrong with this. Wanting to learn something new guarantees you’ll be curious enough to ask plenty of questions.

*In the process of learning, writers hear two words tossed around frequently. Pantser and plotter. There are plenty of pros and cons for both types of approaches to writing a novel. Contrary to what a writer may hear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with writing either way.

*What becomes a problem is when an author tries to jam a square peg into a round hole and allows someone to tell them they should be a pantser or a plotter.  This doesn’t mean new writers shouldn’t learn craft. It means they have to take care that they are not writing according to so many strict rules there is no creativity left in their writing process. I’ve seen new writers become so frustrated that want to stop writing because the “rules” suck the creativity right out of them.

Plotter vs. Pantser

*A plotter needs structure when they write. They often need charts, diagrams and outlines to feel comfortable.  Many times they need to understanding what the beginning, middle, and end of the book before they start writing. Not knowing things ahead of time can create significant anxiety for the writer who is a plotter.

*A pantser needs varying degrees of freedom. A pantser may have a title or an overarching idea for a book based on a time period, a concept, or an individual character. They may know one or two of these ideas up front. Or they may start with a single scene that intrigues them. They will rarely know the end of their book. (I’ve known the ending for a book a couple of times before I even started the book and I’m a pantser.) Pansters may have basic knowledge who their characters are and may do character charts, but creating a synopsis can sometimes destroy their desire to write a book. Most of the time outlining their books beforehand damages their ability to write with authencity. Writing a synopsis of their book beforehand can destroy the muse and create writer’s block.

*Many authors discover they work best combining these two ways of doing things. It’s even possible an author may be a plotter for one book and a pantser for another if it feels right.

The Controversy

*There is nothing wrong with either way of writing if it gets the job done. I have run into plotters who think pantser writers waste time. They honestly can’t understand how not outlining or plotting up front can prove productive. Whole books have been written on if you “only do it this way, your book will be easier to write.” Well, it might. And it might not. No one ever said writing a book was easy. If it was, everyone would be doing it.

*In Anne Lamott’s fantastic book BIRD BY BIRD, she describes the problem many pantsers encounter if they try and force themselves into being a plotter when it isn’t natural for them, “Characters should not, conversely, serve as pawns for some plot you’ve dreamed up…I say don’t worry about plot. Worry about the characters. Let what they say or do reveal who they are and be involved in their lives, and keep asking yourself, ‘Now what happens?’…Your characters had something in mind all along that was brighter and much more meaningful than what you wanted to impose on them.”

Writing In Flow

*Personal Definition of Flow: A sublime state of being unaware of your surroundings, steeped in ecstasy, contentment, a sense of rightness. A natural high when the entire universe seems to surge through your fingertips and onto the page. This state doesn’t materialize for most authors on an everyday basis, although it can be coaxed to emerge. What does all this have to do with the difference between a pantser and a plotter?

*Recognize what type of author you are and honor that. If you are a new author, chances are you’ve started out as a panster. This doesn’t mean that you will stay that way. It may mean you decide later on that plotting, outlining, and diagramming everything from the get go is what you need to write the best book possible. If, however, you try to do all these things and find it gives you “creative constipation” where you can’t write a thing, chances are you are not a plotter. I decided some time ago that while I am mostly a panster, I am a bit of a plotter when I create historicals. If I find myself clogging up, it’s usually because I’ve tried to “direct” the book too much with a plotter frame of mind.

*How does this pantser plot when she does plot? Sometimes when I write a historical I start off by interviewing the hero and heroine. I ask them questions, write down their answers. This helps me to get inside their heads. If there is a bad guy, I question him as well. I also write down what my hero and heroine look like, their mode of dress, what they like too eat, etc. (I also do this with contemporary novels). I read a few books dealing with that time period. This gives me ideas about some plot points I may want to put in my book, and I write these ideas down as they come to me. I also do some research before I start writing. However, I do not use researching relentlessly as an excuse not to start writing the book. I soak my head in the ideas long enough to absorb the information into my bones.

*When I write a contemporary novel I still sometimes soak my head in information before I start the book. A good example of that is my firefighter novel, COMBUSTION. I wanted to be accurate, so I made sure I had all the firefighter resources I needed to keep my facts straight. With my SWAT series, HEART OF JUSTICE, I made sure I did the same by taping into police sources.

*In conclusion, stay true to your writing dreams and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t make this journey as a plotter, pantster, or a combination of both.




More Sizzlin’: Treacherous Wishes

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

Hey everyone, I meant to post this excerpt before now but the amount of writing stuff that needs to be taken care off keeps accumulating in my in box. Treacherous Wishes is the sequel to Dangerous Intentions and features returning characters and new. Hope you enjoy this sizzling look into hot romantic suspense!


Just when you think the danger has passed…

Just when you’ve stopped looking over your shoulder…

Evil finds a way…

Tammy Carter lost her psychic abilities in the aftermath of tragedy. Now, years later, her power resurrects when evil returns to her town. Everything in her comfort zone is disintegrating, except for one thing—the searing attraction she feels for one man. The one man who might stand between her…and death.

Bodyguard Kyle Hawthorne doesn’t believe in the supernatural or in Tammy’s psychic gift, but when her life is threatened he’ll do anything to protect her. Professionalism requires a platonic relationship with his coworker at Taggert Security Team, yet the sizzling connection he feels for Tammy demands exploration every time he’s near her.

Tammy harbors lightning-hot fantasies about Kyle. Suddenly their sensual desires and emotional connections are too powerful to ignore, and as they seek to sate the long-denied sexual hunger, they spark a chain reaction of events that may bring them together, or allow the evil to consume them.



Less than two minutes later, the phone rang again. Once more she ignored it.

She thought of something that sent her heart into a rapid jig.

Was the front door to the office locked?

Putting her mug on the counter, she trotted out to the front area. When she reached her desk, she saw the door unlocked. Damn! This might be a secure building, but Tammy never left it unlocked when alone in the office.

Before she reached the door, a blast of scorching, vivid red blinded her and she stumbled back, falling to the floor and landing on her butt. She gasped, startled by the force.

Whoever or whatever had called her had entered the building and was close. Too close.

Tammy struggled to unscramble her senses as another wave of scarlet splattered across her vision. Power flooded her system and she stood, legs wobbly and step uncertain. Dread surged through her veins like electricity, and she knew she must reach the door and lock it before the fiend with the blood red aura could arrive first.

Now. Go. Hurry.

The crimson retreated, draining away like the lifeblood of the dying. She closed her eyes and the burning sensation left her body. Relief made her almost as dizzy as the vision, and Tammy took another step. Must lock the door. The person may come back.

She stepped forward and had just touched the knob when the door came open.

Tammy jumped back, a startled yelp leaving her throat. Her heart slammed in her chest as her heel snagged on the carpet and she started to fall backwards. Before she could make another sound, the big man in the doorway leapt forward and caught her in his arms. He hauled her against his chest.

“Tammy?” Concern drew Hawthorne’s dark brows downward and his lips thinned into a frown.

“You,” she said, sighing in total relief.

No red. No colors at all. She never saw colors when she was around Hawthorne.

“Were you expecting someone else?”

“No,” she said weakly. “I was going to lock the door when you came busting in and scared the bejeebers out of me.”

“You’re trembling.” He tucked her a little closer and the heat of his body warmed her.

“I think the air conditioning was up a bit high. I-I got cold.”

Although stunned, Tammy couldn’t ignore the fact she pressed against his tall, rock-hard body. The soft, denim shirt couldn’t hide the evidence of broad shoulders under her fingers.

No, he’d never be model handsome, but perhaps that was what made him interesting. Most women found Hawthorne’s dangerous air mixed with a sharp sense of humor almost mouth-watering. His face had a mixed-up perfection that belonged in the movies. Dark and deep, his brown eyes could switch from amused to frosty in a heartbeat. His almost too long nose matched well with his uncompromising jaw. Cocoa brown hair was cut close enough to his head to be neat, but not quite military length. Tammy had a notion if he let it grow much longer the waves would go wild. Despite his looks, his face could turn hard and unforgiving. No one could ever call him boyish.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” he asked, his eyes narrowing.

His touch, his nearness had wiped away the terror. “I feel good.”

As she gazed up into Hawthorne’s eyes and cursed the gods that gave some men long sexy lashes, she saw something change within him.

A sudden, shocking warmth ignited in his eyes and flickered into full flame. “You feel great.”

Her mouth dropped in surprise. Was he flirting with her again?

Hawthorne’s mouth turned up in his trademark quirky smile. Between tender and hard, his mouth looked undeniably masculine. His hands moved in a caressing motion over her back, then held still, keeping her pressed to him.

Suddenly Tammy was downright breathless. His warm, spicy scent had teased and tantalized her many times before, but now she felt every inch of him, every nuance. Something had changed and it sent waves of heat straight to her toes. His six-foot-four frame towered over her five foot six inches. Her body responded despite the fright, as her breasts mashed against his muscled chest and her thighs plastered to his.

Lean without being skinny, big boned and perfectly muscled, Hawthorne looked capable of kicking anyone’s ass. His jeans slicked along narrow hips, tight butt, and long, powerful legs. Tammy licked her lips and swallowed hard as another fluttery sensation darted into her stomach.

Maybe she should say something before he thought she had lost her mind. Tammy pushed against Hawthorne’s chest and eased from his arms.

“Where are you off to in such a hurry? I thought you were waiting for me?” he asked.

“I got another one of those phone calls and I remembered the door wasn’t locked.”

It didn’t help when he came close, standing so near she inhaled a whiff of his aftershave again. He cupped her shoulder. “You look a little shaky.”

She realized that she’d been rubbing her arms. “I’m fine.”

As if to contradict her, her body rebelled and a wave of nausea replaced the desire she’d felt moments ago.

“Can’t fool me.” His quiet voice soothed her senses. “You’re pale as the dead.”

Barb’s grave. The caller had awakened the dead. “I’m okay, Hawthorne.”

Hawthorne didn’t look convinced. He shoved a hand through his already mussed hair. “What did the caller say?”

“Stupid things. It’s nothing.”

He looked doubtful. “All right. About ready to go?”

“Yeah. Let me get my coat.”

But then the queasiness increased and as Tammy turned, she pressed her hand to her stomach. Before she could say or do a thing, dizziness assaulted her.


Darkness blotted every color from her vision.



50 Shades of Relaxation?

Friday, December 13th, 2013

Okie dookie. This has nothing to do with writing. 🙂

Recently I was at a posh hotel (well, okay they think they’re posh) with my husband. He was attending a conference. He’s come along with me a few times when I’ve attended conferences (such as the Romantic Times). Conferences aren’t generally for relaxation, so before I quibble, I must state that I realize this. Plus, all you have to do is go on Trip Advisor and note that one person’s paradise hotel is another’s motel hell. Everyone has their pet peeves. You can usually tell the reviewer that is being unreasonable and the one that has a legit concern.

At the same time, I’m always amazed that the hotels that often express how wonderful and relaxing they are sometimes…aren’t. This particular hotel where we stayed is huge. Stupendously big. We were given an “upgraded” room, which meant we had a poolside view (we were on the second floor). We were supposed to have a king bed but it ended up being two “oversized double beds.” Ahem. It was two regular double beds. I’ve had double beds and they were exactly this size. Not that I was going to complain about it, but it made me laugh…that whole marketing it to the customer as something special when it isn’t.  Beds were hard as rocks, pillows flat. Typical standard hotel beds. The only thing better than a regular room was the separate bathtub and shower…so that made the bathroom bigger than a regular hotel room. If I’d been paying regular price rather than conference rate, I wouldn’t have been pleased with this room.

Next morning around nine o’clock or so they started playing pop music out toward the pool. If I wanted to nap and relax, no chance of that. I could hear the music plainly with the sliding glass doors to my balcony closed. Couldn’t hear the words, but the droning sound went on and on. If I’d been on a lower floor how loud would it be? It was in the 40’s out, so no one was in the pool. I figured the music would go off. It didn’t. I finally called the front desk around 1:30 to say that the loud music would ensure that anyone looking for peace and quiet wasn’t going to get it. Even after I complained (very politely), and they said they’d have security look into it, nothing happened. The music continued at the same volume, as far as I could tell. Wait…they might have turned it down a half notch. It wasn’t as loud, but it was still loud. I could even tell which songs were being played…it was loud enough to tell.

It did occur to me that maybe I was being sensitive. After all, this is a resort that is hosting hundreds of people. Most of those people aren’t in their rooms–they’re attending workshops, presentations, etc. Maybe it was a restaurant downstairs that plays music. Maybe there is reunion or wedding reception? If it’s a party of course they’re going to have music. Then I thought about it again…was I being unreasonable? No. Music that loud? Really? At a resort that touts itself as being one of the most luxury-oriented?

What were my choices in the situation?

Get over it. Don’t try to nap even though you didn’t get enough sleep the night before because of the rock hard bed. Suck it up.

Head downstairs to the store and buy chocolate. Chocolate cures everything, right?

Try to write or read.

Rent an obnoxiously expensive in room movie and drown the noise out with that.

Call the service desk and beoych again. (I didn’t.)

At four thirty the music stopped.

Yeah, if the music is too loud, you’re too old. I get that. Relaxation, or what qualifies as relaxation for one person isn’t the same for everyone. Some people might find the hustle and bustle energizing. Some introverts, like me, find gaggles of people and loudness draining if we’re exposed to it for long enough. To me loud music can be like nails over a blackboard. When you insist on playing music like this where people have to remove themselves to another area or complain it doesn’t get you new or returning customers. It just guarantees I won’t come back to your establishment. I’ll also be certain to tell everyone else about my experience, too. That way the people who don’t like loud music might decide it isn’t the experience they’re looking for either.

So for me it is a matter of reminding myself what is a relaxing vacation for me isn’t necessarily the same thing as it is for some others.

Carey Regenold & Lethal Obsession

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

Hey everyone! I’ve invited Carey Regenold to tell us a bit about her romantic suspense, Lethal Obsession. Carey and I knew each other years ago and fell out of touch. I’m so pleased she has a book out!  You can find Lethal Obsession at Amazon. Carey is offering her book for free right now, so grab your copy while you can.

Lethal Obsession

In a split second Ellen Anderson’s husband is gone in a fiery plane crash. Sheriff Gene Stone has the unpleasant task of notifying the young widow. Something happens to Gene when he sees this beautiful woman. He becomes obsessed to the exclusion of everything but her. At first uneasy, soon Ellen’s grieving loneliness has her enjoying the handsome sheriff’s attentions. When Ellen discovers Gene is married, she’s disgusted and distances herself. That’s when his ingenious stalking gets spooky and dangerous.

A widowed psychiatrist, Dr. Rick Carrington becomes Ellen’s anchor. Two grieving hearts heal each other as they discover love again. Rick tells Ellen his sister Martha is married to Gene and he is concerned for her. Dr. Carrington knows how unbalanced this man is.

No words can describe the murderous hatred Gene has for his brother in-law, especially now that Ellen is in love him. Rick is rear-ended, knocked unconscious and wakes up cuffed to a bed. He is looking into the eyes of a madman as Gene’s gun digs into his temple. The sheriff’s plan is to lure Ellen to this remote hideaway. She will come to rescue her love. That’s when she will become totally his.

The note reads “come alone or Rick dies.” Martha Stone teams up with Ellen to rescue her brother from her husband. The two women set out alone on a treacherous mission, not having a clue what they are up against. Martha has packed an old pistol, a roll of duct tape, a recorder and a can of wasp spray. That is the extent of their defense arsenal. Can these two determined women disarm a powerful lawman? Love for a fiancé and a brother will give them super human strength.

Slowing Down The Holidays

Sunday, December 8th, 2013

December snuck up on me like nobody’s business. I try to be somewhat proactive and get my Christmas cards done early. I get into the spirit of the holidays early in the month. Not this month. I’m lagging. It could be because of NANO. Hey, I’m ready to blame that for a lot of things.I mean writing 50,000 words in a month is a significant word count for me. I think it took quite a bit out of me.

Every year I hear people expressing how stressed they are during the holidays. Sometimes I think it means we all need to take a step back and recognize when we’re overdoing it. We need to acknowledge that the world spins super fast. Yet just because our wild world of 24-hour news, reality television and social media says we should go at 300 mph and live our lives in constant anxiety, we don’t have to.  We just don’t. When we decide not to hook in to more than we can handle, to allow all the panic/anxiety to rule us, we win.We become calmer. We don’t let others tell us that we should be afraid of everything all the time.

So recognizing that my mojo isn’t quite up to speed this month, I’m feeling little guilt that I’ve written only a paragraph in a week and haven’t finished my Christmas cards. So with that in mind, I’ll be a tad incognito from today until Wednesday. I’ll be writing or reading or both. My social networking might be sporadic. I’ll be back to full bloom by Thursday next week.

With that in mind, here’s to a lovely week for everyone, and I’ll talk to you soon.

Guest Author: JoAnne Smith Ainsworth & Indomitable Women

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

I love profiling authors who write historicals, especially if they’re aren’t the same-ole-same ole story. Welcome to my guest author today, JoAnne Ainsworth!


Indomitable Women Going It Alone

by JoAnn Smith Ainsworth

You may be like me and prefer to write and read character-driven stories.

Recently, my writing partners pointed out that I consistently write “coming of awareness” and “self acceptance” stories in an historical setting. The heroine is of prime importance to the resolution of the story question. Self acceptance transforms the heroine into an “indomitable” woman as she struggles with plot elements. She gains strength, wisdom and becomes empowered as she overcomes each challenge.

My writing partners also point out that my heroines, although living in historical times, could easily be transported to today’s world. Their type of courage is timeless. People struggle with the same relationship intricacies generation after generation. People face the same types of emotional highs and lows as their ancestors as they grow into adulthood, marry, and nurture children. They have aspirations. They endure despair. They are blocked while trying to reach their goals or make their lives better.

These universal events in the human condition tie us together with an understanding that spans the centuries.

That gave me an idea. I decided to compare my historical western romance heroine, Ida Osterbach, and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Eleanor Roosevelt free photo

Ida’s story is set in 1895 Wyoming. She has survived Indian and range wars and the murder of her husband. She’s kept the family farm going with sheer grit and determination. Hard working, focused, fiercely proprietary, she’s determined no outlaw gang is going to steal her land out from under her. Ida would have said the same words as Eleanor Roosevelt if asked about her life:  “As for accomplishments, I just did what I had to do as things came along.”

Both women are fearless in their own way. Eleanor sets up canteens for people living in city slums. She works with the Red Cross during World War I and takes care of the shell-shocked and wounded soldiers in the hospitals. Ida acts despite bullets flying and willingly risks her life for her fiancé and her friends.

Both women were widowed when they took their longest strides in personal achievement.

Eleanor goes against social norms to support the women’s suffrage movement. Ida lives in a territory which refused to join the union unless its women could continue to vote (as was the law in the territory).

As both women met and dealt with each challenge thrown at them, they rose above the “average”. They became “indomitable”. They are examples of courage and the ever-driving force of the human spirit toward a fulfilled life.

As you read various novels, do you ever find a heroine who reminds you of someone you know?

Share with us.

Polite Enemies COVER2

Visit @JoAnnAinsworth on Twitter and Facebook.



Sons of Anarchy: What It Teaches Us About Characters

Sunday, December 1st, 2013

I love angsty shows. Shows like Hell on Wheels, Copper, Ripper Street, The Walking Dead and Sons of Anarchy. Why? I could say it is just the acting. Especially The Walking Dead, Hell on Wheels and Sons of Anarchy. The acting is superb. At the end of the day, though, I think it has as much to do as the wonderful revelations the characters experience, and the audience experiences those changes right along with them. There’s nothing particularly plastic or bland within these characters. The good guys aren’t one hundred percent good (usually) and the bad guys aren’t one hundred percent bad (usually.) In other words, a little closer to real life. That’s one thing I loved about Battlestar Galactica (the modern version) and Babylon 5.

I’ll admit I lost my interest in Copper toward the end because I felt there were all of two characters who hadn’t horked up their lives so badly…the good guys were almost too good and the regular guys just seemed to run into a continuous string of bad crap with never a resolution in sight. Do I think my other favorite angsty shows could go that way, too? Yes I do. They could! I’m just hoping they know when to stop while they’re ahead.

So what this teaches the writer is that subtlety and nuances in characters is a hell of a lot more interesting than black and white paint between the lines color book work. 🙂

Get out there and write outside of the lines.