One Direction Gremlins

I was on my way to Barnes and Noble this morning in a desperate attempt to focus on my To Do List when I realized I was singing along to some teeny-bopper ear worm. How old do I sound right now?

Anyway, it was some totally bouncy thing that I KNOW we don’t own because all of the music in the house is stored on my laptop. I mean, really, you never know when I’m going to want to break out into something from High School Musical 3. OK, really, I just wasn’t paying for the crap more than once, so we have one iTunes account, and everything is on my iPod, iPhone and iEverything else I can buy.

Just remember that if you ever pick up my iWhatever and start looking at the play lists. It’s not a reflection on me. I’m the one who always has her iPod in the car, so everything is there.


How do I know the words to this song? And even though it turned out that this was not One Direction (I know ’cause it’s STILL in my head so I just typed in the lyrics – God Bless free Wi-Fi), earlier this summer when we visited Scout Son at Boy Scout Camp (I went three weeks without my parents each summer, why can’t Scouts go more than 3 days), the older Scouts did this skit with a One Direction song.

My ex about fell off of his log bench when he saw me singing and bopping along. And once again, I stared at him and sang, I have no idea how I know the words to this song. But. I. Do.

I blame One Direction Gremlins. I firmly believe they’re the reason I can’t sleep at night these days. They’re also the reason I can’t have any rational conversation. My brain cells that once held the Pythagorean theorem are slowing being reprogrammed with “Baby you light up my world like nobody else.”

Really?!!? Grumble. I was that young once.

So now I’m sitting at B&N with my computer getting some work done because Kelly and Michael, and Hoda and Kathy Lee have all invaded my Living Room (aka the Office) and who the hell invited them anyway? What? There’s an OFF button on the remote? But then who would I talk to.

I turned them on because I feed off of noise and after I left the day job I needed to find out what the heck everybody else cared about when they didn’t spend 12 hours at work/commuting. Well, I’ve officially hit my capacity for pop culture. It happened when I wanted a weather report this morning and got the damn Oscar nominations. Because this is somehow news, but how cold it isn’t going to be today, isn’t. At least at B&N I can eavesdrop, which for a fiction writer, is the equivalent of research. And doesn’t that sound much nicer?

Anyway, if I stayed home, I was going to pick up a paintbrush instead of designing a website, so here I am. At B&N wondering if the not so hot guy at the other table is really the pretty hot guy from that said he’s always here. If so, he touched up that photo. Not that THAT ever happens online. But he took the time to finish his profile and all I do is see if there’s anyone that interests me enough to start my profile, so kudos to him.

Sadly, the conversation next to me is an elderly woman and her caretaker talking about cat behavior. Really, if I’d wanted that I would have stayed home and watched my three taunt the dog. I may have to move to a different table. Because the characters I’m working on right now don’t have a cat.


Writing Wednesday: Building your Toolbox

Putting the other book on the shelf for a while to find a new heroine and plot means starting a new book in the meantime. And that means pulling out my trusty writer’s toolbox — and some wine and chocolate — and start  playing with my characters.

The toolbox is actually a bookshelf. I thought I’d share the books that I find indispensable as I write.

First up is The Writer’s Brainstorming Kit by Pam McCutcheon and Michael Waite. If you write on your own, this is a great book and deck of cards to get your creativity flowing. Each card has a descriptive word on it like greed, honesty or power. You deal cards for your hero and heroine, plot, antagonist, etc. For instance, if you draw honesty for your heroine, is it a benefit for her or a fatal flaw?

East Tarot Guide by Marcia Masino. Yes tarot. Yes really. I don’t particularly care if you believe in the cards. When you do a reading for a character, you force yourself to consider what the cards are saying. You may agree with them, or you may say, “No, that’s not it at all. The reason he’s that way is because…” Either way, you get something to work with.

The Complete Guide to Heroes and Heroines by Tami Cowden, Carol LaFever and Sue Viders. This is one of my favorites because it looks at the sixteen archetypes and how they play together. Want to see the character traits of two beta personalities? It’s here, Want to see what some of the basic issues would be between your alpha hero and equally alpha heroine? It’s here, and it’s a great starting point for building your characters. Yes, this is where I tend to start my plotting.

GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict by Deb Dixon. Awesome. If you ever get to hear her speak on this or the hero’s journey, spend the money. It’s well worth it. In this book, Dixon uses movies you’re familiar with the explain why a character’s goal, motivation and conflict are key to writing believable characters. Once you read this, you’ll start dissecting everything you read that you love — or hate — and you’ll regularly find that the problem is because one of these things is missing. Don’t believe me? Go read Twilight and tell me what Bella’s GMC are. Good luck finding them.

These are my go-to books. If you’re looking for an all-around book on writing romance, check out Writing a Romance Novel for Dummies by Leslie Wainger. former Executive Editor at Harlequin.

I’m off to plot a book. Good luck building your toolbox…and your book.



Writing Wednesday: Drastic Measures

I tried. I really did. I took a great plot and tried to write the book. The problem? I hate the plot.

Not a little dislike. I hate the plot.

I hate it so much that over the past six weeks, I’ve stripped wallpaper, redecorated my daughter’s bedroom, sewed things, looked for work, looked for clients, planted a garden, weeded it twice, cleaned the carpets, taken a group of girls to the zoo, and today I’m about to go out and spray poison ivy. On a side note, it’s only taken me this long to realize that the stuff that will kill the poison ivy will also probably kill the weeds… The denial has to be pretty strong when you don’t want to obliterate weeds with a simple spray.

There’s a point where you have to face your demons. Today, in honor of Writing Wednesday, I am killing the book. I have to. It all started with a princess. Well, turns out, I really don’t want to write about her. While the idea was great — is great — on index cards, every time I sit down to write this story, a voice in my head (the hero) says, “No. Seriously?!!? We’ve talked about this. She’s not for me.”

Now, usually that’s what they both say on paper and we all watch in fascination as the story proves the couple wrong and they live happily ever after. But this time, I think he’s right. She’s not for him. Or she’s not for me. There aren’t very many things I’m not willing to write about, but it appears princesses are currently on the list.

I’ve tried re-plotting it twice now and I can’t break the cycle because I’m too close to the story. Usually I can walk away for a few days and strip wallpaper and have inspiration strike, but on this one, I’m pushing too hard. I know it, the characters know it, my critique partner must know it, so I’m accepting it.

The book is part of a trilogy, but lucky for me, they don’t have to be in a particular order. In fact, at one point I thought this book would be the last, not the middle in the series. So this week, I get to find out why Joe is in the coffee shop (actually, I already know that one), and figure out why he’d fall for the girl who walks through his door.

No, that’s not a spoiler. It’s part of the Heiress at the Door series. I suppose she could climb through his window…or maybe the princess will do that in book three. If she’s still a princess.

Welcome to the joys of writing. In college I painted my room to avoid a paper. As you can see, not much has changed. I’m headed out to obliterate the poison ivy and mull over my new idea. What do you do to avoid the unavoidable?



Characters In My Head

Today I remembered what I loved about some of my characters. I’m in the editing stage on Billionaire Bachelor’s Revenge, which means I’ve stepped away from the book for a while. That’s key, because in those last weeks of writing, I’ve lived with those characters in my head for so long I can’t wait for them to get a happily ever after and leave me alone.

By the time I finished The Heiress and Her Fake Fiancé, I never wanted to see Blakely, NC again. Crazy grandmas and over-stepping fathers could take a cruise up the coast for all I cared. The good news is once I’ve been away from a book for a while, I begin to care again. And sure enough, with a few weeks away from the story, I remembered that I love Meg’s determination to right her father’s wrongs, and Evan’s fierce need for revenge is fun to fuel. Hey, it’s not directed at me!

In addition to editing, I’m also writing the third book in the Heiress at the Door series. Like Billionaire Bachelor’s Revenge, this one also takes place in the Bay Area. Now, I fully admit to being homesick, but at this point I’m ready to move for my next book. Luckily, that one’s back in Blakely. And I’ve been away long enough that I’m ready to go back. I’m even looking forward to crazy grandma again, because that woman will mess with anyone’s love life and apparently there are a lot of clueless, lovelorn people in Blakely.

Editing takes three or four passes, so I’m sure by the end of all of that, I’ll be back to being thankful Meg and Evan live 3,000 miles away from me. But right now it’s a lot of fun to watch them work through their issues. And they have a lot of issues! You’ll get a chance to meet them this summer.



Writing Wednesday: Promotion

As some of you know, I had a small…um, large, run-in with a hammer ten days ago. Turns out, you need your hands to write. Since that’s been basically out of the picture, I turned to promotion planning and trying to figure out how to build readership. Most writers became writers to tell our stories, but every one of us wants people to read them. OK, we’d like it if you read them, but we really we want you to buy them.

With that in mind, I pulled up a chair at the virtual coffee table, poured a cup of coffee smuggler Slick Micky’s strongest brew(from Regan’s Tracking Shadows), grabbed a slice of my character, Jessica’s pound cake, and sat down with paranormal romance and urban fantasy author Regan Black to interview media specialist Terry Kate, and find out more about her company Paco Media and the cool things she’s doing for writers today.

Kimberly Hope: Thanks for sitting with us today, Terry. For those new to publishing, what is NetGalley and what are the pros/cons of using it?

Terry Kate: Netgalley is a service that offers authors and publishers a way to get in contact on a larger scale with reviewers, bloggers, librarians, and book sellers. The decisions on how the titles are treated, the format they go out in, whether they have Digital Rights Management, and other options are offered and then the account holder sets their terms. With a membership of 56,000 Netgalley is the place to be in order to build your brand and name recognition.

The downside is that you are giving away a lot of copies of your book. True they are electronic, but it still stings. Emotionally, the downside is that not all reviews are going to be positive. On a large scale that can be a knock, but it is also part of the game and you joined the team the minute you put that first book out to be purchased.

Regan Black: Can you tell us a bit about Paco Media Group, your mission and what you provide to authors?

Terry: PMG is a reflection of all the crazy, mad, and sometimes downright loony things that I have done. I wanted to learn to format for a pub that hired me, so now we can offer services in that area. I found out that writers needed help with this or that and I learned how along the way. HTML, SEO, branding, newsletters, social media, cover design, writing, editing, public speaking… there are more that have slipped my mind, but that starts the list. I get asked often why all of our services are not listed on the Paco Media Group site and the only answer I have is – What DON’T we do?

Every bit of it is to help authors. I get it. I am a reader first, so I want you off and working on the next book too. Every thing we do is important and beneficial, but most of all it’s time consuming and there is a learning curve. So we make it possible for creators to be creative.

Since we are so varied I usually open with a consultation so we can match services to your needs and budget. Custom PR and Marketing.

Kimberly: That sounds fantastic, but can authors who haven’t been noticed yet afford the services?

Terry: We have options for every budget, I do not want anyone to be discouraged. There are always ways to get noticed, some free, some paid, but they often require time. Your book may not have hit its stride yet, but balance that with the desire to write, spend family time, and just live. Then decide what is right for you and take away pressure from your day to day. Writing should be fun and that does not need to be sucked dry by the marketing and promo.

Regan: What is included in your NetGalley program?

Terry: The Basic Package with Netgalley is a two month posting of one title. Then the organization of a press pack. These materials will lead Netgalley members to you. Not only for reviews because we want to offer as wide spread promotion as possible. If the interested blogger can’t find a place in their schedule to review your book maybe instead they will offer an interview. They might be willing to take a press release from you and post that information for their readers.

This can be overwhelming. Dealing with so many blogs, so many requests. So we created a program I am calling the Library. PMG will help you organize materials from posts you have already written, materials that we have found online, and direct you to fast and effective means of advertising yourself and your book with out coming off as a used car salesman. We are your support and allow you to maximize every particle of exposure Netgalley offers.

Kimberly: Where can authors go to get more information or to sign up for the program?

Terry: Details are at and we have a special going on the cost of the promotion until Sunday so hurry to book your spot!

Kimberly: Terry, thanks for stopping by and giving us some ideas of how we can get into great promo tools like Netgalley!



Writing Wednesday: Creating Characters

So last week I said that books tend to come to me with a scene. But that “scene” may only be a few lines of dialogue. There are people who have fully-formed characters that enter their world. I’m not that lucky. My characters kind of dare me to get to know them. “We gave you that little taste. You want more? Figure us out!”

It’s cruel, but it’s the way they play. Over the years I’ve had to find a lot of tools to help me figure out who they are. If I’m lucky that little bit of dialogue gives me a hit about their internal or external conflicts, their goals and motivations. I start trying to figure out who they are by looking at what I learned about them from that scene.

When The Billionaire Bachelor’s Revenge came to me, I got the first line of the book: Meg looked up at the man who hated her almost as much as her father did, and said the four words that would change her life forever. “I need your help.”

She’s standing out in the rain and has to beg the hero for help. A man she’d hoped to never see again. And he’s not budging, not happy about letting her in. So why does she turn to him? And why does he finally let her in the house? Then there’s that whole comment about him hating her almost as much as her father? There’s some baggage to unpack. Why does he hate her?

Why, why why?

It all comes down to why. That’s where the conflict is, and conflict is what makes readers turn the page. The fact is the story ends with happily ever after because that’s where the conflict ends. We’ve gotten our happy ending. How many pages would you keep reading after that if there wasn’t conflict? The beauty of Once Upon A Time is that Snow and Charming got their happily ever after, but it only lasted about five minutes. Then the Evil Queen showed up, cursed everyone, and now they’re all stuck in Maine with amnesia. Five minutes is about all we can handle of happy.

For romance novels, we need two conflicts, internal and external. We need them because our readers know how the story ends. The internal conflict is the emotional issue, and each character in your story has one. The external conflict is what moves the story along, what the characters are trying to get, be it a house, a business, a client. We might not know the conflicts of the waiter in the restaurant where your leading couple is eating dinner, but he has them.

In The Heiress and Her Fake Fiancé, Matt’s internal conflict is tied to his mother leaving him as a child. He wants to be loved, wants a family, but he wants a woman who won’t leave Blakely. Because he fears being left again. So the last person he should fall in love with is the woman who admits she’s come back home to lick her wounds before she leaves town again to escape her father.

You’ll notice I threw in the because statement there. When we look at conflict whether it’s internal or external, we also need to look at the character’s backstory. We need their goal (I want), motivation (because) and conflict (but). I want a bowl of ice cream because it’s heaven on a spoon and reminds me of my favorite times with my dad, but if I eat it my butt will get larger than it already is. Hey, it’s an external conflict, and it was easy. Will she or won’t she eat the ice cream? Tune in tomorrow…

The because makes it interesting. What memories does ice cream bring? And the conflict: do I want the walk down memory lane or the fat thighs and butt? You have to have all three to have believable characters because everyone has goals. And we all have backstory. That’s where I start with my characters. My backstory includes ice cream. What about yours?


My Writer’s Toolbox

When it comes to creating a book, as you can see, there are a lot of tools I use. Which one I pick up depends entirely on my mood or the problem I’m facing with the book.

Early in the process, I use the Writer’s Brainstorming Kit. I use this mostly because my friend and critique partner, Regan Black, lives 5 hours away and I’ve heard she’d like to get some writing of her own done. If you’re a writer and you want something that can help you brainstorm, this is it. The book comes with a deck of cards with a word on each one, and simple suggestions for goal, motivation, plot, etc. for each word. It’s a great starting place if you just want to play with a character a little.

But just because the kit gives you the card, doesn’t mean it’s right. For the book I’m working on now, my princess’s goal card was innocence. I read all the possibilities #22, and thought, no, that’s not right, here’s her thing. So the cards don’t always tell the truth, but they can help you have a-ha moments.

Notecards and colored pencils. Alternate: Excel spreadsheet and different colored fonts. This time I wanted to be able to move stuff around a lot so I used notecards. Regan finds this process hysterical. As I create the plot and subplots, I start writing one scene per card. Each plot line is in a different color so that when the book is laid out, I can immediately see if I’m spending too much time on any one plot point and move the scenes around. It works for me.

Tarot cards. Yes, they’re there. I am more than willing to do readings on my characters. It’s really interesting what comes up as you read the Tarot Guide and learn the meaning of each card. The cards pose questions more than answers, but in answering the questions, I learn a lot about the character. This is a long process because I’m not skilled with the Tarot. I cannot do a reading on anyone else for the simple reason that we’d all forget the question before I looked up the meaning of the second card. But an author did a reading for one of my characters when I was up against a wall, and it was spot on. So, it’s a tool in the box to help me focus on my characters and a lot of their backstory.

Chocolate and red wine. Also pralines, and the drink stirs from Margaritaville. The stirs started as a pleasant reminder of getting to the beach and watching people in the restaurant for a couple of hours. Then they became hair sticks. The rest of that is self-explanatory.

So there it is. My writer’s toolkit. The things I go to when I don’t know where the book is going. I’m open to suggestions for additions.


Facing a Blank Page

There are days when you sit down to write and you just start typing and hope for a great idea. Any great idea. Because anything is better than staring at a blank page. And you hope that if you type enough, you’ll come up with something better than talking about the ankle you sprained getting out of your car yesterday, or Scout Son being upset about having to dance in PE.

Given the choices, the blank page is beginning to look better. But there’s a theory that if you just keep typing, even if it’s just “I don’t know what to write,” that eventually you’ll get bored with writing that and you’ll start writing something interesting.

And if you do that one sentence at a time, you end up with a book.

Writing romance novels means putting up with a lot of nonsense and misconceptions. You’ve got people who think anyone can write a book. You’ve got the funny folks who make cracks about spending all your time doing “research.” The people who think that every book is the same simply because you have a happily ever after ending. But nobody says that about a murder mystery, and someone has to die for that book to be written.

The thing is, writing romance novels can be harder than a lot of other books – yes, I am biased – because everyone knows how a romance novel is going to end. So there has to be another plot that keeps people turning the pages in addition to the romantic plot, or else nobody wants to read the story. Because we know how that story is going to end.

So we type. We fold socks. We talk to ourselves. And then, even if we don’t know what comes next, we write. And trust that the ride will be worth it. That something will shake out that is true to our characters and the story we’re trying to share.

Because the other option is the story about how I sprained my ankle. And who wants to read about that?


Birth of a Book

So, 20,000 words into the third book in the Heiress at the Door series, I hit a wall. Part of that is probably because I was going through a divorce, didn’t believe in happily ever after and was trying to just manage my real life, forget imaginary characters. And anyway, I hadn’t sold a book yet so there was no deadline.

But time heals all wounds, and as soon as I started feeling emotions again, my fingers itched to hit the keys. Except, the book was still wrong. For one thing, the hook to the series is, you know, an heiress at the door. But the heiress in this book is never at the door. Not my fault. We came up with the hook after I’d started writing this one.

Me: Um, do you think it’s a problem that both of these books start with an heiress at the door?

Regan: No, they’re different books. I think it’s your hook.

Me: That could be cool. I could play with that.

Regan: I think you already are.

And so it went. But, no door. Also, there’s a princess in this one and I’m still dealing with some of the harsh reality of my life. Really, a princess book? Would that even work?

So I put the old file away, threw away the old plot cards completely, and was going to start over at the beach. Until…

Snarky Daughter: Why are you going to the beach in winter?

Me: To plot a book and figure out the blog and stuff that I keep ignoring here to do really fun stuff like grocery shopping, vacuuming and laundry.

SD: How do you plot a book?

Me, looking at the ceiling: Um, with index cards and colored pencils

SD: Can I watch?

Me: Sure, but you can’t stop me from banging my head against a wall. It’s part of the process.

I went to the beach, and I thought about the characters, and I did some of the basic stuff upfront. But I didn’t pull out the index cards and pencils. Snarky Daughter and I did that for an hour and a half tonight. I think I have maybe 7 cards filled out.

The skeleton of a book.
The skeleton of a book.

Now understand, here’s how I give birth to a book. I figure out how many chapters are, and I spread out blank index cards in a grid on the table. Three scenes to a chapter, so three cards per chapter. I set the grid up so there are turning points evenly spaced throughout the book.

And I start thinking of all the subplots in the story: hero’s external goal, heroine’s external goal, love story, three turning points, happily ever after… The list goes on and on (which I think was the reason the book wasn’t working last time). Then I just start writing basic stuff on the different cards. Here are the scenes I know need to happen for this subplot. I do it for each subplot. And each subplot gets a different color, so that as I start moving the cards around, I can see if I’m getting too much of one plot in one part of the book and spread it around.

When Snarky Daughter started yawning, we called it a night. I may have killed her writing aspirations, although I stressed that this is not how every writer does it. I then outlined how Regan does hers (hint: no cards or colored pencils, but I think she uses the wall).

SD: You put a lot of work in before you start writing.

Me: Yep. I need to know I have a full story before I sit down. I need to know I have a book.

SD: Why?

Me: Because editing during the process and making changes is more painful that sitting at the table now.

SD: So how long will this take?

Me: Until it’s done. I have to have half the scenes drafted on the cards before I start.

I have 7. I’d say I’m out of practice, but in explaining the process to SD, I realized I know a lot about the book, I just didn’t want to take a lot of time writing it out while I was explaining it to her.

If only I could control my real life with colored pencils and index cards. Hey, I can see the happy ending. I just don’t know how to get there. Yet.


Changes is Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes

So, I realized something this morning after a long walk on the beach snapping over 100 pictures of the sunrise. No, I don’t know why I had to take so many, and since I forgot the cable to download them, I’m not going to know which six are any good until I get home. Ah, the mystery!

OK, I realized two things.

#1 God meant for me to live at the beach. I thought I needed to live between the beach and the mountains so I could have a choice. Screw that. I’m meant to be here. This is where I run whenever life gets me down. Luckily, life tends to get me down in the winter when the rates are good and the cold breeze reminds me of Northern California, so it’s not a huge hit to my wallet, and I get to stay in nice places with great beds.

#2 You can’t be a writer and stop reading. You have to make time for both.

That’s hard to do. Between the day job, the writing I haven’t been focused on (hence the trip to the beach), feeding the kids, running errands, cleaning… well, you get the idea. During the week, I spend 11 hours a day either at the day job or commuting to/from it. By the time I get home, feed the kids and hear about their days, and do physical therapy (for a few seconds of stupidity on a ladder), I have, at best, 2 hours to pay bills, check email, write, work out…. And weekends are spent with at least one full day of errands that couldn’t get done during the week.

But reading has to be in there too. Turns out, that’s part of the job requirements of a writer. But lately, I haven’t been filling the creative well. I haven’t been reading blogs, books, or anything more than the headlines on Small wonder my creativity has dried up.

So part of my “home” work this weekend, you know, at the beach, is to find blogs worth reading, and catch up with some authors who always make me laugh. Jenny Crusie and Susan Elizabeth Phillips, don’t fail me now!

Who are the favorite blog and book authors you turn to when you have to escape?