Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Promo R Us

Promotions: what sells it to me

1. Name recognition.
2. Book art and cover blurb

I'll pick up a new author but only if there's something on the cover that attracts me, a quote from an author I like or if the back cover blurb sucks me in.

Bookmarks, doo-dads, pens, all that stuff that's handed out at National Conference? Nope, it doesn't convince me to buy. Heck, I just skim the free books handed out and most of them I don't keep.

No, it's something on the book itself that makes me want to buy. This makes me a bit nervous since my books will be e-books initially and I'm not sure how I'll be able to suck folks in if they can't hold the book in their hands. I'm crossing that bridge soon. Believe me, we'll have more promo topics coming up since I'm gearing up for a big push in December/January.

Do you know what makes me cringe? It's when someone posts and their post is full of typos, grammatical errors, or misspellings. I don't mind the occasional lapse, but if I see an author posting who consistently has problems with grammar, punctuation, or spelling, then that convinces me not to pick up that book. I'll grant you, an editor can work wonders, but they shouldn't have to do so. The author should have all of those 'basics' down pat by the time the book lands on a desk.

Maybe that's setting my standards too high, but I've seen some posts from authors on social loops and other 'closed' loops that made my head spin. Good heavens, if they write the way they post, their books must be a minefield! I know, I know, it's a social loop, it's 'just us girls', it shouldn't matter, should it?

It does. Anytime you post any place with people who are relative strangers, you're opening yourself up to evaluation. Any time you put a picture out there, an illustration, a message someone may read that and categorize you according to what you posted.

The Web has brought us all so much closer, hasn't it? There is no anonymity anymore -- so be careful what you say 8)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Sex Sells

And catchy titles don't hurt either :) !

Promo - a subject near and dear to my heart. But right now I don't have a book to promote. I've got a story (Beauty and The Best? American Title III Finalist? Perhaps you've heard of it?) to promote. To do that, I had to come up with something to promote.

First, I looked at what was "catchiest." The name. A play on Beauty and The Beast, fairly recognizable, always gets a chuckle, some inquiries into what it's about. Also, the AT3 connection. Most people have heard of American Idol, even if they've never watched it, so that, too, is instantly recognizable. It's actually my lead-off when I'm talking to "the press." It perks up their interest.

Then I thought about all those marketing classes I took for the business part of my degree (B.S. in Spanish with the closest thing Penn State offered to a double major back in the day for business). Image sells. So, I created a "book cover" that highlighted the story. Unfortunately, I'm not tech-savvy enough to add in the white sofa back with a painted drop cloth hanging over the back and a woman's leg kicking up from behind it, but the one I came up with gets pretty close. And a slogan - Love can be just a stroke away. Hey, sex sells, and innuendo works when you'll have kids looking at the cover. Voila! An image I can plaster all over everything.

Will it work? Who knows? I guess we'll find out when the contest is over.

Of course, then a whole different promotion comes into play if I'm lucky enough to sell this story. What will get people to pick it off the shelves? I think the most important element, other than store placement and book seller endoresement, is the cover. A good cover that's facing out will get me to pick up a book faster than looking for a favorite author. Maybe I'm in a mood for light-hearted, I'll pick up something with bold colors and a "kicky" cover - kind of like Beauty and The Best's as it is now. Or, if I'm in a mood for something a bit more emotional, maybe I'll pick up one with a darker cover. Maybe I want to lose myself in fantasy, I'll pick up something with a castle on it. It depends on my mood. I can tell you that I probably wouldn't pick up a "bodice-ripper" cover. I think those covers have gone by the wayside - they date themselves to the 80s and my perception of the writing would be tainted. Not that the writing wouldn't be good, it's just that story-telling has changed in 20 some years and since I'm writing for today's market and have limited time to read, I'll pick up something that looks current to me.

Sex sells. I love double entendre and innuendo, so something like, Sex and The Single Vampire, could do it for me. Something provocative and fun. A hot guy on the cover also works - but people have different ideas of hot. I'm reminded of an award winning cover that had just a guy on the cover. People raved over it, "oh, he's so hot," "great cover," etc. I personally thought the guy was, um, yucky? and would never pick up that book. I like to create my own image of the hero - unless of course the cover offers a better one :) But looks are subjective, so you do run a risk of having that reaction.

As for bookmarks, pens, and the like...I did bookmarks for AT3 and attached a paintbrush to them for a conference I went to. They were a novelty item, people picked them up. Did they vote for me? I'd like to think so. If anything, it at least made them remember my story when it came time to vote. Will I do items like that if/when I sell? Not sure. Again, if I get bookseller support (and, yes, my local stores have been GREAT about putting my bookmarks out for the public!), then I might. I think getting your name out is the most important thing once you sell and, media hound that I am, I'll try that route. Local girl done good is always a good story.

Other than that, anyone have any ties to Kelly Ripa? Oprah? That'd be the ticket!

Check my website,, on December 18, 2006 to see if my promo helped Beauty and The Best make the American Title cut for Round 3 voting which begins that day.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Promo whatnots


Blogging about promotional material is a bit theoretical for me.  Like JL Wilson, I am just starting out in the publication world.  I will be making these choices for real in a matter of weeks.  Here are my thoughts on the matter.


Name recognition is key.  Let’s face it, when you’re standing there in a store (or library) and you’re looking for something good to read, don’t you check your favorite authors first?  I know I do.  So, how do we newbies break through the name barrier?  One thing that helps is contest wins.  I like to see “Award winning author” on covers – that usually means that people who rate stories have thought highly of the author.  After that, I usually look to see if there’s a cover review by someone that’s a name person.  And having an intriguing cover helps.


Going back to the name recognition theme, although my book will be coming out in 2007, I have been actively marketing my name by volunteering in writer groups for a good many years.  I’ve helped out at RWA Nationals, and I edited a large RWA chapter newsletter for 2 years.  That newsletter went out electronically, which put my name in all 200 members Inbox every month.  I’ve recently taken a board level position at my new writing group, First Coast Romance Writers, as program chair, and I’m the Member News columnist for the Southeast Mystery Writers.  Hopefully, my newspaper columnist job and my magazine job will also help with name recognition.


As for bookmarks and other whatnots, they are interesting, and they are something to put in a person’s hand but I’ve personally never bought a book because of a bookmark.  However, I will probably print them up because I view them as a business card of sorts.  And it is nice to be able to “hand” people something if they aren’t prepared to buy your book on the spot.


I think having a mailing list/newsletter helps, but I would never deluge folks with info – I know I hate that.  As for the big posters in advertising displays, I think that just depends.  If you have a good marketing hook, that will draw people to the display.  But will they pick up the book and buy it? It’s hard to say.


At most writing conferences, I go through my bag of freebies.  I glance at most of the bookmarks and fliers, and they get instantly recycled.  The books – well I flip through them, maybe read a random page or two, and if I’m not hooked, they get recycled too.  Pens I keep, but that’s because I LOVE pens.  So you can probably count on me using pens to promo my work.


And keeping a current website – that matters.  There’s nothing that today’s cyber shopper likes better than to cruise through a site.  I’m counting on the website to interest people in my writing, and to keep them coming back.


Until next Monday, Maggie 


Maggie Toussaint

Coming soon:  House of Lies ;


Sunday, November 26, 2006

What kind of promo lures you into buying?

Okay, now that I have your attention.

Seriously: is there a single promo item that will convince you to pick up a book?

I'm gearing up for promo for my two books coming out next year. I'll discuss my promo philosophy on Wednesday, when it's my Day to Blog.

What about you? We've all seen bookmarks, pens, letter openers, calculators, and Lord knows what else with names of authors and/or books on them. Then in the stores we've seen the big stand-up thingies screaming a book title, or clumps of books sitting out on tables and/or displays, as well as advertisements for book signings.

What sells a book for you -- what makes you walk through the bookstore, browse, then pluck that one book off the shelf and take it up to the cash register?


Saturday, November 25, 2006

Goals and Pen Names

My goal is to have a pen name!

If I followed JL's timeframe, I would have given up five or six years ago. Every now and then I wonder what the point is? The first time it happened, I was in my third day of a serious grumpiness.

The phone rang, my time-travel was a finalist in the Gotcha! contest. I'm sure that the coordinator was shocked when I started to cry on the phone. But, it was a validation that someone out there thought that my writing was good enough.

I know that I still have to learn craft, but now my time has come. No more daily job, the kid is in college, and the house is clean. I can now devote my spare time to seriously working on my writing skills.

Once while riding with some romance authors and one fan, don't ask why she was in the car, she said in all sincerity, "Why don't you use Fifi LaPlume?"

If I were drinking a coke at the time, it would have spewed all over the dashboard.

Fifi LaPlume!

I have a couple of pen names picked out, as my last name won't work. One is for the adult writing, and the other is for children's stories.

Fifi is not one of those names...LOL

Friday, November 24, 2006

Pen Names

I have been considering a pen name myself.!

My name is pretty bland but I like my name and have envisioned it blazoned across a cover. I write contemporary stories and haven't branched out to other genres. Beverly Johnson, one of my favorites, write both historical and contemporary romances under her own name. The two genres are written by different publishing houses so there seems to be minimal confusion. Maybe I can do the same.

I have read that some publishers, particularly the category houses, ask authors to use pen names that sound romantic and have flair. If I'm asked, I'd use one in a hurry. The point is to get published.

I have considered using a pen name for the sake of privacy. Who knows if my kid wants all of her friends to know that I write "those books."

I haven't decided yet, but it's in the back of my mind.

Pen names

Why do it?

Well I write under two pen names and neither of them are trying to hide my identity!

So if you don't want to hide your name, why do it?

Because I write under two genres. After a bit of research, it became clear that people who bought my historical romances, didn't necessarily buy my paranormal romances. So it's to make clear which genre the book is.

Take WICKED INTENTIONS. By the title, it's not immediately obvious if it's a historical or a paranormal and the cover (which I love) is a woman in a bath, through a gauze filter. Still no wiser? Look at the name. It says "Lynne Martin." Now you know, it's a historical.

Using two names also means I can have two different identities, two different 'brands,' for want of a better word. So Lynne Martin is the historian, the woman intensely interested in history, the one who visits country homes and gives the occasional lecture. The one who writes passionate historical romances, well grounded in their period, and full of the adventure of the times.

Lynne Connolly writes paranormal romance. She researches old legends and folklore, and crafts them into a coherent modern world. She's a city girl, loves the dark recesses and secret places you find in all cities, however new. She enjoys travelling, so she can see the places and feel the atmospheres. Bustling cities are her home. her books use the places she's visited, and some of her life experiences to bring a realistic slant on the world we live in today.

And they're both me, both aspects of me. However, some of the fans of my paranormal romances hate history, can't understand the passion for it, and the historical fans can't stand vampires. So now they know which name belongs to them.

You've got to love a pen name!

powered by performancing firefox

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Goals and how we got there

I came into writing romance by accident. It's a long story which I will tell sometime over drinks -- it's truly hilarious how I read my first romance novel. Suffice it to say, it was a Book on Tape, I was driving, and the narrator got to the steamy part -- I almost drove off the road, I was so shocked!! I can laugh about it now, but at the time I was stunned that such a genre existed. I immediately went to the library, checked out a bunch of books, and read for about two months. Then I sat down and started to write.

I guess my long term goals are (1) continue to have fun writing and (b) continue to be published. [Note that I mixed up my 1 and b -- I did that to see if you're paying attention.] I'm in the middle of a deep rewrite now, and it's not at all fun. I mean, it has to be done. I know it. It's one of those books where I said, 'hell, if an editor falls in love with it and wants me to fix it, I will, but it's okay for now."

Yep. You guessed it. And editor fell in love with it. Now I have to fix it.

I'm curious to see how this all shakes out once I have to start promo for my books. I figure I've got a little bit of time. Books don't come out until next year, so January is my Kickoff Month. I don't want to bore people too far ahead of time. I have no problem firing off emails to relative strangers and even schmoozing at National Conferences with people. Book signings? Not sure about that one. That seems to be a big setup for a Huge Embarassment. I mean, I'll probably give it a shot, but I'll have to see.

Of course, now that I'm facing a possible layoff in my Real Job, I may have a chance to write full time again (I was laid off once before and wrote one of the books I sold, and the other one that I'm doing rewrites on. I don't waste time when I've got it, that's for sure). I'm seriously thinking about getting out of high tech and going to work at the coffee shop. It's not that I don't love high tech work (and I'm good at it, I must say), but I'd like a change. I've been in High Tech since before there was a High Tech (yeah, that long). We'll see what shakes out.

Hmm. That seems to be my philosophy of life ... "We'll see."

[shrug] No use agonizing over it. What will be, will be [cue Doris Day singing in the background].

Hey, for those of you in the States (or who celebrate Stateside holidays), have a good Turkey Day tomorrow. And for those of you who don't celebrate Stateside holidays, have a good day on the Yahoo loops without us Yanks clogging up the airwaves.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

There's an end....?

Responding to JL's question about a cut-off point, my answer is no. Once the floodgates opened, I can't see them closing. Plus, this is something I want. This is my passion.

I always knew it was, but unless, at least for me, it seemed like a pipe dream. You know, it's not practical. It doesn't earn money and it takes time from things that could. It would have taken time from my babies when I had them, and before that, my job(s). In short, I listened to those nay-sayers who said, "what makes you think anything you write would be market-worthy?"

Shame on me.

And, if the American Title finalist status has done anything, it's validated my (and my husband's belief) that what I write can be market-worthy.

But, would I have kept at it if I hadn't started finalling/winning contests? I'll have to say an emphatic YES. I'm at that age now where I don't care what other people think, when I realized that, hey, I'm an adult, I don't have to listen to other people and think their words are gospel. I can make up my own mind, etc. etc.

So I've thrown myself whole-heartedly into this and I'm aiming for an ISBN number with my name attached to it. Stop? Only if the ideas stop flowing, and, honestly, I can't see that happening any time soon. Matter of fact, I wish the CLOCK would stop flowing so I could get my stories on paper faster!

Life interferes with my writing, now, not the other way around. I make time for it. I have to make time for it - or it wakes me up. Seriously. Happened again last night. So, I got up, wrote it down, went back to sleep. It'll be another story someday. I don't know when, or in what order, but the idea's there - insurance, if you will, against the idea of stopping.

I'm glad JL that you beat your personal deadline, because if you had stopped, the public would be out some fabulous stories from a very talented person. :) Congrats to you, Maggie and Lynne for your recent publication news, and here's hoping Donna, Angela and I can join you guys soon!

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

-Judi Fennell
American Title Finalist, Beauty and The Best
Voting ends Sunday, November 26, 2006, vote:

Monday, November 20, 2006

Balancing life and writing goals

Writing is one of those things that snuck up on me. Through the years, I gradually wrote more and more. I'm not sure if I suddenly had more time or if the kids activities started taking longer. In any event, I wasn't getting anywhere very fast doing it around my fulltime job and family responsibilities. Once my kids were grown and I was fairly certain the call actually would come any minute, I convinced my spouse to let me try writing full time. My argument was that the windfall of money in my profit-sharing account would cover my lost wages for a year or two. That was May 2002.

Life happened. We had a family wedding. We had health issues. We found we enjoyed having more time together. We down-sized from our five-bedroom house, which eventually entailed a 670 mile move.

The one year stretched to two then three and four. I signed with an agent, I was writing two books a year, and it was just a matter of time until New York came knocking. The rejections were encouraging.

My long-range goal was still publication, but I started rethinking the market. Small presses held a lot of appeal, and in 2006, I expanded my search with small press submissions. Right away, I got a response from The Wild Rose Press for my romantic suspense, House of Lies. The contract came very soon afterwards.

If there is any wisdom in my publication journey, it's to write smart. Keep your eye on the long-term goal, but don't get locked into just one route to get published. Network and find opportunities. They're out there!

Until next week, Maggie Toussaint

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Leaping into the unknown

So I just signed my second publishing contract. Talk about a leap into the unknown! In the last month I've signed 2 contracts and it looks like a publisher might also want a 3-book series.

I set a goal for myself when I started pursuing publication. I gave myself 10 years to get published. My 'expiration date' is 2013. Looks like I beat it and won't have to jerk myself off the shelf, so to speak.

Did you ever set a similar goal for yourself? Did you ever say, 'Hmm, if I haven't sold something by {insert date here} I probably won't and I should quit wasting time on this?' Or did you say, "okay, it looks like this ain't in the cards for me. I'll find something else more satisifying?"

I fully intended to Not Write For Publication if I couldn't get published by a certain date. And if it gets to the point this isn't fun any more, then I'll quit doing it and call it good -- hey, two or three books is good. I'm not aiming for the Pulitzer. I'm not aiming for Name Brand Recognition. I'm not going to quit my day job just because I've got a few books out.

So how about you -- what are your long-term goals? I'll share mine with you on Wednesday when it's my day to blog...


Saturday, November 18, 2006

Oh, how cool!

That's the response I normally get when someone finds out that I'm a writer.

Plus, "Where can I buy it?"

Most people don't realize that just because a book is written, does not automatically mean that it will be in print. Or eprint. (Is that a word?)

When my book does come out in print or eprint (notice the positive vibes I give myself...'when'...not 'if'...when) it won't have my name on it.

Why you ask?

Er....take a look at the spelling of the last name. Most everyone cannot pronounce it, much less remember it to look for my name on the shelf, or even know enough of the letters to Google it.

So, back to my maiden name. Smith.

Yes, I went from one end of the spectrum to the other. But Smith it will be, and the first name is Zoe. It's enough like my childhood nickname that if anyone calls me by that, with my diminishing hearing, I'll look up thinking that someone I know is talking to me.

Writer's don't come out of the closet...they try to get their derriere off their computer chair. LOL

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Shouting From The Rooftops

I've never been what you'd call quiet. As a matter of fact, I believe the terminology used by my best friend in high school was "world's biggest ham." So, obviously, I couldn't keep my writing for publication quiet.

Now with the whole American Title thing happening, it's part of the process. I'd love to go on and on about all my ideas for promotion, what's working for me, etc., but the contest is still going on and while I'm rooting for all of us finalists, I want to win that contract. So, no shameless self-promotion ideas being announced here.

That being said, yes, I do tell pretty much everyone I meet that I'm writing and in this contest. Before ATIII, I would tell people if it came up in conversation. "Oh, what do you do?" "I write." "Write? What? Shopping lists?" (As a stay-at-home mom, I've found some of the ideas of what we do all day a bit less than flattering.) "No, I write romance novels." Then you'd get the big eye roll. Oh, those.

Maggie was right about the reaction the uninitiated into this business give you. Romance novel = bodice ripper. Just goes to show you how often they look at the covers these days. Or realize that Meg Cabot does fall into our genre.

Once I got involved in the business aspect of this career and learned the facts and figures of the romance industry, I'm now able to deflate the bodice ripper image (though do I really want to "deflate" something in romance heh, heh) and turn the tone to the business of writing. Does Stephen King get that kind of snark? Nope. Dean Koontz? Doubtful. Dan Brown? Well, okay, he gets flack for a whole other reason... And don't even get me started on Nora - she's so famous she only needs one name. Like Cher. Madonna. Okay, maybe not good comparisons.

I want to be that some day. Of course the chances are pretty slim. Still, someone did that. It could be me. "Judi" and everyone would immediately know, "Ah, yes. Beauty and The Best was the first. But the rest? Sheer perfection."

Okay, I'll wake up now.

And get back to my emailing about the contest. And let me take this opportunity to say, please vote for Beauty and The Best in the American Title III contest by sending an email to and writing Beauty and The Best in the subject line.

Thank you! Have a great Tuesday!


Monday, November 13, 2006

Shameless self-promotion

Telling others about my writing life was easy for me, after awhile. In the beginning, I was hesitant to tell people what I was doing because of the old saw of people looking down on the romance genre. But the more I learned about the industry, the more I saw how hard romance writers worked, the more I realized there was nothing to be ashamed of. For me, finding the local RWA chapter and networking with other aspiring and published authors helped me to see that my attitude about my writing was much ado about nothing. These writers worked hard, and they made good money.

I originally planned to publish under a pseudonym. That was back when I was writing peer-reviewed journal articles in toxicology for the Army (check me out on Medline, either as MW Toussaint or Margaret W Toussaint) and my husband managed a staff of about a hundered or so people as he worked to keep the government's nuclear sites more environmentally compliant. Since then, I've written at least one romance (or mystery) a year and gone to a lot more writer conferences. People kept telling me I had a "good" name and that I shouldn't bother with a pen name. I've taken their advice, and we'll see where this journey takes me.

I carry my writer business cards with me everywhere. Every chance I can work it into the conversation, I mention I write books, and I encourage folks to visit my website. The lesson I've learned in all of this is that respect comes from the inside. You have to respect yourself first. As for earning the respect of others, I hope to do that through the quality of my writing.

I shamelessly promote myself every chance I get. Visit my website at See, I just did it again!

Until next Monday, Maggie Toussaint

Sunday, November 12, 2006

I'm coming out of hiding

I know, I know. You laugh. Me? Hide?

Here's the deal. None of my friends know I'm trying to get published. Hell, none of 'em know I'm working on a novel, much less finished 10 or so and have 2 accepted for publication.

I just didn't want to deal with that, "Have you finished your book yet?" or "Have you sold it yet?" My writing friends, the one in my RWA chapter, know better than to ask these questions. But Other Friends just wouldn't know how those questions haunt a writer.

But now that I have one contract signed and one in negotiation, I figure it's time. I'm Coming Out.

On the day after Thanksgiving I always host(ess) a party for 6 of my dearest friends. I've known these ladies for 15 years. We've been through breast cancer, illnesses, death of parents, heart attacks, job layoffs, and just about everything else together. I plan to present them with synopses of my 2 sold books, and will come clean about my "other life" as a writer.

I've only been seriously pursuing publication for two years, but it's been hard to keep it all quiet. I mean, I've gone to National Conference, and other conferences, and always said I was 'meeting friends' in Dallas or Atlanta or Reno. I've worked in a lot of different parts of the country, so my Other Friends just took this to mean work buddies. And I was meeting friends -- writing friends.

So this is going to be odd. Once I tell this group of friends, the ripple effect will begin and spread. Now I'll have folks asking "when is your book being really published, like, in print?" and "is e-publishing like real publishing?" and "Gee, maybe I can do this. Can you help me get my book [not finished -- heck, not even started] published)?"

Then, at Christmas, I plan to do the same with my family. They know I've been pursuing publication, but not that I've sold.

Then it's my boss. Yikes. I'm still trying to figure out how to deal with that one.

Talk about your ripple effects ...

How widely is your "other life" known? Did you announce to all and sundry that you're writing and trying to get published?

Those who are published or Soon To Be Pubbed -- how did you tell your boss?

I figure there's no rush on this -- my books won't be out until next year, and if they don't come out in paper, I doubt many will rush to download (these are high tech folks but still traditional when it comes to 'I like to hold a book in my hands').

But I'm still tussling with it --

How do you tell?


Saturday, November 11, 2006

Pick a hunk!

Great topic!

I can write without a photo of my character, but when you have one, it makes characterization easier.

Check out this photo.

Be still my heart!

I haven't written his story yet. But I'm thinking that he's the one that rides the motorcycle.

Then there is this guy...

Enter Tom Selleck...yikers!

He's the basis for my hero in The Devil Has Dimples. I'm sure you can see why. Only I have him clean shaven. Just looking at his picture makes me happy.

On the heroine side, the photos are harder to come by, at least for me. It's hard to find a heroine's picture that matches the one in your head. However, this picture captivated me.

This is Valerie Quennessen, a French actress whose eyes are fantastic. I don't have a manuscript for her yet, but one will be coming.

I also purchased a copy of People's 20 Years of Sexiest Man Alive magazine, which has some fantastic pictures. The one of Michael Douglas in 1987 was great. His high forehead, dimpled chin, intense!

At my last RWA Chapter meeting, we had a speaker who brought a collage of her book, and once you saw the photos and the other elements that made her story work, you could see the importance of picking just the 'right' photo.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Creating faces

Some writers need to see the character before they can bring them to life.
Others, like me, have an overall picture. I need to know what makes that person tick, what the central nub of their character is.
But that changes. Someone who thinks they need privacy above anything else might find it hard to share with someone, something essential for a romance. So the central facet of their character will fight against what they need, until they come to terms with it. By the end of the story that is replaced by something else, and another central characteristic is there, perhaps, hopefully, love.
A face is helpful, but I don't always need it, because I can see the character in my mind. Sometimes, that chimes with something in real life. who knows what influences what?
For the book I've just turned in, RUBIES OF FIRE, the third Department 57 book, it was Pierce Brosnan, but I didn't have him or any of his characters in mind when I wrote. He was just the type, the suave, efficient secret agent, thrown for a loop when someone he suspects proves to be something he doesn't expect. I never use that device some writers use, of referring to the actor or someone else, as a quick description of my character because I feel that's cheating in a weird way. So you won't find any descriptions of Pierce in the book, unless there's one once the character is well established in my own right!
And sometimes the character comes completely out of my imagination, and appears on the page, fully formed. Like Aidan, the hero of WILDFIRE, or Richard Strang, of the Richard and Rose books. Aidan was just there, waist-length flaming red hair (not auburn, red, think scarlet), kind, longish face, and amber eyes, with a passion for music and natural justice. His music is easier to define - think Page, Clapton, a classic rock style with a power hand and a grunge edge.
Or join me today on the Triskelion loops for Music Day, if you have time. A fun day based on Desert Island Disks, a program where the question "If you are stranded on a desert island for the rest of your life, which 8 records would you take with you?"
See you there1

Lynne Connolly

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I found my face

Or, rather, I didn't find my face (which wasn't lost, actually) but the face I was looking for. I thought one actor might be good, typed in his name, another name came to mind, typed in that one, and voila, face. I used Google and just type "images name" and usually get a ton of pictures.

This is the first story where the hero won't really be a hero. I mean, this is one of my reincarnation ones, so I always have to write two stories. There's the first story, the one where the main characters initially meet. That's what I call deep back story. It never gets told per se but is woven into conversation, etc. when the Real Story starts.

The Real Story is the one we all see and read. It's the 'present day' one, where the h/h have been reborn and are now living their lives. That deep back story permeates their interactions, but it's not really PRESENT.

So I was having trouble because in the deep back story, the guy will be a hero but in the present day he'll be a villain. Or sort of a villain. So I need a scarred guy who could be a hero but also be a villain.

That's why it was so tricky. I mean, if I just wanted a pretty boy I'd go with Hugh Jackman or somebody like that. But I needed somebody with some miles on 'em.

We'll see if I nailed it or not if (1) the manuscript gets bought as I hope it will and (2) it gets written as I hope it will and (3) readers see what I see.

That's what this game is all about, isn't it? Putting it all together.

Back to devising my plot. Oh, boy, this one's a doozy.


Sunday, November 05, 2006

Story visuals

This week's blog topic is on story visuals. I find these to be a very important part of my pre-writing process. I need to know what people look like before I begin a story. Having a photo or drawing gives me a starting point on which to build character traits. I have a collection of folders, all of which are stuffed with pictures. I collect pictures from everywhere, from newspapers and magazines, from advertisements. Sometimes it's the face that draws me into a picture, sometimes it's a mood, but most of the times, it's the eyes. So, getting back on topic, I have these folders of pictures that I already have a connection with. When I narrow down the choices by gender, age, and ethnic group, I can usually people a story in an hour or so.

But, since I also have this arts and crafts muse, I don't just stop with the picture of the character. I take great joy in creating a story collage. I mount the photos on foamboard, label them with charcter names, and stand it up behind/beside my monitor. That way, I never have to search for a piece of paper with names on it, or try to remember who has brown eyes and who has blue eyes.

Nearly ten years ago, I was quite moved by a group of elderly British ladies who, very tastefully mind you, posed nude for a calendar. I lost that calendar when I moved, but it made an impression on me. I learned that naked could be very well done, it didn't have to be sleazy or slick pin-up quality. Since then, I found a photo of a group of lady friends in a hot tub laughing and having a good time. You can't see anything but heads, necks, and shoulders, but it certainly appears they are naked. I snipped that picture and placed it in my files. Every now and again I'd come across it and wonder why in the heck I'd cut that one out, but I hung onto it. Then when I started writing about a murder in the nudist colony, that picture came out and went in the story collage. That spirit of personal freedom the women exemplified, that pure joy in being themselves, that's what I wanted for my fictional nudists.

So, I've learned to cut out pictures that appeal to me. I also clip story ideas out of newspapers. Here's a truth: life is much stranger than fiction!

Until next Monday, Maggie Toussaint

Help! I need a face!

Where do you get the faces of the people in your book?

Personality is easy, I think, but physical appearance is sometimes tricky to get down right.

I keep a notebook (see smiley notebook there, on the side) where I paste in pictures of people that I've found in magazines, newspapers, on the Internet, etc.

But sometimes they just aren't quite right. I'm struggling with that now. I'm doing a proposal for a book in a series, and the hero has to be physically scarred. This will reflect his emotional scarring, too.

I've been considering giving him a missing leg or arm, but this was in the early 1900s, and I'm hazy on the use of prosthetics at that time, if any were available, how mobile he'd be, etc. If anything, I may have him missing an arm with some attendant scars with it.

Since he's a WWI veteran, I was considering mustard gas scarring, but I think that was mainly internal (i.e., ruined the lungs). Then I thought that I'd have some facial scarring -- maybe a bayonet wound or sword wound, something just bad enough to cause partial blindness? Anyway, he's sort of embittered and mad at the world, and that's reflected in his appearance and his personality.

I'm pretty sure what the heroine will look like. She's a sunny, optimistic type, sort of a cross between Rachel Ray and Sally Field. Except she'll have light colored hair, I think.

But Mike -- he's got me stumped. Anybody got a good pointer to a web site with some pictures of gloomy people? I just need to glance through some non-smiling faces and I'll have one of those 'ah ha' moments, I know it.


Thursday, November 02, 2006

Dive into the Wildfire!

A new book!
A new release is always exciting, believe me, sending your babies out into the world isn't easy, especially this one.

I love rock music, the power and the energy, and I've had some favourite fantasies for years. Finally I had a chance to write them down, and do an exciting plot around them.

So I took my daughter to her first rock concert last year, to see Velvet Revolver. They were great, she was over the moon, so I had the inspiration for WILDFIRE. It's the first of four, the second has already been contracted, and I'm going to start it this month. Woo hoo!

Here's the blurb and details, (just in case you love sexy shapeshifting musicians, too!)

Rock meets classical. Paranormal meets mortal. Will anybody get out alive?

Two guitarists - one a wild man of rock, the other a talented classical goddess. Opposite ends of the music spectrum, but when they join together, the sparks fly, and they create their own special kind of Wildfire.

The members of Wildfire are Talents - Firebirds - but once John Westfall, the band's manager, realizes what a prize he has in Aidan Hawthorne, the band's lead guitarist, he'll stop at nothing to obtain the power he's coveted for so long. Including sacrificing his own daughter.

The moment he hears her play, Aidan is drawn to Corinne in a way he's never known before. They connect on so many levels and Aidan will do anything to release her from the cage John Westfall has trapped her in.

He offers her marriage, he offers her freedom, but Aidan wants more from Corinne than a place on his band and a piece of paper - he wants her heart, body and spirit. And he'll give her his in return.

Classical guitarist Corinne is desperate to escape her father's control. More so when it becomes apparent just how much control he has over her, and not just the contracts she's signed. Her only way out is through Aidan's proposal. She loves him but craves the freedom to choose - can she trust him to give it to her?


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

ah -- but do you match your socks?

I'm always amazed when people tell me they use colored highlighters, story boards, spreadsheets, and other tools to help them write and/or edit the manuscript. I don't mean that in a disparaging sense. Believe me when I say that -- 'amazed'. I would have no idea how to go about doing that.

No, I take that back. I'd know how to do it. But then it wouldn't be fun any more. I'm all about the fun.

Writing for me is fun. I have a story in my head, some killer dialog that is aching to be put into somebody's mouth, and usually one or two characters who just jump off the page. That's enough to get me going.

When I finish, I do read throughs, usually three -- once for consistency, once for pace, and once for nitty gritty craft crap (adverbs, too many conjunctions, etc.)

Then I let it sit, usually for a month or two and move on to the next project. When I'm pretty sure I've forgotten the plot details, I go back and read it again with a fresh, objective eye. I'm one of my own worst critics and I'm never 100% sure that it's Okay To Go.

But I send it anyway -- to my critique partner, to a contest, to an editor -- I throw it out there.

Then I forget about it. Literally. Once it is out the door, it's off my mind and I'm on to the next project.

Until I get that phone call that it finaled, or (please!) that it caught enough attention to request a full, or I get comments back.

See, it's all about the fun. It's gotta be fun, otherwise I wouldn't sit at the computer/desk for hours at a time. The way I did last night, developing back story for characters in a new book. That back story won't see the light of day on a page, but now I know the characters and their personality and can sit down at the computer and write.

See you in a few weeks ....