Monday, November 26, 2012

Comment and Win Starting Today


Comment and Win Special Edition Giveaway

As our holiday gift to you, Books We Love has released a sleigh full of Special Edition Collections featuring many of your favorite BWL authors!

Each day from Nov. 26 to Dec. 23 we'll feature one Special Edition on our main blog:

Leave a comment with your email address. One comment each day will be randomly drawn to win a copy of that Special Edition! 

The winner's name will be posted in the comments the following afternoon and the book will be emailed at that time. Good Luck and Enjoy!

11/26     Joan Hall Hovey
11/27     Jamie Hill
11/28     Renee Simons
11/29     Ann Herrick
11/30     Sydell Voeller
12/1       Ginger Simpson
12/2       Jude Pittman Triple Threat
12/3       Vijaya Schartz
12/4       Shirley Martin Secrets of the Night
12/5       Jane Toombs Golden Chances Collection
12/6       Jamie Hill Triple Threat
12/7       Kat Attalla
12/8       Shirley Martin
12/9       Roseanne Dowell
12/10     Janet Lane Walters
12/11     Juliet Waldron
12/12     Lee Killough
12/13     Margaret Tanner
12/14     Erin Quinn
12/15     Pat Dale
12/16     Rita Karnopp
12/17     Tina Gerow
12/18     Betty Jo Schuler

12/19     Kathy Fischer-Brown
12/20     Sheila Claydon
12/21     Jamieson Wolf
12/22     Jane Toombs Hallow House series
12/23     Gail Roughton's Dark Series

Monday, November 19, 2012

Back to the Casting Couch

Casting your hero can be tricky. Is he right for the plot you have been mulling over for weeks? Will he like the heroine? Will she like him?

Over the next few months a number of writers have agreed to sit on my Casting Couch to discuss the different methods  they use in their search for the characters who populate their books. Whether they use magazine advertisements, astrology, or something else entirely, their techniques give a fascinating insight into the writing process and the writers themselves

Today author Sydell Voeller joins us on the Casting Couch to share the tricks of her trade.

Thank you for agreeing to sit on the Casting Couch Sydell. It's always a treat to talk to a multi-published author and discover how she casts her characters. Assuming that you are sitting comfortably, let's begin.

* * * * *

Which characters are the hardest for you to develop? Is it the hero, the heroine, the villain, or the secondary characters?

My secondary characters are usually the hardest to develop.  Each one must forward the plot in some manner and interact significantly with the heroine and hero.  In other words, if I can go through the script and eliminate a particular character or two and never miss them, then they didn’t belong in the story in the first place.  I’ve sometimes found myself losing my story’s focus by allowing secondary characters to be present extraneously—but thankfully, I always catch that problem before my final drafts.

When an idea strikes, do you work through the plot first and then cast the characters, or is it characters first? Or does it vary? Perhaps you develop the plot and the characters together.

For the most part, I develop the plot and characters together. I typically begin my plotting by deciding what inner and outer conflicts will stand between the hero and the heroine—the core problem that will keep them apart until the story’s resolution.  I try to dig deeply into their psyches to understand what makes them tick—their greatest dreams, their worst fears, their vulnerabilities, their goals and aspirations in life.

Can you give an example from a published story? 

Yes.  Take, for example, my latest re-released e-book Daisies Are Forever, published by Books We Love. The outer conflict was easy in this case. April Heatherton, my heroine, is not only interested in local history and teaches history at school, but she has a special interest in the ancient forests that define the North West.  Behind her home stands a tract of timber containing an unmarked pioneer woman’s grave.  Heather learns that this forested site will soon be going up for a logging auction.  Heather is fired up to stage a peaceful demonstration against the loggers in order to preserve the grave. The hero, Matt Spencer, is a hard-working logger—and in this day of increasing displaced loggers, he needs to keep working.

The inner conflict, on the other hand, is more personal, much deeper.  It portrays our characters’ drives, dreams, motivations, and emotional needs.  For years, the unmarked grave has provided a special place for April—a place of retreat and personal renewal, plus an indirect connection to her grandmother.  In her eyes, losing it would be akin to losing her soul. Matt’s inner conflict, on the other hand, smacks of family and commitment, continuing the tradition set down for him by his father and grandfather.  After all, logging is Matt’s legacy.

When deciding how your characters should look, do pictures inspire you or do you think of someone you know? Or perhaps you just rely on an active imagination or another method entirely.

In the earlier years of my writing career, especially when I was writing YA fiction, I often used pictures to draw inspiration for portraying my characters.  Later after I branched off into adult contemporary romances, I used a combination of both pictures and my own imagination.

Do you have a system for developing their character traits? I know some people use Tarot or Astrology. Others produce detailed life histories. There are also writers who allow their characters to develop as they write. What's your method?

I have tried using Astrology at one time, but I didn’t stick with that.  I guess I felt I had to squeeze my character into too tight a mold, or perhaps that method just didn’t resonate with me for other reasons.  But to answer your question more specifically, (and as I said earlier), I know my character’s basic traits by first determining his or her core conflicts.  I’m always delighted, though, when my character’s behavior takes new twists and turns.  Real people are contradictions and so should our characters portray contradictions as well.

All characters have goals. Can your characters’ goals usually be summed up in a word or two, or are they multi-layered?  Do they change as you write the book? Could you give some examples?  

Most of my characters’ goals can be summed up in a phrase or two, or maybe one sentence.  And yes, sometimes the goals change out of necessity.  For example, in Her Sister’s Keeper, published by Books We love, my heroine, Logan, is determined to care for and protect her little sister, Kim, who is wheel-chair bound. (Prior to the opening of the story, Kim was partially paralyzed due to the plane accident that not only caused her disability, but killed their mother as well.)  Since their father is no longer alive, Logan must now step up to the plate and assume full responsibility for her sister. Yet despite her good intentions, Logan’s goals are misconstrued and she becomes overly protective, thus indirectly sabotaging Kim’s chances for rehabilitation. By the end of the story, Logan must redefine her goals in order to give Kim her best chance for recovery—plus allow Logan her best chances for a romantic commitment to the handsome young Dr. Dellinger with whom she works.

Motives drive a character. How do you discover your characters’ specific motivations? Are they based on back-story or do other elements influence their motives?

I believe back story has everything to do with motive. In taking another look at Her Sister’s Keeper, the back-story about the plane crash motivates Logan to protect her sister against further traumas.  And on a broader scope, in most traditional romance stories, the core motivator that threatens to keep the heroine and hero apart stems from their individual back-stories. Perhaps their demons are divorce, the death of a spouse, a broken engagement, or having been stood up at the altar.  What better motivators to make our heroines and heroes turn and run!

And last but not least, do you like your characters? Are they people you would want to spend time with? Assuming they are not just a paper exercise, which of your characters would you most like to meet, and why?

Yes, I do indeed like my characters, and I strive to create characters my readers will like and care about as well.  In regards to which characters I’d like to meet, that’s a tough one.  I do know for sure, however, that I’d like to meet my heroine Lisa Prentice in Summer Magic, also published by Books We Love.  During her travels with the circus, she encounters so many fascinating adventures involving the performers-especially the dashing young aerialist Michael-and the circus animals, including Ebony, her favorite show horse.  Logan’s widespread travels with the circus also add to her appeal as a character.  I’m sure she could share with me many intriguing tales that reach far beyond the story itself!

My next favorite character is Vanessa Paris, my heroine in The Fisherman’s Daughter, another of my BWL titles.  I like her intelligence, spunk, flirtatiousness, strength of spirit, and especially her strong dedication to helping to find her father who is missing at sea.  Finally, since I love any kind of reunion romance, I like her push-pull attraction to the hero whom she had a crush on in high school, and her misgivings about falling for him again.  On the balance, I think she’d be a delightful character to hang out with!

Sydell Voeller writes contemporary romance and Young Adult fiction

You can check out her books on her website at or at

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Soap Operas and Novels - Strange Bed Fellows

I'm  addicted to General Hospital...have been for years.  Watched it from the beginning have suffered the loss of the original cast and enjoyed the addition of new.  One thing that strikes me is the similarity between watching a continuing saga and reading one.  Ever consider how much the writing plays into whether or not you continue to tune in?

I know how difficult it is to write a novel, but I have no idea the stress TV writers must endure in order to keep the plot moving, the interest growing, and coming up with hooks that make you either record the next episode or put aside your daily duties to tune in. I want their secrets.  *laugh*

Each Friday's soap opera episode is a most critical time for a so-called 'cliffhanger'.  Watchers have two whole days to get distracted from the daily routine or mull over what the outcome will be. Soap writers want them to mull, but such is the chore of a author with their novels.  We are charged with having a beginning to our books that HOOK the interest of the reader and make them want to keep turning pages.

I can't count how many times I've heard readers express what they do with a book that bores them from the beginning, and I'm not talking about mine. *smile*  If you don't grab and hold a reader's interest, you've not enhanced the chances they'll even finish what they started.  If I've learned one thing in my years of turning out novels, it's to start each story with a scene that snags interest in the plot and main character(s).

Equally important, ending each chapter with enough intrigue that the reader who reads at night won't want to stop or can't wait to pick the book up the next morning.  Exactly what Soap Opera writer's want to happen.  For me, it's hard enough to decide where to end a chapter, let alone end with  a scene that's a page turner, but it's critical.  Imagine ending a chapter with your heroine being home alone and hearing the creaking of an opening door.  Will the reader stop there, or will he/she be tempted to read on and see what is going to happen?  My bet is that won't be a stopping place.

I'd like to share the opening scene from my "best seller," First Degree Innocence.  See if it hooks you:

“Okay, Lang, strip!” The guard’s bark made Carrie’s stomach roil. She cowered in the corner of the women’s processing area, shivering under the blast of cold air from the ceiling vent.

“I said strip! Don’t make me have to tell you again.” The pudgy, uniformed female slapped a baton against her palm in a constant rhythm. In the empty room, the sound bounced off the depressing gray cement walls and echoed in Carrie’s head. She forced herself to take a faltering step out of her shoes. Her frigid fingers fumbled with the buttons as she struggled to remove her favorite pink cotton blouse. She unfastened her jeans and let them drop to the floor, then gazed through bleary eyes at the other woman, praying she didn't require the removal of anything more.

If this stirred your interest, you can find out more about this novel at Books We Love.  Beginning this month, BWL has expanded availability from the Amazon KDP program to Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, the Reader's Store and All Romance Ebooks.

Let me know your thoughts.  Comments might just motivate me to finish my current WIP which has been sidelined by life issues. I already have a beautiful cover and have made great progress, just need to get myself back on the writer's road.  I'd love to interview a soap opera writer....if you know one, let me know.  *smile*   First thing I'd want to ask is why in the heck did they let Jason go!  I'm heartbroken.  :)

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Casting Couch

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