Monday, September 30, 2013

Characters and Plot by Janet Lane Walters

Writing a novel seems to be circular. Characters drive the plot but the plot drives the characters. Sound confusing? Not really. The plot is the underpinning of the story and the characters are the exposed parts. Choosing the right characters to move the story forward takes strategy. Putting the wrong character in the lead can make a story fall flat. Usually in a story there are 3 characters who form a triangle. For the purpose of this we'll call them the hero, the heroine and the villain. These characters have relationships with each other and their actions and reactions are what drives the story from beginning until the end. There are other characters in stories who relate to the three main ones and these form their own triangles or their own patterns of interaction.

Action bridges character and plot. How many times have you heard "He's acting out of character?" If there's no good reason for this action the story will fall flat and flat stories aren't what writers strive for. How does one make the pieces fit together?

Consistency is one way. Check your characters to make sure their emotions flow in a consistent pattern through out your story. Don't have them loving an object, idea, or person one minute and hating it the next. Unless inconsistency is their nature. Even here you are being true to the character? A character like this would be one who responds to the person they are with. An interesting thought. Sort of like the Janus god that looks at the world through two faces.

Make sure the characters who are the focus of the story are strong enough to sustain the action. Whether you're writing a dramatic or a comedic story a weak character will make the action fall flat. Give your characters a backbone and make them want what they want with an internal passion.

Take your characters and raise them above the mundane or stock characters. Give them some complexity to make them larger than life rather than some ordinary person a reader doesn't want to know.

Believe in the characters you write. If you're developing a really evil villain, make sure you believe in this character. One of my favorite bad guys is found in Code Blue. Yes, he is evil but he's also human and I tried to show the human parts of his character as well as the inhuman parts.

Write about human emotions in your stories and don't throw in a character who seems to be driven by the plot. The plot is a road map of a journey taken by characters and the things that happen in the story are the results of the characters' actions. not the reverse.

Characters are chosen because of the plot you've designed but once on stage let the characters tell the story and move the plot forward, not the reverse.


Code Blue

When Susan finds the body of the hospital’s “gossip queen” in the orthopedic storage room, she doesn’t realize this is the first of a series of murders involving her colleagues or that her life is in danger. She is a widow and is exploring a new romantic relationship that promises love but she fears the man she is falling for is as controlling as her dead husband. The arrival of courtship gifts, at first, seen as innocuous soon takes on a sinister note.

Previously published as Obsessions
"This book kept me on edge from the first page to the last. Several times I just 'knew' I'd figured out who the killer was, but each time, there was a bit of doubt there until the very last paragraph! I highly recommend this book. 4 Stars (Excellent!)" ~ Tracie's Book Reviews by Kathy's Faves and Raves

"A series of murders, suspense, action, a tad of love makes Code Blue an intriguing tale designed to mystify your mind. If you love mysteries, you'll love Janet Lane Walters newest release. 4 Stars!" ~ Just Views

"Fast-paced mainstream novel. . .Walters plots carefully, each scene constructed to perfection. For readers who enjoy being terrified, this is an author to turn to for entertainment. She tells all, while managing to create paranoia among the characters." ~ Affaire de Coeur  


Janet Lane Walters has been writing and published since the days of the typewriter. She has 30 plus novels and seven novellas plus four non-fiction books published. Janet lives in the scenic Hudson River valley with her husband, a psychiatrist who has no desire to cure her obsession with writing.

She is the mother of four and the grandmother of five with two children expected to arrive soon from China. Janet writes in a number of genres - Romance from sweet to sensual and from contemporary to fantasy and paranormal. She has published cozy mysteries and medical suspense. She also has a number of YA fantasies published. Visit her Blog: 


Friday, September 27, 2013

A Few Lines from . . . Diane Bator

A Few Lines from The Bookstore Lady by Diane Bator


When the hunched over, balding pharmacist next door called out, “Good morning, Katie,” her hand flinched and her heart raced. It took her nearly a full minute to remember she’d been Katie Mullins for two months and she’d better answer before he got offended.

“Hi.” She nodded.

The drugstore opened at eight every morning and it was now quarter to ten. Must have been a slow morning if he had time to stand in the doorway with a large cup of coffee rather than hanging out behind the back counter. “You’d best convince Ray to get some air-conditioning for that store before your new books curl up and warp. It’s beyond me how he’s never lost half his books every summer.”

“Dust absorbs the humidity.” She smiled wryly. “I don’t think we can afford air-conditioning this year.”

“I know a guy who’ll give you a quote. He’s not bad looking once you get past the bug eyes and scars. I can call him, if you’d like.”

“Maybe some other time.” Like when hell froze over.

He waved and went back into the drugstore.

Katie drew in a deep breath. The air was fresh from last night’s rain and the hint of a breeze mussed her hair. In two months, the only thing to find her was the sunshine and a case of withdrawals that made renovations hell. Nate, bless his heart, had had more compassion while she fought “the flu” than any man she’d ever met.

She blew a strand of stray copper hair out of her mouth and jiggled the door lock. Another thing that needed to be fixed before winter. She should have done it during renovations, but it hadn’t seemed as important as books and workmen. Luckily, Nate worked cheap and she hadn’t had to dig into the money from Dunnsforth. The money was tucked up in a box in the backroom, fastened with half a roll of duct tape. She’d ask him to fix the lock when he delivered her order later.

The door opened with a groan. “It’s about time.”

Available at:

Tricia McGill follows with A Few Lines next week.

Diane Bator


Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Impact of Editing, Witing and Reading by Ginger

This is how I hope readers view my work.  I want to make colors so vibrant, emotions so real, and characters so likeable, that people can connect with the storyline and experience my tale through the eyes of the hero or heroine.  That's the sign of an author who knows their craft.

I have confidence that I've achieved my goal in most of my books.  Short stories, not so much.  I find reviewers comment about the length, wishing for more, so that tells me that I've connected in some way, but there is only so much you can pack into fewer words.

New rules crop up every day and make me question where they come from.  As someone who has been writing for over ten years now, I wonder if they existed way back when, and my editors weren't versed enough in writing themselves to know about them.  When I first started, a great majority of the editorial staff on board were authors with credentials and experience not much more than my own.  My first editor was very knowledgeable about historical facts, and I learned a ton from her about showing my story to the reader, but passive voice, head hopping, and cause before effect didn't seem to matter to her, nor did the numerous times I used "that" which later was cause for a rejection from another house.

Now my latest quirk has become the use of identifying tags that are now deemed unnecessary.  Evidently, in the characters' POV, the reader will assume that the person doing the knowing, seeing, hearing, etc, is the main character, so sentences starting with she heard, she knew, she watched, she saw, etc., add nothing but words to the story.

Speaking of words...I tend to see lots of the above sentences in mainstream fact in most books I've read lately, so I wonder are authors adding them to up their word count.  I also wonder if readers notice the number of times we use a character's name in paragraphs...especially when forced to in order to help them decipher between characters.  I recently received a critique where the critiquer had highlighted every instance of the heroine's name, which seemed excessive to her.  I wrote back and explained that through various editing experiences, I'd learned pronouns reflect back on the last person named, so if I introduced another character into the scene, I had to name my heroine to differentiate.  Confusing?  Yes!  Of course, when you use too many pronouns, editors take issue with that too.  It all comes down to being able to reword sentences or use phrases that allow a breather from the norm.  I'm learning still.  Writing is one career or pastime where you never stop acquiring new knowledge.  The problem is determining whether it's factual or fiction.  Not everything passed along is true or worthy of time spent changing your writing habits.

Each writer has a voice unique to themselves.  Some houses abhor "ing" starts to sentences, but I assume that's because all authors haven't figured out how to use them correctly.  I critiqued a story a few days ago which was worded something like, Entering the room, her heart fluttered.  If you read it quickly you may gloss over the fact that her heart entered the room.  Where was the rest of her?  I'm sure this is something I did in my earlier writing, but now I try to pay attention and send the whole body along with the heart.

Other publishers want us to avoid 'ly' words and use strong verbs.  There are just some instances where you want to share with the reader that she spoke softly.  She didn't whisper, but she wasn't speaking in her normal tone, so an 'ly' word is called for.  In my opinion, the problem with rules is that we take them literally and don't apply them with rationale.  I had one editor comment that I had removed so much passive voice from my story, my writing sounded stilted and had no flow.  I was only trying to adhere to everything I'd learned.

The rule with rules is to apply what works.  Take them with a grain of salt and try to avoid redundancies, find stronger verbs, send in the whole person and not just a body part, and remember that eyes don't roam the room, a gaze does.  Someone doesn't fling their hands in the air, but they might lift their arms over their head.  Leave out the amazing body tricks. You can't chuckle a response, but you can before or after your character speaks, so omit that comma.  Even more annoying for me, are tags that describe a person's speech before they've even spoken.  Which is better for you?

He whispered, "Are you okay?"

"Are you okay," he whispered.

A ton of rules are applied at the discretion of your editor.  You may find one who is annoyed by something as simple as the above example, or you may have one assigned who is more concerned with how many times you use "was."  Tomorrow, it may all be different.  Just remember to check house rules when you submit.  I'm finding a vast difference in requirements concerning punctuation, fonts, spacing, margins, indents, and whether to use "Chapter" or just a number.  Oy much to absorb and so little brain cells left to work with.   Writing is a challenge, so make sure you're up for it.

Feel free to comment on some of your pet peeves.  I'd love to know that me and my internal editor are not the only ones finding some habits more annoying than others.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Behind the Cover Artist's Curtain: Cover Branding

By Michelle Lee
BWL Art Director

When it comes to branding, there are many different schools of thought for each form of branding.


Some artists might suggest always using the same fonts for all of an author’s covers.  Others might want to keep the same style of images, colors, and so on.  Some could prefer just keeping series the same, and letting the rest of the covers have their own unique style.


Each publisher might also have their own methods of branding.  That can vary from a logo on all covers, to a band along the top, bottom, or side of covers.


As a cover artist, I focus on making sure series books match each other (see my post on the subject).  Other than that, I tend to follow the authors lead on branding.

Some authors have requested a logo, image, or certain style to link all of their books.

As you can see here ... Rita has several different logo styles, depending upon the genre.  But for all her books, there is a logo with her initials in it.

Other authors have requested the same general style of fonts, or image layout.  

With Geeta's books, the first three are part of one series, but the last one is from another series.  Yet they all share similar styles with image layout.

 Still others have expressed no preference whatsoever, and so each cover is different from the others.

It does get more challenging the more genres an author writes in to help 'brand' the author's books with their covers … but as an author myself, I know sometimes I specific genre just calls to you.

As for how to brand yourself as an author, well, I am still trying to figure that out myself.  So if anyone has an ideas - please share them.

Now … this brings my original Cover Art series of posts to an end.  From here, I will be posting about whatever comes to mind, or addressing a specific topic I have been asked my opinion on.  So feel free to leave a comment if you want me to give my personal take on a cover topic.  I am certainly not lacking in opinions.

Saturday, September 21, 2013


So you aspire to be a writer?  What is the first step?  Start with determining your goals.  What?  Well, it’s not all that complicated but goals will be the most important step you take to becoming a successful writer.  What are your expectations and how are you going to accomplish them?  Map out your path to success.

Next would be to decide what genre you want to write and study the guidelines.  They are different for most genres and I’ll even add the best advice I was ever was given is from NY best-selling author, Kat Martin.  She said, “Write what you love to read.”  That advice is worth your weight in gold.

Many people study writing before typing that first word – I’m not saying that’s bad, but I will say it can be a form of procrastination!  If you have three books on writing . . .  great . . . more. . . also great.  But, don’t turn this stack of book on your office desk or on your Kindle Fire your top priority.  I’m a firm believer in diving in and learning as you go. I have books on writing - don’t get me wrong – we always should be open-minded and willing to learn how to become better writers.  I’m just saying reading about writing should not take the place of actual writing.

Have a good idea what you want your cover to look like.  Most publishers will ask for your input, and you should be prepared.  Take advantage of your publisher’s expertise and advice, but also be professional and know what your vision is.  Before I published I created book covers every time I finished a book.  Each cover represented my vision – and I had my name on them, too.  I posted them in the middle of my cork board in my office.  Did that excite, inspire, and fire me up to keep writing?  You bet it did!

Be prepared to promote your books, and start building that platform and fan base.  Know your market and be ready to be the promotional service that will send your sales soaring.

So have a vision . . . imagine that book cover with your name on it . . . set goals . . . write that book . . . and be ready to sell books.

Please watch for my fifteenth book, a suspense,Thunder. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

A Few Lines From . . . VIctoria Chatham

A FEW LINES from  COLD GOLD by Victoria Chatham


“Well, look ‘ee here!” The first rider grinned at her, revealing a mouthful of stained and crooked teeth that reminded her of broken tombstones. “New blood in town.”

“Hello, fancy lady,” the second rider said. “You goin’ to share a drink wi’ me before we share somethin’ else?”

The other riders dismounted and gathered around her, jostling Serena until her back flattened against the wall of the saloon. Her mouth quickly dried up. Her heart pounded. She smelled their sour breath and sweat-stained clothes, felt their anticipation and wished she had paid more attention to Sheriff Johnson’s warning.

“Oy, you lot!” Every head turned at the strident tone of a woman’s distinctly English voice. “Jasper, you idiot, you don’t know a real lady when you see one. Cal, you wouldn’t know what to do with one anyway. Tom, Walt, Clarence, stand back and give the lady some room. Clear off, the lot a’ ya.”

Grumbling, the men turned away and walked into the saloon. Serena closed her eyes and sighed with relief.

“Are you stupid, or what?”

Serena pushed off the wall and faced her rescuer. The force of the expression in the woman’s blue eyes almost caused her to take a step back again.

“I...I wasn’t thinking,” she stuttered.

“That was perfectly obvious,” the other woman retorted. “Come on, we need to get you off the street. This way.”

The woman took Serena’s arm in a strong grip and hurried her along the boardwalk in the opposite direction to the Eldorado.

“In here.” The woman opened a door and pushed her into a store redolent with the warm and wonderful aromas of coffee and fresh baking. “Go on, straight through that door facing you. I’m right behind you.”

Her rescuer’s hand, firm on her back, gave Serena no choice but to go where directed. The moment she passed through the second door, she spun on her heel.

“Just who are you?” she demanded. “And what gives you the right to push me around?”

“Well, pardon me for breathing.” Anger spiked the woman’s voice and blazed in her blue eyes. “You’d rather be pushed around by a bunch of randy miners, would you?”

“No, of course not. And I do thank you for coming to my aid, but who are you?”

“Someone you shouldn’t be seen with, that’s for sure.”

“Why shouldn’t I be seen with you?” Serena looked her rescuer up and down and might have been looking in a mirror, so similar were they. The woman was her height, dressed in clothes as fashionable as her own. Tendrils of hair, blonde rather than dark brown, framed the woman’s face and, just like Serena’s own skin, the woman had a fresh, clear complexion.

“Because I’m Lorelei Sutton and I own a brothel just outside of town.”

Visit Victoria Chatham at

Join us next week for A Few Lines from Diane Bator

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Ten Things Ginger Learned About Writing

For someone who has been seriously writing for the past dozen years, I've absorbed a thing or two..  The very first thing I learned is the vast difference between telling a story and being a novelist.  You must engage the reader and make them want to become part of your story, and here are a few things you can do to insure that:

1.  Hook the reader from the beginning.   It's a proven fact that if people are bored with the opening of your story, chances are they aren't going to even finish the first chapter.  Your story must be engaging...yang the reader in and hold them fast with a desire to find out more.  Make them want to put on the character's shoes and walk in them.  Don't make them guess whose POV they're reading from, make it clear, and if you change to another, make that even clearer.

2.  In order to accomplish number one, there are few more fundanmentals you need to apply.  Don't TELL the story, SHOW the reader what's going on.  The difference:  If you've amply displayed emotions, the reader is going to feel them.  Don't just TELL the reader  the heroine is crying, SHOW them the pain shooting through her heart, the emptiness in the pit of her stomach...give them someone with which they can identify.  Make them remember what it felt like to lose their first other words, let them experience the pain.
3. Avoid redundancy.  The reader doesn't need to be told on every page what color the characters eyes are or that the courch is on the far wall.  As an author, I know it's easy to duplicate information you've already shared, so reading your story aloud helps you discover places where you've echoed words or information.

4.  Speaking of words echoes...this is one of my pet peeves.  I detest reading the same word over and over in the same paragraph.  I realize there are instances where the word is duplicated for a definite purpose, but most of the time all word echoes do is indicate to the reader that you're a lazy writer who doesn't want to take the time to find another word with the same meaning. 

5.  My newest "learn" is to avoid unnecessary verbiage.  For example, if you are firmly in someone's POV, it is not necessary to tell the reader who is doing the feeling, hearing, seeing, etc.  As in using word echoes for emphasis, sometimes, you will need to stress the obvious, but in most cases, using "he heard, he felt, he saw, he watched" can be eliminated. See the difference:
She watched him unfasten his belt and saw him drop his pants to the floor.
He unfastened his belt and dropped his pants to the floor.
If you are in her POV, then we already know who is watching and seeing, so why expose the obvious?

6.  Watch your apostrophes.  It's and its aren't exactly used the same way as other possessive words.  Your and you're also take on entirely different meanings.  Their and they're are another great example of two meanings, and then if you add in "there" then you have a triple threat.  These mistakes are hard to catch even if you proofread till the cows come home.  As an author, our mind reads what we think should be there, so another important tool in writing a great novel is having an aswesome critique group or beta readers.

7.  Using "that" in sentences where you don't need it, is common place. This simple mistake was the main reason "that" a very good story was rejected.  If you read the sentence again, you'll notice "that" "that" is not even required.  The rule of the sentence without "that" and if it makes perfect sense, then delete "that."

8.  Avoid "ly" words when possible.  Sometimes they are a necessity for emphasis, but usually, if you try, you can find a stronger verb to use.  Example:  She stepped loudly across the floor, can be She stomped across the floor.  Or how about, he spoke softly can be he whispered.  Get the idea?
9.  Spell checker won't help in instances where you've used a correctly spelled word.  Like the apostrophe dilemma above, hear/here, there/their, to/too, then/than, and a thousand other examples.  The English language is one of the most difficult to learn, and even if you know it, it's still a challenge.

10. Don't go crazy with punctuation.  I've discovered that house rules are what dictate commas, semi colons, and exclamation points.  I was surprised upon re-releasing oneof my novels to find the editor for the current house put back in every comma the previous house had removed.  Even though I was advised semi-colons are not appropriate for fiction, you'll find them in my current version.  House rules rule, and that's not being redundant.  :)

Just for your information...some of us dislike internal thoughts, especially in third person, unless they are done extremely well.  For me, because of the sudden tense change, they pull me right out of the story and make me wonder why the author didn't just paraphrase.  See what you think:

Jasmine craned her head to the side, allowing Damon's lips to trail his lips along her throat.  Boy, does that feel good.  I hope his kisses are this good.

Jasmine craned her head to the side, allowing Damon's mouth to trail along her throat.  Her body tingled in anticipation, warmness gathering in her very core. Would she be as impressed once their lips met?

Oh, and one last tip...Avoid unnecessary tags.  If there are only two people in the room, the reader can usually figure out who is speaking.  Mary said, John said, Mary said, John whined, become boring after a while.  If you feel you must use a tag, use one showing action.  Have the character do something to identify them before or after the dialogue.  Mary crossed to the sofa...John lit his cigar...Mary moved to the window, admiring the bounty of color in the garden.  Instead of boring tags, you can add visual scenes that enhance the story.
If you want to check to see if I truly have learned anything, all my books are listed on my author's page at Amazon.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Points to Remember AKA Dying Brain Cells by Ginger Simpson

Writing can be a joy and a pain at the same time. Of course, when you're in the middle of writing a story, you have no idea the challenges that await you at the end. I can honestly say I've learned tons since my first book was accepted by publication, but you can never assume what you learn is set in stone. Guidelines for publishing vary from house-to-house and what an author believes is a well-written story may fall victim to the editorial red pen from hell. *lol*

There are some things you can truly believe will enhance your story if you avoid them, and I'd like to share a few with you. I have the 'whip marks' to prove that I previously engaged in using these unsavory writing practices, but no more... or at least I'm trying to train my feeble brain to avoid these pitfalls:

Avoid over use of the word 'that.' You can delete 95% of them from your story without changing the meaning of your sentence. It actually helps with the word count, but does little else to enhance your story.

Avoid prepositional phrases at the end of your sentences
. To her, at him, etc., are usually implied and the reader can figure it out. Another tendency to weaken your writing if you engage in this practice.

I tend to be the queen of "Seem." This has been a hard one for me to break. For some reason, everthing 'seems to' rather than actually does something. Now I'm learning to search and eliminate these instances. Rather than saying, "his musty smell seemed to fill the room," I'll use, "his musty smell wafted upward and...." 'Seemed to,' 'tried to,' and 'began to' are considered 'stall' phrases and prevent showing the action as it unfolds.

My good friend, Marie Higgins, has kept me on the straight and narrow with her critiques when it comes to Cause and Effect. I've learned you must have a cause before you can have a reaction. Cause and Effect...Action/Reaction. If someone jumps, something has to happen first. Simple rule, but one I never thought about before it was brought to my attention.

Overuse of 'it.' Using a noun over a pronoun to strengthen the sentence is a much better idea. Of course, you have to try to avoid word echoing in the same paragraph, and you don't want to have too many names back to back. Confusing, but sensible when applied effectively. Example: If I had written the second sentence...It's a better idea to use a noun over a pronoun to strengthen the sentence.  "It" is a mystery sometimes...clarify for the reader.

Predicting dialogue.
What the heck is that, you ask. I've recently learned myself. Don't place tags that describe the person's voice before they speak. Simple. Here's an example of predicting: Her voice trembled. "Shouldn't we stop?"
Should be: "Shouldn't we stop?" Her voice trembled.

Sensory details. Another good friend from my critique group, Diane, keeps me on my toes by commenting in my chapters, "what does it smell like?" I'm pretty good at describing scenes, but I often forget to include smells. Touch, Taste, Smell, Sight, Sound should all be included when you write. Reader's want to sense it all.

And my latest discovery, last but not least...Avoid 'to be' verbs. These include is, was, are, were. I wondered most about 'was,' but learned when I use 'was' with an 'ing' word, I'm telling rather than showing. Same with could, would, should. These words make the narrative past tense. Example: was hearing or could hear is better written 'heard.' Could see, was seeing, is better written 'saw.'

There's tons more to share, but I'll save it for another day. By then, I'm sure I'll have even more tips for a well-written manuscript. :) Whatever you do, don't forget to put the punctuation marks inside the quotes. *lol*

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