Wednesday, March 27, 2013

What excites you?

I had a conversation with my brother the other day about excitement.

Do you remember the feeling you had as a child when you knew Christmas (or any holiday that ended with you receiving presents) was around the corner?

How would you describe it?  A hot ball of anticipation with a sprinkle of excitement and a dash of pure joy?

My young nephew's birthday just passed.  I asked him what he wanted, and rattled off a list of things to him (because I generally am the crazy aunt who goes overboard on everything.)  His innocent response to my list of things was, "Yes."

Yes?  To what...which thing, or everything?  My brother and I both broke out in laughter because my nephew was totally confused by us, and completely excited at the possibility of getting everything.  His huge smile and beautiful eyes waited for a response from me.  Like I said, I'm horrible, the only answer I could have was yes.

Talking about my nephew lead my brother and I to talking about what makes us happy like that.

New cars. Renovations on our homes.  Travel.  There are a lot of things that excite us, but not quite in the same way as what we knew my nephew felt.

Recently, one of the authors I absolutely love tweeted me!  Now, this isn't something that I necessarily anticipated, but I'd always hoped one of my favorite artists (authors, singers, musicians, etc.) would say hi.  And, so, when Nalini Singh responded to one of my tweets about one of her books that I was reading, OMG!  Come on.  I relived it for days (and I mean days) afterwards.  I talked about it with friends until I think they were tired of hearing about it.  But, hey, it's not an everyday thing for me.

It's weird the things that excite me, and make me smile.  They are such simple things compared to myself at twenty-one.

Oh the things, I would tell myself, if I could travel back in time :)

What excites you?  What would you tell your younger self?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Taming the Wild Highlander--New Release!

Okay, cover redone and the book is ready to go!!!

This is Angus MacNeill's story, 4th Book in The Highlanders medieval romance series

Edana Chattan senses concerns where people she knows could be in danger. When her brothers warn her they're in trouble, she can't convince her father to listen to her, so with an escort, she tries to locate them. Separated from her escort during a storm, she is discovered by Angus MacNeill, who is tasked to return her home.

Only Edana has other notions--and convinces him and his companions to allow her to use her abilities to locate her brothers who are manacled in a dungeon somewhere. That leads to a faux marriage and more dungeons and more trouble than Angus had ever thought possible. So why is the bewitching, fiery-haired lass making him think of marrying her for real?
SEAL edits are turned in! And now? I'm on a whirlwind adventure in Jaguar Heat!
As soon as I announced I had a new book out, a fan wrote me that she has MS and has been bedridden for two years and that she loves to read my books as they allow her to escape to other worlds.

Her story was very touching.

When I write, I get wrapped up in the heart and soul of the book, wanting to provide as entertaining a read as I can. I hear from readers all the time, but I never know when my books will be something more than an everyday escapism. Such as the fan who wrote who was sitting with a family member at the hospital and reading one of my stories at her bedside and it helped her get through the hours. Or the one whose aunt and she shared their love of my wolf books and the aunt suddenly died--and how she wanted to share how much they loved the books and had that in common.

Do you ever think of how your writing could make a positive impact on readers?

"Giving new meaning to the term alpha male where fantasy IS reality."

Monday, March 25, 2013

Juggling too many balls this month

I barely have time to take a deep breath this month, so that means I won't have a cohesive thought to blog about.

I know in a week or two life will ease up, but right now, I'm overwhelmed. I'm so overwhelmed I had a book release and I haven't even mentioned it anywhere.


That's what comes from having to work for a living!

Anyway, here's my book. It's called Righter because the main character (Mike) is a writer and he's out to right an old wrong. He's a retired actor and he's going undercover -- as a woman -- to a writing conference to out a murderer and find the man who assaulted an old friend.

It's a male POV book, so it was very Victor/Victoria for me: a woman, writing as a man, who's pretending to be a woman.

Challenging but fun to write. It's on Amazon right now and will go into wider distribution this summer (and will be free in May).

Now on to my next crisis!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Marriage Bargain Released

By Paisley Kirkpatrick
''Line them up! Head them out!" While growing up, one of the television shows we always watched in our house was Wagon Train with Ward Bond. I suppose being raised with cowboys and westerns had an impact on who I am. The strength of the pioneers who walked (yes, most of the emigrants walked alongside their wagons) along the well-worn trail have earned my respect. Honestly, I know I wouldn't have the endurance to walk that far in a pair of boots that most likely were patched and repaired many times along the journey on the Emigrant Trail of about 2,000 miles.
We have a copy of my great, great grandfather's journal that he kept while he traveled this trail in 1849. It is kept under glass at the Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley, California. Dr. Charles Kirkpatrick's handwriting was quite well done on the 45 pages. I was able to use what he wrote and sprinkle it throughout Marriage Bargain, my second story in my Paradise Pines Series which was released this week on March 21st. The trail was used by about 2,700 settlers up to 1849. After about 1848 the most popular route was the Carson Route which, while rugged, was still easier than most of the others and it entered California in the middle of the gold fields. Trail traffic rapidly fell off as the cross-country trip was much quicker by train -- only about seven days. The economy class fare of about $69 was affordable by most potential travelers.
Marriage Bargain is set on the dusty trail of a wagon train traveling from St. Joseph, Missouri, to the California gold rush area at Placerville, California, in 1849. Betrayal and embarrassment drives Darrah Benjamin to run away from home to take a tutoring job in San Francisco. Darrah finds her journey a pathway to love and forgiveness when an arranged marriage to the wagon scout becomes much more than a convenience. Chase challenges her determination to keep their marriage in name only with his promise -- she’ll give him her heart and invite him to her bed before they arrive at their destination. Darrah has an immediate attraction to the rogue, but holds her emotions tight because she doesn't want her heart broken again.
Charles Danforth, a scout known as Chase, leads a wagon train of emigrants west through plains plundered by murderers. As an undercover agent of President Polk, he has sworn to stop the massacres. Darrah's inadvertent comment gives him the clue he needs to achieve his assignment. His Sioux blood brother helps Chase end the killings, but almost ruins Chase’s chance of winning Darrah’s heart when he takes matters in his own hands to demonstrate the depth of love Chase has for his wife.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Scottish Historical Time Travel with Faeries

Just Beyond the Garden Gate   Coming Soon

I plan to indie-publish the Highland Gardens series. No release dates yet, but I’ll keep you posted…

The Scottish Highlands—a place where faeries and brownies and other fae creatures dance through time. On occasion, so do mere mortals.

Determined to regain her royal status, a banished faerie princess accepts a challenge from the high-queen of the fae to unite an unlikely couple while the clan brownie attempts to thwart her.

Passion ignites when a faerie-shove propels burned-out business consultant Laurie Bernard through the garden gate, back through time, and into the embrace of Patrick MacLachlan. The arrogant clan chief doesn’t know what to make of the lass in his arms, especially when he recognizes the brooch she wears as the one his stepmother wore when she and his father disappeared.

With the fae interfering at every opportunity, the couple must learn to trust one another while they battle an enemy clan, expose a traitor within their midst and discover the true fate of the missing parents. Can they learn the most important truth—love transcends time?

Journey from the lush gardens of the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina to the Scottish Highlands of 1509 with Just Beyond the Garden Gate.
~Dawn Marie

Monday, March 18, 2013

Readers like series

I'm not personally fond of writing series and I never thought I would write one. When several readers wrote me emails after reading CHRISTMAS BABIES and asked when the next novel was coming and some even took guesses on who would be the next heroine among the five Ramsay sisters, I felt compelled to write VALENTINE BABIES, the seecond book in the Holiday Babies Series.

The new story starts exactly where CHRISTMAS BABIES ends: at the wedding of Madelyn and Nick, the heroine and hero of the first book.

In VALENTINE BABIES, the church wedding continues with sister number two as the heroine.

Chapter One

“Go now. And smile for heaven’s sake,” the wedding coordinator sputtered against Roxanne’s ear. “It’s your sister’s happiest day.”

The Mendelssohn Wedding March chimed through the Cathedral of Christ the King in Lexington, Kentucky.

Roxanne Ramsay plastered a wide smile on her face and clutched her poinsettia bouquet to stop the trembling of her hands. God only knew how happy she was for Madelyn and Nick.
But why did she have to receive that horrible email yesterday? Two days before Christmas.
Mona Risk is the author you want when you want to just sit and read a book in one evening! e.ayers | 10 reviewers made a similar statement
If you enjoyed Christmas Babies, you should pick up Valentine Babies for a sweet, heartwarming read. S. Hughes | 6 reviewers made a similar statement You just can't go wrong with this author or her stories. Snowdog | 1 reviewer made a similar statement -----Fearless reporter, Roxanne Ramsay, doesn’t think twice before traveling for important assignments, even in a war zone—until her last trip leads her to a life-altering mistake.
At his best friends’ wedding, Dr. Greg Hayes, who has a serious phobia of planes, can’t take his eyes off the lovely maid of honor. But why is Roxanne blinking away tears? Getting involved with the strong-headed and too generous reporter involves more complications than the bright doctor has ever faced in the OR. Yet what wouldn’t he do to save the love of his life and her baby?
-------I'm writing Book 3 in the Holiday Babies Series, and hope to publish it soon.Stay tune for MOTHER'S DAY

Saturday, March 16, 2013

In search of the perfect cover

In the past few months I've taken on a new role in my writing career, that of a self-publisher. The necessity of this arose because some of my older titles became somewhat popular at Amazon, and other ebook distributers, and I realized I could take some of my older titles that had fallen out of contract due to publishing companies folding and rework them for publication. This would bring new life to my stories, and a new revenue stream for me. Why let a book continue to gather pixel dust instead of offering it to a potentially adoring public?

The first three titles I did this with did so well that I began looking at titles for which my rights were expiring at existing publishing houses. Rather than let them sit and get very little attention, I could refurbish them, edit them where necessary, get a fresh cover, and maybe they would also sell well. Competent editing has already happened to these manuscripts so it was really just a matter of repackaging a story that already existed.

I wish I could tell you this was a total snap and I've never encountered any difficulties, but that would not be the exact truth. This has been a learning situation. I acquired the name of my cover artist from another author on a self-publishing group, and learned a great deal about formatting books for distribution through seminars at RT and RWA.

One thing I've learned is that it is essential to have a cover artist you can work with. I've been very lucky that I stumbled into Darleen Dixon because not only is she good and reasonably priced, she doesn't seem to mind when I ask for changes. She does a mock-up based on what I think I want, then when things need adjusting works to make the cover just right.

For example, I had three fantasy erotic romance novels that had made money for me several years ago but sales had fallen off and they could now be released from their contracts. The three novels were my Divine Interventions series, Violet Among The Roses, Echo In The Hall, and Nemesis Of The Garden. All three had contest wins and finals, and great reviews, but were in need of freshening up.

There were two goals I had. First I wanted to give all three books fresh covers that both reflected the contents and made it clear that all three books were part of a series. The original covers were created as the books were released and while they ranged from great to okay, there wasn't a common look and feel to them.

The second goal was that I wanted to create a "box set", all three books available at a price point much less than the total for all three books individually to encourage people to buy the entire set. I sent my requirements to Darleen and she came up with the cover for the first book, and then a cover for the second. The first cover was okay but the second one was even better. I asked for the first cover to be more like the second. We quickly established the theme for all three covers... the books are about Greek gods and goddesses mixing with statues come to life, so white marble statues are on the covers, and all three feature classical Greek architecture elements. Color is added through the title text, and flowers and greenery, different colors for each book.

Many people try to use a three dimensional image to represent a box set but you need a two-dimensional image for the collection to be acceptable for distribution to Apple, something I'd already learned from my self-publishing loops. For the box set we went with a two-dimensional view with the same flowers as the covers and Greek columns containing the titles, a set of banners to hold the name of the series and my author name.

Once we established the over-all look of the covers, it became a matter of adjustments... for example what color text shows best in a thumbnail. Against a gold background, white doesn't work as well as black. As I said, it is essential to work with your artist on these details to get them just right. When I was finally satisfied, Dar sent me an invoice and a zip file containing all four cover images in three formats, a small version for ebook distribution, a slightly larger one for websites, and a hi-res version to use for print, including print books and posters.

I’ve been very happy with the cover art I’m putting on my republished books and hope they appeal to a wide audience of readers. Tell me what you think of them.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Suspense of a Romance Conference

I'm heading to a brand new conference, the Southern California Dreamin' Event, at the Doubletree/Hilton in Santa Ana, California.  Three RWA chapters are putting on this event, and the speakers/presenters are stellar!  Julia Quinn and Jill Salvis are keynoters; I'm looking forward to sessions with mentors Jane Porter. Christie Ridgeway and Debra Holland.  I've made a point of reading a novel each by Julia, Jill, Debra and Jane...I've read several of Christie Ridgeway's books.  In total, I'm in awe of their prolific, skilled work.

I can't wait to tell Debra Holland how her fabulous on-line course about self-publishing helped me mush toward my own adventure at self-publishing.  The idea of meeting up with Christie Ridgeway again, after I won, at auction, a chance to have breakfast with her as well as a three chapter reading of my novel...there is no way to thank her enough for her encouragement.

Here's the thing.  Conferences are about sticking our necks out and making contacts with writers, agents and publishers.  We might not know until months or years later how important those contacts are, but the efforts and the effects are well worth the energy.

I'm interested in your long-term takeaways from conferences.  What contact or experience at a conference made a big difference in your writing/publishing career?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

My tribute to servicemen and women

As I sit watching news reports about wars and attacks on American soldiers in other countries, it continues to hit me that so many members of my family could have been included in the reports.

My brother served in the Gulf War.  I've had many uncles and cousins serve at different times in different conflicts, including: Vietnam.

All of this is what lead me to write two stories.  One story about the family left behind.  Another about a woman veteran who returns home to have nothing waiting for her.

The more I grow as a writer, I find myself looking for ways to intertwine things I'm passionate about or for into the the stories that I create.

Regardless of how we each personally feel about or toward war, I believe we owe a debt of gratitude to the individuals who've placed their lives on the line to protect our ability to live our lives as we choose.

"Derailed" is my latest release.

When you’re given away by the people who are supposed to love you forever, it makes it hard to believe love and family really exist.

JoAn Fentress thought the military would take care of her in the way her family never did, but that didn’t happen.  Homeless on the streets of Memphis, TN, she walked through the only open door she could find, and it changed her life.

Jeremy Hooks needed only to smile, and the world gave him whatever he asked of it.  Eventually, people stop partying, right…at least when they’re threatened.  He has one more chance to prove himself before he loses everything.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Gearing up for conference season

Yep, forget March basketball tournaments. March means to me that it's getting to be that time of year when conferences will start.

I usually book my conferences a few months in advance so I know where I'll be this year: RT and RomCon. I had to miss Love is Murder because of other obligations. I usually average 2 or 3 conferences a year, so I'm on track.

Now I need to think about promo items to take. RT is a biggie, so I'll need lots of stuff to take. I've been starting prep for that already. I'll be driving there, so it's easy to toss everything into a suitcase and not worry about weight, etc.

I'll be flying to RomCon, though, so that requires a bit more ingenuity on my part. The good thing is it's a smaller conference so it should be relatively easy to get everything I need there. I've become quite good at wedging things into my bag around my clothes.

I hope everybody out there who is a writer or a wish-to-be-writer gets to attend at least one or two conferences. They're a great way to energize yourself and get in touch with people of a like mind. I always see friends at these conferences, people who are scattered far and wide around the globe. It gives me a chance to reconnect with them again and remind me why I enjoy this solitary profession I've chosen.

So get out there and enjoy the conference season! It only lasts for a few months, so enjoy it while you can.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Time to Start a New Story

It's that time. Time to start a new story.

Decision time. Which story idea bumbling about in my head should I start?

I've been working on two series. Crimson Storm has one completed manuscript, Sea Panther, which I'm currently submitting to traditional publishers. Highland Gardens has two completed manuscripts. I hope to self-publish Just Beyond the Garden Gate in late May, followed by Just Once in a Verra Blue Moon.

Since I've been in edit mode for those two manuscripts, perhaps I'll start the third story for Highland Gardens, which might be a novella. Maybe a novel. Not sure yet. The ideas aren't fully gelled.

Starting a new story is a lot like designing a new garden. A seed of an idea sets in your mind, hoping to blossom. Instead of perusing flower catalogs, I dive into research, using books, and the internet, and the knowledge offered by fellow writers. While the research continues, a plan evolves. For the garden, I use graph paper, templates and pencils. For my story, I use a storyboard, index cards, a notebook and a computer.

How do you decide what project to work on next? What tools do you use?

~Dawn Marie

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

WIP:Escaping West

This is my work in progress and book four in the historical series. I wrote this book first, and then went back and wrote the other three.
Setup: Kitty is a young woman living in Reconstruction time with her embittered aunt. Her parents died crossing a flooded stream returning from assisting a sick congregation member. The aunt is a controlling individual who not only wants Kitty to be at her beck and call, but also prevents any possible romances.
Kitty's best friend, Harriet is off to be a mail order bride. Accusations of attempted murder has Kitty disguising herself as a man and traveling west with her friend. She enjoys playing the role of the brother until she meets flirty gambler, Nick Kennedy.
Excerpt:Kitty, disguised as a man, finds work as a piano player in a saloon. Nick Kennedy walks into the saloon, not knowing Kitty will be there.
The melancholy drunk leaned against the piano blowing whiskey fumes onto Kitty as he warbled the lyrics to I Dream of Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair. It was the fifth time she played it, but the man kept putting money in her cup to hear the song, not paper money, but gold pieces. Kitty sure could use more money, but she wasn’t too sure if the denizens of the saloon would tolerate one more rendition of Jeannie, especially with a drunken miner murdering the verses.
Kitty bet none of the lyrics included references to long toes and a broad behind. If so, Jeannie must have finished off the composer with a rolling pin. The drunk continued to list Jeannie’s attributes as he belted out the last line. Money passed hands behind her, probably a wager on the life expectancy of the piano player. The drunk, a large man, would do some damage on impact. Muscles tensed, she made ready to leap out of the way if he fell.
The atmosphere changed suddenly. Formerly contentious card players called out a warm greeting to a newcomer. Iris’s sultry greeting let her know someone special had arrived. A sneaking suspicion crept up behind her and whispered in her ear. It might be someone she didn’t want to see, especially in her ridiculous piano player outfit. Oh, he wouldn’t say anything, but he’d probably grin—his own superior, amused smirk, the last thing she needed. Liquored up, he might blabber how they’d bathed together. No chance of it happening, and even if it did, who would care? Men bathed together all the time in public bathhouses. It was a rare man who had the privacy of his own bathroom. Before she could mentally debate anymore, the drunken man made a sudden move, causing Kitty to flinch.
The man swept the hat off his head and placed it over his heart. “Nick Kennedy,” he called out, “as I liva and breathe. Nevah thought to see you, again.”
The man ambled away from her to greet Nick with much backslapping and noise. Kitty started picking out another tune with one hand while trying to follow the low rumble of Nick’s voice. A few miners grumbled about her piss-poor playing, forcing her to use both hands. It made it difficult to hear. It seemed like everyone knew him and liked him. Which to her way of thinking ought not to be if he took the miners’ money. His evocative laughter washed over her reminding her of steam-filled bath they shared.
The night lasted forever. Thirty-two songs ago, not that she was counting, Nick Kennedy walked through the saloon doors. Men, both young and old, gathered around him asking for news of the outside world. He talked of floods and political scandals. He had the whole group howling as he acted out two wealthy matrons fighting over him at the San Francisco Opera House. The story ended with him slipping out before either matron noticed. Kit wrinkled her nose at the idea of two women fighting over Nick. It could have happened, or he could be making it all up to be entertaining. No matter the results were alike, the same taciturn men who trod the weathered boards only hours before were guffawing and slapping each other on the back. Nick was a breath of fresh air in the sweat soaked room.
Iris’s invitations for Nick to accompany her upstairs became peevish and strained as the night wore on. Nick turned away each invitation by pretending not to hear and moving on to the next person or a softly murmured “Not now, sweetheart.”
Stella grabbed the pouting Iris and hissed loud enough for most people to hear. “You better leave Nick Kennedy alone and get your sorry butt in gear. I’m not paying you to moon over some man who could have any decent woman with a snap of his fingers.”
Iris grabbed the nearest man and hauled the half-drunk merchant toward the stairs much to his surprise. Her killing gaze directed at Stella fell short since Stella’s back was to the stairs while she conversed with the celebrated gambler.
Escaping West should be out in March. Look for it on Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, and Secret Cravings.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Free Book Phenomenom: Is It for You?

Who hasn’t downloaded a free eBook? Who hasn’t thought that offering their books free would make them into a bestselling author? Can you actually get a good book free? These are all good questions about the free eBook phenomenon.
In the beginning, a few authors, usually self-pub authors offered their books free to generate some buzz, and then they would carefully raise the price as the interest in their book grew. This worked reasonably well. Most people focus on E.L. James book, Shades of Grey to demonstrate that offering the book free can benefit you. Thousands read her book free as fan fiction.
Yes, you can still offer your book as fan fiction too, which might be the cheaper route to go, especially if you are testing the waters. Maybe you’ve heard the expression you can’t get anything decent free, well potential readers don’t believe that. In fact, they expect a great deal for their free download.
I am a big anything for free fan. Currently, I have 193 free books on my Kindle.  My free books include:

a.       Short stories-some as short as five pages including the title page.

b.      Excerpts- a tantalizing glimpse of a book I might want to buy.

c.       Introductory stories, which introduce a line or a trilogy.

d.      Cookbooks with only 10-18 recipes included.

e.      Rants feature provocative titles that have nothing to do with the rant. There is very little actual writing, but links to blogs, examples, and YouTube videos.

f.        The Sneaky Direct Mail marketing approach-I paged through a book to find the right way to get rid of my cellulite only to find out on the last page that information wasn’t included, but it could be bought.

g.       Famous Authors Tidbits-this can go two ways. It can be a great short story or a mediocre one. The point is to keep the author’s name current. Many well-loved authors are bringing out their early books free. Be aware that sometimes they are only free for a day or even a few hours.

h.      Actual full-length books, truthfully there aren’t that many of these.
How many great books did I read that were free? Five, maybe six, actually that’s it.  I started eight the other night usually I ditched each one after two or three pages. I refrained from reading books that were poorly formatted, boring, silly, historically incorrect, or borrowed from famous books. Now with this in mind, can offering your book free improve your bottom line?

Sometimes, yes, especially if it is in the wrong category. I have romance writer friends whose books were under wrong headings like aeronautical engineering, playwriting, and herbal remedies. They can honestly say when they offered their books free they were one of the top selling authors for the week. Ironically, people like to read a popular book, even if it isn’t all that good. It is rather like the fairy tale, The Emperor’s New Clothes. No one wanted to mention the emperor wore nothing because they didn’t want to look unintelligent. Often, we readers feel obligated to like a popular book, when secretly we might think it could have benefitted from an editor.

If you are self-pubbing, then please do a professional job. It is a date with a potential reader. Would you wear your yard work clothes on a date? Why let your book go to press, unformatted, and without the benefit of a professional editor or cover. Getting your eBook in top form can run anywhere from $500 to $1,200. If you are paying more, then someone is taking advantage of you.  Why spend money, when you are trying to make money?
Your book has to stand out from the forest of free books. Today, I noticed 54,913 free books on my Kindle. Searches can be conducted via release date, subject matter, and rating. People often download free books and give bad ratings because the book wasn’t what the reader wanted.

A reader review blasted an erotic author whose book cover featured two naked people in handcuffs and words describing it as a bondage novel. The reader’s main complaint was all the nasty sex scenes in the book. This demonstrates free books do not guarantee good reviews. Sometimes just the opposite because people not normally interested in a particular genre, will download them anyhow.
Free books are a bit like real estate. Offering a free book for a long time makes it worthless. How do you get people to know you have a free book out there? Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media alert the public you have a free book. By limiting time, the potential reader develops a sense of urgency to get it before it cost money. Not limiting time allows reader to think it will be there later, causing him not to download it.
There are thousands of eBooks out, a few are worth reading, but most are little more than vanity publishing, previews and commercials. These are things to consider when offering your novel free. Your potential reader is already jaded. A few will go crazy about a wrong tense or word. Ask for beta readers. I recently reviewed a self-pub book and noticed she was missing one word in her conclusion. It was the word ‘out’ for writing without, which totally changed the meaning. I sent her email asking if that is what she meant, and she quickly changed it. Most reviewers would have lit into her despite the book be charming otherwise.

Free books are rather like blind dates. Your goal is to make yours the best the reader has ever had. Later, your reader will be booking future reading dates with you, and even paying for them. J

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Does Your Story Have An Awesome Beginning? by Vonnie Davis

Editors tell us they want dropped into the action from the "get-go." At a writers' retreat, an editor told me she expects dialogue on the first page. Another said she gives the writer three pages to make her care before she hits the delete button. Expectations like this make us tighten our writing--or curl up in the fetal position under our desks.

Our opening hooks must be powerful and sharp. Yet they must also showcase our creativity. Often this is hard when our storyline requires we set the scene. How much detail should we use? How can we pull our reader into the moment of our story--and keep them there? To this end, we examine the strength of every word, the need for every comma, the way we present our main character. We write and rewrite until we get it just so...only to go back and change it another six times.

Our opening hooks often define our characters or showcase the literary world we've created for our readers' enjoyment.
Take the beginning paragraph of my Storm's Interlude, I needed to set the scene:
Someone swaggered out of the moonlit night toward Rachel. Exhausted from a long day of driving, she braked and blinked. Either she was hallucinating or her sugar levels had plummeted. Maybe that accounted for the male mirage, albeit a very magnificent male mirage, trekking toward her. She peered once more into the hot July night at the image illuminated by her headlights. Sure enough, there he was, cresting the hill on foot—a naked man wearing nothing but a black cowboy hat, a pair of boots and a go-to-hell sneer.
But what if our story takes place in another era?
Gunfire jarred Annalee Gallagher. She straightened in her seat, her heart pounding. Another bullet zinged past the stagecoach, and the older couple sitting across from her gasped in unison. Heaven help her, she’d escaped one nightmare only to find herself in the middle of another.
Or in a different country like the second book of my romantic suspense trilogy?
It wasn’t the hardened man who eased his motorcycle to the curb that snagged Gwen Morningstar’s attention. Nor was it the wide spread of his shoulders or the way his black jeans hugged his muscled thighs like a pair of lover’s hands. For sure, it wasn’t the long scar on his right cheek or the small silver cross that dangled from his ear. No, it was his pristine-white angel wings that dragged on the pavement.
Odd that Parisians hurried past without so much as a second glance. As if seeing a mountain of a man riding a Harley with angel wings flowing down his back was as common as citizens carrying unwrapped crusty loaves of bread in their hands. No one gawked as their feet tattooed a staccato beat on the busy pavements of the City of Light. Few things fazed Parisians, it seemed.
Can opening the story with internal dialogue work? I used it in Back Where You Belong: 

What the hell?

Tyler Desmond whirled away from the shot he was about to make at the pool table to grasp for whatever caused the sudden, stinging pain at the back of his neck. When his fingers closed around a dart, he yanked the offending object out, searching through the crowd in the Lonesome Steer Honky Tonk for the bastard who dared throw one at him.
In a short story, I needed to establish some things about my heroine right away.
      Her lungs stopped working. This couldn’t be happening. Hope Morningstar read the words on her cell’s screen once more. Black spots danced across her vision field, and she finally breathed again. “He broke up with me!” Her gaze jumped from the screen to her sister’s questioning face. “Barclay broke up with me…in a text!”
Gracie snatched the cell from Hope. “Let me see.”
Hope rested her elbows on the table and dropped her face into her hands. This can’t be happening—not again.
I can't tell you what version you're reading of each. I struggled with every one. What about you? How hard is it for you to create your opening hook?