Selecting a Headshot or Mugshot

My publisher asked for a picture of me promotional purposes. Apparently, a picture of my dog isn't good enough though she is cuter and more memorable. Oh, well.

I've never thought of myself as photogenic and never had dreams of being a runway model. Getting in front of a camera for any reason is not my favorite thing to do. I'm the family photographer.

Today, I took out the spackle and bright paint to make repairs to my face. Hubby took the pictures for me in burst mode. What a sweatheart. A few times we got to laughing so hard, the pictures came out blurry. Lesson learned, next time use a tripod.

Maybe when my kid no longer plays expensive ice hockey we will be able to afford simple luxuries like professional photography and food.

Please help me select a headshot. I picked these four as the best of the lot. "None of the above" is also an acceptable answer. And if you are wondering, yes, I always do look somewhat like a shaggy dog.

1. Stargazer

2. Almost weeping.

3. A bit serious

4. No, really?

I'll keep you posted.

Kate Walker's 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance

Kate Walker has over 40 titles published with Harlequin, contemporary around 55K words. Because this is what she writes successfully, the entire book sways toward her personal writing process.

Most of the book is pretty basic “need to know” for someone who is thinking about writing romance but has never attempted the genre before. That would not be me. Each chapter ends with suggested exercises that makes this into a workbook. Here's the high points.
  • A romance is about the emotional journey - because the destination (the happy ending) is guaranteed.
Walker has an organic, character-based process very similar to my approach, which may account for the familiarity of the information she presented. We both start with the characters, interview them, get to know them, have their history understood before creating the plot. She has a character worksheet in her book that I am going to try out.

Putting characters in a book is like matchmaking two people you know really well. Their story should naturally evolve. or be told by the characters, without much effort if you do know them well. (Easier said than done!)

She does not use the standard 3 act play formula. Instead she uses a simpler design:
Hero + Heroine + conflict + getting to know you + the black moment + resolution + happy ending
  • She suggest the story should be written like a sexual experience: interest to arousal to passion to emotional climax.
  • She believes that the external conflict should always resolve before the internal conflict.
  • The black moment should be a rearing up of the external conflict, thought resolved, that stirs up the internal conflict of the characters and the final resolution of the internal conflict puts at rest the external conflict for good.
To illustrate the black moment: if the external conflict is “the secret baby,” a common plot for Harlequin where the reunited couple has to deal with a child conceived in the past that the hero doesn't know about, then the black moment should surround the baby. Possible black moments for this common plot:

  • He decides he wants her and the baby, but she interprets his behavior as him only wanting the baby and being resigned to having her around, too.
  • He not only decides he wants her and the baby, but he wants more children. She interprets that all he really wants is a broodmare.
 Other points she makes about her process:
  • Dual black moment endings are acceptable.
  • 60% meaningful dialogue (mature, that moves the story forward) – 40% narrative
  • Don't use dialogue tags like whisper or shouted. Instead, use “business” that show the character's mood (body/face language) -- the action and the pace of the action -- and dialogue that supports the whisper or the shout.
  • The H/H should be passionate about everything they do and say.
  • No matter how much emotion you have in the story, add more.
  • The plot should look like a series of Ws, where the characters take two steps forward and one step back until they reach the destination.
The modern heroine:
  • is neither passive nor aggressive
  • wants to pleasure as much as be pleasured
  • is sympathetic, not pathetic
The modern hero:
  • can be aggressive but not abusive
  • must take responsibility for contraception
  • must show personal and moral integrity
  • can be either an alpha or a beta male (she explains both)
Walker writes about the importance of knowing the Who, When, Where, What and How and Why.

  • Who: hero and heroine (she doesn't do many side characters, says it takes away from the main romance which is the focus)
  • When: era, season, when in the character's life in relation to traumatic past events, age of characters or maturity level, when in relation to the “point of crisis” what is also called the inciting incident.
  • Where: setting (geographical location, buildings, apartments)
  • What and How: the plot
  • Why: the motivation of the characters, every scene should have a purpose and be able to answer the why: why do they act as they do, why do they fall in love.
She showed one synopsis without the “why” and a revised one with the “why.” Since writing synopsis is a chore that I struggle with, this bit alone should help with my future synopsis writing and was worth the price of the book.
Her best quote:

  •  “Love is not only blind but the complete opposite. It sees things in other people that no one else can find.”
Like I said, most of this I already knew. I'm not seeking to write 55K word contemporary stories so I didn't find what I really hoped to find. I'll keep looking.

I'll keep you posted.

Fire and Ice - The One-Line Pitch

I completed the AIS (Author Information Sheet) for Moongypsy Press and emailed it. Pretty soon, I should have the cover art and ISBN number to start plastering where ever I can. Until then, I thought I'd show my process for writing the one-lines and blurbs. Today, the One-Line Pitch.

Condensing a 100K novel down to a single sentence is not an easy task. One-lines are harder to write than a synopsis - and I hate writing synopsis. Though I'm still waiting for approval from the publisher on my selections, I thought I'd show my process.

When you read the TV guide for a show, that description is the one-line pitch (or premise). In one sentence, the entire story should be there showing the Who, Where, What, Why and When. Leave the How as the contents of the story.

I start by listing the components.

For the characters, I search for labels that will give character insight. In a romance there are two Whos. In Fire and Ice, the pair have conflicting goals and are opposite in many ways.

  • Rosche is a Drakond, a judge, a warrior and a Noble tribe leader who has a heat control problem ignited by emotions so his personality is cold.
  •  Sarica is a Din, a recent academy graduate, a city dweller whose father died leaving her with a debt she can't pay. The law makes her an indentured servant until she earns her freedom. She has the ability to generate cold by using her emotions. She has a fiery personality.

Where: Planet Majien of the Five Worlds.

When: doesn't matter for this story since we are on another planet. If this took place on Earth, the era would be important - past, present or future. Mentioning the season might be important for Holiday stories. This isn't one of those so I don't need to add this information.

Why: He needs her to use her gift to control his. She needs to answer Fate's call to find Almona City.

The Whats are the conflict, premise and plot. I picked these highlights.

  • Rosche is in love with Sarica and wants her as his wife. He buys her servitude. He plans to keep her forever.
  • Sarica fears (and desires) Rosche and will do whatever she must to attain her freedom to find Almona City.

That is way too many words for a one-line (but are juicy bits for the back of the book blurb). The object then is to simplify. Pick the most important details to form one sentence. I condensed to this:
  • Where: On planet Majien of the Five Worlds (goes to sub-genre or audience - very important.)
  • Who: a judge and an indentured servant, or a warrior and a scholar, or a Drakond and a Din, or cold-tempered man and a woman with a fiery personality, a heat generator and a cold generator (I could make a huge list here of their differences, but you get the point).
  • What: He wants her love; she wants her freedom
  • Why: the why here takes too long to explain - all about what a Gifted Anom is and how their gifts work and interact. I'm going to use that in the blurb, not the on-line.
Now that I am closer, it's time to start building the sentence.
  • On Majien of the Five Worlds, a Noble wants the love of his indentured servant who will do anything to attain her freedom.
Closer but I need to paint the whole story because the above is a standard romance plot (Boy wants girl but girl wants something else). What makes this story different? Time to add descriptive adjectives.
  • On Majien of the Five Worlds, a Drakond Noble struggles to win the heart of his tenacious Din indentured servant, who fights him in the attempt to attain her freedom which makes his life unpredictable.
Closer but this can be further condensed by using descriptive words and trying to show the characters instead of telling about them. This is my final selection for the one-line pitch (the editor may suggest changes).
  • On Majien of the Five Worlds, a callous Drakond Noble struggles to win the heart of his Din indentured servant, whose exploits to gain her freedom disrupt his impeccable lifestyle.
I hope this process will help you write your one-line pitch. Some people suggest this be done before the novel is written. My muse isn't that organized.

I'll keep you posted.