This is the official release day for my newest book, BRIDE FOR A KNIGHT -- always an exciting occasion!
I had written a "reader letter" for the front of the book, but unfortunately, there wasn't room for it. It was about choosing characters' names. As a release day bonus, here it is:
Have you ever
wondered how an author comes up with names for her characters?I have a few ways.
When I first started writing, I went
through a baby name book and typed out lists of names by country of origin, in
part to get a geographical list of names, but also to enhance my typing
skills.I still have those lists, and
that's often the first place I go for names.
With my heroes, and especially the
strong, silent types, I'll look for names with "hard" sounds, like
Madoc, in THE WARLORD'S BRIDE.If he's
the merrier type of hero, though, that doesn't necessarily apply.One of my favorite character names is Paris,
Lord Mulholland, from THE WASTREL.He
was originally supposed to be Edmond, but my editor at the time didn't
particularly like that name, so I changed it to Paris.I don't remember how I came up with that name
at the time, but once I started writing the book, his new name really suited
the character as I'd envisioned him.
I try not to have two characters
with names that start with the same letter of the alphabet in the same book,
because it can get confusing -- for the author, too.For instance, the name of Roland's twin
brother in this book and its prequel, CASTLE OF THE WOLF, was originally
Rowan.Then I started getting confused,
and that was just writing the outline for BRIDE FOR A KNIGHT!Thus Rowan became Gerrard.
Sometimes I use street or
geographical names, and that's how Mavis got her name, although for a rather
unusual reason.Often as we head out of
the city, there will be a traffic slow-down at Mavis Road.Once, as we were sitting and stewing, I
announced that rather than grumble about Mavis Road, I'd name my next heroine
after it.Now I smile when we get to
Mavis, even if the traffic's bad.
So there you have my sources - a
baby name book, locations, and editor prompting.Above all else, though, I have to like the
name and think it suits the character, or it's off the list.
What Christmas movies do you like? A Christmas Carol starring Alastair Sim? White Christmas? It's a Wonderful Life? Die Hard? I'll be talking about my favorite Christmas movies and TV specials on the Harlequin community boards tonight from 7 - 8 pm.
I'll be joining the discussions on Christmas movies and TV shows Tuesday evening from 7 - 8 pm and Christmas traditions on Friday from 7 - 8 pm. I'll also be hanging out on the boards at other times, perhaps even when I should be writing. (Just don't tell my editor, okay? Or Santa.)
I've finally finished making the links to digital samplers for all my Harlequin books available in digital editions. Today I'm listing them by series. To keep it short, I'm just going with titles. Click on for a link to my website with the cover, more info about each book and a link to the digital sampler. THE SAXON
After glimpsing a softer side to the stern Sir Roland of Dunborough,
Mavis of DeLac is filled with hope for their arranged marriage. So when
the wedding night explodes with an exquisite passion, she dares to
dream that their newfound bliss will last forever.
But the following morning, convinced he could never make this beautiful
woman truly happy, Roland comes cold and aloof once again. And as the
newlyweds journey across England to protect Roland's birthright, it's up
to Mavis to prove him wrong -- and unlock the compassion this noble has
buried deep inside.
Romantic Times says: "Fans
who adore Moore’s high sexual tension and realistic action will revel
in Mavis and Roland’s journey from lust to love. There are powerful
lessons underlying this heated love story, and wonderful characters to
carry in your heart."
Want to sample the story?
BRIDE FOR A KNIGHT is the sequel to CASTLE OF THE WOLF. Haven't read that yet? Don't worry! I write every book to "stand alone."
After glimpsing a softer side to the
stern Sir Roland of Dunborough, Mavis of DeLac is filled with hope for
their arranged marriage. And when their wedding night explodes with an
exquisite passion she dares to dream that their newfound bliss will last
But the following morning, convinced he can never make
this beautiful woman truly happy, Roland becomes cold and aloof once
And as the newlyweds journey across England to protect
Roland’s birthright it’s up to Mavis to prove him wrong – and unlock
the compassion this noble knight has buried deep inside.
As I noted yesterday, I'm in the process of adding links to digital samplers of my Harlequin books. This will give readers a chance to enjoy a better look at the book or story.
Today, I've added links for
THE BARON'S QUEST
THE DARK DUKE
THE DUKE'S DESIRE
LORD OF DUNKEATHE
And last but not least, a novella:
THE WELSH LORD'S MISTRESS
As you can see, except for the novella, I'm going in alphabetical order with the new links. I hope to get them all done by the end of next week. This is one of those times where being prolific has a bit of a down side!
Harlequin has made digital samplers for all my Harlequin Historicals available in ebook format, up to 10% of the text. That's a lot more than the average excerpt! I plan to add links on the book pages on my site, but as there are many and I've got a new book to finish, it's going to take some time. But I'm going to get started!
Today, since I started my morning shoveling snow from the driveway, I'm in a bit of a Christmas mood, so I'm going to start off with my favorite of all the Christmas novellas I've written, "Comfort and Joy," in the anthology THE CHRISTMAS VISIT.
Why do I particularly like this story? For one thing, I waited a long time to give that scarred and wounded hero his own story. For another, I love the setting (Victorian Wales). And for a third, I really felt the tune, for lack of a better way to express the writing experience. It seemed as if everything fell into place.
Just click on the button I made, and you'll be taken directly to "Comfort and Joy."
"Look at the dialogue you have written and ask yourself, 'If a stranger were nearby, would she try to eavesdrop on this conversation?'"
I think asking yourself "Would somebody want to eavesdrop on this conversation?" is pretty darn fine advice. I'll be asking myself this question a lot now that I'm ready to get to work on the second draft of the work-in-progress.
I've just joined a new group, the Historical Romance Network. They've got some fun things planned for fans of historical romance, including something to celebrate* the end of Daylight Savings Time. Check it out and join in! Look for my "selfie" here or on Twitter.
And while you're visiting the Historical Romance Network website, check out the great video illustrating the variety in historical romance.
I actually hate the end of Daylight Savings Time, so please join in. I need all the fun I can get at this time of year!
So this is the last (half) day of My Own Writing Retreat -- two weeks alone to work on my book. This is the sort of opportunity I fantasized about when I had two little small children and was beginning my career as a published author. If only I had time by myself, I would think, and nobody else's schedule to consider, how much I could write!
Well, guess what? It did not work out that way. Yes, I had plenty of time to write, so I did make some major progress, although not a lot of new pages. I discovered some serious flaws with what I'd already written, leading
to lots of time rethinking and revising the foundation chapters (1-3). I also realized I
had to spend more time planning the rest of the book, and that was done.
As I'd expected, it was easier to work without having to
think about anybody else's schedule, so I could work, exercise, and eat when it suited me.
But it was also very lonely. What made that worse, I think, was not having a car. I couldn't even drive into town and chat with a sales clerk. It was like I'd been sent to camp for two weeks -- all by myself.
And then there was the day I realized I really needed eye drops and discovered the ones I had were past their best-before date. With no car, what's a gal to do? Fortunately, it was a lovely sunny day, so I walked into town, a hike of nearly nine miles. Getting there wasn't too bad, but I was concerned I would do serious injury to my knee if I walked home, so I bought a helmet and a bike and rode home. Mission accomplished, but not cheaply. I should have rented a car for the two weeks. However, that means I now have a bike, and I did go for some more rides, just not nearly as long.
Also on the upside - I've lost a few pounds. I don't eat as much when I'm alone and there was all that bike riding and walking.
Would I do it again? Not for two weeks and not without a car.
(What book am I working on? Gerrard's story, the sequel to BRIDE FOR A KNIGHT out in Dec.)
I find first chapters come in two sorts -- either they come quickly and easily, or...not. I often have the most trouble with first chapters when the book is a sequel. The pacing can be nightmare as I struggle to introduce the characters and get the story going.
Why's that? Don't I already know the characters, or at least one of the main characters? Surely that has to make it easier.
Well, it means I know something about what makes at least the hero or heroine tick.
Unfortunately, that also means I know too much. There's a whole backstory from the previous book(s) and I'm as tempted as the next person to get all that history in. But if I do include it, well, let's be frank. It can be as boring as listening to the most boring travelogue. Yet I do need some of that history. This story and the characters aren't coming out of nowhere.
So the challenge becomes, how much do I put in about what happened in the previous book(s) before it gets unnecessary and worst of all, boring?
I wish there was a formula, or some hard and fast "rule," but there isn't. I have to go purely on instinct, by what "feels right." One things for sure, though -- I want the story to move, to be exciting and engaging. If I'm getting bored, I can be darn sure the reader will be.
It's hard cutting whole paragraphs and scenes. It never gets any easier. But if it's cut or bore the reader, well, out it goes. With sequels, I usually have to cut more out of the first drafts and revise and rewrite and revise again until I've achieved a balance between material relating what happened in the previous book(s) and the action of the new story.
It's not easy, but hey! What part of writing a book is?
I've got the opportunity to have a personal writing retreat. For nearly two weeks, I'm not going to have to think about anybody else's schedule but mine -- well, and the cats, such as it is.
It won't be like a NaNoWriMo experience, because I've already started the book. In fact, I've written eight chapters. Then I went on holiday. When I returned, I started revising the first chapter. Then came a flurry of social activities, including a few at my house. There was cooking, cleaning and baking to do, which meant another long break. So I'm not "starting from scratch." I'm getting back to a book already in progress.
Today and Saturday, I'm getting ready - going over my synopsis and notes, reminding myself about the characters and their story. I'm also getting a few chores done, so I don't have much on my plate besides writing, feeding myself and the cats, and going for walks, because this retreat isn't just about writing. It's also about getting back to regular exercise.
Here's the schedule I hope to maintain during my retreat:
1. Start the day with a hearty breakfast (hot cereal and fruit), feed the cats, and watch Canada AM until after Things I learned on the Internet Today (that's about 8 am).
2. Begin working on the book. Note I am NOT going to check my email or Twitter first.
3. Work until I feel it's time for a break. That could mean I work for an hour, or I could work for more. When I take a break, I'll check email and Twitter, have a tea, maybe do a bit of housework.
4. Back to work until I'm ready for another break and lunch. I'm not setting a time limit or a page count, in part because at least in the beginning, I'll be revising. It would be nice if I could get to the end of Chapter 8 by the end of the first week, but I'm not even setting that as a goal. It's more important to feel I have a solid base before continuing.
5. Lunch and a long break. Since I've only myself and the cats to feed, I can set my own times for meals.
I'm also having a Call the Midwife binge, so I'm going to watch an episode while I have lunch, then go for a walk and check email, etc. This break will be at least two hours, and possibly three.
6. Work a bit more, prepare for the next day. At each break, I'll likely make notes, but I definitely will before I stop for dinner, so I can review the next morning before I start working again.
7. Make dinner. I'm going to make things that will also give me left-overs for the next day's dinner. I also plan to do a bit of baking -- cornbread and pumpkin bread, not cookies.
8. After dinner, I may work if I feel like it, or take the evening off for more Call the Midwife and whatever shows on TV that appeal, like Gotham. Then it's early to bed, and early to rise.
By the end of my retreat, I hope to have revised what I've already written and gotten a good start on the rest of the book. Again, no specific page or word count -- I just want to get back into the book after a long break, build a really good foundation and (hopefully) move beyond.
Here are my two "writing buddies." This is how they'll be spending their days while I'm working.
Whoo hoo! I've sold two more books to Harlequin Historical! One is a sequel to BRIDE FOR A KNIGHT, coming this December. That means I've got a medieval trilogy, starting with CASTLE OF THE WOLF, then BRIDE FOR A KNIGHT, and now a third story, about the twin brother of the hero of BRIDE FOR A KNIGHT. I don't have a title or a release date yet, in no small part because I'm still in the process of writing the book.
The second book is a Regency romance. I've had the idea for that one kicking around for awhile, and it's always exciting to get to work on a book that's been brewing. No title or release date for that one yet, either.
Why change time periods? I think it helps my creativity to have to switch it up every now and again.
I'll announce the title and release dates as they become available here, on my website and by Twitter, too.
I've been asked more than once about how much research I do for my books. It's hard to quantify something like that, especially after you've been writing about a time period for over 20 years. Generally, though, I do as much as I feel necessary to "put the reader there," without letting the research overwhelm the characters and the action.
In the name of "putting the reader there," I've amassed several books about medieval times. Here are ones I that I've found particularly useful. (I've also written books set in other time periods. Here's a link to lists of books for those time periods.)
LOST COUNTRY LIFE by Dorothy Hartley (absolutely one of the best for me
-- it's about how folks actually did things, organized by months of the
LIFE IN A MEDIEVAL CASTLE by Joseph and Frances Gies
LIFE IN A MEDIEVAL CITY by Joseph and Frances Gies
LIFE IN A MEDIEVAL VILLAGE by Joseph and Frances Gies
MARRIAGE AND THE FAMILY IN THE MIDDLE AGES by Frances and Joseph Gies
(yes, changed the order of the names on this one -- wonder why? And
yes, apparently I buy any book they write -- because they're good!)
CASTLE by David Macaulay
LIFE IN THE CASTLE IN MEDIEVAL ENGLAND by John Burke (this one is past my usual setting, but interesting nonetheless)
THE OXFORD HISTORY OF ENGLAND: FROM DOMESDAY BOOK TO MAGNA CARTA 1087-1216 by A.L. Poole
A MEDIEVAL BOOK OF SEASONS by Marie Collins and Virginia Davis
THE ENGLISH: A SOCIAL HISTORY, 1066-1945 by Christopher Hibbert
MISTRESS, MAIDS AND MEN: Baronial Life in the Thirteenth Century by Margaret Wade Labarge
A SMALL SOUND OF THE TRUMPET: Women in Medieval Life by Margaret Wade Labarget
FOOD & COOKING IN MEDIEVAL BRITAIN: History and Recipes by Maggie Black
A MEDIEVAL HOME COMPANION: Housekeeping in the Fourteenth Century, translated and edited by Tania Bayard
THE OXFORD HISTORY OF BRITAIN: THE MIDDLE AGES by John Gillingham and Ralph A. Griffiths
MEDIEVAL WOMEN: A Social History of Women in England 450-1500 by Henrietta Leyser
ENGLISH WEAPONS AND WARFARE 449 - 1660 by A.V.B. Norman and Don Pottinger
THE COUNTRYSIDE OF MEDIEVAL ENGLAND, edited by Grenville Astill and Annie Grant
WOMEN IN ENGLAND 1500 - 1760: A Social History by Anne Laurence
MEDIEVAL PANORAMA: The English Scene from Conquest to Reformation by
G.G. Coulton (this was published in 1938 and was, I believe, a school
textbook. It's interesting to see how the perceptions on some aspects
of English history have changed over time.)
THE MEDIEVAL VILLAGE by G.G. Coulton (Like the previous, somewhat outdated, but still useful)
MEDIEVAL BIRDS IN THE SHERBORNE MISSAL by Janet Backhouse
THE KNIGHT IN MEDIEVAL ENGLAND 1000-1400 by Peter Coss
THE KNIGHT IN HISTORY by Frances Gies (hey, what happened? Has Joseph died? I'm going to have to look this up now!)
THE FOURTH ESTATE: A History of Women in the Middle Ages by Shulamith Shahar
GROWING UP IN MEDIEVAL LONDON: The Experience of Childhood in History by
Barbara A. Hanawalt (I haven't actually used this one much, but if I
ever decide to write another medieval YA....)
EVERYDAY LIFE IN THE MEDIEVAL ENGLAND by Christopher Dyer
A HISTORY OF PRIVATE LIFE: Revelations on the Medieval World, edited by
Georges Duby, translated by Arthur Goldhammer (this one has a lot about
the society of countries other than England, and also tends to be too
late for my time period, but fascinating nonetheless)
CASTLES AND CASTLE TOWNS OF GREAT BRITAIN by David Mountfield (one of
those books I got from the sale table and never regretted -- it has
blueprints, for one thing!)
MEDIEVAL WARFARE by H.W. Koch
CHRONICLES OF THE AGE OF CHIVALRY -- The Plantagenet dynasty from
1216-1377: Henry III and the three Edwards, the era of the Black Print
and the Black Death ("eye witness" testimony), Elizabeth Hallam, General
ENGLISH CASTLES by Richard Humble
THE HOUND AND THE HAWK: The Art of Medieval Hunting by John Cummins (I
got this at The Cloisters in NY -- everything you ever wanted to know
about hunting in medieval times.)
PEOPLE OF THE PAST: THE NORMANS by Patrick Rooke (a kid's book - you
never know where you might find some interesting tidbit left out of more
SAXON AND NORMAN LONDON by John Clark from the Museum of London
THE PENQUIN ATLAS OF MEDIEVAL HISTORY by Colin McEvedy
EVERYDAY LIFE THROUGH THE AGES, Readers Digest
KING JOHN: NEW INTERPRETATIONS, edited by S.D. Church
THE HOUSEHOLD KNIGHTS OF KING JOHN by S.D. Church (This one was really
fascinating -- knights were also what we'd call civil servants.)
THE MEDIEVAL SURGERY by Tony Hunt
A MEDIEVAL FLOWER GARDEN by Anonymous, Pavilion Books
I've just received the cover for my next book, BRIDE FOR A KNIGHT. Here it is, with back cover copy. Isn't it lovely?
The Promise of the Bedchamber...
After glimpsing a softer side to the stern Sir Roland of Dunborough, Mavis of DeLac is filled with hope for their arranged marriage. So when the wedding night explodes with an exquisite passion, she dares to dream that their newfound bliss will last forever.
But the following morning, convinced he could never make this beautiful woman truly happy, Roland comes cold and aloof once again. And as the newlyweds journey across England to protect Roland's birthright, it's up to Mavis to prove him wrong -- and unlock the compassion this noble has buried deep inside.
1.Relax.A synopsis alone will not
make or break the sale of your book.Far
more important is your author’s voice.
edit out your voice trying to keep a synopsis short.If the book is a romp, the synopsis should sound like a romp. If it's a
gritty, dramatic tale, that should come across in the synopsis.
3.How do you get your voice in there?I write the first draft as if I’m sitting in
a coffee shop telling the story to a friend.Although I write historicals, I’ll use modern slang or idioms or
sentence construction.I can change all
that later.But first, I’m just me,
telling a story.When I’m editing, I’ll
keep one or two sentences that sound most “like me.”
4.Concentrate on the moments when your main
characters have to make key decisions.You might not be able to get every twist and turn of the plot in a short
synopsis, so keep the focus on the major “make or break” moments.
5.Give one or two reasons from your character’s
past to explain why they think and act as they do at those key moments.There’s no room for their life history, but
we do need to know something of where they’re coming from to explain those
6.Practice, practice, practice (or, if you’re
Canadian or British – practise, practise, practise).Try writing synopses for your favorite books
or movies.This can also help you
understand why that particular story stood out for you.
7.Learn from the experts.Read reviews. Reviewers have a different agenda than an
editor, but a good reviewer can certainly teach you how to describe a story in
a short space.