Scene CPR – The On-line Workshop

Coming up in just a few weeks is the new and improved, and also extended, version of my craft of writing workshop Scene CPR: Breathing Life Into Ailing Scenes With Scene Goals, Disasters & Sequels.  This is a great workshop for beginners or professionals, focusing on a set of writing tools that bring scenes and scene sequels into focus, help you plan and/or revise your manuscript, and give your manuscript more page turning power.

These tools are the foundation of every scene or sequel in your manuscript.

If you’ve taken my Scene CPR workshop before, please note that this time it is four weeks long, instead of 2 weeks (or two hours if you’ve taken the “live” workshop!).  I’m including a lot of new examples, and will be delving into more variations on the techniques than I was able to previously. 

If you haven’t taken an on-line workshop before, they are pretty easy to manage.  You don’t have to be on-line at any specific time and can actively participate or lurk as you feel works best for you (though I advocate active participation as you get more out of a workshop that way!).  I’ll post 2-3 lectures with exercises per week.  There will be some reading with the exercises, also posted. In between you get to ask questions and pick my brain.  There’s plenty of opportunity (and encouragement!) to apply the exercises to your own work, but I do not require you to post your scenes to the group.  If you want more specifics about how the workshops are run from the technical side please click on the link below and contact the workshop coordinator — I’m just the teacher, not the techie.  If you want more information about the content or organization of the workshop, you can contact me at

So here’s the skinny – click on the link for full registration info: 

Scene CPR: Breathing Life Into Ailing Scenes With Scene Goals, Disasters & Sequels 
March 4-31, 2011
Through Lowcountry Romance Writers on-line workshops
Registration deadline: March 2, 2011
Workshop fee: $16

I hope you’ll join me on-line in March!

P.S. Please feel free to share this post with your writing friends.  Share buttons below make it easy!


It’s time for NaNoWriMo!

NaNoWriMo2009I’m participating in NaNoWriMo for the third time this year.  We kicked it off here in Williamsburg with a write-in at a local B&N cafe.  Eight of us were there and lots of writing was accomplished!

I meet regularly to write with a friend I met two years ago at my very first NaNo write in.  We both find the structure of making an appointment to meet and write keeps the procrastination demons at bay.  This is probably the single most important thing that has come out of NaNoWriMo for me.

I’ve yet to “win”.  50K words in the month of November is truly a challenge, not just because it requires a committment to write regularly, but because there is so much else that happens this month (including, this year, my son waking up with the flu this morning).  The past two years I’ve done well — 35K+ — but I didn’t really commit to the 50K.  This year, though, I’m committed, and my friends are helping me keep my eye on the prize.

What prize?  A completed first draft.

I hate first drafts.  I love revising.  So getting through a first draft is the hardest part of the entire process of creating a book for me.  This way I get to sprint through the hard part with lots of people all over the words pushing me to keep up my word count, pushing me to keep my fingers moving, pushing me to create without editing, without questioning.  It’s all about getting those 50K words on the page.

The real prize is that I’ll give myself December to catch up with all the things that fall by the wayside this month while I put my writing front and center. Then, come January, I get to tackle my very favorite part of writing a novel.  I get to take the SFD (**itty First Draft) and craft it into a compelling story.  What a way to start the new year!

If you haven’t joined the madness of NaNoWriMo, it’s not too late.  Check out and sign up for free.  Then plant your butt in the nearest chair and get to work.  Your first draft could be finished by November 30th!  What are you waiting for!

NOTE: The NaNo site is REALLY slow this first week or so of the challenge, so be patient.  If you can’t get signed up right now, start writing.  In a few days you can make it “official” on the site.

Now go write!


Craft Challenge #4 Wrap Up

CB063448I’m woefully behind, so my apologies for not announcing the winner of CC#4, Story Round Robin, yesterday as advertised.

Since Lillie Robinson was the only one to suggest a title for our round robin story she is the automatic winner of the prize: a download of Sapphire Phelan’s book Being Familiar with a Witch

I want to thank everyone that participated and give a big shout out to my guest blogger, Sapphire Phelan,  for coming up with the story idea AND donating the prize.  We didn’t get the story finished but it’s up on the blog so if anyone wants to continue the tale, please have at it!

Stay tuned for the next Craft Challenge coming next week!


Craft Challenge #4 – Story Round Robin

Craft Tools

I’m happy to introduce this week’s craft challenge maven, guest blogger Sapphire Phelan. 

Sapphire Phelan is an author of erotic and sweet paranormal, fantasy, and science fiction romance. She also writes as Pamela K. Kinney, for horror, fantasy, science fiction, and a nonfiction ghost book, Haunted Richmond, Virginia. She lives in Virginia with her husband and two cats, Ripley and Bast.  She admits she can always be found at her desk and on her computer, writing. And yes, the house and husband sometimes suffers for it! 

There are links to all her on-line hang-outs at the end of the post and don’t forget to take a look at the Books by Guest Bloggers page (look up just under the blog title … see the tab? Of course you do.) to learn more about her latest paranormal romance, Being Familiar with a Witch.

She’s got a fun writing exercise planned!  Welcome, Sapphire!


Hi everyone! I am Sapphire Phelan and it is my turn to blog. I write erotic and sweet paranormal, fantasy and science fiction romance (okay, I am not crazy about the term, futuristic).

What I am going to do here is something a bit different than the normal blog. I want to start a paranormal romance (yes, it must be a paranormal and kept in that vein, remember that) round robin sort of writing exercise.  I will start this story off by writing the first words. Then each person who leaves a comment here, must continue this story by writing the next big paragraph, or no more than six short ones. I like to have this done for the next couple weeks, until Sunday, April 19thwhen the commenter for that day writes the last paragraph and ends it by 3:00PM Eastern. You must edit your piece; make sure it looks as good as you can make it. And you must leave enough of an ending to help the next author. The hero must get together with the heroine and both must defeat the villain together. There must be a HEA, too. This is a romance, you know. But it will be difficult, with both characters’ issues getting in the way.

Since I can’t think of a good title at this time, leave a title suggestion too when you leave your part of the story. The best title will be picked by the owner of this blog and she will post it on her blog on April 20th, so you must come back to see if you’re the winner. When the winner contacts her with their email, she will contact me and I will send the winner a download of Being Familiar With a Witch. So, you have a chance to win my latest release and have the fun of adding to this tale.

Details on the hero, heroine, and villain (rest of the characters they run into are up to the future writers):

Martin Lobotas is a werewolf. He is also a vegetarian, a reason no self-respecting pack will have him, forcing him to be a loner. A handsome man with red hair and amber-yellow eyes (werewolf trait), he works a 9 to 5 job Monday through Friday at an ad agency in Roanoke, Virginia.  And there is no woman in his life, obviously due to the werewolf problem.  Same as there is no werewolf female in his life, due to the vegetarian problem. But when he meets the monster hunter, Lisa Lander, he will feel an instant attraction to her. Unfortunately, she hates monsters.

Lisa Lander is a pretty young human woman, with shoulder-length blonde hair and gray eyes. She is a monster hunter, been so since her teenage years when vampires killed her family and turned them. She was the one who killed her own family. After that, she has set herself to learn about all kinds of monsters and how to defeat them. Sometimes, she has learned that not all monsters could be killed like the myths say so. But knowing they exist, she feels it is her duty to stop them form harming another human being. So she has no real life, no man in her life and works odd jobs as she is always on the go, looking for monsters to kill. She has traced a horrible monster, a chupacabra – a creature from popular folklore in southern Texas, Mexico and South America that is believed to actually exist.  It is said to drink the blood of livestock by piercing the animals’ necks with its two front fangs.  Except this one is in Virginia and has left a trail of dead humans, not goats, like the myths say. Remember, she has no fondness for monsters of any kind, so the attraction between her and Martin will have her fighting it.

Samuel Chavez is the villain. He’s a chupacabra. A very nasty creature, instead of sticking to goats and other livestock like other chupacabras do, he found human blood more to his taste. He is like a vampire, but not dead. He is also able to shapeshift and most times looks like a very handsome man of Mexican origins. He has hair black as sin and dark eyes.  But as a chupacabra, he is terrifying to behold, monstrous. Which is why he takes the handsome human form, to attract his victims to him easily.

And now the story begins:

Some days it was hard being a werewolf. There was that whole full moon thing going on that a man just couldn’t avoid. Werewolves were supposed to hunt prey, eat meat for goodness sakes! That made it extra hard for him as he was a vegetarian, too. People grew vegetables, not hunted them. That’s why he didn’t have a pack. Who wanted a werewolf in their group that was a vegetarian? Not any that he had ever run into.

Martin Lobotas sighed. Tonight was the full moon and of course, he worked pass five o’clock, getting in overtime. It was now 6:30 and lucky for him, the moon hadn’t risen yet. He hurried, hoping to get home and chained in the cage he kept in the basement of his house before the moon showed its face. Thank goodness there was no one was on the streets or much traffic to deter him. Breaking into a lope, he could just see his house.

He just might make it.

A scream rent the early evening air, hurting his sensitive lupo garou ears. It came from the dark alley to his right and he stopped, sniffing. He caught the odor of two people. One was a female, a human one. The other, something terrible that held her in its grasp. It had a foul smell that he had never breathed in before.

What the hell is it? he thought as he used his werewolf sight to pierce the darkness.being_familiar_with_a_witch_cover

“Oh hell!” snarled Martin as the full moon rose and washed its silver light over him, causing pain to explode in his body.

Great time for the Change to happen.


Sapphire Phelan 

Go beyond the usual, instead take the unusual that stretches the boundaries and find romance with Sapphire Phelan’s aliens, werewolves, vampires, fairies, and other supernatural/otherworldly heroes and heroines.

Craft Challenge Preview

Sapphire Phelan

Sapphire Phelan

I wanted to give a heads up that next week’s Craft Challenge(Monday) features guest blogger Sapphire Phelan with a great chance to exercise your story telling chops.  I’m not going to give this cool writing challenge away, but there will be a prize awarded to a random participant — that means you have to post a response to the challenge.  Tune in Monday for all the details!

Want to know more about Sapphire Phelan?  She’s got lots of links:

If you aren’t familiar with Ms. Phelan’s work, she writes hot paranormal romances so don’t be taken by surprise when you visit her sites. 

The writing challenge, just in case you were wondering, will be kept to a PG-13 level.

Have a great weekend!


Craft Challenge #3 – Choosing your protagonist

Anna snoozing on Sunday morning

Anna snoozing on Sunday morning

I love Sundays.  It’s the one day a week where I’m pretty much guaranteed a good long sleep in.  I love waking up slowly, drowsing for a while, waking again, dozing off again… you get the idea.  Most days the alarm goes off and I have to go from zero to sixty in just a few minutes.  On Sundays, waking slowly, I find my mind wanders to whatever writing problem I haven’t had time to mull over properly.  I find that long rise from sleep to waking leaves me in that middle ground, that dreamy but able to direct my thoughts stage that seldom presents itself otherwise.  I find myself easing up to ah-ha moments about things in my stories that I sometimes didn’t even realize I was thinking about.

I’ve been struggling with a story for a long while now.  I’ve written various versions of it, but it’s never quite worked.  Yesterday, in that lovely long waking period, I realized that perhaps I was trying to tell the wrong person’s story.  Maybe my protagonist isn’t really the character who drives the story.  Maybe, if I tell the story from my major secondary character’s point of view the stakes will be higher, the conflict bigger, the story more compelling.  Once I started thinking of the secondary character as my protagonist all kinds of plot ideas started flowing, complications started to arise, and suddenly I could see a possible set of turning points.  The shape of the story started to coelesce out of the muddle in my head.  I haven’t worked it all out yet, but my gut instinct is that I’m on to something here.

So, this week’s challenge is really more of question.  How do you decide which character will be your protagonist?   Do you dream up a cast of characters then audition each of them to see which one will serve best as your protagonist?  Do you develope a character, then find a story to tell about that person?  How can you tell when you have the right protagonist for the story, or, conversely, the right story for your protagonist?

I know there are a lot of folks peeking in to my challenges here without joining in the fun.  Please, take a minute and share your experience.  How do you know when you have the right protagonist?

Have a great writing week!


P.S.  I’m not nearly so cute snoozing on a Sunday morning as Anna the wonder dog is!

Craft Challenge — Setting the Mood

jamesriver31280_small1Good morning! 

I’ve just returned from a beautiful place – the Ozark Mountains in northwest Arkansas – and it’s got me thinking about story settings.   Not everyone cares as much about setting as I do, but I have to have settings for my stories that speak to me at a deep, gut level.  My settings are as much a character as any person in my stories, and they have personalities, just like the people.  Neglecting your setting means you are neglecting a layer of your story that can reflect mood and emotion, provide symbolism, help you develop your character subtly, or even provide you with a marketing hook.  Yes, I prefer craft, but a writer these days can’t ignore marketing.

So, what do I mean by this?  Think about your childhood home (or another place that you know very well).  If you were to return there today what would you see?  Smell?  Hear?  Remember?  What emotions would you feel? Is there a place that holds a special meaning for you in the house or yard (good or bad!)?  Were there things in the house that symbolize something to you?  Did the weather of the place effect (or reflect) your feelings about it?  The architecture?  Take two or three minutes and make a quick list.  Don’t think too hard. 

Now, in a paragraph or two set the scene for a story in that house.  Imagine your protagonist returning there.  Reveal (show!) how the protagonist feels about this place through your description as much as possible.  Set the mood for the story with your setting.  You might even try using the same setting for two different sorts of stories (mystery vs. quirky comedy, for example) and see how you either choose different details or describe the same details differently to reflect the different moods of the stories.

Here’s an example from my book Daring the Highlander.  AiligMacLeod is returning home after a short, but life altering, absence:

Assynt Castle crouched amongst piles of soot-encrusted snow.  Its gray imposing bulk uncomfortably straddled the narrow strip of land between the glorious open freedom of the white clad mountains and the dark, frigid depths of the frozen loch.

Heavy gray clouds raced across the sky, spitting icy pellets down his neck, pulling his attention from the castle and what awaited him there.  He watched the clouds flee the glen, driven by the rising wind and, for just a moment, he considered following them.

Can you tell what Ailig is feeling about his home?  Is he happy to be there?  What sort of welcome is he anticipating?  Is he arriving with good news or bad?  This is at the very beginning of the story.  Can you tell what the general mood of the story will be?

I’ll post another example or two tomorrow, in case you need a little more inspiration.

Okay, show me what you can do!  Please share your exercises in the comments!


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