Archive for the category “Writing”

Inspiration: Finding It In Your Own Backyard

Keeping on the theme of inspiration for NaNoWriMo, just like Dorothy states in the The Wizard of Oz, very often, “There’s no place like home.” If you’re trying to come up with an idea or a setting for your novel, sometimes you need to look no further than your own backyard, or neighborhood, or town. The most intriguing and captivating stories can be ones crafted from places and things the writer already knows. Why are these stories so captivating to readers? Because the writer is able to imbue them with details they have personal knowledge of and those details are what makes the stories pop. Yes, the old adage, “Write what you know,” is trite, but so very true.

What’s in my backyard? I live in the far northwest suburbs of Chicago, out in the cornfields. Within a couple of miles of my home is what is billed as “The World’s Largest Corn Maze” (check out RichardsonAdventureFarm.com). When I started trolling for ideas for heartbeats, Book #1 in the DeLuca Family Series, I thought it might be fun to make my female protagonist someone who grew up on a nearby farm, then went off to the university to become a doctor, and later joined a prestigious practice in Chicago. I knew I wanted to write suspense, so I thought: What if my all grown up, sophisticated protagonist has claustrophobia issues stemming from a time when she got lost in the cornfield when she was playing hide and seek when she was young? How interesting would it be if, just as she is becoming a rising star in her profession, her one-time college roommate is murdered in her Chicago apartment, and at some point in the novel, my protagonist must return home and face her fears of being lost in the corn in order to save herself and her young daughter? I also thought it would be interesting to juxtapose the two settings of the seemingly idyllic farm country and Chicago’s busy streets, both of which I have first-hand knowledge of. And there you have it; that corn maze was the spark that ignited my imagination and allowed the storyline to take off.

In a similar vein, fellow romantic suspense author Tracie Ingersoll Loy, (http://www.tracieloy.com) decided to set her Hartz Island Series (Slip Into the Night, Deep Into the Night) in the islands of the Pacific Northwest, not only because of the beauty of the area, but because she had personal knowledge of the islands. As Loy explains, “I felt comfortable using the islands as a setting because that was my backyard. My aunt and uncle ran an oyster farm there and I spent summers exploring the islands with my cousins from the time I was a small child, through my teenage years, and into adulthood.” Because of her experiences, Loy felt she could bring an authenticity to the stories that someone else might not be able to do. As her characters go about solving the mysteries of the fictitious Hartz island, Loy gives us details of what it’s like to take cover behind a madrono tree while watching kayakers come ashore in the middle of the night, or traveling on the car ferry, the only way on and off the island, or the camaraderie of the island’s inhabitants as they sip their morning coffee at the local café and discuss the body parts that are washing up on the otherwise tranquil beaches.

For cozy mystery writer Caryl Dierksen, (Teaching Mysteries 101), the choice for the setting for her first novel was also easy. An English teacher for over thirty years, she knew the ins and outs of the high school setting, the different personalities of the teachers and administrators which made every day at the school a new adventure, and a few little secrets of her building which she thought might be fun to use as a template for the setting of her book as she wrapped the mystery around it. And that’s the key: the high school she worked at was just a template, the personalities starting points, from which the ideas began sparking and her imagination took off, allowing her to create a truly fictitious novel but steeped in believable detail.

So, as you think of starting a novel, look around you, at what you see every day and what perhaps you take for granted, but look at it with a new creative eye. Your own perceptions and knowledge of your surroundings will allow you to bring it to life in a unique way that will bring authenticity to your story. That authenticity will carry your readers right along with you as you unfold the story for them, whether it be a mystery/suspense novel, romance, fantasy, or whatever, because, for inspiration for your story ideas or settings, very often, “There’s no place like home.”

Now click your heels together three times and start writing!

Until next time,

Susan Rae  

Finding Inspiration In The Company of a Roomful of Aspiring Authors for NaNoWriMo

And a few novel writing tips!Writers Toolkit Presentation, Susan Rae Intro10_1_2014 webste

Last week I had the opportunity to help present a program titled, “Building your Writer’s Tool Box,” with fellow authors Elizabeth Harmon and Caryl Dierksen. The idea was to give inspiration to writers along with some tips on how to write a complete novel in a month as they gear up along with thousands of other writers who will attempt to write a complete novel in November: National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo.)

I have to say, though, that I was the one inspired by the forty or so aspiring novelists gathered for the presentation. There is something so soul soothing about being in a room full of people who get what you do and why you do it. Seeing all those eager faces, pens poised ready to take notes, excited to get started, I could almost feel my brain and heart give a huge sigh, just before all those creative synapses started firing again as if I’d had a triple mocha latte. These people understand what it means when characters are talking in your head, wake you up in the middle of the night as you try to reconcile an argument they’ve had, insist on turning your story in one direction when you had planned on them doing something completely different. They also understand the need to write, the urge to create, despite any obstacles that might be tossed your way. Read more…

So you’ve always wanted to write a novel…here’s your chance!

One of the things I hear often when talking to readers is how they have an idea for a novel, but just haven’t gotten around to writing it. The reasons they give are many—time constraints, not being quite sure how to start, or perhaps they’ve written a chapter or two—or more, but don’t know how to proceed from there.

Well, if you’re one of those aspiring authors, here’s your chance to gain some important tools of the trade and hopefully inspire you to get on with it!   On Wednesday, October 1st, mystery writer, Caryl Dierksen, free-lance journalist and author, Elizabeth Harmon, and yours truly will be presenting Building Your Writer’s Tool-Kit at the Crystal Lake Public Library. We will cover topics like developing character ideas, plots, timelines, outlines (or none), and doing enough research to get you started but not so much that it bogs you down. We’ll also discuss how to clear the distractions from your life so you can do the thing you really want to do.

The presentation is set just in time to get you geared up for November’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) when you can join thousands of other aspiring novelists in creating a 50,000 word first draft of the novel that’s kicking around inside you, dying to come out.

We start at 7 p.m.. The program is free and you don’t have to live in the Crystal Lake area to attend. Click CLPL–Building Your Writer’s Tool Kit to take you directly to the Library’s sign up page for the workshop, or go to www.CLPL.org and select the Calendar tab.

You’ve thought about it. Make this the year you do it. See you there!

A Word About Setting and Its Influence on the Story — And a Chance to win a FREE e-copy of TRUE blue!

TRUE blue is the third installment of my mystery/suspense series based on a Chicago cop family, the DeLucas. So why, you might ask, is there a picture of a mountain lake and a waterfall on the cover?

Good question. Yes, two thirds of the story in TRUE blue does take place in the streets of Chicago. Chicago is a fascinating city compiled of seventy-seven different neighborhoods that house the poorest of the poor to the richest of the rich and every socioeconomic class in between. Diversity is Chicago’s middle name. The streets are bustling with commerce, culture, and unfortunately in many instances, crime. Given all that, what better place to set a mystery/suspense novel? From the often serene beauty of Lake Michigan and the famous Chicago skyline to the tired apartment complexes of the inner city, Chicago is ripe for stories of personal triumph and despair.

And, for a pair of married detectives, it is filled with cases that need to be solved. But life can be hectic in this bustling city when you are attempting to keep up with your current case load while trying to solve a twenty-four year old murder, deal with the return of a childhood sweetheart, keep a marriage together, and raise a very active three-year old all at the same time. Oh, and then there’s the extended family and all their issues to contend with.  (Read on and leave a comment to automatically be entered to win a free e-book copy of TRUE blue! Drawing for the winner will be on August 3.) Read more…

Beta Readers–You’ve got to love them!

Or…What happens when they point out something in your novel that could make it stronger but would require some significant revising just days before your first edits are due back to your editor?

In a perfect world, you would have finished your manuscript and sent it to your Beta readers long before your first edits come back.  Ah yes…in a perfect world. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen.

So, what do you do? First of all, you have to believe in your Beta Readers.  For that, you cannot have just anyone as a
Beta Reader. You need people you trust. People who are not going to love anything you write just because you wrote it, but people who read a lot, and read in the genre that you write. They don’t all have to be writers themselves, but one or two writers in the group is nice, especially if one of them has editing experience also.  How many readers should you have?  That’s up to you.  I have four whose opinions I value highly.

So now you’re Beta Readers have read the manuscript and pointed out some things that you might have missed in the story: things that were not said, but maybe should have been said; things you assumed readers would understand but that did not come across clearly in the manuscript; things that didn’t sound quite right to your readers; etc.  You take all their comments to heart, decide which ones you need to address and fix some, but you don’t necessarily make all the changes they suggest. Sometimes only one reader will have a problem with something and you have to decide if it is really is a problem or not.  Occasionally, however, there is an item that multiple readers come up with.

That’s what happened to me with TRUE blue, and to be honest, it was a change I was toying with as I wrote the novel, but had decided to leave as I originally envisioned.  Now, though, just days before the edits are due, three bring up this main point and feel the storyline would be stronger if I do this little change, which really isn’t so little as it is interwoven throughout the entire book!

Of course, I’m not going to tell you what it is. 🙂 That might spoil the story for you.  But I had to ask myself before I did any changes to the manuscript, would this main change really make the story stronger?  Would it make a significant enough difference in the character arch to justify the revisions? And, what did my editor think about it?  I sent off an email to my editor. She replied that she really didn’t see a problem, that the story worked just fine the way it was, but yes, changing it would work, also.  It was up to me to decide.  I still needed to meet the deadline, though.

So now what do I do?  Well, I decided to work through all of the edits first while I mulled over the bigger change. Finally, when all the edits were done, I decided that yes, in my heart I knew that what my Beta readers were telling me was true–and, although it would require more work, I also knew that I owed it to myself to put out the best work I possibly could. I made a new manuscript file, figured out the best way to make the change with the least amount of revising, and dove in.

Two days later, the manuscript, complete with all edits addressed and the new changes incorporated, was done–two days before I said I’d have it back to the editor. Yeah!

And yes, I do believe the story is stronger for it.

So, Beta Readers…It takes a lot of courage to put a manuscript out there to your first readers.  But if you want comments, be ready to accept what they give you, and be ready to put the work in if they come up with an item that might require a fairly significant revision. Of course, as a writer, one way to look  it is as just another awesome challenge to get the story just right.

To all my Beta Readers…Love you. Thanks! To my readers, only FIVE MORE WEEKS until TRUE blue’s release.  Until then, I thought I would leave you with this tease…

Sometimes we must revisit the past to embrace our future.

Twenty-four years ago, the murder of a Chicago police officer changed Joey DeLuca’s life.  He lost his best friend and first love, Meghan McConnell, when her mother whisked her out of town.  Now, on the eve of another officer’s death, Meghan is back and about to step into his life again.

There is very little gray in Joey’s line of work as a Lt. Detective–it is either black or white, right or wrong. But Meghan’s insistence on finding answers to her father’s murder threatens those beliefs and throws his marriage to CPD Detective Andi, his career, and the entire DeLuca family in jeopardy when new revelations come to light.

Can Joey save his marriage, solve the murder, and keep his family together all at the same time?

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

Susan Rae 

Writing Doggy Heroes Into Your Novel, or Don’t Leave Them Home Alone!

Photo

Midget and Gidget (The one of the left is Midget)

As I retreat back into my writing cave to work on TRUE blue, the sequel to ICE blue, I thought I would repost some of the blogs I wrote for the ICE blue virtual tour.  This first one is dedicated to my best friend and the recent loss of a little Chihuahua named Midget who was very dear to her. 

             Oh, how we love our dogs.  Well, mostly.  Okay, I admit it, friends and family have often heard me say I am not a dog person.  So why do I have two of them?  Why do I take such good care of them? And why did I use one of them as a template (granted, given a sex change) for a key character in my new novel, ICE blue?  It’s because I just couldn’t resist the fluffy white ball of fur with the little black eyes when I met her.  She was so cute (and, yes, still is), that I thought she would make a perfect companion for Angela, my heroine, as she is trying to cope with loss and moving on with her life.   I also thought the little button-nosed puppy would make the most unlikely hero.Nikkie

Yes, Half-pint truly is a hero in ICE blue.  He gets to join the ranks of Lassie and Rin Tin Tin (who, by the way, was a real dog) and a contemporary children’s favorite, Bolt.

Dogs are our constant companions.  They love us without conditions, are loyal beyond reason, and often come to the rescue in the direst of times.  The internet is filled with stories of real life dog heroes.  But notice, I said constant companions.  Unlike a cat or a gerbil or a turtle or fish that you can leave for a couple of days and go about your business (you can get auto-feeders for such pets), dogs cannot be left alone for more than a few hours at a time.  You must feed them, let them out, or find someone who will, even if you’re going to be gone for just a day.  The same is true for the dogs in your novel.  And if you’re writing a romance novel, you have to figure out what you’re going to do with the insistent little pup when your hero and heroine want to make love.

So, if your heroine suddenly traipses off to solve a murder, or gets sequestered in a safe house, or works twenty-four hour shifts as a paramedic as Angela does, you need to figure out what to do with the dog while she’s gone.  I don’t know about you, but it drives me crazy when pets or even babies are brought into the story of a book or TV show, but then suddenly disappear for days or weeks on end with no mention of where they are or who’s taking care of them.

Fortunately, this is not a problem for Half-pint and Angela.  Half-pint, one of the unlikeliest little puppy heroes you will find in any novel, plays his full part in ICE blue and stays with the story to the end.  Here is a small sample of Half-pint’s role in the novel.  Dog lovers, enjoy!

Susan Rae    

Excerpt :  ICE blue by Susan Rae

Morning light peeked around the edges of her window blinds when next she opened her eyes. With a start, she realized she must have drifted off to sleep again. Glancing at her bedside clock, she feared the worst—the sun didn’t rise in mid-January in Chicago until almost eight. Read more…

What Makes a Hero Hot?

Grab button for Hot Summer Heroes Blog Hop

UPDATE:  We have a Grand Prize winner in the Hot Summer Heroes Blog Hop.  Congratulations to Dawna N. from  romancingthereader.com‘s blog who won the
grand prize of the gift card of $100 to Amazon or Barnes & Noble (her
choice).  Yes, the hop is over, but if you are new here, read on for an excerpt from my hot summer novel, freefall, and reader’s comments as to what they think makes a hero hot.  Thanks for stopping by.  Please follow my blog for more opportunities to enter future blog hops and other insights into the writing life.

So what makes a hero hot? Is it his sexy smile, the knowing look in his eyes, or his hunky physique?  For me, it’s not just his looks, but his actions.  It’s the hero who holds back, gives a girl time to get used to him, respects her “space” even if she isn’t necessarily sure she wants it respected–especially when she’s already getting a diabetic-coma dose of eye candy just by looking at him.

Yes, a hot hero is the guy who knows when to take charge, but also knows when to take a step back, which only makes things even hotter the next time around.

Read on for a taste of what I’m talking about in an excerpt from my novel, freefall, featuring DEA agent “Spike” Larsen…and the captivating Kate Reynolds. freefallFianalCover

To read more about all my novels, please click HERE.

Enjoy!

EXCERPT:  freefall, by Susan Rae 

…Everett gave her outstretched hand a considered look. “Don’t tempt me,” he said, somewhat out of breath.

Kate noted the dangerous gleam in his eye. “Just give me the buoy,” she warned. Read more…

“Chapter One” : Two Of The Most Intimidating Yet Exhilarating Words To Type Onto A Blank Page

Chapter One 

Yes, the words can be quite intimidating, practically blinking on and off at you from the otherwise blank page.  And yet, at the same time, they can be quite exhilarating.  Characters, setting, story, all waiting, eager to be let loose.  Do you type the words, “Chapter One” and then pause for an interminable length of time and stare at the screen while you try to figure out where to begin, or do you type them and then rush forward as the story flows from your fingers?

The trick is to load up on the exhilaration side of the scale before you write, so it slams the scale down in that direction and doesn’t let the intimidation factor take hold.   How do I do that, you ask?  Read more…

Inspiration

With the summer heating up there is nothing more inspiring than children splashing in a pool.

This is my first attempt at putting a mini-movie together, getting it on You-Tube and then onto my blog, and from there to Facebook.

I hope it works, and I hope you all enjoy it!

Susan

The Hot and Deadly Blog Hop/Giveaway is on. Start hopping now!

 Sexy athletic body

Summer is heating up, and so are the heroes in the Hot and Deadly Blog Hop!

What makes a hero deadly?  For fire paramedic Angela DeLuca, who is trying to protect an immigrant mother and her unborn baby, it’s the animal magnetism of ICE agent Troy Deavers, aka Thaddeus  Deavereux the Third in my new novel, ICE blue.  Alarm bells ring in Angela’s head as Troy’s smooth touch and passionate kisses awaken a fire in her she had long thought extinguished.

Enjoy the excerpt below, then leave a comment to be entered into a drawing for a free download of each of my first two novels heartbeats and freefall, and the chance to be entered into the Hot and Deadly Blog Hop grand-prize giveaway of a $53.50 gift certificate to B&N or Amazon, winners choice.

Click on the link after the excerpt to continue on with the hop and explore some more Hot and Deadly heroes.

Enjoy!

Susan Rae

Excerpt :  ICE blue

Cover_ICEblue_Medium-200

“More wine?”

She’d finished her glass and set it down on the table.

“No, thank you. It’s getting late and I have to be up early. I’m taking on an extra shift tomorrow.” She slid her chair back. He stood too and came around the table to help her.

“I’ll drive you home. Then I’ll grab a cab and come back and retrieve my own car.”

“Really, that’s not necessary.”

“But, given the wine we drank…as a matter of fact, maybe we both should take a cab.”

She tested her bearings as she rose. She knew her limits and she was definitely not drunk. If she was, she wouldn’t think twice about calling a cab. She’d seen far too often the results of drinking and driving. Read more…

Five Star Reviews for ICE blue!

Great reviews continue to come in for ICE blue!

5 Stars!– “ICE blue is a wonderful weaving of love that blooms amid the sad problems of poor people being exploited by ruthless powerful money seekers. Well done.” – Alberta, Manic Readers

5 Stars! – Fast Paced – Cold Drama – “Aptly titled, ‘ICE blue’ is an action packed page turning mystery thriller with a steamy romance thrown in to keep things interesting..Rae is my hero for placing the human trafficking issue in the United States at the forefront of good fiction. James Patterson can stand aside as I can’t wait to read the third volume of the DeLuca series when it comes out next year.” –Gregory S. Lamb PDX Author

5 Stars!  –Don’t let the fact that it’s the second in a series detract you. This book fully stands on its own. I loved Angela and Troy. Ms. Rae weaves a story that sticks with you.” – Brianna Soloski

I got hooked from the very beginning…Romantic suspense definitely describes this novel. I never knew what was going to happen next whether it be with Angela and Troy’s love life or their actual lives…I really enjoyed  this novel and I would recommend it to everyone.  4 Stars!— Anna Reese, My Pathway to Books 

To see more reviews, click HERE.

It’s the final week of the ICE blue Virtual Tour.  Follow along with the last stops on the tour:

May 21 – Wormy Hole – Review/Interview
May 22 – The Must Unleashed – Review
May 23 – The World as I See It – Review
May 24 – RABT Reviews – Review
Happy Reading!
Susan Rae

 

Susan Rae—Sizzling Suspense: Returning to the Scene of the Crime, or Promotion 101

The Musa Publishing 1st Anniversary Blog Hop is ON!  Read on, leave a comment, and you will automatically be entered into my drawing for a free download of Freefall! Then continue with the Hop and enter for the opportunity to win Musa’s Grande Prize Giveaway of a KINDLE FIRE!

First, some business: the Blog Hop Rules!

1) HAVE FUN!!!
2) INVITE ALL OF YOUR FRIENDS!!! SPREAD THE WORD!!!
3) THIS TOUR STARTS: October 1, at Midnight (pst)
    THIS TOUR ENDS: Monday, October 7, at Midnight (pst)
    Winners will be drawn and posted October 9th! ***
Come Join the Party on October 7th at The Romance Review Forum to enter to win more prizes. http://www.theromancereviews.com/forum/ (Exact address will be posted as soon as I get it)
4) PARTICIPATION AT ALL BLOGS IS RECOMMENDED, BUT NOT REQUIRED. REMEMBER, THE MORE BLOGS YOU HOP and COMMENT ON, THE BETTER YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING PRIZES. EVERY AUTHOR & BOOK PAGE IS WAITING TO MEET AND INTERACT WITH YOU, SO PLEASE BE SURE TO SHOW THEM SOME LOVE!
5)Grand Prize of a Kindle Fire is for Us and Canada mailing addresses only. International winners will receive a $50.00 Musa Gift Card. Winner will be announce on October 7th  2012 at 11 est at The romance review forum.
6) DID I MENTION TO HAVE FUN? ***Authors & Book Pages have full discretion to choose an alternate winner in the event any winner fails to claim their prize(s) within 72 hours of their name being posted or after notification of win, whichever comes first. Anyone who participates in this blog hop tour is subject to these rules***
 _______

And now for my blog:Returning to the Scene of the Crime, or Promotion 101

 Recently, my husband and I returned to the Scene of the Crime of my current release, Freefall,for a vacation, and I had fun using the opportunity for what I call a little Promotion 101.

Click here for info and buy links!

In Freefall, my hero and heroine travel to Door county to track down a lead in the attempted murder plot, and they find much more than they bargained for.  I set the novel in Door county, because it is one of my favorite places to vacation—great big blue skies, cliffs of  the Niagra Escarpment overlooking the sparkling waters of Green Bay and Lake Michigan, wonderful lighthouses, and, yes, golf courses.  I thought the idylic setting a perfect place for murder.

Going back on vacation, I knew I needed to use some of the time to promote Freefall, but, since it is an ebook, it was a bit challenging.  You can’t exactly schedule book signings when you don’t have the physical book to sign.  So I went back to the basic principle of promotion, or what I call, Promotion 101—talk the book up, not necessarily myself.  Tell just two people, then two more people, then two more people, and if you get them excited about it, perhaps they will tell two more people and so on and so on. Read more…

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