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Category Archives: New Writer Tips

Tips and tools for new and established writers

Byzantine Gold

Romance Lives
Forever welcomes Chris Karlsen back to the blog for an article on writing romantic
suspense books as a retired detective.
When I retired after
twenty-five years in law enforcement, I thought I was pretty much done with all
things police related, other than watching a couple of shows on television. I could
finally write the romance story I’d had in my head for three decades. Since it was
a romance and not a thriller or mystery, it never occurred to me that I’d wind up
applying skills directly and indirectly learned conducting investigations. How wrong
I was.
My first two books,
Heroes Live Forever, and Journey in Time, were part of a paranormal series. Heroes
had a reincarnation aspect to the story. The hero and his best friend are aware
of what is happening when they enter into the experience. The heroine has no memory
of her previous life and connection to the hero. In order to convince her that the
outrageous tale he tells is true, as I wrote the scene, I put him across the interview
table from me. I mentally returned to my detective time. I asked myself what questions
would I ask a victim/witness/suspect. What answers would they need to give me to
convince me they were telling the truth? To convince the heroine, they had to convince
me first. If I believed it, I could make it believable on the page.
By the time I started
Journey in Time, I knew I wasn’t done with my police experience. This story required
knowledge of evidence, along with another exchange involving an outrageous tale
to convert a doubter to a believer. In this story a modern couple has been transported
back to Fourteenth Century England, an England
preparing for war with France.
The hero in this book is the best friend from the first novel. He is a product of
reincarnation. He has lived in this time and place before, and retains his memories
from the period. The heroine is a modern London
attorney who has been caught in the time portal with the hero. This time it is his
turn to sit across the interview table in my mental interrogation room. I put myself
in her place and questioned him relentlessly. I searched for the answers I needed
him to give to make me believe that I am indeed part of a terrible and dangerous
situation with no clue how it happened or how to return to the modern world. Unless
they find a way out, he will die in battle. History cannot be changed, including
his death. She would be alone in the alien medieval world.
In that story, there’s
a scene where the king orders the heroine to stay as a “guest” of a wool merchant,
who’s a favorite of the queen. It turns out the man is a vicious brute who attempts
to sexually assault her. She fights off the initial assault but is badly beaten
in the process. The hero locates her and brings her back to court and the wool merchant
back to stand trial. The merchant falsely accuses her of a crime. His testimony
is nothing but lies in an effort to defend the beating he gave her. The heroine
must present her side of the case before the king and entire court. I used my experience
testifying in criminal trials and had the heroine ask the questions a prosecutor
would’ve asked me or the defendant. I had the heroine use evidence that I’d use,
if this had been my case to present to a judge or jury. Lacking the technical equipment
and scientific means we have at our fingertips today, I relied on the most obvious
physical evidence available that could be seen and touched. I didn’t want the trial
to be an easy time for her. In my head, I laid out the crime scene and visualized
what she could take from there back to court. I went over the scene again and again,
like a detective does looking for anything I might’ve missed.
My last two books, Golden
Chariot and Byzantine Gold, are from a different series. They’re romantic thrillers.
Golden Chariot involves the murder of a Turkish government agent, artifact smuggling,
and the kidnapping of the heroine, a nautical archaeologist. She has a loose connection
to a private collector who purchases looted relics on the Black Market. The Turkish
agent sent to investigate the first agent’s murder must also investigate the heroine
further. Between my detective background and my research, I was able to put together
enough of the foreign legal process to make the investigation relatively accurate.
It should be noted that much is different with regards to due process and the judiciary
system. I was also able to use the heroine’s ignorance of how a foreign agency employs
due process to create a great deal of fear in her.
Toward the end of the
story, she is kidnapped and taken to a contract killer’s compound. I had a very
basic, I stress very basic, idea of the tactics needed to extract her. Here my background
came in handy but not as a result of my personal experience but with who I knew.
I had a friend who headed up a SWAT team for a major city. He was also in the Marine
Corps Reserves. After the invasion of Iraq,
he was deployed to both Baghdad
and Fallujah. His job was to teach young Marines urban crisis entry. He had retired
from both the police department and the military when I was writing Golden Chariot.
I called upon him to help me with the tactics, including the use of explosives and
how the extraction team would deploy once they gained entry into the compound. Phone
calls, emails, and drafts went back and forth. He was a great help and I was and
am incredibly grateful for his patience and assistance.
Byzantine Gold involves
the contract killer from Golden Chariot, in addition to a terrorist cell. The killer
is hunting the hero, bent on revenge. In a scene early in the story, he plans to
shoot the hero. I fired several different types of weapons over my career. I was
able to use my knowledge of range capacity, in addition to types of weapons the
killer might employ build that scene. I also used my experience in a later scene
involving a sniper type attack.
In the end of Byzantine
Gold, there’s a tactical operation where the terrorists are involved. As I mentioned,
my tactical knowledge is limited. But once again, I was able to call upon a friend
who is more than a friend, I asked my husband. He spent three years in the military
and thirty-one in law enforcement. While we sat in a hotel bar in Chicago, he helped me lay
out the schematics for the operation on cocktail napkins. While I was talking about
terrorists and how they’d approach, I noticed the man next to me giving me a rather
strange look. I half expected Homeland Security or the FBI or someone from one of
the alphabet agencies to rush into the bar and drag me off for questioning. I quickly
inserted a code word for terrorist.
In conclusion, I can
only say that when I began writing, I was firm in my conviction that in no way would
I relive my career through my characters. I did not want to write cop stories. I
love to read them and have several favorite authors who write fantastic ones. They
weren’t for me. I laugh now as I see in every story a part of the last twenty-five
years coming through my character’s lives. Fortunately, it has been to our mutual

About the Author

Chris Karlsen
I was born and
raised in Chicago.
My father was a history professor and my mother was, and is, a voracious reader.
I grew up with a love of history and books.
My parents also
love traveling, a passion they passed onto me. I wanted to see the places I
read about, see the land and monuments from the time periods that fascinated
me. I’ve had the good fortune to travel extensively throughout Europe, the Near
East, and North Africa.
I am a retired
police detective. I spent twenty-five years in law enforcement with two
different agencies. My desire to write came in my early teens. After I retired,
I decided to pursue that dream.
I currently live in
the Pacific Northwest with my husband, four
rescue dogs and a rescue horse.
I’m close to finishing the first draft of book 3 in my Knights in Time
series. After that, I hope to start book 3 in my Dangerous Waters series, which
the series Golden Chariot and Byzantine Gold are from.

Previous Books

Heroes Live Forever
(book 1 in Knights in Time series)
Journey in Time
(book 2 in Knights in Time series)
Golden Chariot
(book 1 in Dangerous Waters series)

Books Coming Soon

Knight Blindness
(Knights in Time series)

Find Me Here

Boroughs Publishing Group

This is Publisher Week at Romance Lives Forever. Three publishers
will be featured, each during one special week. Those publishers are Boroughs Publishing Group, Liquid Silver Books in June, and JMS Books LLC in September.

Today’s festivities feature the Boroughs Publishing Group, Where
Story Matters. E-publishing has changed the way the world reads. Boroughs Publishing
Group is part of that revolution and joins with readership from Abu-Dhabi to Vancouver
in demanding memorable stories that you’ll return to over and over.
Day One – Lunchbox Romances
Day Two – The Red Ridge Pack series
Day Three – Celebrating Regencies
Day Four – Our Editor-in-Chief, Chris Keeslar, on Writing
Day Five – Naughty and Loving it – Bad Boy Heroes
Day Six – The New Year’s Eve Club series
Day Seven – True Love, Romance and Valentines

We’re on day four of our journey with “On Writing” from their Editor-in-Chief, Chris Keeslar.
Chris Keeslar graduated from the creative writing program of
New York University and left with an eye on publishing.
Initially intending to make a name for himself as an author, he took work as an
editorial assistant to support that ambition and soon found himself as handy with
a pencil as with a word processor—or maybe handier. Since becoming an editor, he’s
won both national and local awards for his work and is widely respected. Chris embraces
Boroughs’ philosophy that it takes time to grow and groom authors, as opposed to
simply churning out product.
The following is a selection from Chris’ articles in our monthly
newsletter. If you’d like to keep up with what’s doing at Boroughs Publishing, visit
our website at:
to sign up for our newsletter.


There’s a television show called Slings
and Arrows that I find immensely enjoyable. I discovered it earlier this year;
it’s a Canadian sitcom or dramedy that began in 2003 and ran for three non-contiguous
seasons about a Shakespeare festival based loosely on the one in Stratford, Ontario.
The show has a number of strengths, including that it presents people dealing with
the artistic process, particularly the process as it relates to acting and directing,
but it also has a bit about writing. In the show, at one point a character begins
a relationship with a playwright. The playwright lifts a great deal of personal
data from her and is finally asked, “What are you saying, that a writer just copies
conversations that he has in life and makes actors repeat them?”
The answer is basically yes.
Well, sort of. My career has obviously
brought me into contact with numerous writers, as has my life in general; a lot
of my friends and friends of my friends are writers. It’s amazing how much biographical
material goes into the work of successful authors, how much their lives are on display
to people who are paying attention.
And yet, it’s not amazing. Our experiences
and feelings are a natural starting point. And I say, don’t fight it. Real experiences
are more easily reproducible, more likely to be recognizable than emotional journeys
pulled entirely out of thin air—though truly masterful writers can change contexts
easily. But the good news is, everyone can use their feelings as a starting point.
Of course, I’m not saying that writing
a believable character journey is quite that easy. Good writing is about conflict,
and so to be truly able to write something you experienced, you have to be able
to understand both sides of whatever conflict you experienced and present it fairly—or
at least relatively fairly. No reader likes to be preached at; they want to make
conclusions on their own. And you have to be careful about including the personal
information of people close to you, so you should be incredibly cognizant of protecting
their feelings, or at least be aware of the dangers of exploiting their part in
your life.
Another danger: Almost every romance
writer I know has been asked the awkward question, “So, are you writing about the
sex you’ve had?” Usually it’s posed by someone outside of the industry, though I’m
sure one or two veterans have asked (or thought of asking) it themselves. The truth
is, probably many writers do write about the sex they’ve had. Or at least they use
their experiences to flavor what they’re writing about. Personal experience is always
a great place to start—and then you add a healthy dose of imagination. And since
you’re going to get asked the question about sex whether or not you’re using your
experiences, don’t bother skimping. If it makes you uncomfortable, just deny it
So, if you’re looking to write a powerful
story, look inside. Look at the relationships you’ve had, the ones that failed and
the ones that succeed. Look at the relationships of your friends, and see what’s
working and what’s not. (Though you should probably be really good at changing context
if you want to keep the friends.) This sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how
many people want to steer clear of their own baggage. But the truth is, that baggage
is what makes you you, and when you open the closet, that’s when you’re going to
find that your skeletons can be allies. We’ve all got them. Why not let them out
to find their friends?


Forgive my gaucheness, but I’m going
to talk about presents.
Lunchbox Romance
You see, writing a book is like giving
one: There are many ways to do it. You can chuck the obligatory dollars in a brown
paper envelope five minutes before the exchange, or you can spend time thinking
about your audience, their expectations and needs, buying several smaller but more
specific offerings and combining them, wrapping them in discrete layers of beautiful
but misleading paper, turning them all into the shape and feel of a brand new plaid
sweater from Aunt Myra(!) but then adding ball bearings that rattle when shaken;
taunting your son, asking him to guess, suggesting he might have the right answer,
letting him shake and touch and sniff the package, letting him do all the guesswork
before the final revelation of love and generosity. Before the final revelation
that you grok him.
Taunting, you say? That’s cruel.
Or is it? Being a reader is about
figuring things out. It’s about experience and calculation. It’s the blend of logic
(what will happen?) and emotion (why do I care?) and anticipation (when am I going
to know for sure?!). Because, like with everything in life, it’s the journey not
the destination. The truest way to find joy in fiction is to experience the events
yourself; otherwise any story could be just as easily relayed in two paragraphs.
If I told you two kids from feuding houses fell in love and ended up committing
suicide for each other, would that come anywhere close to the majesty of Romeo and Juliet? No. It’s the waiting, the hoping, the feeling alongside the characters that
connects us—and in that story’s particular case, it’s also the elegance of the wrapping
Wasn’t it William Goldman who said
something like, “The best endings are both surprising and inevitable.” The best
craftsmen know exactly what they’re revealing and when, and every step is toward
something sublime. Every book is a holiday in itself, with as many gifts as chapters
or themes, each of which can be a beautifully yet impossibly wrapped chance to awe
and astound.


So, it’s a new year, a blank slate,
a fresh chance to excel. January is about beginnings, and beginnings are where (consciously
or not, you pantsers) we plan, where we take stock of our strengths and weaknesses
to determine the best method to reach our goals. As a writer your job is to entertain,
and to entertain you need to keep readers on their toes. Yes, you need to surprise
them. Over and over. But that should be the fun part of writing: processing all
the different aspects of your story then finding your particular strengths and playing
to them.
Every novel has numerous opportunities
to inspire wonder and awe: fantastic but believable settings, unique and/or sympathetic
characters, groundbreaking concepts, lyrical narrative, witty dialogue. But the
most obvious way to keep your readers on their toes is through plot devices. Every
time you have a conflict, ask yourself if you’re taking the easy way out. How many
stories have you read where you can’t possibly see the hero and heroine escape…and
then things get really dicey? Not enough. Many authors (even veterans!) take the
first opportunity to resolve tension. My advice? Resist. Keep your readers on the
edges of their seats. They’ll thank you for it later.
I hasten to add that evoking a “Huh?”
reaction from a reader does not qualify as surprise. At least not a positive surprise.
The easiest example: Too often I see chapters end at strange points, where an author
thinks, “Well, they’ll have to keep reading if I just don’t tell them what happens.”
The cliffhanger is greatly overrated. Every story has a series of beats, and these
are what chapter breaks should mark. A well-crafted tale maintains tension through
the end of a beat.
Chris Keeslar
Along that line, a reader should never
be confused or feel denied critical information. They can and should be intentionally
misinformed, perhaps, keeping within the rules of your universe, but never confused.
Don’t withhold information that is crucial to later payoffs; layer it in early.
If a hero’s sister died falling off a horse and there will be a dangerous horse
race for the heroine at the climax of your story, tell us at the beginning. The
less information we have to process at any moment of emotional turmoil, the more
we can live in that moment. Tell us early, tell us often. But if at all possible,
tell us indirectly.
The cleverest writer is a burglar:
By the time you know which emotion she’s looking to steal, she’s already got it.

Find Us Here

Jane, welcome to Romance Lives Forever. Tell us about your latest book, including its
genre. Does it cross over to other genres? If so, what are they?

Prime Time is billed
as a romantic comedy but it does have its dark corners. It is the story of
Laura who has shocking PMT and is – ill-advisedly as it turns out – encouraged
to go onto a daytime tv programme to talk about it. What happens next will
change her life…
How do you come up with ideas?
I pretty much write
down everything that ever happens to me…
What is the single most important part of writing
for you?
That wonderful moment
when you can type “the end”.
What is the most important thing you do for your
I’ll give anything a
try. I’ve been on radio and TV, worked as a presenter and interviewer, written
short stories and articles, features and columns, fiction and non-fiction. I
could probably do with being a bit more focussed on just the one or two areas
instead of trying to do it all, but it’s been a lot of fun.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
Being able to
“have my say” I suppose.
What do you enjoy most about life?
Variety. I am not one
of these writers who can be pinned to the computer for a 16 hour stretch. I
like to go out and do lots of different things. But I always consider that to
be part of the process. If you never leave your study how you have anything to
Where do you start when writing? Research,
plotting, outline, or…?
A basic idea. My first
novel was: the buy-to-let market, my second, infidelity, my third – running a
wine bar… and so on.
What did you learn from writing your first
That it’s not as easy
as it looks…
How many hours a day to you spend writing?
On theory 6 hours a
day. In practice? Sometimes I don’t write at all – too busy fiddling with
emails and tidying the kitchen. But when deadlines loom I’ve been known to
write all night. I finished wannabe a writer in a 36 hours stint with no sleep
at all.
If you could give the younger version of yourself
advice what would it be?
Get on with it!
What are some jobs you’ve done that would end up
in a book?
I’ve been a barmaid,
bought and sold property, worked as a secretary and a copywriter – all these
have come in useful in books various.
If I was a first time reader of your books, which
one would you recommend I start with and why?
When I am reading a
new author I like to start with their first one. Mine  was  –
Raising the Roof. But I’ve developed a lot since then. So I would say now –
read the blurbs and see which one appeals to you most and I’ll just hope you
like it SO much you can’t wait to read the others :-)
What do you hope readers take with them after
reading your work?
A smile and a dollop
of empathy
List two authors we would find you reading when
taking a break from your own writing.
Joanna Trollope and
Fay Weldon
What’s your next writing ambition?
I want to be an agony
aunt on a national newspaper – editors please note! :-)
A biography has been written about you. What do
you think the title would be in six words or less?
Jacqueline of all
If money were not an object, where would you most
like to live?
By the sea plus a flat
in London
If you were a tool, what would people use you to
Open wine bottles.
As a child, what was your favorite thing about
Reading my way through
If you came with a warning label, what would it
Take in small doses
Fill in the Blanks
I love pizza with fresh
I’m always ready for a
glass of champagne.
When I’m alone, I relish
You’d never be able to
tell, but I was once a model.
If I had a halo it would be constantly falling off.
If I could play the
guitar, speak fluent French, sing like an angel, and only weighed seven stone,

I’d consider it a good result.
I can never get to
the end of my to-do list
because I keep adding to it.
Raising the Roof
Wannabe a Writer
Wannabe a Writer We’ve
Heard Of
Perfect Alibis
One Glass is Never
Prime Time
Me Here

Looking for something to make world building easier? I say more efficient! There are many books and online sites that can tell you all the basics of world building. Add I’m extremely focused on getting a story finished and submitted at the moment… My goal, last year, revolved around productivity. I vowed to write one book each month in 2010. Almost all were novel-length. Big goal? Yes. But doable. I call this building my backlist. And this endurance stems from my being efficient.
How do we as writers avoid self-defeating behavior like honing our procrastination skills and work towards efficiency in their writing efforts? Well, I find just staying focused is the trick for me. Not getting sidetracked. Even when I need to make Romance Trading Cards. I did! There flew two weeks out the window! So, excited about them anyway! But what is the cause of self-defeating behavior in general? Each of us has our own personality-type hang ups. That said, personality affects how I waste my time. How do I change this?
Me, I’m into Myers-Briggs personality typing (take the test at ). Bob Mayer gave an amazing presentation at the RWA National conference in 2007 on how to get published (Who Dares Win at ) based on the issues each of the Myers-Briggs personality types has. I’m a Field Marshal, for the most part except when I score The Writer, with all my hang ups. You’ll have to look that up for details. But I had to just face the music like everyone else according to Mayer’s suggestion. I’ll just move on to being productive, allowing the curious to investigate Mayer’s Green-Beret attitude about achieving a writer’s goal of becoming published on her own though. But I’m going to focus on my problem of my laziness with my tips today to help interested writers boost their productivity.
These are tips I, the Lazy Writer, use that can help everyone. I’m posting three that I rely heavily upon now in my writing. Now is key. Because we all evolve in our approach to writing. I most definitely have. Since productivity was never my problem. Laziness was. *wink* I’ll share three tips that work toward…
  • Increasing my productivity
  • Keeping me from jumping around to various documents on my computer while writing
  • Save me from hunting down that one little annoying distracting squeak within the turning gears of my story’s framework
Heck, I’m so lazy I make myself sick. But there’s something to be said for being a lazy writer–efficiency! However, some of the time lazy people refuse to waste works in their favor. Let’s see. Where shall I begin?

#1. What color was that?

Keep a running record of your main characters’ morphological attributes. What does this mean?
  • Color of hair, eye, skin.
  • Types of clothing.
  • Body decoration.
  • Hairstyle, including length.
  • Facial hair.
  • Favorite object (weapon, photo, crystal).
  • Weight.
  • Build.
Why is this information so darn important? There is absolutely nothing worse than receiving an artwork questionnaire for a recently contracted manuscript and realizing there are 5 heroes you suddenly need to describe–all with different physical features like eye color, hair color, hairstyle, etc. That’s what happened to me with FERAL FEVER. Can we so oh-no? Picture Mr. Bill from Saturday Night Live here saying “Oh no!” for the expression that certainly was on my face during that moment of negative epiphany.
Why that expression? I had to read through the manuscript for all the pertinent information to describe these 5 males. Waste of time…Never again…Ever since, I keep a running list. Yep, I changed, acclimated, or call it an adaptation to an approach to writing. I’m lazy. I had to survive. We’re talking survival here! This is significant since I’m extremely stubborn. Mom declared this when I was three, saying I was a forty-year-old woman trapped inside a three-year-old’s body. So true. So true. Especially since I’m older now and can see I grow even more stubborn with each passing year. *snort* Remember, the Field Marshal runs the war! Field Marshals don’t care what anybody thinks. The war must be won! Productivity seems to be my goal in battle. LOL So, how do I help this old inner dog accept new tricks and deal with story-detail chaos? This leads into my second tip…

#2. The Lazy Writer’s Story-World Database

I don’t believe in wasting my writing time creating story databases. All that writing spent recording details in a database can be used to increase my wip’s word count. But my critique partners groan for databases because my story worlds can become rather large and complex in a very short time. So, I manage my story-world details in my head. Yes, right where I can dig through the files without getting up from the chair. This is the extremist form of lazy and disturbs many of my writing friends. But it works for me. However, when I created two cyborg cultures for my 5th Feral book, FERAL FALLOUT, I realized I needed a little more information on hand to segregate the cultural details before I lost my mind. [Yes, my mind is still here even though some people doubt it.]
What did I do? Think two different planets with different scientific causes for human augmentation (cultural evolution) and then throw in some other stuff. Lots of details! So, I started what I call the Lazy Writer’s Database to manage character details for each heroine and all the heroes in FERAL FEVER and FERAL FALLOUT where both heroines wind up with multiple mates. Now, since I’m lazy, I’ll just get to the point and stop wasting your time.

How to create a Lazy Writer’s Database:

Run a list of story-world information at the end of your wip document. I create a line with dashes to separate the manuscript and the short “Lazy Writer’s” section of story-world details. {I say short because I want to scroll to the elusive term or character detail and then get back to writing. Remember, lazy is the key word here. I’m lazy and don’t want to waste a second I can spend writing.} Type this at the end of your wip:

Lazy Writer’s Database

Next, I note character names with their descriptive information, including things such as education and occupation because 5 cyborg experts and all their specialties can become pretty confusing when trying to recall how that redhead perceived reality and styled his hair, right below that hatched line. That’s it. That’s all you do.
Remember, this Lazy Writer’s Database is also the perfect place to record the new words with their definitions you create for your cultures. The dictionary-type list isn’t an enormous list of information, just the things I find I’m scrambling to find repeatedly. How many times did I look for that character’s eye color when it was stored in another document? Heck, I’d have to go open a folder to find said document…No! Waste of time! Forget wasting my time stupid-extra-documents-my-critique-partners-kept-reminding-me-they-had. Geesh, they’d have each bloody chapter of a story in a different document. Pshhht! I have no time for all that chicken-without-its-head-running-around-everywhere-in-its-death-throes to find a chapter. My lazy little handy way to keep tabs on details doesn’t require a bunch of bloodletting. Although, it’s magic in itself. I prefer painless writing techniques. And let’s face it. Lazy people don’t like moving at all aside from the involuntary act of breathing and blinking.
I’ve also found this Lazy Writer’s info area a nice place to store details on a region in the US Territories that my characters in my WERESCAPE series encounter, like the Black Hills. My characters travel a lot, on the run from extraterrestrials and not-so-good Normals, requiring lots of my valuable time hopping online to research cities, rivers, topography, weather, etc. I love doing research and am known for this blog’s slant on reference material. But, I need to be writing. So, I just copy the information I plan to use from sites on the internet and add it to my little info section. I can scroll down to the details about the Black Hills which is half a page away and skim through the information until the characters depart into new terrain. Then I delete the little section about the Black Hills from my info repository and move on with the characters that requires a lot of yawning to explain…So, here’s the nutshell version.
The Werescape landscape may be post-apocalyptic, but it wasn’t nuked. Many regional details are the same. Just reclaimed by what’s at that point indigenous vegetation and minus most of the human population. Unfortunately, 2 hours researching hovercraft and travel via water transport verses horseback can kill every speck of enthusiasm or energy I have for writing in a day. However, the problem could be caused by my Lyme Disease…So, maybe you don’t need to use a Lazy Writer’s Database! Be lazy if you don’t and focus on writing. But don’t leave yet. You might find the next tip pretty handy!

#3. Keeping up with Chapter and Page Numbers

I keep a running tab on my manuscript’s final chapter number at the end of my wip. So when I need to start a new chapter, I know which chapter is next. I type:

CHAPTER 4 (67, i.e. the page # the last chapter began on)

Lazy Writer’s Database

Every time I need to begin a new chapter, I place my cursor between the # and ( and hit enter. The page number information centers itself. I immediately add CHAPTER NUMBER and change the page number to the current page. Done. And it’s forward ho. Very simple. Oh, don’t forget to insert a page break between the chapter title you’re using and the end of the last chapter.
This little trick tells me how long my previous chapter is with a quick glance down. Forget scrolling back to do the calculation. FYI, I heard a long time ago from published authors that a good length for a standard chapter is 20 manuscript pages. So, this gives me a gauge to use when writing. Many chapters are shorter. I try not to go over the 20-page length though. Sometimes, you have to. Pacing is pacing. But who wants to scroll back and forth trying to figure out how long their chapters are? So don’t scroll back searching for the chapter number because you keep a tab on the information.

Okay, I Wrote THE END. Now What?

Time is still essential! I don’t keep this little Lazy-Writer section of world-building information at the end of my completed manuscript. After I’ve written THE END, I cut and paste the information in a new blank Word document and save it in my story’s main folder (labeled with that story’s title World-Building Info) with other relative documents, i.e. the full manuscript, a blurb, and a synopsis.
Yes, I’ve usually had a moment or two where the blurb hits me. I drop everything, get paper and pen or on the computer and write fast…Before I miss the window of opportunity. Blurbs are such elusive creatures.
So, this document folder labeled with the story title is where I hunt for and find my story-world details later when I’m filling out the artwork questionnaire. I actually took the chunk of information from FERAL FALLOUT and pasted it at the end of FERAL FORETASTE when I created that document, Feral Book 6. Voila! Painless. And I was ready to go. Well, actually using both cyborg cultures’ back story. Because there was still a whole different planet(s), culture(s), and a cyborg space station yet to create. I need the same bank of information in the Lazy Writer’s little section for my Werescape story world, even though it remains the same from book to book. It merely gets longer with each tale. I don’t have to create a new planet or cultures with each story like I do with the Feral series. I just cut and paste and move on. But I did purposefully set the Feral series up to have the flexibility to do whatever I wanted in each book with a new world and culture(s). One must leave herself as many options as possible to create as many worlds as she likes out in space…
~The-lazy-yet-productive-writer, a.k.a. Skhye Moncrief
***Article originally posted at Skhye’s Ramblings: Other Worlds & Realities
Skhye’s website
Wider Circle by Mary Caelsto.
It might seem odd to turn to the tarot cards when I go to revise a story, but then again, I do write pagan inspirational romances. My next WIP is back from my awesome beta and I’m about ready to revise it before sending it off to a publisher. So, I draw a tarot card.
What am I missing in this story?
Interestingly enough, the card I drew was the two of cups, which is a relationship card. Funny, it is a romance. And there is even a love scene, pretty sensual by my standards. The two of cups talks about being in sync, finding that recognition that yes, this is the one. From my standpoint as the author, maybe I’m missing the fact that this is my “break out novella.” or at least one can always hope. *smiles*
Personally, I believe tarot is a way for each of us to connect with our higher selves, our intuition. Using tarot cards is more than a “gut check”; it is also a way for us to bypass the chatter in our minds and find out what we really think or feel about a specific situation. And now that I am writing this blog and thinking about this story, which honestly I haven’t looked at in a few months, I am thinking that the relationship between the characters might need more definition, more of an arc.
I might not have seen that in my rush to get this story polished (I know that sounds funny since I just said that I hadn’t looked at the story in a while) and off to a publisher. In this case, the tarot card provided a prompt, and a timely reminder of what I should look for in my revision process, because it is, after all, a romance story.
Tarot cards are versatile and can provide information about characters, settings, and even plot lines. With the archetypes found in the tarot deck, one can populate an entire cast of characters for a novel though don’t think you’ll be limited by their appearance in either your book, or your tarot deck. The many facets of humanity are on display in a tarot deck. You might find just the right trait to make your heroine stand out, or find out why your hero doesn’t pass muster with the reader.
Writers are naturally creative, and intuitive, people. This means that the tarot cards lend themselves quite nicely to an author’s thought process. Though they have been used (for better or worse) as prompts for stories, I think that tarot cards can provide a much deeper, and richer, experience for the writer crafting his or her story.
Then again, sometimes the tarot cards simply remind you to pay attention to your story while you’re revising, too.
Last release:

The Wider Circle by Mary Caelsto

Still grieving from the loss of her father, Dharma takes a job in a neighboring state with the hopes that the change in location will help her get on with her life and maybe find her faith again. She arrives to find the job gone and with it her hopes. She goes to a ritual on the Autumn Equinox, a time for thankfulness, and when a handsome man asks her what she’s thankful for, she finds she cannot answer.
Acting as a High Priest in the ritual changes Sid’s life. He’s making plans to move out of state and form a new Wiccan Coven, except he’s missing the other half of his circle–a high priestess. When he sees Dharma he knows there’s a spiritual soul hidden inside her grief, and he longs to bring her out.
But when Sid can’t wait any longer and has to move in order to keep his job opportunity, will Dharma go with him? Can Sid show Dharma that the Goddess hasn’t forsaken her, and that there’s a wider circle for them to explore?

Paranormal Elements, A Subtle Shade of Supernatural
by Mary Wilson, publisher Pink Petal Books.
Paranormal Elements might not be an established sub-category of contemporary romance, but it has a long history under different names. When there’s the hint that something is watching in the darkness, though the revelation shows it to be nothing, or maybe a creature wild and untamed, yet completely, totally normal, that’s paranormal elements. When a house seems to take on a life of its own, yet nothing untoward happens, there you will find paranormal elements. In the gothic romances of yester-year and in the romantic suspense where things don’t seem to be quite what they really are, paranormal elements are at play.
As an editor and publisher, when I think of paranormal elements, there are always questions left unanswered. Was he a shifter, really, or is that just my overactive fantasy-reading imagination shining through? Could a ghost have inhabited the house, even though they saw nothing, or did the characters simply have an overactive mind? Paranormal elements make you think about a story, but in a gripping, page-turning, “I’m not too sure about this” sort of way.
The great thing about paranormal elements is that while we most commonly see them in contemporary books, such as our release this month, Wolf’s Storm by Vonna Harper, they can appear anywhere, even in science fiction or fantasy. A historical book, for example, where there might be a curse upon a mirror that’s a family legend, though the reader, and the characters aren’t quite sure the curse exists, would possibly contain paranormal elements. As long as the characters think something supernatural is happening, and it appears to be, it falls under this category.
As a reader, one of the best things I find about the hint of paranormal is that it keeps me guessing. I don’t know, and by the end of the book, I’ll spend time thinking about what might be happening, how or why. Since I enjoy fantasy, science fiction, and paranormal books, these supernatural happenings make me feel right at home as a reader. The disbelief is already suspended, and I’m along for a good read.
When it comes to editing and publishing these books, they defy categorization. But, one of the best things about ebooks is that they don’t have to be placed on one shelf, as it were. They can be shelved anywhere they fit, which makes these books fun to explore and fun to find.
Though as paranormal romance readers, we are firmly steeped in the strong traditions of vampires, magic, werewolves, and fantasy creatures, I hope that those same readers will find the paranormal elements just as exciting and just as page-turning. Think of them as just another kind of spice. Sometimes you want just a dash of nutmeg, and sometimes you want just a hint of paranormal in your otherwise contemporary, though no less erotic, romance.

Forced together by a mountain snowstorm and their smashed cars, two loners realize they have no choice but to spend the night together. As soon as the cabin door closes behind them, need takes over. They must have sex, only sex, not a relationship. But the dark wolves watching outside have their own agenda.  
Jake and Sarah want one thing, a night of sex. The wolves surrounding the remote cabin have another agenda.
Genre(s) contemporary with paranormal elements
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