The Hateful Synopsis

Nearly every author I know bemoans synopsis writing. This is the part of our job that isn’t the red-headed stepchild, but rather the creature we keep locked in a closet, too ashamed to call it ours.

Which I know is a horrible analogy, but we’re trying to be honest here.

None of us enjoy this part of the process.

We skirt around that closet door for as long as possible. Sometimes we even skip submitting to certain places that require the synopsis and move on. (Though I suggest you take a long hard look at places that do not require it before hitting that “send” button.)

In the end, most legitimate agents and publishing houses require this 1 to 3 page summary of your 75 to 120 thousand word novel. So we find ourselves cracking the door open on that dreaded closet to try wrangling the beast that is our synopsis.

This is not for the faint of heart.

There are any number of agents and editors out there that have examples of synopsis writing to help us along the way. In particular, I like to frequent Writer’s Digest. They have a whole section of this stuff. Go check them out.

Now then – assuming you’ve glanced through the sundry of articles Writer’s Digest has to offer and you’re still intimidated by the roar emitting from your personal synopsis closet – I do have one or two tips that have helped me in the past.

Before you write the synopsis, have a separate sheet of paper (or Word document) with the following information clearly defined:

  1. Main character, their motivation, and something that marks them as unique. EXAMPLE: Tessa Pines is a veteran trying to overcome the trauma she endured in Afghanistan. 
  2. Major characters and how they intersect the main character’s life. EXAMPLE: CORDON MORANT is Tessa’s ex-fiancee and high school sweetheart. He shows up unannounced at the bookstore Tessa has been frequenting since her return home and forces her to confront both the distant past of their relationship and her more recent losses. MARISOL WILLIAMS is Tessa’s roommate at the university and a psychology student who seems to have chosen Tessa as a subject to observe and learn from. 
  3. Inciting incident. AKA – What pushes your character out of status quo and into the main story. EXAMPLE: When Marisol’s lab partner leaves her hanging with a large paranormal investigating project, Tessa finds herself volunteering to help. 
  4. Twist moments/Game Changers/Major Plot Moments. Call them what you want, there should be two or three of these in the book. These are the moments in the story that push us toward the ending. EXAMPLE: Oops, this place is really haunted and now everyone is in danger. 
  5. Climax. I’m pretty sure we all know what that means. EXAMPLE: Tessa faces off against a possessed former comrade in the middle of the investigation, who is rightly upset by her avoidance tactics throughout the book. (If this were the real thing, I’d explain exactly what happens here. No cheap withholding of information, agents/editors want to know that everything makes sense.)
  6. Resolution. EXAMPLE: Tessa admits that she needs some help facing everything that has happened – from Afghanistan to the incident at the investigation – and prepares to move forward. 

OK. With all that information already scribbled on a separate piece of paper, you know the bare bones of what your synopsis needs. Different agents and editors want different lengths, so I write three; a one page, a two page, and a three page.

The bare bones I have on the sheet can pretty much boil down to the one page synopsis already, so that one is easy. I just have to go in and clean it up. For the two and three pages I go in and add pertinent elements and important character moments, which tends to fill up the extra space.

Anyway, that’s my tip. The bare bones sheet has helped me in recent years so maybe it can help you too.

Don’t sweat the beast in the closet, guys. As hard as it is, writing a full novel is harder and you already got through that. I promise, you’ll get through this too.


Book Release Mayhem!

UC front cover-sample-2Usurper has made its way to virtual shelves! You can find it on Amazon in both eBook and paperback.

This is the third installment in the Sedition series that follows Trenna Dyngannon and her husband Nelek as they struggle to find peace between humankind and the Eldur nation.

Fans of the novels – who may or may not have threatened to hunt me down if I didn’t stop writing other things and finish this book – will be pleased to find Nelek and Trenna in fighting shape. The quirky pair were left in exile in the second book (Saboteur) so I know a lot of you were left hanging.

In my defense, the reason this book took so long was because I discovered that I was Saboteur-WEBtrying to fit two books into one.

Why yes, this means there is a fourth book.

And yes, that book is already underway. It is in the outlining phase and I’ll be rolling up my sleeves to work on it later this year.

Sedition was my first published work so it holds a special place in my heart. I remember floundering with that first draft, trying to piece together things on 3×5 cards and make a sensible plot out of the personalities on the page.

Sedition-WEBWell, I remember coming to terms with what a plot was in general. When I started it was just a bunch of characters doing different things that occasionally intersected. It wasn’t until I joined a writers group (The Dreamers from the Forward Motion for Writers website) that I was able to see the work as a bigger picture.

At the time I had no idea there would be more books coming. Now, as I begin the process of ending this series, there is a part of me that dreads coming to the last page. Trenna and Nelek, and now their children, have become a part of my daily life.

As strange as it sounds, it will be difficult to say goodbye, no matter how the story ends.


Let’s Talk About Fantasy

My writing career started with Sedition, a fantasy novel about a pair of brothers trying to Sedition-WEBrescue their mother. The book went through several revisions – and so many titles it hurts my head to think about  – but in January of 2011 its story line was set in stone.

(Mostly because the publishing house would have smacked me if I tried altering anything after the Galley Proofs were done.) 

When I first started writing it, I was doing it for fun. I enjoyed stories and wanted to tell one, so I started writing snippets on 3×5 cards that I carried with me wherever I went.

Fans of the novel might be surprised to learn that Trenna Croften was not the original hero. In fact, the book began with Brigetta Isleen Chridhe – the woman magically abducted from home and dropped in the middle of a political war between a King and his sons.

I learned about Kiavana – the kingdom where the first book takes place – through Brigetta because she was just as new to the stage as I was. At the time I knew very little about writing, so I stumbled through the countryside right along with Brigetta, encountering senile knights who continually “squired” whoever happened to be the most helpful, and a prince who hid his motivations under a veneer of disinterest and materialism.

As I began to uncover the secrets of the world I was creating, Trenna Croften emerged. In fact, her first appearance was the scene where she interrupted an assassination attempt on the eldest prince. When she asked if assassins were paid well, she made me laugh, and essentially stole the book from there.

Saboteur-WEBOr… well… a whole series, as it turns out.

Saboteur, the sequel to Sedition, was released in January of 2012 and in February we will see Usurper make its way onto virtual shelves.

While Brigetta may have been reduced to a minor character in the original novel, I’m happy to report that she has a much larger role in Usurper. I had thought that writing her would be easy since I knew so much about her origins, but as it turns out I was wrong.

For the timeline of the novels, it has been over 20 years since we last saw Brigetta and she has undergone quite a few changes. She’s a Blood Mage, for one, and for another… she married an assassin. (Because apparently I can’t get away from assassins in these novels.) Her voice is different because she has changed as a character, so I had to re-learn who she was in order to portray her correctly.

Now, I recognize that it has been many years since Saboteur was released and I do UC front cover-sample-2apologize for that. Usurper was a joy to write, it truly was. But between school and being a full-time single-parent and working full-time and… ahem… my other novels (Is it weird I feel like I cheated by writing all that science fiction in the interim?)… I just didn’t have enough time to do it all.

I should take this moment to mention that there is at least one other book – Warpath – that I am constructing. It isn’t on the list for this year, but will be next year. The good news is that much of Warpath is already done because part of my problem with Usurper was that I was trying to pack two books into one.



Camp NaNoWriMo – July 2017

Camp-2017-Winner-Profile-PhotoThis year for Camp NaNoWriMo I chose to focus on revising/rewriting the ending of Dead Weight, the sequel to Tapped. I gave myself a modest goal of 30,000 words, which I surpassed.

However, sitting 3 days away from the end of the July I can say that the first week of August will have to deal with the last chapter or so of the book. Even if I could ignore the fact that I’m a parent and let my child live off Ramen noodles and chocolate donuts, I’m not sure I can write 4 chapters in three days.

Well … maybe I could, but they would be 4 really awful chapters and that would defeat the purpose of revision/rewriting.

So while the word count goal was met, the overall goal of revising the entire novel was not. I still verified my word count and earned my little banner and whatnot from Camp NaNoWriMo because I did participate and … rewards are important.

To anyone else who may have participated this month … Congratulations! Whether you met your goal or not, you got words on paper and that’s what’s important.

To anyone who is flirting with the idea of participating in one of these … I hope you do. I can encourage you to check out NaNoWriMo in November because that’s the big one everyone participates in. And yes, I’ll be there again in November, tackling a completely different project.

For now, however, I have 4 chapters to complete on Dead Weight, new words to write on Song of Swans, and Trenna fans will be pleased to know that the editor got back to me on Usurper so I am knee deep in revisions there as well.

Usurper is scheduled for release in February 2018 and will be available in all digital forms as well as paperback. It is the third installment of the Sedition series featuring Trenna and her husband Nelek as they battle through politics, magic, war, and perhaps the most frightening of all; family.

Since Usurper is put out by Wings ePress, it’s all on the publisher’s schedule and more information will be relayed as it comes to me.


About Reviews – April Round Robin

My mother always taught me that if I didn’t have anything nice to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. While I haven’t always followed that advice, I’m certain many authors wish critics would.

I’ve had one or two reviews that scoured my work to the bone, which … let’s be honest here … required a pint of ice cream to get me through. Mint chocolate chip is the greatest comforter in times like these.

But when push comes to shove, negative reviews are always the ones that I learn from. I’m not a world-renowned author, not yet, and I’m still honing my craft. So anything that teaches me how to be better is good.

Sometimes painful, but good.

Positive reviews help sell a book, but not nearly as much as word of mouth. Like it or not, people talking about your book is still the number one way to push those sales up – or so all the professionals tell me.

I’ve sent my books out to reviewers for their honest opinions and come back with some positive results there, but those results never last for very long. To be honest, sometimes the only result of a positive review is my own feeling of accomplishment; somebody read my book and understood what I was trying to say!

Since Sedition was first published eight years ago I’ve held a 4.36 star average on Goodreads and about the same on Amazon, which I suppose is quite good considering there are a lot of things wrong with my early novels. But the only thing this knowledge serves is to push me to become better.

Maybe it sells one book every three months or so, but at the end of the day it still only pushes me to be better. I don’t have time to check reviews every day or even every week. I check them once or twice a month, see if I have anything new, and then I get back to work.

See what some of my fellow authors think about reviews …

Marci Baun
Dr. Bob Rich
Skye Taylor
Beverley Bateman
Victoria Chatham
Helena Fairfax
Rachael Kosinski
A.J. Maguire (YOU ARE HERE)
Margaret Fieland
Connie Vines
Rhobin Courtright

How Important Are Titles? Round Robin Post

This week it’s all about titles in the Round Robin conversation! The question posed is this: “How important is a title? What attracts you to a certain title, and how do you determine what to title your book? ”

Now, if I was a marking guru, which I’m not, I would say the title was absolutely important. That and the cover are what buyers are going to see first, right? It needs to attract them enough to get them to pick up the novel and read the back blurb or the first few pages.

When I’m walking through the bookstore and glancing over the titles, I honestly don’t have anything in mind when I’m looking. I’ll read anything and everything under the sun, so it’s a little hard to categorize what I’m hunting for in a book or a title. It really depends on my mood or the season or whatever I happen to be writing at that time.

It’s a lot easier to write Fantasy novels when your brain is already set to “Fantasy” by what you’re consuming. Now, I do have to be careful there because I don’t want MY fantasy novel to start showing traits of the novel I’m reading and all that. So I pick a different sub-genre in the fantasy realm to try and keep things separate.

How do I determine the title of my books?

That’s … a painful process, actually.

Persona was known as “The WWII novel” for many years. I actually had to brainstorm with another author on Google+ to get to that one.

Tapped was easier because I just stole the name of the super soldiers (Yes, I used super soldiers) in that book. I have been tempted to change the name to “Grey Men” from time to time but … that’s marketing strategy and I’m still sort of blundering my way through it.

For those unaware … I’m awful at marketing.

Sedition was called The Ebony Blade at first. And then just Kiavana, the name of the region where much of the book takes place. But after several drafts and a lot of moaning and groaning, I looked at what the book itself was about and came up with the vein of sedition that really pulses through the whole novel.

Generally speaking, I don’t come up with a final title until after the third or fourth draft. By then I have a better handle of what the book is showing about humanity or what adventures I’m promising the reader if they purchase it. But it is really a pain in the rear-end.

Ahem. I’m having the censor myself because my eight-year-old giggles if I use other words at the end of that sentence.

ANYWAY … I find titles and blurbs and the synopsis a pain. I suppose if I didn’t and I actually enjoyed that work, I’d be much better at it and my novels would see more success. Maybe I’ll make that part of my New Years Resolutions for 2017 – “Learn to love titles and blurbs!”

Check out what some of my fellow authors think about titles in general and their own processes for finding the perfect title for their own work.

Marci Baun
A.J. Maguire (YOU ARE HERE)
Victoria Chatham
Skye Taylor
Judith Copek
Helena Fairfax
Heather Haven
Dr. Bob Rich
Connie Vines
Margaret Fieland
Rachael Kosinski
Rhobin Courtright


Kindle Scout Campaign

So! I did a new thing!

And it’s a little bit of a scary thing, but I’m trying it anyway.

Persona, the WWII novel that I have scheduled to publish in December, has been submitted into a Kindle Scout campaign. Basically what this means is that, if I get enough nominations, Kindle Scout will publish the book for me instead.

The process was relatively painless considering the book is already edited and edited and edited some more, as well as formatted and prepped for its launch in December. All I had to do was answer some questions and upload the book.

Well … that and now I have to come out and shout from every virtual rooftop I’ve got that the campaign is now open, that you can find it HERE and that if you like what you see there I would really, really, really love it if you’d click the little “nominate” button.

We’re going to see how this whole thing works and then I’ll give a more critical response to the process and things. I can say that, barring the actual writing process that you have to go through anyway, submitting to Kindle Scout was terribly easy. I got invited to Kindle Scout some time ago, I just hadn’t given it a shot until today.