After a particularly nasty winter – not particularly cold here, just endless rain – it seems that the flowers can’t wait to put on a
pulmonarias is lighting up a dark corner and golden wallflowers are filling the air with luscious scent. And across the road we look out on the stunning deep pink magnolia in a neighbour’s garden.
What flower says to you that winter is over, puts a bounce in your step, makes you smile?
Liz’s latest romance, For His Eyes Only, published by Harlequin KISS is available now. You can find her at her website
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Today’s Blog Hop post is brought to you by Susan Meier, one of my favorite people on the planet. One of the first things she ever said to me in person was “A rising tide floats all boats”. She’s full of wisdom and humor and a really fun person to be around. Don’t forget to enter the Blog Hop contest at the end by using the rafflecopter form!
As I was cleaning my mom’s house on Saturday, I gave thanks that she got rid of the old coal furnace and switched to oil heat. It was so easy to wipe down the kitchen, dust, scrub the floors. But as I was cleaning, I remembered how necessary it had been when I was a kid that my sisters, mom and I gave the house a good cleaning in the spring to get rid of the coal dust, and open the windows and let in some fresh air.
And I thought…Does anybody spring clean anymore?
With Swiffers and Swiffer dusters (LOL!) I can pretty much keep my bedroom and downstairs dust free year round. Scrubbing Bubbles keep my bathrooms sparkling. And my husband has a rule…if you don’t use it, you toss it. So we don’t have a once-a-year run through of our clothes to toss things we don’t wear.
In a way, it’s sad. Some of my fondest memories are of the sweet scent of Pine Sol wafting along the breeze blowing in through open windows. The feeling of freshly laundered throw rugs under my feet. And the crisp look of washed and pressed curtains. The ritual often felt like the first sign that we were shaking off winter and welcoming spring with a clean house.
Like so many rituals of my childhood that are now gone, I miss it. So I’ve decided to take a few days (as soon as I’m sure it’s not going to snow anymore) and clean with Pine Sol!
So what about you…do you spring clean?
Spring-Board Your Story Idea with Character
Thanks so much for having me here! I thought I’d talk about character today, because I get asked about creating characters all the time. For me, my book derives from my characters and plot at the same time, in sort of a ying-yang thing. Okay, that sounds crazy. It’s not as nut as it sounds. I swear ;-).
Lots of writers come up with an idea for a book but then aren’t quite sure where to go from there. I always start with character, and by doing that, the book becomes character driven, rather than plot driven. Character driven books are more emotional, connect more, than plot-driven stories.
For me, I have often have a What-If situation—What if a commitment phobic Coast Guard Lieutenant is suddenly saddled with two kids? What if a woman who is trying to start a new life finds out she’s walked into a money pit of a change?
Then I decide on WHO my character is. Is she a murderer? An actor? A chef? Is she the protagonist or antagonist? Is he the father of the murder victim? The doctor who diagnoses a life-threatening disease? A lot of times this vocation will come from the plot. If you’re writing a murder mystery, obviously you need a killer, a victim and a hero. If you’re writing a romance, you need a hero and a heroine who have a few conflicts between them but not so many that they can’t get together. If you’re working on a children’s story, then you need a child protagonist who goes through a life-changing event.
For THE SWEETHEART RULES, my latest in the Sweetheart Sisters series with Berkley, I chose a hero and a heroine who were opposites in everything from their jobs to their approach to life. Responsible single mom and veterinarian Diana has decided never to rely on a man again. Then she has a one-night stand with no-strings Coast Guard Lieutenant Mike Stark. Six months later, when Mike returns (after being saddled unexpectedly with his two daughters), she ends up having to rely on him when her life is un upheaval. So I had two great characters, with sparks between them. The next step was to figure out who each of these people were and why they were who they were.
Many things help you make these decisions. What kind of person would be thrust into this situation? And why? This can send your plotting into a 100 different directions so brainstorm on this. One of the best ways to brainstorm, and something I teach in my class on my “Brainmap” method, is the spoke and wheel. Draw one word in the center of the page (protagonist, murderer, and antagonist) then draw out lines that lead to all kinds of possibilities. Maybe the murderer is an innocent framed for the crime. Maybe it’s a desperate woman backed into a corner. Maybe it’s an accident. Maybe it’s a serial killer. Feel free to let yourself go, even if you end up with 100 ideas on the page, and come up with as many ideas as you can. Even if you don’t use all these ideas, hold on to the paper. When you get stuck later in the plot, pull this out and see where it leads you.
With THE SWEETHEART RULES, I had my heroine show a secret she is keeping at the very beginning of the book. That secret underlies every decisions she has made, and will come back to haunt her in several different ways. Then I figured out why she would keep such a secret, and what toll it has taken on her life and her relationships.
Third, you need to name your character. For me, I like names that have meaning. I have a baby name book I use to look up meanings, derivatives and nicknames. In THE SWEETHEART RULES, I wanted names that showed their characters. Dependable, reliable Diana and sexy, charming Mike seemed to fit well!
Fourth, create a character “bible.” This can come from a character interview, from your own thoughts, however you want to develop it. The character bible is comprised of the simple stuff – eye color, hair color, etc. But also tackle the bigger issues — what happened to this character as a child? What is he or she afraid of? What’s his worst habit? Greatest trait? Biggest weakness? How does he feel about his parents/ pets? Last girlfriend? All of these things become fodder for great, well-developed characters. For THE SWEETHEART RULES, this became even more vital because it’s part of a three-book series, and I needed to keep everything and everyone straight.
These are the kids of details that give characters life. One of my first rejection letters praised my writing up and down but aid that my characters didn’t breathe and live on the page. I had no idea what this meant at the time, but learned later how to pump life into people on a page.
How do I do it? I filter EVERYTHING through that character’s past. When my character looks out the window at a tree, there is a memory associated with that tree, a memory that impacts on the plot, and that makes the tree and the moment with the character have ten times more meaning.
Characters shouldn’t be static — they should have past habits, annoying traits, likes and dislikes, etc. Those are the little details that make them as real as the neighbor you don’t like or the favorite aunt you love. And creates books that readers love!
If you pick up THE SWEETHEART RULES, I hope you’ll share with me your favorite character! If not, tell me: Who was the most memorable character you read about? What made them so interesting? What kind of traits do you love in heroes and heroines?
If you love THE SWEETHEART RULES, it here or in a bookstore near you! And read an awesome review here, if you’re so inclined
Don’t forget to enter the giveaway, too!
Welcome to my first post in the Chocolate Box Spring Blog hop! I’m part of the Chocolate Box author site, which is based on the idea that just like a variety box of chocolates, there’s something for everyone in our books. You can check us all out at www.chocolateboxwriters.com . From now until May 15, we’re all sharing different posts about spring, or writing, or whatever…and giving YOU a chance to win a great prize. A prize that looks like this:
All you have to do to enter is use the Rafflecopter box at the end of the post. There are several ways to enter! It’s pretty magical, really.
To kick things off, and because I’m SO sick of winter and looking forward to REAL spring, here’s Samantha Hunter with April Showers Bring Spring Flowers:
Well, it’s still spitting snow and cold here in Syracuse, but I am dreaming of my gardens, sorting through my seeds, and reading (and re-reading) my garden magazines, thinking about this year’s vegetables and so forth. But that’s getting ahead of the game. First, there will be the Spring flowers, and the best thing about those is that they come along on their own, with little help from me.
Tulips, Daffodils (called Jonquils in the southern US, which I didn’t know until friend Anna Adams informed me) and Hyacinths, but also Crocuses and Grape Hyacinths, and tons of ephemerals that bloom all over our yard, even in the grass, and I’m not always sure of their names. A bit later, the Irises.
It’s impossible for me to choose a favorite, I love them all, perhaps especially so after the long, stark stretch of white. Our White Star Magnolia will bloom, and that’s always a treat (and so fragrant!) though I’ll have to chase away the squirrels who rip the blossoms off and throw the petals like confetti. They also used to eat my tulips – I can’t tell you how many times I would go out to find all of my tulips, on the edge of bloom, completely beheaded! While I try not to use too many sprays or chemicals in the garden, I bought Deer-Off and now I enjoy my flowers every spring.
Which ones are you looking forward to the most? Do you have any pests that get after them, and how do you deal with them?