Thursday, September 29, 2011

Keep Working On That Dream...Inspiration In A Photograph

I found this from a friend's posting on Facebook and I'd love to know who took the photo or wrote the note.  It plays right into my recent theme of working toward your dream and not letting ANYONE stand in your way.

So go forth, and if naysayers get in your way, tell them to "watch me."

BTW, stay tuned Oct 6th for my interview with Scribe Donnell Bell on her debut book "The Past Came Hunting."


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Joelle Charbonneau skates into a mystery series

S-h-h-h-h. Joelle Charbonneau’s our guest today, and, no, I’m not keeping it secret that’s she’s our guest on Five Scribes (that makes me happy). I’m keeping it secret that she has multiple personality disorder. You see, there’s no way she can be this talented and have so many projects in store without having a serious screw loose. Today, I’m interviewing her about Skating over the Line, Book two in her Rebecca Robbins roller skating mystery series from St. Martin’s/Minotaur. We won’t mention the series coming out from Berkley, Joelle’s Murder for Choir Series, or the fact that her agent’s shopping around a Y.A, or that she’s also written a thriller…. Or, that she’s a fabulous singer, piano and voice instructor. No. Let’s just humor her and talk about Skating Over the Line. It’ll be easy for me, because I really enjoyed this book. Please welcome the very lovely Joelle Charbonneau.

D.B.: Hi, Joelle. We’re now into book two of your roller skating rink series, Skating Over the Line. To help readers catch up, when we last left Rebecca Robbins, her mother had passed away and Rebecca’d inherited her mother’s beloved rink. Rebecca, who lives in Chicago has no interest in owning a roller skate rink. That was her mother’s dream. But a dead body in the girl’s restroom of the rink plants Rebecca squarely in Indian Falls, Illinois for a while. After Rebecca solves that murder in SKATING AROUND THE LAW, it’s a couple months later, she’s still trying to sell the rink, when SKATING OVER THE LINE wheels onto the scene. Have I got it right so far?

J.C.: Hi Donnell! Thanks so much for having me here. I am honored.

Yeah – poor Rebecca still hasn’t managed to sell the rink in the two months that have passed. But she is trying desperately to keep her sanity and crossing her fingers and toes (and maybe her eyes) while waiting for her Realtor to call.

D.B.: This book is near and dear to you for several reasons. Your mother (pictured here) was a champion roller skater. Tell us about growing up in that world and the events that led up to you writing this skating series.

J.C.: My mother had retired from competitive skating long before I was born. However, she taught skaters to spin, leap and land on their feet all through my childhood. (Note – I was never very good at landing on my feet!) Going to the roller skating rink was something I thought everyone did.

Funny enough, even though skating was a part of our family life, it took an outside force to make me look to roller skating for inspiration. A couple of years ago, I was sitting with some friends at a writing conference. One of my friends started talking about my theater career and asked if my parents were performers. I replied, “No, but my mother is a world champion roller skater.” Had I hit them over the head with a wet fish, I doubt they could have been any more surprised. The silence was deafening. However, after a few moments, an agent sitting at our table said, “You should write a roller skating book.” I laughed. I mean, who would write a roller skating novel? But somewhere in the back of my mind the idea took root. Ten days later I e-mailed the agent and told her I’d written the first chapter of SKATING AROUND THE LAW.

D.B.: Rebecca Robbins is a fantastic character. She is the reluctant heroine at best. And she’s living in a place, that although she’s determined to leave, I suspect she really would be happy calling it home. She’s there with her quirky grandfather, Pop, who has the 74-year-old chick magnet down in the nursing home; Rebecca has herself a love interest the very appealing and hot veterinarian, Dr. Lionel Franklin, and a whole cast of zany characters who keep life interesting. The story starts out with a stolen vehicle, and Pop and the nursing home ensemble, are so impressed with Rebecca’s crime-solving in SKATING AROUND THE LAW, Pop assures everyone that Rebecca can do it again, much to Rebecca’s and Deputy Sean’s displeasure.

This set up amazed me, Joelle, because as a mystery writer myself, I kept turning the pages, awaiting a dead body. But, nope, no dead body appeared, just hook after hook and hysterical happenings and dialogue that kept me reading. The dead body appears on page 204. That was amazing to me. Tell us why you set up the book this way, and was there any discussion about a murder happening so late in the book?

J.C.: Ha! I know most mysteries are about dead bodies, which often amazes me. Especially when the setting is a small town. It’s hard to believe that everyone doesn’t pack up and move outside of the town’s city limits after a couple of books with that kind of body count. I know I would. When writing this book, I specifically wanted to write a mystery that didn’t revolve around a dead body. There are lots of mysteries in the world that are less gruesome than murder and more compelling than where socks disappear to when they go into the dryer. (Although, I admit that one has me stumped!) I wanted to see if I could make a non-murderous scenario just as engaging as one with a high body count. I’m lucky my editor let me get away with it, but I have a feeling she would have cracked the whip if she hadn’t liked the outcome. And, I will admit there has been a request that I bump one of the natives off a little faster in the next one – which I am delighted to do.

D.B.: Characterization is definitely one of your gifts. In SKATING OVER THE LINE, Rebecca’s father Stan blows into Indian Falls. Now Stan abandoned Rebecca and her mother when Rebecca was in junior high. The two have serious issues, not that Stan notices. But Rebecca, who now has a contract to sell the rink, is too busy on the car theft case and trying to hire a manager, one of the stipulations for selling her skating business, to deal with her con-artist father.

Oh my gosh, you do quirky characters well. Talk about some of these people and what goes into creating them. Are they total figments of your imagination, do people like this actually exist?

J.C.: Wow! I’m so glad you like the Indian Falls Gang. They are so much fun to write. And if you’ve ever been to a small town you’ll find colorful characters bopping up and down the street. My father grew up in a small town and, from what I can tell, small towns seem to encourage individuality. Let’s face it, if you live in a town of 1000 people you are going to stick out no matter what. And while I haven’t based the people of Indian Falls on any specific individuals, I will admit that the real life characters I’ve met have inspired me to no end.

D.B: As I mentioned we don’t have a murder until much later. That doesn’t mean that events don’t escalate. You do tension and hooks well too. But it’s a mix of characterization, Rebecca’s desperation to sell the rink and get out of town, but her kind-heartedness and love for these people are what drives this book and keeps her conflicted. You have a fantastic plot here. Do you do “what if” scenarios when you plot? Is this an intrinsic gift? What transpires when you get a gleam of an idea to the final process?

J.C.: Okay – I think my face is now the color of my hair. You are just way too nice to me. But, yes, every new book concept starts out with a “what if” moment. What if cars start disappearing around town? What if Rebecca is confronted with her father who hasn’t been part of her life in years? The minute I get that kind of “what if” question running through my head I find myself at the keyboard dying to find the answer. More often than not, I have no idea where the story will end up, but the “what if” question always gives me the beginning. And since I’m a pantser instead of a plotter, I just see where the journey takes me. Following Rebecca to the end of the journey is the fun part!

D.B: Rebecca has a love interest in sexy Dr. Lionel. But then you did a dastardly thing and set up a little sexual tension between Rebecca and Deputy Sean. Lionel wants Rebecca to make a decision and stay in Indian Falls and pursue their relationship. She’s just not sure. That conflict and tension was so good. And then you throw the deputy into the mix. (You almost got an irate phone call over that, because I DO know your phone number.) I must admit this works well for the series. Can you tell us what’s in store for Rebecca and Lionel? Is there a book three and will the Skating series continue?

J.C.: Yep – Dr. Lionel is sexy and ready to settle down and he wants to do it in Indian Falls. That is a huge conflict for Rebecca who is ready to throw her stuff in a suitcase and hit the road the minute the rink sells. But who wouldn’t be tempted by a guy with fabulous green eyes and a pet circus camel? As for Sean, well he isn’t always the nicest guy around, but he does love to hate Rebecca and she can’t help but step on his toes. That kind of relationship is always good for a few sparks;)

As for what is in store for Rebecca and Lionel – well, time will only tell. If Rebecca decides to stay in town, I’d say there’s a good chance Lionel will start pressing for commitment. I’m not sure what Rebecca will say about that, but I can’t wait to find out. There is a book three, SKATING ON THE EDGE, that will feature the rink’s own roller derby team – EstroGenocide. Skating On The Edge will hit shelves around this time next year and I’m hoping readers and my publisher will want the series to continue because I’ve started book four and I’m really excited about it.

D.B.: To say you have found your niche as an author is putting it mildly. What would you say is the single best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received, and then return the favor: What would you say to aspiring authors?

J.C.: It’s really good this interview isn’t being filmed. My blush is growing larger by the moment. I hope I’ve found a niche that works for me. The only way to know is if readers keep turning the pages.

As for writing advice – well the incomparable Susan Elizabeth Phillips gave me the best advice I’ve ever received – join RWA. Specifically, she told me to join Chicago-North and instructed me to attend the meetings. Wow, am I glad I listened to her. Chicago-North is a critique chapter and every meeting taught me something new and fabulous about the craft of writing.

My own advice? That’s simple. Make writing a habit. Don’t allow yourself the excuse that you don’t have the time to write. No one has the time to write. Trust me. I have a toddler racing around so I know about time limitations. But that being said writers write—even if it is only 100 words a day. By writing every day you are keeping the story alive and kicking around in your head which will make it easier to turn those 100 words into 200, 500 or more.

D.B.: Joelle, it’s been a pleasure. And, Five Scribe readers, I really don’t think she’s crazy, just uber talented. I’m proud to call her my friend (pictured here). Joelle will be giving away a copy of SKATING OVER THE LINE. Questions or comments will enter you to win. (be sure to leave your e-mail where we can find you.) We'll draw the winner on Sept. 30th.

To learn more about Joelle, check out her webpage. can also find her on Facebook and Twitter @jcharbonneau


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

It's Only Fear and Anne Marie Becker

Good morning, Five Scribes Readers. Today you’re in for a treat! Anne Marie Becker, the 2009 Golden Heart WINNER of ONLY FEAR, book one in the Mindhunters series, joins us today to talk about her thrilling romance. All I can say after reading it, is move over Lisa Gardner and Tami Hoag. Don’t worry, you’re still in control…after all, it’s ONLY FEAR. Please welcome Carina Press Author, Anne Marie Becker.

D.B.: Okay, Anne, how was that for a nice intro? And, readers, I meant every word. But I do have a bone to pick with Anne. I hope she’s satisfied, because not once, but several times in this book she had me holding my breath. Now, a title like ONLY FEAR should have clued me in. But, Anne, I know you. You’re a mom, wife, president of your local RWA chapter--the proverbial girl next door. How in the world did you come up with such a devious, page turning plot?

A.B.: Wow, thanks, Donnell for the fabulous intro! And thank you for having me here today.

I think it’s because I’m a mom, wife, and president that I have such a devious mind. Nothing like screaming kids and trying to juggle it all to make you want to kill someone (in a book, of course!).

The plot of ONLY FEAR was a blending of ideas… My heroine, Maggie, was born of my counselor background, when I wondered what could happen if my boundaries weren’t firmly in place.
The seed for the entire Mindhunters series (which centers around a private organization that hunts serial killers) was a show I saw on the Vidocq Society, which is a group of specialists who meet once a month in Philadelphia to discuss cold cases. I was hooked on the idea of a similar group who hunted killers.

D.B: I’m NOT going to give the entire plot away, but the protagonists in the book are Dr. Margaret Levine, a psychiatrist, university lecturer and radio talk show host and former Secret Service Agent Ethan Townsend. The story takes place when Margaret (Maggie) inherits a stalker who challenges Maggie when she tells listeners to get past their fears and not let it take over their lives. From that point, FEARMONGER comes on scene determined to prove to Maggie that fear is what drives the human condition. Any corrections to my brief synopsis, Anne?

A.B.: No, that sounds like what I remember, too. *grin*

D.B.: Maggie is such an intelligent woman, three-dimensional and well-drawn. What more, if I carried her baggage, forget therapy, I’d check myself into an institution. What brought Maggie to life, Anne? And I know you have a similar educational background. How similar are you to your protagonist and then tell us in what ways are you different?

A.B.: I have a Masters in Counselor Education, and learned SO much about myself in the process of earning the degree. You soon find out in the story that Maggie suffers from an anxiety disorder and struggles with panic attacks. While I haven’t had to endure that experience, I know people who have. I was intrigued with the idea of a heroine who was not only a psychiatrist, but struggled with psychological issues herself. Kind of a “doctor, heal thyself” scenario. I’d like to think I’m also similar in that we can both handle whatever life throws at us (although some days I wonder).

How am I different? Well, I’ve never been stalked. And I’m not a redhead. ;)

D.B.: And then there’s Ethan, a man with his own tortured past and a team member of SSAM, the Society for the Study of the Aberrant Mind. He’s a fantastic character, and as I read, I found myself wishing there really was such an agency as SSAM. What brought Ethan to life? Did you take any special training to create him?

A.B.: Ethan is totally my imagination come to life. Originally, he was FBI, but I wanted someone who had the protective instinct through-and-through and thought, who better than the Secret Service? It must be an interesting job to protect the same people week in, week out, let alone that those people are important to our country. I would imagine there’s a lot of stress in that, and a need for boundaries in his career, just as their would in a psychiatrist’s. I also wanted him to have something to prove, not just to others, but to himself, so he’s kind of a wounded hero, having to overcome a past mistake.

D.B.: Your secondary characters are exceptional as well. I found myself empathizing so much with SSAM Founder Damian Manchester. A man who lost his daughter to a serial killer, he has spent his life avenging her death and trying to put these monsters away. Even the acronym for SSAM has to do with his beautiful little girl. I found Damian a totally empathetic character, and hope you have big plans for his happiness some day. Are there organizations like SSAM, or is this a total figment of your imagination?

A.B.: Oh, yes! I definitely have plans for Damian. I was thrilled that Carina is interested in more from the series, as I want to develop Damian slowly, over the course of several books, and eventually give him the happily-ever-after he so deserves. That man has been through some serious pain, and I admire him for surviving it and making something positive out of it. But he still has some healing to do, and readers will see him evolve in his relationships and eventually solve the murder of his daughter (Samantha).

When I did research on serial killers for the background of the Mindhunters series, I read several of John Douglas’ books. He was one of the founders of the FBI’s Investigative Support Unit. I seem to remember he does consulting now (don’t quote me – I can’t find my notes at the moment!), which encouraged the idea of a SSAM group that does this full time.

D.B.: I learned something real quick in this book. One that Anne Marie Becker is a pro, and there’s not anything in this book that doesn’t belong in its pages. Typical mystery/thriller writer, I found myself second-guessing you, thinking I knew where you were going, and then, darn, if you didn’t trip me up. Everyone is a suspect in this book. You finesse the storyline from start to finish. Talk about writing a mystery and creating suspects. Is that an intrinsic gift? Do you labor over your plotline?

A.B.: Oh, how I’d love to see what you think of the second book, Donnell! I was surprised at who the killer turned out to be. LOL

And how I wish it were a gift! I’ve always been told I have great pacing (which I believe comes naturally now, but only after A LOT of reading within the genre). I think pacing is like a cadence in poetry. It’s something that just starts to feel right over time and influences the way the writer/artist composes a piece.

But when it comes to plot, I’ve had to struggle (like the rest of us writers, I assume) to figure out every twist. It can be a frustrating process, but when I figure out a new twist or turn, it’s a fabulous feeling—probably similar to getting a runner’s high in a marathon.

D.B.: I don’t think I’ll give anything away if I mention there are a few dead bodies. And here’s where you got me. Just when I KNEW who the victim was, you stumped me there, too. Have readers mentioned you keep them guessing, Anne? Was this a process after several drafts? I think you may just enjoy bamboozling your audience--True? False?

A.B.: One of the side effects of a serial killer as a villain is that they tend to generate dead bodies. And I admit that I just may enjoy the fact that I stumped you a couple times… but I enjoyed figuring out those twists just as much as readers do, which is why I try to include them. I’ve watched so much T.V. and movies that I typically can figure out twists long before they happen. Which makes it such a pleasant surprise when they throw me for a loop! I try to add some of that into my books. After all, I want readers to enjoy reading my books, no matter how dark and gritty the material may be.

D.B.: The antagonist is indeed aberrant in his behavior. He has an insecurity that drives him, which I will not give away. How would you classify FEARMONGER?

A.B.: Hmm…. Well the mindhunters at SSAM (short for the Society for the Study of the Aberrant Mind) would say he’s an organized killer, which means he’s careful, plans things meticulously, and can pass in society as one of us sane people. As a counselor, I would say he has “serious issues.” One of the things we took a long, hard look at in my counseling courses was our own beliefs about what shapes behavior. I’m a strong believer that past shapes our present, and a look at family relationships is key in figuring out why one acts the way one does. Fearmonger was born of the environment he grew up in.

D.B: As I mentioned, you have a gift for setting up suspects and making readers think someone is no longer with us. I fell in love with one particular female secondary character, and then thought that perhaps she was in with the bad guy. As a matter of fact, three-quarters through, I thought everyone was in with the bad guy. Then you deviously make my favorite secondary character appear to be a victim. If I wasn’t such a satisfied reader, I would lodge a formal complaint with the SSAM’s complaint department. How fun/hard/ is this and which of these characters will we see in future books?

A.B.: Can I say “all of them”? I love this series, and have such plans in mind.

For now, though, I have Detective Noah Crandall starring in Book 2, which is set in the melee of the art world of New York City. (He’s a secondary character in Book 1.)

I don’t want to give away which secondary female character you’re talking about, but yes, she will get her own book… one day. She’s a bit young, and I want her to do some growing first. She’s a secondary character again in Book 2, where she has a love interest brewing, but she won’t get her happily-ever-after for a few more books.

As I mentioned above, I have big plans for Damian, too… eventually. He’ll be in each book, and the reader will gradually get a full picture of Damian Manchester.

I had so many SSAM secondary characters in the original ONLY FEAR manuscript that I had to cut several for this final version. But those people (um… characters) keep talking to me. They will each have their stories told eventually, if I have anything to say about it.

D.B.: The romance is great in ONLY FEAR. I think this read is capable of satisfying both romance and thriller readers alike. What appeals to you more: the romance or the thriller aspects of novels? Name some authors who influenced you.

A.B.: That’s a tough one. I like both. Romance is probably key for me, but I love being surprised and thrilled. My favorite authors are able to do both: Suzanne Brockmann, Cindy Gerard, Brenda Novak, and Christy Reece to name a few.

But the thriller part of me has been greatly influenced by Stephen King.
My world has also been colored by historical and contemporary authors, since I read widely within the romance world. I’m currently reading books by Sherryl Woods and Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

D.B.: As you know Five Scribes is a blog for writers. Tell us about your writing process? What length of time went into creating this novel?

A.B.: ONLY FEAR won the Golden Heart for Best Romantic Suspense in 2009, so it was a work in progress for a while. I wrote it in 2007/2008 over about an 8-month period. But it was edited many times between 2009 and 2011 so that my agent could market it in various places (different word counts, audiences, etc.), and then for my editor at Carina. During those years, I was working on a couple other projects as well.

I’ve completed seven manuscripts, so I think I’m starting to get a handle on my writing process. I tend to get a seed of an idea, let it germinate over several months while I finish up whatever I’m working on at the moment, and generate a sketch of a plot (with as many twists as I can think up, though many of the better ideas come later, as I come to know my characters and plot) over about a two-week period. Then, I write like mad whenever I can. I can’t always write every day, and have noticed I tend to write best in 2-3 week “spurts” of creative energy. But I like to think those non-creative weeks are still productive. The story is marinating in the back of my mind as I run kids to school and clean the house and leap tall buildings in a single bound…until I can get back to my computer again.

D.B.: I understand that Carina Press has named this the Mindhunters series. What’s next for Anne Marie Becker?

A.B.: I’m working on getting the second book in the series to my editor. It’s tentatively titled “Avenging Angel.” I’ve got about 4-6 more books in mind, but who knows how far I can take the series? I’d like everyone to have the chance to have his/her story told.

I’m also working on a different series – this time it’s a trilogy that I’m really excited about. It’s centered around three sisters in the Las Vegas area, and a secret from their family’s past that their father buried a long time ago. Of course, that secret is about to come back and bite them all.

And I’ve got one year left in my term as President of Northern Arizona Romance Writers of America. I’m hoping to dedicate even more time to writing after that ends.

D.B.: Finally, what advice would you give today’s aspiring authors?

A.B.: The people who say persistence is the key to the business are so right! Keep writing, every day. Try to find at least twenty minutes a day. That’s what I did when my kids were tiny. Now that they’re only “little,” there are still days that finding writing time is a struggle. But I find I can do twenty minutes.

Oh, and set goals and deadlines for yourself. Use rewards to inspire and encourage yourself.

D.B.: Anne, I suppose one day I will forgive you for scaring me to death, but probably not until the next book in your series comes out. Any closing thoughts?

A.B: Thank you for having me here today, Donnell. I’m thrilled that I thrilled you. *grin* And I hope you’ll forgive me. Would giving away a free copy of ONLY FEAR to one of your commenters help land me in your good graces again?

D.B.: Wellllll, I suppose ;)

There you have it, Readers. If you like unputdownable suspense and keep you guessing reads, I think you'll love ONLY FEAR. Anne Marie, thanks! Questions? Comments? We'll draw for a winner on Friday night, September 23rd. To learn more about Anne Marie Becker, check out her web page at

Congratulations to Na! You have run Anne Marie Becker's ONLY FEAR!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

New Writing Rules?

Last weekend's Colorado Gold Writers Conference (Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers) was a ton of fun, however an old pet peeve of mine reared it's ugly head--rules. I had new "rules" spouted at me from both author and agent alike, and it kind of annoyed/amused me.

Now I believe in rules. Basically I'm a rule follower--however I must confess that the rebel in me does long to be the exception at times. Like when I was a new member of RWA . . . I was told that one couldn't break into the women's fiction genre without writing category romance. It just wasn't done. So automatically . . . I decided that I would.

See, I may have started out writing simple romances, but then the story got a little out of control and I kept thinking, "wouldn't it be cool if THIS happened?" and before I knew it, my story was far too complex for a category romance. So I
wrote what I loved and decided to ignore this "rule".

Anyhow, the new rules I heard were . . . are your ready for this? It's unacceptable to use semi-colons in fiction. I was at a read and critique with 7 authors and an editor from Grand Central. One author told me this and another piped up that he too had heard this. Semicolons are not welcome in fiction writing. Ridiculous. The editor reassured me that no one had ever told her this rule and that she still wanted to read my story. I was relieved that it wasn't a deal-breaker.

Then an agent told me my 105,000-word women's fiction novel was too long for a debut novel--editors weren't interested in anything over 85,000 words. News to me. I'd heard that 100,000--110,000 words was more the standard. Actually . . . it's been years since I've heard agents even really paying attention to word counts, but apparently this agent was very concerned about it.

I always tell my Sandy judges to please NOT spout supposed writing "rules", when judging the entries I send them. All we care about for the Sandy is terrific writing. There are ALWAYS exceptions to the "rules"--just about every dang one of them I've ever heard. I'd much rather hear that my use of semicolons bothered that author and she found it distracting or that that agent thought that 105,000 words was too long to tell my story and she thought my writing tended to be repetitive and verbose. Judge MY work, don't spout rules at me, please.

So, have any of you heard any silly new rules lately?
PS--thanks Marne for the picture of some of the CB Writers in attendance.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Sandra Orchard on Margie Lawson's Master Immersion Class

Sandra Orchard was the 2009 Daphne DuMaurier Award of Excellence winner in the unpublished category and sold to Harlequin’s Love Inspired Suspense the following year. Her newly released debut novel, DEEP COVER, is the first in her series, Undercover Cops: Fighting for justice puts their lives—and hearts—on the line. Sandra hails from Southern Ontario, Canada. She also is a graduate of Margie Lawson's Master Immersion class. Sandra's here to give us a glimpse about what she learned in this program. Please welcome Sandra Orchard.

When attending Margie Lawson’s Immersion Master Classes hosted periodically in Margie’s log home at the top of a Colorado mountain, I must say, the panoramic vistas alone are enough to kick start one’s creative engine.

For anyone who hasn’t heard of Margie she is a psychologist and writer and teacher who has compiled excellent resources to help fiction writers enhance the psychological power of their writing by empowering character’s emotions. Her lecture packets brim with inspiring examples from best-selling authors of how it’s done, and detailed explanations to help you do it even better. She has also developed a powerful editing system.

The beauty of the immersion class besides the great setting, great food, and great accommodation—and Margie would be proud of me for using “anaphora” to tell you that—is the intimate class size. Six participants per session allow for ample one-on-one time with Margie.

I arrived equipped with my DEEP COVER manuscript (which sold the following year) and spent three-plus full days dissecting, analyzing and deep-editing it under Margie’s tutelage. Hands-on work is interspersed with reviews of technique and opportunities to walk in the nearby National Park or just relax and chat with the other participants.

The prerequisites for the course are that you’ve read three of her lecture packets or taken the corresponding online courses. And although I’d already applied Margie’s deep-editing techniques to my manuscript prior to the class, I was amazed by the subtle changes we were able to make to ramp up the emotion.

For example, toward the end of my opening scene I’d written:

Given the trail of dummy companies and insurance claims he’d unearthed following Tom’s death, Rick had no doubt that Laud torched his real estate for the insurance money, but Ginny would never believe his story. Her uncle had done too good a job covering his tracks by playing the town philanthropist, while in Ginny’s eyes, Rick was nothing more than something she’d scrape off her shoes.

He’d let her keep that misconception, too, because once again, he had a job to finish. A job she could jeopardize if she knew what he really was—an undercover cop who wanted to put her uncle behind bars.

We revised the last sentence for emotional impact to:

A job she could jeopardize if she knew what he really was—an undercover cop who wanted to dump her uncle in the dankest, darkest, dirtiest prison cell the province had to offer.

You’ll notice that the change seems rather minor. Yet, the change from “put” to “dump” in combination with the alliterative description of the prison cell significantly ramps up the reader’s awareness of how angry Rick is.

Here’s another example of techniques you can use to empower your writing:

Mom smiled, the special indulgent smile reserved for Lori.

Margie encourages her students to avoid overuse of actions like smiling, and when using them, to write them fresh, empowering them with emotion. In this example, the reader sees the heroine’s recognition of her mother’s greater affection for her mentally-challenged sister than her.

Another example:

And if the thought of what Snake might do to her if he’d figured out Rick was a cop hadn’t convinced him to let Ginny walk away, her horrified who-are-you expression would have.

“Who-are-you” is not your typical adjective. But the use of such hyphenated words is a quick and easy way to convey a description the reader immediately understands.

One last example:

“Wow, the story sounds so noble the way you tell it. So let me get this straight. You were in a gang, but you intended to sell them out, and you were afraid I’d get caught in the crossfire. Which makes you a hero instead of a liar?”

Look at the last word in each sentence: it, straight, crossfire, and liar. With the exception of the first sentence, these are examples of backloading sentences with power words for stronger emotional impact. This can often be accomplished by a simple rearrangement of an existing sentence, and yet, the enhanced effect is surprising.

These are only a few examples of the many techniques Margie teaches.

Your turn:

Look at the last sentence of your third chapter. (I’m picking the third because it’s the end of a partial and the last impression you’ll leave with an editor before she makes the decision whether or not to ask for the full.) Is the sentence backloaded for emotional punch? Can you rewrite it, or surrounding sentences so that it is? Share your before and after examples with the group.

About DEEP COVER: Maintaining his cover cost undercover cop Rick Gray the woman he loved. Sweet Ginny Bryson never really knew Rick. He never gave her the chance. Not then, and not now, when he's back with a new alias to gather evidence against Ginny's uncle. The man's crimes led to Rick's partner's death, and Rick wants justice to be served. But his investigation is stirring up trouble, and Ginny is smack-dab in the middle. Someone wants Ginny to pay the price for what her uncle has done. But how can Rick protect her without blowing his cover, jeopardizing his assignment...and risking both their lives?

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