Well, it's that time of year again, time to revisit what's been accomplished, and what will be accomplished in the coming year. I've always been a huge supporter of goals. Setting them, busting tail to meet them, and having nifty little boxes to check off on my "Project Plan". Although, in reflection of 2010, I realized that some "stuff" happening near the end of the year bogged me down. No... correction... the stuff didn't bog me down, I allowed it to.

So my first goal moving into 2011 is to revamp and find a schedule to get that production momentum swinging again.

I now have a timer at my desk. I'm developing a daily calendar for the first few months to make sure I develop the habits I want to form. I've looked at what I can control: my productivity. My focus. My commitment.

I've looked at what I can't control: children interrupting, things that crop up on a day-to-day basis (otherwise known as environmental factors.)

So the end result looks something like this:

1. Fifteen minutes per day (thank you, Shannon), on Twitter. Then it gets turned off and stays off until the next day. I will find someone to engage with each day, be it friend already, or a friend-to-be.

2. Two blog posts a week. Tuesdays and Fridays.

3. One hour devoted to promotions, three times a week.

I haven't figured out the schedule on a per-hour basis, yet, but that's what I'm looking at professionally, outside of writing itself.

As for writing -- these are fairly lofty. But I concurr completely with Dean Wesley Smith,'s remarks about productivity and prolific writers in the year 2011.

Another thing I agree with Dean about is that a writing goal has to be different than a writing dream. Goals we can control. Dreams we cannot. Selling a book is a dream. Writing a book to shop it, in hopes it will sell, is a goal.

That said.

My goal for 2011 is to compose 7 full length novels. Figuring a rough total of words at 700,000, that breaks down to roughly 2000 per day, including weekends.

Completely and utterly doable. For me, at least -- every writer is different.

There will be days that I don't accomplish this. Looking at a full weekend off, that would be 4000 words I'd need to make up in the following week, which breaks down to only 800 additional words daily, over the course of five days. On average I can do 2500 in one writing sesssion. Bumping this up by 300 is not troublesome.

What am I going to write? Well, that's posing the most problems on my end. I have things I really want to do. Things I have a moderate love for. Things I could let go. So, I decided I wasn't going to commit to 7 ideas on my vast "Idea List". Instead, I'm breaking it out like this:

1 -- 2 Templar romances. (This is a concrete)
2 -- A Christmas project for TWRP (also a concrete)
3 -- Complete the "Special Project" (also a concrete)
4 -- A historical to be determined later
5 -- 2 other books, undetermined at this time, written as the urge strikes and based on which "Idea List" plot strikes my fancy when the time's right.

I also don't believe I'm going to try and commit to setting the order in which I write these yet. As long as I get my 2000 words in daily, I think I'll let the creative passion just flow and see where it takes me. If the time comes where I find it stagnates or stalls, I'll look at some more forcible means of setting and reaching goals. Like marking out "This book first. This book second."

The only exception to that is my TWRP project has to be done by an early 2011 deadline. So that one will be slotted accordingly.

Okay. All of those are goals I have the power and ability to control, work toward, and reach. Whether they sell or not is a dream. But they certainly can't sell if I don't write them.

What about you? What are your 2011 goals at this point?


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Bah Humbug! Dyann Love Barr started her novel, A Perfect Bride For Christmas, with this famous line. I'm stealing it from her.

Let it be said that Christmas is my favorite holiday, seconded only by Halloween. I don't care so much about the gifts, those are serious pains in the rear ends to plan. But give me the decorations, the smells, the hot cocoa... the baking...

This is the one time of year I can convince myself it's okay to make any kind of sweet treat, candy, cookie or cake without hesitation. And believe you me, I will, if given the opportunity. A few of my favorites are Toasted Hazelnut Chocolate Cheescake, the tried and true Chex mix, Fudge, and Tollhouse Cookies.

This year, I have a friend over in Iraq, and I thought I'd send a care package full of homey Christmas-type treats. I have my lists made out. I'm waiting on a gift I ordered otherwise I'd have already shipped it.

First on the list -- Peanut Brittle. I've never made Peanut Brittle before. The recipe looked simple enough. My heroine in All I Want For Christmas... Is Big Blue Eyes made it look simple too.

After trying it, I say: Bah Humbug!!

It turned out edible. But it is not what I would send to a former chef. Mutter. The issues began when, after searching Hen House, I couldn't find raw peanuts and went with plain dry roasted ones. They burn, FYI.

And this recipe didn't specify no margarine, but real butter. (By now, you'd think I would know this in relation to baking.)

The result: An edible concoction with a slightly burned flavor that just doesn't taste "right".

Today I searched a second store for raw peanuts. Wal-Mart evidently doesn't have them either. Tomorrow I will phone the remaining grocery stores in my area.

Where do you find raw peanuts, people??

And for those of you who are adept at peanut brittle, are there any tips you'd like to pass along before I write this one off as one of Amanda Masterson's fictional expertises not meant to be reproduced in real life?


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There are three things I love most about writing, in this order:

1. Sale Announcement Day
2. Release Day
3. Release Date Day

After almost a year I received a release date for Waiting For Yes!

It seems like I've been waiting forever. The book was contracted before A Christmas To Believe In, but with that release having a firm scheduling day, and the business with Tor, my editor and I collectively agreed Waiting would be a bit delayed.

With much ado:

Waiting For Yes, releases April 20, 2011.

A winter snowstorm. A horse with a past.
A woman who has everything riding on the line.

One man holds the ability to fulfill her dreams...
If he can vanquish the nightmares.

Gabrielle Warrenton gave up everything to pursue her dream of a first-class Egyptian Arabian breeding farm. Her future lies in her new stallion’s success. Though she possesses an exceptional eye for horseflesh, she lacks the training knowledge, and Bahadur Mamoon has a date with the nation’s most affluent show in three weeks. Nothing that would present a problem given his previous credentials. Only, the sellers disguised one critical fact—he’s crazy.

Jake Lindsey-Sullivan was once part of an exceptional Arabian training team. Under his mother’s guidance, he developed an instinctual talent, but she was the star, the cornerstone of his life. Until she met a premature death. Grief-stricken and plagued by guilt, Jake abandoned the world of horses. Now an over-the-road truck driver, he evades the memories.

When a snowstorm throws two Arabian professionals into close-quarters, they discover an engulfing passion. But will Mamoon rip open emotional scars, or forever seal them shut?


While I've included the blurb, I know you've heard me say it before, but I want to say it again. My stallion, WDA Orion, is on the cover!

A brief bit about how he came to be a part of this story. First and foremost, let it be said that Orion never suffered the stuff Bahadur Mamoon goes through in the story. He was never, not right in the head, for any reason. In fact, Orion was an in-your-pocket kind of horse who would have been completely at home in my house, had he been housebroken. And had my old floorboards been able to support his weight.

But this romance is about an Egyptian Arabian, and in my eyes, Orion was one of the most beautiful examples of the Egyptian Arabian I know. So when I was writing this, I used the only life-picture I had. I didn't want to go with black, or bay, or bold chestnut... so thus a physical replica of Orion made it into the story. And then came the cover nail-biting... what kind of horse would end up on the cover, and how many Arabian lovers would freak out if it wasn't an Arabian at the least, let along Egyptian Arabian.

I had nightmares about "Oh, gosh, what if the artist puts a Polish up there?"

So I begged to use my own photo and released rights for use on it.

And I think I cried when the cover came back and everything was good to go. (Let me give a shout-out to the wonderful staff and artists at The Wild Rose Press, right here!)

So Orion has his day in infamy and is immortalized in some way. That makes me happy, especially in the light of his loss. And it means so much more to me that TWRP allowed the use of his portrait.

I also want to give a shout-out to Kevin Swalley, who taught me about big rigs and helped with Jake's driving scenes. Without him, my book would have stagnated at the idea phase.

Anyway -- more to come when Waiting For Yes gets closer to release!



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Because everyone is familiar with big name movies, I'm using some examples here. Note, not every example has a book format, nor am I necessarily saying that those that did, used a prologue in the writing. I'm using the visual to explain what I'm driving at.

1. The 13th Warrior

It's a first person narrative. The movie begins with Ibn telling us about how he happened to be assigned to his mission. Action is employed all the way through the meeting of the Tartars and the pursuit. Intrigue/drama is given with the mention that the Norsemen might kill them if they linger. Conflict is he's supposed to meet with people. By this time we're no longer hearing his voice, we're experiencing the action. The oracle tells him he's the 13th warrior and has no choice but to go.

All of that is, essentially a prologue. Without it, if the movie began on the boat scene north where he already understands their language... the reader is lost. He could tell us how and why and what's going on while they sail north. But he (Ibn) showed us with a prologue what happened before the forward action of the plot (finding the things in the mist) begins.

2. Gladiator

Gladiator comes equipped with it's own prologue. It's written on the screen, grounding us in the events of the world at that time. However, I ask -- is that first battle a contributor to the forward-moving plot (which is the fate of Rome).

Nope. It sets up character and "the prologue" ends with the echoing, "Mighty victor!". It shows us why Maximus was chosen to restore Rome. It is an excerpt from Maximus' immediate past, justifying his future role. It also puts the stakes of Rome, herself, beneath our nose by linking the written prologue with the action of the final unification.

The forward moving plot doesn't truly begin until Claudius appears on the screen and his motives are seen.

3. Bolt

Bolt's prologue is unique. It's a prologue within a prologue. It begins with telling us how the dog had special powers, which is all a lead in to the fact that the dog is a movie star who believes he's really saving his human. We learn how it is plausible (because until we've seen it once, we think it's real). We learn why the dog behaves as he does. Goal, motivation, conflict.

There are many, many, unanswered questions in each part of each prologue. The answers unravel as the story goes on... the forward-moving plot is the dog's quest to return to his owner. He could have told us he was a super-power dog, but we wouldn't believe it if we hadn't seen the pre-prologue, and he could have told us how he'd gotten away from his human, but we wouldn't understand his motivation without knowing the second prologue.

The plot begins when Bolt is separated from Penny.


4. Avatar

Avatar's prologue is shown 100%. It is the portion of the movie where we're learning how this handicapped, formerly enlisted Marine, managed to end up with an Avatar. We don't know what is purpose is. We don't know what's going to happen, or what his conflict is. But we've been shown, as opposed to his telling us by explaining it to the lead scientist, how he got there and why. We learn all the rest as the movie goes on.

The forward-moving plot is the conflict between the races and the struggle for the land.

5. Cars

Cars' prologue is the race in the begining which shows us the animosity between the green car and Lightning McQueen. It sets the stakes -- what Lightning wants and could lose if he looses the tie-breaking race.

All of this is shown to the viewer. The forward moving plot is the quest to get to (and win) the tie-breaker. It begins when he's riding down the road in his semi and rolls out. Lightning could have told us what had happened at the previous race. But we were shown it, thus engaging us in a portion of this characters' past, that was action-packed, brief, and set the stage.

All of these can be argued that because they are movies they are inherantly shown. But imagine these as books. Imagine those scenes cut off from the rest of the plot and written out as an engaging four or five pages, titled PROLOGUE.

Think of the unanswered questions at the point of cut off. Step through the movies and see when, and how, those questions are answered. Analyze those scenes to see how they set the stage and note that every one of them is jam-packed with action.

And now, I shall step off my soap-box on prologues :)



I put the question up yesterday and had some interesting responses. I'm going to share one that was posted on my Facebook, where this blog exports to, because it's not visible over here on Blogger. It's from a reader, not an author, and a woman who I consider an "educated reader".

Shannon says: "As a reader, I can skim through a prologue and decide if I want to take time to read a book."

This relates indirectly to what I want to talk about. Keep this thought in mind, as you read what I was taught.

Before we begin, it should be mentioned that many people advise, and subscribe to the theory that prologues should be avoided. I am not one of them. I love prologues. Both in my stories and in other people's stories. There is a trick, however, to using and crafting them effectively.

First and foremost, as a couple of you said, a prologue should be short. 4-5 pages as an average. I think this is pretty well-accepted, as most authors are aware there is a significant number of readers who just skim past the prologue and start with chapter 1.

Second, it should set the tone of what is being written about through the course of a book.

Third, it should absolutely be engaging. Think hooks, authors. A prologue has to have stronger hooks than even the first chapter because of the tendancy to have them overlooked. If it doesn't start with a bang, chances increase it will get skimmed. If it ends with a bang... odds increase you've now spurred a reader into the longer first chapter.

But the purpose, ie when to use it or when not to, is what I was driving at here, and what is it supposed to achieve overall.

A prologue should directly relate to the plot (most often the conflict) that is about to occur in the next however many pages. It will often be a glimpse of the past events in the character(s) lives. That does not translate into a heavy back-story dump. It is (I stress this) a glimpse. Some key event that happens to set the stage for what will be the journey the reader will travel.

Let's take for example a scenario where the overall romance is going to be between a never-been married heroine and a widower cop, whose former wife died in a home break-in while he was on duty and answering the call to break up a bar fight. (Can we say guilt?) Let's add into the mix that she's seven months pregnant with their first child.

Well, to give the reader an effective bond with how difficult this might be for the hero to overcome, we can use the technique of weaving her death into his backstory. But how much more powerful is it if the event is shown from the wife's point of view, as she's being stabbed on her bed, looking at her photograph of her husband in uniform, and thinking about their child, while trying to fight for her life? We don't even have to be in the hero's point of view to bond with his grief. We are already grieving for her.

Assuming the prologue ends without full revelation of whether she lives or dies -- let's say the prologue stops as she fades into unconciousness -- if effective interest is sparked and effective hooks are employed, someone is turning that page to Chapter 1 to find out what happened.

Let's toss this up a little bit and make it a romantic suspense. We'll change our hero to make him a detective. We'll put the prologue in the killer's point of view, and HE notices the picture beside this pregnant woman's bed. We know she dies. Let's end our prologue with the lines: "He glanced at the photograph of the decorated captain and his bride and smirked. One down, three to go."

Volia! Stage set.

But we don't know why the killer is doing this in either scenario, nor should we in the prologue. If we're working with the second scenario we have no idea who the other two might be -- three more women, three more men? Is this guy going to be a threat to our hero or our heroine? The prologue sets the stage, tone, and drops a hint as to what is to come.

A prologue does NOT answer the questions. In fact, it should generate questions a reader wants to know the answers to. It should not detail out the conflict. It should set a level of suspense/intrigue/drama to kick-start a story.

This plays right into what Shannon said. By reading this passage she's read essentially an excerpt from the book in the sense she now has a feel for how the author writes. Are the killings going to be gory? Is that killer believable? Is she compelled to discover the answers? Is the writing itself engaging or is it over-complicated, or conversely, over-simplified?

Moreover, if she's not interested in the prologue, she's probably not going to be interested in the rest of the plot.

I want to go back to what a prologue does not do...

It should be understood that the prologue does not tell the story because it isn't a back-story dump. It should be absolutely understood that there are a whole bunch of things coming down the pipe that explain the questions, and the author may or may not choose to reveal them all in Chapter 1.

Chapter 1 is the beginning of the book, of the forward-moving plot. There will still be unanswered questions, there will still be unresolved issues, just as there would be in a novel without a prologue. In fact, in the second example, the killer's motivations aren't going to be known until either his victims figure out his motives, or the author reveals the motives in his POV. (A choice dependant on the overall plot arc).

A reader should not expect to have everything spelled out by the end of chapter 1, and an author should not feel compelled to spell out the prologue by the end of chapter 1.

That's not the purpose of a prologue, and those who expect the prologue to explain all the unknowns are looking at the prologe as exactly what it shouldn't be: a dumping of back-story that can be achieved in the novel itself.

So, in sum:

What a prologue should be: Short, engaging (ie: action), intriguing, and an indication of what is to come or what the character(s) must combat either externally or internally.

Typical uses of a prologue:
1. To show a past event (briefly!) that poses emotional turmoil for one or both of the characters
2. To show a past event that sets up an external conflict (the first shots that start a war)
3. To explain a complicated aspect of the story through action, not summation, that relates to the plot or subplot (such as the prediction of a prophecy)
4. To show motivation of primary or key secondary characters (villians fit here often).

The key here is use of show. A prologue shows and engages. Back-story tells, no matter where it occurs, and although necessary, is flat.

Guage for yourself:

He knelt before the frail old woman and bowed his head. This was what he'd fought for, what he'd taken life for.
Bony fingers touched the crown of his head. Her voice rasped above the moans of the men who lay dying in the dirt. "Go, warrior. To the east you are called. Do not make the mistake of believing the war is over. Your battle has just begun. The woman who knows the ancient words that will heal you, bathes in your father's blood."


Three years ago, after a monumental battle, he'd knelt before an oracle rumored to hold the cure for his disease. She'd told him while his squadron lay dying on the ground, that the only one who could heal him had killed his father.



I'd like to start a discussion here. Please use the comments to respond and please pass this little poll along.

Question of the day:

What is the purpose of a prologue, and how do you, as an author, believe it should be structured?


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"Victorians used the term 'limbs' as a euphenism for legs, which were thought to be so sexually exciting to a man, even a glimpse of a table leg could incite him to sexual frenzy. Table skirts were invented to prevent any unnatural unions between men and furniture."
(History Channel International)



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