how-I-write writing life

How I Write #2 – Plotting a Book

Liberation’s Vow is going to be my NaNoWriMo book this year (look me up, I’m wendylynnclark) and now that I’ve added a little munchkin to my lovely menagerie, time-management will be more crucial than ever to win the month-long novel-writing challenge. I will need to hit the keyboard every day with fingers flying to stomp out the 50,000 word count, which means knowing each scene’s purpose before I start.I’m plotting with all my tools – Save The Cat plot cards, Heroine/Hero Archetypes, free-writing, asking my husband if I can get away with calling insect-sized robots “nanobots” (answer: “No, those are insect-sized robots. Nanobots are the size of nanos”), and lots of running (see previous post).

There are many methods to plotting a book. If you write stories, you may have come across the 3-act plot (classic), the snowflake method, the W plot, the upside-down W plot (why isn’t it called the “M” plot?), storyboarding, romance arc, or one of these other 25 methods of structuring your novel. Currently I’m a huge fan of the 3-act method espoused by late screenwriter Blake Snyder in his book, Save the Cat.

Movies have to be compressed into bite-sized scenes or risk blowing up like Waterworld or Titanic. (Ocean scenes are expensive I guess.) What I like about Blake Snyder is he breaks a movie down into beats. You have your catalyst, your theme stated, your B-story, your grand finale, and your opening and closing images. He reminds you to have big set-piece moments and also to have a fun-and-games section. In novel writing, I find it helpful to think about what these big set pieces should be – it helps me to see if I’ve got a boring section because I’m missing an explosion. (Always add an explosion!)

The fun and games is critical. It’s the reason someone picks up a book – it’s what they’re hoping to read to. In Taming of the Shrew, it’s the part where Richard Burton is chasing Elizabeth Taylor around a barn loft complimenting her “dulcet tones” while she’s screaming at him. (Fun!) In Murder, She Wrote it’s when Jessica Fletcher starts investigating and uncovering all sorts of hidden secrets while the murderer keeps her on her toes. In Jupiter Ascending, it’s when the bad guys attack and our heroine clings to the back of hot Channing Tatum while they fly around the city trying not to die. In Jurassic World, it’s when the dinosaurs get out and start eating people.

(Come on. You know that’s why you went to go see the movie! If the dinos don’t get out, and it’s a philosophical movie about extinct animal rights while people stare at the glass…and while fine, well, that’s a different kind of movie, and you’re not fulfilling the premise of Jurassic World.)

How about you? What are some fun-and-games moments in your favorite movies?

how-I-write writing life

How I Write #1 – Running Inspiration

Now that I’ve sent Liberation’s Desire off to my copy editor, I’m all excited to get started on book 3, Liberation’s Vow. I’m at the idea stage, where I’ve got all these snippets of characters and plot, motivations and desires, that now all need to be molded into a complete story.

So I’m doing a lot of running.

Running (also known as “jogging” for anyone who runs faster than a 12-minute mile) clears my mind and lets me play with the characters, testing out different scenarios in my head and giving me the freedom to daydream without “committing” to any one idea, which often happens when I free-write. Once something is written down, it takes on cement. Maybe later I’ll blow it up during an editing phase, but I don’t often turn it on its head, switch characters, or introduce something crazy. Once its written, even just in pen in a notebook, I tend to stop playing with it.

I fell into running when I set a goal for myself to walk to and from work in order to lose the extra thirty pounds (!) I’d somehow put on since college. Some of those thirty pounds were collected when I had an hour plus commute each way to my workplace during the 2008 economic downturn. Listening to loud music and fantasizing about plot points saved me from traffic-induced road rage. When I got a job less than a mile from my apartment, that hour of driving turned into walking. Then we moved almost five miles from work. Once I got into the habit of walking home the longer distance, it occurred to me that I could get home faster if I moved faster. Duh, right? The first day, I jogged for less than a minute. The second day, less than five. By the end of the first week, I had gotten up to ten minutes, and by the end of the month, I could jog most of the way home.

Once you can jog for five miles, you feel awesome. I mean, you usually feel terrible (snotty and sore and like, “Why am I doing this again?”) but you can also casually tell people, “Oh yeah, I run. Last week I did a five-mile jog. No big deal or anything.” And you start to hate running less, the same way that you start hating traffic less, because the landmarks are familiar enough to let you zone and still get you where you need to be.

I started entering races to keep up my motivation when the weather turned. Having a goal to work towards (like, “Don’t embarrass myself by walking through the 15k *run* next month”) pushed me out of the warm, dry, comfy house on a wet, miserable, frigid January. It also usually loosed whatever stuck plot point was rattling around in my head. Now, when I can’t figure my way out of a writing problem, I try to exercise. The solution’s either going to come to me while I’m running or while I’m turning in for a well-earned sleep.

reviews science fiction romance

Review: Accidental Abduction – Erotica SFR

Accidental Abduction (Alien Abduction, #1)Accidental Abduction by Eve Langlais
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I actually read this book a few months ago so my impressions are not as fresh. But overall I enjoyed this book by Eve Langlais way more than her cyborg series.

Interestingly, she plays the rape-threat card early and often, but unlike in the cyborg series, no one really cares. It’s like watching an action movie where hundreds of people get shot but you don’t see a single drop of blood. I like those “clean” violent action movies (*Commando* with Arnold Schwartzenneger has to have the highest body count to the lowest amount of actual blood) and this was like the book version of that.

The heroine starts out incredibly annoying. It took me weeks to get through the first two pages. She’s a “snarky” BBW whose smart mouth isn’t matched by an equally smart brain. She needs a strong partner that won’t smack her around, but her most recent choice pushes her off a yacht to drown. She’s then accidentally abducted by a purple alien Han Solo, who is the scariest bounty hunter in the universe, and coincidentally, fits her bill.

Here is where things got fun, and I read the whole thing without putting it down again.

The heroine whines and complains and runs from the hero and then throws herself at him. He deals with this mother-of-all-bipolar-women behavior by threatening to sell her off as a sex slave to the highest bidder. She tells him, “Oh sure, that’s just like a man.” Luckily, they both get off on a good grudge f*ck, so the rest of the book is them figuring out how to insult each other until they’re both furious and then get off.

Did I mention this is erotica?

There’s some plot about sibling rivalry, more kidnappings, and an evil intergalactic lord who wants to force the hero to work for him. It’s pretty dramatic and fun, but it’s all secondary to the sex.

The only thing that bothered me about the heroine (after page three) is that it says she’s a computer programmer as a day job. She’s also rich enough to have a yacht and men are apparently murdering her for her money. Oh, and she’s a loner, with no real friends. I guess she has a lot of problems. But the only one that really struck me was the mention of her computer programming job.

I kept wondering what company would hire her. She shows absolutely zero interest in learning anything about how the ship operates. A real computer programmer would at least show a tiny interest in the technology. She also makes zero puns. Fluency in puns is like fluency in coding skills. It’s requisite for all computer programmers. Even if you don’t like them yourself, you can’t not see the puns all around you. I blame programming books that teach you how to program by combining phrases containing “foo” and “bar”. Anyway, I didn’t buy this career thing at all, and I thought she was lying for some reason (to herself?).

But as I said before, anything not related to sex is pretty secondary, so it wasn’t like this was an important plot point or anything. It just mildly bothered me.

The next book starts with the hero’s brother chained to a woman’s bed. It looks like just as much fun. If you like this book, I suspect you will like the next ones too.

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reviews science fiction romance

Review: Marcus (Hell Squad 1) Sexy SFR

Marcus: Hell Squad (Hell Squad Book 1)Marcus: Hell Squad by Anna Hackett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I like to give an author who writes well but doesn’t quite hook me with their first book at least one more chance to make me a fan. I didn’t love Anna Hackett’s novella set in her Phoenix treasure hunting sfr series, but I am so glad I got another chance with Hell Squad because it hit the spot.

Dinosaur-like aliens have invaded future Earth and driven humanity into hiding. A squad of commandos goes out to rescue survivors and battle the invaders. The heroine is a former party girl turned language expert and communications officer. The hero is the leader of the squad, a scarred former Marine who’s tough as nails and ten times the sexy.


I really enjoyed the relationship between hero and heroine. This was my main complaint against the novella I read, so I’m glad to see that Anna Hackett can write this in a way that engages me after all.

Although both lust for each other, the heroine had to fight hard to get on the team and believes the hero still only sees the society girl (which she also fears she still is) while the hero doesn’t want his scarred, bloodied hands to sully her perfection. It’s sweet. And when they finally do get together, the sex is pretty hot.

I loved the Hell Squad. Their catch phrase – “Hell Squad, ready to go to hell?” “Hell yes – the devil needs an ass-kicking!” is completely awesome. I can totally see a ragtag, post-apocalyptic commando team saying this. Someday I want to write about futuristic space marines a la Aliens, and the Hell Squad was a great example, so I felt like I should take notes. 🙂

I also found the base to be quite interesting. I did wonder where their food and supplies came from, but it wasn’t a show stopper. The alien descriptions and post-apocalyptic details were also sad and fitting.


Interestingly enough, I thought the plot, pacing, and even the action needed work. I found myself wondering why the author showed certain scenes but not others.

(view spoiler)

I didn’t get a real sense of progression or accomplishment from these scenes. Why introduce the torture scene? I get that it’s to prey on Marcus’s belief Elle can’t handle the true blood/guts/violence of war (and shouldn’t have to) but I felt like it could have been more directly woven in.

The translation is never really explained and doesn’t seem all that interesting. It would have been more helpful if the author had done some sort of symbol count down or something. It would also have helped if the author would have put in a bad-stuff-will-happen time bomb, like when the Death Star was coming up on the rebel base in the first Star Wars. They could’ve blown up the hub any time, so why now? It would have been much more compelling if the raptors were hacking their secret location and they had to blow up the hub or else risk being found. There’s nothing like an alien armada standing by with phasers powering up to make the story more exciting!

So in contrast to the relationship storyline, the main action plot kind of felt meh, like it wasn’t really building up to anything or going anywhere.

The secondary plot is that Elle (heroine) will get herself killed in the field. This was quite interesting. She is nearly skewered the first time out by an alien dog and then by a t-rex, so I expected her to get kidnapped by the aliens or at least separated from Marcus and have to save herself. This is even introduced when someone mentions that the aliens were keeping librarians alive. It would have been perfect to have her kidnapped here or on the later mission, held hostage, and forced to give information about how to find the base.

Instead, she never is remotely threatened. Another random team member, Zeke, bites it off stage. That really surprised me. It’s like a huge plot point – the hero and heroine nearly break up because he has to go into his cold place and she kills herself working on the translation – and she never faces real danger from the aliens. So…I felt like there was a lot of potential in this plot thread too, but it also fizzled and got strange.

Is the dead character, Zeke, going to come back in a future book? I mean, is he really dead? Was his only point to being killed so that the hero and heroine can have their little tiff? It feels sort of empty of meaning, I guess.

In the fight scenes, the bad guys just sort of show up, so there’s no element of building tension. (hide spoiler)]

Despite my complaints, I enjoyed this story fairly well and would not be sorry to read the next one.

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freebie science fiction romance

Freebie: Marcus (Hell Squad 1)

Start the weekend with a fun, action-packed, science-fiction romance! And did I mention it’s free?

Futuristic commandos fight dinosaur aliens for love


Check out my review on Sunday to see if you agree!

reviews science fiction romance

Oryon – sexy SFR novella review

OryonOryon by M.K. Eidem

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

God I love this whole series. Every single book (except Wray, which I’ve been afraid to read because I’m concerned about the rape trigger) is just like delicious crack.

This shorter work is still extremely satisfying for all the reasons that Grim and Ynyr are:

Plucky woman telling the men how they’re all wrong? Check.
All the (good) men realizing she’s right and then immediately changing their behavior based on it? Check.
Sexy sex? Check.
Bad guy’s plot unraveling in a satisfying way, with action and explosions and reversals and bloody fights? Check.
Furniture arranging and interior decorating? Check.

It was interesting to read about an old married Tournian couple rather than the Tournian warrior + plucky Earth female of the previous books, but it still worked. I loved reading about Isis and Oryon. They had plenty of discoveries about sex, which hadn’t been done in the previous novels, so those scenes felt fresh and interesting. And MKE writes great scenes of mothers and children, so I enjoyed those touching moments too.

Grim is still my favorite. Despite its major spelling/grammar problem, there’s just something about the “wounded warrior redeemed by a no-nonsense heroine” that appeals to me on a deep level. Oryon had much better editing, with only a few wrong words (“too” when it should have been “to” for example.) But they didn’t interfere with my comprehension or enjoyment, and I thought this novella was even better done than Ynyr, so I will probably reread.

Can’t wait for the next one in the series!

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