Category Archives: writing craft

NaNo-ing Along

Moonday Mania

a blog for anyone struggling to write

It’s Camp Nano time and I’m writing! Or I’m trying to write. I got a great start last week.

camp nanowrimo participant 2014Mary Guida (ML Guida) and I went up to her cabin and did some plot work and writing and by the end of July 2nd I had over four thousand words. And then I had come back down off of the mountain and pick up all the things I’d let fall by the wayside so I could go away. Like, the day-job, my kids, and my parents. That took all of July 3rd. And of course I took July 4th off. It was a holiday and the house was full of people and we went to my friend K2’s house for fabulous homemade ice cream (she had dinner there too, but the ice cream was phenomenal!) and fireworks.

Long story short I found myself way behind by July 6th.


So, why didn’t I sit down in the mornings I had free and write?

I’ll tell you why.

I didn’t have enough of this story pre-planned.

I’ve been busy getting my blogs written, getting THE GHOSTS OF CHRISTMAS PAST ready for publication, and busy with the day job and life. Plotting has taken a backseat because, let’s face it, it’s hard. It’s tough to know where I want this story to go. I know the beginning. I have my fairy tale. I know my hero and heroine. I even have the ending down (and boy do I have a whopping surprise for the ending of this book!) But I’m missing the big fat pieces that go in the middle. And that is tricky when you are sitting down with the goal of pounding out 1400 words a day.

No, it’s actually 2400 words a day because I’m heading to RWA and I know I won’t write there.

No, it’s really 3,000 words per day because now I’m so far behind I have to race to catch up!


So how do you get over falling behind?

I’ll tell you what I did. I spent Sunday morning plotting and working on my Snowflake. Now I have the next four chapters outlined and I have some other pieces put into place. I’ll need more if I’m to succeed at this. I’ll need to spend an afternoon next week working on the next section, and then another day working on the end, but I have enough to get writing. And the more I write, the more this story comes together, the more I get excited about it.

And I am excited about it. 🙂

While I dreaded sitting down and working on the parts I had no clue what to do with, those first four thousand words flowed like melted butter on popcorn. MMM. Nothing better. And now that I have the next section? It’s on to snacking time!

Are you participating in Camp NaNoWriMo? You don’t have to work on a novel or even set your goal at 50,000 words. You can work on anything writing related and set whatever goal you want to. It’s camp!

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Filed under Moonday mania, Nanowrimo, Writer's Journey, writing craft

Writing Backwards

Moonday Mania

a blog about writing

As I develop as a romance writer I find that everything changes. When I first started writing paranormal romance I was a dedicated pantser. I wrote the first draft of The Dark Huntsman without much idea of where my story was going. I let my writing meander this way and that—until I had a story. Which, now that I look back, is funny.

For everything else in my world I’m a long term planner. I think in terms of what might be happening in my life years ahead. At any given moment I might be wondering about next month, five years from now, or where we might retire. At the same time I’m working on current stuff about kids, dogs, and writing this year’s steamy romances.

So, if I’m thinking thirty years ahead about my life, why didn’t I do any long term planning with writing my first novel?

I think it’s because it’s difficult to learn what outlining/planning style worked for me. And it seems antithetical to plan something that is so creative. Shouldn’t creativity be instantaneous?

Well, yes and no.

It turns out that The Dark Huntsman wasn’t a stand alone book. I realized while writing it, that it was going to be one of three books about the MacElvy’s and Underhill and the evil queen. Once I realized I was writing a series I had plans for the other books. I had the characters and the fairy tales and a general idea of what was going to go on. But I didn’t outline the entire series. Nor did I outline each individual book until I was sitting down to write it. And that was well after the previous book was finished.

Turns out that that is a difficult way to write a series.

I now plan my writing. It doesn’t mean I’m not creative or don’t create in the moment, or change my plot on a whim. It just means I have a better idea of where I’m going to end up when I’m finished. I now use a combo of the Snowflake Method, created by Randy Ingermanson, and a plotting technique called Story Structure, by Dan Wells. They fit nicely together. The Snowflake method is a short way to give myself a scaffolding to hang my plot on, and Story Structure helps me to create that plot.

Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method has you start with a one sentence overview of your plot and work at enlarging it, piece by piece. It’s a painless way to plot for pantsers. But I found myself trying to create a plot without writing, and sometimes that was difficult for my creative brain. Once I watched Dan Well’s story structure presentation I was able to see where the plot points needed to come from. And he does something unusual. He recommends starting at the end of your story.

That’s right. Decide what you want the ending to be, so that you know where your beginning should be.

In other words, write backwards.

This was a radical idea for me. I’m pretty linear. Sure, when writing, I skip around the parts I have trouble with and come back later to fix, or finish, them, but I’ve always thought you should begin at the beginning and write until you have an ending. Deciding on the ending first was pretty radical.

But beginning at the end works.

Once you know the ending, and you have your beginning, filling in the middle is easy. You are either moving away from one, or toward the other. Now you know what steps you need to fill in those highs and lows in the center of your story.

And it works particularly well for series. I now loosely plot several book together, that way they have more continuity. I’m toying with the idea of even writing all the books in a series before I release them. That way I can go back and forth and connect them even better, just like I do with a single plot book.

I highly recommend you watch all of the videos in Dan Wells YouTube series. And if you have the opportunity to go see either Randy Ingermanson or Dan live, I recommend you do that as well. Randy also has a newsletter he sends out for writers, and it’s full of good stuff on plotting and the state of the industry. You can find all of that at his website,

How do you plot? Do you think it makes a difference to do all your books together? Are you a pantser or a plotter or something in between?



Filed under About the Author, Moonday mania, Writer's Journey, writing craft, writing organization

My Writing Process Blog Tour-Jessica Aspen Style

Moonday Mania

a blog for writers and readers

This is the next stop on the My Writing Process Blog Tour, and I want to thank Joan Leacott for inviting me to this tour. Thanks, Joan! If you didn’t come here from Joan’s site I would like to introduce you to her lovely contemporary romances set in Clarence Bay, Canada. If you love complex family dynamics, intertwined relationships, and  quite simply, romance, then check out Joan’s first book Above Scandal, HERE. And to find out about Joan’s writing process, click HERE.

Now for my writing process.

1) What am I working on?
Currently I am working on the third book in my Tales of the Black Court series. Book one: The Dark Huntsman came out in October 2013 and book two: Prince by Blood and Bone is off to the final editor. (Whew!) I am in the process of just starting book three: Broken Mirror which will complete the trilogy and tell the tale of the last MacElvy cousin, Cassie. I’m currently working on the outline, and while I have some ideas for this book that I’ve known I want to work on for a long time, I’m not really ready to give you all the details. All I’ll say is that if you’ve read the books, you’ve met the hero already. Hint, he’s fae and a member of the Black Court.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I have two different series of twisted fairy tales out, each one has it’s own unique twists and turns. Tales of the Black Court takes place in both the modern world and the fae world between the worlds of Underhill. While I use fairy tales as a scaffolding for my plots, I never stick exactly to the classic tales. There are no traditional princesses, my evil queen is not the only true evil in the court, and the prince is never what he seems. What you will find are elements of the fairy tales: Poisoned apples, enchanted beasts, and psychics who are actually magic mirrors.

In my other fairy tale series I write about modern day shapeshifters hidden in the Colorado Rockies. These tales are contemporary twists of the old tales. In my Twisted Tales: Come Into the Woods series you’ll find werewolves and werebears as well as glimpses of the classic fairy tale elements. A great example is in Snow and the Seventh Wolf, the step-mother is an online talk show host of a show called The Queen of Bitch. I love the tongue in cheek elements I’ve been able to insert into these spicy, new adult tales.

3) Why do I write what I do?

I started twisting fairy tales because I’ve always loved the way authors have done this. I’ve read fairy tales, and fairy tale twists for years, but at the time I started there weren’t many romance writers doing it. Now there are many and I love to explore how each of us can take the exact same story and twist it a different way. I’ve even twisted the same story, Snow White, in both of my series, and I expect that will happen again as I explore the next trilogy planned for my court series and also continue to play in the woods with my shape-shifters. I like both types of stories and I don’t think I’ll be giving either up soon!

4) How does your writing process work?

My writing process has changed over the last few years. I used to be a total seat-of-the-pantser. I wrote both Little Red Riding Wolf and The Dark Huntsman by just sitting down and letting go. But they both required extensive editing for plot, as well as time spent thinking about what might come next and I realized that if I continued to write that way, I’d be writing very slow. So I’ve changed now. I go through a plotting process called The Snowflake Method, by Randy Ingermanson. (I’ve written several posts on this, you can find some of them HERE, and HERE.)

The Snowflake Method is a very quick outline of what your story is going to look like overall and doesn’t take much time. After a week or two I have a great scaffold for my story to rest on. Next I write a fast draft, NANOWRIMO style, getting as many words down on the page without worrying too much about mistakes, or details. If I need to do some research, I make a note on the side of my document. All of these notes and the fleshing out part comes with the next draft. Draft two: I refine the plot, fill in the blanks, and add words. Usually about twenty percent more than the original draft.

Then comes the editing. I go through each chapter line by line before sending it to my crit partner, ML Guida. She sends it back with little notes like, “Slow down, honey.” or “I don’t understand this.” or “Yes, you got that one right!”

I go back through that chapter again, then send her the next one. We do that for the entire manuscript and when it’s finished it goes off to my professional editor for developmental edits.

Then it comes back to me. I re-write, make corrections, and send it off to my OOOPS! editor, who catches my grammar and spelling errors, and (hopefully) any weird things like changing hair color.

And then it’s finished! WOOT!

fairy tale rose in mirrorWow! This is a super long post on my writing process. This blog hop is an exponential blog hop. Every time an author is chosen, she’s supposed to choose three more authors, but that means that at some point most authors have already participated. I’m coming in at that point, so instead of three new authors with brand new writing processes, I’m going to direct you to a few  you might have missed on the tour. Authors Lizzie T. Leaf asked me to participate, as did author Elaine Cougler and Lynn Cahoon, and for various reasons I had to decline. Please check out these authors blogs and enjoy what they have to say about their writing processes.


Filed under Moonday mania, Writer's Journey, writing craft

Five Reasons Crit Partners Rock!

Moonday Mania

a blog for all you partners out there

WOOT! I have some fantastic news. You may have noticed the new Night Owl Reviews Badge  in it’s place of honor on the right side of the blog. The Dark Huntsman, A Fantasy Romance of the Black Court had a 4.5 STAR REVIEW! It was really nice to read the review on Sunday and to have a good start to December. Overall, romance readers are enjoying the book and I’m very happy and grateful. And one of the people I’m grateful to is my critique partner, ML Guida.

Mary writes about vampires and demons and I write about the fae and werewolves. We have totally different styles, especially between my Twisted Tales: Come Into the Woods novellas and Mary’s Legends of the Phoenix historical, vampire romance. Both Mary and I have tried other crit partners and crit groups before and some of them worked and some didn’t. On my part, I had tried a few crit groups, with limited success. One was a mixed genre group, and it just didn’t work for me. For one thing, I was nervous about exposing my writing to a group for the first time, and these were real writers. (Now I look back on my newbie self and sigh). And another reason it didn’t work, is that they didn’t understand the unique structure of romance. I tried, but it wasn’t good. The other one was a romance group, but it only met once a month and five pages once a month was not enough for me to get the feedback I needed. I also was lucky enough to work with two great critique partners before Mary, but we were at different points in our careers (and lives). Things wavered, then collapsed. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. Both helped me with my writing, but neither was at the point of publishing and when the critiquing portion of the relationships naturally fell to the wayside, I was left with a gap to fill.

At the same time, Mary had been in a wonderful crit group. One of the things about a large group is that means a lot of chapters to crit for everyone else, and you only  get one or two done of your own work. Mary was writing very fast and needed someone who could keep up with her. She wanted to put out more than one book a year, and at that pace her crit group just couldn’t keep up.

So we started exchanging two chapters a week. And it’s been amazing every since.

So here are my favorite things about having a crit partner:

1. A crit partner can be your other half.

I don’t mean we have a blissful relationship, although we get along great, I mean that Mary’s writing strengths are my weaknesses. I tend to rocket through my stories. Action! Action! Action! Mary’s writing has a lot of emotional and situational detail. Together, she slows me down and I speed her up. Find a crit partner who is your opposite on the writing front and you’re writing will be much stronger.

2. A crit partner keeps you on task.

When you owe someone chapters, you’d better have them ready. Mary has times in her life when she has more time off and so do I. We’re working on the process of having previously written chapters ready to go for the other person when they are ready to edit, but writing doesn’t always work that way. The nice thing is that I know Mary will be asking, “Do you have those chapters ready?”. The accountability, not just to get their work to them, but to have work read for them is terrific for me. She keeps me focused on my writing goals.

3. A crit partner is critical.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but there are crit partners who only tell each other the good things. I don’t think that’s a very productive critiqing relationship. On the other hand, criticism is hard to hear, and it needs to be ladled out with a good dose of positivity. (For a terrific article on how to crit, click HERE.) A few nice things, a few critical things. Try not to change the other’s voice, just offer suggestions on what isn’t working. It’s a delicate balance, and not everyone achieves it with their first attempts at working with a crit partner. I was lucky, Mary has critiqued a lot in the past, so she’s very good at balancing. I was also lucky because she is honest, and if something doesn’t work for her, she’ll tell me. Honesty is priceless.

4. A crit partner can help you focus your career.

Mary and I are both at similar points in our publishing careers. We’re both published with an e-press, Passion in Print, and we’ve both just released our first novels, on our own. She has more books out than I do, but we’re discussing similar levels of sales, budget, and advertising. Should we go to Ritas and Readers or should we go to Rom Con? What about blog tours? Who does a good job? Should you advertise? Where and when and how much should you spend? When you are an author you have to make all of these decisions on your own and it’s a huge advantage to have someone who is making the same decisions to bounce your ideas off of.

5.  A crit partner is a terrific source of support and encouragement.

Maybe it’s because we’re at a similar point in our publishing life, but Mary knows exactly what I’m feeling when my books are doing well, and when I hit a setback. And that’s not just in the writing phase of the book. Although the writing is our purpose in our relationship, we also offer encouragement when we read our reviews on line, when we enter contests, when we get rejected or accepted. Most crit partners start as friends, but since we share so much, Mary and I have become close friends. And to have someone to share my writing gripes and successes with, someone who actually knows what I’m talking about, someone who wants to hear about writing and books 24/7, that’s what I want in a crit partner.

Who do you have in your life who acts like a crit partner? Is it a best friend? A mentor? Who offers you support and criticism while you follow your dreams?

A Pirate's Curse by ML GuidaWant a taste of something different? A Pirate’s Curse is 99 cents, today, on Amazon!

Mary writes historical vampire books set in the 1600s. The pacing is different from mine, the voice is entirely different. I’m not sure you can tell we work together, and that’s likely a good thing. We have kept our individuality and our relationship works. 

Like a dark angel, Captain Kane O’Brien rescues Hannah Knight and her father from drowning after vampire pirates murder their crew and sink their ship. Struggling to control and hide her telekinetic powers, Hannah discovers the honorable and bold captain possesses his own secrets.
Every full moon, Kane turns into a vampire. Finding out Hannah not to be the cabin boy she resembles, but a beautiful, luscious woman, tempts all his appetites. Desperate to be free of his curse, Kane considers handing Hannah over to a demon. But after Hannah uses her power to save his ship from his immortal enemy, Kane can no longer deny his attraction and vows to protect Hannah with his life.
To find true love, they must combine their powers to defeat evil vampires, thwart Hannah’s misogynist fiancĂ© and escape a crafty demon.


Filed under channeling success, Moonday mania, writing craft

Setting is Much More Than Time, Place, and Atmosphere

Moonday Mania

guest blogger Elaine Cougler

Last chance to enter to win one of ten e-copies of my brand-new, fantasy romance: The Dark Huntsman. Click HERE to enter, contest ends soon. Want to sample a bite? Click HERE for a teaser from chapter one.

Today instead of my typical romance authors I have the pleasure of introducing my online friend, Elaine Cougler. Despite living miles apart in different countries, going to school in different decades, and writing different genres, I am always amazed at how much Elaine and I have in common. One of those things is loving history and reading historical fiction. Elaine loves it so much that she has authored an amazing account of the American Revolutionary War, but from a totally unusual viewpoint: that of the Loyalists who moved to Canada. Her exciting tale of John and Lucy’s adventures is meticulously researched and thoroughly enjoyable. Usually I do an introduction for my guests, but if you sneak a peek down to the next paragraph, you’ll see Elaine has done a fabulous job introducing me! Please welcome Elaine Cougler to Jessica Aspen Writes.

A considerable benefit to taking my writing career on an extended trip through various social media is the wonderful people I’ve met along the way. Writing can be solitary and full of angst but people like Jessica who absolutely understand ease the journey. Thank you, Jessica, for inviting me to your blog today!

Setting is Much More Than Time, Place, and Atmosphere

The other day I was reading one of my favorite how-to writing magazines (The Writer, October, 2013) and came across an article on setting in novels and I was enthralled. Elfrieda Abbe not only talks about location under various headings (influences, credibility, character, emotion, atmosphere, and symbolism and theme) but she shows how David Rhodes, in Jewelweed, uses place to absolutely ground many aspects of his novel. After this excellent article comes an annotated segment of Jewelweed, showing just how certain sentences use Rhodes’ technique.

This is far advanced from what we learned in high school: setting equals time, place, and atmosphere. And the use of this technique helps readers to sink into the layers of the work in such a way as to lead them to a point where they are living the story and not just reading it.

In The Loyalist’s Wife, I used Lucy’s surroundings to show her loneliness, but also to underline the beauty of that unspoiled land. (The wilderness of 1778 New York State.)  And the contrast of that pristine beauty worked well against the scenes of punishing battles and even the interior struggles of both John and Lucy. In this excerpt the description of Lucy’s surroundings underlines her fear.

the loyalist's wife by elaine couglerHours later, a piece of wood in the fire fell and Lucy jerked upright, her wild eyes darting about the dark cabin. The candle had died. By the dim light from the stove she could see she was alone, but outside Molly [the cow] bawled and the chickens were clucking in a dreadful cacophony of frightening sounds. What was out there? She bumped against the table on the way to the window.

Solid black was all she saw through the running raindrops on the glass, except for a faint patch of limpid light, not even light, just a silver lightening in the grass, the window’s weak reflection. The animals settled and she breathed more slowly. They could wait till daylight.

The fire fixed, she went to the bedroom where she lay under the patchwork quilt, fully clothed, eyes wide open, the loaded rifle scant inches from her hand.


The Loyalist’s Wife:

When American colonists resort to war against Britain and her colonial attitudes, a young couple caught in the crossfire must find a way to survive. Pioneers in the wilds of New York State, John and Lucy face a bitter separation and the fear of losing everything, even their lives, when he joins Butler’s Rangers to fight for the King and leaves her to care for their isolated farm. As the war in the Americas ramps up, ruffians roam the colonies looking to snap up Loyalist land. Alone, pregnant, and fearing John is dead, Lucy must fight with every weapon she has.

With vivid scenes of desperation, heroism, and personal angst, Elaine Cougler takes us back to the beginnings of one great country and the planting of Loyalist seeds for another. The Loyalist’s Wife transcends the fighting between nations to show us the individual cost of such battles.

elaine couglerElaine blogs at On Becoming a Wordsmith which may be found at She also is frequently found here: @ElaineCougler, Facebook/ElaineCouglerAuthor, and LinkedIn author groups. The Loyalist’s Wife is available on Amazon (print and e-book) and Kobo (e-book).


Filed under guest post, Moonday mania, writing craft

I’m a Hot Paranormal Romance Author and you wouldn’t BELIEVE who I Write Like…

Moonday Mania

who do you write like?

So we all know what I write. Spicy, hot, paranromal, twisted fairy tale, romance. So which author would my writing be most like?I had to find out. There’s a great site called I Write Like   where anyone can post a sample of their writing and through the magic of their algorithms you can see which author your writing style is most like. So I had to go and see who I wrote like (duh!).

I chose some scenes from my latest WIP, Prince by Blood and Bone, the sequel to my book The Dark Huntsman that releases next month. The first one was an action scene and the second was a love scene. Both of them came up:

I write like
Anne Rice

I Write Like. Analyze your writing!

So I wondered if I tried a third scene what would come up. Using the very first scene in the book, click HERE to read, I now had:

I write like
Stephen King

I Write Like. Analyze your writing!

Wait a minute! I write fairy tale romances. Don’t I? How did I end up with such dark authors. Horror even!
Curious to see if this held true for The Dark Huntsman, I chose three more scenes. Two action, one love scene. Anne Rice came up AGAIN for the love scene, and for the action scenes I now had:

I write like
Chuck Palahniuk

I Write Like. Analyze your writing!

Who I had to go look up. This is what came up:

  • Charles Michael “Chuck” Palahniuk is an American novelist and freelance journalist, who describes his work as transgressional fiction. He is best known as the author of the award-winning novel Fight Club, which also was made into a feature film. Wikipedia

Freaky huh! I write romance.

Don’t I?

So, I wondered if my lighter, spicy, new adult, fairy tale romances, Twisted Tales: Come Into the Woods, would come up the same. Enter Goldi and the Bear…

I write like
Agatha Christie

I Write Like. Analyze your writing!

I write like
Anne Rice

I Write Like. Analyze your writing!

I write like
Arthur Conan Doyle

I Write Like. Analyze your writing!

So, I guess my lighter fairy tales are a little lighter. If you think Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christe are light. But not much. And if you like sex á la Anne Rice, (well…and who doesn’t?) then I’m your gal!

Have you ever analyzed your writing? It doesn’t have to be fiction, it can be anything. The analyzer doesn’t care. Wonder what my grocery list looks like? Maybe Dean Koontz? Who do you write like?


Filed under About the Author, Moonday mania, Writer's Journey, writing craft

Writer’s Block and Fiery Bride author Cynthia Woolf

Moonday Mania

Welcome Cynthia Woolf

This week we start off with fellow Colorado author Cynthia Woolf. Cynthia’s western romance Matchmaker & Co. series that includes Capital Bride and Heiress Bride, has grown very popular and well known in western romance circles. A multi-genre multi-published author Cynthia also is an author of another western romance series (the Tame series) well as two Sci-fi romance novel series; Swords of Gegara and the Centauri series. Please welcome, Cynthia Woolf, to Jessica Aspen Writes.

With my latest book, FIERY BRIDE, I got something that most other writers have gotten before me, but that I really hadn’t experienced up until now.  The dreaded Writers Block.  Yes, me.  The person who has written twelve books in two years had Writers Block.  I literally didn’t write for more than two weeks.  I simply didn’t know where the story was or was going to happen.  At one point I got so frustrated, that I just didn’t care.

I’d sit and stare at the screen.  I watched movies and read books.  Nothing.  I worked on other stories.  Well sort of.  I was able to come up with some ideas for other stories, but actually starting those stories was as hard as trying to work on the one I already had going.

My critique partners suggested scenes I could write that hopefully would get me going but even then I couldn’t break through.  I felt scared.  What if I’d written all the stories that I had in me?  What if that was all there was?

Finally, one of my critique partners suggested that I download my manuscript to my kindle and read through it.  Now you may ask why to the kindle when I could just print it out and read it or read it on my computer screen.  Well, I’d already done both of those things with no effect.  The beauty of downloading it to my kindle is that I couldn’t make changes.  I could only read.

So I read.  I discovered that it sparked my imagination and suddenly I did know where the story was going.  The next thing they, my critique partners, did for me what hold Just Write sessions.  These are times when we get together to “just write”.  Except for the first half hour when we catch up and lunch when we visit again, there is no talking.  Just writing, hence the name.

Now you may ask what these sessions are good for.  Well, we’ve discovered that there is a great energy that we have when we write together.  We also, in that first half hour and again at lunch, bounce ideas off each other.  You can almost see the sparks coming off us as we rattle off ideas for each others stories.

I would never have made it through this last book without my critique partners.  They gave me hope and guided me through a tough time.  If you don’t have critique partners get some.  Get ones that you love and that care about you and your writing and that you care about.  You don’t have to write the same genres; as a matter of fact it’s probably best if you don’t.  You get better, more unique ideas and perspective if you don’t write the same type of books.

Regardless of what you do to get over it, remember that it will pass.  Writer’s block is not forever, unless you want it to be.  If you give up, then you’ll stop writing, but if you keep after it, keep trying, then your book will come out.  It just may take longer than you want or are used to.


fiery_bride 200 x 300After a disastrous marriage, Matchmaker Maggie vowed never to marry again.  She will never give another man the power of life and death over her body and soul. Unfortunately, that doesn’t keep her lonely heart from fantasizing about her newest client, Caleb Black. She made the mistake of starting a flirtatious correspondence with the clever devil, believing they would never meet. But when his new bride abandons her mid-way to Colorado to elope with another man, Maggie is forced to face the devastatingly handsome Caleb and explain.  Now she’ll have to stay long enough to make things right and find him a new wife.  But Maggie better hang on to her vow with both hands, because Caleb has other plans for the fiery matchmaker…and a very seductive kiss.

author cynthia woolfCynthia Woolf was born in Denver, Colorado and raised in the mountains west of Golden. She spent her early years running wild around the mountain side with her friends.

She was and is an avid reader. Her mother was a librarian and brought new books home each week. This is where young Cynthia first got the storytelling bug. She wrote her first story at the age of ten. A romance about a little boy she liked at the time.

Cynthia credits her wonderfully supportive husband Jim and her critique partners for saving her sanity and allowing her to explore her creativity

















Twitter – @CynthiaWoolf

Goodreads –


Filed under facing failure, guest post, Moonday mania, writing craft

The Style and Substance of Switching Series

Thursday’s Bite

a blog about the fantasy in the romance

Today I’m guest blogging on Worlds of the Imagination and writing about World Building or World Changing, how authors can take a traditional fantasy world framework and make it their own. Check it out, it’s a cool site with frequent guests and sponsored by some fascinating authors.worlds of the imagination

I’m deep into world building this month because I’m not only doing a final run through on my fantasy romance,  The Dark Huntsman, but I’m ready to plunge back into the rough draft of Prince By Blood and Bone, book two of the Tales of the Black Court. It sounds like a lot to do, but the truth is it is a good thing because they are deeply intertwined and I need to make sure that I don’t drop the ball and change someone’s hair or eye color, or make a character speak a different way from book to book.

One of the toughest things about writing a series is keeping the author’s writing style the same. These books are deeper, longer, and more fantasy than my Twisted Tales: Come Into the Woods novellas, so they have a different voice. I didn’t realize until this final run through of The Dark Huntsman came in, right as I was doing final edits on Goldi and the Bear, that these books are very different. The novellas have a lightness running through the dark suspense. I think it may be because of the contemporary setting and the age of the characters. They are all new adult stories that have, at their core, the struggle with actually being grown up and an adult. Taking on real responsibilities and relationships.

The Tales of the Black Court series is different. Maybe because I started writing it years ago. Maybe because the heroes are so long-lived. Logan (the Dark Huntsman) has a chronological age of 300 years, but his real age is around 25. He’s not considered an adult by his uncles who are over a thousand years old and whose real age is around forty. Many of the characters have lived a long time and that flavors the book in a different way than the short-lived werewolves and werebears in my novellas. Logan and Trina’s real ages technically mean that I’m writing fantasy new adult, but because of the length of time Logan has lived it affects his speech patterns, and behavior, and he definitely feels like he’s from an older time and place even though he is a contemporary young hero.

In contrast, the characters in Twisted Tales: Come Into the Woods know life can be very short. They are werewolves and werebears and are hunters and fighters. They take on problems with a quick intensity, from family issues to fighting the bad guy, to falling in love. The stories are set in a very contemporary setting, and the plots move fast. The characters are all young, they burn with deep first love. Even their resistance to love is hot and sometimes violent.

The pacing on the books is different too, mostly because of the length of the stories. In a 35K novella I have to pack in a lot of plot. There isn’t really a sub-plot, just the suspense and romance plots so all of the action centers on the main characters. They are intense and fast paced and with young hot headed main characters the emotional plot moves lightening fast. The Tales of the Dark Court have deep world building and you get a view of the antagonists, that takes extra words and extra plotting and moves the story into a longer pace. That’s not to say these books move slow, they just have longer story arcs with longer builds. Think about the novellas as a series of hot quickies where you rocket up fast and move on. In contrast the novels are a night that starts with dinner and ends with a long all-night marathon.

Also the novellas are spicy, and that means there are more sex scenes per thousand words. In fact both series have approximately the same amount of sexual encounters, but The Dark Huntsman is over 87,000 words. Proportionally, in the longer novels, there is a lot more plot to support the intimacy. That’s not to say that they aren’t hot. Just not quite as spicy as the novellas.

All of this: the pacing, the frequency of the sex, the setting, changes the author’s style even though each author has a particular boice. Short fast novellas lead to shorter faster sentences. Longer paced novels give an author room to describe scenes in more detail. So, when moving from book to book I need to be careful to take the right style with me and still keep my Jessica Aspen voice.

Have you read other authors when they write new and different things of varying lengths? Does their pacing shift? Their plotting move faster or slower? Is it a surprise when the short story wraps up fast and you are used to reading longer novels? What about writers? Do you find, as writers, that you need to pull yourself out of one series-style and into another? How do you do this? What works for you?



Filed under The Dark Huntsman, Thursdays Bite, Werewolves and the Fae, writing craft

Vacation Lessons of the Big Parks

Moonday Mania

Fun in the hot sun, or is it?

If you missed the big announcement on Friday, then check out my blog post listing all of the fabulous prizes available on the Bewitching Tours Sizzling Summer Giveaway, HERE and enter to win some fabulous prize packs. Or hop on over to the Bewitching Tours site HERE, and enter all four Rafflecopter contests at once directly on their site. Includes fabulous prizes, like my book (no being humble here) and a Kindle Fire. Best of luck, everyone!

At the end of May this romance writer set off on vacation with my intrepid spouse, MIL, two teen-age daughters, and one teen-age niece. I learned a lot.

jessica aspen at disney

After a hot day in line, even the most intrepid Colorado wildflower wilts.

I learned not to go to Florida at the end of May unless you stayed at the beach. We’re from Colorado. Denver has an average humidity of somewhere around 54%. Orlando’s average humidity? Somewhere around 74%. (Disclaimer: I looked at several different sources and they actually had different numbers, so that’s why the inexact science. Fiction writer, not scientist. These are my best estimates of the internet sources.) 

If you are used to humidity, then you don’t really notice it. Unless you come out West where you complain about parched skin. But if you live out West and you go on vacation to a hot, humid place, then you wilt. Tough, able to go without water in the hot sun, you add that humidity and we become whiny, exhausted, and difficult. Very difficult.We wilted like the Colorado wildflowers we are. Add in that no one wants to eat the same thing or ride on the same rides and I’d rather take three-year-olds to Disney. At least they fall asleep and you can stuff them into the stroller. Maybe abandon them at the stroller parking. Teens follow you around  and you can’t lose them.

We still had a great time and I’d go again, just not in the hot months. And I learned something else. I learned that the parks all did some things well. Disney had the food lines and quality of food down much better than Universal. The food service at Universal sucked. However, Universal had better lines for the rides. They had more shade and they had more entertaining things to look at as you went through the lines. They work their express lines differently. Universal’s overall ticket price is much cheaper than Disney’s, but you purchase an Express Ticket that moves you to the front of the hour long lines. Well worth it on a hot day, but it adds up when you buy it for every member of your party.

hulk roller coaster at universal studios floridaDisney let’s everyone use the Fast Pass, but you have to go to the ride ahead of time and get a ticket to come back at a certain time when you will get to skip the longer line. Only one Fast Pass at a time, so you spend much of your time figuring out how and when to get your Fast Passes.

So what did I learn overall? And how does that apply to writing and books? I learned that you need to check your customer service with real customers. And even if you have a guaranteed riderreadership, you need to still make them happy. These parks are crowded, but if the rumor gets started that you might as well go to a local park as go to a bigger park, then attendance will drop. It doesn’t matter how big you are, all customers are important.

Of course, I’m just a little fish in the big pond of publishing. But they are still good lessons to remember. Sometimes I hear bigger authors say they can’t change anything or learn new craft because this is the way they write and too bad! Well, I hope that’s never me. I hope I always want to learn new things and tweak my writing. I hope I’m always ready to change, despite the crowds who might someday flock to my books. Some writers are afraid to try new genres and in the process get left behind. Once again, I hope that’s never me. I hope I’m always ready to try new things, ride new rides, and change my ways. Change is not easy, but it is the essence of life.

And in the spirit of keeping my customer base happy I’m trying something new with The Dark Huntsman. I have a few hand picked beta readers who have said they would read it and answer a few questions. This way I’m hoping to get a non-writers viewpoint before publication. Does reading The Dark Huntsman feel like standing around in a hot line, or do you feel like you are zipping around the park on an Express Ticket? Would you read it a second time? Would you recommend it to friends?

toes underwater at the beach

Lazy toes under the water.

I don’t think I’ll be heading back to the big parks of Florida anytime soon. Not because they weren’t fun, they were, but simply because this was our last park vacation for a while. Next one is going to be just my hubby and myself and we’re going to the beach. No kids, no long lines, just sand, sun, and romance!

How do you please your customers? Are they readers too? What about in other businesses or things you do in life? Do you ask questions, take surveys, or do you simply hand them their plates and call “Next!”?


Filed under About the Author, channeling success, Moonday mania, writing craft

Non Grammar Divas Unite! (part deux)

This blog is the second part of a blog on editing, responding to editor’s comments, and why everyone deserves an editor. See part one HERE on Jessica Aspen Writes. I have another disclaimer before I start. (To read my disclaimers hope back to Monday’s blog.)

I love my editors. I hope by writing this and letting them know that I sometimes disagree, they still know that I respect their opinions. And that this blog in no way is because of any recent edits. I wrote it a while back and it’s been waiting for a gap in my blogging schedule. That they (my fabulous editors) are the reason my spicy-hot paranormal romances are placing in contests and winning rave reviews. Thank you, to all my editors!

Hello again. I’m on a rant, an editorial rant. Editing your own manuscript is hard, that’s why we hire editors (or our publisher hires editors) to help us fix our mistakes that we can’t even see. But what do you do when you are reading your edits and you disagree? Can you make changes? After all, they are the editors. They are the people who know what’s what. The professionals.

Well the answer is yes. Qualitatively, yes.

You do have the right to say, no. That you feel that this style of writing is your voice and that you want to keep the repetetive use of that or these or green. Whatever it is. You can say that. But there is a time and a way to do it. And there are times when you should just stay quiet, bite the pencil, and keep their edits.

When do you do you argue with your editor and when do you roll over and take the edits? Well, it depends.

First off it does make a difference if you are working with a publishing house or you are indie published. Let’s take the traditionally published author first. You signed a contract that handed over temporary rights to your work. And it usually says that you are required to work with the house editor and fix what they want fixed. So you should do all the changes, right?


You should do most of them. If the house uses the serial comma, and you hate the serial comma, too bad. It’s the house’s rules and just like when you walk into a casino you should either know the rules in advance or be prepared to abide by them if you don’t. Let’s face it. You decided to sign that contract. You’ve already taken the gamble, now trust in your editor and do what she says.

So when do you stand firm? When do you say, no?

The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and EB WhiteWhen it is something that really upsets you. Something that if it isn’t done your way, then you feel like your voice won’t be heard. Something that is intrinsic to you as an author. Those changes are worth fighting for. And there should be damn few of them. As the classic grammar book The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and EB White says about the word very:

“Use this word sparingly. Where emphasis is necessary, use words strong in themselves.”

Wield the power of No sparingly. Make it count when you use it. Your writing will be stronger because your editor will help you, but you will also keep it strong by holding true to your voice when you fight for those things that sound like you, feel like you, are definitely only written by you.

And how do you tell you editor? Do you call her up and rant and rave? Do you send angry emails with excessive exclamation points?

No. You calmly and concisely tell her why you need the change. After you’ve looked it up in at least one grammar book. Or checked it online with where it auto checks your errors. Or you email your Margie Lawson critique partner and she has verified your use of one of the rhetorical devices.

Then, and only then, do you ask to do it your way. She may say yes, she may say no. But if she says no then she will usually give you a good reason and you will walk away with your working relationship intact.

Now what if you are indie published. You hired this editor. He may never see the manuscript again, may never know or care if you make the changes. Will happily take your money and give his opinion even if you never make any of the changes to any of the manuscripts you send. What do you do then? It’s your final say. You are the final editor of your own book.

“With great power comes great responsibility.”

(I believe this one is from Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben in Spiderman.)

Wolf Spider under glass

You are the one with the final say, but you also spent time researching this editor and trusted him enough to not only pay him big bucks, but to send him your baby. Trust him. Do as he says. Unless…

Unless it is going to change your voice, change your story, or change anything that will make you wish you’d never published. IN that case. Think twice. Consult the grammar gurus. And don’t make the changes. But be aware! You may face ridicule in the reviews if you choose unwisely.

So choose wisely and make the changes that are necessary to create the best book possible. Whether you work with a publishing house or a freelance editor remember they are wise individuals who know more than you do. But in the end it is your name on the cover.

How do you tell someone you are unhappy with their work? Do you? Do you take the time to cool down and maybe see that they might have a point? Or do you send off that rip-roaring email and destroy relationships?


Filed under Writer's Journey, writing craft