Friday, November 13, 2009

So …. What do you want to know?

We talk about a lot of things here on top down … beefcake, cheese cake, trends, TV, movies, seasons, gardens … sometimes we even wax poetic. Sometimes, we even talk about writing but given the fact that it’s 'what we do’, the subject is bound to come up now and again. This is a now moment.

I was invited to participate in the Ask the Author feature for Romantic Times Magazine a month or more ago and I had a lot of fun fielding questions. So I thought I'd extend the offer here today. Kind of put a little twist on things and instead of me asking you to chime in on a topic, I’m wondering if you would like to ask me something.

I know that some of you are readers, some of you are writers and some of you are both. For you writers, have you got questions on how I handle plotting? Synopsis? Conflict? Villains? Hottie heroes? Kick ass heroines? I’m not guaranteeing that I’ll have all the answers but I’ll give it a go and something tells me that if I come up short, there are a few other Riders who will be happy to chime in and help a girl out.

For you readers, do you sometimes wonder about what compels us to do what we do? Where we come up with our ideas? Our character names? Do we have favorite books and or favorite characters? Have I really done all those things???? (Hint: Yes I have. Every last one :o) Been all those places?

So, keeping it short and simple, you ask, I’ll answer. And no need to take a number :o) just come on down. Class is in session.


Jill said...

Hmmm, here's mine. Did you start out with a critique partner or critique group or did you start out on your own?
How do you know when it is a good fit? And how did you know when to take advice and when to leave it?

Kara C said...

Good morning!
I have two questions this morning: 1. Who is your favorite hero from your books? (I know, not very original, but I am curious.) Also, when you set out to write a series, how far ahead do you plan,ie as you're writing the first book, are you already thinking about the plot and characters for the third one?
BTW, received the book I won from your website contest, devoured it immediately, and loved it! Have told all my friends to get their copy asap!
Have a great weekend.

Cindy Gerard said...

Hi Jill. GREAT question. I tend to hold my cards very close to the vest so the question of 'who do you trust' was a key one for me. I wrote my first 2 books without ANYONE seeing them. Too insecure about my work. It wasn't until I joined RWA and accidentally hooked up with someone who is now a great friend that I started sharing material with anyone. She was eons ahead of me craftwise and showed me the ropes, so to speak. For years, it was just her and me exchanging material for critique. Now, I still have only a couple trusted friends/writers who ever see my work and only then if I'm having an issue I can't work through.
Critique groups are wonderful, however, for some writers but sometimes it does become difficult to cull all the suggestions and critiques. The litmus test for me has several parts: 1) do you respect their writing, 2) do you feel comfortable that they have no ulterior motives, 3) can you count on their honesty with both praise and criticism?
If you can't answer yes to all 3, I'd pick up my marbles and go home. And in the meantime, it eventually comes down to trusting your own instincts at some point.

Cindy Gerard said...

Hi Kara
thanks for the props on the book!! And for spreading the word. We LOVE to hear that!
As to favorite characters - That's really a tough one. I'll always have a special place in my heart for Nolan Garrett (TO THE EDGE) because he was the ONE who launched the 6 book Bodyguard series and introduced me to the rest of the guys. Manny Ortega (UNDER THE WIRE) was a big surprise and for that reason remains very special. Gabe - the Archangel - Jones showed up unexpected and larger than 10 lives in the last BG book and just blew me away. I knew right then he was going star in his own book and the wheels started turning on what kind of platform to give him. Man like that had to have friends, right? Dangerous friends? alpha dog warrior friends? The idea for Black Ops Inc started cooking right there in the middle of the Body guard finale - which kind of answers your second question about how far ahead do I plan. In MY world, the ideas find me and I'm forced to plan around them.
BTW: Johnny Duane Reed (WHISPER NO LIES) is another of my fav guys but truly - I love them all.

Christie Ridgway said...

I agonize over plotting. How do you discover/uncover/develop/pry from your brain what comes next when you're writing a book?

Cindy Gerard said...

Hi Christie - Wait. Are you my long lost birth twin - give or take a decade or two? :o) It is sooo comforting to hear that someone who writes such amazing, seamless stories also struggles with plotting. I agonize with plot and it drives me crazy that some of my writer buddies are plotting machines. They're like energizer bunnies in the plotting department - the ideas just keep going and going and going.
Me - not so much. My brain isn't wired that way. Some days it feels like I'm crawling over broken glass naked in search of one kernel of a clue to tell me what happens next or how what JUST happened integrates with the over all story line. Brain surgery with a hacksaw also comes to mind.
I'm a good little girl and always write a synopsis but it's simply a loose road map of where we start and where we need to go. Everything in the middle happens during the writing process. What I generally find is that the plot comes from within the material I've already written. For example, here's an internal plot point for the book I just turned in. Book opens with the hero returned home to Georgia because he feels guilty of being out of touch with his parents. Fast forward after an action scene where he's back in the trenches, in another life or death situation and bam. It hits me the same time it hits him. There was another, deeper reason he'd gone home in scene one and it was just revealed to both me and the hero and ended up being a pivotal 'issue' to propel both the love story and the character arc through the book.
I never know if it's going to be a component of the characterization, the setting, the basic story line or something out of the blue but I LIVE for the EUREKA moment in the writing of each book to tie the loose ends all together.
Kylie and I along with our buddy Roxanne Rustand have experimented and gotten together for 2 plotting weekends where we each attempt to help the other plot out an entire book. It's been great. We all bring things to the table and the whole brain storming process comes into play. We're trying to schedule another session in January but it's tough with all of our writing schedules. Bottom line though, you might want to give it a try.
Any other Riders and or writers out there have plot tips?

lois greiman said...

thanx sooooo much 4 blogging 4 me 2day, C. you're an amazing author and a great friend.

and i have a ? 4 u. what do you think the next big thing will b in lit.?

Cindy Gerard said...

Hey Lois! Big hugs, sweetie. Our Lois decided to tangle with a big horsey and ended up with a broken arm (poor baby) which is why I'm pitch hitting. It's a little hard to type when you can't move your arm.

Next big thing in lit? As in popular fiction? Oh, I wish I knew, I'd try to cash in on it quick :o) Seriously, I can only do what I do and if someone told me the next big thing was going to be alien frog warriors taking over the world and I had the op to jump in, I couldn't do it. More power to anyone who can, though...
As for publishing in general, I do see digital/e-books becoming more and more prevalent because of their easy accessibility .. which leads us to pirating and I don't even want to go there today. :o(
BUT, having said that, Simon and Schuster is experimenting with a new concept they call the VOOK. With a vook you can:
• Read your book
• Watch videos that highlight key moments in the story
• View visual how-to’s
• Connect with authors and other readers.

What do you think? Sounds intriguing. You can read more here:

Sorry, you'll have to lift and paste the addy into your browser 'cause I don't know how to insert a link :o(

They're experimenting with 4 titles, one by Jude Deveraux

Donna said...

Hi Cindy. First of all, let me tell you that I love your books. I have "Feel The Heat" on my bookshelf waiting to be read, I will get to it soon. I do have a couple of questions for you. First is one that you mentioned in your introduction. How do you come up with names for characters? Also, please tell me where a seemingly normal person (from everything I see on Facebook and in newsletters and websites) can come up with such despicable, vile, sadistic characters. I am on several authors' newsletters (and have them as friends in Facebook) and I just wonder how "characters we LOVE to hate" come into your minds. Thank you in advance.

Cindy Gerard said...

Hey Donna. thanks! hope you enjoy HEAT when you get to it.
Character names - Always a fun part of the process. Sometimes I research names, sometimes I'm just writing away and a new character pops up with a name tag stuck on his chest. It's just THERE.
When I developed the Bodyguard series, i wanted to call their security firm EDEN, Inc. It was based in West Palm Beach ... oceans, gorgeous sunsets, tropical weather, hence, EDEN. But I also wanted the name to mean something so i decided to use it as an acronym for the leads in the books. That's how Ethan, Dallas, Eve and Nolan were born.

Gabe - the Archangel - Jones got his name from a knife. I wanted his character to be proficient with a deadly blade, researched and discovered the Archangel butterfly knife. Bingo. Since my hero was now associated with an archangel (although not your typical one) he just HAD to be Gabriel. And since he was such a larger than life character who didn't see himself in those terms, JONES was a perfect choice for his surname.

And for me, I equate certain types of names with certain character types. Abbie, for instance says, cool, sweet, serene, level headed. Crystal says flashy, cutting, kick ass.
But that's just me and I do take character type into account when I'm selecting a name - if the name hasn't already selected me :o).

Villains: Loosely speaking, I am a normal person - (stop snickering, you guys) so it surprises me, too, when I create some of these horrible creeps. Sadly, though, you can turn on the TV and watch the news or read a newspaper or magazine article and find far too much fodder to draw from. Good people who go bad, bad people without scruples or conscience ... desperate people who chose the wrong way out when their backs are against the wall. Let's just say life in an environment rich with material and I am so thankful that, for the most part, writing about these bad guys/girls, is as close as I'll ever get to the real thing.

Kathleen Eagle said...

A vook? Shades of Dr. Seuss! I read "Oh the Thinks You Can Think" to little granddaughter's kindergarten class the other day. "You can think about snuvs. You can think about snuvs and their gloves." Now I have to think about vooks and the kooks who hooked on vooks. Sigh. Just when I was *thinking about* thinking about tweets and their sweets.

Cindy Gerard said...

LOL Kathy. There's a conspiracy afoot to keep the likes of you and me ten steps behind the tech curve.
I'm a twerrible twitterer.... nothing sweet 'bout that ..

Michele Hauf said...

Don't forget about Nooks, too! Vooks and Nooks and Kindles and well, what next?

Debra Dixon said...

Vooks and Nooks and Kindles. Oh MY!

I am trying to decide if I'm being set-in-my-ways or not. I don't like the idea of so much integration of media in my book.

Maybe I wouldn't have liked the Reese Cup if I'd grown up before the Reese Cup was an accepted integration of food stuffs.

I love going and checking an author out or getting more info but I don't know that I want all that distraction while I'm reading. Why? Probably because I'm concerned that soon all books will be graphic novels or video novels. That's a different experience.

Right now I'm a little ticked that one of my fav authors has taken time away from writing the next book I want to read to partner with someone on a graphic novel. The nerve! (g)

Linda Henderson said...

When you travel and see wonderful places do you automatically think what a great place to set a story ? I guess what I'm trying to ask is does your writers mind ever shut down or does everything you see and experience make you think of putting it in a book ?

Cindy Gerard said...

Michele - no kidding. Seems you got to bed then wake up and there's something new - the next big thing and then, the NEXT big thing makes it obsolete.

Cindy Gerard said...

Deb - I hear you. I'm a purist when it comes to reading. I want the book and nothing but the book and it worries me that the upcoming generations will lose out on that unique pleasure because of all the bells and whistles that go with it.
Books spur imagination. I'm afraid a graph novel (or even a vook) will take the 'imagine' part of out the equation. and the imagine part is the best part!

Cindy Gerard said...

Linda - What you said! I don't go anywhere, see anything, DO anything without wondering how I can use it in a book. I listen to conversations around me, soak up the scent in the air, the heat of the sun or the chill of the wind and store it for later use. Occupational hazard or curse or I like to think blessing.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Boxers or briefs?

Cindy Gerard said...

Okay Rob. Le me 'splain somthin' to you. Write. I'll take questions about WRITING.

But ... since you asked ... boxers. No briefs. No wait ... urg. I HATE these tough decisions.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

I meant WHILE you're writing.

Oh, wait. That doesn't make sense.

What's the female equivalent?

Cindy Gerard said...

Snort. We don't have enough time or white space to catalog all the possible answers to that question.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

I think I'm liking that boyfriend shirt from yesterday's post...

Cindy Gerard said...

Paints a picture, doesn't it?

Jane said...

Hi Cindy,
I love the nicknames you come up with like Choirboy, Mean Joe, Papa Bear, Doc Holliday and Tinkerbell. Do you call your characters by their nicknames?

Cindy Gerard said...

Hi Jane
When they're nice, they get called by their nicknames. When they're not so nice - like refusing to talk to me and tell what happens next in the story so we can move things along - I call them by several other names :o(

I like using nick names - partly because it's pretty much status quo in the military to tag someone with a handle - and partly because nicknames are a character statement. The names lend a little peak into their personality.

Cindy Gerard said...

Okay - I meant peek. Not peak. Spell check just doesn't work in this situation :o)