Sunday, December 30, 2012

How did Christmas get cancelled, Aurelia B Rowl?

This is a rather special occasion.  I would like to welcome my first guest ever to this blog-  Aurelia B Rowl!

She has been so kind to join us and let us know some of the behind the scenes writing process that she has gone through for her debut release Christmas Is Cancelled and some of her process on her current works in progress.  Very exciting!

Take it away Aurelia!

It could come as a surprise to non-writers, just how much background and research an author has to do for a story, which, on paper looks straight-forward. There is still a world to create, even if it’s a contemporary story based in a real place, and there are still characters to bring to life.

Take Christmas is Cancelled, for example, and the screenshot I’ve taken my Scrivener project. I’ve put it in corkboard mode, but would like to draw your attention the sidebar as well. So what are you looking at?

Let’s start with the main feature – the corkboard – and the collection of index cards. If you look closely (but not too closely if you don’t want to risk any spoilers, even though this was just a draft) and you’ll see the index cards make up a timeline. Each card represents a year, and if it’s a busy year, each character will have an individual card as well as a shared card. This really helped with continuity, and getting my ages and events straight in my mind, especially as Tilly and Dean had a past, having known each other for many years before the book starts.

Now look to the sidebar – the navigation menu – where you can see lots of folders and orange rectangles. When I’m creating a place or a person in my mind, it really helps to try and capture or fuel my mental images with photos and images off the internet. Unfortunately, these are often licensed images and I don’t have permission to share them, which is why I haven’t shown these folders. Having an image to look at, makes it much easier to then describe my own version in the text and create a similar image in the mind of the reader. There are also two PDF files in my research folder of actual walks in the Peak District, which inspired the Wilds of Bleakden and the Christmas Day walk.

Let us have a look at another image now…
This is taken from my project file for Peer Pressure, the series I am working on at the moment. So far, there are already five books planned for the series and each book interlinks with another, with the same characters appearing across the different books. As the series is also based on the British Peerage system, I needed to have the successions and family history straight in my mind. So, with the help of MS Word and the organization chart tool, I set about creating fictitious family trees for my main families (again, don’t look too closely as there are bound to be spoilers).

I also have an excel spreadsheet that tracks the titles as each generation succeeds to the next tier, for example, the daughter of an Viscount is ‘The Honourable’, but once her father succeeds his father and becomes Earl/Marquess (etc), the daughter then becomes ‘Lady’. It isn’t nearly as straight forward as it sounds, and required lots of planning and research especially if the daughter then marries, but it was all good fun. Just to make things interesting and keep me on my toes, there is a bill going through parliament right now that could change these rules again, raising the issue courtesy titles for male spouses as well as succession rights. But anyway, that’s my problem, and it will all come good in the end.

All of this is in addition to the world and character building, and I have the same sorts of folders filled with timelines and images in Scrivener that I had for Christmas is Cancelled. And that’s before I can really get stuck into writing. I’m very mindful that a secondary character in book one, will be a major character in another book, so I need to set their character set-up ready. It’s all very complicated and it feels like I’m writing several books at once sometime, which in effect, I guess I am. 

Either way, I hope to have book one of the Peer Pressure series, Bye Bye, Black Sheep, ready for release during 2013, so keep your eyes peeled for it. For what it’s worth, the 20,000 words I’ve written so far are great, not that I’m biased of course.

About Aurelia…

Aurelia B Rowl is a contemporary romance author but you can also find her masquerading as Allie A Burrow, her raunchier alter-ego.
She lives on the edge of the Peak District in the UK with her very understanding husband and their two fantastic children aged 5 and 3, along with their mad rescue mutt who doesn’t mind being used as a sounding post and source of inspiration. They are all used to her getting too caught up with her latest writing project... or five!... and she is guiltily counting down the months until she has both kids at school full-time.  
To find out more about Aurelia, or to check out what projects she's working on right now, you can visit her website

You can also find her hanging out on:

About Christmas is Cancelled…

Contemporary romance
Release date: 21 December 2012
Publisher: Breathless Press
ISBN: 978-1-77101-938-5
Heat level: 3 (steamy)
Word count: 40,000+

Full blurb

Matilda 'Tilly' Carter didn't think her day could get any worse, but even Christmas had just been cancelled.

The one girl Dean Watson has sworn never to have—never even expected to see again—just flared back into his life and into his home—his sanctuary—like she belonged there. Christmas would certainly be more bearable with Tilly around though…

As the chinks in Dean's armor appear, Tilly seizes the chance to win her knight once and for all. She's not about to take no for answer—not this time—but Dean must resist, even as his heart rebels and temptation threatens to undermine his resolve.

Win or lose? Love or honor? Which will Dean choose? Assuming he gets a choice…


Tears welled in her eyes, clouding her vision. She turned and wandered blindly toward the exit as the first tear escaped, forging a track down her cheek for the rest to follow. Tilly took in a lungful of air and then another. Having made a spectacle of herself once already, she really didn't want to be the cause of yet another scene.

The crowds swarmed around her, with students and family members heading home for the holidays only adding to the usual rush-hour melee of commuters. They jostled past, threatening to swallow her whole, as they rushed en mass in the opposite direction, using their briefcases and suitcases as a battering ram.

It was suffocating. She had to get out of there. Breaking into a run, broken heel or not, she raced through the doors and out into the biting December chill. Her waterlogged eyes struggled to adjust to the dark, dreary sky after the bright station lights, but she didn't dare slow down, desperate to escape the throng of festivities and merriment.

Carol singers assembled outside burst into a jovial rendition of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," full of joy and happiness. Didn't they know Christmas had just been cancelled?

"Ooof!" Tilly smacked her shin against the edge of a low bench, too dark to see as she tried to dodge the growing audience. She ended up sprawled across the bench, dropping the handle of her suitcase with a loud clatter.

At least the pain shooting down her leg gave her an excuse to be crying. Unfortunately, it meant she had to stop running too. Not good. Whenever things got too tough, too intimate, or too confrontational, you could rely on her to make a run for it. Running away was what she did best...

A tall figure loomed in the edge of her vision, something vaguely familiar about the man's loping gait. In an effort to see him more clearly, she wiped her eyes with the back of her hands, then cringed inwardly at the black streaks now etched all over them. Great. She could add impersonating a panda to her day from hell as well then.

The mascara stung her eyes, rendering her unable to focus properly. She blinked furiously as the man strode past her, talking into a mobile phone in a deep voice that resonated throughout her body and made the fine hairs on the back of her neck stand on end. A surge of adrenaline rushed to her legs, numbing the pain as her subconscious told her to run. Now!

The cloaked figure stopped mid-stride as if he'd heard her gasp. "Mike, I've gotta go," he barked into the phone, hanging up instantly. He backtracked until he was standing right in front of her, his tone changing from a growl to one of surprise. "Basmati?"

Great. She hadn't heard the nickname for years—nine years, four months and...sixteen days, to be exact—and even then, only one person had ever actually used it. She screwed her eyes tightly shut, shaking her head from side to side. No. No way. There was absolutely no way this could be happening to her. Not now. Not today of all days... Talk about kicking a girl when she was down.


Buy links:

Barnes & Noble – coming soon
iTunes – coming soon


I would like to thank Aurelia for stopping by.  It has been a real treat to have you here. :-) 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Making the More Active Choice

Making the More Active Choice

This is something that I learned in theater improvisation, and I feel it translates well to writing.

The next time you read a book, watch television, watch a movie, or go see a live theater show, pay attention to how often "the more active choice," is chosen.

For instance; Mary needs to tell Bob some really important news.  In real life, Mary might just pick up the phone and let Bob know the news.  However, that is...

...boring. *yawn*

What's more interesting?   Let's brainstorm-

Mary goes to meet Bob at work to tell him
Mary surprises Bob with the news over a candlelight dinner
Mary confronts Bob at his house
Mary rams her car into Bob's car
Mary breaks into Bob's house and writes the news in red lipstick on his wall
Mary forms a flashmob to do a singing and dancing parade for him in the mall, while he is there shopping for Christmas
Mary gets the news tattooed on her breasts and flashes him at mardi gras.

So, I'm asking, as an audience? Which choice to you is more "interesting?"

A phone call or one of the other choices?

Granted, I'm not saying that phone calls don't belong in stories, however, the more interesting choice is often the more active choice.

I've noticed even with today's modern day gadgets that writers still don't write in scenes where people are texting, and using their cell phones.

When performing improv, often times we will get the scene "on its feet." Sometimes it is simply getting the characters to stand up and do something that makes the scene more interesting.

For me, if a scene seems dull, I like to stand the characters up and make them do something.

Are your characters just sitting at a restaurant not doing anything?  Make them get up and dance.

I know that when I'm just sitting at my laptop typing, I'm not very interesting.  I don't expect anyone watching me to be entertained. The basis of the arts is to be entertained, and every small choice counts.

Active choices are interesting choices.

Next time- Being mean to your characters

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Every character has their own secrets, goals, and desires.

Every character has their own secrets, goals, and desires.

Whether it be in a play, novel, movie, or real life.  Every character has their own secrets, goals, and desires.

Everyone "wants" something.  Everyone has a goal to get what they want and use different means in order to get it.

By thinking this way, I find that I can "flesh out" secondary characters really easily.  They stop being there just so I have someone my hero/heroine can talk to and start being their own people.

Now I'm not talking about people who are there because they are set dressing, like the waitress in the restaurant scene, or the mailman when she gets that important letter. I'm talking about legitimate secondary characters like the best friend, business partner or ex-lover.

Let's dissect a scene.

Heroine- Susan
Friend of Heroine - Betty

In this scene, Susan is bitching about the hero to her best friend Betty.   (I'm using this scene because I've seen it done a lot.  A secondary character is brought in so that Susan doesn't just bitch to herself.  It becomes more active if she is talking to someone.)

Now, in setting up the scene like this Susan wants something. Let's make a list of what she "wants" in this scene.

Susan wants:
An understanding ear in her friend Betty.
A solution to her problem with the hero.
To hear herself talk.
Someone to console her and tell her she did right.
An opinion of the situation.

Now, what does Betty want out of the scene.  Remember in real life if you are having this conversation, you aren't just staring blankly at the other person, even though it is their life, their story.  You have a life too.

Betty wants:
To help Susan because she is her best friend
To protect Susan because it was really hard picking the pieces of her shattered love life the last time the hero came to town
To be a sympathetic ear
To convince Susan she is really insane.

To steal the hero from Susan
To convince Susan she is a whore.
To be a great best friend so that she can plan Susan and the hero's wedding.
To be a great listener because she wants a promotion at the store she and Susan works at.

If you take it a step farther in your mind, if Betty has a different motive than just a sounding board, the scene plays out in an entirely different way according to what motive each of these characters have.

When doing improv/acting, or when plotting out a story I find myself trying to approach the characters by determining what they want.  What they want can change from scene to scene, but that motivation behind the character can drive the scene.  This is what I think happens when people say that a scene gets away from them and the characters take over.  The characters get their own motivation, their own "wants" in a story and go for it.

Remember that what the character can want throughout a story, or a scene can change. That every character has a want, and that can be used to propel your story forward.

Next time on "The Sally Scribbles"- Making the more active choice.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Improv- Emotionally Lead Characters! ( and Characters with secrets)

Improv- Emotionally Lead Characters! ( and Characters with secrets)

Emotions are interesting.
Secrets are interesting. 

When starting a scene in an improv exercise, whether it be a structured exercise or one where it is a free-form scene, starting the scene with a character with a background is more interesting.

It is a little like working backwards.  I had a pretty large breakthrough in my last novella when I did this.  I had a hero and a heroine that hated each other.  Every time they were together they were mad, and spit fire at each other. (Not literally, it was a paranormal story, but nothing to do with spitting fire.)

Finally, I had a breaththrough!  I found out WHY they were so mad at each other.  She had accidentally broken up his family. He had been pissed off.  (It is off with a publisher now, hoping to get it published. We will see shortly and you can see what I'm talking about.)

Not only did bringing emotionally charged characters into my scene work to fill the scene, it also made it interesting, and bring in that ever important background that they had had together.

Characters with secrets are the same thing.  Instead of bringing into the scene an emotion, they are bringing in a bit of knowledge the other person doesn't know and if the writer is good, the reader doesn't know either.

Warning: When a writer is doing this, make sure the build-up to the reveal is worth it.  There is nothing worse to a reader than finding out the "big bad secret" everyone is tip-toeing around is something ridiculously stupid.  If it is something not too major, make it a reveal earlier, and play with everyone knowing that secret.

Secrets also serve the purpose of keeping a reader around.  They want to know why he is acting so strangely, and why she doesn't ever mention that time last winter...

What comes to mind is the movie, "Sweet Home Alabama."  I dearly loved the spitfire attitude the couple has toward each other AND the secret that he had that beautiful glass shop.  It was lovely!

Next- Every character has their own secrets, goals, and desires.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Improv- Characters through Time!

Improv- Characters through Time!
I thought this exercise in the improv class was amazing! It was a different way to look at a familiar concept.
OK, so we all know that characters in our WIPs (Work-In-Progress) will all react to different scenarios differently.
For instance:

A boy's dog got loose from the house and got run over.

Well, the father may have got the boy the dog, and feels really bad for the boy.

The mom may have secretly disliked having a dog, because she isn't an animal person, and therefore is sad for the boy outwardly, but inwardly glad the dog is gone, so she doesn't have to clean after it.

The boy's friend may be happy because the boy spent too much time with the dog, and less time with the friend.
So, we all react to things differently according to the situation, and what past experiences, and feelings that we bring to the event.
Now, in the improv class, we did an exercise, with the same basic principle, except we were telling the same story at three different times in the character's life.
For instance:

(Girl Age 5) Today, for share and tell. Last week, me, my mommy and my daddy all went to Disney World! It was amazing! I met Cinderella, even though we had to wait in this really long line, and it was hot, but she signed my book. Her dress was so shiny, and soft, and she was so pretty and nice. I gave her a hug and I got my picture taken with her. Mommy said the picture can go right by my bed so I can see it every day!

(Girl Age 30) (On a date) When I was little, my family and I went to Disney World. We had a lot of fun. I think I was just so happy to actually meet Cinderella in person. I still have that picture somewhere. It's a terrible picture. I have this messy mop of hair on my head, and this big toothless grin.

(Girl Age 70) (Talking to a Grand kid) You're going to love Disney World. When I was your age, I got to go and meet Cinderella. She gave me a hug and signed my autograph book. You know what an autograph is right? It's when they sign their name on a piece of paper, and you can remember that forever and ever. You want to see that picture? ( Shows picture) Yes that's me. I think you and I have the same color hair. It changes color when you get to be my age.
So, things that we were told in the improv class were to make sure to mention who we were talking to, instead of just generically talking to a crowd.
Also, something interesting that happened in the three tellings of the same story was that the character went from excitement for herself at age 5, to excitement for her grand kid at age 70.
How this translates into novels/romances--
I read a lot of romance novels, and a lot of them have a big event that has happened in the past to one or both characters. The question then is, how do they react to that event later on in life?
If a man and woman had a bad break up and then they see each other again, what is their reaction to one another?
If we are using the metaphor of a wound. Then how does that wound heal? Does it leave a scar? Did it fester and become infected? Was it covered with a bandage and ignored? What does it take to rip that bandage off?
People react to different situations in life differently.
Remember that the opposite of love isn't hate. Hate still shows that someone feels something toward the other person. The opposite of love is apathy.
Next- Improv- Emotionally Lead Characters! ( and Characters with secrets)