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Saturday, October 27, 2012

How do you describe a character in her own POV?

One of the tricky challenges when writing in first person is describing the Main Character (MC). There's the old device of having MC look in a mirror, but it is ... well ... old. So how do you pull it off when you want your reader to be able to see your MC, but you're in that character's point of view?

In MAGGIE RISING, a current Work-in-Progress, I used the technique of comparison. By having Maggie describe the client she is just meeting and tossing in comparisons to herself along the way, I hope to give the reader a fair sense of Maggie's appearance.

Here are the opening lines from the manuscript of MAGGIE RISING. I'd like to hear what you think.

            “So, are you really a psychic?”

The girl at the counter looked just like so many I’d seen since hanging out my shingle last summer. I wanted to answer, Hey, look: You came here because the sign says Psychic Readings. What do you expect? Instead, I gave her my wisest, most knowing smile while sizing her up.

She was somewhat shorter than my five-feet-eight, but most women are, and she was fuller than I am, especially through her surgically augmented chest. Her blonde wasn’t natural, either, though her roots weren’t as dark as my near-black curls. Even her coloring, like mine, was more rubies-and-ivory than peaches-and-cream. The rest was easy: sorority chick; more money than brains, all of it Daddy’s; party girl looking for a thrill and probably trying to figure out whether Jason (or Fred or that guy from the fraternity mixer last night) was worth giving it all up for.

By the time a reader gets this far into the manuscript, I'm hoping she will have a pretty good idea of not only Maggie's appearance, but also what she does for a living, how she feels about it, as well as something of her voice and attitudes. The question now is: Does it work for you?

Susan Aylworth's books are available for digital download. Find them at or

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Getting the end right

If you're a writer (or if you've ever written), you can probably appreciate the opening scene from "Romancing the Stone" where the author cries as she composes the final lines of her book. One sure clue that you've got the end "right" is that emotional surge, usually resulting in a tear and a sniffle, that says you're finally there.
By contrast the stories with incomplete or poor resolutions leave you feeling unsatisfied, like you want to go back to the manuscript and read it again hoping it might turn out right the second time.
I don't want to give away the endings of my novels by citing samples here, but I will show the end of a scene that I particularly liked. This comes from the conclusion of Chapter 1 in AT THE RAINBOW'S END, second book in the Rainbow Rock series. Alexa was on her way to Burbank to interview for a position as a screenwriter when her car broke down. She missed her opportunity and has just learned it will be several weeks before the studio can interview her again. Kurt McAllister is speaking as this scene begins:

"I own a business and we could use some help around the place—simple things, like answering phones and such. Since you're going to be looking for a job anyway, why don't you just stick around here until it's time to head for Burbank? Mom will enjoy your company out at the farm and I can use your help around the shop. What do you think?"

"What kind of shop?" Alexa asked, still wary.

"Rainbow Productions. My sister-in-law and I make instructional videotapes and documentaries."

Alexa smiled. To Kurt, it looked like dawn rising over the desert. "Really? You make movies out of Holbrook, Arizona?"

"Well, yeah." Kurt decided to play his trump card. "You're in movies too, aren't you?" She nodded. "You're an actress?"

Alexa felt her breath catch in her throat, then let it out in a surprised giggle. "Me? Acting? I'm scared to death of cameras!"

"Then..." The unspoken question sat between his eyebrows.

"I'm a writer," she said, tipping up her chin. "With a little luck, by mid-June I'll be a screenwriter."

Kurt blessed the Fates as he smiled back at her. "Alexa," he announced, "we do have something to talk about."
AT THE RAINBOW'S END, together with the other Rainbow Rock books, is now an e-book, currently available for Kindle, Nook (, and every other type of e-reader or computer. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Susan's Adventures in Twitter-Land

When I first became a published writer, publishers did publicity. Publishers arranged for interviews, advertised books, and saw to distribution. But the world has changed.

When I reentered the publishing field after a ten-year hiatus to raise a family and grow my "day job" career, everyone told me I needed a blog, a tribe and a Twitter account. I said something like "Huh?"

But I paid attention and tried to learn. I'm learning to Tweet. I have this blog that gets something on it every now and then, weekly or occasionally or whenever, and I'm trying to learn how to use Triberr, building a "platform" and "tribe" of my own. It isn't pretty.

One thing I've learned: the Brave New World of publishing may not require any more talent than the old world (and very possibly less), but it certainly requires plenty of bravery. ;-)

A Short Excerpt for the Week:
From Book 6 of the Rainbow Rock series, THE TROUBLE WITH RAINBOWS:

Cretia breathed deeply of the rain-laden air. "You know what the trouble with rainbows is?"
"Huh?" Joe furrowed his brow.
"The trouble with rainbows," she repeated airily.
"No, I guess I don't." He waited.
"You can't predict them." Cretia's eyes watched the bow of color in the sky. "We all know what causes them, and we can see the elements coming together and guess that maybe there'll be a rainbow soon, but nobody ever knows exactly when or where we'll see it."
Joe stared at his sister, wondering when she had lost her mind. She had seemed fairly sane this morning.
"They're kind of like love, really," Cretia went on.
Joe groaned. She hadn't changed the subject at all.
"No, really. Think about it, Joe. We can see two attractive people coming together and think, 'Hmm. Maybe there'll be a match soon,' but no one ever knows for sure until it happens." This time her eyes were following Angelica, whose silvery laughter wafted toward them on the breeze. "We can never predict when love will come into our lives—either the first or the second time."

The six books in the Rainbow Rock series are all available as ebooks at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and a half-dozen other ebook sites.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Setting as Character, Part II

Last week we looked at setting as character and I included passages from the first three Rainbow Rock novels, set in a fictional town near the Painted Desert, northeastern Arizona. Welcome back for the next three books.


It was May twenty-ninth, almost summer, yet the blue-gray thunderheads that towered above the high plateaus of the Little Colorado River basin warned of a winter storm. Looks like it might snow, Cretia thought as she entered the offices of Rainbow Productions, the independent video company that had become her second home. The thought was not the least unsettling. It had snowed on the night she graduated high school some thirteen years before—the only graduate to go through ceremonies with a husband and three-month-old daughter in the audience. There was often a maverick storm late in the year before summer settled in.
Eden pulled up behind the yellow school bus, waiting while it disgorged a half-dozen bedraggled teens in blue jeans, T-shirts, and plaid flannel. When it moved on, she passed ,and  then turned on the gravel driveway that led to Rainbow Rock Farms. I'd forgotten how early school starts around here, she thought, or how hot the weather still is the first week or two.
In the few weeks since her last visit, the daily high temperatures had dropped by only a few degrees, but a shift in the direction of the afternoon breeze hinted at a turn in the weather. Within another month, they'd likely have their first snowfall.
Book 6,  THE TROUBLE WITH RAINBOWS, narrows its scope to one garden in this passage:
Joe had never been in the back of the Lunsford home. He had no idea what he'd been missing. While the front yard was a wide expanse of lawn, with a few leafy trees strategically planted for shade and privacy, the back was a paradise, a large and lovely garden of Eden. Comfortable pathways wound between raised and path-level planting beds, and decorative vegetables mingled with flowering plants—bean vines on six-foot trellises standing side by side with six-foot or taller hollyhocks.
Finally, a bonus. My first book, BENEATH SIERRA SKIES, is set in Chico, California. Here's how it begins:
       A breeze as soft and warm as an embrace carried the blossoms that fell from the almond trees. A preview of spring had come to the Sacramento Valley, and Robin reveled in it, lifting her chin into the breeze and tossing her red-gold hair. She’d lived in Chico long enough to know winter would return before spring finally came, but these lovely days in February gave her patience.
In case you're thinking it: You're right. I've always liked to think of the setting as another character in the story.
BENEATH SIERRA SKIES and all six Rainbow Rock books are now available as e-books for Kindle, Nook, Apple and other devices. During the Columbus Day weekend, the six Rainbow Rock books are on sale for 99 cents each. Enjoy!