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Why Different Genres Truly Do Matter

Lately, I've been stretching my writing muscles through different genres. Sometimes the best way to learn something knew about the art of writing, is to experience. Of course, the science fiction project I worked on was no where near as well-organized as my romance, but it was so much fun.

Right now, I'm in the middle of reading a young adult series called "The Mortal Instruments" by Cassandra Clare, that is more urban fantasy than anything else. Think Supernatural meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Pure awesomeness. If you haven't seen the upcoming movie trailer, then I would encourage you to do so here:

I might be behind in the game, since the first novel came out in 2007, but I've realized two things while reading these books:

A) Ms. Clare is an exceptional romance writer,

and B) Any writer/artist who can create a whole new world and people through pure imagination or experience deserves kudos.

Here are the major fiction genres and what an author can learn from each:

  • Action and Adventure = Writing plotlines that carry throughout the book.
  • Chick Lit = Writing good characters around one person.
  • Children's and Picture Books = Writing meaningful prose in a small amount of space.
  • Commercial Fiction = Having good sentence structure, vocabulary, and pacing for easier readability.
  • Contemporary
  • Crime = Weaves suspense and plot along with the main character's views.
  • Erotica= Writing passion that sizzles on the page.
  • Family Saga = Weaving sub- and main-plots throughout the story that could lead to a series.
  • Fantasy and Dark Fantasy = Creating worlds from nothing or using real-life places as backdrops for creativity.
  • General Fiction = Writing with many genres at once to create the world that is envisioned.
  • Graphic Novels = Turning pictures into words or vice versa (except most of us do this in our heads).
  • Historical Fiction = Making your research show on every page.
  • Horror = Writing to place fear or terror into the reader, both conscious and subconscious, so they keep turning the pages.
  • Humor = Creating a more entertaining dynamic for your story.
  • Literary Fiction = Writing an adventurous plot that is well-thought out and meaningful to the reader.
  • Military and Espionage = Writing with a focus on plots with a high-level of action.
  • Multicultural and Gay/Lesbian = Writing diverse characters who overcome emotional obstacles.
  • Mystery = Weaving clues into the story that lead to a surprise ending.
  • Religious and Inspirational
  • Romance = Weaving a storyline in between two characters who must have a happy ending.
  • Science Fiction = Writing with a focus on futuristic technology and making it affect the characters around it.
  • Short Story Collections = Making a story believable and entertaining in a short number of pages.
  • Thrillers and Suspense = Weaves suspense and tension throughout the story without losing pace.
  • Western = Focusing on one element to make the whole.
  • Women's Fiction = Writing physical and sometimes emotional obstacles for characters to overcome and to unify their experiences toward the end. 
  • Young Adult = Writing from the perspective of a teenager and how they see the evolving world around them.
Sounds a bit like I've just listed the definition for each genre, right? Well the explanation is its own reward.

If you would like to leave a comment and tell me how you think writing in different genres could help a writer to grow in their craft, I would truly love to hear from you! Thank you for reading.

Happy Writing!
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My Pros and Cons Concerning Conferences

Hello, Readers. Sorry about another belated post, but there is so much going on! Between querying agents and working on the final edits for The Earl's Son, I only have time to write one a month, but I hope to offer invaluable advice nonetheless.

Anyways, this time we are talking about conferences. I have never been to one, but sometime in the future (as my writing career hopefully grows) I'll be able to see what all the hubbub is about. :)

From what I've researched online and read through other writers' blogs, here are the pros and cons of conferences:

1) Pitch your work directly to agents and publishers.
2) Meet fellow writers and make new friends.
3) Attend workshops and activities to help you grow as a writer.
4) Meals are included in the registration fee.

1) Rejection in person can hurt worse than over email or phone.
2) If you don't know anyone there, it might be hard to step forward and introduce yourself to a room full of strangers.
3) Sometimes the workshops are only catered to a specific genre or specialty, so they might not be beneficial to you.
4) Cost could become too high when factoring in travel distance as well as the hotel bill.

Of course, some people will swear by them, while others think it is a waste of time. The choice is really yours. If you have the money to spend, and the right agent or editor is waiting for you there, then by all means have a great time.

I think the biggest mistake people make is going to a writing conference because everyone else is. Some writers (gasp!) thoroughly enjoy socializing with others. I think you should attend as a benefit to your career. Nothing says dedicated like dropping $500 and flying cross-country to see a friend you haven't talked to in a year!

As always, thank you for reading.

Happy writing!
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A Summary Is A Synopsis Is A Summary

Dear readers, thank you for sticking with me through everything. As I write more query letters for agents and  fine-tune the synopsis for editors, I cannot help but notice how little is posted about the latter. What is it about the synopsis that scares writers? The best way to get over the fear is to write it first. If you know the plot of your story, then you should have no problem dishing out the details. I think it even works better than an outline in some cases.

Remember: The synopsis isn't a sales blurb, neither should it leave the reader in suspense. So, when writing a synopsis, tell all.

So, we all know a synopsis is a description of the best parts in our books, but did you know there are different kinds? Have you ever wondered what the difference between a brief synopsis and a full synopsis is?

A brief synopsis is a detailed description in present tense usually 350-450 words and between 1-2 pages long. Don't confuse this with a "brief summary" which is better known as a pitch. 

A short synopsis is a detailed description in present tense usually two to ten pages long, and five pages at the most.

A full synopsis is a detailed description in present tense of the whole book with each page representing a whole chapter or one synopsis page for every twenty-five manuscript pages.

The most popular request I've seen from editors/agents is a brief synopsis of about 1-2 pages. This doesn't mean you shouldn't write a longer one. Sometimes the best way to choose the best lines is seeing a bigger picture of your work, a broader landscape.

Here are some synopsis writing tips for fiction writers:

  • Take one step at a time. 
  • Read through each page of your manuscript and write a summary of each chapter or so on.
  • Look for themes and symbolism as you read.
  • Take out the most important plot points and characters, anything that moves the story forward, and put them in the synopsis.
  • Capitalize the main character's names the first time they are mentioned in the manuscript.
  • Double space like you would your manuscript.
  • Write to entice the reader. Think: Hardcover book jacket blurb meets enthusiastic movie description.
  • Write in present tense, third person.
  • Edit, edit, edit.
  • Remove as many adverbs and adjectives as possible and replace them with action.
  • And please don't leave the reader in suspense.

(For more information about these tips and more, please visit: How To Write A Synopsis by Marg Gilks and Writing A Synopsis by The Literary Consultancy [TLC])

Writing a synopsis can be a scary endeavor, but anything is possible when you put your mind to it.

I look forward to seeing you all on St. Paddy's Day for an Irish recipe and a giveaway!
What better way to celebrate the one year anniversary for the release of To Love An Irishman by Diva Jefferson? Take care.

Happy writing!
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Happy 25th Anniversary to The Phantom of the Opera!!!

Dear readers, I apologize for a late post. As you must know, this year is the 25th anniversary of "The Phantom of the Opera" (POTO). Yes, you heard me right. The Andrew Lloyd Webber sensation inspired from the book by Gaston Leroux. I am a huge 'phan', and I'm not even a big theatre buff. Okay, maybe a little bit. Like every little girl in her high school chorus class, I've dreamed of playing Christine on Broadway. Of course, I traded singing lessons for rent money, and now I can't sing nearly as well as I did seven years ago, but it's the thought that counts, right?

Anyways, I inevitably owe my inspiration to start writing to this wonderful musical. My Nana first told me about the Phantom in the '90s. She took me to the downtown theatre house and we would watch plays together: Dr. Jekyl/Mr. Hyde, Beauty and the Beast. But Phantom never came to Florida and my hope at ever getting to New York to see it dwindled. In 2004, the POTO movie came out and I got to see what my grandmother admired so much in a musical. In short, I became obsessed.

Opening night casting call: January 26th, 1988.
Steve Barton (Raoul), Harold Prince, Michael Crawford
(The Phantom), Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Sarah
Brightman (Christine). 
(In case you didn't know...The Phantom of the Opera is a Victorian romance set in the Paris Opera House where a young singer, Christine, is encourage to become a star with the help of an angel of music--The Phantom--who falls desperately in love with her. But she cannot return his affection, because she has feelings for another.)

If I could not see the Broadway play in New York or sing as Christine, then I would do the next best thing, writing a story inspired by POTO. :)

My friend encourage this behavior by lending me a book called, "A Rose In Winter" by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, which became my favorite book. Since it contained a masked, reclusive hero and a headstrong, talented heroine, I couldn't help but fall in love. My very first novel titled, "The Phantom of Fonthill Abbey" (with working title, "The Earl's Redemption" and Book #1 in the Victorian Redemption series) is a story of redemption, love, and betrayal. Sound familiar? William Kendall, the fourth Earl of Wiltshire, is the phantom of Fonthill Abbey. He is scarred from his past, and full of love just waiting to be given to someone worthy who comes along like his future wife, Elizabeth. In my novel, Christine ends up with the Phantom as I've always wished. :)

Here is a tribute to all the Phantoms who took every woman's heart year after year:

Michael Crawford
(The first Phantom.)
Howard McGillin
Hugh Panaro
(The current NYC Phantom.)
John Cudia

Cris Groenendaal
Mark Jacoby

Kevin Gray
Marcus Lovett
Davis Gaines
Steve Barton
Timothy Nolen

Brad Little
Jeff Keller
Ted Keegan
Gerard Butler
(From the 2004 film.)

Gary Mauer

A final note from the author:

Inside the Majestic Theatre, waiting for
The Phantom of the Opera to begin.
Now, if you've continued this far into my post (in which, I hope you have enjoyed the Phantoms), I would like to share with you my experience in 2010 at the Majestic Theatre in New York.

Pandora Gray (left) and her friend (right)
outside of the Majestic Theatre, NYC.
Nothing compared to seeing the show in person. I waited so many years to see it...and this is proof that dreams do come true...eventually. :)

Thank you for reading, sharing in my experience, and learning through my past.

Happy writing!
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Tales From Research Part #2

Today, we continue the immortal journey of the Fonthill Abbey through a historical incidence. We know the abbey's main tower collapsed in 1825 and the whole manse was demolished thereafter. In my reality, the west wing, where the Fourth Earl of Wiltshire's room resided, was burned down by an act of revenge.

The first pages of the Great
Reform Act 1832.
The Representation of the People Act 1832, or Great Reform Act of 1832, influenced by the French Revolution, was an Act of Parliament in England and Wales which introduced more seats into the House of Commons from large cities and took away seats from smaller cities called "rotten boroughs". It also increased the amount of voters from 400,000 to 650,000.

Charles Gray
The Whigs favored reform, constitutional monarchy, and parliamentary rule. The Duke of Wellington's opposition to reform forced his resignation from office and he was succeeded by Charles Gray who pushed parliamentary reform with the Whigs. After much debate, the House of Lords and its majority of Tories, who advocate monarchism, supported the Church of England, and opposed reform, consented to the Bill after a threat by King William IV of revolution as all as the Birmingham Political Union led by Thomas Attwood (Oliver and Rosalind Attwood's father) and 15,000 supporters who threatened to use violence, to desist their opposition.

Two years later, the modern-day Conservative Party was created with similar philosophies to conservatism (traditionalism) and British unionism.

House of Commons
Effects of the Act: Since 60% of the people, specifically "male persons", were allowed to vote, 95% of the population were left without the vote, including women. In addition to being the first statutory bar to women's suffrage, most of the pocket boroughs belonged to Tory members, and tenants-at-will were created to allow voting for whomever their landlord told them to, allowing the Tories to retake the House of Commons in 1841.

The Great Reform Act of 1832 was also proceeded by protests and riots. And this is where we come to quick of our story. During a time of political turmoil and possible revolution, the middle class radicals believed in threatening the government into change. They started writing letters to influences like the Duke of Wellington and then posted them in the newspaper, waiting for a positive response from the public. After receiving no response from the politicians they wrote, the radicals moved onto the more violent means of protest. They rioted, attacking the Duke of Wellington's and the bishops' houses in London. The castle at Nottingham was burned down, as well as several serious riots appeared in Derby, Worcester, Bath, and many more. All victims were anti-reformers, Tories, and wealthy landowners. The Bristol Riot, the most destructive, consisted of 500 to 600 young men and lasted for three days, where private homes and property were looted and destroyed. Almost 100 people involved in this attack were tried in January 1832 and four men were hanged.

The 3rd Dragoon Guards violently suppressing the Bristol Riots of 1831.
Queen's Square, 20 October, 1831.

Attacks that occurred after the Reform Bill passed in 1832.

I thought there was no reason why the Earl of Wiltshire, William Kendall's late father, who was an anti-former, Tory, and wealthy aristocrat, couldn't become a victim of these attacks. 

So, this is where the real story begins...

As always, thank you for reading.

Happy writing!
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Tales From Research

Today, I wanted to share a piece of history with everyone. When I first started my research on a perfect place for my Victorian series (over 5 years ago), I would never imagine finding the perfect setting for them all in a mysterious Gothic Revival building called the "Fonthill Abbey." I checked all over Google for a place as befitting a reclusive Earl as I could find in Wiltshire, England and found:

Fonthill Abbey
This wonderful manse is what started it all. My dreams about the Victorian Era and its many interesting facets. I could actually see people living in this place throughout the 19th Century. My aristocratic family, the Kendalls, began living here around 1832 when they bought the house from John Farquhar. They would continue to spend 40 years or more in the immortal abbey. Unfortunately, in real life, the building didn't last nearly as long as it did in everyone's memory.

So, this is where our story starts...at the beginning...

William Beckford in 1782 by George Romney
In 1760, William Thomas Beckford was born in London. Ten years later, he inherited 1,000,000 pounds (or 110 million pounds in 2012) from his father, as well as land at Fonthill in Wiltshire and sugar plantations in Jamaica. Later, he became a novelist and an art collector. After accusations of having homosexual relations,  he married Lady Margaret Gordon and exiled himself to the Continent where he traveled to Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Spain, France, and Portugal. Then his wife died of childbirth.

When he returned to England, he enclosed around Fonthill Estate a six-mile long wall to prevent poachers from entering his property. Due to his romantic nature, Beckford wanted a Gothic cathedral constructed as his home. In 1796, the architect, James Wyatt, began work on the building using timber stuccoed with cement. Francis Eginton, a glass painter, desgined thirty-two depictions of medieval knights, kings, etc. for the many windows. 950 laborers worked day and night to build the abbey. After the first 300 foot tower collapsed, the new one was finished six years later only to collapse as well. The final one, built in stone, was completed in seven years. In 1813, the abbey's construction was done.  
Abbey tower ruins.

Beckford lived alone in the 500-acre abbey until 1822 spending wealth without making it, only occupying one of the rooms. After losing two sugar plantations, he was forced to sell the the property and its entitlements for 330,000 pounds to an ammunition dealer named John Farquhar. In 1825, the main tower collapsed, and later the rest of the abbey was demolished. The gatehouse and part of the north wing remain to this day. Speculation arose that since Beckford rushed the construction of the Fonthill Abbey, with the absence of the architect many times during the project, and the enormous height of the tower spire, the building was doomed from the beginning. So, they labeled it "Beckford's Folly." William Beckford died in 1844 in Bath, England.

Highlights from the Fonthill Abbey:

Great Western Entrance Hall

Grand Drawing Room
The Great Octagon

King Edward's Gallery on the West wing

This tower spanned about 300 feet tall.
St. Michael's Gallery on the East wing

(Information about the Abbey courtesy of Wikipedia and a collection of maps and descriptions by John Rutter called Delineations of Fonthill and its Abbey.)

I guess you can say that research/history is an obsession of mine. I will continue to include this abbey in my series, because it deserves immortality. If I had the money, I would recreate this masterpiece (maybe not in England), and I would definitely make it much more sturdy than wood with stucco covering it. I will always dream about it. At least, the abbey's legacy lives with the Kendall family.

Thank you for reading and your ongoing support. :)

Happy writing!
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